Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Bubble Boy” (S4, E7)

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!

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Best Character

Justin: I have to go with Jerry here, even though everyone was a candidate across the board, right down to the Bubble Boy’s mother. But Jerry, between not giving a shit about the Bubble Boy and his growing frustration along the way with everyone in the way of his vacation, he was just a tour de force. And it boils over so badly that he gets into a war over a stupid autographed picture that is hanging on the wall of some random podunk diner. And it is all topped off by Jerry wishing the Bubble Boy a jovial happy birthday as he is wheeled out on a stretcher.

Aaron: Never when I started doing these did I think I’d hand this out to someone we never see. Donald the Bubble Boy is a treasure, and he deserves every inch of this one. He’s just so angry, right from the start. Scratch that, we already hear how frustrated his father in when Donald controls the TV remote. When we first hear his heavenly voice he’s threatening to shove food in his mother’s face and it doesn’t let up until he assaults George in a fit of rage. Every syllable is angry, mean and so perfect considering how much time they took to set him up as sympathetic. “Why don’t you take your top off?” Indeed Donald…indeed.

Andrew: The Bubble Boy almost wins for his excellent “How ‘bout takin’ your top off?” line reading, but I have to give this one to George. This is one of the definitive George episodes; all his problems are of his own making, caused by his stubborn inability to let things go, and yet you can still see his side. (In other words: I have been in near-fights over Trivial Pursuit). He’s neurotic, obsessive, and vindictive, and I very much enjoy it.

Jordan: It’s Donald the Bubble Boy. He’s only in the second half of the show and we never see him, but the whole episode is based on him, and when George finally meets him, he doesn’t disappoint. His arrogance and anger is on display in everything he says, which is such a Seinfeldy thing to do. A character who is living inside a bubble is a real a-hole. If we’re handing out medals, Donald gets the gold, with Jerry getting the silver and George capturing bronze.

Best Storyline

Justin: The Bubble Boy. No doubter here. I love the tease that it is some poor little boy with no friends and a sad, lonely life when in reality it is an adult asshole living behind a plastic sheet, torturing his parents. Tremendous twist. Everything about the storyline was top notch, from the initial coffee shop description, to the awkward scene of George and Susan sitting with the Sangers, to the trivial pursuit game to the popping of the bubble. Donald was an awesome piece of shit, demanding to see Susan’s tits and rubbing his trivial pursuit prowess in everyone’s faces. Great stuff.

Aaron: It’s everything with the Bubble Boy. From the sad dissertation from the Yoo-Hoo driver, to the mother explaining that it’s not in fact an igloo, to the way the angry mob runs in at the end full of bile and inquisition, the whole thing just works. There is no other sitcom that would do an entire episode about a mean asshole confined to a bubble.

Andrew: It’s pretty clearly the Bubble Boy, I think. The climactic “Moops” bit gets the most love, but it’s great throughout. Mel Sanger’s tale of woe about his son is great, as is Jerry’s complete lack of empathy. George’s obsession with making great time, and discomfort around sick people, are both great. And I can’t say enough good things about the Bubble Boy himself. People with tragic illnesses are usually portrayed as courageous heroes, so I always enjoy seeing that inverted, and the unpleasant, antagonistic Bubble Boy is one of the best examples I can think of.

Jordan: The Bubble Boy story is an instant classic. Truth be told, I think even if you had the Bubble Boy as a doting fan who is a wonderful treasure, you could still make a good episode out of it with George, Jerry and Kramer’s trek to meet him. But making him a real jerk is such a great turn, and of course George is the one who has to spend time with him. Just perfect.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should Jerry have played his answering machine in front of Naomi? It was a ballsy move to do in front of someone he just met. What is the urgency to play it right then and there and take the risk? Maybe he should move it to his bedroom? The plight of a non voicemail era. Also, despite wanting to make good time, George really should have kept an eye on Jerry while on the road. Big caravan faux pas.

Aaron: What’s more important on a road trip, making incredible time or having sex with your horny girlfriend? On the surface this seems like a no brainer, but when a known desperate man like George chooses speed over sex, perhaps we should delve a little deeper into this wormhole of insanity. I guess I could side with him if he’s trying to get to the cabin first to bang her in her bed, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue in play here. George, despite his affinity for “it,” stands up for something that all men can get behind here. Great time is important, point finale. She could have at least had the decency to compromise with George and blow him as he drives? I think everyone comes out on top of that equation.

Andrew: Should the waitress have given Jerry back his picture? On the one hand, I’m not sure why you’d want to antagonize a celebrity who is doing you a favor. On the other hand, Jerry was kind of a dick about it. I can’t blame her for ending up taking a stand here.

Jordan: Listen, this isn’t as big of an issue anymore because of cell phones, google maps and GPS, but if someone is following you, make sure you don’t leave them in your dust! Yes, Jerry was stupid to not have the address himself, but if George is leading the way, he is the pace car, not Jeff Gordon.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: It looks Jerry may have become Naomi’s Svengali the way she comes crawling back after the laugh remark. She may be up for anything…and you know, Susan is quite the minx, ready to get down wherever and whenever. Relationship Grade: Swingers/10

Aaron: Mel and Donald’s mother must truly be in love if their relationship has endured the barrage of that bubbled tyrant. Imagine the strength it must take them to wake up in the morning and not murder their son and then litter their lawn with their own brains. You can’t face challenges like that alone and their love is the foundation that their survival, and perhaps the survival of everyone around them, rests on. Relationship Grade:10/10

Andrew: It clearly wasn’t going to work between Jerry and Naomi, but I’m still surprised Kramer would go behind his friend’s back like that. But they clearly are more compatible as a couple, so maybe it’s all for the best. Susan appears to be really into George, so good for him. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Jordan: I’m really starting to like Susan. She’s bold, she puts up with George, she’s frisky and she rightfully has reservations about Kramer. Who wouldn’t be nervous around a person like that? I bet if there was a deleted scene, she DID take off her top for the Bubble Boy out of sympathy for him. She’s just that kind of a person. Relationship Grade: 10/10

What Worked

Justin: Jerry avoiding all funny things to keep Naomi from laughing is awesome; The answering machine screwup was great; I have always loved George and Jerry rattling off the types of pies as well as Jerry’s brutally unfunny pun autographs; The Bubble Boy; Jerry using the napkin to wipe his mouth as Mel and Elaine cried has always made me laugh out loud; I love all of the discussion of the type of bubble and plastic that goes down; George speeding to make good time and basically ignoring Jerry behind him is both tremendous and frustrating at the same time; Jerry obsessed with missing out on the vacation while Elaine is concerned with the Bubble Boy, culminating with Elaine popping the bubble gum; I love Elaine taking delight in Jerry’s misfortune with the shitty autographs; Moops!; Kramer falling through the window of the cabin is just perfect; Kramer burning down the cabin and George asking for the toll change brings this one to a super strong finish.

Aaron: Oh god, what didn’t work here. It all works. Moops, Kramer falling through the window as only he can. I could go on for days… Here’s a couple of little things: the pain in Mel’s voice as he says “It’s frustrating” dealing with Donald and his remote control. Jerry not crying while Mel and Elaine sob at the story is also a nice touch. Susan flinches ever so slightly when Kramer enters, a great little character moment. I love how George and Jerry lie to Kramer about there being pies and no golf courses and Kramer makes pies his entire reason for being for the next day. The angry mob is so great, their body language alone had me in stitches. And of course it’s Kramer who burns down the cabin. Of course it is! Why do we laugh so hard when something someone loves burns to the ground? Is it just me? It is? OK then it is. Still great though. One last thing, and this is something that Seinfeld does so well, they take a phrase like “Bubble Boy” and say it so often that it gets over but never feels overused. Everyone in the civilized world knows what a Bubble Boy is now. (Except those on the East Side. Ohhhhhhhhh foreshadowing.)

Andrew: As I mentioned earlier, I really like Jerry’s non-response to the Bubble Boy’s plight, and how the conversation quickly turns to the everyday minutiae, like who gets to hold the remote. Similarly, George deals with the uncomfortable situation at the Bubble Boy’s house by falling into inane small talk, and lying about having “a lot of bubble experience”. That kind of realistic, relatable, uncomfortable humor is one of my favorite things about the show. And aside from that, there were plenty of good moments: the discussion of sleeping arrangements, George no-selling the Coco Chanel line, the Bubble Dad shaking his head while his son chokes somebody.

Jordan: The most obvious thing of course is MOOPS. I love that George refusing to admit he’s wrong in a Trivial Pursuit game may have cost Donald his life. Jerry’s total disregard of others is awesome, he’s like an alien who is trying to live as a human but hasn’t figured out emotions yet. When he wipes his mouth as Mel and Elaine weep it is a great moment, and he seems to be genuinely excited to see a cabin burning down. I really do like that Susan thinks Kramer is a total weirdo, as she should. We know he’s a weirdo as a viewer, but it seems like nobody else minds. I like a character that responds to him as most people would. George getting annoyed with Susan practically begging to fool around because he’s making great time is funny. I also like Elaine gleefully getting an 8X10 of Jerry’s, Jerry ordering her broiled chicken as revenge, and Elaine commenting on how delicious it is while Jerry argues with the waitress.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: For some reason it feels like they are going out of there way to bring up stuff that happened earlier in the season in a real obvious way; Jerry was an idiot for not taking the directions to the cabin and relying on following George; I also don’t get why George didn’t pull off and wait for him to catch up; Susan is a brutally bad dresser; How the hell did George and Jerry beat the fire trucks to the cabin?

Aaron: I wasn’t in love with the scene in the diner. I get why it’s there and all but Jerry and the waitress were both being kind of prickish. I wasn’t in love with it, but it was still a pretty solid scene. Such a strong episode.

Andrew: The plot isn’t laid out as well as it could have been. There are some unclear moments, one of which is that Naomi changes her mind about going to the cabin with Jerry, but is she with Kramer by the end? It doesn’t really hurt the episode overall, but it’s not perfect either. The early exposition about the cigars was kind of clunky.

Jordan: If the card was a typo, it would probably say moots, not moops, right? Look at your keyboard, r and t are right next to each other. P? It’s so far away. The townspeople being furious that the Bubble Boy was hurt doesn’t make sense either. If they know where he lives, it stands to reason they’ve met him. And if they’ve met him, they wouldn’t be so furious that he got hurt.

Key Character Debuts

Mel Sanger

Donald Sanger

Mrs. Sanger

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “I thought you liked to laugh. I thought you were happy go lucky.” – Naomi “No, nah, I’m not happy and I’m not lucky, and I don’t go. If anything I’m sad stop unlucky.” – Jerry

– “That’s not funny Naomi. I didn’t mean to be funny there. Why don’t you check the TV guide. I think Holocaust is on.” – Jerry

– “Well, it’s better anyway. I mean really. What was going to happen? I’m a comedian. How can I go out with a girl with a laugh like that? It’s like Coco Chanel goin’ out with a fish monger. Cause she’s with all the perfumes and a fish mongers a pretty bad smell.” – Jerry

– “Well, they got any golf courses up there?” – Kramer “No, no, no, no.” – Jerry & George “That’s pie country.” – George

– “I’m very impressed” – Jerry’s autograph for his dry cleaner

– “My name’s Sanger, mel Sanger. I drive that truck out there.” – Mel “Oh, the Yoo-Hoo? I love Yoo-Hoo.” – Jerry “It’s a fine product.” – Mel

– “Excuse me, anyway we were watching you on TV” – Mel “You get in the bubble with him?” – Jerry “No. He can see through the bubble. It’s plastic.” – Mel “Oh, I thought it was like an igloo.” – Jerry “No, it’s clear. – Mel

– “So anyway, you’re his favorite comedian. He laughed so hard the other night we had to give him an extra shot of hemoglobin.” – Mel

– The use of “Bubble Boy” becomes iconic after this episode

– “So, what kind of a bubble? Like an igloo?” – Susan “No, that’s what I thought but apparently it’s just a big piece of plastic dividing the room.” – Jerry “Oh” – Susan “What kind of plastic do you think it is? What do you think like that dry cleaning plastic?” – George “That’s no good. He wouldn’t last ten minutes in there.” – Jerry

– “Stop, would you quit it. Maybe someone is going to see us here.” – George “So what? You are SUCH a prude.” – Susan “Hey, I am not a prude sweetheart. I swing with the best of them.” – George

– “Why do you keep bringing up the Bubble Boy. You don’t have to mention the Bubble Boy? You don’t have to mention the Bubble Boy. I know about the Bubble Boy. I’m aware of the Bubble Boy. Why do you keep reminding me about the Bubble Boy?” – Jerry

– “HEY MA WHAT THE HELL DO I GOT TO DO TO GET SOME FOOD AROUND HERE? I’M STARVIN’. AND IF IT’S PEANUT BUTTER, I’LL SHOVE IT IN YOUR FACE.” – Bubbly Boy

– “Nothin’s finer than being in your diner.” – Jerry’s autograph for the waitress

– “Course I have. Come on. My cousin’s in a bubble. My friend Jeffrey’s uh, sister, also … you know …bubble. I got a lot of bubble experience. Come on.” – George

– The Moops vs. Moors argument is an all time classic pantheon level line

– “OK, HISTORY. THIS IS FOR THE GAME. HOW YA DOIN’ OVER THERE? NOT TOO GOOD!” – Bubble Boy “All right Bubble Boy. Let’s just play… Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?” – George “THAT’S A JOKE. THE MOORS.” – George “Oh, Noooo, I’m so sorry. It’s the MOOPS. The correct answer is, The MOOPS.” – Bubble Boy “MOOPS? LET ME SEE THAT. THAT’S NOT MOOPS YOU JERK, IT’S MOORS. IT’S A MISPRINT.” – Bubble Boy “I’m sorry the card says MOOPS.” – George “IT DOESN’T MATTER. I’S THE MOORS. THERE’S NO MOOPS.” – Bubble Boy “It’s MOOPS.” – George “MOORS.” – Bubble Boy “MOOPS.” – George “MOORS!” – Bubble Boy

– “But that lake must be freezing.” – Naomi “Nah, it’s good for ya’. Retards the aging process.” – Kramer

– “IT’S MY FATHER’S CABIN!”- Susan “The CABIN is on fire!” – Elaine “I just realized. Ya never gave me back the change from the toll.” – George

– “My Cubans!” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Mel Sanger is portrayed by Brian Doyle-Murray

– George gets the blame, but Susan is actually the one that popped the Bubble

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Instant all time legendary classic. Not a second thought given. It is riddled with iconic quotes and moments and never lets up. It brought us three all time memorable lines that became part of pop culture with “Bubble Boy”, “Moops” and “My Cubans!” It furthered along the torturing of Susan by Kramer and help get Elaine reestablished as well. Plus, the fucking Bubble Boy! What a dick. And what an awesome episode. Final Grade: 10/10

Aaron: And now we come to the first famous episode, and it’s totally earned its reputation for being memorable and hilarious. All the main players are strong, and the cameos are fantastic. The writing is cohesive and biting and it took great balls to make Donald such a colossal dick. That’s what makes the show great though. It always had the balls. Easy recommendation here as we enter a four to five week period of excellence. Final Grade: 9/10

Andrew: This episode is one of the classics. I complained a bit about the plot earlier, but that was just me looking for something for the “didn’t work” section; you don’t nit-pick greatness. Final Grade: 9/10

Jordan: We’re getting into a murderer’s row of episodes here, and this one gets the ball rolling in a big way. Just an absolute classic that any Seinfeld fan has probably seen 20 times, and it still makes you laugh. What’s nice is that it’s not just a standalone episode either, as Naomi is still there from the last episode, and the Susan/Kramer feud continues to get a slow build. But that takes a backseat to the real main event. George vs. Donald, Moops vs. Moors. Costanza vs. The Bubble. So great. Final Grade: 10/10

Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email