Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Engagement” (S7, E1)

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!

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Best Character

JT: We start off the season with some strong performances as the gang’s lives are shaken up quite a bit across the board. Well, except one of them, and he is my choice for best character to open season seven. Kramer was tremendous here. His fantastic anti-marriage speech, his coy dognapping offering to Elaine, his explanation of how he tells time, his Rudy’s reference and immediate slip-up with the cop when they asked about, it was all gold and he set the standard for year season out of the gate.

Aaron: I really thought it would be George but when you get a dream sequence involving both a dog attack and a corn cob pipe then the only sane choice is Kramer. His indictment of marriage as a man made prison is as true now as it was running through my head on my wedding day. His optimism for a life filled with dancing and prancing for the dog always makes me smile as does his quick admission and retraction upon seeing a piece of his prized shirt. Strong performance for the K-Man to start this one off.

Andrew: I like George here, in a bit more subtle performance than the usual. The quiet terror he displays as he slowly realizes what kind of life he has signed up for is really great. I’m not saying he should win an acting award, or anything, but it is a fun change of pace from the usual histrionics.

Jordan: Elaine was really excellent here, but I have to go with George. His pure joy turning to outright depression throughout the episode was incredible. He goes from loving everything about Susan to dreading her every word, all in the space of about 30 minutes. Dominant performance from Costanza.

Jason: Oh, hey Season Seven! There’s a few solid choices here. Jerry was excellent being the buzz killer when George got engaged. Elaine was tremendous with her frustration in dealing with the dog. George’s emotional roller coaster ride was enjoyable watching unfold. However, Newman stole the show for me. His hatred for dogs and being the mastermind behind dognapping Lady Roxy could very well be his best performance in the series.

Best Storyline

JT: I will go with George’s engagement here as its evolution perfectly summed up the Life of Costanza. He gets sad, he thinks he has a bright idea, he acts swiftly in the name of love, he tries to share the joy with his insane parents, he realizes his life is going to change, he realizes his life is going to suck, he is more miserable than he was when this started. It mirrors his first go around with Susan perfectly and him having to lay in bed, cuddling with Mad About You on is clearly his own personal hell that he is now ensconced in.

Aaron: While it inevitably will be the through line of the season, George getting engaged and immediately regretting it takes the cake here. Poor beaten down George, wistfully watching as Jerry describes possibly the greatest action film of all time is basically the mascot of this season. Also fuck Mad About You.

Andrew: I’ll go with The Engagement storyline. From the initial diner conversation, to Kramer’s relationship nihilism, to George’s growing sense of dread, it had the most laughs overall. Plus, the final scene with George and Susan’s vastly different reactions to watching a taped episode of Mad About You is one of my all-time favorites.

Jordan: George popping the question and Jerry treating the pact like it was nothing special, easily. We see George really giving thought to his life moving forward, taking a huge leap, and being ecstatic, then we see Jerry ending things because of how someone eats peas. The funny part is, George is the one who suffers for all of this, while Jerry is living it up.

Jason: The dognapping stuff was excellent, but this episode belongs to George and Susan getting engaged. Right off the bat, we see that George made a horrible live changing decision. From Susan being a nag off the get go, to her being passive aggressive about what he should where and the big pay off with them watching Mad About You at the end in bed.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Why did Newman and Kramer drop the dime on Elaine? The cops had no way to tie her to the dognapping so they must have sold her out. What shit friends. If you are going to offer that type of crime on someone’s behalf, back them up right until the end!

Aaron: Is it wrong to kidnap a dog? No. Is it wrong to kill a dog? No. Is it wrong to marry a dog? No. If someone asks “Happy Pappy?” are you permitted to burn them alive? Yes.

Andrew: Should Jerry be taking life advice from Kramer? I suppose it couldn’t hurt; his whole life is a fantasy camp, after all.

Jordan: If you enter into a pact with someone, how serious should you take it? Jerry was very flippant in his response to George that he didn’t agree to anything, but he also didn’t even TRY to change his life up at all.

Jason: What’s the protocol when there’s an annoying dog barking? If you live in an apartment, you better hit up the landlord. If you live in a house, have a few words with its owners.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: I hope Glenn Close and Sally Field found love in The Muted Heart. I assume the lesbian switch takes for them. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Aaron: Susan we know where this one is heading. The countdown is on… Get out of there. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Andrew: It’s early, but I’m enjoying the return of Susan so far. I’m seeing her as just a normal, innocent bystander, whose ill-advised attraction to George puts her in the midst of a bunch of sociopaths. That description may not sound like it, but it’s pretty fun. Relationship Grade: Happy, Pappy?/10

Jordan: Susan is back, baby! She is a great character for George, as she’s really just a kind, nice looking woman – you think she’s good looking who does nothing wrong, and it drives George insane anyway.  Relationship Grade: WHY DID SHE SAY YES?/10

Jason: So what if Melanie eats her peas one at a time. She’s a smoke show. Settle down, Jerome. Let her enjoy those peas. George and Susan are a mess from the second he popped the question. Relationship Grade: Paul Reiser/10

What Worked:

JT: George getting buried in chess after talking sexist shit was a solid start to the season; I wonder if they came up with the Elaine screaming at the dog storyline just because she was already losing her voice for some other reason; Happy Pappy?; George’s haircut line is one of my favorites; Jerry’s rant sets a good tone for the season and George still pining over Susan is nice storytelling; Kramer just destroying Jerry’s epiphany was amazing; George daydreaming at the pier is another classic scene; Newman the dog fixer and his rant about how useless the beasts are and then being sad he can’t murder it; George calling his parents to reveal his proposal is so great; Kramer trying to dodge Jerry before the dognapping; Jerry’s use of vexing and also his offer for a champagne toast crashing and burning; Kramer’s justification of the dognapping and not knowing the “Doggy in the Window” song; Poor George’s life is already a shambles; Great Rudy’s callback; I love Jerry knowing immediately that it was Newman when he heard about the crushed seat springs; The Mad About You closing scene was a nice touch and I love that George is already regretting his decision

Aaron: I really love the way George breaks Jerry with his “feeling of having had a haircut despite not having one.” If I had to face that man every day with those complaints I’d question my life choices too. Their analysis of their failed lives is great stuff and is wonderfully bookended by Elaine asking herself them same questions following her arrest for a dog abduction. I really dig that Elaine gets dressed up like a thug to get rid of the dog. Just a nice little touch I hadn’t really noticed until now. Newman makes the most of every line especially when he declares that dogs shouldn’t live among us. Kramer smartly shuts that tangent down before it spirals out of control. Of course everything George does is also pretty fantastic here. Sure Jerry immediately goes back to his old ways but that doesn’t stop George from suffering through the honeymoon phase with as little dignity as possible. Of course telling his parents devolved into a fight. It just wouldn’t have felt honest otherwise.

Andrew: Kramer’s monologue running down relationships is incredible, though to be fair, anything is going to sound like a drag when you describe it in that voice. Newman being revealed as Kramer’s nefarious dognapper is really good, and Cosmo’s attempt at acting nonchalant when Jerry catches him with the rope is fun. In fact, the whole crime-noir aspect of the dognapping is well done, especially the “Newman!”/”What took ya so long” cut at the end. George and Jerry are great together, both in the initial “We’re not men!” conversation, and especially after George’s engagement; I especially like Jerry trying to force a celebratory mood with theoretical champagne, and George almost finding himself sucked into Jerry’s nitpicking (“she scooped her niblets?”). Frank and Estelle are awesome in a brief appearance, and Elaine’s response to Jerry teasing her about the “big news” is great. Kramer’s bit about telling time by the sun is really good. Elaine’s “make some changes” realization in the cop car is an excellent way to wrap up all the storylines, and the George and Susan ending is fantastic.

Jordan: It wasn’t meant as a joke, but watching in 2016, Elaine’s Compaq is the funniest part of the episode. I enjoyed the entire dog story, and raspy voiced Elaine really works for me. Newman being the mastermind was predictable, but not in a bad way. I liked how Jerry figured out it was him because the springs in the car buckled. Speaking of Jerry, he has a black friend! A black friend who he saw Firestorm with! George and Susan really dominate this one for me, as I love everything about the story. JERRY is the one who has a brief mid life crisis, but George is the one who really examines himself and decides to change things up. You would think it would benefit him, but instead he is miserable right from the get go, while Jerry is hanging out with his mysterious black friend, enjoying the single life. The Muted Heart is one of the best movie names.

Jason: George talking smack while playing chess. Elaine yelling at the dog. George and Jerry questioning their lives; “Happy, Pappy?” George knowing that he’s pathetic. Kramer’s bit about there not being more to life and that marriages are prisons; “Is it alright if I use the bathroom.” George thinking on the pier and watching happy couples go by. Elaine’s scratchy voice from yelling at the dog. Newman sitting in the dark with a cigarette and ranting about his displeasure for dogs. George’s flashbacks of Susan. Elaine getting fed up with the barking and calling Newman; “Excellent… EXCELLENT!.” George calling his parents to tell them he’s engaged. Frank’s shock; “Get the hell out of here… to a woman?” Susan telling Estelle that she loves George very much; “May I ask why?” Estelle and Frank bickering before George hangs up the phone. Kramer walking out of his apartment; “Well how do you like that, I have rope.” George drooping the news to Jerry; “YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED?” It taking George a couple of hours to convince Susan. The pact; “You stuck your hand out, so I shook it.” Kramer being able to tell time by the sun. Elaine, Kramer and Newman trying to get the dog to bark. George changing into the Dan McGinn sweater vest. Susan crying after seeing the Muted Heart while Jerry is pumped after seeing Firestorm. The dog biting the Rudy’s tag off Kramer’s shirt. Jerry telling George to throw the Yankee game on, then Susan telling George she taped Mad About You. Susan crowding George in bed while Jerry is spread out in his. Jerry teasing Elaine about the engagement.  Comparing it to Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination; “GET OUT!!!” The cops pinching Kramer with the Rudy’s shirt as evidence. The seat spring being compressed from Newman. Newman answering the door with the cigarette dangling from his mouth; “What took you so long?” Elaine questioning her life in the back of the cop car. George’s disgust while watching Mad About You.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Elaine’s laptop, what a throwback! I mean, it works fine but whatever; If you are going to quickly back out of your promise, at least let George be happy, Jerome; Let George go see Firestorm, Susan, it is day one!: Jerry was a douche again at the movies, yelling about key plot points for everyone to hear; There is no way that dog got home that quickly

Aaron: I never dug the little bit where Jerry invited George back for champagne and then discovers he has none. I never saw the point and Jerry’s effeminate gestures are pretty out of control in that sequence.

Andrew: It’s not a perfect episode, but I don’t have any specific complaints.

Jordan: How did the dog make it all the way back to Manhattan? Jerry was kind of awful to George, ruining his joyous day.

Jason: It’s an hour and a half drive from Monticello to the upper west side of Manhattan. That’s one hell of a walk for Lady Roxy. Susan is the absolute worst and she will continue to be apart of my rant in this category until, well… What a nag! Jerry was a huge dick here. George was ride on his high horse about getting engaged and then splashes him wit a huge bucket of cold water.

Key Character Debuts

– N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Well, you got no place to go. I’ll tell you what your problem is: You brought your queen out too fast. What do you think? She’s one of these feminists looking to get out of the house? No, the queen is old fashioned. . Likes to stay home. Cook. Take care of her man. Make sure he feels good.” – George “Checkmate.” – Liz “I don’t think we should see each other any more.” – George

“All right. You wanna know what one of her favorite expressions is? Happy, Pappy?” – George “Happy, Pappy? What does that mean?” – Jerry “Like if she wants to know if I’m pleased with something, she’ll say, “Happy, Pappy?”” – George “Oh, you’re “Pappy”.” – Jerry “I’m “Pappy”.” – George “Oh, I get it. Why don’t you just say it?” – Jerry “I’m much more comfortable criticizing people behind.” – George

– “What is this? Did you ever get the feeling like you’ve had a haircut but you didn’t have one? I’m all itchy back here.” – George

– “I thought she became a lesbian.” – Jerry “No. It didn’t take.” – George

– “They’re prisons. Man made prisons. You’re doing time. You get up in the morning. She’s there. You go to sleep at night. She’s there. It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?” – Kramer

– “Well, what if there should be an unfortunate accident?” – Kramer “You’re going to rub out the dog?” – Elaine “No, no. Not me. I just happen to know someone who specializes in exactely these kinds of sticky situations.” – Kramer

– “I see many dogs on my mail route. I’ll bet there’s not one type of mutt or mongrel I haven’t run across. If you ask me, they have no business living amongst us. Vile, USELESS BEASTS…” – Newman

– “I just want you to know that I love your son very much.” – Susan “You do?” – Estelle “Yes.” – Susan “Really?” – Estelle “Yes.” – Susan “May I ask why?” – Estelle

– “And she said “Yes”?” – Jerry “It took a couple of hours of convincing. I was just like those guys in the movies. And it worked! She said “Yes”! I can’t believe my luck that she was still available. A beautiful woman like that. You think she’s good looking, right?” – George

– “That’s what was so vexing.” – Jerry

– “Well, Look at it this way. We drop the dog off in front of somebody’s house in the country. They find it and adopt it. Now the dog is prancing in the fields. Dancing and prancing. Fresh air. . Dandelions. We’re doing this dog a real favor.” – Kramer

– “Well, what about at night? What do you do then?” – Elaine “Well, night’s tougher but it’s only a couple of hours.” – Kramer

– “I have a receipt for a rental car with your signature. Including a report with some damage to the rear seat. It seems the spring was so compressed it completely collapsed the right side.” – Officer “Newman!” – Jerry

– “Ah, don’t worry about a thing. In twenty minutes that place’ll be swarming with mailmen. We’ll be back on the street by lunch.” – Newman

Oddities & Fun Facts

– The last time we saw Susan Ross was in The Pilot (S4, E23/24)

– George and Jerry sitting on the couch discussing Susan’s looks and referencing the pinkish hue was a callback to The Fix-Up (S3, E17)

– Kramer’s references that his shirt is from Rudy’s, a callback to The Raincoats (S5, E18/19)

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This was a pretty fun way to kick off a new season and it sets up the major storyline and tone for what was to come. We haven’t had a season long through line in a couple of years but it is clear George & Susan’s engagement will be carrying us through for a while. I thought everyone was pretty good here, even though Jerry was a real douchebag to his best bud. Susan is already annoying and that will only continue to grow over the next two dozen episodes. Newman as the dognapper was tremendous storytelling and made all the sense in the world. This was Kramer’s night, though, and his performance certainly buoys the grade of an already solid outing. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: This was a good start with a strong idea that they’ll continue to mine for the next twenty one episodes. The writing is tight and everything is tied together quite nicely, but this one suffers a bit from not really having the big laugh out loud moments. A good not great start. Am I crazy or does Elaine look much hotter all of a sudden? Final Grade: 7/10

Andrew: We’re off to a pretty good start to the season, with enjoyable performances from all of the cast, and the beginning of an entertaining engagement story arc for George. (Disclaimer: I get the impression I’m more of a fan of the Susan storylines than most). This one doesn’t feel like it’s up to the levels of the classics, but it’s an entertaining way to set things up for the rest of the season. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: A really solid start as we establish some changes in the season premiere here – Georgie Boy is getting hitched! And he’s not happy about it! Meanwhile, everyone else is still up to their usual business. It’s not an all timer, but George and Susan are just getting started here. Final Grade: 8/10

Jason: I’ve watched this episode numerous time in syndication and it held up a lot better than previous watches. Newman was on point and as I mentioned earlier, this might be his best showing so far. George being the first one of the core four to take the plunge and get engaged is a huge shift of things. I really enjoyed the throwback to the Rudy’s shirts. We start off pretty good this season. This is far from an all timer, but had its fair share of fun moments 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.