Has any episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, let alone a season premiere, garnered as much sympathy for Larry David (the fictional one, that is) as “The Five-Foot Fence”? We all have our moments of agreeing with Larry or at least seeing his point of view in a given season. But the season 11 premiere had me feeling bad for the guy on more than one occasion and nodding vehemently as he made the very valid point that six months is a long time to wait for repayment of a $6,000 loan.
Obviously, Larry doesn’t need the $6,000 he lent Dennis Zweibel (Barry’s John Pirruccello, sans mustache) for some golf trip. But I also wondered why he was “bad guy” in that situation—though, to be honest, my viewpoint might be colored by the fact that I am not someone who can afford to float someone else thousands of dollars to be repaid at a date TBD.
That unpaid loan turns out to be the least of Larry’s troubles in “The Five-Foot Fence.” His woes stack up quickly, lest anyone think that Curb Your Enthusiasm has gained any generosity of spirit or anything over the last two years. At the top of the episode, Larry finds a dead body in his pool. Turns out, the burglar who had just broken into his house tripped, hit his head, and drowned. All of this could have been avoided if Larry had the eponymous fence around his pool, which is mandated by a Santa Monica ordinance.
The cop tells Larry he’s giving him a pass, but we already know this is going to come back to bite him. And that’s part of the joy (if we want to call it that) of watching Curb Your Enthusiasm—waiting for the show’s grand design to reveal itself. Series director Jeff Schaeffer recently told Variety that season 11 is like “the thousand-piece puzzle” made up of “ten 100-piece puzzles.” He went on, “This year we’re throwing a lot of puzzle pieces out at you in the beginning, but I promise you, they all come together in a real nice, completed puzzle of pettiness and awkward vengefulness.”
Pettiness and vengefulness is what we’re here for, and “The Five-Foot Fence” has plenty of both, along with another great array of guest stars, including a returning Jon Hamm. There’s also another series pitch from Larry, which is quickly green-lit by a fictional Netflix executive named Don Winston Jr. (Reid Scott). Larry’s now poised to join the world of Young Sheldon and Young Rock, with a semi-autobiographical comedy that will see him trying to kill his wealthy uncle while also trying to make it as a stand-up comedian.
Larry’s projects, including the Seinfeld reunion and Fatwa! musical, have provided a loose framework for previous seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how Young Larry brings this year’s many threads together. There’s already some intersection in the premiere, as the dead burglar’s brother Marcus (Marques Ray) blackmails Larry into casting his daughter Maria Sofia (Keyla Monterroso Mejia) as a Jewish ballerina named Marsha Lifshitz (that’s the spelling that came up in my closed captions).
The specifics of the extortion aside, it was pretty obvious that someone would take advantage of Larry’s lack of proper fencing. The cop’s hushed tone as he told LD he would look the other way all but set up Marcus’ demand. This development wasn’t exactly broadcast, but Curb doesn’t like to squander potential sources of ire for Larry. Even after meeting Marcus, he continues to tempt fate by refusing to put up the mandated fence, so he’s walking right into this debacle.
To add injury to insult, Larry walks into a glass door while on a date with Lucy Liu, which changes the way she looks at him (she can no longer think of him in a sexual way), and also prompts Leon to threaten to put Larry in a home (“two feeble things in a row”). This, after Susie’s plopping down on Mary Ferguson’s (Ashli Auguillard) couch caused Larry to spill wine on one of the cushions. Neither incident reflects well on Larry, as his friends and acquaintances start to wonder about his vitality (and virility).
That story also has the potential to recur this season, but I’m really hoping that Albert Brooks comes back. His “live funeral” is a fiasco of Curb-size proportions, and it begins with lots of promise. Larry is supposed to lead the eulogizing, followed by Jon Hamm, whose performance as a Larry David-like character tested well with audiences, but not the Larry David-like character.
Naturally, Larry cannot bring himself to earnestly mourn his friend, because he knows Albert is still alive and watching the proceedings from his bedroom with his girlfriend Jodi (Laura Kightlinger). He cracks jokes the whole time, and though I was sure the crowd would turn on him, the “mourners” eat them up. After losing his sorta-girlfriend, being stiffed out of $6,000, and blackmailed by the brother of the person who broke into his house and died in his pool, Larry closes out the episode on a high note.
It’s not on purpose, though—while looking for a bathroom, he stumbles upon a closet full of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and possibly some PPE (I assume that’s why Jon Hamm yells about things first responders could have used). It might be a post-COVID world in Curb, but there are still signs of the pandemic, including widespread disdain for hoarders. No one wants to celebrate Albert Brooks at that point, which he takes in stride: “Maybe we’ll try again next year.”
Like Hamm, Brooks is a great addition to Curb’s roster. I have no idea how close or far this depiction is from the real Brooks (anyone could become a hoarder, honestly), but he fits right into the show’s world. He’s selfish but genial, and I can totally see people gathering again in another year to give the live funeral another go. Maybe he’ll woo them back with flu shots?
The season’s possible overarching plots, I’m not as sold on—not yet, anyway. The Netflix series storyline isn’t out of place in this show, but we’ve seen Larry mount a new production before, only to have it blow up in his face somehow. The extortion plot probably isn’t going to be resolved quickly. I do wonder if Larry’s “loss of vitality” will come up again. Curb just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and David and Schaeffer continue to say that they’ll keep making more of the show as long as they have an idea they want to move forward with.
The newest seasons of the show have been described as “zombie Curb” in some places, so maybe this is LD’s way of address critics. More likely, though, he’s once again poking fun at himself. “The Five-Foot Fence” wasn’t a riotously funny premiere for the show, but it did excel at putting Larry through the wringer.
- Once more unto the breach of screener-less recapping. Thank you for bearing with me.
- Leon auditioning Mary Fergusons to replace the one he deemed less viable because she also walked into a glass door was one of the funniest moments of the episode. And it looks like Mary Ferguson #2 (former Idiotsitter writer/actor Charlotte Newhouse), as she’s named in the credits, will be back next week with a dog named Angel Muffin.
- I walked into a glass door once after meeting Sandra Cisneros at a book signing. She HEARD the impact and called out, “Is everyone okay?” In my defense, I was looking at the inscription in the book. Also, the Poetry Foundation may or may not have added those bird decals to their doors after this incident.
- I’m too tired to look this up right now, but this episode has absolutely made me wonder how much The Three Stooges got laid.
- Larry’s conflicts really do point to how delicate the social contract is: If you don’t do your part, it puts a burden on someone else. Larry does have outsize expectations of people sometimes, but it also seemed like Dennis just didn’t want to pay him back. Maybe it’s because Larry’s a dick, but… I don’t know, I just struggle to see this from Dennis’ or Susie’s point of view.
- Speaking of Susie, do we think she’s capable of making up the “lifetime guarantee” thing to take advantage of Dennis’ condition?