Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Visa” (S4, E14)

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: It’s Jerry here for me. He was fantastic with his whole “not funny” act with Cheryl and his desperation to help Babu while also blaming Elaine for everything was very well done. Some of the shit he was saying in his dark, monotone discussions with Cheryl were so bizarre but the delivery and nonsense were so well done. I also loved that he was right back in the same mindset of trying to Babu’s buddy without missing a beat from the last time Babu was on. George gets an honorable mention for his paranoia and being the central figure of the episode. His rant in the car was masterful.

Aaron: Disturbed: suffering or resulting from emotional and mental problems. It takes a special kind of sickness to beg your friend to not be funny because you have a fantasy about a dinner where he steals your girlfriend (also why is he the only one wearing his coat in said fantasy?). Depressed: In a state of general unhappiness and despondency. When you scream “It’s funny!” to your friend at a restaurant you probably need to make some changes. Inadequate: lacking the quality or quantity required. Even in a moment of great success if you immediately believe a woman you’ve spoken to once is going to leave you for a better looking man with more money, your confidence is clearly inadequate, which pairs nicely with your lacking looks/money. I guess when you look at it, George has it all!

Andrew: Part of me wants to give this one to Kramer, as his Mickey Mantle story is one of my favorites, but Jerry was the best character here. As much as we make fun of his acting in these recaps, I was actually impressed by his ability to be funny while trying to act serious. He’s still better off avoiding dramatic roles, but it did make me laugh. And his birthday soliloquy legitimately made me sad; there really isn’t a better self inside me waiting to emerge, is there?

Jordan: “Serious” Jerry is awesome. I would approve of more situations where Jerry has to turn down the funny level and be a brooding, sad comedian. Regular Jerry is good too, as I always enjoy when he drops a Biff namecall on George. And of course, humanitarian Jerry is great as well What a great person, to visit Babu in the holding cell, point out it’s all Elaine’s fault, then ruin Babu’s chances at the American dream by being too serious and getting a woman to fall in love with him. Jerry kills it here.

Best Storyline

Justin: I am cheating a bit and tying together Cheryl & George, “Dark” Jerry and Babu because they were all related the entire time. George lands someone so far out of his league but the paranoia leads to him destroying the relationship, a man’s livelihood and Elaine’s bank account all in one fell swoop. The return of Babu was well handled and it was the perfect hook to round out this story because we were already familiar with him and Jerry’s obsession with helping him out as much possible. Good stuff all around.

Aaron: I really enjoyed Kramer’s continuous story about going to baseball fantasy camp and humbling Mickey Mantle. There’s a lot of obstacles in his way but he gets through the story, and I’ll be honest, I’m glad he punched that old prick. He certainly didn’t deserve to be thrown into a horse.

Andrew: Again, as much I love the story of Kramer fighting with retired Yankees, I’ll go with George’s storyline. He once again finds himself in a classical tragedy, as his scheming backfires completely and he takes his friends down with him. He tries to keep Cheryl from liking Jerry by asking him to be unfunny, which only makes her more attracted to the “dark and disturbed” Jerry, when George was the dark and disturbed one all along. It’s kind of perfect, dramatically speaking.

Jordan: Not sure if Serious Jerry counts as a storyline on it’s own, so I’ll play it safe and say George’s need for Jerry to tone it down to make him look better. Jerry commenting that George doesn’t have enough material to be funny that long was a nice insult, and just the premise of the idea is very George-esque. Most people want to be on their best behavior when they first start dating someone – that’s understandable. But to actually ask your friends to seem awful so you can look good in comparison? That’s commitment!

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should Elaine take the hit for not getting Jerry his mail? Yes, absolutely. When you agree to pick up someone’s mail, you enter a binding agreement that you will deliver that mail upon the friend’s return. Plus, she is always visiting Jerry and he never goes there. She is just being lazy and forgetful and it cost poor Babu! Also, her trying to blame Kramer going to the fantasy camp for her failings was just too much. Bad Laney!

Aaron: Why DO we celebrate birthdays to the degree that we do? Jerry’s right, the flickering of the candle is a sad indictment of the whole sordid affair. With every passing birthday we can imagine the birthday where we’re celebrating alone, behind left behind on Earth by loved ones who have passed on/been murdered, etc. Perhaps we should abolish the whole thing and simply celebrate the days where we kill our enemies. Relish the moment we saw the life leave their eyes, and be grateful that we still have the right and privilege to experience life at its fullest.

Andrew: Does Babu have a right to be mad at Jerry about the visa renewal form? It’s not like Jerry intentionally withheld it, he was just slow returning some misdelivered mail. If anyone, Babu should be mad at the U.S. Postal Service. And when he didn’t get the form, isn’t it his responsibility to contact the Immigration Services to find out if he has other options? Seems to me you’ve got a lot of misdirected anger there, Babu.

Jordan: I feel like Babu has no one to be mad at but himself. Yes, the mail wasn’t delivered on time, and Jerry didn’t bother checking his mail for a week, but maybe Babu should call the post office. Heck, there’s a mailman LIVING IN HIS BUILDING. Go see Newman!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: “Dark” Jerry and Cheryl really could have had something if George didn’t blow up his spot. Jerry could get pretty dedicated to role-play, so I bet he could have kept it going for a while. Maybe he could have sat in on Cheryl’s cases and gave a depraved insight into the minds of the criminals she was trying to incarcerate. What could have been. Relationship Grade: 8/10

Aaron: George would die of a heart attack from the constant pressure to “be on” if he stayed with Cheryl for more than a week. I’m glad he lived to murder Susan. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Andrew: Poor Cheryl Fong, another innocent bystander tossed about in the dramatic tempest that is George Costanza’s dating life. Sounds like she’s a really great courtroom lawyer, though. That could be pretty hot. Relationship Grade: 4/10

Jordan: In the pantheon of great Asian love interests on Seinfeld, Cheryl Fong falls short of Donna Chang. And Donna Chang is white. Not impressed. Also, shouldn’t a lawyer be a better judge of character? She thinks George is Mr. Comedy and Jerry is a brooding, introspective, misunderstood soul. Both of them are full grown children. Relationship Grade: CHANG > FONG

What Worked

Justin: George worrying that his friends are too funny and then worrying that he has no place to go but down is perfect Constanza; Babu is back; George’s fantasy camp comparison for Kramer was tremendous; Funny stuff with Jerry and Elaine ending up at Isabella’s after George went there to dodge them; George was masterful dodging his friends’ humor at the restaurant; Cheryl being related to Ping was a good twist too; The conversation about Jerry not having to be funny has always been one of my favorites, as is Jerry suddenly becoming dark and despondent; I love the idea that Kramer is an accomplished pitcher; Babu yelling from the street was great; The curdled milk line always makes me laugh; George selling out Jerry’s depravity in the car was really funny; George’s paranoia leading to Babu getting deported and Elaine getting sued again is absurdly great; The final scene with Babu in Pakistan is classic

Aaron: I love somber Jerry, and I probably shouldn’t find sadness as funny as I do. Elaine was really great with her snide little comments. I think if Kramer had been in the episode more he would have walked away with the best character award. His story was fantastic, and his delivery as perfect as usual. George’s anger at Jerry’s hilarity worked really well and the Pakistanis were well presented as men full of bile and rage.

Andrew: The return of Babu is really fun, and Jerry can’t seem to stop destroying his life while trying to help him. Babu’s brother was good as well, and kind of underrated, at least in my memory. I enjoyed all the bits about Jerry being naturally funny, especially George’s imagined punchline (“Never heard of corduroy!”). His serious act is entertaining as well, with a great capper in the curdled milk line (“I don’t care”). George’s “his life is a fantasy camp” line about Kramer is a classic, but I think I laughed harder at Elaine’s “Well, I ran out to apologize to a virgin…”. Kramer’s story of the fight with Mickey Mantle is one of my all-time favorites, mainly for his refusal to back down from Joe Pepitone crowding the plate.

Jordan: Again, serious Jerry. So great. Kramer’s entire Yankee storyline is really fun, and all it consists of is him telling what happened. Babu is a good character and this was a nice follow up. Jerry ruined his career, then got him deported. The scene at the end with Babu back home was a nice capper. George’s entire idea that his friends were funnier than him and thus Cheryl would lose interest is both absurd and probably accurate. Jerry and Elaine are MUCH better personalities than George, and he WOULD look awful in comparison. Cheryl falling for Jerry was a great twist.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: Jerry wanting his mail so badly is lame, who cares about mail that much; It was a bit weird that we hadn’t heard from Babu at all, but somehow Jerry had gotten him an apartment and a job; Who did Cheryl have to call so badly right then and why do they all assume she is calling Ping, that was a bit uncomfortable

Aaron: First off, I felt that Babu was an unwelcome addition to the episode. You totally could have had the “unfunny” Jerry story on its own. There just seemed to be no point to him being there, it was tacked on and felt laborious to watch while we waited for the good parts. “Funny” George with his toasts about toast is one of the most hateable characters in the history of storytelling. I’m curious if anyone else had issues following the time frame of what was going on? Jerry’s been gone four days, gets his mail a week later and in the time Babu gets deported? Seems a bit quick. I also have no idea how much time had passed between Elaine seeing Cheryl in the coffee shop and her deciding to relaunch the lawsuit. It just felt choppy and took me out of the story as I was trying to piece together the time frame. Last but not least how the hell does Cheryl not notice Jerry’s complete 180 in demeanor from the first time she meets him? She asks him if he ever laughs when they spent the first few minutes together laughing. For a show that has such a great attention to detail I was a little surprised they dropped the ball here.

Andrew: I didn’t enjoy George’s performance when Jerry and Elaine show up at the restaurant. I know we get a lot of laughs out of seeing him make situations worse, but it just felt unrealistic for him to be so obnoxious.

Jordan: I know they are cousins so they may have different last names, but if it’s the same, is Ping Fong the most stereotypical name ever created in television history? I also think Elaine was underused here.

Key Character Debuts

Cheryl Fong

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Oh, everything. Divorce, patents, immigration and naturalization.” – Cheryl “What is that, immigrants come over, you show them how to act natural?” – George

– “Ya gotta put on a show, ya always gotta give them a big show. You always have to be ‘on’ otherwise why would they like me? They’d just go for a better looking guy with more money.” – George

– “Ok, I’ll see you around the building.” – Jerry “I’ll see you in the building.” – Babu

– “Remember that guy who opened the restaurant across the street from the building last year and he wasn’t doing so well and I told him he should make it into all Pakistani and that drove him right out of business?” – Jerry

– “Kramer goes to a fantasy camp. His whole life is a fantasy camp. People should plunk down two-thousand dollars to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors and have sex without dating; that’s a fantasy camp.” – George

– “Toasting makes me uncomfortable. But toast, I love. Never start the day without a good piece of toast. In fact, let’s toast to toast.” – George

– ” No, no, you can’t do that, they’re round, it makes an ‘eight’ and, yeah, well alright.” – George

– “He thinks that if you’re too funny, he might not look so funny.” – Elaine “Biff?” – Jerry “What?” – George “You’re not worried about that?” – Jerry “No, of course not.” – George “I mean, so what if I’m funny? Who cares?” – Jerry “He thinks that if a woman sees a guy put on a better show, she’ll walk out on his show, go see the other show.” – Elaine “Well, should we leave?” – George “Maybe you don’t have to be so funny. I mean, would it kill you not to be so funny all the time? That’s all I’m asking. This woman thinks I’m very funny. Now you’re gonna be funny, so what am I gonna be? I’m gonna be a short bald guy with glasses who suddenly doesn’t seem so funny.” – George “This is so ridiculous. Can we just go over there?” – Elaine “I don’t have to be funny, I don’t care” – Jerry “You don’t?” – George “No way! It’s completely under my control.” – Jerry “No, it’s not. You cannot not be funny.” – Elaine “Of course I can, am I being funny now?” – Jerry “A little.” – Elaine “Oh, this is funny? I’m being funny?” – Jerry “Yeah.” – Elaine “George, is this funny?”- Jerry “It’s funny!” – George

– “Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we’ve grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it’s not to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; happy birthday? No such thing.” – Jerry

– “Well, you know, we were playing a game and, you know, I was pitching, and I was really throwing some smoke. And Joe Pepitone, he was up, and man that guy, you know, he was crowding the plate.” – Kramer “Wow! Joe Pepitone!” – Jerry “Yeah, well, Joe Pepitone or not, I own the inside of that plate. So I throw one, you know, inside, you know, a little chin music, put him right on his pants. Cause I gotta intimidate when I’m on the mound. Well the next pitch, he’s right back in the same place. So, I had to plunk him.” – Kramer “You plunked him.” – Jerry “Oh yeah. Well, he throws down his bat, he comes racing up to the mound. Next thing, both benches are cleared, you know? A brouhaha breaks out between the guys in the camp, you know, and the old Yankee players, and as I’m trying to get Moose Skowron off of one of my teammates, you know, somebody pulls me from behind, you know, and I turned around and I popped him. I looked down, and woah man, it’s Mickey. I punched his lights out.” – Kramer

– “You’re a very serious person, aren’t you?” – Cheryl “Well, with so many people in the world deprived and unhappy, it doesn’t seem like it would be fair to be cheerful.” – Jerry “I understand…I think it’s curdled.” – Cheryl “I don’t care.” – Jerry “Do you ever laugh?” – Cheryl “Not really. Sometimes, when I’m in the tub.” – Jerry “That’s so sad. What do you do?” – Cheryl “I’m a comedian.” – Jerry

– “You had my Visa application?!” – Babu “Well not technically.” – Jerry “I kill you!!” – Babu “Well what about her?” – Jerry “I kill both of you!!” – Babu “Babu?!” – Jerry “No Babu! No Babu! You bad man! You very bad man! You very lazy bad man!” – Babu “Babu, I’m gonna fix everything! I have a lawyer who knows someone in the Immigration Department, they’re gonna straighten the whole thing out, the wheels are in motion, things are happening even as we speak!” – Jerry “The wheels are in motion?” – Babu “The wheels are in motion, things are happening!” – Jerry

– “Dark and disturbed? His whole life revolves around Superman and cereal. I convinced him to act like that so that you would think I was funnier. That’s how disturbed I am! If you want disturbed, that’s disturbed. You can’t find sickness like that anywhere, you think sickness like that grows on trees? Nobody is sicker than me, nobody. He’s pretending, I’m the genuine article.” – George

– Elaine offers Babu’s brother a Snapple, continuing that running joke

– “Well, the four of them, they picked me up by my pants and they threw me outside, right into a horse.” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Kramer attended a Yankees fantasy camp, where he incited a brawl

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: A few nitpicks above, but overall there wasn’t much wrong with this one. The dialogue was crisp and really popped and all of the stories tied together perfectly. Kramer’s fantasy camp brawl was absurd, but it was kept just in the background enough that it made it work. Jerry, George and Elaine’s dalliance with Cheryl from three different angles was really well done and I liked that it continues the trend of weaving season long storylines into these episodes. There were tons of funny quotes here as well and watching Jerry go dark has always been one of my favorite character turns in the series. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: Sloppy writing with a tacked on Babu appearance makes this one the probably low point of the season so far. Nothing lasts forever I guess, I’m sure they’ll bounce back. Final Grade: 4/10

Andrew: I’m still not quite sure where I stand on this one. I enjoyed a lot of the individual elements: the plot was good, Kramer’s story is excellent, and it’s always good to see Babu. But I didn’t really enjoy the episode as a whole. I can’t put my finger on why, but this feels like a “less than the sum of the parts” episode to me. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan:  Hmm, I’m unsure of how to rank this one. Serious Jerry scores big for me, as does the Kramer storyline. The George storyline looks great on paper, but in delivery…something is missing. Maybe Cheryl isn’t that great of a character? Not sure. It’s not that it is bad or even unfunny, it’s just unremarkable. Maybe stick a scene in with Cheryl and Elaine discussing the lawsuit and then Jerry? I dunno, just felt like something was missing. Still, this isn’t bad, it’s just not an episode you need to see. Final Grade: 5/10

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.