“The Seven”/“The Shower Head”

“The Seven”/“The Shower Head”

“The Seven” (season 7, episode 13, originally aired Feb. 1, 1996)

I know I’m getting overly analytical about Seinfeld when I start complaining about Newman being the adjudicator in the Elaine vs. Kramer conflict on this episode. But it bugged me! How can he be independent when Kramer is basically his only friend in the world? Jerry’s monologue that leads to the cut to Newman is terrific (“Someone who is unencumbered by any emotional attachment. Someone whose heart is so dark, it cannot be swayed by pity, compassion, or human emotion of any kind.”). But I dunno, those two are such a well-known team at this point, if I was Elaine, I would have objected.

Outside of watching Kramer (and later Newman) riding the bike gleefully around Manhattan, Elaine buying a girl’s Schwinn is actually the least of three very silly plots on this very silly (but fun) episode. The high point is obviously George’s unusual penchant for kids’ names. Not only are his suggestions (Soda and Seven) odd even by celebrity naming standards, but his disdain for more traditional options is great to watch. “How about Joan?” “Come on, I’m eating here.” The name Seven is rooted in his love for Mickey Mantle, it turns out (although the name Mickey apparently disgusts him) but his explanation for Soda is even better. “How do you not like Soda? It’s bubbly, it’s refreshing!”

Eventually, Susan’s cousin steals the name Seven (to her bafflement) which leads to George’s histrionics putting her into labor and a hospital scene that’s pretty broad, but it’s a pretty broad plot, so it works. I wish we could have had more of his conflict with Susan over the name, though, because his freak-out in the car (“ALRIGHT, LET’S JUST STAY CALM HERE! DON’T GET ALL CRAZY ON ME!”) is terrific and it would play into George’s fears of marriage and how it will ruin all of his ridiculous independent behaviors and dreams. Plus, Susan’s disdain for the name is just really funny.

Jerry’s girlfriend-of-the-week plot starts out kinda silly—so she wears the same outfit more than once. Even for Jerry, that seems like a pretty weird objection to have to someone. But, as they so often do, the writers (Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer here) build it up into an obsessive mind-bender where Jerry is thwarted at every turn as he tries to see her in another outfit, or at least find her stash of black-and-white dresses. My big fault with this plot is the bit where Elaine sees Christie, but only from the neck up because of her shiatsu injury. But we see Christie, and she’s wearing something else. Why not preserve the mystery? Is the joke here that Jerry is just a paranoid, insane fool? Because that’s a good joke too, but it’d be better to leave the entire thing unanswered.

There’s a final bit of vaguely meta work as Kramer decides to start paying for what’s in Jerry’s fridge, since he realizes his offer of Jerry being able to raid his fridge anytime doesn’t quite cover him. I get that Kramer’s sense of honor might lead him to this, especially since Elaine’s word is so important to the bike plot, but the whole thing is a little odd, since it’s the most minor plot in the episode even though it’s addressing such a core concept of the show. Sometimes those rules need to just be left unsaid.

“The Shower Head” (season 7, episode 16, originally aired Feb. 15, 1996)

This is a semi-sequel to “The Cadillac” (which we reviewed last week) in that it deals with the fallout of Morty’s impeachment, which brings Jerry’s parents to New York to annoy him further. It’s an episode that speaks to me with two of its tropes: First, Leo’s insistence that any slight against him is due to anti-Semitism, something I’ve heard from more than one of my relatives in the past. Second, the massively depressing effect the low-flow showerhead has on everyone. Kramer’s the worst, obviously, but even Newman and Morty lose a spring in their step without proper water pressure, something with which I wholeheartedly sympathize (I’ll take good water pressure before even hot water).

Jerry’s biggest problem this week is definitely his parents, who, as he puts it to an understandably unsympathetic George, are “killing independent Jerry!” Of course, we’ve seen this plot before (for some reason the Seinfelds are less attuned to their son’s discomfort this time around) but I enjoy Morty and Helen so much that it doesn’t really matter. Plus, with Uncle Leo and the Costanzas in the mix, a good time is had by all.

“The Shower Head” is a new chapter in Morty and Helen’s continuing passive-aggressive war with Frank and Estelle, with only the occasional outburst (Morty informing Frank that there’s no available condos in their new Del Boca Vista community). As Jerry tries to get his parents back to The Sunshine State, George endeavors to have his parents move as well, but promise of sunshine and happiness do nothing—it’s just the opportunity to spite the Seinfelds that finally prompts them to consider the move. Why George didn’t try this angle right from the start is beyond me, considering that that’s what usually motivates him to do anything.

As usual, it’s beautiful to watch Jerry and George manipulate their relatives, not accounting for their feelings whatsoever, just to spare themselves the task of visiting them more than once every five years. It’s quite contrary to Jerry’s magnanimous behavior in “The Cadillac,” but I’m willing to believe he’s more than learned his lesson. There is, perhaps, more of an edge to his treatment of Leo, but I have to say I felt sorry for the dude this week, as he seemed to have found a nice lady in his girlfriend Lydia (who he eventually dumps him not because Jerry calls him an Adonis, but because he thinks she’s anti-Semitic too).

Elaine has a subplot about poppyseed muffins giving her an opium reading on a drug test that’s heavy on the J. Peterman monologues and generally just a little too wacky and out-of-place for this week’s episode, although when she comes into contact with the main plot and asks Helen to give her a urine sample, it leads to a great scene where Helen tries to find a cup of Jerry’s to pee in and is critical of his cleaning efforts.

The episode ends as it should, with Leo alone, the Seinfelds back in Florida (because of the shower head more than anything else), and George stuck with his parents forever. We’re spared George’s reaction to that last bit of news, which is too bad, but perhaps for the best, because what we imagine is probably even better than whatever Alexander could cook up.

Stray observations:

  • “I miss the days when they made toys that could kill a kid.”
  • “You telling me people loved the name Blanche the first time they heard it?”
  • Kramer’s reaction to his Dijon mustard-lacking turkey sandwich is priceless. “No. That’s bush league.”
  • “But it took him like 10 seconds!” “Well, that’s the most he’s worked in the last four months.”
  • Jerry tells George not to push Seven. “Just because your life is destroyed, don’t destroy someone else’s.”
  • Elaine wishes Kramer wouldn’t be so literal. “It’s like saying you’re hungry enough to eat a horse.” “Well my friend Jay Reimenschnieder eats horse all the time! He gets it from his butcher!”
  • “It’s gonna lose all its cachet!” “I don’t know how much cachet it had to begin with!” “Oh, it’s got cachet, baby! It’s got cachet up the yin-yang!”
  • “I’m surprised, I thought Kramer would have a knack for moving pieces of people’s spine around.”
  • “I’m family! I’m having sex with the cousin!”
  • George doesn’t approve of Elaine going to Africa. “Your skin is gonna be simmering with boils.”
  • “Uncle Leo’s having regular sex?” “Yeah, I know, it devalues the whole thing.”
  • “I just took a bath, Jerry. A BATH!” “No good?” “It’s disgusting. I’m sitting there in a tepid pool of my own filth. All kinds of microscopic parasites and organisms having sex all around me!”
  • “This is Frank Costanza. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We’re moving in lock, stock, and barrel. We’re gonna be in the pool, we’re gonna be in the clubhouse, we’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court, and I dare you to keep me out!”
  • “Look at you, you’re disgusting. You’re bald, you’re paunchy, all kinds of sounds are emanating from your body 24 hours a day!” “But she’s an anti-Semite!” “Can you blame her?”

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