Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Ex-Girlfriend” (S2, E1)

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!

tumblr_l3gi1wedGo1qbhcdgo1_500

Best Character

Justin: For a while in this one, I thought I was headed towards George but after the scene at the chiropractor, he pretty much went silent. So, with no quantity available, I went pure quality and that leads us to Kramer, who was great in his handful of scenes. His obsessive nature over topics leads to great lines and moments and his main objective here was shaming Jerry into buying fruit somewhere other than the supermarket and then demanding that he be allowed to return the crappy cantaloupe on Jerry’s behalf. He was really becoming comfortable in what the character should be beyond just a weird, brooding neighbor.

Aaron: This one is really hard as I loved both Kramer and George. I’m going to have to go with that son of a bang George by the slightest of margins, the slightest of margins being him swallowing a fly and slipping into an absolute panic. “WHAT CAN HAPPEN!!??” The whole first conversation in the car where son of a boom George is trying to weasel his way out of a breakup is Costanza on a platter. He then nets the hat trick with the prison break allegory. Yup George is really coming together despite the fact that he’s the owner of “Do I have to give up me to be loved by you,” and other self help books.

Andrew: Kramer has a solid case here, but I think George is the best from this episode. His character is the furthest along in its development, and some of my favorite George trademarks are on display here: the exasperation with social convention, bemoaning the relationship rigmarole, and the inability to let things go.

Jordan:  I think I’m going with George here, simply because he got the biggest laugh out of me. I’ll talk more about that specific laugh in the “What Worked” section, but George shines in the season premiere. The good news is that nobody really disappointed me here: Elaine definitely seems like “one of the gang” rather than a love interest for Jerry and Kramer is funny, but still seems like an ancillary character rather than a major one. Everyone was good, George was just a little bit better here.

Best Storyline

Justin: Again, I almost went with the main storyline of George’s breakup but nothing here made me laugh more than Kramer and his issues with the fruit. I wish we got to see more of that story for sure, but even in its brief doses it was the best this episode had to offer.

Aaron:  Kramer’s vendetta against bad fruit takes it for me. He truly is a lover of good cantaloupe and can tell within half a second if said fruit “stinks”. His insistence that people try his good cantaloupe and the derision for the supermarket and the bad cantaloupe (cantapoop?) needing to be taken out of circulation is what I kept hoping the focus would go back to.

Andrew: In a sense, there isn’t a main story here. There’s not much conflict; Jerry feels conflicted about going after his friend’s ex, but George couldn’t care less. Essentially, it’s just a bunch of relationship jokes strung together into a plot. But I’m OK with that. As my colleagues have pointed out, the cantaloupe stuff is strong, but I think the Marlene storyline is the best overall.

Jordan: Man, I dunno about this. Probably the weakest part of these early shows IS the storylines; to be specific, the lack of them. We basically had one major one here (Jerry dating George’s ex) and one minor one (the fruit) – if this was Season 6, there would be a full scene dedicated to George hatching a plan to get his books back via elaborate ruse. The characters make up for lack of story here, but if I have to pick one, I’ll go with the fruit.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Initially I thought the dilemma would be whether or not you should date your friend’s ex, but then George was cool with it, so the dilemma easily solved. With that one put to bed, we turn to whether or not you should be able to return shitty fruit. As someone that worked behind the service desk at a supermarket for three years, I would probably say no. I am all about value and getting your money’s worth but I agree with Jerry that fruit is a roll of the dice. You have to do your best to analyze at point of purchase and hope it holds up. Unless the store is a fruit only store that pushes its high quality, you would end up waging a losing war.

Aaron:  I’m going to tackle people who call you and then don’t ask if you’re busy. Here’s my ranking: Nazis, witches, people who don’t ask if you’re busy, Iron Sheiks, etc. I’m so glad that someone invented call display so that I never have to endure another one sided conversation from one of these assholes. I don’t see why people don’t understand that a phone call is already an imposition on some level. I’ve got to stop what I’m doing, hold my arm to my ear for what feels like an eternity and listen to you talk about something I couldn’t give two shits about. I could be doing anything: helping my son, making dinner, maiming someone, anything! At least have the courtesy to ask if I want to talk (spoiler alert: I don’t). Why are there so many people who can’t grasp this? Why did I use so many colons?

Andrew: Dating your best friend’s ex is a thorny issue. While I do think people are capable of being mature about such matters, “mature” isn’t a description you’d apply to Jerry and George. Luckily Jerry handled it the right way by telling George, who couldn’t have cared less; disaster averted. But whenever this subject comes up, I can’t help but think of all the awkward situations it would lead to down the road. Of course, when it comes to sex, plenty of us make decisions we’ll regret later on, but that’s an ethical dilemma all its own.

Jordan: I’ve got a couple here, but neither are major: MUST you acknowledge someone you know every time you see them, even if you have only met them once? How long does that charade have to go on? Personally, I think Elaine was out of line for calling the guy out for not saying hello – if you’ve never even spent time with the person, then who cares? They weren’t even acquaintances, and and if they will never get to know each other better, then why keep it up? The other one is of course how the episode wraps up: Can you be with someone if you do not respect what they do for a living or how good they are at it? Marlene gave Jerry the heave-ho simply because she thought he wasn’t a funny comedian. Should that be enough to end a relationship?

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Jerry & Marlene didn’t have much going on at all. She is barely with George in the episode, so we can’t count that one. I feel her and Jerry could have had some chemistry, but things are quickly aborted after she sees his act. She was quite attractive, so you can understand why Jerry would become hypnotized, but this relationship was all sizzle and zero steak. Relationship Grade: 2/10

Aaron: Marlene was pretty sexy and apparently was also an exhibitionist which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. However she is clearly judgmental, I mean at least see his set more than once. Also if you’ve had three lunches and a movie with someone in 2014 I’m quite sure there’d be no apprehension about kissing if you know what I mean…And what I mean is that people have become psycho-sexuals. As for the men, Jerry loses on principal for being dumped by a woman George didn’t want. Relationship Grade: Jerry 1/10, George 2/10

Andrew: I guess I’m the odd man out here, but I enjoyed Jerry and Marlene. Trying to start something with a person, but feeling conflicted about it because you don’t really respect them, only to get rejected because that person doesn’t respect you? I know that feel, bro. The actress certainly made the sex appeal part of the character believable, which doesn’t hurt. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Jordan: OK, I’m just going to throw this out there – how did George land Marlene? This is the beginning of an series long string of relationships George seems to land in which the female is way out of his league in the looks department. That didn’t go anywhere though, and she wound up with Jerry. He seems to not like her as a person, but can’t seem to severe ties due to her sex appeal. It doesn’t really go beyond that. Meh. Relationship Grade: 3/10

What Worked

Justin: Elaine’s chemistry with George and Jerry is quickly improving, proven by the opening scene in the car where she spars with them and gets into their typeof minutia; Kramer is starting to get his own smaller stories and character development, which would good to see; The growing obsession with social interactions continues to be the hallmark of the show. In this episode, Elaine’s beef centered around saying hello to a neighbor is in interesting internal debate many of us have, but here it is brought forward and analyzed and broken down as only the Seinfeld crew does best.

Aaron: I think one of the general consensuses you’ll find about Seinfeld is that the show is all about the supporting cast, specifically George and Kramer. This was on perfect display here and it’s no surprise that this is a strong episode because of it. Both Jason Alexander and Michael Richards are almost there when it comes to their characters and the writing staff was very wise to let them carry the humor throughout the show. They were great in every scene, we got cheap skeptical George at the chiropractor and we got a glimpse of Kramer the golfer teaching us that it’s all in the hips years before he’d be plagiarized by Chubbs Peterson. Elaine was also fantastic in her delivery of her confrontation with the guy in her building, and the social commentary surrounding well…everything was really starting to click.

Andrew: As mentioned before, George’s character is really hitting his stride. I also like that the different stories are starting to tie together more; George not caring about Jerry dating Marlene, but being incensed that Jerry paid the balance on his chiropractor bill, was an excellent example. Kramer was great in this episode as well.

Jordan: George’s disgust at chiropractors and refusal to pay full price is definitely foreshadowing of who he will become. I like that he was more angry with Jerry for paying the doctor bill than dating his ex-girlfriend. I really liked everything about George in this episode, just wish we had more of him. There was only one “Let’s stop the show so Jerry can do a stand up bit” moment in the show this time. We’re also getting more moments and dialogue about random observations and everyday things – moments like that make the show about nothing.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: We still only get one main Jerry-centric storyline and because of that it feels like Elaine and Kramer are wasting away in the wings as ancillary characters; Jerry was bad with obviously fighting laughing in his scenes with Kramer, especially when Jerry is fretting over telling George about Marlene; Elaine’s wardrobe is still a mess.

Aaron: Speaking of Elaine, it’s the second or third time that she’s been in an episode and we only get to see her tell us about what she did instead of us going along for the ride with her. It’s like her purpose at his point is to come in and tell funny stories. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is arguably the best actor of the bunch and I would have liked to have been able to see her go through the confrontation she has with the guy in her building, instead of her being named Queen of Confrontations without so much as a glance of her away from Jerry. It’s no surprise the show improves when they start to let her branch off on her own. Jerry’s also the wrong guy to do any scenes that require actual acting, so his post kissing scene in the car with Marlene was awkward as hell. The stand up bits are still too long and Elaine’s jacket is basically a war crime.

Andrew: I have no major complaints. I am looking forward to Elaine and Kramer getting more involved in the story. And the less whiny Jerry gets, the better off we’ll be.

Jordan: I am going to mention the wardrobe in every episode where it is ridiculous, which means I will be bringing it up a lot. Currently, Elaine is on the receiving end of horrible fashion. This show still doesn’t feel FULLY like Seinfeld yet – it’s more of a standard sitcom with some Seinfeld elements. The characters are showing bits and pieces of who they would become, but the one main storyline and not multiple that all tie together is definitely not what we love about the show.

Key Character Debuts

The middle booth at Monk’s

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– Jerry describes breaking up with a significant other like pulling off a band-aid

– Kramer’s obsession with fresh fruit and golf

– “Fruit’s a gamble, I know that going in” – Jerry

– “What’s 75 bucks? What am I seeing Sinatra in there?” – George

– “I pay what I say.” – George

–  “You’re a cashier!” – Jerry

Oddities & Fun Facts

None

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Final Grade: Season two sadly picks up where season one left off, with a soft episode saved only by Kramer’s antics and some funny one liners mixed in. As I have said before, without fleshed out B and C stories, if the main story falls flat, the episode is in trouble. There was promise in this type of story, with Jerry falling for George’s ex but by the time we get to that part of it, things are wrapping up. They spent too much time having George get out of the relationship and had little time left for the true conflict. We really need those additional fleshed out storylines and more screen time for Elaine and Kramer to start showing up for Seinfeld to turn the corner. Final Grade: 3/10

Aaron: I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would going in. It’s a major step up from season one and I found myself legitimately laughing. This is closer to the Seinfeld I remember. Final Grade: 5/10

Andrew: This is a good bounce back from the season 1 finale. The George and Kramer characters are starting to shine, and point to good things ahead. But we still haven’t reached the genius of later seasons. The brilliant catchphrases, in particular, are missing, and this episode could have used one. And while they are starting to introduce some absurd elements (Kramer’s fruit obsession, for example), this doesn’t yet feel like something more than a traditional sitcom. Final Grade: 4/10

Jordan: We are six episodes in now and I’m afraid people will think I hate this show. I really don’t, I’m just grading everything on a Seinfeld scale. Knowing what is to come makes this early stuff look really weak in comparison. It’s not that the show is flat out bad, it’s that it’s bad FOR SEINFELD. It still has good moments and some laughs-it’s just that they are still discovering what the show was going to be and have not quite found their groove. It will happen, and when it does, I’ll probably be accused of overrating it. Oh well. Final Grade: 3/10

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.