"We don't do endings like that. It's all bullshit. What couples get together at the end?"
I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but I'm pretty sure Larry David made the universe fold in on itself tonight. More specifically, he made the Curb universe and the Seinfeld universe merge and then fold in on itself—and it was nothing short of incredible to watch. Larry David playing "Larry David" playing George Costanza, aka a fictional Larry David? Could there be a stranger feat for an actor to pull off than playing two fictional versions of himself simultaneously? How about an actor playing two fictional versions of himself simultaneously and making the audience laugh out loud (yes, making them LOL IRL) while doing so? It's a question that can perhaps only be answered by reading Acting Without Acting, the groundbreaking book, excuse me, the groundbreaking pamphlet by Jason Alexander.
This episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm was satisfying on so many levels: We got to see the Seinfeld cast all together again; then we got to see large chunks of the Seinfeld reunion episode play out as they would on television (as it turns out, there was a nutty Seinfeld reunion episode center beneath the rich, chocolatey coating of this Curb Your Enthusiasm Seinfeld non-reunion season); and then we got to see the two fictional worlds of Larry David merge onscreen. Put simply, it was brilliant*.
Right from the start of the episode, when Larry took George's place in the booth with Cheryl, we were set up for Larry to become the stand-in for George—the character who, obviously, was the stand-in for Larry David. Larry's battle with tinted-window-aficianado Jason Alexander for the heart of Cheryl was only natural because Jason wasn't just playing George, he was (in a way) playing the Larry role in the "Larry wins back Cheryl by writing a Seinfeld reunion" fantasy that Larry had written in his mind. When Cheryl starts falling for Jason because she thinks he's "neurotic" and "bothered by little things" Larry knows it's because she's falling for the character Jason is playing, i.e. George, i.e. Larry David. He doesn't want a stand-in anymore. He just wants to be George, getting back with his ex-wife. And so we get the very funny scene where Jason jumps out of the back window of Cheryl's dressing room, and Larry yells at her, "You're not attracted to him, you're attracted to George! I'm George!"
But for me the most satisfying part of this episode, and this season of Curb in general, is that Larry David, creator of both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, not to be confused with "Larry David" star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, didn't let us down in the end. When Larry stormed off the reunion set, and, standing conspicously close to Cheryl's heavily tinted car windows, said, "The only reason I did it was for her," we knew that it was only a matter of time before Cheryl decided to take Larry back. Hearing that, how could she not? And so when Cheryl showed up at Larry's, concillatory Mocha Joe's coffee in hand, it seemed the episode was heading toward a saccharine, happy, couple-getting-together-at-the-end kind of an ending—which would have been hugely disappointing.
Larry and Cheryl kissing and reconciling on the couch, fade to black, wouldn't have been a good Curb Your Enthusiasm ending, any more than Jerry and Elaine rekindling their long-dormant relationship would have been a good Seinfeld ending eleven years ago. As Larry said earlier in the episode, those kind of endings are lame. They're all bullshit—and Curb and Seinfeld have never been about large, grand-scale, emotional bullshit. Instead, they've been about teeny tiny minutae bullshit. Life's small annoyances—people saying "having said that," tinted windows, non-respect for wood, blowing your nose in a cloth napkin, people "yada yadaing" things, close-talking—blown up to preposterous size for careful, hilarious observation. Which is why the emergence of Larry David, Wood Detective at the very end of the episode was the perfect note for this episode and this season to end on. I'd much rather see Larry interrogate Cheryl about the coffee-cup stain she left on the table, then watch them fall into each others' arms again—if for no other reason than Larry saying "You don't know if you respect wood?" and "It's no big deal. Having said that, I want you to call Julia." while Cheryl is trying to be romantic is really, really funny.
*Obviously, the only way it could have been better was if Leon was around. Everything is better with Leon.
Stray Observations (almost all-quotes edition):
—The best part about the Mocha Joe plotline was how funny it was that everyone referred to him as Mocha Joe constantly. If you counted how many times the name "Mocha Joe" was said in that 40-minute episode, it would probably be more times than "Jeff" "Larry" and "Leon" have been said the whole season—with good reason. Calling someone "Mocha Joe" is just funny.
—"Raise your kids without raising them." This season has proven that Jerry truly is a master of acting without acting. He really is funny playing Jerry Seinfeld.
—"I respect wood. I revere wood."
—The shot of Larry's angry, seething face between Cheryl and Jason while they were shooting the popcorn fight scene was just hilarious.
—"I said the phrase 'busy with beans'? I don't think so."
—"You go to a funeral and you're more upset by the coffin than the deceased!"
—"He's an icon. She's an icon. He was an icon. [points to self] Icon. [points to Larry] No-con!"