"The Fusilli Jerry"
To me, this has always been the "classic" episode of season 6, the episode with tropes everyone remembers, much like "The Puffy Shirt" of season 5, "The Contest" of season 4 and so on and so forth. It's an episode where the title reminds you of one plotline, but as you watch it you realize there were three more classic stories bundled inside; it introduces David Puddy, one of the show's best-remembered recurring characters; and it deals with sex, in that delicate, careful but somewhat dirty Seinfeld manner that just cannot be replicated without seeming silly.
Like a lot of Seinfeld characters, Puddy is still in the development stage when we first meet him. He's going to turn into a super-dry, almost robotic Golem figure who cracks me up just every time he squints at Elaine. Here, he's basically a normal human being, a blue-collar friend of Jerry's who's the one honest mechanic in town and is now dating Elaine. That Jerry's annoyed that a friend of his is dating Elaine is, honestly, a bit of a stretch at this point, but writer Marjorie Gross (who wrote a few great episodes and sadly died of cancer at 40) finds a great new spin on the theme by having Puddy steal Jerry's sex "move" which apparently involves a swirl at the end.
It's also tied to the concept of stealing a comedian's material, and Puddy's claim that most of Jerry's moves were out there already and all he added was the swirl sounds funnily like a lot of plagiarizers' typical defenses. This is a fairly "sexy" episode of Seinfeld — rarely are we treated to the sight of George in his MLB baseball-sheets bed with a beautiful woman, just because the sight of his sweaty head emerging from the covers is so shocking. But the basically-blind George, who cribs the move onto his hand so he can do it, makes a good comparison to Puddy, a Stanley Kowalski type who clearly has no trouble deploying the move.
There's also a nice reversal of the joke later in the episode as we learn that Puddy, so psyched out by Jerry's accusation of theft, tries out George's move, which involves a knuckle and, according to Elaine, is full of "fancy shmancy stuff" and is "like a big budget movie with a story that goes nowhere." Given that George embellishes so much in his regular life, it's not surprising to imagine he does so in bed too. The episode only widens the reality gulf in terms of George showing up with beautiful women every other week, but as usual with Seinfeld, it's too funny for you to care.
Anyway, weirdly, as much as I love that plotline, it is the LEAST funny one this episode. That's right, you heard me! There's too many clever connections between plots in this episode to list, but my favorite link from the Puddy plot to the Frank/Estelle plot is Frank's anger at Kramer supposedly stealing HIS move, which is stopping short in a car and reaching over to grab a handful of boob. Of course, Kramer (ever the gentleman) never intended such a thing, but Frank's righteous anger is beautiful to behold, and, you'd imagine, lays the groundwork for he and Estelle to reconcile.
Frank's suspicion of Kramer makes more sense considering the reputation Kramer cultivates with his new "ASSMAN" license plates, which might be just about my favorite Kramer plot of all time. It's one that speaks beautifully to his character, in that he didn't ask for the plates and doesn't really want them, but they turn out beautifully for him, attracting all kinds of friendly shout-outs from people on the street and transforming (or at least, somewhat shaping) the "type" of women he prefers. If George got the ASSMAN plates, it'd bankrupt any relationship he had with a woman and lead to some kind of personal disaster — Kramer just absorbs it into his personality. The end of the episode with the proctologist (who Kramer predicted the plates belonged to) is a surprisingly cute little joke to end such a big episode (for god's sake, it ends with Frank getting fusilli up his ass). But I love that little wink he shoots Kramer; it's like they both belong in a cool-guys club of people who just don't give a shit.
I can't end without mentioning the Fusilli Jerry itself. It's barely a plot at all, and it's sort of funny that it's the name of the episode, but it definitely makes me laugh (to the extent that I'm sad when Frank breaks it). It's just because the fusilli really does fit Jerry's personality (as ravioli fits George's) and it's such a weird and kind gesture by Kramer, exactly the kind he'd make. "When did you do this?" Jerry asks. "In my spare time." "Why fusilli?" "Because you're silly!" This is the best Kramer episode ever.
"The Diplomat's Club"
"Fusilli" is a tough act to follow but this is another great one, a very wacky episode with Elaine getting fired by Mr. Pitt for looking like a murder plotter, George hunting the city for black people to be friends with, Kramer betting on plane arrivals with a rich Texan, a very, very harried Jerry, and, most notably, the revelation that Newman runs the mail route the Son of Sam once had.
Jerry's story is one of those nice rare ones where he actually loses his cool (once we see the model he's dating at the end of the episode, we kind of understand why). Much like the real Seinfeld, I think the best way to fuck Jerry's shit up is to mess up his comedy act, which he has Jedi-like control over but can be thrown off balance by weird little details. So when his booker (played by Debra Jo Rupp, later of Friends and That 70s Show) tells him his airline pilot is in the crowd in Ithaca, Jerry gets thrown off, cause his act begins with a story about him taking the Thruway up. I don't know where they got the guy who plays the pilot but he looks perfect, like he belongs on a billboard, and his puzzled stare at Jerry just cracks me up every time.
Debra Jo Rupp is perfecting a character here she'll play, with some variation, for the rest of her career — a very, very tightly wound control freak. But it's still funny to see since Jerry is exactly the same and exactly the opposite — he's a control freak, but he controls his life in that he never lets it get too complicated. Whereas she has to ask him about every detail of what he wants to the letter, which makes sense as just the perfect way to fuck Jerry's life up. The final gag, where the pilot once again throws Jerry off his (sex) game by driving past the airport window, is supremely absurd, but the gag's so good, they just had to do it again.
Elaine, unfortunately, gets short shrift for such an important episode, but the comedy of errors leading to Pitt firing her is a pretty amusing bit of farce. The actual firing scene, which is surprisingly mean, still gets some laughs with Elaine's teary montage of all their horrible times together (Pitt, we're reminded, was funniest when he was worked up, like with the socks or the Woody Woodpecker float). Soon, we'll be moving on to her next, more-famous wacky boss, but a fond farewell to Mr. Pitt nonetheless.
It is very nice how her appearance at the airport syncs up so well with Jerry's mishaps and Kramer's interest in the diplomat's club and, later, his madcap gambling with the Texas oilman. George's plot, on the other hand, is entirely separate, addressing somewhat slyly a criticism Seinfeld has had leveled at it a few times — the lack of black, or really any ethnic minority, characters in its ensemble. As Jerry rightly points out to George, the show never really had a very deep ensemble. Or, as he puts it, "But you don't really have any black friends. Outside of us you don't really have any white friends either."
George's hunt for a black friend to impress his boss with hilariously calls in a bunch of one-shot characters like the family he watched Breakfast at Tiffany's with or the flea exterminator Jerry hired. It's a great gag in that George's original comment, while perhaps impolitic, was obviously not intended racially, but as he digs a deeper hole searching for someone to show off to Mr. Morgan, the more uncomfortable his situation gets, until you can't wait for him to get his comeuppance (which is well-delivered, but almost a little too straightforward). But we know there's really no controversy, right? As George says, "I would have marched on Selma, if it was in Long Island."
I've been to Ithaca — I don't think planes that big go there.
George to Estelle: "You take TV out of this relationship, it is just torture."
An even better snippet from that conversation: "You can't be out there because I'm out there, and if I see you out there, there's not enough voltage in the world to shock me back to coherence."
"Cosmo Kramer! You are the assman!"
"You meet a proctologist at a party, don't run away, plant yourself there because you will hear the funniest stories you ever heard."
"What are you doing?" "I'm, uh, you know, uh, pleasuring you." "It feels like aliens poking at my body."
Estelle has eye surgery, but Frank knows how to attract the ladies too. "I worked out with a dumbbell yesterday! I feel vigorous!"
"Million to one shot, doc. Million to one."
"I've the done march-in. Best feeling in the world!" "What about the march out?" "Not as good. That's when you realize all the money you're losing."
"I took over his route. And boy were there a lot of dogs on that route!"
"You told me not to bother you with minor details." "ROAD is a major detail!"