Of all the surprises for a Curb Your Enthusiasm finale to pack, a pointed reference to Donald Trump’s first impeachment might be among the most flummoxing. But that’s one of several head-scratching developments in “The Mormon Advantage,” the 10th episode of Curb’s 11th season, which has been uneven pretty much from the start. Like “Irma Kostroski,” “The Mormon Advantage” has a bit of an unfinished air—Larry’s hopes of repealing Santa Monica’s fence law are definitely sunk by episode’s end, but this season’s most electric players make their exits rather unaccountably. Instead of a Larry-Irma or Larry-Marcus-Sofia Maria showdown (either would have been satisfying), we get retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman reprising his role as a whistleblower.
There is fun to be had in the wait for the reveal of just how Larry will cross paths with a man hailed as a national hero, and in watching Marcus suggest that there’s such a thing as too much Ted Danson (even in a bald cap, this is simply an impossibility). Leon yelling about “Stockholm tappin’” and finding himself stranded in Los Angeles while the latest Mary Ferguson makes her way to Asia (with Vindman, no less) is a solid resolution to that whole storyline. But overall, “The Mormon Advantage” is the season in microcosm: a whole lot of elements that don’t quite come together.
Maybe Larry David and Jeff Schaffer wanted to avoid the dovetailing of their previous season finale “Spite Store,” but Vindman’s cameo just seems an odd fit for the show, episodes like “Palestinian Chicken” notwithstanding. Filming on season 11 began in November 2020, more than a year after Vindman testified before Congress about the July 2019 phone call between former president Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It’s not Curb’s fault that the COVID pandemic destroyed our sense of time, of course, but these events feel like they happened so long ago—not to mention, there was a whole other impeachment in 2021, one that was centered on Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.
Closing out a fitfully funny season with an exchange that recalls an event that’s at least partially faded from public memory (which says more about what a clusterfuck the last three years have been than people’s priorities) is a strange choice, even if it is somewhat in keeping with the more politically involved “Larry David” who emerged this year. In an October 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Schaffer teased Larry’s grassroots actions, as well as some broader commentary on antisemitism.
Well, Larry canvassed and stood in line to vote—though he ultimately didn’t cast his ballot—and even romanced a woman with the traits of 10 annoying people, all so he could get the five-foot fence law repealed and rid himself of Marcus (Marques Ray) and Maria Sofia (Keyla Monterroso Mejia). In his interactions with other Jews, Larry went from shrugging off their connection to asking a “fellow Tribesman” for a favor. So, consider those promises kept (unlike so many of those made on the campaign trail).
That cohesion is absent elsewhere in the finale, as the storylines involving Irma, Maria Sofia, and Marcus just kind of fizzle out. I know I’ve spent the last several weeks wondering about this season’s big picture, and it sorta comes into view in “The Mormon Advantage.” But in doing so, Curb ends up panning away from the characters who gave the season most of its energy. With Irma Kostroski, Tracey Ullman hasn’t just beat out virtually every other guest star on the show; she’s also helped create one of its most memorable characters. Removing Irma from the action at such a late hour robs the ending of some of its momentum—not to mention, denies viewers the confrontation between Irma and Larry over her grandfather’s stolen shoes.
I’ve watched the scenes a few times, and I’m still a bit confused: I’d think Irma would be livid upon learning that Larry had stolen her grandfather’s shoes from an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum. But when we last see her, seven sheets to the wind, she’s wailing about her grandfather sending her a “sign.” Did she think Ytzhak Maultsevitch was also Larry’s great-uncle? Either of these things might have been enough to cause her to relapse, I suppose. Irma and Ullman deserved better from this season closer, given how they bolstered the flagging momentum of the season.
Marcus and Maria Sofia are also dispensed with in a summary fashion, though not before Mejia can dazzle us with some more great “bad acting” in an early scene on the set of Young Larry. They also show up in a late-hour fantasy sequence, as Larry, seemingly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, dreams of booting them both from the set. But it turns out that Head Councilman Weinblatt (Mark Atteberry) is also in violation of the fence ordinance, so Larry ends the season sinking like a stone in the councilman’s pool, wondering where the safety fence is. This might not be the last we see of Maria Sofia and her stage dad; Young Larry made it into production despite beaucoup setbacks, after all, so maybe it’ll make its way into a potential 12th season. Not only do we need more of Mejia, but I would like to see Larry sit down with executives from all the streamers.
The storyline that gives the episode its title doesn’t yield much else. While it’s always funny to see someone take Larry’s advice to heart (for a recent example, see: Patton Oswalt as Henry in “The Mini Bar”), the whole thing is just another brief setback for Larry, who keeps up the quid pro quo with Councilwoman Johnson, a Mormon whose husband Micah doesn’t need much prompting to act on the polygamy thing. When Larry has to win her back over to the pro-repeal side, he offers to make a sizable donation to the LDS Church (actually, this is Irma’s idea) and badmouths just about everyone else in the Santa Monica city council. This is another “perfect call” that Vindman overhears and sees as his duty to transcribe, this time for Councilman Weinblatt. And that’s how Larry ends up lying to Weinblatt’s mother in order to rummage through his things. Despite flailing in a pool, his fate seems just as clear as Kendall Roy’s in Succession season three’s penultimate episode, which is to say he’ll live to fuck up another day.
I’d never suggest looking for a tidy ending from Curb, which has never concerned itself with one or even ensuring comeuppance for any wrongdoers (though we can remain confident that Larry will get his). But we can usually count on the most seemingly random bits to serve some a comedic purpose. Season 11 didn’t really jell until the last minute, and even then, it cast aside its more compelling parts for a gag that wasn’t that much more enjoyable than the Don Jr. cracks in the season premiere. This was one callback the show could have done without.
Season grade: B-
- I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Larry would take a pair of shoes he knows belonged to someone who was killed in the Holocaust, but I still let out a bit of a gasp when he practically clicked his heels.
- If that’s how Larry thinks polygamy works, he should really watch Big Love.
- Larry probably decided against having another assistant after Alice, but it would have made a big difference if he’d just been able to call someone to bring him a pair of shoes while he was at the event.
- There would be irony in Larry being pro-roping when he’s so anti-fencing, if we hadn’t already seen how frequently his hypocrisy bites him in the ass.
- “Very bad hombres,” “no angel,” “a perfect call”—just some of the
- Leon pronouncing “Lucius” as “Luscious” is way better than arguing over “vayze” and “vahz.”
- After Vindman told Mary Ferguson #4 to call him “Colonel,” I half-expected him to look directly into the camera and give a big thumbs-up.
- I’d have liked to hear more about Leon’s “five lies” theory.
- Lily Collins a.k.a. Emily Cooper did make an appearance, as Jarrod Jones predicted.
- I guess Susie doesn’t want to deal with a divorce anymore than Jeff does, not when she can continue to get fancy gifts and “tune-ups.”
- That’s a wrap on Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11 coverage! Thank you for reading and commenting. If there’s a 12th season, Jarrod will be the one to recap, as I’m getting a little too old to be up so late on a Sunday night.