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Larry’s got mail in a delightfully cringeworthy Curb Your Enthusiasm

Photo: HBO
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Might this be the biggest budget ever given to an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm? The show is notoriously low budget, with most episodes unfolding in houses, apartments, lobbies, or any number of evergreen spaces. It was something of a surprise, then, to see the episode climax with a Revolutionary War reenactment, replete with cannon fire and exploding patches of sod. While not on par with anything in the Game Of Thrones universe, this may as well have been Curb’s “Blackwater.”


Also, what an bizarre arc. Curb often takes detours, but rarely do episodes barrel through as many zig-zags as this one. We begin with Larry’s strained relationship with Sal, the talkative gatekeeper at his golf club, then move to his budding romance with mail carrier Jean, then pivot to veteran Victor, which gives way to the reenactment and the resolution of the episode’s myriad other plot threads, which center around Larry’s preference for broiled fish and his assertion that an acquaintance’s new baby “looks a little Asian.” Waiters are confronted, affairs unearthed, and attractions snuffed. It’s almost too much.

Because can we all agree that we prefer Curb’s small moments over its big ones? Story sometimes feels like a hindrance for a show that revels in minor offenses and relatable strains of passive aggressiveness. It’s why the fatwa storyline is a touch hard to swallow; it feels all-encompassing in a show that’s never thrived with convoluted season-long arcs (don’t @ me but season five, Larry’s “near-death experience” season, remains its worst, and that’s coming from someone who counts this scene among the series’ best). It was refreshing, then, to see the fatwa take a backseat here, but also a little exhausting that in its place came so much story.

Photo: HBO

What saved the episode, however, was that it still found room to breathe in the midst of so many plotlines. Take Lewis’ tale of sleeping with a “garbage woman,” which Larry immediately perceives to be false. “You make up this story to me about fucking a garbage woman?” Larry says, an IRL smile creeping onto David’s face. “That’s really odd to me, that you would make up this story. For what? So I would think that you fucked a garbage woman? Why do you want me to think that?” The only thing funnier than Larry refusing to believe Lewis’ harmless story is his abrupt “All right, we’re done” when Lewis says he “didn’t see her as a garbage woman.”


That whole scene, which takes place at a dinner party at the Greene’s, is gold, from Larry snidely asking Susie if she washed the fruit (“They look a little sticky”) to his takedown of “Save the Date” cards (“You don’t need to send me something to tell me you’re gonna send me something”) to his purposeful choice to not give Victor a “thank you” for his service in the military (“Three people thanked him, why do I need to thank him?”). The Revolutionary War reenactment is fun and all, but it’s moments like these that create diehard Curb fans.

What also resonated in this episode and others this season is Larry’s conviction. Maybe it’s part of getting older, but Larry is owning his actions this season even more so than in previous ones. When Ken gets mad about Larry’s comment about his baby, Larry refuses to take back the comment. “I can apologize for offending you, but I can’t take back the remark,” he says with an air of hilariously unearned dignity, causing flashbacks to the sense of pride he expressed over his beep-related offenses. He’s so used to being berated that he’s just leaning into his unpopular opinions. Just look how little he cares about pissing off Susie these days; he knows she’ll be telling him to get the fuck out at some point, so he might as well ask if she’ll broil his fish. If there’s one benefit to Cheryl Hines no longer being Larry’s wife, it’s that she’s no longer able to goad him into apologizing.

Photo: HBO

And that’s why we love Larry: He’s honest in a way nobody would ever be in real life. Not only does he own the baby comments, but he tells both Jean and Sal that he wants to hit the “reset” button on their relationship, a sentiment that any living human wishes they could say to any number of people in their life. Sure, his callousness means it will inevitably end bad for him (it always does, after all), but he says it so the rest of us don’t have to. And though he faces a certain amount of punishment for those actions—Sal firing cannonballs at him, for instance—he also clings to his dickish assertions. “That’s how it’s done,” he says, satisfied, after refusing to roll his window down for the new golf club gatekeeper. So mean, yet so funny.


One question, though: Did anyone else notice the numerous callbacks here? The whole “face” bit recalls season two’s “Trick or Treat,” while his observations about movie theaters, mail carriers, and spite were essentially recycled from old Seinfeld episodes. I’m not complaining, as they’re just as resonant now as they were 25 years ago, but the comparisons were striking.

Could Larry David possibly be running out of ideas? Maybe, but lord knows he’ll find something new to complain about even in the most familiar of situations. It’s why we keep coming back.


Stray observations

  • Thanks to Danette for allowing me to fill in this week! My reverence for Larry David is as strong as my respect for wood.
  • That was Chet Hanks, Tom Hanks non-Colin spawn, playing Victor. You may also know him as Chet Haze, embarrassing rapper and bad internet person. Stick to acting, kid.
  • Also, that was The League’s Katie Aselton as Jean. She’s married to Mark Duplass and they are the most hilarious and charming couple in the world.
  • Richard Lewis was a delight here. Him saying he had “no fucking idea” why Susie thinks he’d be “especially” interested in the Greene’s new kitchen might’ve been this episode’s funniest moment.
  • I will never get used to adult Sammi.
  • What the hell was that movie playing during Larry and Jean’s date? And why didn’t it get a title like “Chunnel” or “Sack Lunch”? Larry’s annoyed “what the fuck is going on here?” after sitting down was gold.
  • Do any of you freaks have candy concoctions you throw together in the vein of Jean’s milk duds/popcorn combination?
  • Please god let this not be the last we hear of “shecootkus.”
  • “You did a semi-horse whinny?”

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.