Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Keys” (S3, E22)

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!

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Best Character

Justin: I have to go Kramer here. He was the straw that stirred the drink and him being stripped of his keys was the whole crux of the episode. He had some good, quick hitting scenes that included some good lines and some funny sight gags. Jerry was pretty good here too as he oscillated between being pissed off and sad.

Aaron: I like Kramer here. He’s usually at his best when he’s got everything going his way and while that’s not where he is at the start of the episode, he sure finds his way there by the end. Steven Snell is great and all of his physical stuff and reactions continue to be top notch.

Andrew: There’s a lot of good character work in this one, but Kramer was the best. I was undecided for most of the episode, but his Murphy Brown cameo sealed it for me. It’s just like Kramer to guest star on a sitcom within days of arriving in L.A. I feel like we haven’t seen much of the “fall ass-backwards into money” aspect of the character thus far, and I’m glad to see it here. He’s got a lot of good lines in this one (“You think these hands have been soakin’ in Ivory liquid?”), and his “yearning” speech to George in the diner is fantastic.

Jordan: It’s a quadruple dose of the K man! I loved him using Jerry’s bathtub, and all the other instances that led to key revoking were fun. Skating around in roller skates and then the final scene with his Murphy Brown appearance was just terrific. I am currently typing this just like Steven Snell would.

Best Storyline

Justin: The keys. It was simple. It was relatable. And it made perfect sense that Kramer would look at it as such a radical sign to change his life that he would move across country. It also led to some funny scenes with Kramer hitchhiking as well as some classic lines throughout the episode. The payoff at the end with everyone taking back their keys and being confused was really funny.

Aaron: The distribution of the keys carries this one for me here. It’s amazing how one little action (Jerry taking the keys from Kramer) ends up messing with all of them by the end. Dr Ian Malcolm would be proud as this is one mighty butterfly that flaps his wings here.

Andrew: The stuff about the etiquette of spare keys is pretty good, but Kramer’s moving to L.A. storyline was my favorite. The aforementioned “Do you ever yearn?” speech is a great start, and I enjoyed the road trip scenes, especially the Manson-family-esque van fill of hippies. And once Kramer arrives, he’s immediately roller-skating in Venice and getting acting jobs. Very good stuff.

Jordan: The Keys isn’t one of those storylines that is so strong it’s an all time classic, but it’s definitely enough to carry an episode and it did the job here. Who gets what keys, who deserves to be a key holder, all of the political inner workings of a group of friends is on display here. Plus, it indirectly gave us the debut of Steven Snell.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should Jerry have taken his keys back from Kramer? Especially in front of two random broads? It seemed like an overreaction to being cock blocked. I know Kramer can be annoying, but that didn’t feel like the time to air the dirty laundry and blow up both spots. Also, should George let Jerry into Elaine’s apartment to get his keys? Why can’t he just go in and get them himself? If only they had cell phones…

Aaron: If you have the keys to someone’s house is it all right to bang some chick with curly hair in your bud’s bed? Absolutely not, and I’m extremely curious to know and understand the state of Kramer’s home that he would feel the need to live at Jerry’s. I personally would have drawn the line at Kramer sneaking in to the apartment in the middle of the night for food, but they seem to have a much weirder friendship than I’ve ever experienced.

Andrew: Should you pick up hitchhikers? I know the practice has gotten a bad rap from horror movies, urban legends, and sensationalist news coverage, but it’s such a time-honored tradition that I’d hate to see it go away. It’s a relatively easy way to do a good deed and meet interesting people, and you probably won’t get murdered. That said, there is no fucking way I will ever pick up a hitchhiker.

Jordan: I know many would say that Kramer crossed the line with his overuse of the keys, but shouldn’t Jerry have known what he was getting into? Should you give your keys to a neighbor just because of proximity, or should they be given to a trusted friend? Personally speaking, my mother has spare keys to my house – not my neighbor. Why? Because my neighbor is shifty and I think he may have a basement full of dead bodies. Just because he’s close by doesn’t mean he gets key privileges.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Kramer and California. A match made in Heaven. He was made to live alone, roam the streets of Hollywood and chase his dream while becoming and idol to hippies, banging truckers and driving semis. And the roller blades? And Murphy Brown? A beautiful marriage. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Aaron: “The set was clear when Kramer suddenly felt the lights upon him. ‘Working late?’ She asked with all the confidence of her on screen character. It was the first time that Kramer had been alone with Miss Bergen, which is what he was instructed to call her by her handlers. Her handlers that were now nowhere to be found. She moved quick and unzipped his pants, and before he knew it he was inside of her. She throbbed for him with all the longing of a wild panther. Commands flew and Kramer answered every one, thrusting and weaving, becoming one with Murphy. When he climaxed she clenched with all the force of a vice, squeezing every last drop out of him. “Thank you Candice” he said as she slid back into her pants suit. ‘It’s Miss Brown’ she spat back while walking off, her legs quivering, her heart full of shame.” Seinfeld Fan Fiction – Aaron George – July 1994  Relationship Grade:10/10

Andrew: I think I like Jerry’s Witchita friend; she’s really quick to jump in on the “chased by a murderer” key game. And Kramer still has enviable success with the ladies. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Jordan: Kramer and the truck driver had a lot of chemistry, and a ton of hair. It’s a shame his failure to use the clutch may have cost him. Also, Steven Snell and Murphy Brown probably had a torrid whirlwind romance that lies somewhere on the cutting room floor of Murphy Brown season five. Relationship Grade: HAIR/MURPHY

What Worked

Justin: All of the opening scenes with Kramer getting in Jerry’s space were really good as was Elaine inadvertently rubbing it in Kramer’s face that she has the keys now; Kramer was fantastic explaining to Jerry and George how reliant he had become on the keys and Jerry’s life; I liked the whole key trading and swapping, led a nice thread throughout the episode; Newman is such a tremendous pussy; All of Jerry’s fretting in the past pays off here as he constantly relives and justifies taking the keys; I liked Jerry getting pissy over George and Elaine mumbling on three separate occasions; Elaine catching George and Jerry reading the script was well done; Kramer on Murphy Brown was great and fit the hot running joke about Murphy always having new secretaries.

Aaron: I liked the ease with which everyone handled the dialogue about the keys. That’s some complicated text they have there and they all handled it with panache. The writing is also quite solid as we bob through everyone trying to get their keys to someone else. 

Andrew: I really enjoyed the fast pace of this one. The montage of Kramer abusing his spare key privileges was fun, and I liked the way they quickly alternated between Kramer’s road trip scenes and the rest of the crew back in NY. I’m a sucker for a bit of “40s-fast-talkin’” dialogue, so Newman telling the group about Kramer was a winner for me. Kramer’s existential crisis was great and had me questioning my own life choices. I liked the running joke with Elaine and George muttering under their breath at Jerry, and there were lots of memorable lines to go around. My favorite bit may have been Elaine writing a Murphy Brown script; I love how it comes out of nowhere, and has a great capper with Kramer’s cameo.

Jordan: I think I actually laughed hardest at George asking what the keys looked like and Jerry responding with, “Keys.” Kramer’s antics in Jerry’s apartment and throughout the episode were fun, outside of one scene. His plea for the keys was great, as was all the trading and explaining being done by everyone. George and Elaine muttering under their breath was good, but Jerry acknowledging it was even better. And of course, Steven Snell is a great topper to not just the episode, but the season.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Why would Elaine have George’s keys when it is usually hinted that they aren’t really friends and only hang out through Jerry; Kramer was a bit of an asshole when giving George tough love because he was down on himself; Jerry’s pink shirt and matching sneakers is quite the combo.

Aaron: Nothing stands out as overly bad, I just felt that there was really nothing hilarious to work with which is a shame considering it’s the season finale. It’s good and solid, but there’s nothing memorable here.

Andrew: The biggest downside of the hitchhiking scenes, for me, was all the stock music they used. It probably wasn’t so jarring at the time, but it always takes me out of the episode when I hear it, and the generic “hard-driving rock” song was the worst.

Jordan: Kramer in the bus with the hippies was stupid, and the stabbing guy was WAY overacting. Why does Elaine’s apartment have SO MANY THINGS on the wall? Seriously, rewatch it. There is stuff everywhere. She’s going to be a hoarder one day. Also, I WANT A STEVEN SNELL SPIN OFF.

Key Character Debuts

Steven Snell

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “I broke the covenant of the keys!” – Kramer

– “I don’t want the keys back! No, I’m glad the way things turned out. I was clingin’ to those keys, man! Like a branch on the banks of a raging river. And now I have let go. And I’m free…to go with the current. To float. And I thank you.” – Kramer

– “Do you ever yearn?” – Kramer “Yearn? Do I yearn?” – George “I yearn.” – Kramer “You yearn.” – George “Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often, I…I sit…and yearn. Have you yearned?” – Kramer “Well, not recently. I craved. I crave all the time, constant craving…but I haven’t yearned.” – George

– George and Kramer reference back to “These pretzels are making me thirsty”

– “You’re not really gonna go to California, are you?”- George “Up here…I’m already gone.” – Kramer

– “Listen, Tiny. I wanna know where Kramer is and wanna know now!” – Jerry

– “About five years ago. I was going down this very road. Same time of day, going about the same speed I’m going now…there was a rock in the road. Couldn’t have been more than a pebble. Never really saw it! Lost control of the bike, went flyin’ about a hundred feet – came down right on my head. Cracked it wide open! Blood and stuff was just splattered all over the road, there…I broke every bone in my face. Hey, you know, when they found me, my eyes were hanging out of their sockets? Yeah, they pronounced me dead at the scene. I was in a coma for…well, they told me about a year…said I’d be a vegetable for life. Yeah, but I showed ’em. Ever since then I always wear a helmet! Lean!” – Biker “Leaning!” – Kramer

– “Hey, Kramer – have you ever killed a man?” – Hippie “What do you think, junior? You think these hands have been soakin’ in Ivory liquid?” – Kramer

– “What do they look like?” – George “They look like keys, George. They look exactly like keys.” – Jerry

– Elaine wrote a script for an episode of Murphy Brown

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry calls Kramer’s drunk mother on the phone

– We get some foreshadowing about the difficulties and money involved with writing sitcoms

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Season three ends with a cliffhanger as Kramer gets upset at Jerry and decides to change his life with a move to the West Coast. While I enjoyed parts of this, it clearly solely existed to set up the opener of season four and to give us a reason to come back in the fall to see what goes down with the K-Man. Season three has been pretty awesome to watch, with some real all time classics blended into a whole lot of very strong episodes. We did limp a bit towards the end, but it was already quite clear that this show was going to be an All Star Hall of Fame level series if given the chance to live on. The actors all really got to know their characters during this season and also became very comfortable interacting with each other and building some impeccable chemistry. This was a solid finale and leaves me excited to see where things head in season four. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: It’s good and solid but there’s nothing memorable here. There’s really not much more to say on this one. I find it very hard to write about these one’s that are neither stellar or atrocious. Total middle of the road here. Also: I’m well aware this entry is far from my best work. Final Grade: 5/10; My writing grade: 1/10

Andrew: This episode doesn’t really come to mind when I think of my favorites, but I was really pleasantly surprised re-watching it. I had forgotten how many great lines come from this one, and the more I write about it, the more I like it. I may be late to the party on this one, but it feels like an underrated gem to me. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: I dunno, this one feels weird to me. It’s got some good elements, and I loved the bathtub moment at the start and the Murphy Brown scene at the end, but in between just felt kind of like a miss to me. I can’t point to anything that is outright bad outside of the stupid hitchhiker who seemed like he was really hamming it up, but there’s nothing that I’d call great. Final Grade: 4/10

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.