“The Secret Code”
This is a good one—a model episode of Seinfeld that builds up a few good stories then crashes them together and leaves us with chaos and little resolution—and of course, we don’t care, ’cuz it’s just fun to see the stories crash together. The “secret code” is kind of confusing, cause it’s in letters not numbers (Seriously, wtf? Are they pretending it’s like a phone keypad in there?) but the episode wouldn’t work without the concept, so I guess I’m on board.
George’s protectiveness about his secret code is ridiculous, but it applies very perfectly to George and serves as an extended metaphor for his unwillingness to commit to Susan. It then takes a bunch of fun left turns, as Jerry tries to think of elaborate, life-threatening situations where George might need to tell it to him, and of course, at the end of the episode, he’s presented with such a situation and has to reveal it. Although we never actually see him do it! Maybe he resists and the guy cooks alive! But given the post-credits coda where Susan knows the code, probably not.
What’s fun about the episode is how every plot influences the others. Elaine gets sick of hanging with J. Peterman and instead pursues the autistic-seeming Fred (played by Fred Stoller, who’s been in a zillion things) because he has no idea who she is. So she instead fobs Peterman off on the boys. Jerry’s a gifted enough liar to get out of it, but George has the yips or something so he keeps freezing up, and eventually gets dragged to Peterman’s mother’s deathbed, where he confesses the code: “Bosco.”
It’s kind of hilarious how natural the scene is, considering how utterly absurd it sounds on paper. But George is so worn down by Peterman (who seems to value him as a friend for a bit even though he sees through all of his lies) that it makes sense he’d want to confide something in the mother, considering Peterman is just such a wall of his ridiculous rhetoric. The way the mother then starts shouting “Bosco” over and over is the typical Seinfeld black comedy—it’s so light and ridiculous, you almost forget how nutty and dark it is. She’s dead, and Peterman is tortured by her nonsensical last words! Haha!
Jerry’s interactions with a local businessman called Leapin’ Larry cause all kinds of problems for George too, since he starts the fire that leads to the guy stuck in the bank machine who needs his ATM code. It’s a great moment, since everything has built up the word “Bosco” in people’s minds, so you know the kind of pandemonium him saying it will cause. It’s nice that we freeze before it happens, because the reaction shots would be kinda lame—the post-credits tag, with Peterman’s new catalog entry focused on cursing George, was a much better way to go.
Kramer’s plot here is kinda cute and broad, but feels plucked from a bucket of “Kramer’s wacky!” stories. Still, the sight of him on that fire truck is pretty good.
“The Pool Guy”
Okay, I know you guys yell at me about being all PC and silly about some of the minority characters on this show, and you’re absolutely right to—I can be a total wimp about that stuff. But Wikipedia tells me that Carlos Jacott, who plays Ramon the pool guy here (and I love Carlos Jacott but he’s doing a terrrible accent) replaced a guy called Danny Hoch who quit cause he was told to play the character like a “crazy Hispanic” and then he was in some HBO documentary talking about it? And wrote a one-man show? Crazy!
Anyway, Jacott is the weakest element of “The Pool Guy,” mostly because his accent is so distracting that you don’t really get if Jerry’s intimidated by the guy because he’s a pool cleaner or because he’s Latino. There is the wonderful sight of Newman in an old-fashioned bathing suit, but that storyline is kind of a non-event.
The rest of the episode is a heck of a lot of fun, though. Kramer’s imitation of the Moviefone man is definitely a pop-culture reference that’s frozen in time, but to me it’s still completely hilarious, especially his awkward conversation with George near the end of the episode where’s he’s trying to make out the touch-tone noises.
But the real highlight of the episode is George’s fear at Elaine and Susan becoming friends, which means, as Kramer says, “worlds colliding.” Soon, George explains to Jerry in one of his better tirades, “independent George” and “relationship George” will become one and the same, meaning the loss of some of independent George’s best sub-features, like “movie George, coffee shop George, liar George, bawdy George.” Jerry likes that last one (I wish we saw more of him!).
George’s building rage carries the episode off, since everyone else just kinda bums around in it (apart from Kramer, of course, who’s got his own tour de force going on). His shouting on the phone to Kramer is great. His shouting to a movie theater (at the 84th Street Loews, which is where I used to go as a kid!) is even better. And George getting carried out by movie security, screaming his head off, as his friends and fiancée look on and don’t say a word? Well, that’s the best.
What I like most about the plot is that it resolves itself beautifully— Susan quickly realizes that she doesn’t want to hang out with Jerry and Elaine, because she’s a relatively normal human being and hanging out with them is kind of maddening. Now, I’d prefer to hang out with Jerry and Elaine, and so would many others. But it is like living in a box of constant, useless analysis. You can imagine that Susan has other things to do. It makes perfect sense, and since George caused all the chaos by himself, it doesn’t even need anything else to work.
“George, you’re going to marry this woman… most likely.”
Jerry’s code: Jor-El.
Elaine’s story about her uncle knowing Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas Book Depository is brilliant. After JFK was shot, Oswald winked at him and said “I’m gonna go catch a movie.”
“I don’t know anything about your cycles! I never know what’s going on there,” George complains to Susan.
“I don’t like being on, Jerry, I’d much rather be off!” “Oh, trust me, you’re off.”
J. Peterman’s first name: Jacopo.
Kramer’s analysis of George is hilarious. “What kind of man are you? You’re weak, spineless, a man of temptations. But what tempts you? You’re a porky fellow, long in the waistband.”
“Yours is a sweet tooth. You may stray, but you’ll always return to your dark master: The cocoa bean!”
The fire company Kramer visits is Co. 8 on North Moore St. in Tribeca, famously also used as the location shot for the Ghostbusters headquarters.
George would beat Jerry in a fight cause he fights dirty. “Pull hair, poke eyes, groin stuff, whatever I gotta do.”
“And then back to her place, strip down to bra and panties for a tickle fight?” “That’s really what you think girls do, isn’t it?” “Yes, I do.”
Jerry’s excuse to Ramon: “I actually only have three friends, I really can’t have anymore!”
“A George divided against itself cannot stand!”
“There’s no higher place than… MOUNTAIN HIGH.”
Chunnel is the latest in Seinfeld fake movies. We can hear Larry David shouting, “EVERYBODY IN THE CHUNNEL, EVERYBODY OUT!”