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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Clive Owen fishes for compliments on another fine iCurb Your Enthusiasm/i
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“You think I’m gonna fuck that doll?”

With its “pee cubes,” sex dolls, and porn of all kinds, “Insufficient Praise” certainly seems like one of the more vulgar entries in Curb Your Enthusiasm (Susie’s swearing is just par for the course, though). But tonight’s episode is just as much about restraint—and how and when we apply it—as it is making a housekeeper run for her life by trying to deflate a sex aid in a most ineffectual way.

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We’re now at the midseason point, and Larry has been freed of the big problems he created for himself at the outset: He’s no longer being sued for sexual harassment by his assistant Alice (Megan Ferguson), and his brief affair with Cheryl is out in the open. Obviously, Larry wasn’t really losing any sleep over these predicaments, especially not where Ted Danson is involved. But he’s got to be feeling pretty, pretty relieved over the lack of real consequences for any of it—that is, unless Ted’s new alliance with Mocha Joe comes to spiteful fruition.

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Currently, Larry’s most pressing issue is offering an underwhelming compliment to Clive Owen, actor of the stage and screen, followed by the growing threat from Mocha Joe’s and the usual animus from Susie. His poor dealings with friends and acquaintances even while back on his home turf lend some weight to Mickey’s declaration last week that no one likes Larry. But Larry has also literally opened a store out of spite, so it’s not like it really matters.

The spite store idea has hung around longer than I thought it would, but Larry David and co-writer (and, once more, episode director) Jeff Schaffer remain committed to the bit. Latte Larry’s has a foreman in Leon, some great coffee beans from Mexico, and soon, some kind of pee receptacle that is, in some ways, a little too reminiscent of a guillotine, but also kind of reminds me of the private viewing booths in the XXX video arcades of The Deuce. I can’t imagine anyone would want to urinate into a box, even if it sort of recalls Back To The Future’s Mr. Fusion, but Larry wants neither pee puddles nor poops in his café’s bathrooms. Again, it’s a matter of restraint—Larry doesn’t think anyone should be pooping in public bathrooms (presumably, that’s what your home bathroom’s for).

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Larry certainly isn’t the type to turn to sex dolls, either, even if they’re a gift from Vince Vaughn (as Marty Funkhouser’s half-brother Freddy). The doll takes on a life of its own, as dolls you didn’t want in the first place are wont to do; first, Leon is drawn in, then Uncle Moke (the late Carmine Caridi). The mail carrier, realizing what he’s delivered to Larry, tells Ted Danson, who runs to tell Cheryl, who then drives over to Larry’s house, where she stumbles upon what looks like Larry trying to hump the air right out of the doll. The gossip relay race is funnier than the end result—did Ted only tell Cheryl about the doll because he wanted to rub ex’s degeneracy in her face?—which sees Larry lose yet another employee/contractor.

Not that Larry and Susie sharing a housekeeper (Natasha Perez as Matilda) was ever going to work in the long run. The arrangement works until it doesn’t, which is right around when things get awkward with Clive Owen, who plays a version of himself who is managed by Jeff. Larry is impressed by Clive’s one-man show, though his reaction might have been affected by all the weeping women in the audience; later in the episode, Larry notes that sobbing is contagious. Here, a lack of restraint is good. But Clive interprets Larry’s “good job” voicemail as more of a neg than a compliment, and the “Insufficient Praise” of the episode messes with the actor’s head. Clive is even more incensed after witnessing Larry’s orgasmic reaction to a sandwich of all things (in Larry’s defense, we don’t know what the sandwich was made of).

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Larry’s lack of effusiveness leads him to tangle with Carol (Isla Fisher) for the third time this episode. First, she tells a wrenching story about her mother’s death that may or may not be true, which leads Larry to give her his mother’s mink stole. Once he learns from Richard Lewis, who briefly dates Carol, that she’s a professional crier, though, Larry demands she return the stole. She refuses, but near the end of the episode, he tries to out-cry the pro, in front of a policeman, no less. Larry thinks most crying is an overreaction, so naturally, he can’t summon the waterworks to defeat Carol. But her inability to let go of the stole she may or may not have stolen from him (at the very least, procured through less than legitimate means) leads to her own undoing.

“Insufficient Praise” doesn’t do much to move the larger narrative (if one still exists at this point) forward; it’s a plateau of a midseason episode, no better or worse than the preceding episode. Maybe next week’s tussle with Fred Armisen or the impending arrival of Jon Hamm will help kick Curb into a higher gear this year.

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Stray observations

  • Now taking bets on whether Leon had sex with the sex doll.
  • Leon saying “toots” and making up other old-timey slang might have been my favorite part of the episode. Or, as past generations might have said, “poo-poo-be-doop.”
  • I genuinely do not know how anyone who doesn’t have a penis is supposed to urinate in the bathrooms at Latte Larry’s.
  • Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher’s guest appearances made for a Wedding Crashers mini-reunion. Hooray…. question mark?
  • I don’t think Larry had any idea what he was getting into by volunteering to do dishes (he just seems that far removed from any housework at this point), but I think washing dishes is the most soothing of chores. P.S. I am not a crackpot.
  • Carmine Caridi, who played Uncle Murray/Moke, actually died in May of last year. You may remember him from The Godfather films, Quincy, or the time he was ousted from the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, a matter which the late actor spoke freely on in 2017.
  • I get the feeling that Matilda walking in on Larry trying to deflate the doll is going to pop up down the road. Larry’s misdeeds and faux pas do have a way of catching up with him, after all.
  • The Kon-Tiki expedition was a real thing.
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