Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Heart Attack” (S2, E11)

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_[The_Heart_Attack]_(1991)_4

Best Character

Justin: I felt like everybody was pretty good in this one but nobody truly stood out. Jerry was pretty funny with his random one liners and digs at both George and Tor but Kramer takes the cake here solely for his scene at the foot of the hospital bed and his couple of asides at Tor’s office. The Bob Sacamano story alone would have sealed it for me. George had moments but this was the first time I didn’t really enjoy him throughout the episode as he came off a little too whiny at times. Elaine was good flirting with the Doctor but she again got almost no screen time. Kramer it is!

Aaron:  The obvious choice is George here as he’s quite strong throughout and carries the story but I’m going to go with Tor Eckman. Steven Tobolowsky is fantastic as the weird hippie healer whose every word is hilarious. He may only be on my screen for a few short minutes but the laugh that came out of me when he did his whole “businessman” pantomime and gestures was way louder than it should have been at two in the morning. Tor is the perfect example of a great Seinfeld guest star. He’s over the top and weird but the performance is committed and grounded enough in reality to have that touch or relateability the show is known for. When an actor can grab another actor’s nose and say “see?” in a believable fashion you know you’re dealing with professionals.

Andrew: I’ve said it before, but unconcerned Jerry is the best. And as the counterpoint to George’s hypochondria, he really shines in this episode. He’s completely dismissive of George’s “heart attack”, and then proceeds to mess with his anxiety at the hospital (only after finding out that George is fine, of course; he’s not a monster). This version of the character is much better suited to Jerry’s limited acting abilities.

Jordan: Nearly everyone involved in this episode acted over the top-and Jerry was aware of it. When Jerry knows everything around him is ridiculous, he is great. George feels like he’s having a heart attack and Jerry doesn’t even care in the slightest, because he assumes George watched a show about it – AND HE’S RIGHT! He then plays up George’s fears while in the hospital and is totally dismissive of Kramer’s suggestions and the subsequent visit to Tor. Jerry was just awesome in this whole episode.

Best Storyline

Justin: The trip to Tor’s office was the highlight here. The actor that played Tor did a really good job with the role and the contrast of him actually making some sense with his rantings about hospitals and the medical industry while going through the absurd tests on George was well done. I also liked how he would stop himself and divert to give tips to Jerry and George at random. The scene being capped off with purple George being rushed back to the hospital paid it off nicely.

Aaron: George’s heart attack and subsequent delve into alternative medicine is an easy choice for me here. He had a heart attack exactly how George Costanza should: first by playing the victim and stating “Why can’t I have a heart attack,” then seeking out the cheapest means to remove his tonsils followed by being turned into an eggplant man from Kid Icarus after sitting in a triangle. A pretty standard George journey which carried the episode very well.

Andrew: The holistic healer storyline played to the strengths of the characters. Kramer gets to be off-beat and strange, George gets to be neurotic and cheap, and Jerry gets to not take any of it seriously. The scene at Tor’s office was a lot of fun, and the actor playing him certainly gave it his all. I also enjoyed the twist of the randomly feuding EMTs. All in all, it was an enjoyably wacky sitcom plot.

Jordan: George seeing the holistic healer was the best part of the episode. I like that he decided to go there simply because it cost $38, and it was cheaper than having his tonsils removed. What made the scene was Jerry and Kramer both being there with George: Kramer hanging on Tor’s every word, and Jerry cringing and rolling his eyes in response. Tor was great in that he was absurd but also seemed to know what he was talking about. I specifically liked that Jerry mocked just about everything he said, but also seemed to listen to him, with, “So you really think I drink too much dairy?” I also thought the visual of George drinking the tea while sitting under that giant triangle was hilarious.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: When do you trust a doctor and when do you go the holistic route? When routine surgery is involved, you are usually best off going with the doctor’s opinion. Either way, money should never be the true determining factor in cases such as these. When you let cost dictate your actions, you end up looking like an eggplant and getting into car accidents while riding in an ambulance. Also, if Kramer is the one ushering you in a certain direction, you are usually best off going the other way.

Aaron: As an adult should you in fact be able to eat cookies whenever you want? I think we’ve come far enough as a society to be at the point where cookies should not only be able to be eaten freely, but should be at our fingertips at a moment’s notice. Anyone who tries to say that you shouldn’t eat cookies at your leisure is a fascist and you should probably form a militia and take back your streets right now. Cookies are fun. People who try and ruin your fun deserve to die. If I have to go to my grave to prove this point I’ll happily lie on some slab and scream about cookies like William Wallace screaming about freedom. This issue is as important to me now as it was to Jerry Seinfeld all those years ago.

Andrew: When someone is a hypochondriac, do you have to indulge them? Obviously people are entitled to share their fears and worries with their friends without being dismissed out of hand. But at what point is it OK to tell someone they are being ridiculous? We’ve known George for less than two seasons to this point, but I feel that’s long enough to say Jerry was in the right on this one. George seems like the type who would pull this kind of thing all the time, and I fully endorse putting someone like that in their place. And we all know that it’s never lupus.

Jordan: I think that if a doctor is on the clock and about to deliver news to a patient about the state of his heart and that he’ll need to have surgery (however routine it may be), he shouldn’t get too busy flirting with the patients friend. Yes, George didn’t have a heart attack and for Jerry and friends to make fun of him, that’s fine, but how about some bedside manner? Dr. Tongue was completely unprofessional, as he was almost dismissive of George completely as he drooled at the sight of Elaine. Get it together, Doc! Do your job, then hit on the lady! She’s clearly interested, so just wait two minutes.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Elaine and Dr. Tongue was the only relationship on display and while it started out well with the innocent flirting, it quickly crashed and burned in the car thanks to the Doc being kind of creepy and wrecking the mood with his tongue lessons. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Aaron: Elaine and Doctor Tongue have one of the most annoying courtships I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. The bullshit they spew about tonsils and not having tonsils makes them the couple you never invite over to play Settlers of Catan. And come on Doc, if on your first date you spend more time talking about your tongue than using it you’ve…you’ve…you’ve probably never had to try and pick up a woman since you’re a doctor. Kudos sir. I am jealous. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Andrew: It doesn’t end well, but Elaine and the good doctor had great initial chemistry, and I really like flirty Elaine. Too bad he was such a dud. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Jordan: The most interesting thing about Elaine and Dr. Tongue is that I like to imagine his name is ACTUALLY Dr. Steven Tongue. This was goofy all around and felt like a forced Elaine subplot. It went nowhere. Relationship Grade: 1/10

What Worked

Justin: George bringing his own cucumber to the restaurant is very George; Jerry’s mystery joke was a fun ongoing challenge for him and the gang to crack; Jerry’s great unfazed reaction to George’s heart attack and then torturing George in the hospital, teasing about all the things he will do when George dies; George being angry about the mistake on the bill while he is mid-heart attack is extremely George; Kramer being out on the road and feeling more of a group member finally was great to see; Cheap George picking holistic healer to save money was quite George; Tor was pretty good and the exact type of person that could drive George nuts with his one off comments about how the different routines he should change; Tor’s thoughts on hospitals are pretty insightful; Purple George; The medics arguing over Chuckles was a brilliant random scene with one of them getting left behind after they stopped to fight and the winner causing an accident and crashing the vehicle; Jerry having to get the last joke in about the hospital cost at the end was a nice closing point

Aaron: As mentioned above the heart attack stuff was all great and the scene is Tor’s apartment was golden. I also really enjoyed Kramer coming into George’s hospital room and scaring him into seeing Tor. Of course Kramer doesn’t shower with hot water, of course Bob Sacamano had a problem, this is Kramer and he is very nicely slipping into his life. Jerry and Elaine’s coldness to George as he thinks he’s having a heart attack, and Jerry’s calm cool attempted murder are all great moments which bring to the surface the selfishness the show is known for. Oh and Larry David in a space suit screaming will never, ever get old.

Andrew: The characters are what make this episode work. As I mentioned before, this is the incarnation of Jerry I prefer, and his disdain for George’s neuroses was great. Jerry pretending to smother George was my favorite moment of the rewatch. For a few minutes, anyway, as it was quickly surpassed by Kramer’s description of a post-surgery Bob Sacamano sitting by the window going “My name is Bob!”. Whereas Jerry is dismissive of George’s fears, Kramer fires them up, and the three work well together. Elaine gets shorted a bit, but she was quite good in a limited role. I also liked the work of the guest stars playing Tor and the EMTs.

Jordan: Larry David hamming it up on the flaming globes was awesome and just makes me want more LD in the background of episodes. That also led to Jerry’s running gag of asking people to decipher his hastily written down joke (the best was Tor: Cleveland 117, San Antonio 109). As I stated earlier, Jerry was on point throughout the episode, just totally no-selling George’s heart attack cries and making fun of him in the hospital room when he knows George is fine. I also wonder if Jerry knew that George was trying to sign that he wanted ice cream at the end of the episode, or if he was just messing with him one last time. The holistic healer was a good scene, and the fact that it was brought up by Kramer fits the character well. Even though I didn’t like Elaine and Dr. Tongue, Elaine being flirty is fun. I also liked the totally random EMT fight over Chuckles.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: George is almost too pathetic at times throughout this one and it made me not enjoy him as much as usual; The viewers hearing Jerry’s internal thoughts always bugs me; Elaine’s date is kind of weird and Dr. Tongue felt like a soap opera actor; George’s sweater is hideous; Not enough Elaine once again, which is something that needs to change quickly; Some parts were a bit ham-fisted, with Jerry and George both ending up in neck braces and hobbling at the end

Aaron: I really hated the Elaine and the doctor story line. They were annoying and it just felt tacked on to give Elaine something to do. There’s definitely a smarter and more involved way to tie her in here. Because they’re done so infrequently and seemingly without convention, Jerry’s internal monologue always feels out of place. I also found the take on alternative medicine (while funny) to come off a little dated and very dismissive. I like to think that in 2014 we’re no longer sitting in triangles.

Andrew: Seinfeld is at its best when it focuses on social satire, and there’s not much of that here. Holistic medicine deserves some ribbing, certainly, but the visit to the healer was too over the top to qualify as satire. Even George’s hypochondria was too exaggerated to feel truly relatable. There’s nothing wrong with unrealistic, overblown comedy, and I enjoyed this one, but we know the show is capable of better.

Jordan: The characters were fine here, so it’s little things that get me on this one: It seems the show still didn’t have a big budget at this time, as I thought the hospital room itself was a very weak set. It seemed odd with wood paneling in a giant room, and George simply having a rubber hose up his nose with no IV or anything seemed pretty cheap. Elaine got shorted in this one and stuck with a dud storyline, I would have liked her going to Tor’s as well rather than on the date. Speaking of Tor’s, Jerry’s inner monologue really didn’t work here, for a big reason: two minutes later, he’s OPENLY mocking Tor as he lists the ingredients to the tea. Why hold back those first few?

Key Character Debuts

N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– We see Jerry’s bedroom for the first time

– Hypochondriac George thinks he is having a heart attack after watching a TV show

– “Is it meningitis? Scoliosis? Lupus? Is it lupus?” – George

– “Aw, whose tonsils grow back?” – Elaine “Yeah, if you’ve been exposed to gamma rays.” – Jerry

– “Oh yeah? My friend Bob Sacamano… he came in here for a hernia operation. Oh yeah, routine surgery. Now he’s sitting around in a chair by the window saying (high pitched voice) ‘Hi, my name is Bob!'” – Kramer

– “I’ve never had a normal, medium orgasm.” – George “I’ve never had a really good pickle.” – Jerry

– “I’m off hot water.” – Kramer

– “Ha Ha, oh yes! Cleveland 117, San Antonio 109.” – Tor

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Larry David appears as a character in the movie Jerry is watching on TV

– George has a prized Chicago Blackhawks jacket, a rare mention of him being a hockey fan

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: This episode was just kind of there. It didn’t really stand out and only had a couple of memorable lines and moments. Tor was pretty funny and the premise was a good one for a character like George but it felt like they never really got out of first gear. Kramer’s scenes really carried it for me and while it wasn’t a bad episode, per se, it isn’t one I would be dying to see again any time soon. Final Grade: 4/10

Aaron:I remembered this one fondly going in and I wasn’t disappointed. While not as tightly written as the Statue it more than made up for it with a pile of laugh out loud moments and a great cameo. I’m starting to find it harder and harder to come up with stuff that didn’t work each episode and when they start to give Elaine more independence I may have to just start making stuff up. Final Grade: 5/10

Andrew: I enjoyed this episode more than I expected, probably because I’ve seen it so rarely that it caught me off guard a bit. On the other hand, I think I’ve seen it so rarely because it’s kind of weak compared to the rest of the series. Nothing was terrible or poorly done, but it felt a bit like the writers were just going through the motions, without the spark of genius from other episodes. It’s only the quality of the characters that make this anything more than a middling sitcom episode. Final Grade: 5/10

Jordan: This episode was fine. Certainly not one I would point to if someone were to ask me about what makes Seinfeld great, and not even one I would point to in the early seasons (that would be The Pony Remark and The Chinese Restaurant). While they are starting to figure out what works in a lot of ways, they still haven’t seemed to hit on the magic formula of all four main characters interacting with each other. Usually it’s Kramer left in the cold, this week it was Elaine. Final Grade: 5/10

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