Photo: John P. Johnson

People will watch anything with ‘Chicago’ in the title.”

This season of Curb Your Enthusiasm has had the longest average running time, with episodes approaching the 40-minute mark. At roughly 44 minutes (by my DVR’s count anyway), “The Shucker” is the longest episode of Curb ever—that is, until the season finale next week. And it definitely felt that way throughout, with the episode reaching a few natural or obvious conclusions before its iconic medley finally played us out to the sight of a snoring Larry.

Every time I thought “The Shucker” was getting ready to put a button on things, it added a new wrinkle to the unfolding story. Not all of these extensions worked out, the subplots more often than not returning to an old Curb thread, which, in some cases, rolled out earlier this season. Last week, Larry got the chance to reframe his entire existence, which earned him a literal stay of execution (it’s actually more of a commutation, I think, but not sure we should give him good odds on staying on the muftis’ good side). That necessitated some rehashing of events, which “The Shucker” also does, including a previously unseen nap at a Hamilton show (a story Steven Weber’s shucker overhears and promptly blackmails Larry over), the previous owner of his home repeatedly breaking in to “save” her/his ficus, and Cheryl talking Tahoe to Ted.

Larry’s past has a habit of coming back to confront him, but as much as I enjoyed “his time in the well,” it was an odd choice to give the cantankerous old coot another day in court to have a petty squabble adjudicated. Then Larry also threw in a bit about unfiltered water, which made that ending feel like “Never Wait For Seconds!” in micro. It’s the penultimate episode of the season, but it’s still too early for so much retracing of steps. The retread feels especially unnecessary when you consider all the other stuff going on in this episode to keep our attention.

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Photo: John P. Johnson

You don’t need to be a Hamilton or In The Heights fan to get a kick out of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s appearance. The actor-composer has made several such cameos on shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Difficult People, and it’s clear that he enjoys skewering his “wide-eyed naif” image. This fictionalized Lin-Manuel is married to America Ferrera (well, America Ferrera as his wife, Vanessa Nadal), and he’s a bit of a control freak. It’s not just that he wants to rewrite most of Fatwa! The Musical, in addition to starring in and recasting the project that could have gotten Larry killed. But he also insists on situating himself in the “power seat” in his meetings with Larry and Jeff, even though it’s not his office. His depiction isn’t a complete 180 from our familiar version of Miranda. Knowing he’s three-fourths of the way to an EGOT helps sell the fiercely competitive guy we see alternately staring down Larry and racing him to an office chair.

Miranda is among several guest stars tonight, including Lauren Graham, who returns as Bridget, who’s improbably gotten back together with Larry. Ted Danson and Cheryl Hines are back and rubbing their romance in Larry’s face, as well as enjoying a little pillow talk about whatever happened between Larry and Cheryl in Tahoe. (We never find out what it was, other than it was sexual in nature.) Steven Weber is the Shucker who admits that being a prick is just the “shucker’s way,” and Judy Sheindlin renders judgment against Larry in his dispute with the green-thumbed Mrs. Shapiro.

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“The Shucker” tries to do right by all of them and Leon, who shows up as moral support for Larry, both at Mrs. Shapiro’s home and in court. But even 45 minutes isn’t quite enough time to catch all the (long) balls in the air. Some aren’t really worth it—Weber’s great at being a dick, but the payoff there is just Larry falling asleep at the theater, a bit that would have been more at home in a Simpsons episode. Curb’s long game is better served by the sexual NDA, which ties together Larry’s old and new relationships. (But contrary to what Bridget and Larry think, it has been done before, on Chappelle’s Show.)

Crammed in with these storylines were funny errant bits, like the talk of power signifiers. Aside from the classic white hat that gave Jeff more equal footing in his marriage, we saw how important it is to be behind a desk rather than in front of it. Larry lost his resolve and creative control of his musical simply because Lin-Manuel Miranda looked like the guy in charge. It’s reminiscent of Richard Lewis’ strategy of arriving hours in advance to secure the best seat at the table. Larry’s obsession with optics extends to Leon’s headgear, but fuck if Mr. Black is going to ditch his do-rag—which he believes is in the “ascot and pocket square family”—for a couple of nervous, elderly white people. That discussion of discomfort is tabled, because there are so many other matters to attend to here, which is really too bad. But at least Leon got to tell everyone about the dick chiropractor.

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Stray observations

  • Larry teasing Ted Danson about retiring probably drove a stake of fear through the hearts of The Good Place fans.
  • “That’s like a bad horse trade.” The Shucker sticks to his shtick all right.
  • I have to concur with everyone in tonight’s episode: Jeff Garlin looks great in a cowboy hat.
  • “The verses are going to be Satanic” is a great line from LMM, but Larry’s eyeroll is still well-deserved.
  • There were actually a lot of great lines tonight, from the jokes about Dick Wolf’s Chicago shows to “good-ass dick stories” and “We don’t do alumni weekends.”
  • Sorry, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but you ALWAYS hire Mandy Patinkin when given the opportunity.
  • The first time I heard Salman Rushdie’s name, it was pronounced “Saul-min Rush-dee,” which has stuck with me, but YMMV.
  • Oh, SUSIE.

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