Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Wallet” (S4, E5)

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: Morty Seinfeld. All day and all night. And twice on Sunday. He dominated this episode and stole every scene he was in. From his aloof responses early on to his rampage at the doctor’s office, he was the easy choice this time around. Helen was good too, as was George, natch.

Aaron: Morty Seinfeld in a walk. The resemblance to my own father is uncanny, and not in a fun “Cyclops” kind of way. The fight to pay for anything, the insistence on telling his story no matter what you’re trying to tell him and the entire reaction in the doctor’s office are all things I have lived through. Perhaps I’m only laughing at them so forcefully as a defense mechanism to conceal the fact that a man who passive aggressively talks to himself in a doctor’s office so that others can hear probably scarred me on a profound level. Maybe it’s that, or maybe it truly is funny. Nope it’s that. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha……

Andrew: Morty Seinfeld is the greatest. He’s a strong contender for best character any time he’s on, but he was on fire in this one. He starts out with some classics: trying to pay for everything, carrying his own bags with a bad back, raving about his comfortable pants. He took it to another level in the doctor’s office; I’ve always wanted to refuse to fill out ridiculous forms and yell about being left without explanation in an examination room, and enjoyed seeing Morty live out that fantasy. And he closes the episode out by getting testy with Uncle Leo. I love me some Morty Seinfeld.

Jordan: Morty tramples the competition. Kramer was good, but this was like a bunch of amateurs trying to keep up with a professional. Virtually every line he had was solid and he’s a tour de force, from trying to pay for everything, to carrying the suitcase, and of course shouting, “My wallet’s gone! My wallet’s gone!” Morty owns this.

Best Storyline

Justin: Oh man, so much good stuff going on here, but I will go with Morty’s foibles, from his paperwork issues to his missing wallet to his sleuthing over the watch. Anything he touched instantly turned to gold here and he is filled with so much distrust and anger that the smallest things set him off into a tremendous blinding rage. He is a true icon.

Aaron: I loved Morty’s adventures in dealing with the doctor. He’s clearly against it as soon as he steps off the plane and the skepticism continues as he strides into the office and refuses to fill out the forms. He doesn’t seem to understand that people sometimes need to wait, even for twenty minutes to see a doctor, but none the less he remains a decent (participatory) sport until his wallet is “stolen”. His screaming about the wallet has always been a personal favorite line of mine, and the subsequent refusal to hear the doctor is great. I want to blame it on his advanced age, but clearly the doctor is probably the same age as him and probably has never had a public fit to rival Morty Seinfeld.

Andrew: Despite a distinct lack of Morty, the Svengali storyline was my favorite. There’s something very sick and sinister about a psychiatrist manipulating his patient into dating him, and yet it’s played entirely for laughs here. Ignoring ethical and emotional consequences like that would annoy me if this were a different show, but I’ve always enjoyed the way Seinfeld treats its characters as if they were sociopaths. Nervous-lying Elaine is my favorite, and the creepy doctor is great, really selling the idea of his hold over her.

Jordan: I think I will go with the watch lie. I probably got more laughs from Morty in the doctor’s office, but I like Jerry trying to fumble through a lie about a watch he threw away. Kramer making things worse by insisting he would go to the watch shop and get it for him and loudly questioning each lie enhanced things, and then Uncle Leo showing up wearing it at the end was icing on the cake.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: Should Morty still pay for the visit? Should he have stormed out without at least viewing the results? Should he have called the cops if he suspected theft or foul play? No. No. Yes! For someone so bitter and angry, Morty doesn’t seem to do much to force the issue as he just leaves the office and grumbles about it instead of getting the authorities involved. Also, he should have looked at the results to at least help diagnose the issue.

Aaron: Depending on the gift, I have sometimes would have rather not gotten it at all than have had to write or call in a thank you. If my father knew I received a gift, say from one of his friends, he would be on my ass to call every time I spoke with him until I picked up the phone. Here’s the thing though, every time he brought it up, I wanted to call them less. I wanted to be left the fuck alone. Now it’s become a personal rebellion against my father rather than the proper reciprocal gesture it should have been to begin with. I’d just as soon not get the present. I didn’t ask for it! So all that to say I get why George is a little upset about the surprise cigar gift.

Andrew: Is it OK to lie to get out of a relationship? Honesty is the best policy, as usual, but there can be extenuating circumstances. To get out of an abusive and/or dangerous situation, lying is definitely on the table. Although even then, it can backfire if you get found out. Never underestimate a Svengali.

Jordan: We probably should have addressed this before, but as a physician of any kind, should you get into a relationship with a patient? Elaine’s jolly Svengali seems like a real manipulator, and I bet he’s left a trail of psychologically scarred women in his wake. He seems like should be on an episode of SVU just as much as Seinfeld.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Elaine and the Chinese Woman. Clearly it was a leftover subconscious haunting from her long wait at the Chinese restaurant back in the day. Perhaps one day her dream will be realized and they can live happily ever after, feating on Chinese food with no wait, for ever and ever. Relationship Grade: Someday/10

Aaron: When I was growing up I never told my dad I had a girlfriend because he teased me so incessantly. I just kept everything hidden until I absolutely had to tell him. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Andrew: Maybe there’s nothing wrong with dating your psychiatrist. Who am I to pass judgment on how two people manage to find happiness in a cruel, uncaring world? Plus, you could probably get some cool drugs out of the deal. Relationship Grade: 3/10

Jordan: George and Susan have reached the point in their relationship where gifts are exchanged, but aren’t far enough into it to know what the other would actually like. Cuban cigars are probably pretty pricy, but what’s George going to do with them? She should have gotten him something like a Rascal or a key to the executive bathroom at NBC. Still, good effort. Relationship Grade: 5/10

What Worked

Justin: Morty & Helen slay it immediately out of the gate; George not liking Susan’s father’s gift because he has to write a thank you note; Kramer asking Jerry for the time and then grilling him on the broken watch was great; The calamine lotion line always makes me laugh; Morty being a cranky asshole at the doctor’s office was perfect delivery; Elaine’s return was well done and a good moment, including Kramer assuming it was a burglar, it was great to have her back; Jerry analyzing the facial dating tell was good stuff and a bit that didn’t feel forced in; Elaine being stuck in a relationship because her psychiatrist knows her deeply was a good hook; I love the stolen wallet stuff, especially Morty’s anger; Elaine’s scene with Dr. Reston at his office was really funny; Bobo!; Uncle Leo’s argument with Morty was high class entertainment piled onto Leo finding the watch and taking it to Jimmy Sherman, who returned it the next day

Aaron: Obviously I loved all the bits with the elderly. Morty is great at everything, but Helen is right there with him. They’ve written the perfect doting mother role, a person that just has to know everything about everything. Her interrogation of Jerry on the ride home is the opening salvo that every son has had to face down when seeing their mother. She clearly doesn’t see it as snooping, and to her it isn’t, but why does she have to know what the Jerry/Kramer hallway interaction was? Uncle Leo is his usual excellent self, and I love that they call him out for repeating the personal favor. It’s exactly the kind of self-referential writing I love. Once again Kramer is wonderful,(and he’ll take anything) especially when he keeps opening the door to the watch conversation in Jerry’s apartment. He’s just trying to help and it’s hilarious. It’s such a wonderful example of two characters having indirect conflicting objectives. Jerry is trying very hard to not bring up the watch in front of his parents while Kramer is trying to help Jerry get his watch fixed. Just awesome stuff there. I love, love, love Susan laughing in George’s face when he brings up Ted Danson. His “negotiation” (hand gesture and all) clearly wasn’t working. I also love, love, love, love the callback to the uncomfortable sofa, and Morty complaining that Helen “sticks up for that sofa like he’s criticizing a person.”

Andrew: Just about everything with Jerry’s parents works. Helen being incredulous that anyone doesn’t like Jerry is great, and Morty’s response is even better: “Maybe some people don’t like him. I could see that.” They always have excellent chemistry with Kramer, and are even better with Uncle Leo. We get to see cocky, strutting George after he turns down NBC’s offer, which is always funny. I enjoy and relate to George’s dislike for thank you cards. I like the psychiatrist’s unexplained conversation with “Bobo”. I was going to put something about hating “To Be Continued” in the “Didn’t Work” section, and then they lampshaded it with Jerry’s closing stand-up bit. Well played, Seinfeld. Well played.

Jordan: Morty and Helen are stars, and I know I said this when Jerry went to Florida, but I am surprised they never got a spin-off. I would have watched it. Crazy Joe Davola is such an unbelievable story, but I love that the part Helen can’t get past is that someone may not like Jerry. Let’s put Uncle Leo in here too, as his appearance, though brief, is fun. I love him flailing his arms at Morty in the restaurant. Kramer peppering Jerry with questions about the watch was great, especially since Jerry is a terrible liar. Morty in the doctor’s office was golden. His disgust at filling out paperwork and refusal once he saw the STD questions (what are you trying to hide Morty??) was just the appetizer for the main course: The wallet fiasco. I like that he thinks the doctor is running a con job on people, stealing their wallets while they get x-rays. Elaine’s return was handled well and I liked everyone’s reaction to her. Susan letting George know he’s no Ted Danson was a nice followup to Jerry doing the same. Two more Kramer related things: I like the doc asking if Kramer is his first or last name, and Elaine totally dismissing it. I also like when Kramer’s hair was on fire – it was a setup you’d see in just about ANY sitcom, only instead of rolling my eyes, Kramer’s physical comedy makes it work.

What Didn’t Work

Justin: I really can’t find anything bad here without nitpicking.

Aaron: I didn’t love the repeating bit with George and Jerry, or when Jerry clearly slides into his act when he describes the relationship tells to Elaine. Both moments felt tacked on. Also: Jerry seems waaaaaay too OK with George’s sickening display of eating the peanut butter with his hands. This is a small thing too but when Elaine is doing the “Federal Express” reveal (right before a great happy dance) Jerry, George and Kramer are scared to find out who it is. With great trepidation they open the door. Why didn’t they use the peephole?

Andrew: While I like the storylines continuing from one episode to another, there is a downside. There’s no resolution to the missing wallet, so the main story just kind of peters out. It doesn’t ruin the episode or anything, but it’s not ideal.

Jordan: Struggling to find anything here. Maybe a little more Susan and George interaction? I dunno.

Key Character Debuts

N/A

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– George continues to compare himself to Ted Danson

– Jerry’s parents ask about the watch he threw away in the previous episode

– “So what’s the matter with this Davola guy?” – Helen “He’s got like a chemical imbalance. He needs to be on medication.” – Jerry “Oh, yeah. He’s after Jerry now.” – Kramer “Kramer!!” – Jerry “He’s what?!” – Helen “He’s joking.” – Jerry “He’s after you?” – Helen “Nooo.” – Jerry “Why is he after you?” – Helen “He’s not after me.” – Jerry “Morty, did you hear this? Some crazy guy is after Jerry.” – Helen “I’ll make a few phone calls.” – Morty “Who are you going to call?” – Jerry “What are you worried about?” – Morty “I want to know what you did to this guy that he’s after you.” – Helen “I didn’t do anything.” – Jerry “Well you must have done something.” – Helen “No, he just doesn’t like me.” – Jerry “Doesn’t like you? How can anyone not like you?” – Helen “You know, it seems impossible.” – Jerry “Doesn’t like you? How can that be?” – Helen “Ma, I know this may be hard for you to understand but I am sure there are many people who do not like me.” – Jerry “Huh, Jerry, don’t say that.” – Helen “It’s true.” – Jerry “No, it’s not true. You’re a wonderful, wonderful boy. Everybody likes you. It’s impossible not to like you. Impossible. Morty?” – Helen “Maybe some people don’t like him. I could see that.” – Morty “Kramer?” – Helen “Yeah, I like him.” – Kramer

– “What was that about?” – Helen “Oh, oh, uh, he’s got my Calamine lotion and uh, I told him not to return it. If he needs it he should keep it. He’s got uh, he’s got a thing on his ankle.” – Jerry “How could anyone not like him?” – Helen

– Morty blames his bad back on sleeping on the pullout sofa in Florida

– “Well, it’s not the sofa.” – Helen “You stick up for that sofa like I’m criticizing a person.” – Morty

– “Jerry, my young friend, you are so naive. You are so so naive. You know about a few things. You know about comedy, a little bit about relationships, some baseball, but you are so far out of your element here, you are embarrassing yourself. Now listen to me. I am negotiating. Negotiation, this is what you do in business.” – George

– “Ah! It’s Velcro. I can’t stand Velcro. It’s that t-e-a-r-I-n-g sound. I used to be in raincoats. I refused to put that in any of my lines.” – Morty

– George gives Kramer the box of Cuban cigars

– “Oh, it’s my parents. My father came up to see a back specialist.” – Jerry “Oh, golly, it’s probably from sleeping on that sofa.” – Elaine

– “What are you eating my peanut butter out of the jar with your disgusting index fingers? This is a sickening display.” – Jerry “I’m not eating bread now. I’m off bread.” – George “You’re off bread…” – Jerry

– “He has this power over me, okay. He has this way of manipulating every little word I say. He’s like a Svenjolly.” – Elaine “Svengali.” – George “What did I say?” – Elaine “Svenjolly.” – Jerry “Svenjolly? I did not say Svenjolly.” – Elaine “George?” – Jerry “Svenjolly.” – George “I don’t see how I could have said Svenjolly.” – Elaine “So maybe he’s got like a cheerful mental hold on you.” – Jerry

– “What kind of clip joint are you running here?” – Morty

– “Excuse me. Yes, Oh yes, Bobo. No it’s just east of Madison. Around 4:00 will be fine. All right Bobo. I’m sorry where were we?” – Dr. Reston

– “Elaine, do you remember your dream where you have a sexual encounter with a Chinese woman?” – Dr. Reston

Oddities & Fun Facts

– The receptionist at the doctor’s office is portrayed by Denise Dowse, who also portrayed Mrs. Teasley on Beverly Hills, 90210

– There is over the top applause for all of Kramer’s entrances

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: This was a hidden classic for sure. There was no big occurrence or Hall of Fame moment, but it was steady throughout, never dropping off for even one scene. Everyone that got screen time delivered in their role and each scene played a part in tying things together so well. I have been loving this season, with the ongoing storyline weaving from episode to episode. They are so good at tying things together, so something like this works really well thanks to their strong talents. It was also great to see Elaine back and tossed right into the fire. Oh, and Morty Seinfeld rules all. Final Grade: 8/10

Aaron: It’s great to have Elaine back and while she didn’t do much here I’m excited to have her join this, so far, excellent season. I’ve got to be honest here: I feel like this entry helped me work through some of my issues with my father. Sure, watching Morty Seinfeld triggered my PTSD, but I feel much, much better now. I swear…It’s a good episode. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: This was another excellent episode. It’s really good to see Elaine back, and Jerry’s parents are always a welcome addition. That said, I did get the feeling the episode is lacking in some unidentified way; maybe they focus a bit too much on Helen and Morty, and not enough on the main characters? Is “too much Morty Seinfeld” even possible? Regardless, while I enjoyed the episode, it feels like it’s a notch below the classics. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: Elaine is back, Morty and Helen are here, Leo visits and George is fumbling through a relationship. This one hits on just about every note. The only downside is I can’t point to one CLASSIC moment that puts it over the top. Very solid effort. Final Grade: 7/10

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.