Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “Male Unbonding” (S1, E4)

Welcome to Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch! On a regular basis, Justin Rozzero, Aaron George, Andrew Flanagan and Jordan Duncan will watch an episode of TV’s greatest sitcom and provide notes and grades across a number of categories. The goal is to rewatch the entire series chronologically to see what truly worked, what still holds up today, what feels just a bit dated and yada, yada, yada it will be a great time. So settle into your couch with the cushions flipped over, grab a Snapple and enjoy the ride!

Male-Unbonding

Best Character

Justin: Kramer gets his first Best Character award from me here in episode four. I almost gave this to Joel because he was pretty great in the coffee shop but he quickly petered out while Kramer gained steam. To me, this was the first episode where Kramer was Kramer. He was hatching schemes and fell ass backwards into good fortune, getting to go to the Knicks game. Within minutes he unloaded a flurry of running Kramer story lines that will continue throughout the series.

Aaron: Jerry Seinfeld is the man for me. Jerry’s at his best when he’s got a bit of an asshole streak in him, and his prick to whininess ratio was working for me in this one. For the first time I felt like I was watching an actor playing the part instead of a comedian/musician/sports star/heiress. He has a lot of great moments, particularly his deadpan when he tells Joel he wants him to go to the game. Any time someone can make me laugh using the word rhombus, that person gets an open mouthed kiss from me.

Andrew: I think it’s Kramer this time around. As Justin said, this is the episode where he starts becoming Kramer, one of the all time great “B story” characters. No one is better at breaking up the main story with absurd schemes and antics. Taking calls on Jerry’s phone, going to the game with Joel, the “make your own pizza” business; it’s all gold.

Jordan: I’m giving it to Jerry this time. He dealt with Joel pretty well, he was great mocking George for his giant jar of pennies and I am totally with him on being upset with Kramer for handing him the phone without saying who it was. Jerry was spot on in pretty much every situation this time around. I also think an excuse Rolodex could be a great app today. One other thing to look for: The look of contempt Jerry gives as Joel acts like a creepy perv when he meets Elaine is golden.

Best Storyline

Justin: Again, Joel just misses out as my favorite story here was Kramer developing his pizza place idea and continually trying to sell it to the crew. Kramer’s schemes and persistence would become a staple of the show and it kicked off here. Jerry trying to break up with Joel was a close second but it fell apart halfway through and never really saw any sort of conclusion.

Aaron: I love the story of trying to break up with the annoying friend. It’s as solid a concept for a sitcom story as any and it was well executed. There’s also a certain magic in seeing Kramer’s story tie in with it by the end. It’s something they’d become amazing at later on but it was fun to see that concept in its infancy.

Andrew: I like everything about the Joel storyline: the fact that Jerry was only friends with him for his ping-pong table, Jerry wishing there was an analog to breaking up for male friendships, backing off mid-break-up because Joel gets emotional. All brilliant ideas that I identify with to an uncomfortable degree.

Jordan: It’s the main storyline for me. I thought they did a great job of making Joel an annoying character so you totally sympathize with Jerry. He’s rude to people, he cries, he overvalues the relationship, he’s creepy and he doesn’t have any sense of awareness. When he pulls out the entire Knicks schedule to determine a game to go to after excuse number four or five, you kind of hope Jerry just breaks up with him again. I did like George and his pennies, just because that’s definitely a George thing.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: How do you break up with a childhood friend? That is Jerry’s ethical dilemma this week. Normally you would hope to just kind of drift away, but when you realize just how much the friendship means to the other party, it can be near impossible to pull that bandaid off. I thought Jerry did a really good job in that coffee shop scene, you could feel how tortured he was, especially as we sat there watching Joel be a real asshole across the board. The only thing I disagree with was involving the Knicks tickets. Joel seemed like someone that could be easily swayed and won back over, Jerry probably could have busted out a much less grand gesture to calm Joel down.

Aaron:  Can you break up with a friend? I’ve usually gone the ignoring route when I don’t want to see someone any more, but I certainly see the value in the friend break up. I guess what it come down to is that we’re living in a society and if you can’t pick up hints you should get in your car and move to the east side. If I’m not answering your calls or if I drive you out into the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead stop trying to have lunch with me. It’s only going to lead to your eventual disappearance and my life on the run.

Andrew: Is it OK to be friends with someone just for their ping-pong table? I think we’d all give a kid a pass on this one because of the “not-fully-developed-morality” thing, but that’s kind of messed up, right? And if that friendship is based on some ulterior motive, do you owe it to that person to stay friends into adulthood? Should you stay friends with someone you don’t like because they can’t take a hint and you don’t want to hurt his feelings? Man, writing about this episode is taking me to a dark place.

Jordan: I think it’s twofold here: How do you effectively cut off a friendship and how do you deal with someone you consider an acquaintance at best calling you their BEST FRIEND? Seems like this could be slightly easier in 1990 with no social media to deal with, but you also don’t have caller ID and every phone call is a risk. Perhaps Jerry should just changed his phone number. Jerry did what he could, but Joel guilted him into a Knicks game. I feel like Season 7 Jerry wouldn’t feel bad about a break up. I think that the best friend to acquaintance ratio is troubling too, even if you’re fine with the person.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Jerry and Joel was the only relationship on display here and it was pretty tortuous thanks to Joel being a douchebag and Jerry being soft, to the point that he is now still friends with this jamoke. I enjoyed their main scene together but he was a real jerk he was AND he tried to pick up Elaine at the end of the episode. We did hear quite a bit about George’s relationship issues, but we didn’t see any of it unfold or even ever discover her name. Relationship Grade: 2/10

Aaron: No relationship here since we can’t really count George’s as she never appears on screen. I do think we should call attention to the great chemistry that Jerry and Elaine are developing. They were very sweet making up lies together, and what great relationship isn’t built on lies? (They’ll always have eastern European anthems…) Relationship Grade: N/A

Andrew: I suppose Jerry and Joel’s diner break up scene qualifies for the relationship grade. I don’t like Joel and I wish he would go away. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Jordan: Nothing really going on here. Seems like they may be moving away from Jerry and Elaine as a romantic couple and just a couple of pals. Relationship Grade: N/A

What Worked

Justin: I enjoyed the opening scene, capped with Jerry’s dig at George’s fanny pack; Joel was played perfectly and was obnoxious and easy to hate after the coffee shop scene. They picked the perfect actor to get that character across; George is really starting to develop, both with his whining about his relationship and the scene with him alternating bitching at Jerry and trying to cash in his jar of pennies; In fact, the whole bank scene was pretty great; Kramer showing his desire for business ideas with his pushing of the pizza idea.

Aaron:  A lot of stuff worked this episode. I already touched on Jerry and his boyfriend, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the birth of Kramerica Industries and their first great idea: the pizza place where you make your own pie. Kramer is slowly moving away from creepy weirdo slash serial killer, to just being Cosmo Kramer the Assman, and it’s clear he’s about to break out as a character. George and Elaine are also solid, Elaine comes up with some ridiculous excuses for Jerry (I’m out of underwear and I can’t leave my house) and a picture of George walking sadly with his pennies in a jar should be emblazoned on his family crest.

Andrew: The over-analyzing of social relationships is working well here. The actors are showing great chemistry together, especially Jerry and Elaine; those two discussing their plans for the evening, and coming up with excuses for Joel, were certainly high points. And as previously mentioned, introducing Kramer’s wacky business ideas is a welcome addition.

Jordan: This is the first episode that I really enjoyed, even if I didn’t laugh out loud too much. The story itself was great, but I’ve talked all about that. We are realllllly starting to see the characters develop – Kramer is a goofball with his pizza ideas, George is George with his giant jar of pennies and whining at the bank, Elaine is great at stealing Jerry’s list and adding excuses and Jerry does a good job interacting with everyone. Definitely Jerry’s best episode yet, and I thought everyone was good – even Joel.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Not too many complaints from me with this episode; There is still too much standup littering the episode as it hurts the flow and eats up precious time; That time burn really shows down the stretch as these episodes still don’t finish strong, and just sort of wind down and taper off with no true resolution or any sort of crescendo. None of the first episodes has had a strong ending.

Aaron: I didn’t love the guy playing Joel Horneck. While he did play the break up scene quite well, his mistreatment of the waitress and his smarmy lechery over Elaine were pretty off putting. While I can appreciate that that’s the point, I felt a more subtle touch could have added to the comedy. Also whoever keeps dressing George in that white sweater with the yellow trim should get a stern talking to.

Andrew: Nothing major to complain about, but I’m not crazy about the stuff that feels like standard sitcom fare. George and his pennies feel a little lazy and out of place next to all the friendship stuff. And while I love to hate Joel, his slimy conversation with Elaine at the end bugs me. That might just be my unrequited crush on Elaine talking, though.

Jordan: George’s clothes. Also, when Jerry gets home early in the episode and has to unlock his apartment – then Kramer is inside on the phone. I refuse to believe Kramer would ever lock a door behind him. Like, EVER. Not a lot I didn’t like in this one.

Key Character Debuts

Joel Horneck

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– Kramer answers his phone “Kramerica Industries”

– Kramer first mentions starting a pizza place “where you make your own pie”

– Jerry is first to use “It’s not you, it’s me”

– Elaine & Jerry’s conversation on what to do for the night

– “I’ve never made a man cry. I kicked a guy in the groin once and he didn’t cry…I got the cab.” – Elaine

– “Someone says get out of my life and that doesn’t affect your appetite?” – Jerry

Oddities & Fun Facts

– We get to see all of Jerry’s hallway and elevator

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: I really liked the first half of this episode but it quickly fell apart after the scene at the bank. The main issue with these early episodes is that there is only one storyline in the mix, so if that story isn’t up to par or falls apart, there is nothing to pick it up. To my point, the Jerry/Joel stuff started off really well but then tapered off and outside of Kramer’s pizza stuff, there was nothing else there to make up for it. And as I mentioned again, the finish of this episode left much to be desired as well. The first half, mainly the coffee shop and bank scenes, carries this to a decent grade but there was enough potential there to really make this one a standout of season one. Final Grade: 4/10

Aaron:I liked this one a lot actually, probably my favorite so far of the rewatch. It’s starting to feel like the pieces are coming together. George is inching his way to loveable loser, Kramer is a few stutters away from “Giddy-Up!” and Elaine is growing the balls that become bigger than any of her male friends own. I wouldn’t need a Rolodex of excuses if someone wanted to watch this one with me…I’m so sorry. Final Grade: 4/10

Andrew: I feel like this episode had great ideas behind it, but needed better execution. The idea of a “friendship breakup” is great for all the reasons already listed, and is clearly relatable, but it feels like the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with that idea. The diner break-up works really well, but the story loses steam after that. Still, all things considered, this is a solid episode that hints as future greatness. Final Grade: 4/10

Jordan Best episode yet, by far. This was the first episode that really felt like Seinfeld to me. I want to give this a higher number in relation to what we’ve watched so far, BUT I am grading on a Seinfeld scale and there are much greater things to come. But for an episode so early in the series to capture so much of what we would come to know and love, I’m happy. Final Grade: 5/10

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.