Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Deal” (S2, E13)

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 pic 2.13 - The Deal

Best Character

Justin: While I enjoyed Jerry and Elaine’s negotiations and Kramer’s last minute charge, George being back in the role of relationship guru was too tough to overcome. It was good to see him back and you can tell he really enjoys being able to help Jerry through his conundrums. I love that we now know he has a pretty sad sack love life but when Jerry is in a tough spot, he is immediately dispensing advice like a true lothario. I won’t rank this too highly on the Costanza Scale, but he was definitely the most enjoyable this time around.

Aaron: Throughout this rewatch George and Kramer have consistently been my picks for this category. They make me laugh every single episode. Elaine made me love her in this one and that’s why she takes it here. It’s been subtlety hinted at for the better part of the first two seasons that Elaine still has feelings for Jerry. She’s jealous when he dates, obnoxious when she does and tends to have a certain look in her eyes when she’s with him. This is a great payoff to that slow burn and she nails it with her performance here. She’s just so truthful and so irreverent that one can’t help but see everything Jerry does in her. She may not have been the funniest in this one (though she did make me laugh) but what she lost in chuckles she more than made up with in heart, and no one else on the show could have pulled it off so well. I think it would have been easy for them to write her a the typical “girls are insane” type of character, instead they give her a little more perspective and while she does get upset she quickly gets over it. It kind of feels like someone fighting with their old ways. I think there’s also something inherently beautiful about her inability to go back to a friendship with Jerry by the end. It’s not presented as crazy, but as someone who can’t do what she hoped she could.

Andrew: I wanted to pick Elaine for the first scene alone, but she doesn’t get much to work with after that, and George won me over as the episode went along. He’s really good in the diner scenes with Jerry, and gets the best lines of the episode. The deciding moment for me was how quickly he began plotting the murder of Elaine’s hypothetical husband. That’s real friendship right there.

Jordan: Unfortunately, Kramer is mostly background here, so he’s out. George is good in his role, but this isn’t a home run episode for him either. That leaves me with Jerry and Elaine – and I think both did a fine job here, but I’m going to go with Jerry. While Elaine is probably better in the discussion of the rules and other scenes, Jerry holds his own there and seals the victory in his shopping scene and subsequent choice of birthday gift. How can I not vote for someone who has the line of “Too Gubernatorial” to describe a gift?

Best Storyline

Justin: Well, there was really only one story in this episode as every scene centered around Jerry and Elaine resurgent romance. There were some highlights throughout mainly due to the high volume number of scenes about this issue, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites and it felt a bit too stereotypical for Seinfeld.

Aaron: Obviously the friends with benefits story takes it here. The conversation they have and the roundabout way that Jerry and Elaine end up bringing up sex is exactly how these things play out in real life. Neither one wants to be the one to say “let’s do it,” but they both desperately want the other to say it. I feel like I’ve actually said “I’m trying to see how smart you are,” and “things pop in, ” in my escapades. Brilliant truthful writing here that both actors more than do justice to. It’s quite impressive that they tackle this subject without an ounce of sleaze and in many ways seems to make the idea of these two friends getting funky feel downright cute. Of course there has to be some trouble in paradise, but it plays out in the most perfect of ways, ending with the decision to just be together. It just works. It works in spite of the fact (and this is brilliant) that we never once see them be affectionate with each other. We just know they are, and in a lot of ways that’s better.

Andrew: The episode starts off wonderfully with the “deal” itself, so it’s all the more disappointing when it leads to a such an unimaginative, unpleasant storyline. Having two sitcom characters get together isn’t breaking any new ground, and the “no-strings-attached never works out” story isn’t much more original. I could live with the fact that it’s been done before, if they had managed to find more humor in the situation. George and Jerry’s conversations keep it from being too much of a downer, but I’m not a fan of this storyline overall.

Jordan: There’s only one storyline to choose from, and it’s the deal, which turns into a relationship, which makes it a dealbreaker, but the broken deal is fixed. I didn’t dislike this storyline per se, it’s just that Seinfeld is at it’s best when it has multiple stories that weave together. I also feel like this is really more of a Friends type episode storyline and not so much Seinfeld.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Jerry and Elaine’s friendship is a rarity as it is not often that former lovers can maintain that level of closeness. Sure, there was still some tension and a few hints here and there, but they seemed fairly well adjusted. Well, until you toss porn and boredom into the mix. Their buried feelings bubbled over and they rationalized their way back into the bedroom. So, was it a good idea? Sure, why not? They clearly had feelings they needed to explore and they are consenting adults capable of weighing the options. The risk was there, but they were better off exploring it now instead of letting it build even more over time.

Aaron: Can you have the THIS and the THAT? I think so. I think it’s this thing called a healthy, loving relationship. My wife is my best friend, so to date her or not to date her was never even an issue. Why wouldn’t you want to be with someone who you get along with? If a girl likes what you like and you can see yourself repeatedly having sex with her I’m not exactly sure what the problem is with going for the OTHER. I guess the worst that can happen is you can live a happy fulfilling life filled with fun and love. And then you watch them die.

Andrew: Do you have to buy birthday gifts for your friends after you’ve turned 30? I’m not saying we should ban gifts like Kramer’s, he’s just being an awesome, thoughtful dude. But shouldn’t we be free from compulsory gift-giving at some point in our lives? Can’t we cut out that stress after a certain age? I may be revealing too much about myself here.

Jordan: I will forego the obvious one and focus in on two smaller issues that I think probably happen more often than hashing out a sex deal with a “pal”. First, even we the viewer know that Elaine’s roommate is awful. She hates living with her and causes Elaine a lot of stress and anxiety, so why would Jerry eat her food even AFTER Elaine said he shouldn’t? Because he knows there is no repercussions coming to him, it’s all going on Elaine. Friends shouldn’t do that, especially since there is a 90% chance they’d be at Monk’s sooner rather than later. The other issue is birthday cards. Are we justified in being offended because of the wording of a card that will almost certainly be thrown away? Unless they contain money, cards are meaningless! We’ve been brainwashed by the Hallmark corporation!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Having Jerry and Elaine suddenly seem tempted to have sex felt a bit forced and out of left field by this point. Throughout season one, there was a lot of teasing about the two of them still harboring feelings towards each other, but we hadn’t seen much of it lately. All of a sudden it all comes up and we get to see what they were like as a couple. And it was kind of annoying. Jerry is back to being whiny and Elaine is being a typical TV woman, clingy and needy. It didn’t feel right. And neither did Jerry’s confession about Elaine being “IT” and admitting he can’t even imagine running into Elaine in five years and finding out she has a husband. Relationship Grade: 2/10

Aaron: I’m not one of these guys who thinks the series should have ended like this but Jerry and Elaine are made for each other. Period. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Andrew: There was the potential for something interesting here, as Elaine and Jerry try to come up with rules that will make relationship-free sex work. But that potential is wasted as the story quickly devolves into “friends-with-benefits doesn’t work because women are crazy or something”. I’m not saying they needed to advocate for casual sex or anything, I just wish they could have been more original. And if it’s not funny, why are we even watching this story? Relationship Grade: 3/10

Jordan: Going back to what I said earlier, this seems more in the ballpark of Friends than Seinfeld. If this were a Ross and Rachel episode, I would probably rate it higher. But it isn’t. It’s Jerry and Elaine, and while this has been hinted at here and there, it hasn’t been a driving force in the show, and in fact, it seemed to have been dropped until this episode happened. I don’t mind the episode, I just feel like it was the culmination of a story we never really saw enough or the writers paid attention to. Since it IS Jerry and Elaine, and they have terrific chemistry, I’m going to bump it up a bit. Relationship Grade: 6/10

What Worked

Justin: Elaine wanting to watch some sort of porn with Jerry is pretty hot and their discussion about hooking up and setting rules was entertaining; George’s incredulous reaction to Jerry and Elaine’s plans to be friends with benefits was really good, including comparing Jerry to a loser gambler in Las Vegas; George and Jerry shopping for Elaine’s gift led to some good lines, especially from George who is now in his favorite position of coaching Jerry through his love life; Jerry giving money to Elaine as a birthday gift is a top notch fuck up and Kramer rubbing salt in the wounds by getting her the bench and a sweet card was fantastic

Aaron: I think almost everything worked here. Kramer was great in his limited role and his reactions to Jerry and Elaine being together were pretty priceless. George’s bit in the coffee shop asking for details and scrutinizing the rules is the stuff of legend and would have netted him best character in any other episode. I’m really digging how they’re allowing for more physical comedy now so we get great moments like Kramer silently leaving Jerry’s apartment and Elaine going through an entire roll of paper towel. The writing was especially strong and truthful which is always great. They even get analyzing the role Aquaman plays in society down. What does he do on land? I’ll tell you what he doesn’t do: go to improv class. Tina does that, and even she had a great outing here. Just a great solid outing for everyone involved in this one.

Andrew: The “deal” scene is one of my all-time favorites. The way they both realize what the other person is thinking about is great. And they really capture the way people talk themselves into sex, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not. George has some excellent dialog in his discussions with Jerry, and the thoughtfulness of Kramer’s gift for Elaine was well done.

Jordan: The opening scene was really fun, and I think the fact that they actually went through with it kind of sets Seinfeld apart from other shows. To keep bringing up Friends, if that scene happened to start one of those episodes, one or both characters would chicken out and it would be a season long story arc. Here, they just do it. But I think the best scene was actually Jerry and George shopping, and the subsequent gift Jerry chooses. Elaine’s reaction to cash is great, and Jerry has a killer line with, “And MORE!” Kramer actually getting the bench is perfect, and I like that George demands Jerry fix the relationship just because he’s afraid of being raped in prison.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: The idea that Jerry and Elaine are in a sex drought is jarring; Tina is obnoxious, but that is probably the goal of the character; They did their best to Seinfeld-ize it, but it still felt like a standard sitcom story shoehorned in; I hate that Whiny Jerry returned and Elaine trashed all her recent character development and became Obsessive Girlfriend Stereotype; Jerry & Elaine proved here why they shouldn’t be a couple

Aaron: Ummm. Nothing? I guess the last bit of stand up about the birthday card could have been scrapped.

Andrew: I’ve never been a big fan of sitcom “will they or won’t they” storylines, but I especially hate seeing one in Seinfeld. The fundamental characteristic of the show is that the characters are immature and self-centered, so why would we want to get emotionally invested in a relationship between them? Even worse, this feels like a betrayal of Elaine’s character, as she deserves better than to be turned into a uninspired plot device. And I’ve always hated the “This, that, and the other” line. Kramer does lampshade it at the end (“I liked the two of you much better when you weren’t a couple”), but that doesn’t make it OK.

Jordan: OK, I have to call out Jerry here. If you don’t want to “give details”, DON’T TELL GEORGE YOU HAD SEX WITH ELAINE IN THE FIRST PLACE! That was just a jerk move, I think. Not enough Kramer, and I will say that every time he doesn’t have a story. More than anything though, I feel like this whole premise came out of nowhere. Yes, we’ve seen hints that Elaine still has feelings for Jerry, and maybe Jerry for her as well, but it’s largely ignored and Jerry regularly has other girls (who he apparently doesn’t sleep with, given how long it’s been) so if you just jumped in with this episode, you’d probably think you missed something. But you didn’t.

Key Character Debuts

Tina, Elaine’s roommate

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– Elaine & Jerry are intimate for the first time since the show started

– “I don’t have a job, I have no place to go. You aren’t in the mood? Well, you get in the mood!” – George

– We see Elaine’s apartment for the first time

– “To a wonderful girl, a great pal…and more.” – Jerry’s birthday card to Elaine

– “Yeats.” – Kramer

– “She must have taken some kind of seminar.” – Jerry referencing Elaine’s skills.

– “What’s the deal with Aquaman? Can he go on land or is he just restricted to water?” – George

-” What is it about sex that just disrupts everything?” – George

– Jerry gives Elaine $182 as a birthday gift

– George gives Elaine $91 as a birthday gift

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry now has cable in his apartment

– Elaine is very good in bed according to Jerry

– Season Two ends with Jerry and Elaine as a couple

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: While the show was seemingly ahead of its time with a focus on having admitted Friends with Benefits that discuss ground rules and a plan around sex, it wasn’t enough to make this one count. It felt like a season one episode and that wasn’t a good thing. This episode really felt out of place and seemed like they just wanted to have some sort of cliffhanger since it was filmed last for the season, although in reality three more episodes (The Baby Shower, The Chinese Restaurant and The Busboy) aired after this during the original run so it must have been jarring to viewers to have Jerry and Elaine spontaneously not together again. Plus, it felt like we were back to early George, where he is a bit more confident and not as concerned with money or failure, so the whole thing just felt off. This was easily one of my least favorite episodes since the early days and it was disheartening to see after all the progress and growth of season two. Oh well, bring on season three…bring on SEINFELD. Final Grade: 3/10

Aaron: It’s amazing they were able to handle this topic in such a tasteful way, and to think they did this in 1991 is simply preposterous. I don’t remember loving this one as much as this but it surprised me how much it managed to pull me in AND make me laugh. Seinfeld episodes are almost always funny, but let’s face it not everyone has been in a masturbation contest or gotten fussily in their ass. When writing is this relatable and truthful the show transcends mere laughs and becomes something familiar and comforting. Something we love. Now we’re getting somewhere. Final Grade: 7/10

Andrew: I think I’ve made it clear I’m not a fan of this episode. The most frustrating thing is that you can see the elements of a better show in that first scene, before the rest of the storyline goes off the rails. Season Two seems to have been subject to a lot of network meddling, judging by the way the episodes were aired out of order, and I definitely want to think that the relationship storyline was forced on the writers from above. Let’s all be grateful it didn’t stick. Final Grade: 3/10

Jordan: This one is weird, because in a vacuum, it’s fine. But in discussing Seinfeld as a whole, it doesn’t fit. I think if they ended it differently, it could fit just fine. Have them split up but find a way to remain friends. Instead, the episode ends with them as a couple! What??? But not liking that doesn’t erase everything this one did right. Jerry fails fantastically in his gift selection and Elaine lets him have it. It’s terrific. George mocking Jerry’s stupid decision is good. Even Jerry and Elaine’s flirty interaction is welcome. I like that Kramer got Elaine the thoughtful gift rather than George, because it shows Kramer is more of an eccentric, and not so much an idiot. I feel like I’m taking the easy way out with this grade, but I’m putting it right in the middle. Final Grade: 5/10