Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Stakeout” (S1, E2)

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!

seinfeld-season-1-2-the-stake-out-george-costanza-jerry-seinfeld-vanessa-jason-alexander

Best Character

Justin: It didn’t take long for Jerry to grab his first Best Character award, but he was the star in this one. His work in the first half of the episode was great, specifically the scene at the bar and the constant repeating of the law firm name. Plus, his scenes with his parents were natural and relatable. George only had one scene and was great again, but Jerry did all the heavy lifting this time out.

Aaron: THAT’S GOT TO BE GEORGE!!! In a very limited role he pretty much steals the episode for me. Jerry was super whiny, and Elaine a little bit unbearable (more on that later), so while it may seem like a win by default, he really does have some nice moments. It’s the second episode and he’s already easily weaving lies, and his insistence as being recognized as an architect cuts right to the core of the character. He’s just so upset that Jerry can’t see him as an architect. It’s a wonderful seed planted very early.

Andrew: Now you’re gonna think I’m crazy when I tell you this: Elaine. She doesn’t get the funniest lines in this episode, and the “can you be friends with your ex” material isn’t exactly a laugh riot, but I, for one, was immediately charmed by her. The character could have been nothing more than a plot device in this episode but was more interesting than that. I’m on board with Elaine right off the bat.

Jordan: First things first – HOLY COW LOOK AT JERRY’S JACKET IN HIS OPENING STAND UP. There is no way this was ever fashionable. OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I think I’m going to give this one to George. Kramer isn’t in it enough, Jerry’s too whiny and Elaine doesn’t do a whole lot. Meanwhile, George is an architect for railroads and friends with an importer!

Best Storyline

Justin: Even though it really only consisted of one scene, Jerry & George staking out the building was my favorite story within this episode. They laid out the situation and displayed their fantastic chemistry while also debuting the legendary Art Vandelay as well as George’s infatuation with being an architect. Jerry was hot for Vanessa from the start and, after a tip from his dad, the stakeout was on. It was the best scene of the episode and a peek into the unique looks at every day life that Seinfeld would come to be known for.

Aaron: Slim pickings here, but I’ll go with the actual stakeout. It’s good fun and watching them stumble through what really should be a simple operation is pretty great. I love that it’s Jerry’s dad who suggests the whole thing –  it’s almost like George was  the son Morty never had. What a team they would make!

Andrew: The stakeout story line is quintessential Seinfeld. Knowing that something is borderline socially unacceptable but doing it anyway while justifying it to yourself and coming up with a story to make it seem less creepy – that’s the kind of stuff I love about this show.

Jordan: The stakeout. It’s funny on its own, but looking back on it after having seen the entire series, it’s actually a pretty important scene in the history of George.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: There wasn’t too much here in the way of ethics, so I will go with: Should Jerry ask Elaine for Vanessa’s number? I get Jerry being antsy here, but his dad said it best, “If you are friends, just ask her.” And that is exactly what he should have done. Although the stakeout wasn’t a bad Plan B.

Aaron: So the question is: do you discuss new love interests with your ex, aaaaaand if she has feelings for you does that change anything? Right off the bat, it’s clear Elaine still has feelings for Jerry, and Jerry is clearly not comfortable talking about women with her. I think if you’re a heartless fuck who doesn’t care about anything, go ahead and rip her soul out. What’s the worst that can happen? Suicide? (mentioned twice in two episodes by me!!!) Depression? Arson? These could all happen! They could happen together…so I think he should the right thing and spare the feelings of the ex who still has a thing for you. That’s what I’d do, and that’s what I’ve done. If honesty was always the best policy, would a man calling himself “the doctor of style” rap about it?

Also, if you’re going to bring someone to a birthday party for someone they hardly know, have the decency to warn them about gifts, dress code or anything that could potentially embarrass them. And if you didn’t bring a gift, just sit down and pretend that you did. It’s the decent thing to do.

Andrew: Is it cool to flirt in front of someone you used to date? This feels like one of those “it’s not cool at all, but you do it anyway” kind of dilemmas.

Jordan: This one doesn’t involve any of the characters: What kind of video store has their porno section right in the middle of the store? Was New York City in 1990 such a cesspool that they didn’t even employ the “back room” rule? Shouldn’t these videos be hidden behind saloon-style doors like they were everywhere else in America? What if you brought your kid to this video store and they found these tapes? The owner should be ashamed of himself.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Jerry and Vanessa had pretty good chemistry in their two scenes together, and she was also quite attractives having a style that still holds up, which is impressive considering this episode took place in 1989. I would have liked to have seen more between the two, but even as is, Vanessa rates at a solid spot on the scale. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Aaron: I like the flirting and chemistry with Jerry and Vanessa. You feel that they could go on and have a nice little relationship together. Until Jerry sees that she buttons her shirts bottom up, and Vanessa realizes she’s a lawyer dating a boy in love with Superman. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Andrew: Not to be repetitive, but there’s definitely chemistry here. Although, if they did end up in a relationship, wouldn’t Jerry always be wondering when Vanessa was going to find out that their “meet-cute” moment was actually a bit stalker-y? Relationship Grade: 4/10

Jordan: Vanessa can match wits with Jerry right from the start and she’s MUCH better looking than Laura from the pilot. She actually winds up lasting a lot longer than any other girl lasts with Jerry in the whole series. Relationship Grade: 6/10

What Worked 

Justin: Jerry & Elaine showed off their chemistry in the opening scene while also laying out their complicated history and relationship status. The bar scene was fantastic, both with Jerry’s internal conversation and debate as well as Elaine cockblocking him with a boring dream story. Helen Seinfeld has the overbearing, concerned mother down pat already and easily lapped the overmatched Phil Bruns, who was portraying Morty here.

Aaron: Burt Har…Binson. Burt Harbinson. Art…Core…Velay. Art Corvaley. Great stuff. All the George stuff worked for me, and the interplay between Vanessa and Jerry was sweet and believable. Kramer’s bit about the word “quone” was also reminiscent of many Scrabble games I’ve played.

Andrew: The banter in this episode is already showing signs of greatness. Whether it’s Jerry and George coming up with their cover story, or Kramer offering his assistance during the Scrabble game, there’s a lot of noteworthy dialogue going on. And as mentioned before, I love all the debating, justifying and scheming that goes into Jerry trying to get a date.

Jordan: Elaine is great right from the start. We see the birth of weasel George while he explains his architect story and plan, and his ability to make up names. Jerry comes off whiny with others, but his chemistry with George is good. Vanessa is actually nice looking, has a good job and nice personality – much more understandable for Jerry to go to all that trouble over her, unlike the previous episode. Kramer’s insistence that quone is a word is fun -“We need a medical dictionary!”

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Morty Seinfeld was a bum in this episode. He was too much like a normal dad and this show called for someone more over the top. Thankfully it comes soon. As good as Jerry was in this episode, he is still fretting and whiny in spots, especially concerning his issues with Elaine. The sooner that side of him vanishes, the better.

Aaron: I thought Jerry was still a bit too whiny, and his inner monologue played a little false for me. I really wasn’t a fan of the Elaine character in this one. If I have a friend that’s that high maintenance, I’d better be sleeping with them. She’s just all over Jerry right from the start, cockblocking him with nonsense about wooden teeth and then busting his balls about manners and listening to her. She ends the episode by clearly trying to make him jealous. Now it’s all done for a reason (the hint that they’re still interested in one another) but makes Elaine so much less interesting as she is usually (later on) the highest status character in the group. It makes me think they had the idea to get them together more long term at the start. One more convention that they’d bust through.

Andrew: For a show that famously had a “no hugging, no learning” rule, this episode veers dangerously close to a heartwarming moment by closing with Jerry and Elaine patching things up. It wasn’t egregious or anything, it just feels a little too mature and positive for Seinfeld. Similarly, Jerry’s dad feels out of place in this episode. Part of that is the incongruity of seeing some other actor play Morty Seinfeld, but part of it is a lack of comedic spark between him and the great TV characters surrounding him.

Jordan: I didn’t care for us hearing Jerry’s thoughts during the dinner party – seemed like generic sitcom stuff. Also, WHO IS THIS IMPOSTOR CLAIMING TO BE MORTY SEINFELD? He’s not the real Morty! #WeWantMorty It also seemed like they were laying the groundwork for a “will they/won’t they” between Jerry and Elaine, another generic sitcom premise. Anytime they go that route, they suffer. Last, a lot of the references are quite dated: Rich Little & Loni Anderson? Yikes!

Key Character Debuts

Elaine Benes, Helen Seinfeld, Morty Seinfeld*

 *Portrayed by Phil Bruns for this episode only

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Simon, Bennett, Robbins, Oppenheim & Taft” – Jerry

– Debut of Art Vandelay, originally named Art Corvelay

– First mention of George’s fake career as an architect

– First use of importing/exporting as a fake career

– “Quone, to quone something! We need a medical dictionary, if a patient gets difficult, you quone ’em” – Kramer

– First time Jerry’s friends and family try to give him comic routine ideas

– (To his wife) “You should be glad I wasn’t so particular.” – Morty Seinfeld

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Elaine & Jerry’s past relationship is first referenced

– Jerry has a pull out bed in a studio

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: This episode started strong, and I was really hooked in early, but it petered out towards the end, mainly after the stakeout ended. It felt like they just wanted to work through the kinks of Jerry and Elaine’s relationship and the challenges they will face, but because they casted a strong love interest for Jerry, it left me wanting to see more of him and Vanessa instead. Instead of one strong storyline, they took two good ideas and meshed them together, so neither felt fleshed out or fulfilling in the end. Artie Levine and his wagon was the lone highlight of the final scene as the end of the show fell flat. Final Grade: 4/10

Aaron: Solid episode. It builds on the Jerry/George dynamic, and introduces us to some new characters. It’s weird there was probably less stuff I liked than the pilot, and more stuff I didn’t like, but on the whole I liked this one more. Even re-watching it a few minutes ago it was still cracking me up. The show still hadn’t found its groove yet (Come on guys! Get it together!) but with the exception of not getting the payoff of the porn gift, the writing was solid and would certainly encourage me to watch more…despite Jerry’s stars at night sports jacket. Final Grade: 4/10

Andrew: A decent episode. Similar to the pilot in that the subversive elements of later seasons are there, but the episode still has elements of a traditional sitcom that the show would later drop. Bonus points for the historical significance (Art Vandelay, etc.), and because I love me some Elaine Benes. Final Grade: 4/10

Jordan: I liked the stakeout scene and Kramer’s small scene, but all the Jerry/Elaine stuff fell flat. Elaine wasn’t bad on her own, and neither is Jerry, but as I wrote earlier, the “Will they/won’t they?” dynamic just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if it’s because I know the show or because there isn’t any chemistry from them, or even if it just feels too early since this is Elaine’s FIRST episode, but I am not digging it so far. An improvement from the pilot though, so we’re getting better. Final Grade: 4/10

Be sure to check out the full catalog of the PTBN Seinfeld Rewatch!

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.