Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Subway” (S3, E13)

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!

subway

Best Character

Justin: I didn’t think any of the characters really stood out in this one, so I will go with George, who was the most consistent to his character and had some of the funniest lines, including the capper when the woman was robbing him and he pondered if he would get to see her again. Kramer was pretty good too, especially at OTB when he was rooting on the horse. I didn’t care much for Jerry at all and Elaine was fine but didn’t get much shine outside of the internal monologue.

Aaron: This is like picking between my children. Everyone is great here. I’m not going to cop out though and I’ll go with Kramer by the slightest of margins over Elaine. All his physical stuff is amazing as usual (especially the journey from utter defeat to absolute triumph of the horse race) but it’s his repeating of the horse insider information verbatim to some guy he doesn’t know including the “What did I just say?” that puts him ever so slightly over the top. It really is a victory of the slightest margins though.

Andrew: With the split storylines, it’s tough for any one performance to stand out, but I enjoyed Kramer’s the most. The racetrack tip has always been one of my favorite bits (“His mudda was a mudda”), and he’s great when trying to escape the mugger. Also, I respect a man with a healthy disregard for driving regulations.

Jordan: It’s hard to pick a definitive winner in an episode where all four characters have their own unique stories, so let’s do this by process of elimination. Kramer’s story didn’t play to his strengths, as he is at his best when he’s weird and doing physical comedy. We got a bit, but not enough for me to give it to him. Jerry’s story was just not funny for me, and didn’t suit the character. That leaves us with George and Elaine. Elaine’s mental meltdown was terrific and a good use of inner monologue…but I think I’ll give it to George. He’s a bum with no job, and he bails on an interview for a random hook up. His line of “Will I see you again?” to the thief as she leaves seals it. Not a blow-away performance from anyone.

Best Storyline

Justin: Just as I did for Best Character, I will take George’s affair and robbery for the best storyline as it was the most fleshed out one we saw and just made perfect sense for all this to happen to George. The lesbian wedding had potential but outside the old woman’s disapproval it never went anywhere. The naked man was just odd.

Aaron: As much as I loved Kramer and Elaine for me it’s got to be George choosing sex over a potential job and getting his ass robbed. He goes out of his way to stress how important the job is, bumbles his way through the courtship with lies about bull and bear markets, talks about his mom walking around in her bra and panties while waiting for a woman to bang him and finally ends up disgraced, walking the streets in a sheet threatening to put a Hare Krishna fist down some guys throat. I’m not sure I can think of a George story that could be more perfect in writing and execution.

Andrew: Again, the episode is so evenly split that no one storyline dominates, but I’ll go with Jerry’s. “Naked man on the subway” is a strong plot point, I enjoyed Jerry’s impulsive yearning for a day at the amusement park, and I identify with the indignity of falling asleep on public transportation. More importantly, this is the most satisfying story arc of the four: Jerry meets a weirdo on the subway, they bond over the Mets, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. You could argue this is the most heartwarming, optimistic storyline the show has ever done.

Jordan: I think I’ll actually go with Elaine’s story here, as a consolation for not taking best character. It didn’t have to be a lesbian wedding, she could have been headed anywhere. The storyline to me was the subway breakdown and Elaine ready to SNAP on the inside, but looking calm and collected on the outside. She did a terrific job and it’s just another reason I think this entire season has been about the writers really figuring out the Elaine character.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should George roll the dice on blowing a much needed job for a potential mid-day delight with a hot stranger? Probably not since there is no chance this random hottie would be so in to him as to basically beg him to come back to her hotel room. That should have been a major red flag immediately. No way that chick brings George home. He got what he asked for and now has no more suit, is out eight dollars and blew the job.

Aaron: When a woman says “make yourself comfortable,” what EXACTLY are you supposed to do? I don’t want to sound like a chauvinist here but if a woman picks you up on the subway and IMMEDIATELY takes you to her hotel room it’s probably a safe bet you can peel your clothes off like Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun. At worst you can say that THAT”S what makes you comfortable, and fuck her (not literally) if she doesn’t like it. Don’t open doors you don’t want people to walk through. That being said if this woman wasn’t a thief she’d be the biggest cock tease this side of Princess Jasmine and I totally understand why George would be desperate to “see her again.”

Andrew: If you’re a cop undercover as a busker/homeless person, are you allowed to keep the money people give you? I’d have no problem with it, but I feel like there must be a regulation against it. Does the money go into evidence? Does it get donated to charity?

Jordan: Should you sleep with someone you literally JUST met a few minutes ago? The obvious answer is no, and what happens to George is a good enough reason why. Was the lady attractive? Sure. But it’s a case of VERY high risk with a much smaller reward. To add to this, this episode aired in early 1992, just months after Magic Johnson’s announcement of having HIV had Americans everywhere scared of contracting it. George may have gotten off lucky by only having his suit and wallet stolen.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: I thought Jerry really developed a nice bond with his naked friend, finally finding that friend to spend the day with at Coney Island that he so craved. The fact that it was Leon Carosi made it all the better. Relationship Grade: 300 lbs/10

Aaron: You have to admire the lesbian couple for going out and getting married in 1992. Sure, it would probably lead to their incarceration in a pre-Ellen DeGeneres world, but good on them for having the balls to have the ceremony. Of course if this were a porn movie it’s painfully obvious there’d be an inevitable threesome scene with the new couple and their “best man”… wait… where was I going with this? That went off the rails to a wonderful place awfully fast. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Andrew: George really has no luck with the ladies. I hope the “lesbian wedding” couple is still together. But the best relationship in this one is between Jerry and the naked dude; that’s one hell of a “meet cute”. Relationship Grade: 5/10

Jordan: Nothing of the romantic variety here, but honestly, being handcuffed and robbed is a step up for George in the relationship department. And we’ll see down the line that he could, and does, do much, much worse. Relationship Grade: HAIRY CHEST/10

What Worked

Justin: Kramer overexplaining the subway options was funny; George telling the blind man he can’t carry change in his pants because it falls out; All four separating off the subway and looking lost without each other; Kramer almost bowling over elderly and pregnant women to land a subway seat before getting stuck next to the fat guy; George’s lie fueled flirting was great; They got all the little things about subway riding right, including Kramer’s awesome newspaper grab; Elaine’s internal meltdown was a rare time that style of exposition has worked since the show started; The whole robbery scene was perfect George, right down to him only having $8 and then asking if he would see the thief again; Kramer’s horse riding pantomime was glorious; A much as I didn’t care for the naked man story, I liked how he and Jerry bonded; The payoff with the blind guy being the cop that saves Kramer was nice.

Aaron: So much. First of all I love the fact that we get to see the foursome each go off and have a separate adventure. It’s really the first time we get to see them operating alone and independent of one another and it works really well. The subway itself is a magnificent plot device as it allows characters (read: weirdos) to come in and out and liven up every scene. I don’t want to go on forever here so take anything mentioned above as a given. I love the symmetry in the writing of Kramer demanding Jerry pay for breakfast and then going out of his way to pay for dinner. There’s also something about Elaine, George and Jerry getting on subway cars with regular people and Kramer getting on with a group of savages who will fight for every seat or shred of newspaper in sight. Elaine is brilliant in this one as well. Her trepidation when she has to tell the older woman about the lesbian wedding is perfect, and her physical representations of the inner monologues is a work of art. Speaking of those, as much as I’ve hated the Jerry inner monologues I thought the Elaine and George ones were great and in no way felt out of place. It’s also perfect (I know I’m using that a lot) that Elaine is the first character to curse. After all, what IS on her leg???? “I hate men, but I’m not a lesbian,” is a character defining quote. As hard as I’ve been on Jerry’s acting he’s bang on here as his snarky dialogue is filled with contempt and nuance that I haven’t seen since we started re-watching. All the interactions with the fat naked guy are fabulous (Jerry flat out doesn’t give a shit about calling him on his weight) and the friendship they form clearly will last forever (and never be spoken of again). Nearly everything works here, the characters, the writing and the crisp editing all come together for a great package.

Andrew: This is the most “show about nothing” episode they’ve done so far, and I can’t think of any later episodes that top it. It is entirely about what happens to the characters on their way to something else. It’s very dialogue heavy, and this time it involves various denizens of New York. I liked Elaine’s ill-fated conversation with the older woman, and her impotent rage at the stopped train. For whatever reason, I really enjoy hearing a character repeat someone else’s dialogue, and Kramer’s racetrack tip is an excellent example of that. (Amazingly, I didn’t know until today that that was an homage to Abbott and Costello, and now I feel dumb).

Jordan: Kramer didn’t have a lot to work with, but still made his best efforts in the physical comedy department, highlighted with his racing imitation as his horse took the lead. I mentioned earlier that Elaine’s mental breakdown was a great use of inner monologue and really fit well in response to her actual responses and reactions. George’s worry over what comfortable means was a nice bit of George over-stressing over things. I liked that they purposely gave all four of them individual stories on their own. I wouldn’t care for it if it happened all the time, but for a one time experiment, I was OK with it. Mr. Carosi riding the subway in his underwear was unique and I liked Jerry saying he should be ashamed of his body.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Jerry falling asleep on a random dude seemed very un-Jerry; While the naked train rider was a funny visual, it was a really odd storyline and made zero sense, unless that was big at the time.

Aaron: I don’t know who Dick Gregory is and I can’t be bothered to look it up.

Andrew: I’ve never enjoyed George’s storyline. It does have his trademark lying, and the semi-nude walk into the diner is good, but it’s underwhelming overall. It occurs to me now that the undercover cop could have been trying to catch the woman who’s been scamming businessmen on the subway, and now that feels like a missed opportunity to tie things together. I didn’t like Kramer’s struggle for a subway seat; something about watching him fight other commuters for a spot while other spots are clearly open just frustrates me, rather than making me laugh. I enjoyed Elaine’s parts, but feel like she was underutilized. Also, her “I’m not a lesbian!” line feels a little insensitive, but hey, it was the 90s.

Jordan: You’d think if a woman made a living by seducing men, then robbing them, she wouldn’t wear a business suit. Seemed like an odd fashion choice given the way the story went. George’s chest hair was really odd looking, especially his bare nipples popping through. I didn’t like the Jerry storyline at all, and while I didn’t mind the blind cop reveal, I thought the canned studio audience applause was really out of the ordinary for this show.

Key Character Debuts

N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “What, you are comparing me to Biff Loman, very encouraging. The biggest loser in history of American literature.” – George

– “Lesbian wedding. How do they work bride and groom out, what do they flip a coin?” – George “Yeah, they flip a coin.” – Elaine “What, was that not politically correct? It’s a legitimate question.” – George

– Jerry’s stolen car was found

– “Oh, no no no. I was just looking for stock-pages. Here it is. Looking for the quotes. Gotta check to quotes. Love a good quote. Oh, IBM up a quarter.” – George

– “It’s ironic.” – Elaine “What’s ironic?” – Woman “This, that we’ve come all this way, we have made all this progress, but you know we’ve lost the little things, the niceties.” – Elaine “No, I mean what does ‘ironic’ mean?” – Woman

– “I hate men…but I’m not a lesbian!” – Elaine

– Kramer’s gambling addiction comes back out as he can’t ignore the hot tip he got on the train

– “Exactly, this horse loves the slop. It’s in his bloodlines. His father was a mudda’, his mother was a mudda’.” – Man One “His mudda’ was a mudda’?” – Man Two

– “I’ll tell ya what, if they win the pennant this year, I’ll sit naked at the World Series with you.” – Jerry “It’s a deal!” – Naked Man

– “So you missed the wedding…you’ll catch the bris!” – Jerry

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Elaine is the best man at  a lesbian wedding far before same sex marriage was widely accepted.

– George’s mother looks like Shirley Booth and walked around in her underwear.

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: This was another concept show with everything happening outside the apartment building, similar to The Chinese Restaurant and The Parking Garage, but this time everyone is broken up and I think we end up with some mixed results. There were definitely laughs throughout and the writing was very good and tight because they had to move quickly around the horn to get everything in…but that is also the problem. With four very different and separate stories going on, I didn’t feel like they had the time to really develop much at all. George’s story got the most flesh and Kramer followed behind but I thought Elaine could have had a bit more time to shine while I didn’t enjoy Jerry’s much at all. It felt very un-Jerry, as I mentioned above, to fall asleep on a crowded subway and then befriend a naked man. I like when all of the stories converge into a big climactic finale and we get none of that here. It was a cool idea to try and very different for them but I prefer my Seinfeld to be of the vintage storyline mashed variety. Final Grade: 5/10

Aaron: I think we like to see George and Elaine fail and Jerry and Kramer succeed. It really feels like those are their natural positions in life. George reacts with fear and begging, Jerry with a passive intolerance, Kramer with luck and giddiness and Elaine with violent rage. This was a near perfect example of what the show is as everyone was in their element. The tight writing and the inherent forced structure of the subway forces them into a classic here. This may be one of the early shows I’d show to someone who’s trying to get into the show for the first time as it’s hilarious and insanely quotable. Great, great stuff here and if I had to put a price on this one it’d be way higher than “eight dollars??” Final Grade: 9/10

Andrew: This is one of the harder episodes to rate, for me. There were plenty of individual scenes I enjoyed, but I never felt invested in the overall story. I’m always glad to see them pushing the “about nothing” envelope, but that’s not easy to pull off; without any stakes or drama, it’s hard to maintain interest when the laughs and energy are flagging. I feel like this one is stuck somewhere between a traditional sitcom and something more subversive, and needed to choose one or the other more clearly. I have very fond memories of this episode, but also feel like there’s some unfulfilled potential. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: It’s tough to grade this one because what has made the show work so far has been the four main characters chemistry with each other: Their interactions about everyday, ordinary tasks and chores are actually a highlight of the show  and this episode didn’t have much of that. This is kind of an outside the box type episode and while I don’t think it was a HUGE success, I definitely don’t think it flopped. I know others who love this episode, and I can see why: George and Elaine have very solid stories, and Kramer does a good job with his, but Jerry’s fell flat for me. I liked it, I didn’t love it. If we could do half points, I’d go 5.5, but I’m feeling generous so I’ll round up. 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.