Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Doll” (S7, E17)

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!

seindoll

Best Character

JT: Frank. It was always meant to be Frank. He owns the Place to Be, we are just borrowing it from the legend.

Aaron: While it feels like a complete betrayal of every fiber of my being I’m going to forgo the obvious screamin’ Frank Costanza pick and go with Elaine. If you were going to make the case that Elaine is the best actor on the show you’d use this episode as exhibit A. It’s all in the subtlety. Her facial reactions are bang on throughout. She loathes to spend more than ten words on Frank Costanza, she is done with Jerry and his Oro-Dent suggestion and her scream from the hallway as George leaves with the doll can only be described as pure visceral terror. We’re also treated to Elaine dodging a cavalcade of obstacles and she struggles to carry home Jerry’s thoughtless imposition. She rides the subway with all the despair of a dying bear and is positively full of glee as she declares that Jerry has “NOTHING!” She is fantastic.

Andrew: Kramer I guess? He didn’t have a ton going on in this episode, but no one else blew me away. Cosmo’s chemistry with Frank is top notch, as usual. And his (literally) unbelievable skills with a conductor’s baton are impressive.

Jordan: I feel like we are at the point where everytime he’s on for more than 30 seconds, I’m going to pick Frank. Thought about going with Sally here, but she’s got something better coming down the road. For now, this is Frank’s PLACE TO BE and we’re all playing billiards in it.

Jason: There’s a bunch of choices to go with here. Frank, Kramer and the Maestro all killed it shooting pool. Estelle’s constant bickering to Frank about the Carlo stuff was typical Estelle. George killed it with the doll stuff.  Jerry’s constant frustration with Sally was a lot of fun. However, I’ll go with Sally Weaver. She was like Toby turned way up! Her ignorance and obnoxiousness caused Jerry hell one thing after another.

Best Storyline

JT: THE PLACE TO BE. An iconic scene, from the room being too small, to the pants hanging up, to Estelle catching the boys canoodling, to THE PLACE TO BE. The Doll stuff was fantastic too, especially George being freaked out in bed and Frank tearing its head off.

Aaron: I’m going to go a little off the page and go with Frank Costanza trying to win the confidence of his wife. She clearly just doesn’t believe in him and his struggle to reclaim his dignity is a hilarious globe-trotting escapade.

Andrew: I’ll go with The Doll. They got the prop itself exactly right: it looks enough like Estelle to be unmistakable, but not so much like her that it couldn’t be a coincidence. And it’s just the right amount of creepy. George and Frank having instinctive, visceral reactions to it is funny.

Jordan: Here’s where I will give Sally a nod. I like that the foundation is being laid for one of Jerry’s biggest enemies – she will eventually rival Newman in hatred for and from Jerry. It started with the stupid welcome mat, but she really ruins everything for Jerry’s big spot on the Grodin show. Bonus points because I pretty much hate Kathy Griffin, but she knocks it out of the park here.

Jason: I’ll go with a tie this week. The title plot was brilliant. Susan having a doll that looks like Estelle was brilliant writing and it played out perfectly. From George losing sleep over Susan wanting to sleep with it, to George and Frank hearing Estelle’s voice when they look at it. All topped off with Frank popping the head off. My other choice is the billiard room stuff. Kramer and Frank’s struggle to finish the game because there wasn’t enough room to get a shot off was dynamite. Plus, this is the storyline that gave our anchor podcast and this very website its name. IT’S THE PLACE TO BE!

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: I’ve never understood the role of a conductor. Can the band really not play the fucking song because a stick is bent? Give me a break…sack up and play the stupid Vivaldi.

Aaron: If someone tells you that a doll looks like their mother is it uncouth to bring said doll into the bed where you presumably have sex? YES. Yes it’s absolutely wrong you psychopath! You’ve met the woman Susan! You know what kind of shrieking shrew she is. Why, oh why would you make her a spectator/participant to your sordid baseball enveloped intercourse? You haven’t been sleeping with the dolls for months. MONTHS! Now that your fiancé tells you he’s uncomfortable you chose to bandy them about the home like some sort of fucked up Barker’s beauty? Jesus I’m glad you died you selfish cow. Sack up and murder her already Costanza.

Andrew: How much should you encourage someone to buy something you like? I’m thinking two or three sentences, then let it go. What do you have stock in Ori-Dent, Seinfeld?

Jordan: Should a grown woman be having dolls in her bed? Probably not, but George’s room is not that different than a 11 year old boys, so he is not the right person to cry foul here. He’s probably begged Susan to do it while a Mickey Mantle toy watches on, dunking doughnuts.

Jason: Should Kramer be allowed to run the table with the Maestro’s baton? I don’t think there’s anywhere in the billiard rule book that states that a conductor’s baton is a legal tool to use as a pool cue.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: George should have gotten hammered and included the doll into a three way with Susan. Exorcise all the demons at once, Georgie Boy. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Aaron: The Maestro does not deserve to be with my Elaine. I’d be so much more comfortable with her gesture if I didn’t think she was just trying to get into his pants. Why does she like this guy? He’s such a poor leader that his orchestra can’t exist for more than five seconds without his baton. He’s a failure on every level. IT’S AN OLD FOLKS HOME!!! I hate this guy. Relationship Grade:0/10

Andrew: This is the worst of Susan, in my opinion. Her saying “I used to love to sleep with my dolls when I was a little girl” mid-foreplay is much worse than Jerry’s infamous “panties” line, I think. As for the Maestro, I’m starting to see the appeal. Not everyone can pull off the inherently awkward dress-socks-no-pants look (looking at you, Jerry). Relationship Grade: 0/10

Jordan: What does Elaine see in that douchey, ugly weirdo who demands to be called The Maestro? Is it because he has a place in Tuscany, so he must be wealthy? We saw Elaine get the sex eyes for Jerry when counting his wad of cash, so that’s my guess. Relationship Grade: MONEY GRUBBING BENES/10

Jason: Jerry and Sally should just bang on the Costanzas door mat with the Estelle doll looking on. Perhaps get a bottle of barbecue sauce and the ORO-DENT involved too. Relationship Grade: 10 BALL, CORNER POCKET/10

What Worked:

JT: George making Elaine sit down to eat; The Maestro returns!; The Search of Cousin Carlo Costanza; The stewardess jamming Jerry’s bag into the overhead always makes me laugh; Jerry being out of material and Kramer trying to create some for him, “It’s all attitude”; The billiard room is amazing and I love it is too small right out of the gate; Those scary ass dolls, especially the Estelle Doll camping out in bed; Frank and Elaine yelling at each other never gets old; “Hey, a dinosaur!” made me chuckle; THE PLACE TO BE; The Maestro’s pants trick; Jerry’s line about George taking his dolly and going home; The Doll yelling at George at the restaurant and then Deena and Ruthie catching him is so fantastic; Estelle walking in on the Maestro conducting the billiard lesson; Jerry’s disappointed “oh” when Sally answers the phone; Kramer using the Maestro’s baton to clean up at pool; Elaine butchering the other guy’s name; Jerry sitting in his boxers in the dressing room; Jerry having no material and the other guy ruining his pants right as the PA tells him he is due up on set is perfect and a rare moment where Jerry comes out on the shit end; Frank destroying the Estelle doll was such a great payoff to the whole episode; Frank’s failed visit to Tuscany wraps things up nicely

Aaron: The shot of Estelle walking in on the Maestro conducting Kramer and Franks umm… “closeness” is probably the shot that busted me up the most since we started re-watching all those moons ago. It’s just so perfect. They’re not wearing pants, he’s almost inside him, Maestro is losing himself to the moment…Her “Oh MY GOD!” is completely earned. Kathy Griffin is fantastic as wacko Sally. I love, LOVE how she brings him the “better” BBQ sauce instead of the one he asked him for immediately after Jerry chastised Elaine for not wanting the “better” toothbrush. It’s just near perfect writing. Kramer is amazing throughout. His salvaging of the sauce is peculiar and his physical work in the billiard parlor is sublime. The whole billiard scene is amazing. There’s just no damn space in that room. You can feel everyone’s frustration as they struggle their way through a three hour game of pool. Three hours way past Estelle’s level of tolerance. It’s like she can’t stand her husband having any fun for any length of time. Like her whole purpose is to make the man miserable. Frank is his usual golden self. Screaming at his wife, his son and even a doll. Giuseppe’s Italian accent is lazily brilliant.

Andrew: The classic “straight man vs. well-meaning dunce” routine Jerry and Sally have going is solid. The elder Costanzas are a national treasure, so it’s always good to see them. Kramer “salvaging the sauce” from Jerry’s clothes is delightfully weird. The “other guy from The Three Tenors” is a good running joke. George is good in the scene where he is talking to do the doll. The billiards room scenes are the best part of the episode.

Jordan: As much as I love Frank, I feel like Estelle completes him. I am kind of stunned those two never got a spin off show of any kind. The place to be is of course well known around these parts, but the actual scenes still deliver. From trying to play pool in a tiny room (decorated with all kinds of signs, I want to see Frank shopping for these!) and fumbling around with the cues, to pantsless billiards with the Maestro, to Kramer sharking poor Frank with the baton. I like Jerry’s hatred for Sally, as he’s rightfully angry here, and not just being petty. She blatantly ignores all his specific requests and doesn’t even apologize. The Doll really DOES look like Estelle, and I love that it speaks to both George and Frank. Elaine fumbling around with the toothbrush is a fun visual gag.

Jason: Jerry having no idea who Sally is when she hugs him. Frank asking George to turn his room into a billiard parlor. Frank never being able to run for president because he wasn’t born here; “They don’t want me, I don’t want them.” Kramer salvaging the sauce. Sally working for Fed-EX, coming to New York, bringing Jerry the wrong sauce and the wrong doll. Frank loading up on powder. Kramer and Frank trying to hit balls around with the pool cue. it taking them three hours to finish the first game. George’s expression when he first sees the Estelle doll. The doll in bed with George and Susan before they’re gonna go at it. The other guy being on the Grodin show so Elaine can make up for spilling wine on the Maestro’s picture. Elaine spilling wine on the poster. The iconic scene with Kramer and Frank explaining the “place to be” to the Maestro. The doll sitting on Jerry’s counter; “Don’t take your dolly and go home” is one of my favorite Jerry lines ever. Elaine’s scream when she sees the doll. George eating with doll sitting across from him while he hears Estelle’s voice; “Why don’t you buy a new shirt?!” The Maestro describing Carlo as a village idiot and Frank still thinking that they’re related. Kramer helping Frank follow through while the Maestro conducts the background music, all without pants on. Elaine’ s joy when she sees Jose Carreras; “It’s you, it’s really you.” Elaine botching his name after she gets the autograph. Elaine lugging the ORI-DENT box and the poster around town. Carreras wiping sauce on Jerry’s pants right before his Grodin segment. The Maestro’s favorite Tenor with those two other guys. The Maestro using the bent baton to conduct the symphony. Frank hearing Estelle’s voice when he sees the doll and popping the head off was the ultimate payoff. Frank traveling to Tuscany to see Carlo and it ending up now being him.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Sigh, Sally; How did they get the pool table in that tiny room?

Aaron: Sally is a real piece of shit. The whole business with the box is the most inexplicable torture since Jacques de Molay. She had literally NO reason to get Jerry to move the box and yet forced it on him as though she were Kobe Bryant. I would have really liked to see Charles Grodin. I love that grumpy fuck. And what was with the TRUMP plane at the airport?

Andrew: This is the most sitcom-y episode in a while. Lots of “a script traditionally has a joke here” moments, without anything particularly interesting building up to them. Like the bit with Frank’s cousin: everyone doubts him, he gets more and more aggressively insistent, then acts like it’s no big deal when he turns out to be wrong. There’s nothing unfunny about that joke, but nothing original or unexpected about it, either.

Jordan: Susan is such a weirdo. I’m glad she dies.

Jason: Much like last week, everything worked here.

Key Character Debuts

– Sally Weaver

– The Place to Be

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “So, I was wondering, would it be okay if I turned your room into a billiard parlor?” – Frank “A billiard parlor?” – George “Regulation table, the hi-fi, maybe even a bar.. Give it real authenticity.” – Frank

– “So, you weren’t born here?” – Elaine “No. That’s why I can never be president.. It always irked me. That’s why, even at an early age, I had no interest in politics. I refuse to vote. They don’t want me, I don’t want them!” – Frank

– “You know the Three Tenors?” – Elaine “Yeah… Pavarotti… Domingo.. and… uh… the other guy.” – George “The other guy.” – Elaine

– “What is this stuff? Why do we need this stuff?… And why do they make it so small…?” – Kramer “Where’s the punchline?” – Jerry “It’s all attitude…” – Kramer

– “You like to gamble, Cosmo?” – Frank

– “Yeah, Frank here – he’s got his own billiard room.” – Kramer “Yes, It’s, uh, it’s.. uh, uh.. What do you call it, Kramer?” – Frank “A billiard room.” – Kramer “No, not billiard… Not billiards… it was… Come on, already. Come on…” – Frank “What?” – Kramer “We call it… the, uh…” – Frank “The Place To Be!” – Kramer “The place to be! Yes! It’s the place to be.”- Frank “Ah, then I shall be there.” – Maestro

– “Jerry, come on. If my mother keeps shrinking, this is exactly what she’s gonna look like in ten years!” – George “Why don’t you just get rid of it?” – Jerry “I tried! I almost threw it down the incinerator, but I couldn’t do it. The guilt was too overwhelming. Susan’s too attached to the thing.” – George “Wait, where are you going? Don’t take your dolly and go home.” – Jerry

– “Now this is remarkable. I’m lounging, and yet, my pants remain perfectly creased.” – Kramer

– “I’ve seen that man in Tuscany. Eccentric fellow. Reputation of being kind of a village idiot.” – Maestro “I still say we’re related.” – Frank

Oddities & Fun Facts

– We last saw The Maestro in The Maestro (S7, E3)

– Deena’s comment about George belonging in a sanitarium is a callback to The Gum (S7, E10)

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This is another iconic episode, and not just because it spawned an empire, but also because it is really damn funny and very well written. The Doll gag was quite inspired and I loved that only George and Frank truly recognized the resemblance and were haunted by it. Plus, Susan was kept to a minimum, which made her more tolerable than normal. The Costanzas are always amazing and they were supported quite strongly by Kramer and The Maestro throughout. Tack on a fun C-plot with Jerry and Sally and there were no holes here at all. I do think it falls just a tad short of the all time pantheon greats, but it is about as close as you can get. Ah, fuck it. It is awesomely perfect. We call it the… uh… Final Grade: 10/10

Aaron: Season seven is in full gear and I never would have dreamed that the more we got away from the marriage storyline the better the show would get. This one killed it on every level from page to performance. The conducted sex misunderstanding is an sneaky contender for greatest moment of the show for me and every single actor brought their A + game. Frank Costanza was excellent and I still preferred other people. Amazing episode. Final Grade: 10/10

Andrew: This may be a case of the show being a victim of its own high standards, but I thought this episode was disappointing. The Doll itself is a classic, and “The Place to Be” stuff is awesome (natch), but most of the episode felt like it was going through the motions. Going against the family like this gives me heartburn, but … Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: This was great. Sally is awful, but she is supposed to be. George is repressing everything, Elaine is putzing around, Kramer and Frank are a great combo, and Jerry’s pissed off. It’s a home run. Final Grade: 10/10

Jason: So, here we are. Without this episode we wouldn’t be writing this column under the Place to Be Nation name. This episode has always been a favorite of mine and holds up magnificent. The plots all tied in brilliant, the dialogue killed and everyone brought their A game. In addition, Kathy Griffin was fantastic in her debut as Sally Weaver. This is another episode that is close to being in my top ten from the series. Therefore, for the first time in the rewatch, I will be going with perfect scores in back to back episodes. Final Grade: 10/10