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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Beep Panic gets the best of Abbi Jacobson in iCurb Your Enthusiasm/is penultimate episode
Screenshot: Curb Your Enthusiasm
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No one’s down with diarrhea, Diane.”

Larry’s spite store plans come to fruition tonight on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but unlike most penultimate episodes of TV, “Beep Panic” doesn’t have much heavy lifting to do. The episode (and show) doesn’t give off the sense that any ducks are being put in a row for the season-10 finale, which, judging by the promo at the end of “Beep Panic,” will also see Larry bragging about having opened a store for spite. You know, like virtually every episode this season.

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Tonight’s episode features another solid guest turn, this time from Abbi Jacobson, but it also feels like it could have come at any other point in the season. “Beep Panic” doesn’t really move things forward; aside from introducing a server who struggles with her bodily secretions, it doesn’t introduce anything new, either. I recognized various elements, including the nod to the late Carmine Caridi’s (who appeared in “Insufficient Praise”) debacle with the Academy over sharing VHS screeners. Larry David and Jeff Schaffer have never been ones for place setting, and they’d be even less inclined to do so for one of the more episodic seasons of Curb. But even for Curb and its persistently obnoxious protagonist, “Beep Panic” appears to spin its wheels.

The first half of tonight’s episode is all storytelling climax, as hostilities escalate between Larry and Mocha Joe because Latte Larry’s is—surprise—a hit among discerning coffee drinkers in whatever part of Los Angeles this particular strip mall is located. The self-heating mugs actually work, and the customers love the restrooms, motion sensors and all. Most importantly, the coffee beans they imported from Mexico (thanks, Mickey) are so good that even Ted Danson, who’s now backing Mocha Joe financially, is ready to admit defeat. Business is booming, everyone in the Mocha family is banned from Latte Larry’s, and Leon is on his way to being bean-meister.

The success of Latte Larry’s would seem to transcend its spiteful origins, but Larry remains as committed to screwing over Mocha Joe as ever. They engage in a price-cutting war that makes me wonder just how much money Larry is comfortable losing on this malicious little venture. He’s actually racked up quite a bill this season, and not just a karmic one. Larry’s already made a sizable donation to a charity, and tonight loses a few hundred thousand dollars more as a result of the eponymous beep panic and Jacobson’s Diane, a former server at the golf club and erstwhile employee of Latte Larry’s. And that’s all before the big piracy fine he gets slapped with as a result of Mocha Joe’s machinations. Then again, Larry’s purchase of a BMW i8 coupe (which starts at $147,500) would suggest that there’s no matter too petty for him to throw a ton of money behind.

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Larry’s proven himself equally capable of great displays of generosity, including buying a house for his former sister-in-law Becky then letting her keep the profits from its resale after she became his former girlfriend Becky. In “Beep Panic,” he hands over the keys to his “old” BMW to Diane, who’s awfully down on her luck. Jacobson brings a lot to the role of the diarrhea-stricken Diane, who drips sweat into Larry’s soup before being fired by Mr. Takahashi (Dana Lee, back to glare at LD). She’s perfectly pitiable early on, but she also finds a way to hint at Diane’s flakiness. Diane’s suggestion that the polite thing would have been for Larry to eat the sweaty soup is an impossible sell—Jacobson knows that, but never falters in presenting it as a viable option.

The exchange at the BMW dealership shows that Larry can get just as caught up in a good deed as in a bad one, which makes it harder to judge him for either. His is a chaotic neutral presence—mostly id-driven but not immune to reality. He’s not at all the kind of person we’d want to emulate, but some of his faux pas are relatable. I don’t think anyone watching Diane sweat directly into Larry’s bowl of soup would urge him to eat it anyway to be polite. Offering Diane a ride home after seeing her sitting at the bus stop, dejected, is also understandable. Getting so worked up over a car salesman (Richard Topol) seeing through your charade in pursuit of Bavarian licorice that you spend roughly $150,000 on the same car that all the “douchebags” at the club own, though? That’s not normal, that’s Larry David—and that’s exactly why we keep watching. Larry doesn’t always face consequences, but he’s punished enough for his misanthropic ways for Curb to still feel like real life in the midst of its heightened reality.

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“Beep Panic” doesn’t offer a real jolt, despite its title. The C story about Richard Lewis and his need to show off his range by playing an intellectually disabled character was a non-starter, though the licorice certainly gets him going at an inopportune time. Mocha Joe and Larry would seem to be at an impasse, as they’ve both scored considerable blows against each other. But Larry’s still touting his spite store in the promo for the finale, even after tensions have boiled over, so maybe their war is just getting started.

Stray observations

  • The commercial for Latte Larry’s is just the kind of regional ad that would have been sent up on the late, great Detroiters, which makes Sam Richardson’s appearance in the finale all the more welcome.
  • Something that I found just as indicative of Larry’s wealth as his purchase of a luxury car on a whim is the fact that he has two powder rooms in spitting distance of each other.
  • It might make me an asshole, but I’m going to have to side with Larry on the whole car ownership thing. He had just given her the car, and had only done so because he’d just bought a new car, which she totaled through negligence.
  • I wonder why Ted Danson didn’t reference The Good Place while wooing customers to Mocha Joe’s—maybe Michael Schur doesn’t like wobbly tables either.
  • Leon choosing black licorice as a means to support “everything black” gave me Issa Rae feels.
  • “Lo and behold” = “And wouldn’t you know it”
  • Twizzlers is the correct answer to the earlier prompt.
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