Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Smelly Car” (S4, E22)

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: I liked Jerry the best here just for his ongoing pain and descriptions of the BO beast. Plus, anyone that berates a customer service representative into reparations is aces in my book. Elaine, Kramer and George were all strong in support, but this was a Jerome fueled episode all the way.

Aaron: Maybe it’s because he’s always wanted to deal with a Superman type crisis, but Jerry is excellent in this one. The callous manner in which he helps Elaine deal with her rejection is wonderful but it’s his taunting/inviting of the thug to steal his car that puts it over the top for me. Great body language from a man clearly uncomfortable with his body.

Andrew: You could easily make the case for any of the mains in this episode, but I like Kramer the most. He continues to shine even when he’s not the focus of the story. I loved the Steinbrenner rant, and he has the best line readings of the episode with “You stink” and “I’m Kramer”. And imagine the animal magnetism required to attract a woman with no sexual interest in men. He lifts my spirit.

Jordan: Tough call, but I’m going with Jerry. I’ve been hard on poor Jerome lately, as I thought his acting has been pretty bad. This one was much better  -it seems he’s more passable when his character just calls for contempt and derisive attitude. He does a good job here, as he’s perpetually annoyed throughout the episode by the smell of the car.

Best Storyline

Justin: The smelly car. Its pungency dominated the entire episode, lingering in the air and affecting everyone along the way. They get the idea of the beast so over that you can almost smell it as the episode goes along. Plus, I love me some customer service victories, so Jerry beating down the restaurant manager was right up my alley. Stink. Stank. Stunk.

Aaron: I enjoy George’s quest to see if he’s driven Susan to her lesbianism. It’s all set against the backdrop of a Rochelle Rochelle callback and it all clicks. He NEEDS to know if he’s driving women to other women, and by the end of the episode the question is no longer if, but how many.

Andrew: The Smelly Car is gold. The horror movie language Jerry uses to describe the smell works so well because this storyline taps into a deep-seated fear: being judged for an odor that isn’t even your own. Plus, I never get tired of seeing the actors react to the B.O.

Jordan: The smelly car. Much like the classic horror movie “The Fog”, it permeates everyone who comes in contact with it The stench envelopes Jerry and poor Elaine, and even George is no match for it. Also I’ve never seen “The Fog” and I have no clue what that movie is about. But really, I did like Jerry’s quest to get rid of the smell with zero success.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Jerry is kind of a selfish dick for having George drive in his car when he knows what could happen with the BO. He should have given full disclosure right off the bat that George may not be able to shake the stink off him. George should make him pay for any and all cleansing that is needed.

Aaron: At what point do the questions about a gay/lesbian lifestyle become too insensitive to ask? Did George really need to know who leads a lesbian dance party? Did he need to know right after he was absolved of turning Susan. I think George crosses a line here demanding answers from his ex when he’s selfishly summoned her to a video store. I’ve always wondered if gay men have an easier time pooping, but I’m not pressing them for answers in line at the hairdresser.

Andrew: Is it OK to break up with someone because they stink? Absolutely. What kind of idiot comes up with these questions?

Jordan: This is an outdated dilemma that hopefully no one ever has to deal with anymore – but why DID video stores charge so much for lost movies back in the day? Nearly $100 for a copy of Rochelle, Rochelle? It’s a skin flick and I guarantee they had 15 copies of it! It’s a scam, I’m telling you! A scam!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Kramer and the Yankees. A true love/hate relationship that is filled with passion. At the time, the Yankees seemingly could never get out of their own way, trading away promising young stars while looking for that instant fix. That is life as a sports fan. You care so much that it can ruin your day when it all goes wrong. But when it goes right…oh, and the lesbian conversion. That too. Relationship Grade: SPORTS & LESBIANS/10

Aaron: Kramer and Mona should have made it. He IS Kramer. Relationship Grade: I’m Kramer.

Andrew: Elaine is so far out of Carl’s league. Which works great for the story, as the attractiveness gap only adds to poor Elaine’s humiliation, and the smell must have been truly horrific for Carl to turn her down. But there’s nothing to get excited about here. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Jordan: Mona and Carol seemed very happy together. Holding hands as they stroll through a video store, perfectly content in life. And then – KRAMER. Mona’s world is shattered. She’s never been with a man, but she’s also never known THIS man. She begins to question her most base desires. Does she dare trade in the safety of a vest wearing, beautiful, wealthy former NBC executive in Susan for a wild, unkempt, Yankee loving and hating madman in Kramer? She caves…and he smells. Kramer has struck again.  Relationship Grade: KAVORKA/10

What Worked

Justin: The BO; Lesbian Susan was a great touch; Nice callback with Rochelle, Rochelle; Jerry’s ongoing descriptions of the BO monster all made me laugh; Jerry’s deadpan answers about men having to get up early were fantastic; Kramer’s Yankee bitching was great and was also nice foreshadowing; George immediately being dragged back into his Susan torture chamber was a welcome return; I loved George needing money from Susan to cover losing his softcore porn movie; I liked the back-and-forth scenes of the car and Elaine getting scrubbed clean; Kramer’s ongoing torching of Susan’s life rolls on and him converting a lesbian was perfectly in line with his character; Jerry finally caving and giving his car to a bum was a good finish

Aaron: I love watching Elaine suffer. I also love that Kramer has ruined Susan’s life. When she recaps the vomit, the cabin burning and now the wife thief, (who he’s only using to improve his golf game) we finally get an idea of the might of hurricane Kramer. A hurricane who’s bluntness to anyone who stinks is also hilarious. The maître d who’s also a movie critic is a nice touch as is the hairdresser/scientist who treats Elaine’s stench as though it’s worse than a skunk. All of Jerry’s superlatives about how bad the smell is are so over the top that they totally work with his “man in peril” delivery.

Andrew: The guest star power in this episode is off the charts. Salem from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch? Rickety Cricket from It’s Always Sunny? And the pizza guy from Fast Times? Amazing. Not to be outdone by that star-studded line-up, the main cast all turned in good performances. I enjoyed Jerry and Elaine’s friendly flirting early in the episode, and their increasing panic as they realize they can’t get rid of the smell. George is great with the uncomfortable humor, between the awkward questions about lesbian relationships and the crippling self-doubt. There were several great scenes, like Jerry confronting the maître d’, George giving Susan a pep talk about women, or Kramer’s clandestine meeting with Mona. Rochelle, Rochelle is a great running joke, and I liked that so many minor characters were in on it.

Jordan: The smell carrying over into everyone and causing them problems was good. I like that Elaine is clearly much better looking than Carl, yet her odor is so foul he wants nothing to do with her. The scene at the video store was well done, and while it’s really dated, I remember getting hit with a few rewind fees, and being equally as upset as George was. What a ripoff. No wonder video stores are few and far between anymore. Kramer turning a lesbian straight and saying, “I’m Kramer.” as his explanation fits so well. It’s even funnier when George was fretting about if he drives women to BECOME lesbians. Speaking of lesbians, George hitting up Susan for money, then running into an ex who he also owed money to was funny.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: As much as I enjoy Nick Bakay, I just find it hard to believe Elaine would be so gaga over him with that look; Susan’s wardrobe: woof, Allison is an idiot for admiring the vest

Aaron: I never like when Larry or Jerry write lines where a man is flirting with a woman. Elaine’s guy saying things like “I pillage and plunder” is simply a portrait of a lonely single man, imagining what a woman would laugh at, as he stares himself in the mirror. While the episode had some funny bits it lacked the cohesion and classic moments I’ve come to expect from season four. The Armor All product placement is absolutely out of control.

Andrew: What’s with Jerry’s anti-doggy-bag rant? I don’t appreciate having my manhood questioned because restaurant portion sizes are out of control.

Jordan: It is entirely unbelievable that a loser like George Costanza would date both Susan and Allison. Seeing them all together is jarring – George looks like he could be their father.

Key Character Debuts

N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “This guy’s got quite a racket. I take you to dinner and then drop you off at his apartment.” – Jerry

– “Do I smell something? What am I, hard of smelling? Of course I smell something.” – Elaine

– “So when somebody has B.O., the “O” usually stays with the “B”. Once the “B” leaves, the “O” goes with it.” – Jerry

– “Ah, “Rochelle, Rochelle”… “A young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk”…” – Clerk

– “What about skunk?” – Jerry “I don’t mind skunk.” – Elaine “Horse manure?” – Jerry “I loooove horse manure.” – Elaine

– “Listen, lemme ask you something. When you’re with a guy, and he tells you he has to get up early, what does that mean?” – Elaine “It means he’s lying.” – Jerry “Wow…” – Elaine “Why? Is that what he told you?” – Jerry “Yeah, last night. Oh, come on… Men *have* to get up early some time…” – Elaine “No. Never.” – Jerry “Jerry! I’m sure I’ve seen men on the street early in the morning. – Elaine “Well, sometimes we do actually have to get up early, but a man will always trade sleep for sex.” – Jerry

– “What happened? My car stinks is what happened. And it’s destroying the lives of everyone in it’s path.” – Jerry

– “Oh, this isn’t even B.O.! This is beyond B.O.! It’s B.B.O.!” – George

– “Amazing. I drive them to lesbianism, he brings ’em back.” – George

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Nick Bakay plays Elaine’s boyfriend Carl

– Jerry doesn’t drive too much as he has put 23,000 miles on his car in two years

– Kramer references George Steinbrenner’s tendencies of trading young stars and rants about how he is ruining the team, but he had just been reinstated as owner a month earlier after serving a three year suspension

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: We are looking to finish Season Four as strongly as we opened it. This was another very memorable episode in an iconic season. The problem is, it is overshadowed by the absurd greatness that preceded it. If this episode was in an earlier season or part of a different show’s catalog, it probably ranks a little higher. But, based on the Seinfeld Season Four scale, it checks in just a tick lower than you may expect. That said, there were lots of laughs here and premise was original and frustratingly relatable in some ways. One of my gripes is that it ended kind abruptly. Just when you are really getting into all three major stories, the episode kind of wraps with little explanation of what happened. Did the lesbian go back to Susan? Did the bum actually take the car? Did George pay up his $50 debt? Did Elaine and Carl make it? Does she still stink? We really got zero resolution of all the main stories. This is one episode that could have easily been an hour. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: This one was fine. I laughed quite a bit but wasn’t taken in at all by the story. Hopefully these last two episodes are the lull before the season finale storm. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: This isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but I really enjoyed it this time around. It has a quick pace, the plot is entertaining, and the humor never really lags. As second-tier episodes go, you can’t ask for much more than that. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: This one still holds up just in terms of laughs, but also suffers from a dated perspective. A lot of this is a time capsule of sorts – time spent at the video store, Susan’s awful vest, George being stunned at the sight of a lesbian couple as if he’d seen a leprechaun. Even the car stuff just seems a little “old”. I also felt conflicted by Elaine’s story – I like that she was repeatedly dumped by a guy who is so beneath her, but then…why was she with him in the first place? In this universe, do schlubs like Carl and George regularly land women far out of their league? Weird. Not weird enough to derail it though. 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.