Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Tape” (S3, E8)

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_[The_Tape]_(1991)_4

Best Character

Justin: George and Elaine tie for me in this one because their chemistry and interactions were top notch and if one of them weren’t involved, the story wouldn’t have popped nearly as much. George slowly falling for Elaine and being unable to focus or express himself until he absolutely bursts is about as relatable as it gets. And equally as relatable is Elaine not realizing how much she is torturing him, inadvertently stringing him right along. Kramer was great as always too, landing some solid lines with precision delivery in between all the madness.

Aaron: He may not look like Stalin but poor, poor George suffers for us all throughout this one. From the moment he finds out that Elaine recorded the message he dominates every second of screen time he has. He is barely able to contain himself at Monk’s when Elaine tells him and it doesn’t get any better when she pretends to be the porn star. The scene in the car where Elaine says she’s up for anything is where he truly shines. The well timed horn honk, the breathless look away at the climax of the scene, it all works. It’s all colored with this wonderful hue of sexual desperation which never once veers into creep territory. George shows some uncharacteristic bravery even by being honest about his feelings. Or maybe he’s just trying to use pity to get laid. Either way it’s pure Costanza. Couple that storyline with him haggling with the Chinese and wearing a cowboy hat and we have an easy win here.

Andrew: I’m a bit conflicted about it, but I’ll go with Elaine. Her role as the object of George’s desire could have turned sexist and insulting in less capable hands, but she brings a smart, mischievous sense of humor to it that makes it work. George contributes with some solid work as well, but the episode doesn’t work without a great performance from Elaine.

Jordan: George has a nice effort, but I feel like a lot of his stuff was in response to the true MVP here: Elaine. Elaine runs things this time around as her mysterious pornographic message manages to captivate all three of the guys. George basically falling in love with her is a great touch, and her playful innocence makes it work. “I’m literally up for ANYTHING!” she says with great joy as George pervs out…that sums it all up. Jerry and Kramer were good enough in the background, but Elaine carries the weight this one and does it with ease.

Best Storyline

Justin: There were only two stories here and they were fairly symbiotic, bouncing off one another throughout the whole episode. If I am forced to choose, I will go with George’s baldness cure quest because it led to more of the funny, one off moments. I really liked the stuff with Ping and the Chinese Institute, George’s cowboy hat and him alternating between applying and removing the cream deepening on Elaine’s impending arrivals to the apartment. It was a simple, yet effective story.

Aaron: Easily George lusting after Elaine. Besides what I’ve mentioned above it’s also hilarious to me that he never once says he LIKES Elaine. It’s such a great little take on someone lusting after their friend. Placing George’s discovery of Elaine’s “sexuality” near the beginning of the episode was genius as it forced him to come face to face with his lust time and time again. The situations that George and Elaine get put in (the porn video, the car) feel completely organic but bring out tons of laughs by escalating the tension each time they see each other. Just awesome storytelling.

Andrew: The tape storyline was the best. George’s uncomfortable infatuation with Elaine was really well done, and I liked the joy Elaine took in her “prank” on Jerry. This storyline had my favorite moment of the episode, Jerry’s deadpan snitching on George, and had a great capper, with the shot of three goofy smitten faces before Elaine retreats.

Jordan: Gotta go with the dirty message on the tape. It led to George finding out it was Elaine and developing a huge crush on her and really carried the whole episode. George’s Chinese hair formula made for some funny moments with the delivery guy and his cowboy hat trying to hide the foamy gunk. I actually would have liked to see more with Kramer having a video camera. Not sure why, but that seems like it could have led somewhere really funny.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should George have told Jerry that Elaine left him the message before he went out on a date like a fool? Probably, especially since they are best friends and George’s relationship with Elaine was merely tangential at this point. However, he had love in his eyes and wasn’t thinking straight at all so he never could piece it together well enough to catch Jerry up. Although, I do think Jerry’s date would have ended on a better note if he didn’t wear that absurd red jacket and flashy shirt combo.

Aaron: If someone stinks do you tell them straight? I’ll answer that question by posing another: do you have compassion? Do you think it’s right for your friend to walk around for the entire day oblivious to the fact that there is an unpleasant odor emanating from their bodies, bags, heads, etc.? A real friend is brave enough to tell you when you stink, and yeah it may be hard to hear but you’ll be thanking them when the people in the subway aren’t forming a five foot radius around you. The shame you feel in that circle is not only your smell but the realization that you live a hopeless, friendless life. A life you will soon begin to question. A life you may not want any longer. 

Andrew: If you’re attracted to your best friend’s ex, should you tell them? Obviously, if you you’re going to pursue anything with the ex, you have to come clean. But do you have that conversation before or after you know the ex feels the same way? Waiting until after could save you an awkward conversation, but make you seem a lot less trustworthy.

Jordan: If you have a friend who is a known cheapskate, should you let him make a call to China from your phone? I don’t think it would be out of the question for Jerry to ask George to give him some money up front here. If it was Elaine, that’s different, but George has already established a pattern of trying to save a buck, so you know he’s going to give Jerry less than what the actual call costs. Either Jerry is OK with being shortchanged here, or he’s about to get swindled.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Porn star Elaine. That is all. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Aaron: So George and Elaine? Nope! Relationship Grade:0/10

Andrew: Lots of unreciprocated male infatuation in this one. Feels like high school all over again. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Jordan: George’s interest in dirty Elaine is probably more serious than any relationship we’ve seen him in so far. Relationship Grade: NC-17/10

What Worked

Justin: George’s quest for hair through the China scheme, Jerry using a tape recorder and Kramer’s brand new video camera is just a real great snapshot of the early 90s; Elaine was super hot in this one, and it is easy to see why George fell in love as soon as he found out she left the dirty message; Elaine subsequently indirectly teasing George by walking in her bathrobe and doing the porn role play was…hot…and really funny; Ping chatting on the phone with the Chinese Institute always makes me laugh; George’s obsession over Elaine leads to the funny moment where wipes the cream off his head and then puts it right back on when he finds out she isn’t coming; Kramer’s toenail discussion is our random Seinfeld non-sequitur of the week; Jerry’s “Sheriff” line to George when he walks in with the hat has always been on of my favorites; The Abbot & Costello riff was well executed; Jerry selling out George immediately and all three leering at Elaine was a good wrap to the story.

Aaron: I loved Elaine in this one and it took a fantastic George episode to wrench Best Character away from her. She was wonderfully oblivious to George’s desires and gave us just enough of a taste of her “sexuality” to make us all sweat a little. Her laugh after she says “I felt this impulse,” is a great little comedic gem that few actresses could pull off. She was just so pleased with herself. Kramer, filmmaker, is a fantastic use of his time here too. Talking about toenails and doing the cockney accents are great non-sequiturs. It’s these little conversational bits that make the show a joy to watch. You can see Michael Richards is in full control of the character when he flips out over the volume of the tape or tells Jerry to “Give me her number. I know how to handle these psychotics.” Fantastic writing all around here as the pacing and placement of certain scenes really made the episode.

Andrew: I like that we never actually hear the recording; leaving that up to our twisted imagination is much more effective than anything they could have gotten away with under early 90s standards and practices. George’s blind optimism about the Chinese baldness cure is great; despite his cynicism, pessimism, and how often life kicks him in the teeth, he’ll never stop believing he can get one over on the world. I enjoyed how at ease the Chinese deliveryman was, joking around with people he’s just met and kicking back on the couch for a chat with a stranger. And finally, Elaine is a national treasure.

Jordan: I can’t decide what looks funnier: George with the cream on his head or George in the cowboy hat. Both provide good moments with George scraping the stuff off his head, then globbing it back on, and Jerry calling him sheriff with the hat on. Jerry’s tape recorder is only dated more by his old school headphones and nothing was worse than losing one of the foam coverings, the pair was ruined when that happened. Kramer giving an interview with adult film star Elaine Benes was fun, and her hitting on George while he uncomfortably sits on hold is terrific stuff. Ping chatting it up with the person in China was good. I like the ending where everyone finds out it’s Elaine and leer at her uncomfortably.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Even though I enjoyed the storyline, watching George creepily sweat and lust over Elaine was a bit disturbing; Jerry’s multi-colored sheen shirt was an atrocity, as was his date outfit; Jerry’s cockney accent is terrible.

Aaron: Jerry’s red jacket over brown shirt and pants is absolutely atrocious. It’s no wonder the woman wouldn’t bang him. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get a full frontal shower scene with Elaine.

Andrew: You could argue that casting Elaine as an oblivious male fantasy is sexist and an insult to the character (I’m mainly thinking of the “I am up for anything” scene). The joke’s mostly on George there, and it’s not too egregious, but it should at least be mentioned. Kramer felt under-utilized; he was funny, but I prefer it when he has his own stuff going on.

Jordan: The actual tape thing doesn’t make a lot of sense, why would Jerry set it up in the back of the room exactly? Wouldn’t it be right on stage with him? I never got that, unless he more wanted to get the audience response than his actual delivery. I said earlier that we could have used more Kramer, but he was good in the small bits we got.

Key Character Debuts

Ping the Chinese Food Delivery Boy

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Imagine no baldness…it would be like a nation of Supermen!” – Jerry

– George’s struggles over a baldness cure begin

– “I had no idea you were filled with such…sexuality…” – George

– “In your movies, is the sex real or simulated?” – Kramer “Oh, it’s always simulated…except with George, that’s in my contract…” – Elaine

– “They got a billion people over there, he found a relative!” – George

– “They say you grow hair…look like Stalin!” – Ping

– “Listen, I know you are skeptical, but I really believe in the Chinese…” – George

– Kramer’s stolen jacket storyline continues as the jacket owner was arrested for mail fraud and the location of the jacket is unknown

– “You stink!” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry is drinking a Minute Maid juice box

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Season Three continues to roll right along with another really strong episode. This one was much more contained, taking place solely between the coffee shop and Jerry’s apartment, but still very effective. The key was that all of the storylines were relatable and simple. Oh, and also very, very dated. But that just adds to the charm. There were no iconic, laugh out loud parts to this, but there was really good delivery and timing throughout. I really enjoyed the George/Elaine pairing and I thought Kramer was at his best here, alternating between his video taping and questioning anything and everything. Plus…Porn Star Elaine. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: Really, really good stuff here. Great character work for Elaine and George and wonderful support from Kramer and Jerry. The more they play within the dynamic of the four leads the more the show succeeds in my mind. This one was filled with laughs and may be one of the hidden gems of the third season. Final Grade: 7/10

Andrew: A very professional episode; nothing blows you away, but the writing and acting are confident and well executed. The show appears to have really hit its stride in Season Three, and this episode keeps the momentum going. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: This one was good, but a slight step back from the last few episodes. That’s not a knock on the episode so much as it’s a statement of how good they’ve been lately. I really like when George and Elaine are paired off, as we don’t get it a lot, but when we do there is always some awkwardness to it that is fun, this time in the form of George probably picturing Elaine’s filthy soliloquy. A good effort, but after some all time classic episodes and guest stars, this one isn’t quite up there as an all timer. 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.