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Curb Your Enthusiasm: "The Safe House"

Illustration for article titled Curb Your Enthusiasm: "The Safe House"
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We’re only two episodes in, but already there’s a theme emerging from this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm: now that he’s finally, officially divorced from Cheryl, Larry appears to be getting in touch with his feminine side, whether he likes it or not. Last week, Larry helped a Girl Scout out in a moment of adolescent crisis, and in the process learned all about the mechanics of tampons. In “The Safe House,” Larry becomes befriends the residents at a neighborhood safe house for battered women, and unwittingly comes to understand their plight.

It all begins with a trip to the grocery store for a pint of Chubby Hubby.  When a man—or a man on TV, anyway—goes to the store with the sole purpose of buying ice cream, it’s usually for his pregnant wife. It’s late at night, and pickles may be involved, but hey—he’s just trying to keep the missus happy, know what I mean?  But in this case, Larry wants the Chubby Hubby all to himself, gender-based food stereotypes be damned. His mission is foiled by two women having an intense heart-to-heart conversation in the frozen food aisle, directly in front of the Ben and Jerry’s. Larry being Larry, he refuses to wait and causes a scene (loved the shot of his hand reaching into the freezer behind the women as they talked).

Later, one of the women turns up at Larry’s (latest) house. Her name is Margaret, and she runs the safe house down the road. She’s come to confront Larry about his treatment of one of the residents, who has repeatedly neglected to clean up her dog’s poop from Larry’s yard. When Larry offers his laundry room to the ladies, the dog-poop and ice cream incidents are quickly forgotten, but just as quickly he’s back to being persona non grata when he suggests that Dale, a brawny resident of the safe house, should have been able to “fend for herself.”

Larry winds up at the hospital with a black eye. He tells the attending physician a vague and unconvincing story about being “clumsy” and says he deserves what he got; the joke, of course, is that he’s behaving like a victim of domestic violence. It’s an amusing twist, made more so by the fact that Leon is the suspected aggressor; it also contributes nicely to this season’s emerging narrative, which I hereby dub “The Emasculation of Larry.” Yet there was something a touch predictable about it all: once I saw Larry sitting there in the ER with his brand new shiner, it wasn’t difficult to spot the abuse jokes on the horizon.

Similarly, the laptop subplot felt predictable, and oddly superfluous. On the one hand, the whole “Will you watch my laptop?” phenomenon is ideal Curb fodder: it brings up questions about the limits of our obligation to strangers (a favorite Curb theme) as well as our attitude toward race (ditto). Yet, as it was used here, the laptop thing felt too on-the-nose, like something out of a really good Curb spec script. I mean, you knew Booger was not going to come back for that laptop as soon as he asked Larry to watch it, right? (It was also yet another classic example of Larry-getting-punished-for-doing-a-nice-thing).

This week we also meet Richard Lewis’s new girlfriend, a busty burlesque dancer named Stella. Over lunch, Larry and the guys discuss Richard's new woman. At Funkhouser's suggestion, they secretly head to the Pink Slipper to check out her act, without telling Richard. (Is it just me, or is Curb beginning to play like an older, more Jewish version of Entourage?) While the gang is  impressed by Stella’s God-given assets (“It's like Jello pudding inside those motherfuckers," Leon declares), Larry is troubled by a mole on the underside of one of her breasts, which he was able to spot it using his advanced “breast vision.” After a visit to the doctor, Stella decides to get a breast reduction. Richard plans for one last hurrah with her ample bosm, but the “breast blowout party” is scuttled when he has a run-in with Dale in—where else?—the ice cream aisle at the grocery store.


Unlike “The Divorce,” this episode never felt rushed, and all the loose threads came together in the end in a surprisingly coherent fashion. At the same time,“The Safe House” had a few too many moving parts: the computer, the boobs, the mole, the battered women’s shelter, the ice cream, Dale, the dog poop. Allow me, for a moment, to invoke a metaphor. This weekend, I went out to dinner with a few friends, and we ordered a plate of (plain old) sweet potato fries as an appetizer. The waiter accidentally brought us sweet potato fries with the works—melted cheese, sour cream, guacamole, bacon bits and, um, banana peppers. Rather than sending the dish back, we figured “what the hell?” and dug in. Yes, we finished the whole plate, but it was all a bit much, with too many strong flavors vying for the attention of our taste buds. This episode is a lot like those fries, loaded with tasty fixins’, yet curiously unsatisfying. But hey, at least there was plenty of Leon.

Stray observations:

  • “I don't think you'd be my suicide call."
  • "Oh, Chaplin was a great pole dancer."
  • "People make mistakes." "Every day?"
  • "Those titties are a blabbermouth."
  • “Airy David”
  • “It's very hard to apologize to a dog because they're a stupid animal.”
  • If you have something important to talk about at the grocery store, a good rule of thumb is to stand by the hoisin sauce, not the Chubby Hubby.
  • Even if his subplot felt unnecessary and he was under-utilized, it was nice to see Curtis Armstrong in action.
  • Odd, wasn’t it, that Margaret asked Larry to be the male ambassador to the safe house, even though he’d done nothing but upset the women who lived there?
  • “Balls are male boobs.”
  • “What's half of double-D?” “B+?”
  • “Blacks don't fucking blush.”