Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Car Periscope”
B+

Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Car Periscope”

B+

Curb Your Enthusiasm

“Car Periscope”

Season 8, Episode 8

Meredith is out of town, attending a marriage between an earthquake and a hurricane, so I’m filling in for her this week.

Tonight’s Curb was a delightfully crafted little TV morsel wherein every loose end got tied up in a satisfyingly ridiculous manner. You could see each callback coming a mile away, yet the symmetry of it was beautiful. Plus, it was soaked in a silly pop-culture reference that a viewer didn’t need to get, but was enjoyable to be in on. In fact, you could argue that tonight’s episode was a perfect circle, as if made by a compass.

At the beginning of the episode, Larry’s hailing a cab but he’s “upstreamed” by a lady who unrepentantly heads up the street and steals one from him (when this happens to me, I also yell at the offender, in a Larry-like manner.) He and Jeff later meet with an inventor looking for seed money for his idea: a car periscope, a Kramer-like concept in its pointless genius (like a coffee table book about coffee tables that’s also a coffee table.)

Larry’s not sure if he can trust the Ira the inventor (especially after he shoots down Larry’s own pet concept, which is a set of skis that you can screw together so as to be less unwieldy when you carry them around). However, Larry changes his mind when he meets Ira’s wife Gabby, who’s less attractive and pulled-together than her husband. Convinced that Ira's a good man, Larry agrees to test-drive the beperiscoped car, which looks as dumb as you’d hope (I wonder if a lot of discussion went into figuring out what type of car would work best for this visual joke.) Larry and Jeff discover that the periscope does help them avoid traffic, and even Susie is impressed.

Wanda Sykes is back, everyone! She chats with Larry at a party thrown by their friend Henry, where Larry praises his newest trainer (played by 30 Rock hunk Cheyenne Jackson). Larry promises to send Wanda the trainer’s contact information. “I’m still at the same email: ihatelarry,” Wanda says. I hope we get a lot more of her this season. Henry reveals that his elderly father, an aging Judge Wapner type, lives with him, so Larry decides to say hello. “I am going to do something nice right now!” Larry declares. Susie gives him shit for announcing this and Jeff, for maybe the third time during this entire series, tells her to shut up.

Larry finds the judge playing Scrabble with a guy with one arm, and Larry riffs with him a bit on the benefits and drawbacks of having one arm. The man asks Larry to play for him while he leaves for a moment. When Larry tells the judge how much his father was a fan of his, the judge says “Lotta kikes liked the show. Jiggaboos, too.” Before Larry can say anything, Henry comes in, sees that the Scrabble score is lopsided and blames Larry for taking advantage of an old, demented man. Larry claims the culprit is the one-armed man, but of course Henry knows no one-armed man. This was the part of the show where I was really glad that I’ve seen The Fugitive. Not having done so would be just like watching The Sting II and not The Sting.

Larry later meets with his business manager (played by Bored to Death creator and character-named-after-guy Jonathan Ames) who advises him against investing in the periscope. After seeing the manager’s gorgeous wife though, Larry decides not to work with him anymore, which is a gag that was pretty similar to the Jewish lawyer thing from earlier in the season.

Out to dinner with Ira and Gabby, Larry’s annoyed that she’s hogging the food that he would have taken home to eat, but lets it go when he spots Henry, who re-evaluates Larry after seeing him with Gabby. Larry is awfully territorial when it comes to his food for such a skinny guy (IE I wonder sometimes if the writers run out of ways for Larry to be mad about things) but I loved watching Larry cuddle up to Gabby for Henry’s benefit.

As a favor to Henry, Larry plays Scrabble with the judge in the park, throwing the game (Larry plays “had”), until they get into an argument over the word “coon.” “We’re surrounded,” the judge says, looking around, “even after I put half of them away.” Larry prepares to start playing Scrabble for real until he notices Wanda working out with Terry the trainer during what would normally have been his appointment. Terry explains that Wanda’s paying him more and that the two of them will have to figure things out. Even though Larry’s morally offended by the judge’s racism, he’s not opposed to using it to his advantage when it comes to his personal trainer: he proposes that they let the judge figure out who should work out with Terry, and she agrees. Wanda, you should have known better than to trust ihatelarry.

Larry goes out to the movies with Ira and Gabby but things sour when Larry reveals that he thinks that a.) Gabby’s a big hog and b.) She’s less attractive than Ira. She lunges at Larry in a manner that’s totally ridiculous (fat angry lady on the loose! Throw popcorn into her gaping maw!) and yet highly entertaining. Both Curb and Seinfeld are entertaining when the camera is either lunging at or being lunged at by an actor (think Elaine in the sauna).  

The final slapsticky scene of the episode manages to tie up, all at once, Larry’s search for the one-armed man, the issue of the judge’s bad karma, Henry’s falsely positive impression of Larry and, way back from the beginning, the issues of cab-upstreaming.

I’m the kind of person who typically enjoys a Curb episode for its throw-away jokes and one-liners, and in some ways this episode felt a little short on those, but as a piece of TV comedy writing, I had to admire this episode’s symmetry and pop-culture homage. It may not be one for the ages, but it’s still preferable to eating popcorn on a movie theater bathroom.

--“We have a difference of opinion on implementation.”

--I thought there would be a callback to Larry discovering the block on which he’d lost his virginity.

--“You can’t judge me because I have a beautiful wife.” “Eh, I think I can. “