Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Parking Spot” (S3, E21)

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: George and Elaine. All day. It was a tag team performance for the ages across the board. George standing pat, refusing to move was awesome, as was Elaine’s frantic lying and backing him up while also throwing him under the bus. Mike was pretty funny too, but without us knowing George’s background and character, this may not have been as funny and epic as it turned out. Oh, and the Indiana Jones hat. Fantastic. I also love that he is standing strong for his principles. Screw off, Mike!

Aaron: This is as difficult as picking between my three cats. On one hand Pretty (Kramer) is my eldest love and really the friendliest cat you’ll ever meet. Then you have Tiger (George) who’s a bit of a fat fuck but completely lovable in his own way. Finally you have Denny Crane (Elaine) feisty and young, hungry to gain and keep my attention. I love them all the same here. I’ll give the nod to Pretty then seeing as she’s like ice and I certainly don’t want to be on her bad side. She begs like a champ and her coolness to the other cats is consistently hilarious.

Andrew: You could make a case for each of the main characters, but I think it has to be George. He’s so great in the lead-up to the parking spot incident, with his wistful longing for the days of hats, and hereditary inability to pay to park in a garage. That buildup makes it totally understandable when he refuses to back down over the spot, which is crucial to the story. And his blowup with Newman over the hat is perfect.

Jordan: I’ll give this one to Indiana Costanza. “I’ll DIE in this car.” is something I believe George was willing to do. Normally I am against episodes that go against the characters long term traits, and George usually cowers and caves, but I like that he stood firm here. His issue with parking garages is terrific and it all ties together. He is so proud of his driving and parking. Also-He was right! Mike should have moved!

Best Storyline

Justin: The parking spot argument, easily. It led to tons of great and memorable moments and it was perfect that it was Mike who did it, considering his simmering issues with Jerry. I love the cast of characters that got involved, from Sid to Matthew to Newman, and watching everyone choose sides was really good stuff. One of my favorite storylines they have ever done.

Aaron: Obviously the parking spot takes this one here. It’s so wonderfully set up with George going on and on about his driving and parking abilities, only to have him break the car and fight with another bald man over the spot. Isn’t that the real tragedy here? Aren’t we done with bald on bald violence? The story is so well crafted which I’ll expound on later. That’s a word right? Expound? It’s such a simple real life frustration that is used perfectly to make these people (and everyone in the neighborhood) scream at each other. I think the entire episode can be summed up beautifully by the two men standing outside their cars honking the horns at one another.

Andrew: This was a tough call as well, as all the plot threads are tied pretty closely together, but I liked the Jerry-Kramer-Moffitt-phony storyline the most. I enjoyed Jerry and Kramer going back-and-forth, withholding information and telling the other to beg for it. I can identify with Jerry’s plight, hearing a disparaging remark about himself but not being able to do anything about it. And I like Mike Moffitt’s feeble attempt to pretend it was a compliment. But my favorite part it the insult itself, “phony”. It’s so ridiculous and meaningless, and yet still infuriating; it’s a perfect fit for the story.

Jordan: The parking spot argument and everything that unraveled as a result.We got a pop in from Sid, a Newman appearance and random onlookers, and everyone chimed in. Even when the cops show up at the end, they can’t agree. I loved it.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should you ever pull in to a parking spot front first? Sure, especially if there is plenty of room to do so and you want to get in quickly to open up traffic again. However, if someone is clearly sitting double parked in front of the spot, it should be obvious they are prepping to back in and you should defer accordingly because then you are being an asshole.

Aaron: There’s a barrage of ethical dilemmas here. Let’s start with the obvious one: why the fuck does Elaine think she can fiddle with the mirror while George is driving? When my father taught me to drive at sixteen he would often reach over and put on the wipers while I was driving and it drove me fucking nuts! Why do people do these things? Mind you he’s also the kind of guy who would stay out on the street until he died just for the principal of something. Now: George was sitting there bragging instead of parking and I don’t think I heard a turn signal. So the spot should have been Mike’s even though he’s a fool for going in head first. And: if an ice cream truck needs to go by you get out of the god damned way. Think of the kids!!! Finally: who goes to someone’s house to watch a fight if they think that person is the phony? You know what that makes you? A FUCKING PHONY! All these things signal a breakdown of the social order. Chaos, if you will. And will certainly lead to jungle law.

Andrew: Was Jerry right to confront Mike about the “phony” remark, even though Kramer told him not to? Absolutely. What’s the other option, stew silently about it for the rest of his life? That’s not good for your health. Kramer’s the one in the wrong here. In that situation, you either keep it to yourself, or tell your friend with the expectation that he’s going to confront the other guy.

Jordan: This one is obvious to me. You NEVER mention to a woman that she is pregnant unless you have confirmed proof that she is indeed with child. Nothing good can come of this. She could be crowning before your very eyes, and you still just assume she’s fat until you see a whole baby pop out of her. Only a true fool would call a woman pregnant without knowing for certain.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Jerry and Mike have some real issues to work out as there seems to be a lot of buried resentment on both sides. They should have some Hennigan’s and hash it out so they can relax and be pals again. Why is Jerry a phony, Mike? Talk it out, brother. Relationship Grade: Michael Jordan/10

Aaron: Mike’s car is totally fucking George’s car. RelationshHOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNK!

Andrew: Newman is always blowin’ up spots. What a jerk. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Jordan: Indiana Costanza was always better with Marion. I hated Willie. Relationship Grade: SHORT ROUND/10

What Worked

Justin: Kramer begging and harassing Jerry to know what is going on with the flea market is funny and very in character and I also loved Kramer turning it back on Jerry about the Mike conversation; I love George not wanting to wear hats for the potential that a woman will eventually find out his bald; All of the parking and driving sense with George and Elaine were good; The parking spot kerfluffle was fantastic and original stuff; Elaine’s performance in lying to Jerry was epic; Kramer giving Elaine and George the cold shoulder and siding with Mike upped the stakes nicely; Mike is so transparently phony that it is endearing; Nice call back to have Sid show up to trash George’s parking again; Jerry screwing up and telling Matthew that his father is closing his shop was great and it is topped by Kramer adamantly thinking Meredith was pregnant when she wasn’t, a double dose of shitting on their family; Newman blowing up George’s spot with the hat and then George slamming it on his head while Newman whimpers about defending his parking was great; Jerry finally blowing his lid on Mike; The cops arguing over who was right was a nice cap to the episode.

Aaron: I’m only going to talk about the writing here, although there was a ton of good which I’m sure everyone else will mention. There is not a line wasted in this script. Everything that’s said comes back in some way to haunt or help the characters, and it’s brilliant. An offhand remark about George fearing to take his hat off in front of a woman turns into a hilarious scene with Newman. Kramer dropping a bomb regarding Mike calling Jerry a phony becomes Mike being the ultimate phony with his obnoxious laugh and ridiculous use of Ebonics. There’s so much amazing symmetry in the writing as well. Starting with Kramer baiting Jerry and making him beg, every character ends up going through what someone else is having to deal with. Kramer is cold to Elaine and George: Jerry is cold to Mike. Elaine is clearly fed up with George, then she has to work with him on the teenage attack. There’s great lines about the breakdown of society and even Hennigan’s and Sid show up for callbacks. It all culminates in a fantastic scene where no one will go upstairs because they each want someone else to not be there. It’s my favorite written episode of the series so far.

Andrew: The parking spot battle is very relatable, even outside of New York City; we all have strong opinions on parking etiquette. The various bystanders and minor characters weighing in on the dispute really added to the episode. My favorite of those was the return of Sid, and the callback to George’s previous parking misadventures. I enjoyed the bad feelings between Kramer and George and Elaine; I can see both sides of the argument, which is always better.

Jordan: Such a simple premise carrying an entire show is great. I love that they can take things like “George is wearing a hat” and make it a plot point with a payoff. Everyone was on point here with George leading the way. Elaine totally working Jerry in the apartment was fun. Mike is such a jerk, and I like that when he finally gets called out, he tries to explain that phony isn’t a bad thing. Man, that Michael Jordan is so phony is an underrated great line. Sid showing up was fun and Newman proves why people don’t like him by being spineless and changing his mind, then ruining a potential date for George. But Newman wearing the crumpled hat afterwards was awesome.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: It was kind of shitty for Kramer to tell Jerry what Mike said; Jerry suddenly being a big boxing fan is odd; George begging Elaine to lie to Jerry because she is good at it was weird considering the whole series has been about how great a liar George is; The timeline is a bit screwy here as Jerry mentions that the fight starts in 35 minutes but based on the way the light changes outside, the episode lasts much longer than that; The old Irish guy was a real prick.

Aaron: Why can’t Jerry hug Elaine with conviction? They’ve been working together for three years. You can touch her without any of the awkwardness of a sixth grade dance. It was also weird to see Indiana Jones and Pocahontas team up.

Andrew: It’s not totally clear how George messed up Jerry’s car; he hit a pothole because Elaine moved the mirror? Maybe it’s an intentionally poor excuse, to make George look unreasonable, but I’ve always found it more confusing than anything. The transition from day to night when Jerry starts talking to the kid, Matthew, bothers me as well. I get that they’re showing up the passage of time, but it’s weirdly abrupt to change the lighting mid-conversation.

Jordan: I think the woman getting upset with George for not letting Newman try on that was kind of a jerk. George was right to say no….who wants to try on somebody else’s hat? But then, who buys a hat from a flea market? Everyone comments on George’s hat, but nobody seems to mind that Elaine is wearing a Davey Crockett costume? Come on.

Key Character Debuts

– Mike Moffit

– Matthew

– Meredith

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “You should have lived in the twenties and thirties, you know men wore hats all the time then.” – Elaine “What a bald paradise that must have been. Nobody knew.” – George

– “And you know I’m somebody you don’t want to have on your bad side.” – Kramer “Why not?” – Jerry “Because I’m like ice, buddy. When I don’t like you, you’ve got problems.” – Kramer

– Jerry mentions the Vault as a place to keep secrets

– “I told you, he thinks you’re a phony.” – Kramer “A phony? He called me a phony?” – Jerry “A big phony. A big one.” – Kramer

– “Nobody drives like me. Nobody. I’m doing things in this car, you have no idea they’re going on. Wanna see me make a right turn from the left lane?” – George

– “A garage. I can’t even pull in there. It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay, when if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?” – George

– “Hey pal, you’re not getting that space. I mean, I’ll sleep in my car if I have to.” – Mike “I’ll die out here.” – George

– “Hi Mike… Indiana.” – Jerry

– “You’re looking tremendous. What are you on some kind of regimen?” – Mike “Yeah, twenty-five percent bran flakes. The forty percent was too much so I found a store to mix it up special for me, they take it down another fifteen percent.” – Jerry

– “Front first, that’s how you park when you’re pulling a bank job.” – Jerry

– “What? Every time I leave my house now I have to call everybody I know and ask them if they want to do what I’m doing?” – George “People forget. Look at “Home Alone”. They forgot.” – Elaine

-“It was a so-so sorry.” – Jerry

– Sid the Car Parker returns

– “Why is it every time you park a car in this block, everything gets disrupted and disjointed?” – Sid “Sid, it’s completely his fault.” – George “Oh, right.” – Mike “Why don’t you start taking the bus?” – Sid

– “First of all, I think you completely misunderstood what I said. I meant it in a complementary way. I mean, you know when people say, ‘He’s bad’, it really means he’s good, sort of thing? You know, slang.” – Mike “Use it in a sentence.” – Jerry “Man, that Michael Jordan is so phony.” – Mike

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry is a boxing fan and is ready to watch a fight that apparently starts in the middle of the day

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: I love this episode. It is one of my favorites of all time. It is loaded with classic, Hall of Fame level lines and moments and features a slew of funny characters that pop in and out during the argument on the street. Nothing felt wasted or really forced here at all and everyone was true to form. If you can ignore the fact that Jerry is suddenly super in to boxing and that the timeline is a bit screwy, there aren’t many misses here at all. Bitter Kramer was a ton of fun and I absolutely love the scene at the end where Newman is begging to wear George’s hat. “Michael Jordan is so phony” is such a great line too. Tons of stuff to love here and this really was a great bounce back after a couple of shaky outings. I am probably overrating this one a bit, but it has always been one of my favorites. Final Grade: 9/10

Aaron: Stellar performances across the board and great writing always work for me. I could go on and on about Elaine’s lying or Newman nearly walking away with scenes, but instead I’m just going to channel Serpentor and say “Watch this episode. This I command!” Final Grade: 8/1HHOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNK

Andrew: This episode is another personal favorite of mine. I love that it all revolves around a parking spot, something that is simultaneously trivial, and a matter of life and death. There’s a good flow to the dialogue, as well, with characters dropping in and out of conversations, and lots of callback lines. This was a fun watch all around. Final Grade: 8/10

Jordan: Really good stuff here. I will echo what Aaron and Justin have both said: Nothing is wasted. Everything that’s said pays off somehow, and even the wardrobe choices play a part in the episode. Jerry simply greeting George with “Indiana.” is such a great moment because it’s such a jerky thing, but also something only a friend would do to another friend. It’s funny, because I get this episode confused with the one where they park in the handicap spot based on the episode title, so I was half expecting to watch that one. Glad I got this one instead. Final Grade: 8/10

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.