Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Serenity Now” (S9, E3)

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!

 

Best Character

JT: Some strong work across the board here but Kramer was next level. Watching him descend from happy-go-lucky Uncle Sam from Anytown, USA into a robotic madman was a joy. Every little movement, piece of dialogue and facial expression was geared toward showing him crumbling from the inside. It was an inspired performance that wonderfully blended physical comedy and dialogue as only the K-Man can.

Aaron: Obviously it’s the Costanzas in a landslide. Estelle gave most of her lines from off screen but still managed to scream her way into our hearts. From the moment they began arguing over the mechanism of car seats I knew we were in for a treat. SERENITY NOW!

Andrew: This is not what I was expecting to say before watching the episode, but I think it was Kramer. He had the funniest moments throughout: laughing at Jerry’s angry outburst, sitting in a lawn chair with a sparkler and vacant stare, and a pitch-perfect portrayal of “Serenity Now”’s impending failure. I’m not a huge fan of the screen door storyline, but he really nailed the performance in this one.

Jordan: Finally. See, when we started this thing the week after Seinfeld officially aired it’s last episode, I had this idea that anytime Frank was on screen, I was giving him best character. In my mind, he’s just so stinking good. But Frank has been around a lot, and I keep finding reasons to not pick him, though I may have given him the nod here or there. But this one – this is what I had in mind for Frank all along. Whenever he’s on screen, he commands it. I just want to see Frank more and more and more. It’s Frank, and it’s not even a little bit close for me.

Jason: There’s a lot of choices here, but the K-Man gets the duke. He went full monty with the Anytown USA stuff. The bbq, the plants, the fireworks, the wind chimes. In addition, his physical comedy was peak Kramer. Watching him fall apart from the inside after starting the serenity now was done perfectly.

Best Storyline

JT: The computer stuff brought a lot of laughs, especially at the end when it was revealed that Lloyd Braun’s phone was never even plugged in, but Kramer’s apartment-to-colonial conversion brought the most consistent laughs. The scene with the hose was tremendous as was him withering away into a mumbling zombie at the end. The payoff was really good too when he blows up and destroys the computer inventory and then just tells George that he owes him one.

Aaron: Since I can’t vote Frank and Estelle working their way towards a murder/suicide I’ll go with Jerry and his feelings. I think the image of Jerry proposing to Elaine, her mouth stuffed with banana while George runs in scheming might be a perfect snapshot of the series.

Andrew: It’s the Serenity Now stuff, I think. The plot itself isn’t all that special, but the repetition really does make it funnier, and the performances were all top notch. Frank remains the best, Kramer is right there with him in this one, and Lloyd Braun was excellent in his handful of scenes.

Jordan: Frank selling computers and rubbing it in George’s face that Lloyd Braun is a better salesman, and thus THE SON HE ALWAYS WANTED is good enough as it is. But then you get the twist ending where Lloyd is just a nutjob and his phone was never even plugged in. They came out firing with this one!

Jason: The stuff with Elaine and the Lippman boys had its moments and the Costanza & Son and Lloyd fiasco brought on lots of laughs, especially with Estelle yelling from the house into the garage. Jerry’s man streak and gentle sobbing was fun to watch unfold. However, Anytown USA takes this category too. Along with his sweet setup, his feud with the neighborhood kids and his downward spiral were the highlight of this stacked episode.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: I don’t think Elaine should have stood for Mr. Lippman aggressively kissing her on the couch. Seems a bit wrong.

Aaron: The Lippmans committed sexual assault by today’s standard right? Man if a character did that today and then screamed I’M A MAN they’d be ravaged on social media as quickly as you can say Wolf Blitzer may be a flawed man. How is there no repercussion for the son shoving his tongue down a grown woman’s throat. That being said I may throw away a life of religion for the sweet embrace of miss Benes. Also who the hell gives away opening night tickets to the Knicks without even TALKING to the person allegedly going?

Andrew: If your friend suddenly becomes open and honest about his emotions, is it OK to make fun of him? I’m OK with it. Who has time to deal with all that?

Jordan: All the guys sexually assaulting Elaine pops to mind, but I think Mr. Lippman is worse because he’s horning in on his son’s interests. Come on man, he’s only been a man for a few days and you’re already stealing his woman!

Jason: Should you kiss the same woman as your 14 year old son? Ewwwww, gross! Shame on you, Lippman.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Aunt Becky really threw Jerry for a loop but I can’t blame him for falling for her. She still had it going on at this point. Elaine should have had a taboo relationship with Lippman’s kid. He would treat her right. Relationship Grade: Salty Discharge/10

Aaron: Patty opened Endora’s box and paid for it. Shame. Good body. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Andrew: Like Jerry, I would also consider changing my entire personality for Lori Loughlin. Relationship Grade: I’m a man!/10

Jordan: I feel like we missed a huge joke here by Jerry not forming a band called Jerry and The Rippers while dating Patty. Relationship Grade: Have mercy!/10

Jason: Man, Jerry struck gold with Patty. Even post- Aunt Becky era she’s still a smoke show. Elaine having a threesome with Lippman and the Rabbi as Adam and his little Jew buddies play Boggle was money left on the table for not happening. Relationship Grade: 1% Of My Ass/10

What Worked:

JT: The opening scene in the Costanza car was amazing; Jerry trying to yell at Kramer and coming off as practicing a new bit was funny; Kramer calling Queens “the country” was funny as was him tearing the screen door off the hinges; “That girl from the bus” is an all time favorite quote of mine; Great random cameo from the Rabbi at the bar mitzvah and a nice callback with George and Lloyd’s never ending war; Estelle consistency screaming from inside the house was great, as was Lloyd’s smile after ringing the bell; George screaming at the guy about buying a computer was tremendous; Kramer sitting with the sparkler and getting cut off by Elaine closing the door is so good; Jerry not knowing what tears are; The hoochie mama hose scene was so well done; Another great callback with George calling “Mr. Vandelay”; Kramer snapping and destroying the computers was a nice payoff, and was set up well with why the computers were in his apartment to being with; I also loves Kramer telling George that he owes him one; George scaring Jerry straight was well done too;

Aaron: Every line of dialogue that is screamed by an octogenarian. Frank’s story about seeing a provocative movie called the Net with the girl from the bus is just flawless. The cool evening breeze of anytown USA was sublime until the all out assault of the neighborhood hooligans. (Which I also enjoyed). Both Lippmans renouncing their Judaism was fun. The stand out moment though was Elaine summing up Mr. Lippman as having several careers of varying success. She was also wonderful decrying anyone an idiot who wanted her and Jerry to get back together. Finally the sales competition was solid as hell. George obsessively trying to win a contest against a crazy Lloyd Braun made for a great subplot. Frank’s an idiot though. Lloyd was not even speaking into the phone before announcing his sales. George trying to sell his friend on a PC by peddling porn was also a nice touch.

Andrew: Frank is so good. The “very provocative movie” line is a classic, but even the way he delivers a “shuddup” is perfect. This isn’t my favorite writing as far as the plot goes, but there are some fantastic lines: the “salty discharge”, the “girl from The Bus”, “every able-bodied Israelite in the county is driving pretty strong to the hoop”. And the performances add a lot too, especially Kramer going down under a hail of silly string, and Elaine pretending to hear George to get away from Jerry.

Jordan: I could see someone making a case that both Frank and Estelle overdo it with their deliveries – but it’s all great for me. When the show ended, these were the two I wanted a spin off for. I would never get tired of them shouting at each other, slowly creeping toward rage induced murder. It’s just so good. Haven’t discussed it yet, but Kramer’s whole screen door and sitting in the hallway is one of those storylines that sounds really stupid when typed out, but Michael Richards pulls it off, and I don’t know who else could. The Lippmans giving up their entire faith for Elaine was funny, AND INSPIRATIONAL. I may have to do the same! Frank’s lines about The Net too.

Jason: Estelle and Frank bickering in the car over the seat; George being cool and under control, Kramer ot falling for Jerry’s rage, referring to Queens as “the country” and Ripping the screen door of the hinges; “that girl from the bus”; “I’m a man!”; Jerry describing George and Frank in the garage as a steel cage death match; the cool evening breeze of Anytown USA; Frank not reading Lloyd’s resume; that fucking Waterpik; George’s scheme to but all the computers in order to beat Lloyd; Jerry’s salty discharge; porn and quotes; HOOCHIE-MAMA; shiksa appeal; Jerry’s proposal; George calling Mr. Vandelay; serenity now being a hoax; “serenity now, insanity later”; the new Jerry not working there anymore; Lloyd’s phone never being plugged in; Estelle plowing the car through the garage

What Didn’t Work

JT: How much money did Frank spend buying computers? That shit was expensive in 1997; I wasn’t a fan of Lippman basically assaulting Elaine, that felt a bit much, he could’ve just asked her out like the Rabbi

Aaron: I HATED that Jerry didn’t know what tears were. I mean I can stretch believability but enough is enough here.

Andrew: What is the deal with this pop-up mail-order computer business? Was that a thing in the 90s, like selling Mary Kay? They’re not even all the same brand. Where did Frank find the time to learn computer repair and soldering while starting a business?

Jordan: I can excuse it since it brought laughs, but selling computers out of a garage over the phone is a really weird scheme, and doesn’t feel like something Frank Costanza would be wanting to do. I feel like he’d still be using a typewriter today.

Jason: George sure moved that hand truck of computers around rather easy. Man, a computer in the 90s was not light.

Key Character Debuts

Patty

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Serenity Now” becomes a pop culture catchphrase

– “There’s a mechanism. You just pull it, and throw your body weight.” – Frank “I pulled it. It doesn’t go.” – Estelle “If you want the leg room, say you want the leg room! Don’t blame the mechanism!” – Frank “All right, Dad, we’re five blocks from the house. Sit sideways.” – George “Like an animal. Because of her, I have to sit here like an animal!” – Frank

– “Hey, any of you guys want to come out and help me fix my father’s screen door in Queens?” – George “Sorry, I’m fixing a screen door in the Bronx.” – Jerry “I’ll do it.” – Kramer “Really? You wanna come?” – George “Yeah, I love going to the country.” – Kramer

– “Two months ago, I saw a provocative movie on cable TV. It was called The Net, with that girl from the bus. I did a little reading, and I realize, it wasn’t that farfetched.” – Frank “Dad, you know what it takes to compete with Microsoft and IBM?” – George “Yes, I do. That’s why I got a secret weapon… my son.” – Frank

– “I’m open, there’s just nothing in there.” – Jerry

– “The cool evening breezes of Anytown, USA. Let’s see how this baby closes.” – Kramer

– “Your mother recommended him.” – Frank “Yeah, of course she did. That’s all I ever heard growing up is ‘Why can’t you be more like Lloyd Braun?’ Did you know he was in a mental institution?” – George “I didn’t read his resume.” – Frank

– “Jerry, you break up with a girl every week.” – Elaine “What–what is this salty discharge?” – Jerry “Oh my God. You’re crying.” – Elaine “This is horrible! I care!” – Jerry

– “Simple. You let out one emotion, all the rest will come with it. It’s like Endora’s box.” – Kramer “That was the mother on Bewitched. You mean Pandora. – Jerry “Yeah, well, she… had one, too.” – Kramer

– “Well, I got just the thing to cheer you up. A computer! Huh? We can check porn, and stock quotes.” – George

– “Jerry, I’ve found a way to beat Lloyd Braun! I buy the computers myself, I store ’em in your apartment. Then, after I win the contest, I bring ’em all back and get my money back. Ha ha! It’s brilliant. What? What’s wrong with your leg?” – George

– “You know, all these years, I’ve always wanted to see the two of you get back together.” – George “Well, that’s because you’re an idiot.” – Elaine

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Patty is portrayed by Full House star Lori Loughlin

– The Rabbi from Season 7 makes a cameo at Mr. Lippman’s son’s bar mitzvah and later meets with Elaine

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This is another great episode. Season 9 has been amazing so far. Kramer’s whole story arc was masterful and everything tied together so seamlessly across the board. I was really impressed with how they got George’s computers into Kramer’s apartment in such an organic way. Jerry becoming sensitive and having no idea how to harness it was good too and a unique storyline for him, at least since he converted from whiny Jerry half a decade ago. The computer stuff was carried by Frank and George, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They were awesome together as always. Elaine’s D storyline was fine enough too and had some laughs. I also loved all the callbacks here, right down to the end when George says he always hoped Elaine and Jerry would get back together. We are at a point where these characters are so developed and the actors are so comfortable that magic can happen in even the most bizarre storylines. Serenity now. Insanity later. Final Grade: 9/10

Aaron: Solid fun episode plus screaming Costanzas always make it a winner for me. SERENTITY NOW!!! Final Grade: 8/10

Andrew: Putting this episode up against the rest of the series, the unreality of the plot is what jumps out the most. Frank starting a mail-order computer business, Kramer turning the hallway into a front porch, Lippman’s son renouncing religion because an older woman won’t go out with him: it all comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny. It feels like the show is on auto-pilot, as far as ideas and writing go. That said, I laughed quite a bit watching it, and that counts for a lot. Final Grade: 8/10

Jordan: A really good one in terms of laughs that I just can’t give a perfect score for because it is a bit of a stretch in some places. Frank selling computers just doesn’t seem right to me at all, I really think he’s a guy who still wouldn’t know what a computer is today in 2017. The guy wears shoes in the pool. Also, Jerry’s emotions didn’t do a ton for me, and him not knowing what crying was is kind of dumb. At the very least, when he puked up the black and white cookie, his eyes would have watered. Still, this one gets by on the strength of the cast and 8+ seasons of depth.Final Grade: 8/10

Jason: This episode always does it for me. We get the iconic title plot catchphrase, the return of Lippman and Lloyd, Aunt Becky and Anytown USA. Kramer brought an unforgettable performance with some brilliant physical comedy. It’s always a treat when the George and Lloyd feud makes an appearance. Jerry going full circle with his moods was a lot of fun too. Spoiler alert: the five of us here are chipping in to get Dan McGinn  Boggle as a wedding gift. 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.