Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Pilot” (S4, E23/24)

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!


Best Character

JT: Quite a few choices here. George was really good with his cancer scare and assumption that God will strike him down due to success. Kramer and his wild ride was very entertaining and cringing to watch at times. Jerry kept the episode moving, playing the straw to stir the drink well throughout. But, my hands down favorite here was easily Tom Pepper. He played an awesome Kramer. He stole raisins. He threatened to kill George. He blew off Kramer. He was a force of nature and I kind of wish he stuck around as a foil to the K-Man in future episodes.

Aaron: This one is really the sum of all the parts, and while I really enjoyed Jeremy Piven as Michael Barth he just isn’t in the episode enough to take this one, so I’ll go with Kramer. I love the childlike glee when he gets to audition for himself, and the way he butchers his lines before nearly shitting his pants is magical. I also love that he makes the effort to meet with Tom to help his navigate the minefield that is Kramer. Tom doesn’t give a shit though. About Kramer, about the raisins, about anything.

Andrew: I’ll go with Kramer once again. If you had asked me before today to imagine an actor playing “constipated”, I’m not sure what I would have pictured, but I guarantee it would not have been as funny as Kramer’s subdued entrance to Jerry’s apartment. He really nails the discomfort and apprehension of that undignified condition. I also found his intentionally bad acting to be better than Jerry’s.

Jordan: I’m tempted to give it to Michael Blarth. He’s so great as a guy playing George Costanza. But he’s really not in it enough for me to justify it, so I’ll hand it to the guy he’s pretending to be – George. From being convinced he will die rather than be a success, to obsessing over fake Kramer stealing raisins, George brings the goods. I like that he hated Michael Blarth, even though the guy was perfect for the role.

Best Storyline

JT: The Pilot, easily. I loved the auditions, the fallout from the casting, the actors chosen, the meta jokes and the final sequence of scenes with all of the random characters from the season reacting to the show capped the season beautifully. I am really glad they did this season long story and paid it off so well. Experiment successful!

Aaron: I loved everything about casting and filming the pilot. It’s exactly what a lot of casting calls are, and the eccentricities of the actors, while a joy to watch standing on the outside of the production, no doubt torture and destroy Jerry and George until they are reduced to a quivering mass, questioning why they haven’t ceased to exist. Actors are the worst. Also George is right on the emphasis on “they fooled me,” sure Tom doesn’t want to hear it, but unless you’re making a direct contrast the pronoun is rarely the emphasis.

Andrew: I think it has to be “The Pilot” storyline. There’s lots of funny stuff going on with the casting and production, and I enjoy the meta-joke with the executives saying that Jerry can’t act. I also like seeing George tormented by a fear of success, and I totally identify with him only believing in God “for the bad things”. Most importantly, the airing of the pilot lets us revisit many of the characters from previous episodes. What a great way to reflect back and wrap up an excellent season.

Jordan: The title of the episode is “The Pilot”, and it’s the best thing about it. Russell vying for Elaine’s love is interesting, but even that ties in with the main story. The casting scene is a lot of fun, George playing director to Kramer is nice, and the pilot airing while showing us all the guest stars of the past offering their thoughts is a really fun bit. I wasn’t a huge fan of the end with NBC passing, but it’s not enough for me to get angry with it or anything.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should you prevent your friend from dating your butler just because he is YOUR butler? Get the hell out of here, Jerome. Let Elaine date the man. As long as it doesn’t affect his performance or lead to additional use of Pledge, I say live and let live.

Aaron: I’m not sure who decreed it as such, but I’d really like to get my hands on the people who decided that sweatpants are not acceptable in society any more. I loathe Jerry for accusing George of giving up on life. Can’t a guy be comfortable? We wear all sorts of stupid shit from cravats to hats with fucking feathers, but the second a man chooses the safety of a pair of jogging pants HE’S the outcast. Do you know how much more productive we’d be if we weren’t at the mercy of the tyrannical fashion industry? We went to the fucking moon! You don’t think we’d at least be to Neptune by now if we weren’t forced to adjust out ties/crotches every thirty seconds? Women get to wear comfy dresses, Scotsmen get to wear kilts and bats get to do whatever they want. When is it our turn?

Andrew: Do Jerry and George have any right to be mad at Elaine for Russell’s disappearance? What was she supposed to do, sleep with the guy until the series got picked up? If anything, I think they’d be mad at him for stalking their friend and turning out to be a nutjob. I’m really starting to wonder about the moral integrity of these two.

Jordan: Who is worse – the one who takes a box of raisins, or the one who refuses to let it drop? George didn’t even BUY the raisins, they were purchased by NBC. I feel like Tom Pepper was right to be annoyed by George. Drop it Costanza, they’re raisins. Who even likes them?

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: I feel like there could have been something between George and Tom Pepper. There was a lot of tension and a dominant Tom just demeaning and shouting down the reverent George could have led to romance, or at least lust, at some point. Relationship Grade: Raisins/10

Aaron: Jerry you don’t bang your co-star/employee right out of the gate. Especially when she is obviously insane. Also you should have known she was insane as she’s an actress. You’re better than that. Relationship Grade: 2/10

Andrew: I rarely have anything positive to say here, but this episode is especially weak in the relationship category. Jerry gets stuck in a one-sided relationship with the method actor playing his ex, which is somehow even less appealing than it sounds. But even that is preferable to being harassed by an unhinged Russell. Relationship Grade: DUD

Jordan: Real Jerry and Real Elaine have great flirty chemistry, but we’ve seen in the past that the flirting stage is their peak. Once they date, things go south real quick. So it makes sense that Real Jerry and Faux Elaine is kind of a lame attempt at romance. I did like Jerry explaining how Elaine eats spaghetti though. Relationship Grade: Faux/10

What Worked:

JT: Kramer’s never ending quest to star in the pilot is fun; This is a super meta episode, between the constant bagging on Jerry’s acting and comedy style through the actors cast in the pilot, it was cool seeing them poke at themselves so much; George being nervous about success and his whole cancer scare was perfect George booking; I also enjoy the psychiatrist continuing to torture his psyche; Nice Joe Davola callbacks here, squeezing him in throughout one last episode with the great payoff at the end where he tried to assault Jerry; The pantomiming NBC exec was great; The parade of Kramer entrances was funny; Tom Pepper stealing the raisins is one of my all time favorite random Seinfeld moments, as was Kramer showing up as Martin Van Nostrand and bombing the tryout; George’s doctor is the worst possible choice of a doctor for somebody like him; Jerry’s “He’s a little backed up” cracks me up every time; Sandi becoming Elaine in real life was a nice touch, as was Kramer trying to teach Tom how to be him and Tom just shutting him down; The Haagen-Dazs discussion in the pilot is a good one and I dig George annoying the shit out of everyone on the set; Poor Russell, his swift downfall and complete meltdown mirrors Susan’s demise and we see that the damage this crew wreaked on NBC’s comedy department was not pretty; I love how George’s raisin inquisition with Tom led to another observation about his discolored lip; Poor Kramer has to miss the pilot filming to stay “close to home base”; Kramer’s enema celebration was well earned; Elaine finding Morty’s wallet was a great callback; I have always enjoyed the pilot itself, along with all of the random people from the season watching it at home; John Ritter’s cousin is so randomly great; Sal Bass and Sidra was awesome and enjoyed Newman passed out with baseball on instead of the pilot; It was fitting that Russell went insane because of Elaine, causing the show to get cancelled, when flaunting Elaine in front of him was what got them back in the game, perfect way to wrap things up; Of course I feel bad he probably died, but what can you do

Aaron: I love the touch of Michael auditioning for George wearing jogging pants, completely in a vacuum from the conversation that happened earlier. It’s the little touches like that that make the show truly great. George also revisits double dipping under the watchful eye of “Kramer.” He’s speaking for all of us when he threatens to tear Costanza’s heart out of his chest. Elaine’s cruel dismissal of Russell is great as is her not having any of Jerry’s Eskimo jokes. The self-referential nature of Jerry being a horrible actor almost went too far and veered into “didn’t work” territory, but there was definitely something charming about his giving Kramer acting tips to start the show. The cameos are fantastic as they bring back everyone from season four watching the pilot culminating with Newman sleeping with the ball game on, perhaps defiantly not watching or blissfully unaware, we get to decide. It’s amazing looking back now how many iconic moments came from this season. Of course I LOVED Larry David on the boat at the end first instructing Russell to get down because they were about to shoot and finally saying goodbye and promising to find Elaine for him. “Sic Semper Tyranus,” is not something you’d every expect to hear outside of a bastardized version of Julius Caesar, but it works here as Joe Davola presumably lands hard on the ground breaking both his legs as well as his will to live.

Andrew: I’ve said some unkind things about Russell so far, but I should mention that his breakdown over the course of the episode is quite funny, having him repeat the “show about nothing” pitch was a nice touch, and I enjoyed the downer ending of his disappearance. I found the network executives entertaining in general, especially the really dumb one who just repeats things other people say. This is another strong guest starring cast, with a pre-hair-restoration Ari Gold and pre-SVU Olivia Benson. The fake Kramer has always been one of my favorite parts of this storyline, and it still holds up, especially the scene where the real Kramer is giving him character background. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but the goofy studio music made me laugh. Elaine’s wig game is really impressive (I’m still trying to figure out how she got all that hair underneath it), which makes it that much funnier when an old camp buddy recognizes her immediately. George is really good in this one, with the aforementioned fear of success, the obsession with the missing raisins, and the scene where he decides to mend the fences with fake Kramer. Most of all, I like the way this episode wraps up the season, with Jerry finding his father’s wallet right before a montage of characters from previous episodes watching the pilot.

Jordan: Again, the entire casting scene was great. Mariska Hargitay auditioning for Elaine is a bit jarring, as I’m half expecting her to request a few dozen rape kits and call in Ice T, but I mean all of that in a good way. Tom Pepper and Michael Barth are great as Kramer and George in the pilot episode. Russell talking about the show was pretty good, and I am never one to complain about a flashback to Elaine’s cleavage. Jerry and Kramer fake laughing was funny, and George immediately calling them on it is good. Speaking of George, I liked him flipping out on his psychiatrist for mentioning the skin discoloration, calling her a sadist. Joe Davola randomly washing a car window and wishing Jerry good luck was super creepy, as it should be. Kramer telling Tom Pepper how to be him was a fun conversation. I loved that Jerry found his dad’s wallet at the end.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Was it written in the script that Kramer enters rooms in a maniacal way or how else would these potential K-Man know to come in the room that way; Kramer running and looking for bathrooms was clearly a stunt double and took me out of the season; The big boobed waitress angle had some good moments and I believe was a take on a real story in the news at the time, but it felt really shoehorned in to keep Elaine busy in this episode and didn’t totally click; Elaine referencing her female friends is random since it is pretty well established she doesn’t have any throughout the majority of the show’s run; Elaine’s interview shirt isn’t much worse than most of her clothing choices honestly; I want to punch the idiot who says “Yeah he flies a plane” when the studio host asked what a pilot was

Aaron: I didn’t care for the sub-plots at all in this one. I like the idea of George not being allowed to be successful, but it just didn’t click for me. Elaine vs. the large breasted women of New York was also kind of a waste for me. I’d even go as far to say that Elaine’s story is a little sloppy in its execution, the owner WAS looking for someone else and clearly looked her up and down before rejecting her. Why do that if they payoff is that all the waitresses are his daughters? I hate lines that are OBVIOUSLY exposition. “So what’s happening here? We film this thing then it airs next week,” has no context and isn’t even properly responded to. Just weak writing there. My big gripe is the pilot itself, and it’s not just the awful intro music they chose. It’s terrible. It’s also strange because Jerry looks and feels right but everyone else is much weaker that the people who usually play the roles/people. This is what Seinfeld would look like if Jerry was the best actor in the show. It doesn’t look good. It’s no surprise it wasn’t picked up. I almost wish they had built a pilot that wasn’t so close to the actual show.

Andrew: Kramer running around looking for a bathroom didn’t work for me. I think we all know the pain of having an urgent need without a friendly bathroom in the area, but seeing him run to various buildings didn’t really get that across, and just wasn’t that funny. There was also a joke where George immediately goes to the bathroom after hearing Kramer talk about “missing his chance”, which I find very funny in theory, but did not land at all in the episode.

Jordan: I’ll echo Andrew’s sentiments on Kramer’s bathroom escapades. It just felt like it was shoehorned in there, and fell very flat. If they wanted to give Kramer more time, have him hanging with Tom Pepper some more. I normally love Larry David appearances, but I thought his role as the Greenpeace guy was pretty lame.

Key Character Debuts

– Michael Barth a/k/a “George”

– Sandi Robbins a/k/a “Elaine”

– Tom Pepper a/k/a “Kramer”

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “We have one with a bright young comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.” – Russell “Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ve heard of him. He’s that “Did you ever notice this? Did you ever notice that?” guy.” – Elaine

– “Again with the sweat pants?” – Jerry “What? I’m comfortable.” – George “You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world: “I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.”” – Jerry

– “What are you like a sadist? No matter how bad somebody feels, you can make ’em feel worse. I bet you’re rooting for a tumor.” – George

– “Yeah. What are we looking at here? Is this guy like a real loser?” – Michael

– “It’s like a bald convention out there! (she saw George) Sorry. I, uh, made a faux pas.” – Melissa “No you didn’t. He knows he’s bald.” – Jerry “So how about that guy wearing sweat pants? I mean did he do that for the part or does he walk around like that?” – Melissa

– “She’s an eskimo, actually.” – Jerry “Oh, my God…” – Elaine “She came down from Juno by sleigh, she was in the Iditarod. Got to the finish line, just kept going. She’s got the dogs with her in the hotel room.” – Jerry

– “I haven’t seen four women like this together outside of a Russ Meyer film.” – Jerry

– “Hey that’s life. Good-looking men have the same advantages. You don’t see any handsome homeless.” – Jerry

– “Cancer? Is it cancer? Do I have cancer?” – George “Well I don’t know what it is.” – Doctor

– “How could you be a doctor and not say “get outta here”? It should be part of the training at medical school: “Cancer? Get outta here!” “Go home! What are you crazy? It’s a little test. It’s nothing. You’re a real nut. You know that?” I told you that God would never let me be successful. I never should’ve written that pilot. Now the show will be a big hit, we’ll make millions of dollars, and I’ll be dead. Dead Jerry. Because of this.” – George

– “Can’t you at least die with a little dignity?” – Jerry “No I can’t. I can’t die with dignity. I have no dignity. I want to be the one person who doesn’t die with dignity. I live my whole life in shame. Why should I die with dignity?” – George

– “Well, she’s fascinated with Greenland. She enjoys teasing animals, banlon, and seeing people running for their lives. She loves throwing garbage out the window, yet she’s extremely dainty.” – Jerry

– “She likes talking during sex.” – Jerry “Oh… dirty talking?” – Sandi “No. Just chitchat, movies, current events, regular stuff.” – Jerry

– “Now sex, I like the bottom. Let them do all the work.” – Kramer

– “Let me give you a word of advice. O.K.? I want you to stay away from me. I don’t wanna talk to you, and I don’t wanna hear anymore of your stupid little notes and suggestions. I don’t like you. So if you got any other problems whether it’s raisins, prunes, figs, or any other dried fruit, just keep it to yourself and stay out of my way, O.K.?” – Tom Pepper

– “I tried bran– 40%, 50% 100%. The bran isn’t working for me.” – Kramer

– “Well my friend, it may be time to consider the dreaded apparatus.” – Jerry “Pfft! Hold it right there. If you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, you’re wasting your time. I am not Jerry, under any circumstances, doing any inserting in that area.” – Kramer “Oh, it’s not that bad!” – Jerry “Yes it is.” – George

– “This is George Costanza, I’m calling for my test results. Negative? Oh, my God. WHY! WHY! WHY? What? What? Negative is good? Oh, yes of course! How stupid of me. Thank you. Thank you very much.” – George

– “Listen. I know we’ve had our problems in the past, but we got a show to do tonight. Time to pull together as a team. Life’s too short. I say, let’s let bygones be bygones. If you took the raisins, if you didn’t take the raisins– They weren’t even my raisins. I was just curious because it seems like a strange to do to walk into a room, audition, and to walk out with a box of raisins. Anyway, whatever. If you ever want to tell me about it, the door to my office is always opened. In the event that I get an office. You’ll come in, we’ll talk about the raisins. We’ll have a nice laugh.” – George “How would you like it if I just pulled your heart out of your chest right now, and shoved it down your throat?” – Tom

– “It’s what John Wilkes Booth yelled out when he shot Lincoln.” – Jerry “Really? What does it mean?” – George “It means: “Death to tyrants”.” – George

– “You went for the big “E”.” “Wet and wild.” – Kramer

– “Ah, that Jerry’s a funny guy. Huh? Got to love the Sein!” – The Drake “Hate the Sein!” – Allison

– “You know Jerry I really like this guy who’s playing the butler.” – Elaine “Oh yeah. He’s good. You know he’s John Ritter’s cousin.” – Jerry

– “How could anyone not like him?” – Helen

– “I didn’t know that he’d fall for me and I’d drive him insane. I mean, you know, that’s not my fault.” – Elaine “Yes it is! You’re very charming!” – George

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Future TV and movie star Jeremy Piven portrays George in the pilot

– Elaine’s favorite movie is Shaft, according to Jerry

– Larry David portrays one of the Greenpeace members

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I really loved this season. It was loaded with tremendously memorable episodes, characters and moments and was the season that saw the show move from “really damn funny, you should watch this” to “everyone is talking about Seinfeld at work or school the next day” status. This episode was well written and paid off multiple stories from throughout the season, right down to Morty’s wallet from the early episodes. Seeing Sal Bass trying to find out about Sidra’s breasts still has me laughing. Tom Pepper was awesome too, and even if the rest of the episode had stunk, he easily could have carried it, as I thought he was that good. I am glad they tried the experiment of having the whole season center around an ongoing story because it worked well and was mixed in with just enough random one-off installments as well. Season four is in the books and now we look to see if they can ride the momentum to greater heights or crumble under the pressure of the heightened expectations of a breakout season. Final Grade: 8/10

Aaron: I was expecting to like this one way more. I liked almost everything to do with the pilot until we actually got to see it, and then it turned me right off. Couple that with what I feel are two weak sub-plots and this one just doesn’t cut it. It’s strange because I liked a lot of the performances, I guess I just feel they leaned a little too heavily on the novelty of them doing a show about themselves. It certainly wasn’t bed, but it was far from the classic I remembered. Final Grade:6/10 

Andrew: Over the course of this rewatch, I’ve been amazed at how many great episodes there are in this season. I’d always heard that this was the breakout year for the show, but I don’t think I appreciated until now just how good it was, and seeing all those characters I’ve enjoyed writing about over the last weeks show up in the finale really drove that point home. This isn’t one of my favorite episodes, and I have some quibbles, but why bother? It resolves the season-long pilot story and provides an excellent wrap-up to Seinfeld’s best season thus far. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: Season 4 definitely ends on a positive note. It’s interesting that a show about nothing had a recurring plot line throughout the entire season in the pilot, and it all pays off here. I could nitpick about some things like Kramer not being able to poop, but just about everything else works. The casting of the pilot was spot on, and Jerry’s acting is bad in the show just like it is in….well, the show. Russell is written off in an interesting way, and I don’t really know if I liked it or hated it, but it was at least memorable. One last time, everyone who had guest spots on the season watching the episode was really well done.  Final Grade: 9/10