"The Fix-Up"/"The Limo"/"The Good Samaritan" S3 / E17-19
- A- Community Grade
This episode, scripted by Larry Charles and Elaine Pope, won Seinfeld its first major Emmy, for writing, but I don’t hear it mentioned as being among the pantheon of great episodes. That’s probably because the concept – Jerry and Elaine fix up two of their friends, George and Cynthia (played by Maggie Wheeler, Janice from Friends) is ordinary-sounding and the resulting gags about faulty condoms and bulimia aren’t nearly as interesting now as they probably were in 1992. But it’s a very well-constructed episode and has a pretty cool one-off girlfriend character in Cynthia that I’m sorry they never brought back.
Wheeler, obviously, is one of those actresses who found fame and was simultaneously doomed by her most famous role, as Janice, the braying, amusingly irritating on-off girlfriend of Chandler’s in Friends. Sure, they would dutifully bring her back every year to give us another “oh my gawd!” but I’m sure being recognized as Janice everywhere hurt her chances of getting any other parts. But as we can see here, she can be pretty sexy and cool too, even as she announces “order me a piece of cake, I’m going to go throw up.” Cynthia hits all the boxes for George, considering she announces at the beginning of the episode that she wants someone “who has to just appreciate being with me because he’s desperate.” Cut to George, slurping spaghetti, telling Jerry, “My dream is to become hopeless.”
One of Seinfeld’s most commonly-criticized flaws is the parade of beautiful women Jerry and George date, even though neither of them is a marquee idol themselves, and the ridiculous flaws they then proceed to find in these gorgeous women who shouldn’t even be giving them the time of day. “The Fix-Up” cleverly mocks that process by putting Cynthia and George side-by-side, talking to Elaine and Jerry respectively about their upcoming blind date. Elaine’s struggle to paint George well (“he’s got a lot of character in his face!”) doesn’t hide the fact that he’s short, balding, and jobless because he tried to poison his boss. Jerry’s pitch for him to Elaine was much better. “You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but he can bait a hook!”
George’s questions, on the other hand, grow more and more peculiar and hilarious. “Thick, lustrous hair is really important to me…if you stick your hand in the hair, is it easy to get it out?” Or, even better, “I need a good cheek…is there a pinkish hue?” As his list of demands increases, each dutifully answered in the positive by Jerry, the central joke gets funnier, and it’s great to watch.
The other gag of “The Fix-Up” concerns the power Elaine and Jerry have over the situation, as they agree to share every detail they hear from Cynthia and George but quickly renege on the agreement once they realize they had sex on the first date and Cynthia might be pregnant. There could have been more made of this situation – outside of a few stilted conversations between the two of them there isn’t much. But I thought their excitement about the idea, as they realized they could play God together, was pretty true-to-life. The power of the idea is what they’re into: "What if it worked out?" asks Elaine. "Yeah, right,” says Jerry.
Kramer doesn’t even appear until halfway through the episode (with a BIG applause line) but he’s pretty well-integrated into the plot, both with his faulty condoms from Bob Sacamano, and his angrily breaking up the fights between Jerry and George and Jerry and Elaine. I especially like his speech after the latter: “Don't you too see that you're in love with each other! Why can't you face that already! You're running around looking for something that's not even there!” What if this is a hidden, ongoing storyline in Seinfeld that will never be resolved: Jerry and Elaine’s dating life is really just never-ending avoidance of their true love for each other?
“The Fix-Up” ends as many Seinfeld episodes do; it just runs out of minutes after a haywire plot that includes Cynthia’s pregnancy scare and George stepping up to the plate, after he’s overjoyed because his boys can swim. So even though they’re together at the end, flirting madly, George’s pig-like spaghetti eating habits, it’s implied, will be the last straw. As an abrupt ending, it’s slightly ridiculous, but the writers did well to tie it back to our first sighting of George at the beginning of the episode.
When asked what my favorite episode of Seinfeld is, I usually say “The Limo.” I don’t really know why I feel this way: I came up with the answer just cause I figured it was good to have one, and I’ve always adored this episode’s tiny little gags and mysterious, unfolding plot. I don’t know that it’s one of the very best episodes ever, but nothing on TV makes me laugh harder than George humming “Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof while in a car full of Neo-Nazis.
“The Limo,” written by Larry Charles, unfolds sort of like a thriller, starting with a simple, very Seinfeldian germ of an idea – Jerry and George pick up a limo at the airport because they know its intended occupant was stranded in Chicago – and then adding layer after layer, but keeping the full extent of the plot hidden for more than half of the episode. George decides he’ll be O’Brien, who ordered the limo, and Jerry can be his companion Murphy. When they hear they’re going to Madison Square Garden, they figure it’s for the Knicks-Bulls game (this being the era of Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan) and invite Elaine and Kramer along to meet them.
George and Jerry’s original idea is so ludicrous – how did they think this wouldn’t go wrong – but it’s a great concept for an episode because it’s still something you can just about imagine having the guts to do. Sure, it’s audacious, but, as George says, “What are they going to do, kill us?” As it turns out, that’s exactly right, as a man and woman get into the limo with them (the man played by future TV leading man Peter Krause) fully armed. “Nice-lookin’ Luger,” Jerry notes.
The way “The Limo” unfolds, we get to enjoy every funny angle of the situation. First, George continues to pretend to be the anonymous O’Brien, flirting with the girl and accepting praise from her for his landmark book, The Game. “It’s just a game, remember that, kids,” George quips. Then, even funnier, is George’s unease at continuing to pretend to be O’Brien once he realizes he’s the head of the Aryan Union on his way to give a speech by Madison Square Garden. Alexander is wonderful reading the speech: "And the Jews steal our money through the Zionist-occupied government and use the black man to bring the drugs into our depressed white minority communities." "You're not going to open with that, are you?" Jerry says.
Then, once the Nazis are out of the car to fix a flat, we get to enjoy George and Jerry’s sheer panic. “The jig is up!” “It was a bad jig to begin with!” “It was a good jig!” George protests. As the wheels start to come off the bus (as it were) Charles keeps the jokes coming by cutting to Kramer and Elaine, who are hanging out together on a street corner and begin to put the pieces together. Kramer first thinks Jerry is a secret Neo-Nazi (“There’s always been something strange about Jerry, always so clean and organized!”) before deciding that instead, he’s a CIA agent, using his comedy career as deep cover. George must be his liaison, because “his whole personality is a disguise!”
Much like in the “The Fix-Up,” Larry Charles has a definite talent for carefully constructed plots but he obviously has no interest in really ending them. In “The Limo,” though, the final shot of George, confronted by screaming protestors on live TV, yelling, “I’m not O’Brien!” is a wonderful sight gag in itself. Who cares how this ends up? Just the sight of George in that situation is a great climax.
“The Good Samaritan”
Those last two episodes are a pretty tough act to follow, and the Peter Mehlman-scripted “The Good Samaritan” is average at best. It feels like somewhat of a re-run of the penis-brain chess game episode, in that Jerry dates a pretty woman he knows was involved in a hit-and-run incident with a parked car where she didn’t leave a note. Probably the most notable thing about the episode is that Jason Alexander directed it.
Jerry’s plot isn’t too funny, and Elaine just gets a lot of dialogue bounced off her this week, but George has a pretty great showcase in that he has an affair with a married woman, all because he said “God Bless You” after she sneezed. I don’t know if the suggested replacement for “God Bless You,” “You’re really good-looking!” became a zeitgeist-y catchphrase in 1992, but it should have, because it’s the funniest idea of the episode, even if its deployment never seems to work out for anyone. George is a gentleman until he’s confronted by the woman’s husband, when he begins his usual cowering. “I don’t think I’m special, my mother always said I wasn’t special.”
Of course, George has the affair not because the woman is beautiful, and not because he’s a fearless dude either. “It’s so adult, it's like with stockings and Martinis and William Holden. On the other hand, it probably wouldn't cost me any money...” Why he doesn’t even consider the scary husband, who will threaten to sew his ass to his face and “twist his neck so hard his lips will be his eyebrows” is not explained, but George can be pretty stupid, I suppose.
Kramer’s plot, usually the designated “wacky” storyline for each episode, is an example of how his character can be misused in pursuit of laughs. Sure, Michael Richards having an exaggerated seizure at the sound of Mary Hart’s voice looks pretty funny, but it doesn’t really tie into anything larger plot-wise, which his better crazy-man plots always do. He does get one great line, though, when he announces all hit-and-run perpetrators should be sent to Australia, as England did with its convicts. “But not anymore,” someone says. “No,” he admits.
I think I’m really just being hard on “The Good Samaritan” because I loved the other two episodes so much – really, it’s a perfectly decent episode of Seinfeld that I’d be happy to watch at 11pm one night if I was bored. Anyway, tune in next week for the LAST EVER RECAP of Seinfeld this summer!
Elaine describes George pretty accurately to Cynthia, particularly the line, “there’s a lot of character in his face.” There is!
Women kill to get the kind of eyebrows Cynthia has, but, as George says, “Who cares about eyebrows?”
Great how George goes from being up because he had a great phone call with Cynthia (“I threw my notes away in the middle of the call!”) to down because she didn’t mention it to Elaine. “Alright, I’ll go on the date, but that’s that,” he moans. Another great example of the different between his neurosis (everything must be perfect) and hers (she just wants someone who likes her and is nice to her).
George thought he did well on the date because he made small talk with the waitress. “So she could see I relate to the commoners, I'm a man of the people!”
Also, George wanted to have sex in the kitchen because it’s the most sociable room in the house? What the hell is wrong with him! Who thinks that? I wonder if Larry David (or Larry Charles) ever did that.
Two episodes this week give us a glimpse of the DC Universe poster hanging above George’s bed, as well as his dinosaur bed sheets.
George busts out his second “you know, we’re LIVING in a SOCIETY!” in “The Limo,” to a man who won’t look at his watch to tell him the time. Of course, on leaving the airport, someone asks George for the time and he says, “Clock over there.” But at least George doesn’t have a wristwatch on!
George calls his mother to brag about being in a limo, but the first words out of his mouth are, “no, nobody died.” Mrs. Costanza remains a mysterious off-screen presence, but we know she must be a strong personality, given that George ends the call with, “How’s this: I’m NEVER telling you!”
Kramer notices Elaine took a cab to Jerry’s corner. “How much do you make? I’ll tell you how much I make!” “I know how much you make,” Elaine deadpans.
George’s fake phone-call as O’Brien is pretty brilliant. “Astroturf? You know who’s responsible for that? The Jews! The Jews hate grass, always have.”
In a funny meta-joke about their over-analysis of everything, Jerry and George agree not to even try and figure out why a woman touching men’s arms is sexy.