Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Millennium” (S8, E20)

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: I will go with Jerry. I enjoyed him being in this bizarre soap opera type storyline between Valerie and her stepmother and the payoff with Valerie being unable to call poison control was really well done. I also want to give props to Newman as he was on fire during his two scenes. That first one with Kramer may be one of his greatest scenes ever.

Aaron: It’s Big Stein and I don’t care who knows it. He is absolutely bamboozled to discover that Babe Ruth was in fact not a sultan all the while extremely cognizant that he couldn’t be flopping and twitching, to the tune of Lou Gehrig. By the time he is apologizing to Body Suit Man and imploring him to streak on his lead was simply insurmountable.

Andrew: I think I’ll go with Jerry. No one really runs away with this one, and he has to do a surprising amount of work in this one: competitive yet naïve during the speed dial stuff, uninterested yet malicious during the Newmanium drama. It’s not an out-of-this-world performance, but I think he earned a win here.

Jordan: I’ll pick George, but this one is odd for me. I don’t think any of the four were great here, but I like the episode just fine. Usually it’s tough to pick when I didn’t enjoy anything, but I liked a lot of what we had here, there’s just not one defining moment for anyone that makes them an easy pick. When in doubt, go Costanza.

Jason: I’ll go with Jerry here.  We saw two sides of him here between the stuff with Valerie and her stepmom and Newmanium. He was a big pussy boy with Valerie and I really enjoyed watching Mrs. Hamilton trying to seduce him. He was typical heartless, unemotional Jerome during the Newmanium nonsense. An honorable mention goes to George for all of his antics while trying to get canned.

Best Storyline

JT: I think all of the stories had ups and downs this week but I liked Kramer’s party planning the most. Seeing him fret the details of a party three years away was really inspired and having Newman battling him over it was well orchestrated. I also thought Kramer’s Arthur’s Theme zinger was an all time classic, paying off Newman’s booking of Christopher Cross brilliantly.

Aaron: Anyone who has read this series knows I love me some spiteful Elaine, but I have to bow down to George failing at failing. It was around the moment where the Yankee commentator told us that no one seemed to mind that he was streaking when I knew we were on to something special here.

Andrew: I’m going with George trying to get fired. Like Creasy in Man on Fire, he is painting his masterpiece. And the thought of having the freedom to be a horrible jerk at work is an intoxicating one.

Jordan: It’s George’s inability to get fired. The guy sucks at his job, and yet he can’t lose it when he wants to. I love that he marches into a meeting where Babe Ruth’s uniform – and it’s also funny that George has the body type of an athlete like the Sultan of Swat… IF HE REALLY IS A SULTAN, THAT IS.

Jason: I’ll go with George trying to get canned. Dropping strawberries on the Babe’s jersey, running across the field during a game and dragging the World Series trophy in the parking lot. A typical Costanza scheme that backfires on him in typical Costanza fashion. Plus, Jerry hyping George up by telling him he does everything wrong was great.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should you be so obsessive with speed dial rankings that you would take chances on not having poison control just one touch away? Yes. Who ever gets poisoned these days?

Aaron: Can one have too much ice? It depends. How many bodies? For someone who has an unlimited amount of freezers to go with an unlimited amount of saws then no. You simply cannot have enough ice. The question for the rest of us common folk is: can one have too many shovels? No. No one can’t.

Andrew: Should all clothing stores have free chips and salsa? Absolutely. I can’t believe this isn’t a thing already.

Jordan: Should Jerry be so excited that he got a hidden spot in the speed dial? Let’s ignore the fact that he shows no concern there is an emergency, that’s typical Jerome. The bigger issue is Jerry shouldn’t be so happy to drive a wedge in between Valerie and her stepmother.

Jason: Does ranking on a speed dial matter? YES! Much like the ranking of a MySpace Top 8, speed dial ranking was EVERYTHING.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Valerie was quite the mynx and a whole lot of work for Jerome. Her stepmom was way out of his league and probably makes Val a nonstarter, but I give him credit for trying to make it work. Relationship Grade: #1/10

Aaron: Jerry needs to dump Valerie. What the hell is wrong with this chick? His foray into the dramatics of the Hamiltions will no doubt only lead to finding him in one of my many, many freezers. Relationship Grade: -17/10

Andrew: Valerie is way too hot and cold for my tastes. You don’t need that kind of drama, Jerry. Relationship Grade: Two in Zagat’s/10

Jordan: Valerie is strange and there’s something that confuses me greatly regarding the whole speed dial saga that I will address in the portion of what didn’t work. I have read before there is a hotness to craziness scale that people have, and provided the hotness trends higher than the crazy, they’re worth the time. Valerie isn’t hot enough. Relationship Grade: Drop her from the speed dial/10

Jason: Valerie sure is a high maintenance handful. On the other side of the coin, Jerry wouldn’t last ten minutes with her stepmom. Eh, screw it Jerome, throw on some Yacht Rock and give that Mrs. Robinson all that you have! Relationship Grade: Arthur’s Theme/10

What Worked:

JT: Elaine pushing the pull door made me chuckle; Kramer storing party props years in advance is pretty funny; The Marcelino callback made me chuckle; Elaine assuming George was nervous about something he ate; “Everyday balloons”; The Mets being interested in George Costanza as a lead scout says it all about that franchise; Valerie stack ranking friends via speed dial is a good idea; I like how everyone keeps using the folding chairs when they come into Jerry’s; The barometer/thermometer bit is one of my all time favorites; Kramer’s constant “In the year 2000…” questions were well done; George always failing up with the Yankees never gets old; Newman’s slow mail comment is so good as is him booking Yacht Rock legend Christopher Cross and calling Kramer “longshanks”; Jerry’s motivational speech to George about sucking; “Gladys Mayo”; Valerie’s stepmom going all Mrs. Robinson was quite the twist; “HE Pennypacker”; Kramer housing the free chips and salsa and then making a fucking scene while pricing the clothes; Wilhelm taking the fall and the Mets gig from George was a nice payoff; Kramer slays it with the Arthur’s Theme joke;

Aaron: Kramer’s entire HE Pennypacker routine was wonderful. He just wants to get that silver mine off the ground all while stuffing free chips down his gullet. Kramer predicts that in the year 2000 everyone would be on speed dial AND HE WAS RIGHT!!!! Sure he leaves chairs in your house for two and a half years but the man was a god damn prophet. And I love, LOVE that he owns everyday balloons. Elaine is a spiteful gem throughout. She is totally justified in her pursuit to run that store out of business. Sure she winces as Kramer implores patience in his five year plan but we all have moments of weakness. “You screwed me again Pennypacker!” Jerry fondly remembering a laugh he got in a movie theatre is true to every single comedian I’ve ever met.

Andrew: The little things are the best part of this episode. Elaine casually slamming down a folding chair, and misinterpreting George being nervous about his lunch (“What’d you eat?”). Kramer’s “everyday balloons” and correcting the pronunciation of barometer. George taking the World Series Trophy out for a scrape (“I fear no reprisal”). And while it’s not a great storyline, I like the idea of people becoming competitive about speed dial rankings for no clear purpose.

Jordan: I mean, how can you not love Kramer’s attempt to help Elaine? Grabbing handfuls of clothes, coughing up tortilla chips,dropping the pricing gun and IMMEDIATELY stepping on it? That was probably my favorite scene of the episode. And then he tries to get devious by ensuring the clothes won’t last for more than five years before flippantly deciding his silver mine will now be a roller coaster? Why couldn’t this be the entire episode? Elaine is fun here too, even though her taste in the clothes is suspect. I loved her boldly stating to the woman on the phone that she’d lost a customer, then losing the bravado by pushing on the pull door. As mentioned earlier, George is a lot of fun – and I like that he won’t ACTUALLY streak, but instead wears a flesh toned body suit. One quibble, why did George go with berries to stain Babe’s uniform? Why not spill a big glass of grape juice on himself? Kramer and Newman having a dueling millennium party years in advance is fun in idea, but didn’t do a whole lot in execution.

Jason: Elaine pushing the door instead of pulling was the perfect exit for her after her rant; the Marcellino name drop and him being one sixty-forth Mayan; Kramer’s everyday balloons; the Met’s guys just “talking” to George; George singing the Met’s jingle; a final blaze of incompetence; barometer/ thermometer was so random, but makes me laugh every time; Kramer’s year 2000 questions; Jerry not wanting to talk to Newman through Kramer’s mental phone; Mrs. Hamilton’s speed dial in Jerry’s car; Babe Ruth not really being a sultan; Big Stein flopping and twitching in Lou Gehrig’s pants; Christopher FUCKING Cross; cubed ice; Jerry-free millennium; Gladys owning both stores; Mrs. Hamilton’s, “Hi, Jerome”; HE Pennypacker!; Pennypacker mooching the chips and changing his mind to build a roller coaster; Steinbrenner calling George, “big boy” and asking Wilhelm if he has the crazies again; Wilhelm landing the Met’s job; Kramer’s Arthur’s Theme reference was the best line of the episode; Jerry’s number being hidden in poison control

What Didn’t Work

JT: The Putumayo store owner really was a dipshit; The constant checking of messages in this show must be a real culture shock to anyone that grew up in the cell phone era; I have always and will always despise Jerry’s logic riddle for Newman’s party being a year late… IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE, STOP TORTURING ME

Aaron: I really didn’t dig the speed dial business. Sure it’s dated, but the main problem is that the acting doesn’t stand up to the premise. If we’re going to accept that this family has a year long feud over speed dial then the performances need to be uber-realistic rather than the clearly put on emotions on display here. With tight connected performances this could have been an all-timer. I couldn’t believe some of what we saw was the best take. Also Gladys Mayo is the worst.

Andrew: Jerry’s explanation of why Newman’s party will be a year late torments me to this day. I’m not going to try to unpack it here – I’ve already spent way too much time thinking about it – but I hate how unclear it is. In a way, it’s a perfect encapsulation of this episode’s problems: a halfway decent joke that wasn’t thought through all the way. Also, Jerry’s rain dance joke bothers me. If you’re going to be culturally insensitive, you should at least be vaguely accurate.

Jordan: OK, here’s my issue, and perhaps I watched it wrong or missed a scene… but Jerry was on the speed dial, right? Then he had a bad date and dropped. So he tried to rebound with a good date, and we see them at her place after that good date… and Jerry’s already moved up the list? Shouldn’t he only be moved up WELL AFTER the good date? When did Valerie change her rankings? Also, Elaine’s story is fine, but the actual clothes are hideous.

Jason: The Elaine and Putumayo saga did nothing for me. Gladys is a pile of shit human being and Elaine should have grabbed her by her loop earirngs. Take away “HE Pennypacker” and it’s one of my least favorite plots from the series.

Key Character Debuts

– Valerie

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “You know, it’s a pain to change that. You gotta lift up that plastic thing with a pen.” – George

– “No, Jerry. New Year’s Eve nineteen ninety-nine. The millennium. I told you about that.” – Kramer “Kramer, you’re gonna leave these chairs here for two and a half years?!” – Jerry “You’re not gonna see ’em. I got a case of party poppers I’m gonna keep in front of ’em.” – Kramer

– “Alright, I have had it with those Mayans.” – Elaine “I don’t mind the Mayans.” – Jerry

– “Kramer, these balloons aren’t gonna stay filled till New Year’s!” – Jerry “Well, those aren’t for New Year’s. Those are my everyday balloons.” – Kramer

– “Lemme just check my messages. Maybe a nicer girl called.” – Jerry

– “You think people will still be using napkins in the year two-thousand? Or is this mouth-vacuum thing for real?” – Kramer

– “Yeah, this speed-dial’s like a relationship barometer.” – Jerry “What is a barometer exactly?” – George “It’s pronounced thermometer.” – Kramer

– “Oh my God! Number one!! Seinfeld, you magnificent bastard!” – Jerry

– “So Jerry, my millennium party’s really coming together. Will people be able to breathe underwater in the year two-thousand?” – Kramer “Some of us.” – Jerry

– “Come celebrate the millennium, with Newmanniun. Newman!” – Kramer

– “We wanna look to the future, we gotta tear down the past. Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man, with little-girl legs. And here’s something I just found out recently. He wasn’t really a sultan. Ah, what d’you make of that? Hey, check this out. Lou Gehrig’s pants. Not a bad fit. Hey, you don’t think that nerve disease of his was contagious, do you? Uh, I better take ’em off. I’m too important to this team. Big Stein can’t be flopping and twitching.” – Steinbrenner

– “Well, I just got your invitation to the Newmanniun party.” – Kramer “You just got it? Damn, the mail is slow.” – Newman

– “Think again, longshanks! I started planning this in nineteen seventy-eight. I put a deposit down on that revolving restaurant that overlooks Times Square, and I booked Christopher Cross.” – Newman “Well, what am I gonna do? I got over two hundred folding chairs, and quite a bit of ice.” – Kramer “What kind?” – Newman “Cubed.” – Kramer “That’s good stuff, and you can never have too much ice. Alright, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You can co-host the party with me, under one condition. No Jerry. Jerry is not invited.” – Newman “I gotta invite Jerry. He’s my buddy.” – Kramer “That he may be. But he’s outta my life, starting in the year two-thousand. For me, the next millennium must be, Jerry-free!” – Newman

– “Hi, I’m H.E. Pennypacker. I’m a wealthy American industrialist uh, looking to open a silver mine in the mountains of Peru and uh, before I invest millions in a lucrative mine, I, I’d like to go a little native. Uh, Get the feel of their condiments, of their unmentionables, you know, the real uh, gritty-gritty.” – Kramer

– “You have screwed me again, Pennypacker!” – Elaine

– “What’re you talking about, Wilhelm. You popping pills? You got the crazies again?” – Steinbrenner

– “Well, maybe so, but come midnight, when she’s looking for someone warm and cuddly to kiss, I guess you’ll be caught between the moon and New York City.” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham plays the role of Valerie

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I am really torn on this one. It has gaps galore and felt like four half baked ideas leftover and just jammed into a late season episode, so it fall feels… unfinished. But… there are also so many great one liners and conversations that the episode is still worth watching for sure. I laughed quite a bit in fact. It also moved along quickly with a good brisk pace. I thought Newman was amazing in his two scenes and Jerry was on point throughout, oscillating between being a naive goof trapped between two women playing games way beyond his mental capacity and his usual sardonic self with Kramer and Newman. Also, I have mentioned it twice but that hidden Arthur’s Theme joke was a classic. They did tie everything in well at the end, it just feels like each story was missing that middle act. There is enough here to buoy the grade but this had the potential to be a classic if they could have been a bit tighter overall. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: I had heavy laughs throughout but was turned off by one of the major storylines. It’s a shame had they all clicked I would be much higher. As it stands the stuff that worked, worked really, really well. Valerie watched her step mom die right? Final Grade: 8/10

Andrew: This one has its moments, but I’m not a fan. I liked where the speed dial stuff started (people getting competitive about inconsequential rankings), but it lost me when it became … a metaphor for sex? Or something? Too much of the episode is like that: a less than great joke where I’m not even sure what the point of it is. Having said that, there’s some truly funny stuff to be found, which keeps the episode from being a dud. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: Hmmm. I really don’t know how to feel about this one. For me, it’s not a bad episode so much as an episode I just don’t really care about. George made me laugh, Kramer made me laugh. Elaine and Jerry were there and inoffensive. I don’t know, I just can’t put my finger on why this one doesn’t work for me – maybe it’s the datedness of speed dial settings on a land line, or Elaine’s hideous fashion choices, or the Millennium Party that seems fun at first and doesn’t really lead anywhere spectacular, but this one left me wanting more George failing and more Pennypacker. Final Grade: 6/10

Jason: I was never a fan of this episode, but it held up a little better than I remember. Minus the trainwreck that was the Putumayo stuff, I enjoyed it. Newman was a boss in all of his scenes and I always enjoy when his crush on Elaine is brought up. Valerie and her stepmom nailed their scenes along with puss boy Jerry being the middle person between them. Christopher Cross, Yankee memorabilia being destroyed and the Newmanium saved this episode from being a disaster. Final Grade: 7/10

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