Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

“Running With The Bulls” continues a couple of Curb traditions, including Larry’s knack for upending a funeral and the related custom of finding a way to ruin any memorial service for a member of the Funkhouser family. The episode also introduces the latest in a line of Larry’s therapists, played by Bryan “Dr. Whatley” Cranston, who ends up fussing over his office decor after taking L-Vid on as a patient. Cheryl is also back at her post of patiently explaining basic rules of conduct to her ex-husband as Jeff cheats on Susie and Leon talks about his dick (and Larry’s). So far, so Curb.

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What will also be familiar territory for most viewers is deciding which of Larry’s latest idiotic choices or outsize reactions are really true to the character. We fully expect him to make the worst possible choice at every turn—even after careful consideration (and sometimes because of it). But there are also many instances in which the actions that lead to the inevitable fiasco feel forced. For a recent example, see the season-nine premiere, in which Larry got way too hung up on the particulars of a lesbian wedding, which led to a breakup and him crawling around on a restaurant floor (in a disguise, no less). His brief, not-so-internal debate over holding the door open for Betty, Jeff’s barber, is typical Larry stuff. His insistence upon trying to assert some kind of gender norm over a stranger’s wedding, less so.

But the overarching theme of Curb is, of course, that little of what Larry actually does makes much sense to most reasonable folks. He sometimes has a point (I myself have a four-steps-away-or-less rule for holding a door open for a stranger), which he’s often prepared to go to extraordinary means to prove. And when this results in being banned from Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ home, as his cutoff time negotiating led to in “The Wire,” we can overlook the perceived inconsistencies. But when we get a somewhat limp retread of Larry’s funeral faux pas—a growing list of “don’ts”— it’s just a bit more difficult to shrug off some inconsistencies.

Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

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And inconsistencies run rampant in “Running With The Bulls,” from Ted’s surprise at Larry being in therapy (although his “I’m just so happy you’re seeing someone” is delivered with so much relief as to make it a perfectly executed dig), to Marty deciding to keep Larry’s role in his nephew’s fall from grace a secret. Or, in another weird choice from the Funk Man, inviting Larry to the service, given his penchant for disrupting the proceedings, amply displayed in “The 5 Wood” and “The Ida Funkhouse Roadside Memorial.” (And for more of Larry’s grieving shenanigans, see “Beloved Aunt” or “The Smiley Face.”)

The fact that he won’t accept Larry’s condolences or handshake in front of Ted, Cheryl, and Jeff suggests Marty’s pissed at Larry, and rightly so. But Larry’s presence at Little Funk’s funeral is a given from the first mention of the death of the former up-and-coming baseball player, who was so bewitched by a sex worker (Bianca Kajlich) that he followed her to Europe, where he was trampled by the bulls of Pamplona. Such tragic ends are also standard Curb stuff, and the second stampede at the episode’s end is a nice touch, but it also feels like Larry David & Co. are straining to complete the callback. Which is just unnecessary, because no one was really thinking about Little Funkhouser after he ran Benny Hill-style across Larry’s foyer.

After going to such trouble to get Larry to a funeral, where he can be an insensitive ass, there’s little payoff. Larry wastes no time warming up, jumping into abrasive dick mode from the first “solemn hello,” which he interrupts as more of a terse, “I’m pissed” nod from Dr. Templeton, arguing loudly over seating, then yelling at the poor mourner in front of him. She’s no Guy Shedding Dandruff from “The 5 Wood”; sure, she’s wailing, but Larry immediately telling her to “shut up” and “just whimper” is still a leap. His freakout over one of the darker-skinned funeral guests is very much in character, though, because as Cheryl notes, he has to make everything about him.

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Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

Aside from completing the “ruin a Funkhouser memorial” hat trick—as dubious an honor as there ever was—the episode explores the psychological effects of the fatwa. Despite Salman Rushdie’s advice, there was only so much fun Larry was going to get out of being surrounded by danger, especially now that he’s run Elizabeth Banks and her terrible improv skills off. So he heads back to therapy, this time with Dr. Templeton—“Lionel” to his friends and Cheryl—who cares just a bit more about helping Larry address and cope with his stress than making sure his patient likes the office furniture.

We’ve seen Larry in therapy before, with the not-so-aptly-named Dr. Bright (Steve Coogan) and Dr. Thurgood (the mellifluous Fred Melamed). Those two represented the opposite ends of the therapist spectrum, with the former going out of his way to help Larry and the latter trying to set boundaries by billing Larry for trying to turn an informal chat into an ersatz session. But Dr. Templeton’s wilier than his predecessors, as he manages to resolve Larry’s issues with the patient chair and stick him with the bill. Given Cranston’s connection to David, he could very well reprise the role. But it’s far likelier that Larry will dump him—not because of the chair move, but because there’s no way he’s going to let Cheryl lord Lionel over him.

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Stray observations

  • Because Richard Lewis’ self-portrait looks more like Michael Douglas, I fully expected it to turn into a recurring gag where people at the restaurant assumed it was some other actor.
  • On that note, fill in the blank: Richard Lewis’ self-portrait looks more like [BLANK]
  • “Mrs. Templeton has indicated she’d rather not meet you.”
  • Susie’s limited screen time was offset by how quickly she caught on to Jeff’s scam. And she got a new house.
  • “I knew you’d just mock me and destroy me.” We need more Richard Lewis on this show.
  • The fact that Larry had trouble getting his dick out of his pants while Jeff struggled to keep his inside his own was probably the only funny bit about Jeff’s adultery. The philandering is just meh by now.

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