“The Cadillac” (season 7, episodes 14-15, originally aired Feb. 8, 1996)
Hey, we’ll be doing this two-parter this week—don’t worry, we’re not skipping “The Seven” (that’ll be next week). It’s a classic one-hour Seinfeld formula: Bring back Jerry’s parents (like “The Raincoats”), have a New York-y guest star (like “The Boyfriend”), and give Kramer this big, broad, wacky side-plot that has nothing to do with anything else (like “The Trip,” or, hell, half of Seinfeld’s episodes). “The Cadillac” is a lot of fun, especially if you’re fond of Morty and Helen and the mockery of their insular Florida world, which I certainly am.
I don’t know if the internal wrangling of the Phase 2 at the Pines of Mar Gables condo board quite tops Jerry taking Jack Klompus’ astronaut pen from season three, but it’s pretty close, and it’s nice to have Mr. Klompus back in the thick of things. “The Cadillac” is a cautionary tale—Jerry means well to surprise his parents with a new Cadillac bought with all the money he’s making as a comedian, but it only raises suspicion in the condo community. Later, he stops them from going to the early-bird special because he doesn’t want a steak dinner at 4:30, but that just ostracizes the poor Seinfelds from their snippy friends.
Much like “The Pen,” this Seinfeld-and-David-scripted episode’s message is simple: don’t fuck with these crazy old people. Sure, much of what Jerry says is rational. And sure, even the old people have a certain logic to them from time to time. But there’s an element to the retirement community that Jerry just simply can’t understand, nor should he want to, and his efforts to fix the problems he’s caused only make things worse. “You could put a fence around these condos and call it an insane asylum and nobody would know the difference!” he cries.
Even though, in reality, Jerry could easily produce documentation showing he bought his dad the car and Morty wasn’t stealing anything, the audience accepts that that’s now how things work around here. Klompus’ accusation snowballs quickly, and there’s nothing Morty and Helen can do about it once that Cadillac is parked in their driveway, a monument to arrogance in their neighbors’ envious eyes. Klompus’ angry conversation with Morty about riding in Cadillacs is the best example (and extremely funny): “Believe me, I have ridden in a Cadillac hundreds of times, thousands!”
Of course, Jerry isn’t helped by the fact that he actually assaulted and robbed one of the condo board members on a New York City street in “The Rye.” Sure, all he took from her was a marble rye, but that was not his finest hour. It doesn’t quite fit with the overall message I’ve concocted here, but I’m very glad it makes it into the episode, because you keep waiting for Jerry to get some karmic payback in “The Rye” and it never happens. Her moment of recognition (centering around the words “you old bag”) is wonderfully played, too.
The Cadillac storyline is basically a 22-minute episode within a double episode starring Jerry and his parents; it doesn’t interact with the rest of the two-parter much at all, save for a flirty late-night phone call from Elaine. Back in New York, we’re treated to a whole ethical dilemma where George wrestles with the news that he’s Marisa Tomei’s type and could have been introduced to her if he was still single; meanwhile, Elaine gets drawn into his web of lies with Jerry absent, and that leads to Susan thinking George is having an affair with Elaine, rather than lovely Marisa (who redeems herself by socking George in the nose when he says he’s engaged; I was souring on her when she fell for that “manure” bit of his).
This is George at his worst—he’s not just being a bad person, he’s also not very good at it. Sometimes, his deviousness is pretty impressive, but this is not one of those times, and it’s amazing it takes Susan so long to figure out he’s lying about something. Ultimately, Tomei’s appearance and everything around it ends up disappointing—it’s a glorified B-plot when it shouldn’t be, and it wraps up too quickly with George just getting his comeuppance from both ladies with none of his usual deviousness. Sure, we’re treated to the sight of him asking a comatose woman for Marisa Tomei’s number, and he gets to re-vent his fury at Jerry (“OF COURSE THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG! WE HAD A PACT!”) but I really like to see George go to heights of dishonesty for this sort of stuff.
Of course, there is the reappearance of Art Vandelay and the story George cooks up with Elaine about her dating the importer-exporter and them arguing about him dropping half of the business. Their Monk’s dialogue constructing the lie (where George does most of the constructing and Elaine feels rebuffed) is great, and Susan catching them in the lie is funny too, but is it so wrong to want things to be more elaborate and twisted in a double episode? George getting punched in the face just feels like such a simple way to wrap things up. It’s much better when he’s in some horrible moral quandary when the credits roll, like the guy with his arm stuck in an ATM begging for George’s code.
Kramer’s plot here seems straight out of a Seinfeld standup routine: What if you could exact revenge on those cable guys who make you wait all the time? But apart from a cute Vertigo-homaging chase scene and that lovely, impassioned speech that closes the episode, the whole thing feels like one joke stretched out a bit too long. There’s avenues that don’t really get explored, like Kramer blowing off the Con Ed guy warning of power surges. Still, there’s a nice vindictive edge to the proceedings that you don’t usually see in Kramer’s plots. Usually something bizarre is happening to him; here, he’s actually in control of the situation.
So no, “The Cadillac” is not quite at the level of great two-parters like “The Raincoats” or “The Boyfriend,” lacking the dovetailing yarns of those epics, but it’s still a pretty great episode. Plus, it gives Morty that last moment of triumph, as he exits the condo community in Nixonian fashion, waving to baffled onlookers and getting into his caddy. He’s a good loser, that guy.
- “I tell you how much I make!” Kramer protests to Jerry. “And I’m always impressed,” Jerry replies.
- Elaine asks her friend who Pippi Longstocking was. “Did she have anything to do with Hitler?”
- “Marisa Tomei’s sitting at home, Elaine!”
- “It’s like if 50 years ago someone had fixed me up with Katherine Hepburn, same thing!” “Now there’s a match, Katherine Hepburn.”
- “Look! I’ve got a few good years left! If I want a Chip Ahoy, I’ll have one!”
- Helen will never believe that her son has enough money to buy a Cadillac. “Oh, get outta here, Mr. Bigshot.”
- “Move a pinky if it’s yes. Can you move a pinky?”
- “I know I said I was engaged, but it’s really just something you say.”
- Kramer invites the cable guy over to watch Chunnel on HBO.
- “Your son could never afford that car. We all saw his act last year at the Playhouse. He’s lucky he can pay his rent!”
- George making out with his pillow is genius.
- “We’ve never worked together on a lie. You don’t understand how I work, I have a certain way of working.”
- Mrs. Choate is wonderfully blasé. Helen compliments her scarf. “Ah, they’re a dime a dozen.”
- Susan asks George what Art Vandelay imports. “Matches? Long matches?”