Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Cafe” (S3, 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!

Seinfeld_[The_Café]_(1991)_4

Best Character

Justin: George takes it here, just for his lying over the stained test alone. “Why would I go out the door, the window is right here?” just sums up George perfectly. That whole scene was great. Jerry was a close second for his complete destruction of Babu’s life along with his mocking of the test caper throughout. I thought he had a lot of good lines in this one. Babu, Elaine and Kramer were all strong in support.

Aaron: George takes this one handily for me here. His desperation to please Monica is only topped by his tremendous lying about having a sandwich in his pocket and sneaking out the window for coffee. His speech about being the nice guy while somewhat true to life is also incredibly hypocritical as he’s one of the worst people in the history of television. Of course he fails on his journey to impress his girlfriend, but would it have been nearly as endearing had he succeeded. His dissertation about his lack of intelligence was also a deep and honest look into himself. People would sometimes ignore a harsh truth, but in a cruel twist the only person George can’t seem to lie to is himself.

Andrew: I’m also choosing George, and also for the lies about the stained test. He is so completely committed to the lie, coming up with an absurd story on the fly, then trying to sell it by acting incredulous that Monica would even question it. He’s an experienced and gifted liar, and I enjoy it. The way he shouts the results of the first test (“Eighty-Five!!”) was a highlight as well.

Jordan: This one was tough as I really wanted to give it to a great guest star in Babu, but I think I’m going with Jerry this time. His smugness over how great of a person he is by “saving” Babu with his wonderful advice ended up being funny with the way things turned out, and his obsessing over it was fun to watch. Jerry is also solid whenever he can insult George, and he got a few nice jabs in here. The random Bazooka Joe line seals the W for Jerome.

Best Storyline

Justin: Before I pressed play, I was set to give this category to The Dream Cafe renovation, but I think the IQ Test storyline delivered more high quality moments and kept the episode moving along. The Dream storyline was really just there to set the backdrop for the test taking. The absurdity of the whole thing, the idea that George had to cheat on this extremely meaningless test, and how George kept digging himself further and further into the hole just to keep the lie going, when in reality none of it mattered delivered on a whole.

Aaron: I loved the whole concept of the test. The hijinx involved were great, but it’s also so true to life that we typically turn something that means nothing to someone into a mountain we can’t possibly be expected to climb. If George just takes the test, regardless of the score, he probably marries Monica and lives a wonderfully fulfilling life, absent of all the deception and murder.

Andrew: It’s tough to not pick the cafe storyline, but I do think the test storyline was better. George trying to keep up the lie makes it great, but I enjoyed the subtler parts too. Like Elaine’s pride forcing her to take the test a second time, or George’s life-long lying about his SAT score, or the way that everyone agrees that IQ tests are overrated, but they still care about the score.

Jordan: Jerry feeling sorry for Babu’s failing restaurant, then ultimately destroying his business. It’s really not in Jerry’s character to feel so bad for someone, and maybe it’s a good thing that Jerry isn’t a kind, generous person, because when he helps, people suffer. Babu is great in his role as the over-friendly business owner who ends up hating Jerry for what he’s done to him. Jerry is good too, so smug in his kindness for going to the Dream Cafe. His inner monologue is something I usually get bugged by, but this time it was funny. “Bad man? Could my mother have been wrong?”

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: If somebody leaves a jacket at your mother’s house, should you return it once they become aware? Especially if the guy is so obsessed with the jacket that he angrily tracks you down and threatens to beat you up? I guess it depends if he is still banging your mom. If not, then screw it, especially if it is a super awesome jacket that gives swag powers, such as this one. If the guy really cared so much about the jacket, he shouldn’t have been so lousy goosey about it in the first place.

Aaron: What is the statue of limitations on someone leaving something in your house? My personal statue is twenty-four hours but I admit I’m a little on the harsh side. If you leave anything in my house it’s mine, plain and simple. I’d extend the radius of my “home” to include my car but my place is already filled with a bunch of other people’s junk. The real question is what is this guy doing asking for his jacket TWO YEARS after the fact. As cold as those years may have been you’ve got to believe if he gave two shits about the jacket he would have gone and gotten it by now. If you’re too stupid to not have a jacket for two years you deserve the inevitable hypothermia. Hypothermia is a fitting reward for someone trying to get a jacket back because someone didn’t put out.

Andrew: Is cheating on a test OK? Obviously it’s a form of lying, and is against the rules, but I don’t really have a problem with it. I really enjoyed this article on the subject from a few years ago. The argument for cheating, basically, is that if the system is already unfair, arbitrary, and corrupt, then gaming that system is ethically acceptable. That’s the kind of self-serving moral relativism I can get behind.

Jordan: As a parent, should you support and encourage your children in their dreams, or give them a harsh dose of reality? Or should you shoot them down if they seem unrealistic? We haven’t met Frank Costanza yet, but perhaps he should have encouraged George’s passion for ventriloquism rather than judge him with a look of disdain. Who knows, George could have rivaled Jerry in the comedy circuit? If Jeff Dunham can do it, so can George!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: George and Monica are the main relationship on display here and it really comes across as wasted potential. Monica was cute, smart and really seemed into George, so much so that she really overlooked his obvious lies after the first test. It is too bad George was too concerned about having a shit IQ to embrace the sweet embrace of the delightfully pure and classy Monica. Relationship Grade: 4/10

Aaron:There’s just too much we don’t know about Monica. Is she just the student who is honestly using George as a Guinea Pig? Or is the whole thing a cover to see if her boyfriend is the moron he appears to be? Gauging her reaction after the lies about the food and coffee on the test I think I’m going to go with a wonderful woman who is far too naive to see that she’s dating a partial sociopath. I’ve also got to imagine that the sex life is pretty strange as the bed is positioned in a way in which every passerby can engage in some sort of voyeur fantasy. Seriously why put a bed there? Is there no back room?? Why would she believe he had a sandwich in his pocket??? Relationship Grade: 5/10

Andrew: Monica was way too normal for this crew. I could almost believe she was a real person. It never would have worked with her and George. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Jordan: George and Monica is a relationship that is built on deceit and trickery. It produces self-loathing, complaining and misery and Monica finds him fascinating. You know, a typical George relationship. Relationship Grade: 5/10

What Worked

Justin: Jerry’s concern for Babu works perfectly because it sums up Seinfeld: care about the inane, but not about things they should care about; George cheating on a meaningless IQ test is tremendous; Babu was a perfectly crafted character and he nailed all his beats, including standing over Jerry as he eats so he can immediately refill his water; It is pretty funny how Babu just has a weird variety of ethnic foods on his menu; We are really starting to get a nice dose of the random asides that pick apart those conversations about nothing, highlighted by the brief statue/statute argument; Kramer’s instance on annoying Elaine with questions about the test ending with the fumbling of the hot towel made me laugh out loud and it carried over to the second test attempt, even as he is dodging the madman; Jerry’s smug excitement over his brilliant ideas was very relatable; George’s on the spot story about spilling food on the test was cringe enducingly great; Kramer’s stubbornness over the jacket was good too, especially since they teased it in the episodes leading to this; I love how Babu is a dick to Jerry after his Pakistani conversion bombed and that Jerry had the balls to criticize the shrimp.

Aaron: Kramer’s reaction to the hot towel made me almost wake up my sleeping son and incur the wrath of my wife. It was that funny. I enjoyed everything with Babu, especially the death glare he gives Jerry as he eats the Pakistani food. Solid episode from Jerry here too and he’s wonderfully smug as he continues to top himself in his quest to help Babu. Jerry rehashing the conversation about George’s intelligence to Elaine was a nice little piece of business. Above all else though, the symmetry of the storylines all connecting was done spectacularly here. The cafe, the test and the stolen jacket all played a major role in derailing each other. It’s the precision of the writing that really does it for me here. Well that and Babu, in a turban, looking like the saddest man on Earth.

Andrew: We have yet another great guest star in Babu, whose journey from an optimistic, eager-to-please entrepreneur to bitter, angry failure was excellently done. All the main characters were great, especially Jerry’s increasingly irrational self-congratulation. He’s really at his best when he’s smug and self-involved. I liked the plot progression as well, with all three stories escalating gradually and tying into one another. And I have to admit, Elaine was really working for me in this episode. I don’t know what it is about her orange dress look in the first scene, but it haunts my dreams. Her excitement at getting involved in a “caper” doesn’t hurt, either.

Jordan: Jerry’s opening stand up bit was funny because it’s very true – I can think of a few places where I live that seem to be revolving doors for failed venture after failed venture. George is taking his SAT score to the grave. George missing Elaine on the high five and hitting her forehead was good. Kramer calling it a “statue” of limitations, then thinking both Jerry and Elaine are wrong and not him. On it’s own, it’s not all that funny, but it’s what Seinfeld does best, throw in some random moments of nothingness. I’ve already covered all the Babu and Jerry stuff. Maybe the best part of the episode was George lying to Monica about the stains on the test. “I spilled some food on it…I had a sandwich in my pocket.” Elaine bombing the test for George, George’s outburst at Elaine and her asking George to retake it while Jerry mocks it all had all three was playing to their strengths.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: George’s elderly man sweater vest is a really odd choice; Does Babu have people cooking for him or does he run this joint on his own, we never really find out; Jerry was out of town for “about a week” but it doesn’t seem like it based on the other stories.

Aaron: I felt the idea of Jerry’s smugness would have worked fine on its own without all the inner monologues. It’s just one part of the show that I just can’t get into. I wonder if they do it because they don’t feel that Jerry can convey the subtlety of these moments on his own through body language and expression? He has no trouble here and the monologues just hammer the joke home instead of letting it simmer. I could have used more Kramer I guess, as he was consistently excellent throughout. Jerry’s blue turtleneck made me want to shove him out the window.

Andrew: I understand why Babu gets upset when his restaurant’s Pakistani reinvention fails, but it’s not really Jerry’s fault. The first theme was a terrible idea; no one likes a restaurant with a menu that is all over the place. And what’s wrong with Pakistani food? Doesn’t ethnic cuisine do really well in New York? There’s a lot of holes in this story. Also, why does Elaine try to take the test in the Dream Cafe? Jerry suggests it as a joke, after offering his apartment, and that’s what she goes with?

Jordan: Could have used more Kramer here, as I didn’t like the jacket storyline too much. The IQ thing is actually kind of a silly premise, but George’s lying made it work. Not a whole lot I didn’t like though.

Key Character Debuts

Babu Bhatt

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “You know, I could probably shoot him from here. I would be doing us both a favor.” – Jerry

– “Cassus Belli” – Elaine

– “What’s Cassus Belli?” – George “Oh, it’s nothing.” – Jerry “Is it about me?” – George

– “Hey, I love a good caper” – George “Yeah that’s what it is, isn’t it? A caper!” – Elaine

– “Isn’t there a statue of limitations on that?” – Kramer “A statute.” – Jerry “A what?” – Kramer “A statute, it’s not a statue of limitations” – Jerry ” No, it’s statue” – Kramer “Fine, it’s a sculpture of limitations” – Jerry “Just wait… Elaine, you’re smart…is it statue or statute of limitations?” – Kramer “It’s statute” – Elaine “Oh…I really think you’re wrong!” – Kramer

– “Babu Bhatt did it.” – Elaine “Babu Bhatt? How am I going to explain this?” – George

– “Is he coming up?” – Elaine “I’m no genius…but according to my calculation, he should be here any minute!” – Jerry

– “Maybe the test was gender biased? You know, a lot of questions around hunting…testicles” – Jerry

– “Oh…hello professor!” – George

– “You bad man…you very, very bad man!” – Babu

Oddities & Fun Facts

– George lies about his SAT score, claiming he received a 1409

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: While this wasn’t a Hall of Fame episode, it is certainly very memorable, thanks to Babu, and an All Star level outing. It felt like a really hard hit double in the gap: Effective and fun to watch. It had two very strong storylines and Babu may be our first legit recurring guest pantheon character to show up on screen. I love his turn from happy-go-lucky entrepreneur to angry, pissed off dick and how he just took out all his frustrations on Jerry, who just couldn’t help himself in criticizing the shrimp. I had a hard time coming up with anything wrong with this one, but it was just missing those few big laughs to really put it over the top. The show is on a hell of a run right now, though, alternating all time classics with really damn solid episodes. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: Really good, solid episode here with great performances and a memorable guest star. It’s no surprise they brought Babu back down the road as he was tremendous with very limited screen time. I’m starting to see the pattern emerge that when the writing is tight I tend to score a little higher. The was a concise and cohesive script which is only aided by a lanky fuck being burned by a towel. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: I thought the episode started out really strong, with Jerry and Elaine’s banter, Kramer’s fantastic performance in the cafe, and George lying about the test. Babu’s “You are a bad man” line is great, but the storyline could have used a better capper, and the other stories have even less inspired endings. That said, Babu is an all-time great, there were several memorable moments, and it’s an episode I look back on fondly. The season three hot streak continues. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: Babu joins Lt. Bookman as a classic character in the Seinfeld world. I really liked this one a lot – Jerry is SO proud of himself throughout for what a great person he is, and Babu lets him have it at the end. George is great when he’s lying to women and freaking out over unimportant issues. Elaine and Kramer were fine, even if Kramer didn’t seem to be on too much. I’m a sucker for when the stories interweave and this one connected them all a little bit. Another solid effort and the show is really picking up steam. Final Grade: 7/10

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.