“The Yada Yada” (season 8, episode 19; originally aired 4/24/97)
This is a really wild, plot-filled episode, a great example of what the show could do in its last seasons even though it’s insane and full of out-of-nowhere twists and turns. It’s an extra-long episode (running about 26 or 27 minutes by my DVD player’s count, and apparently “boasted” about by NBC in the promos) that features Kramer’s little-person friend Mickey getting married for the fourth time, Jerry plotting to steal a married woman from her husband that she’s trying to adopt kids with, and, of course, George’s shoplifting girlfriend who papers over her scandalous stories with the phrase “yada yada.”
The strangest thing about the episode, to me, is Jerry’s absolutely nihilistic, creepy approach to wooing Beth (Debra Messing), who he worries will be stuck in her second marriage two years longer because they stupidly decided to adopt a kid. Furious with himself for missing out on her last divorce (he was foolishly engaged to Janeane Garofalo at the time) he plots to get her this time. We all remember Beth from season seven’s “The Wait Out,” and while Jerry’s behavior there was also creepy, at least she was basically deciding to break up with her husband already. Here, she’s making that decision on the totally false assumption that Elaine is sleeping with her husband, which Jerry is happy to encourage. Don’t get me wrong, it made me laugh, but it’s wonderfully evil stuff.
“The Yada Yada” also features the return of Tim Whatley, the first time since season six, and he even gets an angry cry of “Whatley!” from Jerry, who usually only extends such a courtesy to Newman. Even for a committed jerk like Tim, his behavior in “The Yada Yada” is especially bad—he converts to Judaism “just for the jokes” Jerry says, but also reserves the right to make hacky Catholic jokes. Then when Jerry tries out some dentist material, Tim gets upset and it spins into this whole trope about how Jerry’s an “anti-dentite.” Apparently writer Peter Mehlman thought that would be the big memorable catchphrase of the episode, but it’s actually the least funny thing about it. I always enjoy Bryan Cranston’s douchey persona on the show, but the anti-dentite thing is a little too cute for more than one gag.
Of course, “yada yada” was the real “breakout” of this episode, a phrase that had been in use for generations already, but Seinfeld still gets credit for it in some circles. Hell, why shouldn’t it? Such a benign phrase, literally used to skip over the boring parts in conversation, turns into a “careful what you wish for” conundrum for George. His girlfriend Marcy is big on the phrase, so George starts using it to avoid sharing some of the more horrifying details from his life. But then he realizes she’s doing the same thing—first skipping over sex with an old boyfriend, then the thrill she gets from shoplifting. For such a memorable plot that serves as the title of the episode, it’s actually one of the more minor stories here, but it’s a great one.
Kramer’s double-date mishaps with Mickey are easily the broadest part of the half-hour, especially their fight over who gets to sit where on the second date. Mickey’s characterization as a ladies man is not an uncommon stereotype for little people on TV, but it’s hardly an offensive one, and Mickey is played more like an inveterate sweetheart, falling head over heels over and over again. The epic wedding conclusion, featuring a brief appearance by Robert Wagner and Jill St. John as Mickey’s parents, is a bit much, but I like that Julie’s confession that she really wanted Kramer isn’t entirely out of nowhere. In fact, if you watch the whole episode, it’s kind of obvious that Julie favors Kramer and Karen likes Mickey. But Kramer decides to switch because of Julie’s little-people parents—his political correctness is his downfall!
“The Millennium” (season 8, episode 20; originally aired 5/1/97)
This feels like the first Newman plot in a little while. He had his brief appearance getting set on fire in “The Pothole” but his last major role was in “The Andrea Doria,” so it’s nice to have him back. “The Millennium” isn’t a particularly memorable episode, though, and sticks out most for its appearance by a pre-Gilmore Girls Lauren Graham, who was gaining a reputation as a show-killer. She’d already been in the one-season-and-done Good Company and Townies, and she still had Conrad Bloom and MYOB on the horizon before she struck gold.
Graham’s character here gives you an idea of what wasn’t working for her: She plays Valerie, a fussy, slightly mean girlfriend of the week for Jerry who he’s disinterested in after two scenes. The only reason he stays aboard is her OCD habit of bumping people up and down her speed dial based on how much she likes them. I don’t blame Jerry—I’d be interested to see how high I could go too. But it’s a relatively simple gag that gets dragged out too long, with Valerie’s conniving stepmom getting involved.
It does dovetail rather nicely with Kramer and Elaine’s plot to sabotage Putumayo, a South American-themed clothing store that Elaine feels wronged by. By the way, Elaine’s back on a losing streak —she gets stuck with the boring adoption guy in “The Yada Yada” and declares herself about to be sick, and here her vendetta against Putumayo just involves her wasting money at a related store she doesn’t know is owned by the same people. But Kramer’s accidental poisoning of Valerie’s stepmom, leading to Jerry being called because he’s hidden under poison control? Well, I like that.
I like Kramer’s new alias, the American industrialist A.G. Pennypacker, too. (He has his own Facebook page!) The character’s alter-egos are best when they don’t seem rooted in one particular stereotype, and Kramer definitely seems to be drawing from various pools for this one. I could have done with more of Pennypacker and less of his fight with Newman over the year 2000 party, which is of such little consequence, even for this show. The only thing that saves that subplot is Elaine and Jerry’s complete disinterest in its resolution.
Finally there’s George, who attempts to get fired by the Yankees so he can capture a job with the Mets. I love George, and I love watching him drag the Yankees’ 1996 World Series trophy behind his car. I also liked noticing that he dressed up in a body stocking and ran around Yankee stadium years before It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia made it cool. But this is such a stock sitcom plot, and it ends in such a stock way (Wilhelm ends up getting the job) that even a bevy of great Steinbrenner monologues can’t elevate it to greatness.
- Kramer and Mickey compete: “Did I mention I’m a serious actor?” “I enjoy polo.” “I like the beach.” “My aunt has been ill of late.”
- Whatley’s best Jewish affectation—asking for a shtickl of fluoride.
- Elaine once yada yada sexed someone after he bought her a lobster bisque. “But you yada yada’d over the best part!” “No, I mentioned the bisque.”
- Debra Messing has a great sign-off line for her second of two appearances on this show. “Yeah, who needs ’em. Not to mention the blacks and the Jews.”
- Steinbrenner says out with the old, in with the new. “Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man with little girl legs.” Plus, he wasn’t even a sultan.
- Newman’s party will be in a revolving Times Square restaurant and he has booked Christopher Cross. But Kramer has ice. “What kind?” “Cubed.” “That’s good stuff.”