So here we are for Seinfeld season five. We're in for the long haul, guys! Unlike season four, there isn't really a throughline plot this year, like the Jerry pilot was last year, at least not to my memory. But a lot of people think this is THE Seinfeld season, where everyone was at the peak of their powers, and the characters just clicked on every level. My personal preference has always been for season four, but I'm looking forward to the big rewatch nonetheless!
And we start with "The Mango," just a sexy, sexy episode of Seinfeld scripted by Larry David and Lawrence H. Levy, who got Emmy nominations (it's Levy's only credit on the show). Really, it should have been called "The Orgasm" or "The Fake" or something like that ("The Orgasm" was its working title; too racy), but I guess the magical mangos from Joe's do play a crucial enough role in both plots to take the title. The plot idea is simple enough, something that feels like old hat these days: Jerry's dismay at learning Elaine faked her orgasms when they were together. "I just didn't have 'em back then," she reassures him, but Jerry's mind is understandably blown, his entire sexual history suddenly called into question.
Now, this isn't really like "The Contest." The fake orgasm gag had been done before even in 1993, what with When Harry Met Sally and all that. I'm not sure if such a thing was commonplace on network TV, and this was the first episode after Seinfeld took Cheers' plumb timeslot at 9 p.m. on Thursdays, but either way, to us reprobates in 2011, a fake orgasm plot is the kind of shit you might see on Dora the Explorer. But it doesn't matter, because "The Mango" is extremely funny. Jerry's world being rocked by Elaine's revelation meshes perfectly with Seinfeld's sometime-shrill acting style and, well, George's sexual issues come to the fore in ways that are uncomfortably priceless.
His girlfriend Karen is played by Lisa Edelstein, years before she made her name on The West Wing and House. I almost called her a girlfriend of the week, but she actually does appear in one other episode, a rarity for a mate of George's that isn't Susan. George is never a good flirter, but watching him flirt with her at the dinner table almost had me with my hands over my eyes, especially his creepy giggle to suggest sex. She's very cool and dry about it all ("I probably would say something… but then again, I'm an enigma"), though she's more interested in the risotto she's eating. George asks if his sexual prowess makes her feel like she does after the risotto. "No, I feel full after the risotto," she states, which my girlfriend declared her favorite line in all of Seinfeld. It is appreciably mysterious and delivered with the perfect amount of snap.
Of course, George begins to fail miserably in bed with Karen with all the orgasm talk on his mind, but his degradation isn't as complete as Jerry's, who's usually cool as a cucumber but reduced to a nervous wreck by Elaine's revelation. "I know how to do it; I can work the equipment; I'm in the union!" he declares, but his hatred of Elaine's acting has him even turning against Meryl Streep, of all people. "Oh, she's such a phony baloney!" he wails. Since Jerry's usually the sounding board for George's mania, it's always nice to see the roles reversed and the impact it has. While Jerry remains mostly immune to George's neuroses, in the opposite scenario, George is almost as jelly-like as his friend.
Kramer's side-plot is very typical Kramer, full of great overacting, including Leonard Termo as the grumpy fruit store owner Joe. We're at the point where we're very used to Kramer's general weirdness but still wondering how it'll be specifically applied this week, and him rejecting the peach and trying to get restitution is one of those plots that makes such logical sense from a Kramer point of view. As he points out to Joe, he let a bad plum slide, but at a certain point, enough is enough, right? "Jerry, this peach is sub-par!"
Considering one half of this episode is about fruit shopping and the other about orgasms, it's nice how well the dovetailing works in the final act with George's revitalization via the delicious mango. "I feel like I got a B-12 shot! This is a taste explosion!" he cries, following that up with a repeat of the line from season three's massage episode: "I think it moved." TMI, George. But he doesn't just go back to Karen's and rock her world, that's not what the mango does for him. No, what it does is make him immune to the worries of fake orgasms, a subtle little twist you barely pick up on, really, but one that really fits with George's character. He dismisses Karen's writhing and moaning as a perfectly good performance. Yeah, that mango was really something; it meant George could be a dreadful human being even when naked in bed with a woman. Quite a feat.
On Jerry's end, he predictably fails to seal the deal, or even begin the deal, with Elaine, who needs Jerry to give her an orgasm to save the friendship. I like that the show is happy to go here with them and then just drop it again with no mention of it from then on; we don't even know if Jerry went to get some mango and had another shot at Elaine. In triumph or in failure, they'll make it through somehow, I guess.
"The Mango" has just the two dovetailing plots, but "The Glasses" is a great multi-stranded thing, with lots of little plots bouncing off each other beautifully. George's vision, or lack thereof, and his ability to compensate by squinting, or lack of ability thereof, basically ties it all together; he loses his glasses at the gym, which causes Elaine to get bitten by a dog, Kramer to get in an altercation with an optician friend, and Jerry to lose his girlfriend (Anna Gunn, later of Deadwood and Breaking Bad!) because of paranoia George instills in him. All that and an air conditioner crushing a dog AND the return of Uncle Leo…really, it's quite an episode.
Kramer really is the star of this one, too, even though he's just in his usual role as agent of chaos. It's amazing to notice that he's still getting applause lines for entering the set sometimes, something the show started trying to quash years before, but he's just too irrepressible to be denied sometimes. He's got two showcase scenes this episode that just crack me up, one that's a maniacal monologue and one that's just a simple bit of physical comedy. I love his confrontation with the sugar-addicted optician; his correlation of the problem with drug addiction really works, especially him essaying finding him at Dinky Donuts. "You were all HOPPED UP on cinnamon swirls! They wouldn't serve you anymore! You wouldn't even have any teeth if it wasn't for me dragging you to Joe's fruit stand and stuffing cantaloupe down your throat!"
But I also just love the idea of Kramer's secret life with all these weird, weird people going on without Jerry and the gang's knowledge (or without them caring, possibly). There's also that quick reference to old off-screen friend Bob Sacamano, who apparently got rabies one time. But the other Kramer bit in this episode I love is him bringing in the air conditioner. He just drops Jerry's windowsill down on the top of it and proclaims, "INSTALLED!" He's got such swagger when he does it, it's hard to believe the thing isn't installed, I'm sure that's why Jerry plays along with it.
Otherwise, the laughs are mostly at George's expense, as he gets silly lady's glasses and can't even get a discount for them, and at Jerry's indifference to Elaine getting bitten by a dog. Jerry's stuff with Amy (Gunn) isn't bad, but the joke wears thin kind of quickly. The stuff surrounding the joke, like the varying pieces of evidence for George's skill/shittiness at squinting, or Uncle Leo explaining how his son is friends with a college professor ("That's RARE! Like EQUALS!") is much, much better. Of course, Jeffrey with the horse-face, who George thought he saw kissing Amy, turns out to be an actual horse being stroked by a friendly policewoman.
Everything else about this episode is good, too, like Elaine's freakouts, the air conditioner falling from the window and Kramer failing to catch it, and George taking advantage of the blind guy in the gym, but it's not the most memorable episode for whatever reason. Most of the gags seemed new to me, and I've certainly seen it before. But even if it wasn't as big a deal as some of the eps we'll get to this season ("The Puffy Shirt," "The Raincoats," "The Opposite") it's a great example of just a classic Seinfeld episode I wouldn't be able to flip away from on cable one night.
- The opening conversation in "The Mango" where Jerry and George discuss going down on a woman really is quite risqué for 1993 NBC, quite a way for the sitcom to introduce itself in its new timeslot.
- "Nobody knows what to do. You just close your eyes and hope for the best! They're really happy if you just make an effort."
- Jerry's comment to make Elaine reveal the fake orgasms is suitably below-the-belt. "I guess after that many beers, he's probably a little groggy anyway," he says of Elaine's typical non-fake-orgasm-noticing hookup.
- Kramer's faked it. "You know, if it's just enough already and I want to get some sleep!" What a stallion.
- But he doesn't like the supermarket. "The apples are mealy, the oranges are dry, and I don't know what's going on with the papayas!"
- One of the best gags in "The Glasses" is George eating an onion, admitting his mistake, and then continuing to eat it.
- Also, his prescription goggles get some good lines out of Jerry. "So, you're tunneling to the center of the earth?" he asks. Or, "We're with you, Aquaboy! Godspeed!"
- Jerry's make-it-better line with Amy is one I've used in real life. "Oh. Oh. Wanna get some pizza?"