Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Library” (S3, E4)

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!

librarycop

Best Character

Justin: Lt. Bookman, hands down. Amazing performance, memorable and show stealing and easily the best guest run to date. Jerry agrees since he was cracking up throughout the scenes. A library cop named Bookman? That’s like an ice cream man named cone!

Aaron: I’ve got a flash for you Joy Boy, there can be only one sane choice here and it’s clearly Lt. Bookman. Far and away my favorite cameo on the show here as Philip Baker Hall squeezes every laugh he possibly can into his screen time. The first time we see him he’s grilling Jerry about not having any coffee in the most intense of fashions, and it only gets better. It’s like they lifted a cop out of Dragnet and gave him the most ridiculous position they could imagine. The results are amazing as he is clearly as obsessive about late books as him named would suggest. If it was a bad year for libraries it was surely a bad year for America, and by the time he’s finished examining Jerry, cutting him off at every moment with a “let me give you a hint, Junior” or a “Let me tell you something, funny boy” he more than deserves the sustained applause he gets. He would have won the episode for me with this scene alone but we get to see him TWO MORE TIMES! First interrupting a date, where he laments the days where the librarian was unattractive and we knew nothing about her social life (and we didn’t want to) and caps the scene with the most angry jacket flourish I’ve ever seen in my life. AND THEN HE WINS. We see Jerry having to humble himself to the proud lieutenant, who slams his briefcase shut and demands to know what Jerry knows about hard feelings and wonders aloud if Mr. Seinfeld had ever had a man die in his arms or ever killed a man. When Jerry finally breaks and asks what his problem is we’re right there with him. Keep in mind this is a library cop. A library cop who gives one of the greatest performances in the history of the show.

Andrew: Kramer had his moments (we all “need a little Kramer”), but Lt. Bookman is the best character in this episode. The film noir hard-boiled cop as library investigation officer was a great idea, and Philip Baker Hall is fantastic delivering the monologues. I’ve never been more intimidated by a man saying “pee-pees and wee-wees”. Great writing and great execution.

Jordan: The four main characters were all good here, and it would be a tough decision to pick which one of them was best. Luckily, that’s not even something I have to consider, because Lt. Bookman OWNS this episode! Easily the best guest star we’ve seen in the series so far, as he steals every scene he’s in, and his Joe Friday-like interrogation of Jerry is probably the best scene of the show’s run so far. 1971 was a bad year for libraries! His over the top intensity about late library books is fantastic, and Jerry can’t keep a straight face in response, but that actually makes it better. Top notch delivery.

Best Storyline

Justin: It has to be the George/Heyman story because that was the lifeblood that kept this episode running smoothly. Jerry’s feud with Bookman and Kramer’s secret affair were great as well, but George weaving in and out of the episode while trying to resolve his open gym class wound was the true pacer of the show. The flashbacks were great and Heyman was the quintessential dickhead gym teacher that we all had to deal with at one point in our lives. I also loved that the book story was paid off along with this one, as George lost the book thanks to Heyman, who still had the book 20 years later! Fantastic storytelling and vintage Seinfeld.

Aaron: It’s Bookman taking down punks by about a country mile.

Andrew: I don’t want to make it all about Lt. Bookman, but his vendetta against Jerry was my favorite storyline. We’ve talked about how great the speeches are, but I think the story itself is underrated. The absurdity of getting nailed with a bill for a 20-year-overdue book, combined with Bookman’s disgust at Jerry’s lifestyle, really does it for me.

Jordan: It’s nice to have several to choose from, but I’m going with George and his gym teacher. While Bookman was the star of the episode, it was really his delivery more than the story, which was standard fare. For George, he was on a quest to see if Mr. Heyman was indeed the homeless man on the steps of the library, and if George’s tattling is what drove him to that life was really fun too, as were the flashback scenes. The culmination of George getting an atomic wedgie AND Heyman having Tropic of Cancer is enough to put it over the top.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should George have offered to pay the library for losing Jerry’s book? I understand he was coming out of a very traumatic experience with Heyman on the library steps, but he did lose the book and cause Jerry all the problems with Bookman. He at least could have made the offer.

Aaron: Can you teach hygiene and have bad hygiene? This is one thing that really drives me nuts along with doctors who smoke and driving instructors with no arms. I get it, okay New York school system, no one wants to teach hygiene, but come on, you have to have a some sort of minimum standard and Heyman’s golden teeth do not pass that test. Come to think of it, why does there need to be a hygiene class at all? How long does it go on for? Is it for all of high school? If the class is anything more than “take showers and wear deodorant,” I’m extremely confused as to the state of livability of Manhattan in the 70s.

Andrew: Should George have felt guilty about Heyman becoming a bum? That guy was a monster, and there’s no question George did the right thing by reporting him. I guess it makes sense that he would feel guilty about the one thing he was totally justified in doing.

Jordan: What kind of a teacher not only allows bullying of a student, but gets involved in it? George fretted over the idea that his getting the teacher fired led to him being homeless, but George was justified in doing it. This man is a thug and deserved to lose his job. It’s not George’s fault that he wound up homeless, and he was right to tell on the guy.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Kramer has been on a hot streak with the ladies, from his jungle romance with Elaine’s roommate to his steamy affair with the unassuming librarian, he is really taking advantage of bachelorhood. They really seemed to dig each other, to the point that she risked her job and the wrath of Bookman just to sneak in some Afternoon Delight. I enjoyed them together, especially their let loose moment inside the closed library. HELLO! Relationship Grade: 6/10

Aaron: Kramer and Marion the librarian just can’t seem to quit one another. The passion on display here is probably the most we’ll ever get from any characters on this show. She wants to leave…but she can’t. He’s moved to tears by her poetry. We’ll never know for sure if she was a spinster or a virgin but I’ve got to believe that if Bookman doesn’t show up they totally bang in the library. What’s not to like here? Relationship Grade:10/10

Andrew: I really feel for Jerry. That memory of his high school crush was clearly significant to him, and I hated to see it tainted. Looking up women from your past never ends well. Kramer, on the other hand, is continuing his streak of relationships that are high on passion, but low on staying power. Relationship Grade: 4/10

Jordan: Kramer and Marian the librarian are a hot and heavy item. There’s not much to it, but Kramer’s pick up line – “What’s a guy gotta do around here to get a library card?” is excellent and for any single readers out there, you should try this line as often as possible. That’s enough to give this a good rating. Relationship Grade: 7/10

What Worked

Justin: The premise is relatable and perfect Seinfeld; Kramer’s amazement over Bookman’s name and job was what everyone else had to be thinking; BOOKMAN, a truly amazing performance; The five Chinese brothers, Funny Boy, Joy Boy; Kramer banging the librarian, who is frightened of Bookman, was a nice twist to complement the main story; Jerry tracking down his old girlfriend in his quest to hunt the book down, and in a nice touch his memories were slightly off, something we can all relate to; The flashback scenes were a nice touch too, as they were quick and well executed; Heyman locking George in an atomic wedgie in front of the library is as Costanza as it gets; The way the book story collided with the Heyman hunt was perfectly executed

Aaron:  BOOKMAN. Honestly everyone else was really great though too. The fact that Jerry was able to do the scenes with Hall and not COMPLETELY break should have won him the Emmy right there. George was great as usual and we get him kind of in the role of “Elaine” as he has to come in and only TELL the story of getting the wedgie. Which is fantastic because it’s way better than if we would have seen it. “Can’t Stand Ya” is forever etched in my mind as a classic Seinfeld quote. Kramer is also on fire here, whether he’s fucking up math and claiming that Jerry owes $50,000 or complaining about the Dewey decimal system out of nowhere, it makes no difference because he’s excellent. Elaine is kind of put on the backburner for this one but even she kills a line about the water hurting your teeth because it’s freezing. You also get wedgie and atomic wedgie (which they pay off) being added to the popular lexicon here and there’s even a perfect little real life moment where Elaine is still yelling while Jerry is standing right behind her. There’s so much to love here and I could go on and on. I’ll just add: Jerry getting all the details about Sherry wrong, Elaine worried about being fired because she didn’t get lunch, the perfect staging of Bookman leaving the apartment with Marion entering Kramer’s and BOOKMAN.

Andrew: The writing is excellent, and not just for the dramatic monologues. I really liked the originality of the ideas, and how relatable the situations were, especially George and Jerry holding on to memories of high school (both positive and negative). The main characters were all well-represented, and they even made Jerry’s inability to keep a straight face work for the scene. I enjoyed the dark tone of George’s flashback scene, and while Elaine’s story wasn’t that great, I did like the ambiguity and that they left it unresolved. Best of all, Bookman was fantastic.

Jordan: Just about everything. We finally see Elaine on her own and she’s a mess in the workplace. It’s interesting, she comes off very Costanza-like in the workplace: neurotic and paranoid. Kramer’s “Kavorka” is on display with the librarian and her fleeing into his apartment to avoid Bookman is great background comedy. The flashbacks to high school George and Jerry were funny visuals and important to the story. Jerry’s hair was horrendous, and it was supposed to be. I even liked Sherry Becker’s then and now comparison and the fact that she and Jerry had such different memories of that day. And of course, BOOKMAN. Ever have a man die in your arms? Ever kill somebody?

What Didn’t Work

Justin: The Elaine story felt a bit forced in, but it was pretty brief and it may have just been a victim of the greatness of the Bookman awesomeness; Bizarro Lippman sucked; Not much else to complain about here

Aaron: I guess Sherry Becker was the weakest point of the episode. She was good, but I would have preferred this time go to Bookman and his continued adventures.

Andrew: The episode could have used more Elaine. She made the most of her part, but her storyline wasn’t that great. George seems to get a monologue in every episode, and for whatever reason, that annoyed me a bit here. But I’m really just nit-picking now.

Jordan: Honestly, not much. This was great all the way around. If I’m forced to choose anything, I guess seeing some guy parading around as Mr. Lippman was off putting. I’ve complained about the poor sets in the past but this one was a huge improvement. The library looked legit, Elaine’s office looked believable, even the high school locker room was well crafted.

Key Character Debuts

Lt. Bookman

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “You know I never got a library card? Bunch of cheapskates in there anyway.” – Kramer

– “The Dewey Decimal System, what a scam that was!” – Kramer

– “The library investigator’s name is Bookman? That’s amazing. It’s like an ice cream man named cone!” – Kramer

– “I don’t understand lunch, I know nothing about lunch.” – George

– “Remember his teeth? Like they were from an exhumed corpse.” – Jerry “Like little baked beans” – George

– “What do girls do?” – Jerry “We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder.” – Elaine

– “I remember when the librarian was a much older woman. Kindly, discreet, unattractive. We didn’t know anything about her private life. We didn’t want to know anything about her private life. She didn’t have a privatee life. When you’re thinking about that, think about this: the library closes at 5pm, no exceptions. This is your final warning. Got that, kewpie-doll?” – Bookman

– “He smelt like the locker room after that game against the Rascals…” – George “That was double overtime.” – Jerry

– “Hard feelings? What do you now about hard feelings? Ever have a man die in your arms? Ever kill somebody?” – Bookman

Every other single Lt. Bookman quote

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry & George went to JFK High School together

– Kramer has to walk to the coffee shop to let Jerry know that Bookman is waiting at his apartment

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Easily one of my favorite episodes and as Jordan mentioned below, likely the best to date for the show. The episode just flew by and I could barely keep up with my notes and to me that is one of the hallmarks as a classic. It felt like it was ten minutes long and could have gone on longer without issue. Bookman was phenomenal and he alone could have made this a winner, but factor in George’s quest for Heyman and Kramer’s secret romance and we have a pantheon episode. It was great to see them quickly snap out of the early season malaise to deliver here. How about that funny boy? Final Grade: 9/10

Aaron: The whole time I’ve been writing I’ve been thinking about what to do with my score. This is only the third season, and I don’t see this one on many people’s “greatest episodes” lists. Damnit though, I laughed so much I had trouble taking notes. This truly is one of my all time favorites. Ah fuck it.  Final Grade:10/10

Andrew: A classic episode; I feel like ninety percent of it has appeared in various clip shows, which is a pretty good indication of how good it was from start to finish. I may like “The Chinese Restaurant” more for its originality and historical significance, but this is the first episode that feels like it has everything working. Final Grade: 9/10

Jordan: And just like that, the stink of the last episode has vanished. This is an all time classic, and for my money, the best episode we’ve watched yet. Some may prefer “The Chinese Restaurant”, but I loved everything about this one. Bookman was incredible, all four characters had storylines, and in classic Seinfeld fashion, they come together at the end. Even Jerry’s stand up bits in between that I normally ignore were funny with him comparing gym class to “Lord of the Flies”. Just a great episode from start to finish. Final Grade: 9/10

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.