Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Sponge” (S7, E9)

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!

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Best Character

JT: I will go with Elaine here as she cruised through every scene she was in. Her careless dismissal of George in his time of need was just tremendous, she was great with the pharmacist and I always love the scene of her grilling Billy. Plus “sponge worthy” is an epic catchphrase.

Aaron: If for no other reason than the awkward, desperate conversation with the pharmacist this one goes to Elaine. Add to that an intense interrogation where sideburns are decried and you’ve got an easy winner for me. Should she have probably figured out WHY the sponges were being taken off the market? Sure, but that certainly has not affected my infatuation for her one bit!

Andrew: Everyone is so good in this one I’d have no problem with a four-way tie, but I’ll go with Kramer. His “tip-top condition” after walking up five flights of stairs, and the poker game banter, were the biggest laughs of the episode for me. And his belief that birth control should be discussed openly is admirable. But most importantly, I love the way his unwillingness to back down on the ribbon issue leads to his downfall. He starts out totally in the right (it is better to take action than just wear a ribbon, after all), but in the end he’s as guilty of self-importance as the ribbon-wearers he’s taking a stand against. Good stuff.

Jordan: It feels like Elaine hasn’t taken center stage for a while, so I’m giving it to her. She really delivered in her sponge story, from trying not to seem desperate for birth control at the pharmacy to being hesitant to use any. But the icing on the cake is her not even throwing a pity sponge to poor George. Great stuff.

Jason: Elaine runs away with this. Her hard target search for sponges followed by having Billy run down his case and whipping off her glasses when he passes her test was all fabulous. All topped of with her cock blocking him at the end because she can’t afford to use another sponge.

Best Storyline

JT: The Kramer AIDS walk stuff was a fun backdrop but the big story here is the search for sponges as it includes Elaine, George, Susan and even Jerry by the end. “Blood tests…immaculate!”

Aaron: I enjoyed George’s banishment from the loop of trust. Perhaps had he not been married to an absolute harpy he’d still be enjoying all of Jerry’s intimate details.

Andrew: The Sponge storyline is one of my favorites. There’s just so much birth control material here that was taboo on television on the time: men not knowing what their partners use, borrowing from a friend, brand loyalty, saying goodbye to condoms being a fundamental relationship perk. I loved all of it. And Elaine’s “sponge worthy” screening process is an all-time great.

Jordan: The sponge being taken off the market wins. The Elaine stuff is memorable, but Jerry finding a closet full of it and George not having a clue that Susan uses it are nice side dishes.

Jason: The sponge stuff takes it here. One of the most iconic storylines in the series still holds up quite nice.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: If Susan was out of sponges and George hates the condom just use an alternative method, such as the ever popular pull out. Grow up George, you man child, and ejaculate as man was intended: into some tissues or onto someone’s stomach.

Aaron: Can you have sex with someone you admire? I’ll say this: you certainly can’t fuck them to hurt them. I guess for this to even be possible I’d have to admire someone of the opposite sex which for me has been very difficult over the years. My reluctance to accept women must have sprouted from my relationship with my mother. Or so I believe anyways. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself to excuse the years of poor, outlandish decisions. I feel like this section has been very helpful lately.

Andrew: Is it ok to read the size off of someone else’s jeans? That’s kind of messed up, right? Susan may be more depraved than I thought.

Jordan: Should Kramer have been brutally beaten for not wearing a ribbon? Why am I even asking this, of course not. You don’t pummel someone just because they don’t wear a ribbon. Everything has a ribbon now. Let the man choose NOT to wear it.

Jason: Is it OK to get someone’s number from a charity list? In this case, yes. Back in the 90s, we didn’t have the technology that we have today, so Jerry did what he had to do. Should Kramer have to wear the ribbon? Will all know that the K-Man doesn’t like to follow trends, but in the case, slap that ribbon on, pal!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: The real reason Billy shouldn’t be considered sponge worthy is that he goes by “Billy”. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Aaron: Kill Susan already, she’s the actual worst. While you’re at it kill Billy too. Any man so willing to shave his sideburns deserves some sort of death involving fire. Lena’s cool though, and ready for the apocalypse. Relationship Grade: 0, 1, 10/10

Andrew: I’d give this episode’s relationships a 10 just for the “You can’t have sex with someone you admire” sequence alone. Relationship Grade: Where’s the depravity/10

Jordan: Lena lays it on a little strong if you ask me. She feeds the homeless, she does so many good things. Meanwhile she’s got about 500,000 sponges in her closet. This girl has some repression issues, and Jerry certainly isn’t the right guy to deal with it. Relationship Grade: CREAMY SOUP/10

Jason: Lena puts on a good act with her “too good” persona, but deep down she’s a raging whore. Billy seems like a good dude. At Least he got to bang Elaine once. I don’t know how much more I can take from George and Susan. Relationship Grade: Sideburns/10

What Worked:

JT: Kramer sets the tone for his ribbon beliefs out of the gate; The speedboat diversion by Jerry is good stuff; Jerry changing the size on the tag of his pants is peak Jerry; The callback to George hiding the secret ATM code was a nice touch; Jerry lying to George about meeting Lena; Kramer being terribly out of shape right before the AIDS Walk is great; The montage of Elaine looking for sponges and her buying the whole case; George and Jerry are great at the dinner table during the double date; Kramer’s poker party looks like a hell of a time; Billy kind of looks like James the Wake Up Call Guy; Elaine refusing to help George out and then shoving him out the door; I love that Elaine is basically resigned to having sex without trying to get pregnant just 60 more times in her life; It is great that Jerry can’t reconcile how good Lena is; Jerry’s “on the other hand” comment as Elaine walks in was killer; Cedric & Bob return! Elaine grilling Billy is a classic scene; Jerry’s botched lie really screwed him, he has to do better in that spot;

Aaron: Of course Kramer is doing an AIDS walk and I’d like to believe that it’s merely a coincidence that Bob and Cedric are also participating in it. Just for the sake of clarity, he was raped in that alley right? Jerry’s got a bunch of little reactions that bust me up including a great look of suspicion after Lena tells him it’s fine he got her number from the AIDS walk. Elaine as mentioned above was fantastic in every scene. The scene with the pharmacist should be studied in acting classes as a great example of tactics and stakes. Finally I’m shocked that “ribbon bully” hasn’t caught on more. It’s scarily accurate.

Andrew: I really enjoy the writing in this one. All the plots interact well, and everything pays off in the end. All the contraception talk was groundbreaking, and the “sponge worthy” stuff is among the show’s best work. As for other random thoughts: Jerry’s speedboat deflection gambit is brilliant. Elaine’s “Haven’t been in the lab yet” line is fantastic. The reappearance of the “street toughs” is great, and it’s nice to finally learn their names. I never fully appreciated Jerry’s “so the woman has one last chance to change her mind” line about condoms, but it’s a good one, as is George’s “you never run out, do you?” comment.

Jordan: I’m gonna take the time to celebrate Kramer’s AIDS walk story. He hates the ribbon and pays the price, but the lead up is a lot of fun. An all night poker game the day before isn’t enough to stop the K-Man. George and Susan continue to be both entertaining for us and awful for each other, with George deciding he needs to start opening his vault just because he’s in a relationship. Jerry calling him out was a nice response, as he SHOULD cut off George for that! Elaine was awesome throughout, as I already mentioned. The pharmacist eyeing her as she keeps asking for more sponges was really well done. And again, this whole ribbon thing has aged well. It would fit in a modern episode.

Jason: Jerry’s giving and taking bit. Elaine not being in the lab with Billy yet when asked asked about their chemistry. Kramer knowing that the sponge is being taken off the market; “Louis uh – Rukeyser.” Susan stirring shit with George about the bank code stuff. Jerry knowing that he shouldn’t trust George with where he got Lena’s number from. Kramer being blown up from having to climb the stairs. Jerry’s curiosity about how often the kitchen serves soup; Mick Jagger. The video montage of Elaine pharmacy hopping for sponges. George not knowing what birth control Susan uses and mumbling it to her. George showing up to Elaine’s apartment to grab a sponge for Susan. Makeup sex being all that George has left. Kramer pulling an all-nighter before the AIDS walk. Jerry calling out George about blabbing his business to Susan and taking him out of the loop. Jerry not being able to have sex with someone he admires. Questioning if Lena even has sex, followed by his, “on the other hand line” as Elaine bursts through the door. SPONGE-WORTHY. Kramer’s, “ribbon bully” line. Bob and Cedric taking part in the walk; “Who, who doesn’t want to wear the ribbon?” Elaine was smoking hot in every scene throughout the episode. Jerry’s “Hey that’s dynamite” after Lena tells him about the soups. Kramer finishing the walk after getting roughed up for not wearing the ribbon. George asking where Kramer’s ribbon was.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Why is Susan scoping out the tag on Jerry’s jeans; Jerry overreacted to George’s comment, he didn’t need to tell him about the unlisted number at all; Why does Susan give George shit about not knowing what birth control she uses? How would he know if she never told him?; George’s condom issues are so weird, why not just have it opened ahead of time if it is such a major issue getting it torn apart in the heat of the moment?; Why is it too late? Did George lose his erection or did he blow his load while lying on his stomach?

Aaron: I feel the whole Jerry lying about his jean size was just put on because they couldn’t think of anything else for him to lie about. Felt shoehorned. Also Susan is the worst.

Andrew: I had no idea what a contraceptive sponge was when I first saw this episode. Honestly, I’m still not that clear on it. Then again, my ignorance probably just makes the storyline funnier.

Jordan: So, are we to assume that George has erectile dysfunction? How is he on a timed clock to get the condom open? And why is it difficult to do so? Stupid.

Jason: How does George not know how to open up a condom package. Then again, being in bed with Susan would make me lose my erection too. Susan has some nerve blabbing Jerry’s waist size secret around town. This bitch can’t die soon enough.

Key Character Debuts

– N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “I tell ya, there’s some people, they just wear a ribbon and they think they’re doin’ something? Not me. I talk the talk, and I walk the walk, baby.” – Kramer

– “You’re a taking person.” – Elaine “That’s why I should date a giving person. If I date a taking person, everyone’s taking, taking, taking, no one’s giving – it’s bedlam.” – Jerry

– “How’s the…sexual chemistry?” – Jerry “Haven’t been in the lab yet. But I am birth control shopping today.” – Elaine

– “Hello, Lena? Hi, it’s Jerry Seinfeld. How did I get your number? I met a guy that knows you, he gave it to me…I don’t remember his name. Think it began with a W, maybe a Q. I wasn’t paying that much attention, I’d just come from shopping for a speedboat…” – Jerry

– “This is totally different! That was my secret, this is Jerry’s secret! There’s…there’s attorney-client priveleges here! If I play it by your rule, no one’ll ever confide in me again, I’ll be cut out of the loop!” – George

– “Well, Kramer was right. My friend Kim told me the sponge is off the market.” – Elaine “So what are you gonna do?” – George “I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do – I’m gonna do a hard-target search. Of every drug store, general store, health store and grocery store in a 25-block radius.” – George

– “It’s All-Tempa-Cheer.” – Jerry “I use Planet. It’s bio-degradable and doesn’t pollute the oceans.” – Elaine “Yeah, the oceans really are getting very sudsy.” -George

– “Can you wrap up all the left-overs on the table, please? I always take the left-overs. I work in a soup kitchen every morning at 6 a.m.” – Lena “They serve soup at 6 a.m.?” – Jerry “Yeah. That’s all they have.” – Lena “Do the bums ever complain? “Soup again?”” – Jerry “I’d get tired of it.” – George “How could you not?” – Jerry

– “Oh, you gotta be kiddin’! You see those two ladies I got showin’? Do they look scared?!” – Kramer

– “Elaine, can I just explain something to you very privately here? Susan and I have been together many, many times now, and just between you and me, there’s really no big surprises here, so…make-up sex is all that I have left.” – Susan “I’m sure you’ll have another fight, George.” – Susan

– “You leave me no choice! You’re the media now as far as I’m concerned!” – Jerry “C’mon Jerry, please! It won’t happen again.” – George “If you were in the mafia, would you tell her every time you killed someone?” – Jerry “Hey, a “hit” is a totally different story.” – George

– “I mean, I admire the hell out of her. You can’t have sex with someone you admire.” – Jerry “Where’s the depravity?” – George “No depravity! I mean, I look at her, I can’t imagine she even has sex.” – Jerry

– “Spongeworthy” becomes a pop culture catchphrase

– “Yes, yes – before they went off the market. I mean, now I’ve got to re-evaluate my whole screening process. I can’t afford to waste any of ’em.” – Elaine “You know, you’re nuts with these sponges. George is gettin’ frustrated!” – George

– “Well, we’ve gone out several times, we obviously have a good rapport. I own a very profitable electronics distributing firm. I eat well. I exercise. Blood tests – immaculate. And if I can speak frankly, I’m actually quite good at it.” – Billy “You going to do something about your sideburns?” – Elaine “Yeah, I told you…I’m going to trim my sideburns.” – Billy “And the bathroom in your apartment?” – Elaine “Cleaned it this morning.” – Billy “The sink, the tub, everything got cleaned?” – Elaine “Everything, yeah. It’s spotless.” – Billy

– “She said I wasn’t sponge-worthy. Wouldn’t waste a sponge on me!” – Jerry “That condom killed me. Why do they have to make the wrappers on those things so hard to open?” – George “It’s probably so the woman has one last chance to change her mind.” – Jerry “You never run out, do you?” – George

Oddities & Fun Facts

– George refers to himself in the third person, a callback to “The Jimmy” (S6, E19)

– The Today Sponge was actually pulled off shelves in 1995 when the FDA changed manufacturing standards that affected its production. It would return to shelves in the US in 2009.

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: There is some good stuff in here but there were also some slow scenes and decent sized plotholes mixed in too. The George stuff really irritated me and made no sense. Who actually does all that during sex? Tearing condoms open right before you climax? And then I am still confused why he has to stop when it gets opened. The whole thing was a real leap. Elaine was great and Kramer had some good laughs, but not as many as usually delivers. Plus, what time did that poker game end? Or did Lena show up at 7AM after her trio to the soup kitchen? Just shave those fucking sideburns, Billy. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: Another addition to the “fine” pile. It’s in no way bad but lacked any sort of classic Seinfeld moment. Not to mention that the writing felt a little lazy at points. We got “spongeworthy” out of this one but at the cost of Kramer’s ability to sit for the next week. I’m feeling like we’re in a bit of a lull here. Aaron’s getting frustrated! Final Grade: 5/10

Andrew: This is one of my favorites. The series’ frank and unsentimental view of sex and relationships is one of its best qualities, and this episode is a prime example of that. All the performances are good, there are memorable lines all over, and the subject matter is uniquely interesting. I can’t ask for much more than that. Final Grade: 10/10

Jordan: Let’s just say this one isn’t that spongeworthy. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Really though, it’s pretty good, but not an all timer for me. I’ll bump it up for Elaine getting more time than recent episodes and Kramer getting beaten for not wearing a ribbon, but can’t go higher than this. I’m also starting to realize Susan DESERVED to die from licking the envelopes.  Final Grade: 7/10

Jason: Besides the introduction of the term sponge worthy, this episode fell kind of flat. It was a long half hour and didn’t hold up as well as I remembered. I said a few weeks back that we are going on a stretch of great episodes. This may be the low point of that stretch. Final Grade: 6/10