Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Conversion” (S5, E11)

Welcome to Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch! On a regular basis, JT Rozzero, Aaron George, Andrew Flanagan, Jordan Duncan and Jason Greenhouse 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!

seinconversion

Best Character

JT: George takes this one for me. Jerry and Kramer were both really good in spots, but George was constantly great throughout. He alternated between emotions at a rapid pace and his final showdown with his parents had me laughing the whole way through. The poor guy just wants love! Please faddah!

Aaron: I don’t even care that they’re in one and a half scenes but it’s the Costanzas again. I’m sorry but they’re going to win every time. Them grilling George from the outside of the bathroom as he hides his orthodoxy is brilliant and only Frank Costanza could pull off screaming, “You’re not performing any rituals in this house!” They’re the best. Every time.

Andrew: I liked Kramer the most. Seeing him tortured by his power over women is pretty good, but I was most impressed with his first scene, when he’s just killing it with one or two word interjections in the diner (“Fungi”). The little things count for a lot on this show, and Kramer is expert at them.

Jordan: I’ll give the edge to Kramer here, but I can’t fault anyone who picks George. Both were excellent, but I think Kramer delivers more with less. Plus, it’s the kavorka!

Jason: I have to go with George. He doesn’t want to lose another girl, so he agrees to convert to her religion. In the process he writes notes on his hand to cheat during the conversion test and lies to priests. Oh Brother… Costanza.

Best Storyline

JT: George’s conversion takes this one easily for me. Kramer’s kavorka was good too, but got started a bit late in the episode. Elaine and Jerry’s storylines were so-so this time around and I enjoyed Jerry as part of George’s issue more.

Aaron: The conversion to Latvian Orthodox is the obvious choice for me here. Not only do we get George lying and scheming in the face of religious piety, but it leads us back to Frank and Estelle which is where I always want the show to go.

Andrew: The Kavorka … the lure of the animal. I’ll always enjoy a storyline focused on Kramer’s success with women, and giving it a supernatural spin takes it to another level. And on top of that, there’s Sister Roberta considering giving up her calling for a man. It all adds up to a really solid storyline.

Jordan: Since I gave Kramer best character, I’ll split the difference and give George’s conversion the best storyline. It’s something George would absolutely do, and I actually wish we would have gotten more disgust out of Jerry and Elaine for his doing it. I loved that he cheated on the test.

Jason: I really enjoyed Kramer picking up on a vibe from a nun, but George taking every shortcut possible to convert is so enjoyable.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should you try to convince a nun that has fallen for you to give up her forbidden love and return to the cloth? It’s a real gray area. If you feel the same way then you have to go for it. Of course, it is a heavy burden to carry, but true love is true love. It is obvious that the K-Man wasn’t going to stick around with Sister Roberta longterm, so he sacrificed his God-given lure for the greater good.

Aaron: If you have the Kavorka should you take the necessary steps to cleanse yourself, or just go with it and sleep your way through New York City? Truly the question of the ages. I wish I could say I were strong enough to bathe in vinegar and drape myself in garlic, but alas I am but a simple man, a simple man with carnal pleasures. Bring me to New York where I will rule from on high.

Andrew: If a man is cursed with the Kavorka, does he have to find a way to get rid of it? I feel like I’d want to ride that one out for a while, see where it takes me. But if it’s gotten to the point where it’s affecting major life decisions, it may be time to reconsider things.

Jordan: Is leaving the medicine cabinet open fair game for exploration and discovery of evidence? I would have to cite many, many episodes of Law & Order where the fungicide would be thrown out of court.

Jason: When is it right to go through someone’s medicine cabinet? Jerry seems to like Tawni, so is it OK for him to take a peak? I say bad move here. Going through someone’s medicine cabinet is like going through a woman’s purse without asking.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: We got four separate relationships working in this one, all to various degrees of success. I really liked Tawni as she seemed like a real sweetheart and was a bit of a fox. But Jerome had to snoop and botched that one all up. Elaine’s podiatrist beau was creepy and bland and didn’t get much screen time to make a difference. Poor, poor Sister Roberta was all sorts of confused but I kind of wanted that one to last into the next episode before Kramer bit the bullet. George and his Latvian Lover are where it’s at…until he converts and she takes off on a pilgrimage anyway. She seemed so pained to break up with him that I was surprised she was so callous about taking off at the end. Poor, poor Georgie. Relationship Grade: Brother Costanza/10

Aaron: I’m a fan whenever Kramer gets to knock boots with a weird chick. First it was the librarian, then the scientist. Sister Roberta would have had it made in the shade (like gorillas) had Kramer been the weak man that I am. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Andrew: There’s nothing quite like a religious order/forbidden romance story. And I thought Tawni was pretty charming. I think Elaine dodged a bullet with the podiatrist, though. He was pretty dull. Relationship Grade:Edward VIII/X 

Jordan: Jerry and Tawni is interesting, because it doesn’t seem to end by the time the episode finishes, which is rare. Elaine’s podiatrist was a whole lot of meh. Kramer and Sister Roberta is a forbidden love that we must not speak of. And then there’s George. I feel like his girl (whose name I can’t remember) made up the religion thing to break it off with him, because once he converted, she still bailed. Total scumbag move. Relationship Grade: LATVIAN/FUNGICIDE

Jason: I think Kramer and Sister Roberta would make an excellent couple. Elaine’s podiatrist boyfriend sucks. An un-sponge-worthy buffoon, if you will. Another stellar performance from the Costanzas. Tawni is a nice catch for Jerry. Fungus or not, way to go Jerome! Sasha wants to break up with George, but still orders the lobster? Oh hell no! Relationship Grade: Succulent/10

What Worked:

JT: Poor George, religion screws him right off the top here and by the look on his girlfriend’s face, she is pretty upset about it but when she still orders the lobster I laughed; Latvian Orthodox is so damn random that it works beautifully; It is fun seeing old school George, smitten and ready to the marry the girl that just got away; I love the scene where George slowly decides to convert, including Jerry’s dig about King Edward not living in Queens; Kramer’s honesty about the snooping was well done and his suggestive nod after saying Fungi got me to laugh out loud; George’s lying to the priests was brilliant as well; Kramer’s slinky; Jerry’s fake cough; George studying in the bathroom while getting bitched out by his parents and then trying to cheat was excellent; Kavorka!: The Costanzas harassing George on his conversion day was perfect; The conversion scene spliced with Kramer hustling was really good; Poor George loses in the end, as always

Aaron: All of George’s lies to the priests are great. Someone telling the truth doesn’t begin a sentence with, “In this age of uncertainty and confusion…” It culminates nicely in a conversion scene where George’s awful eating habits bite him in the ass in the form of wine he NEEDS to gulp down. The scene at the diner with Jerry, Elaine and Kramer where they discuss fungicide and the plural of fungus is a treat. Kramer also has a great showing here as a man clearly cursed with a terrible power. Of course he runs into a woman about to become a nun. Of course he does. I could take or leave Elaine’s story, but the way she flippantly besmirches podiatry is pretty great. As is the lack of care as Jerry and Elaine wolf down George’s lobster as he pours his heart out to them.

Andrew: I enjoyed Jerry and Elaine tearing into George’s leftover lobster while he’s mourning his relationship. And I liked the diner conversation about the fungicide, especially Kramer’s eyebrow waggle when he corrects Elaine on the plural of “fungus”. George’s conversion storyline was pretty solid; it worked well for the character, and led to a good scene with his parents. And I really do like the Kavorka stuff.

Jordan: The conversion and Kavorka story blended together really well, and I liked George mentioning that he really likes the hats as his big reason for converting. Kramer is great throughout, correcting Jerry and Elaine with “fungi” at the diner. I liked George’s abrupt statements in the apartment and his lamenting while Elaine and Jerry feasted on his leftover lobster. George calling the father “Fadda” is so random, but maybe the funniest moment of the episode.

Jason: Everything with the conversion process is a win. George studying in the bathroom so his parents won’t find out. Writing notes on his hand for the test. Asking if there’s an express conversion. If there’s any man out there that could have Sister leave a church for them, it’s Kramer. Frank asking if this is the group that goes around mutilating squirrels gets a laugh every time. George’s, “Yes, Faddah” and “So, am I in?” are both great. George sobbing over what happened with Sasha while Jerry and Elaine eat his leftover lobster is Seinfeld 101. Kramer with the garlic cloves around his neck is hilarious.

What Didn’t Work

JT: All the snooping; Elaine’s boyfriend is a little odd and sensitive; Jerry’s girlfriend is so nice, he is an asshole this time around

Aaron: George’s girlfriend crying off the top is maybe the worst acing in this history of the show. Keep in mind this is a show with Jerry Seinfeld on it, who, five years in, still doesn’t know how to kiss a girl on camera!!! I didn’t love the fungus story or the doctor bits as they felt a little tacked on to the religious awakening that was happening on the other side.

Andrew: I didn’t care for the flipped hallway set. It made sense for the scenes with Tawni, establishing that she was right down the hall, but it was really disorienting.

Jordan: I didn’t care for George’s girl at all. Wailing loudly and still ordering the lobster? That’s a George move! It shouldn’t be done TO George! The podiatrist not being a real doctor jokes seemed lame.

Jason: Elaine’s streak of dating morons continues. No love for Estelle’s old hag friends being nosey and ratting out George.

Key Character Debuts

Sister Roberta

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Yes, well, you know, I’m not thinking about the price. You know you’re the only woman I’ve never thought about the price. Get the lobster. I beg you to get the lobster. Go for the lobster.” – George

– “We started to talk, and I told him that I jog, and then he put his hand on my heart.” – Elaine “On your heart?” – Jerry “Jerry, the man is a doctor.” – Elaine “Doctor? He’s a podiatrist.” – Jerry “It’s the same thing.” – Elaine “Anyone can get into podiatry school. George got into podiatry school.” – Jerry

– “I know. This was the only woman I never lied to. Well that’s not entirely true.” – George

– “To Latvian Orthodox?” – Jerry “Why not? What do I care?” – George “You know it’s not like changing toothpaste.” – Jerry “I think it would be romantic.” – Elaine “Really?” – George “Yeah, it’s like Edward the Eighth abdicating the throne and marrying Mrs. Simpson. Ooh.” – Elaine “King Edward. King Edward, Jerry.” – George “Yeah well King Edward didn’t live in Queens with Frank and Estelle Costanza.” – Jerry

– “Fungicide. I mean what could she have?” – Jerry “I don’t know.” – Elaine “Fungus.” – Kramer

– “I am not going to ask him about funguses.” – Elaine “Fungi.” – Kramer “What?” – Jerry “Fungi.” – Kramer

– “Is there one aspect of the faith that you find particularly attractive?” – Priest “I think the hats. The hat convey that solemn religious look you want in a faith. Very pious.” – George

– “That’s all there is to it. By Christmas day I will be Brother Costanza.” – George “And when is Brother Costanza planning on telling Mother Costanza?” – Jerry “Brother Costanza will be taking the vow of silence.” – George

– “You picked up on a vibe, from a nun.” – Jerry “Yeah, Jerry I’m telling you I have this power. And I have no control over it.” – Kramer

– “Yeah I’ve got this old bottle of cough medicine.” – Jerry “I still have brill cream.” – George

– “Okay, Latvius was the son of which apostle? And I’ll need that in the form of a question.” – Jerry

– “She told me. She said she’s never had a man stir up all of these feelings inside of her. She’s questioning her faith. She’s thinking of leaving the church. Oh, uh, this power. I’m dangerous Jerry, I’m very very dangerous.” – Kramer

– “Kavorka?” – Kramer “It is a Latvian word which means “the lure of the animal”.” – Priest “I don’t understand.” – Kramer “Women are drawn to you. They would give anything to be possessed by you.” – Priest “Help me Father. Help me.” – Kramer “Yes, yes I will help you. Listen very carefully. I want you to buy ten cloves of garlic, three quarts of vinegar, six ounces…” – Priest

– “Latvian Orthodox? Why are you doing this?” – Estelle “For a woman.” – George “A woman? What are you out of your mind?” – Frank “Why can’t you do anything like a normal person?” – Estelle “Wait. Is this the group that goes around mutilating squirrels?” – Frank “No it’s a regular religion.” – George “I’m calling my lawyer. It might not be too late to get out of this.” – Frank “I don’t want to get out of it.” – George “George, you don’t know what you’re saying. You’re under their control.” – Estelle “What, they brainwashed you?” – Frank “No no.” – George “You’re not performing any rituals in this house.” – Frank “Go back to the psychiatrist. I beg you.” – Estelle “And stay away from those squirrels.” – Frank

Oddities & Fun Facts

N/A

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I really feel like this episode was put into a tough spot having to follow the Cigar Store Indian juggernaut. It was really good with lots of laughs, but no matter what followed that slice of perfection, it was going to be a bit of a letdown. That said, there is lots here to like. George was fantastic throughout and the scene with his parents was top notch. Kramer was also really good, both with his general counsel early and his kavorka issues later. Jerry was good with his trolling of George but his fungus story fell flat. I also didn’t care much for Elaine’s story here as it was clear they only inserted the podiatrist boyfriend to push the fungus stuff along. I guess that is what separates this episode from the previous one. This time, the tie-ins all felt a little forced, specifically the one I just mentioned. The Indian episode, everything felt like a natural progression and nothing seemed to exist solely to be shoehorned in as a plot device. Again, I am nitpicking, but what the hell else are we supposed to do? Convert to being fans of a lesser sitcom? Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: Middle of the road episode here propped up by great stuff from Kramer, Frank and Estelle. It lacked a little cohesion, but the stories were funny enough on their own and still made for a fun half hour. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: Eh, I thought this episode was underwhelming. There’s a lot of potential in the Kavorka and conversion storylines, but I just didn’t find myself laughing very much while watching them. I think I like the idea of this one more than the actual episode. This season is in a bit of an uneven stretch, but I believe it picks up again soon. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: This was a mixed bag, as conversion and kavorka are great stories, but the fungicide stuff is really just filler and not very funny. I didn’t hate it, I laughed a few times, but it’s not an episode I would ever have a desire to watch again, unless I’m marathoning the whole show. Or reviewing it all for a website. Or boning up on the rich hat history of the Latvian Orthodox culture. Final Grade: 6/10

Jason: Another solid episode from this season. A little drop off from the perfect episode last week, but still holds its own. Sister Roberta is a sweetheart and was enjoyable the entire episode. Lots of laughs from George and Kramer. Frank and Estelle kill it again. Elaine deserves a good dude. Enough with these dimwits. I think she finally catches a break in our next episode. Until then, don’t go snooping in medicine cabinets and stay away from those squirrels. 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.