Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Opera” (S4, E9)

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!

Crazy Joe Davola

Best Character

Justin: Another good ensamble episode that was strong across the board. Jerry and Elaine ducking Joe led to some funny lines and scenes and Davola himself was very good. George had a few good moments too, but I will go with Kramer. He was in a lot of the episode this time around and had some strong scenes and dialogue and him smashing into the locked door always makes me laugh out loud.

Aaron: Pagliacci, if for nothing other than his bravery in the face of humiliation and despair. There comes a time when a man is pushed to his breaking point and only at that point to we truly transcend our manhood and become who we were bred to be. Only then standing next to your masterpiece can you be one with who you are. Thank you Nedda. Thank you for allowing Pagliacci to evolve.

Andrew: Kramer was easily my favorite character in this one. He was the only one to pull off the difficult balance of acting scared but still being funny, and his and Crazy Joe Davola’s back-and-forth about being scared of clowns was the perfect example. I also enjoyed his stance on proper opera attire, and he was good in the scalping scenes. And I’ve always liked the joke where he runs into the door because he can’t believe Jerry would lock it; it’s not the biggest laugh, but it’s so perfectly self-referential that it’s always stayed with me.

Jordan: I’ll give it to Kramer too. Could have went with Jerry, as he was very strong, but Kramer was really good in every scene. His conversation with Davola was so uncomfortable and he made it work. His fearful response from the answering machine, his scalping methods, all of it was refreshing to see Kramer back in a major role.

Best Storyline

Justin: The opera storyline pretty much is the entire episode here, so I will roll with that. Jerry and Elaine dealing with all the madness in front of the hoity-toity opera crowd was a good dichotomy and all of the opera music framing the episode was a nice change from the norm. Mix in Davola as the insane clown and Harry Fong and there were lots of laughs throughout.

Aaron: The story where the clown put the kibosh on the woman who made him a cuckold.

Andrew: Crazy Joe Davola’s feud with Jerry and Elaine was the best storyline. The scenes with Davola doing traditional maniac/psycho stuff were really well done, and having him dress up as an operatic clown was a great way to take the craziness up a notch. The threatening message was excellent, and panicky Jerry is pretty funny, as was he and Elaine realizing they were afraid of the same person.

Jordan: The Crazy Joe storyline hits its peak here. Leave it to Seinfeld to make a character that is almost a serial killer fun. From Jerry and Kramer in total fear, Elaine figuring out he’s not as well adjusted as he thinks, and Joe in full clown garb, it’s good throughout.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: The police officer that blows off Jerry’s call probably should be a bit better at his job. This is now the second cop that didn’t take Davola’s threats seriously but it is clear this guy is a menace. At the least, they should have checked into Davola’s past or made a stop by his place to have a chat. Are they going to wait until he goes on a crime spree dressed as a clown? All about headlines for them.

Aaron: Not only did I take the time to capture and develop those pictures but the painstaking way in which I placed them on my wall, with precision that would make Copernicus cut off his own dick deserved better than a scoff. If she knew the dedication it took to get those shower shots, if she understood my passion she wouldn’t be afraid, she’d be enthralled and aroused by my intrusion. My intrusion into her life, her home and her soul.

Andrew: Why is everyone in this episode so scandalized by scalping? Was it such a scourge on early 90s society that you would accost someone on the street for it? I understand that people buying up tickets just for resale sucks, and maybe I’m the jerk for accepting it as inevitable, but I can’t imagine ever getting upset about someone selling tickets outside an event.

Jordan: “We’re friends. If I gotta be uncomfortable, you gotta be uncomfortable too!” I feel like I am with George on this one. Jerry wanting to change out of his tux isn’t that out of the question, but to leave George looking like a chump would have been pretty scummy of him.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Elaine and Joe Davola seem to have hit the skids. I mean, Joey is really into her, natch, but Elaine doesn’t seem to be feeling it quite so much anymore. Maybe she will do a but more research next time around. Fare thee well, tragic clown. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Aaron: Elaine and I were meant to be. She was my Nedda and had she accepted her destiny I would have immortalized her in my bathtub. Relationship Grade:187/10

Andrew: Susan is so happy to see George when she arrives at the opera. I know I’m repeating myself, but George does not deserve her. I’m starting to see her as the tragic figure of the whole show. The Elaine and “Joey” relationship turned real ugly, real fast. Seinfeld may have just destroyed my faith in romance. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Jordan: A kind, attractive woman is smitten with a sociopath who is bordering on insane. But enough about George and Susan, Elaine was really slumming it with Crazy Joe. Relationship Grade: 1/10

What Worked

Justin: Joe Davola continues to be super creepy, in a fun way and Elaine’s visit to the apartment was just…I need a shower; Kramer and Jerry panicking and arguing about what to do about Davola was good stuff; George’s tuxedo is amazing; I love Kramer slamming into the locked door; I enjoyed all the opera music woven throughout the dramatic scenes here; The quarter stealing scene was so absurd it was great; Davola beating the piss out of the punks in the park while dressed as a clown; Kramer scalping was a hell of a scene; Jerry and Elaine slowly discovering they are plagued by the same Joe was funny; Jerry singing the Loony Toons overture is so great and always cracks me up, as does Harry Fong; Kramer selling his ticket to Davola was the capper

Aaron: My life philosophies have always worked. Fear IS our most primal emotion. I like to encourage intruders, it keeps me strong and able to fend off a total of three men who attack me in a park. I’m not like others, I’ve grown and matured. I enjoy the uncomfortableness of a tight suit, if only to be able to lean my life away. Who doesn’t like lifting weights and crying? It cleans the soul. I like clowns. Are you still afraid of clowns? If you sheepishly said “yea” I like you and I won’t eat you.

Andrew: I thought the scenes depicting Joe Davola as a whacked out maniac worked very well; the cut from Elaine saying “He’s well adjusted” to Davola crying during a bench press was particularly good. Crazy Joe creepily confronting people was excellent, and his scene with Kramer in the alley was the highlight of the episode for me. Well, either that or Kramer running to the door because it’s never been locked before. There were a good number of brief, enjoyable moments like that: a “pop in” call-back, Jerry feeling like the toughest guy in an opera crowd, Kramer saying “People do, I don’t” about dressing up for the opera, George saying “If I’ve got to be uncomfortable, you’ve got to be uncomfortable too!” on the same topic.

Jordan: Crazy Joe is very strong as a weirdo. His line about liking to encourage intruders is so funny, and then you stop to think that he actually means he wants chances to murder people, and you stop laughing. I also like how Elaine calls him Joey, to prevent any instances of Jerry and her figuring out who he is. Everyone’s response to him is well done. George’s ill-fitting tuxedo is so silly. Jerry acting like a tough guy around the opera crowd worked. The moment where Elaine and Jerry realize it’s the same Joe is nice, and there’s a dude in the background just smiling like a jerk at them. Kramer and George scalping together is fun. I like that George STILL sold the ticket even after Susan showed up.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: I really don’t have much to complain about here, I dug it all. I guess we did left a bit open-ended, as Andrew mentions below, some closure on Davola would have been nice.

Aaron: Jerry Seinfeld makes me sick and I’m going to murder my way through his friends and family.

Andrew: The episode overall doesn’t work for me. I love the idea of a crazy person in clown makeup stalking the main characters, so I’m kind of surprised I didn’t enjoy this one more, but I don’t think they quite managed to make a good episode out of that idea. Some of it is that they never quite got the tone right; it’s as though they couldn’t decide whether to make the audience laugh, or afraid for people’s safety. It’s possible to do both, of course, but that doesn’t really happen here, and instead the episode swings between a parody of a stalker movie, and an actual stalker plot. The more absurd stuff is great, but some scenes are a little too realistic to be laughed at; seeing Elaine’s violent boyfriend trap her in his apartment, in particular, wasn’t a lot of fun. I didn’t like Davola’s cheesy 80s stuntman fight, either. I guess it was supposed to let us know how dangerous he is, but I don’t think we really needed the reminder that he knows karate. And while I’m usually a fan of open-ended, no resolution endings, this one was entirely too unsatisfying.

Jordan: I didn’t like the scene where Joe beats up a gang in the park. We already know he’s nuts, we don’t need to see that he has ninja skills too.

Key Character Debuts

N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Oh come on Jerry, its opening night, black tie, Pagliacci! The great clown, the great sad tragic clown, like you.” – Kramer “Well it’s very flattering.” – Jerry

– “You’re the nucleus, the straw that stirs the drink. You’re the Miana!” – Kramer

– “I developed them myself in my dark room. Would you like to see?” – Davola “In the dark room? Uh no, no thank you. Not right now. I’m a day person!” – Elaine

– “But officer, he threatened me! I don’t understand, thats not right! What if it was the President of the United States I bet you’d investigate. So whats the difference, Im a comedian of the United States, and Ill tell you Im under just as much pressure. Alright, thanks anyway, ok bye.” – Jerry

– “Ooo, that was a bad toast.” – Jerry “It wasn’t that bad.” – George “I never heard anybody curse in a toast.” – Jerry “I was trying to loosen ’em up a little bit.” – Jerry “There were old people there, all the relatives. You were like a Red Fox record. I mean, at the end of the toast nobody even drank. They were just standing there, they were just frozen! That might have been one of the worst all time toasts.” – Jerry

– “I thought you said people dress up when they go to the opera!” – Jerry “People do, I don’t.” – Kramer

– “Cherry Binaca, its new.” – Elaine “See, I don’t get that. First they come out with the regular, then a
year later they come out with the cherry. They know that we like the cherry, start with cherry! Then come out with the regular!” – Jerry

– “I kinda like this opera crowd, I feel tough… Anybody else got a problem?” – Jerry

– “A thousand dollars for the deuce…” – Kramer

– “You’re blowing this, the guys a pigeon.” – Kramer

– “This is not a Metallica concert, its an opera alright, a little dignity, a little class, just give me my ticket, I will stand over here and sell it.” – George

– “Oh! He said that! Can you imagine what he’ll do if he sees me with you! He’ll think Im the one who ruined his deal at NBC and took away his girl, he’ll put a kibosh on me!” – Jerry

– “Camera, curtains, lights – This is it, we’ll hit the heights – Oh what heights we’ll hit – On with the show this is it!” – Jerry “You know, it is so sad, all your knowledge of high culture comes from bugs bunny cartoons.” – Elaine

– “That’s…that’s Harry Fong, he’s a very good friend of mine and he’s a big opera buff. Enjoy the show there Harry!… You know what.” – George

– “You don’t understand, someone’s after us, a crazy clown is trying to kill us.” – Jerry “A crazy clown is after you? Oh thats rich. Now clear the entrance so people with tickets can get through.” – George

Oddities & Fun Facts

N/A

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: I have always enjoyed this episode. We take a break from the sitcom development to go a bit offbeat, with all the opera music and being outside the main locations for a majority of it. The overture singing, Kramer’s door crash and Harry Fong have always been laugh out loud moments for me. That said, there aren’t any real hall of fame moments or storyline developments that make this in the classic tier. It has a bunch of laughs and is a nice way to spend 22 minutes, but it tops out there. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: So…Joe Davola, Joe Davola’s insanity, you shouldn’t ever ask your friend to be uncomfortable, Elaine and Joey 911/10, all the clown stuff and not the most hilarious of shows. I do like how it almost became “a very special episode of”. Kind of a ballsy choice. It’s fine. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: I had always thought of this one as pretty funny, but ultimately forgettable. But after writing the “What Didn’t Work” section and ruminating on the scene in Joe’s apartment, I’m starting to feel more hostile toward the episode. I guess now I know why critics often come across as joyless, hateful pricks. This episode isn’t actively bad, but had the potential to be better; it has enjoyable parts, but I wish they had done a better job with it. Final Grade: 4/10

Jordan: Soooooo, Joe Davola definitely murdered Harry Fong, right? I feel like that’s the only logical conclusion here. Davola probably went berserk at the intermission. Kramer was getting snacks, and Jerry suddenly didn’t feel so tough. Elaine’s binaca was useless, and ol’ Harry had to defend the gang. As he lay dying, I assume his last moments were spent with Jerry complaining that he got blood on his tux, Elaine asking if she has to officially break up with Joe and Susan, sweet, gentle Susan, holding Harry’s hand as he drifted off into the great beyond. Godspeed, Harry Fong. Pretty good episode. Final Grade: 6/10

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.