“The Serenity Now” (season 9, episode 3; originally aired 10/9/97)
Kramer has always been the most surreal character on Seinfeld, the one we expect to behave inexplicably. We’re happiest to forgive whatever inconsistencies there are in the new fad he’s embracing, because it’s Kramer—we expect him to be fickle. Still, there’s a definite progression in his strangeness as the show goes on, where the laws of reality seem to bend around him, and “The Serenity Now” is a good example of that.
Kramer’s fascination this week is with “Anytown, USA,” which he begins to replicate when he takes Frank Costanza’s broken screen door and affixes it to his apartment. Soon, he’s sitting on a deck chair, grilling in the hallway, watering his azaleas, and so on. This fantasy he creates seems to summon a gang of invisible teenaged hoodlums from the 1950s who relentlessly torment him and egg his door.
No one ever really asks where these kids are coming from, or tries to deal with the situation in any way—in fact, the whole thing is just a setup for Kramer to go crazy and destroy George’s cache of computers, which is not one of the episode’s strongest gags. Anyway, I think Kramer’s plot here is funny, and I can think of a few other times in season nine when such craziness occurs around him. But it’s definitely a slightly different vibe from the Kramer of seasons past.
This episode is probably most memorable for Frank’s titular exclamation, which he screams in a futile effort to bring down his blood pressure. Any one of Frank’s rants here is golden stuff—I particularly like his fight with Estelle over her not bringing her car seat forward. “You want the legroom, say you want the legroom, don’t blame it on the mechanism!”
Otherwise, we’re treated to a surreal, and not very timely, spoof of Glengarry Glen Ross where Frank has a new computer business in his garage and George takes part only to get one over the increasingly demented-looking Lloyd Braun. Needless to say, things end in tears, but the story gets ignored pretty quickly, probably because there’s not much to it. George’s scheming becomes the background to Jerry’s crisis of emotions, which begins when a girlfriend invites him to be angrier, but leads to him crying over breakups and telling everyone that he loves them.
Although Jerry’s conversion is played a little too broadly (and is rightly ignored after this episode), the thing I like about this plotline is the different ways everyone in the gang reacts to his overtures. George, of course, is very uncomfortable—the point of his relationship with Jerry is that it’s shallow, judgmental, and involves very few emotional realizations. Elaine, though initially put off, decides to throw in with Jerome and accept his marriage proposal—too late, of course, which is just her luck as usual. Kramer is my favorite, happily tossing off an “I love you” back to Jerry over his shoulder as he rifles through his fridge. Their relationship is perhaps the most pure of all.
Elaine’s acceptance of Jerry’s proposal also stems from another romantic low, in which she’s hit on by both Mr. Lippman and his 13-year-old son (and Rabbi Glickman from “The Postponement”) because of her serious shiksa appeal. This never really comes off, at least in my mind, because I know Julia Louis-Dreyfus has such serious Jewish roots. But there’s no denying that I, at 13, would have had the hots for Elaine Benes.
“The Blood” (season 9, episode 4; originally aired 10/16/97)
I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s not terrible or anything, but it doesn’t feel quite right, either. The stories don’t intertwine too well, but there is that fabulous ending of Jerry, Kramer, and Newman all screaming in terror in the hospital. It’s a fairly broad episode, no doubt, but by far the biggest laugh for me is one of the dumbest set-pieces: Jerry giving his kitchen over to Kramer and Newman, and them taking advantage to make sausages while dancing to wacky music, apropos of absolutely nothing. Sometimes a funny image is a funny image.
I guess I’ll just take this one character at a time. Jerry, nudged about his weight by his parents (Morty has taken to eating a plum every day to keep healthy), is pressured into a fitness regime organized by the tenacious Izzy Mandelbaum (Lloyd Bridges), returning along with one of his sons from “The English Patient.” There’s absolutely nothing to this plotline except that the writers obviously realized how funny Lloyd Bridges was as Mandelbaum. But his return was a bad idea—they just play out the same jokes to diminishing returns.
Jerry’s better in his interactions with Kramer, who has decided to store his blood at home when the blood bank increases its rates. Anything that sets Jerry on edge hygienically is good in my book, and the idea of Kramer donating 3 pints of blood to Jerry (after a mishap with an X-Acto knife) is a Cronenbergian body-horror nightmare for our poor hero. But the “Kramer’s blood” storyline runs out of gas and ends with the weird concept that he used his blood to hydrate Jerry’s car, which is kinda funny, kinda weird, but mostly illogical.
To make things worse, George is barely allowed to scheme this week, unless you call sneaking pastrami sandwiches under the covers during sex scheming, and I do not. That’s bush league material. Yes, George mixes food with other sensual pleasures this week, the ultimate joke being that he can’t eat without getting aroused. The whole thing is dumb even for George, as amusing as the sight of him eating pastrami in bed might be.
Elaine is also short-changed in a storyline about possibly being groomed as a guardian for her (potentially) dying friend’s kid, who is a holy terror. There’s a great seed of darkness to that plotline, but everything’s so damn vague, it never really takes off. In a weird twist, that’s Kellie Waymire as the possibly terminal Vivian—she is sadly best-known for dying far too young from an undiagnosed congenital heart condition after a fun recurring run on Six Feet Under. I think that’s as good a way as any to close a review.
- Frank got his computer sales idea after seeing a movie. “It was called The Net, with that girl from the bus.”
- Elaine thinks Boggle is a great bar mitzvah gift.
- Elaine declines George’s offer of a new computer. “There’s porn!” “Even so.”
- Lloyd’s great at ringing the sales bell, but never actually sells a computer.
- Kramer’s reason for storing blood: “If I’m out on the street, and it starts to go down, I don’t back off until it’s finished.”
- “I’m more responsible than you are!” “Don’t be ridiculous. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fill my freezer with my own blood.”