Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Wife” (S5, E17)

Welcome to Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch! On a regular basis, JT Rozzero, Aaron George, Andrew Flanagan, Jordan Duncan and Jason Greenhouse 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

JT: Some tough choices here as I really liked the chemistry between Jerry and Meryl and I thought Elaine was on point, but I have to go with George. He wasn’t in a ton, but he crackled in every scene he was in. He non stop defense of pissing in the shower was so full of spirit and soul that you wanted to side with him regardless of your feelings on the situation. Plus, the payoff with the sweaty machine was nicely done. IT’S ALL PIPES!

Aaron: Perhaps if Uncle Leo’s hurricane of insult and despair had gone on longer he’d take it, but as it stands I have to go with George. He probably could have won this category by simply dressing like a blueberry but his speech/fit about pipes has always been a favorite of mine. Add a little spiteful vengeance to Costanza’s maligned life and you have a recipe for a winner.

Andrew: Feels like a bit of a weak field this week, but I’ll go with Elaine. The way she acts out flirting will always be funny to me; it’s something to do with the constant movement and trunk twists, I think. The fights with George over peeing in the shower are quite good, too. And the suspender snap she does with her workout gear is a classic.

Jordan: I had typed out a couple sentences of why I picked George, but I erased them and switched my pick to Elaine. George and Elaine is a fun combo and I enjoyed the dilemma of George’s shower piss getting him booted from the gym, and how it weighed on her. Her flirting is fun, and her inner monologue about how good she looks was nice too.

Jason: The K-Man was fantastic, Uncle Leo’s role was brief and quite funny, but I’ll go with George Costanza: Public Urinator. He didn’t dominate the episode, but no one can defend themselves in a situation like this better than him.

Best Storyline

JT: Kramer’s blackface gets an honorable mention but I really enjoyed the wife stuff. Jerry and Meryl worked off each other very well and getting Uncle Leo involved was perfect writing. But… who has THAT much dry cleaning?

Aaron: I guess George pissing in the drain. Honestly this was a pretty weak week for storylines. Nothing really grabbed me.

Andrew: I liked Elaine trying to suss out Greg’s interest the most. Even putting my enjoyment of Elaine’s flirting style aside, there’s plenty of humor to be found in trying to interpret the (often inadvertent) signals of someone you’re interested in. I’ve got to figure out Greg’s secret, though: I’ve been trying the “don’t pay attention and ignore” approach for years, with far less success. Add in George’s shower etiquette issues, and this is a pretty solid storyline.

Jordan: George frantically trying to not get turned in for being a public urinator. The wife stuff was pretty good, but I think there was too much of it and some of it felt a bit forced. With George, nothing was forced, it all flowed freely into the pipes!

Jason: I really enjoyed everything with Jerry and Meryl, but George getting caught pissing in shower takes it. Great writing with douchebag Greg being the guy who caught him.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Was Meryl right to take advantage of the very generous 25% discount offer? I mean, it was such a grand gesture over just a returned picture, I feel like it was bad karma to jump in on the action like that. Too many quilts!

Aaron: Are you a dick if you don’t wipe down a machine after using it? As a guy who worked in a gym for six years: yes. Yes you are. Not only is it a complete lack of respect for everyone else in the room but you have no idea how it feels to field that complaint. Gym members are assholes and think they own the place because they pay a membership fee. Whether it’s complaining to the staff about another member stinking, or complaining that a classroom is 68 degrees instead of 67 believe me the awkward situations these fools put the staff through are innumerable. What exactly are you hoping to achieve by complaining about a guy not wiping down the machine. Why don’t you just tell him since you feel you own the fucking place? Nope! You come and tell me and I have to take the walk of shame over to the inconsiderate douche and ask him to wipe his sweat off the machine. Unbeknownst to both of us by now an old man has already jumped on said machine and is now swimming in used sweat. The kicker? He’s not using a towel either. And so the cycle continues…

Andrew: If you see someone who has clearly overdone it with the tanning bed, should you say something? It seems safe to assume they’re aware of the problem, and have probably been hearing about it all day. On the other hand, if I was walking around looking like a damn fool and no one said anything, I wouldn’t be too happy about it. Maybe best to avoid artificial tanning altogether.

Jordan: Who kisses women on the lips like that? I even think the kiss on the cheek as a greeting or goodbye is somewhat rare, but going in for the lips? Greg is a weirdo and Elaine was justified in all her confusion.

Jason: What’s worse at the gym, catching someone pissing in the shower or someone not wiping down a machine when they’re done? I find them both disgusting and both call for a gym membership to be revoked.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: I liked Jerry and Meryl a lot and she instantly jumps to the top tier of Jerome’s lady friends. Greg sucks. Relationship Grade: Pancakes/10

Aaron: Jerry and Meryl did nothing but fight, but hey…that’s marriage! Right? Right. Right… Greg was a dick and didn’t deserve Elaine. I think our best hope is Kramer and Anna. Their sex romp is such a nice contrast to Jerry and Meryl’s “I love you” fest. Relationship Grade: 6/10

Andrew: So many doomed relationships, whether it’s Jerry and Meryl moving too fast, Elaine and Greg never getting off the ground, or Kramer requiring sensitivity training. Relationship Grade: He’d Just Crave My Germs/10

Jordan: Jerry and Meryl seemed OK at first, but about halfway through, I grew tired of her, so I can only imagine how Jerry felt. I can only assume she was so crushed by this breakup that she changed her name and relocated in New York. Relationship Grade: Miss Chanandaler Bong/10

Jason: Kramer and Anna seemed to have a good thing going, until he falls asleep in the tanning bed. Elaine gets caught up between taking the side of her good friend George and dickhead Greg. Jerry and Meryl were terrific together, but who’s she to say that her and Jerry are married? All she wants to do is mooch his dry cleaning discount. Mooching off Jerry is Kramer’s shtick. Relationship Grade: Maple Syrup/ 10  

What Worked:

JT: Jerry and Meryl have pretty good chemistry despite how over the top they are; The Monk’s owner always makes me laugh; Kramer’s quilt; George getting caught peeing in a public shower is such a perfect George transgression; Jerry’s medical journals quip always makes me chuckle; The Uncle Leo discovery was perfect; The penmanship conversation is fantastic; George’s bump off the stair master was well done, only matched by Kramer’s sleepy collapse in the kitchen; Jerry and Meryl slowly realizing the truths of marriage is well executed; Always a treat to get a visit from Helen & Morty; The Elaine/George fight over the pipes is classic; Elaine’s strap snap is good; Kramer showing up at the apartment with the absurd tan is so fantastic

Aaron: Greg having no time for Elaine’s jokes and puns always gets me. George’s tone as he foreshadows his entrance is pretty great as is his commitment to his pipes theory. HE WILL CALL A PLUMBER! Kramer’s insomnia gave us some pretty solid physical stuff, especially his fall while wearing his robe. Elaine stating “He wiped his hand on the top of the bottle when I offered him water” is wonderfully delivered in the most perfect staccato monosyllabic way. Uncle Leo has the shortest of windows before he has to catch his bus but he’s able to cause his usual chaos. The best part is when he leaves you the viewer start to picture the fallout which will no doubt involve a call from Jerry’s parents. Kramer getting yelled at and called a damn fool by the angry black father/grandfather/uncle always kills me.

Andrew: I laughed out loud when Greg kissed Elaine after no-selling all her jokes, and during the “No outside syrups” thing. I’ve already mentioned Elaine’s flirting, but her confidence is great too: “That’s no signal, who wouldn’t like me in this leotard? I look amazing in this leotard.” Jerry and Meryl’s whirlwind “marriage” was decent, but didn’t really pay off for me until the “affair”. There’s something about those telenovela-style scenes that always gets me. Any appearance by Jerry’s parents is welcome, and I especially enjoyed Morty somehow getting in two “I told you so”. Uncle Leo was great too, and having him yell “Hello!” at the bus was a nice touch. George’s “It’s all pipes!” argument is great, if not terribly convincing. Kramer has some good moments, especially his declaration that he takes baths.

Jordan: I like that Kramer needs a quilt to sleep. Greg just deadpanning through all of Elaine’s flirting then just planting one on her was so weird that it was funny. What a douche. George falling while working out was hilariously stupid. I enjoy George justifying his shower pee with, “They’re all pipes!!!” Jerry asking if medical journals say anything about standing in a pool of someone else’s urine was a nice line. Meryl was good for a while, I didn’t care for her when they grew annoyed with each other. Uncle Leo bursting in at just the right moment was awesome. Morty accusing Helen of not believing Jerry would get married, then claiming he knew it when Jerry wasn’t actually married was good. Kramer’s tan was something to behold. The syrup stuff was fun, especially with them getting busted at Monk’s.

Jason: I’ve always been a Courtney Cox fan and she nailed it here as Meryl, the wanna be wife. Jerry blaming Meryl for bringing the maple syrup to breakfast when Larry from Monk’s calls them out on it. Jerry’s, “Here we go…”, before George says he got caught pissing in the showers. Kramer saying he takes baths. Uncle Leo’s quick appearance was fantastic. “Nobody sends me an invitation?” Kramer coming in with Jerry’s can opener after he and Meryl were bickering about it. Jerry meeting the side-chick in the cleaners was great writing. Kramer falling asleep in the tanning bed and the payoff of meeting Anna’s parents was excellent. One of my favorite little things is whenever Helen and Morty call Jerry and they’re both on the phone playing 21 questions with him.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Is dry cleaning such a hot commodity that Meryl would leap at the opportunity to lie for 25% off?; Greg is a soulless, rotten human; Greg is also ugly; Meryl > Paula, bad move Jerome; How much dry cleaning does Meryl do?

Aaron: Jerry still can’t kiss a woman. I feel for his poor wife. My big problem with this one is again it feels like four stories mashed together instead of one big story that branches off in four directions seamlessly. It’s like “Ok we have this wife thing, this George peeing in the shower thing and Elaine dating a dick how we fit them together.” Then someone blurts out, “You know what would be funny? Kramer dating a black girl and showing up tanned to her parents’ house.” I just want a little more cohesion in the writing and not the discarded bits of stuff they didn’t use Frankensteined into an episode. Also how much god damned dry-cleaning do these people do every week???

Andrew: How does Meryl ordering a “short stack” solve Jerry’s problem with them both ordering pancakes? Isn’t a short stack just a smaller order of pancakes? And why does Jerry have two VHS copies of True Colors on his shelf? Does he like it so much he needs a backup? I thought the Gore-Tex callback fell flat, as did Jerry and Meryl over-selling the marriage thing at the dry-cleaners.

Jordan: Greg sucks, Elaine can do so much better. The Jerry and Meryl fight over the can opener didn’t work for me. I also think it’s weird that Jerry isn’t thoroughly sickened by George peeing in the shower. He’s such a germophobe, even if he knows George does it, he should be over the top ridiculous every time he hears about it.

Jason: Greg is a piece of garbage. Go choke on your olives, pal! George’s blue sweats outfits at the gym was really bad.

Key Character Debuts

Meryl

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Uh, let me get a coat. I think I’ll try a sport jacket and scarf thing, you know, like an unemployed actor.” – Jerry

– “Uh, we don’t allow any outside syrups, jams or condiments in the restaurant. And if I catch you in here with that again…I will confiscate it.” – Owner

– “My wife has an inner ear infection.” – Kramer

– “Hey. Hey Elaine, what do you say if neither of us is married in ten years, we get hitched?” – Kramer “Let’s make it fifty.” – Elaine “We’re engaged! Alright, I’m gonna get my quilt.” – Kramer

– “I don’t know why you’re interested in this guy, he’s a jerk.” – Jerry “Because, he doesn’t pay any attention to me, and he ignores me.” – Elaine “Yeah, so?” – Jerry “I respect that.” – Elaine

– “Do you go in the shower?” – Elaine “No, never.” – Jerry “Do you?” – Elaine “I take baths.” – Kramer

– “Ever hear of…holding it in?” – Elaine “Oh, no…no, that’s very bad for the kidneys.” – George “How do you know?” – Elaine “Medical journals!” – George “Do the medical journals mention anything about standing in a pool of someone else’s urine?” – Jerry

– “Who told you when you went to school that you print well?” – Uncle Leo “You did, you did.” – Jerry “When he was younger, he had a beautiful penmanship. I used to encourage him to print.” – Uncle Leo “I’m a good printer.” – Jerry “I remember your ‘V.’ It was like a perfect triangle. Whoa, there’s my bus!”  Uncle Leo

– “I’m glad you’re here. This can get really boring. Do you know where I can get some good olives?” – Greg

– “Hey…I’m not stupid. I’m looking in that drawer, there’s no can opener.” – Jerry “Did I say you were stupid?” – Meryl “Well, wouldn’t I have to be? You tell me there’s a can opener in the drawer, I’m looking in the drawer, there’s no can opener – what other conclusion could one reach?” – Jerry

– “Are you kidding? That’s very significant! If he was interested in me, he’d want my germs! He’d just crave my germs!” – Elaine

– “I was there! I saw a drain!” – George “Since when is a drain a toilet?!” – Elaine “It’s all pipes! What’s the difference?!” – George “Different pipes go to different places! You’re gonna mix ’em up!” – Elaine “I’ll call a plumber right now!” – George “Alright, can we just drop all the pee-pipe stuff here?” – Jerry

– “What if he left you a used Kleenex, what’s that, a valentine?” – George

– “I guess I just wasn’t ready for the responsibilities of a pretend marriage.” – Jerry

– “I thought you said you was bringin’ a white boy home! I don’t see a white boy! I see a damn fool!” – Grandpa

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Meryl is portrayed by Courteney Cox

– Jerry references Gore-Tex in a call back to The Dinner Party

– Kramer uses tanning beds

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This was a really rock solid episode but again is hurt by the fantastic curve of season five. George was on fire here and his arguments with Elaine over the pipes and gym show etiquette were great. I also enjoyed the physical humor that snuck in here from Kramer, George and Laney. The wife stuff was well executed and I will never complain about an Uncle Leo visit, especially when he pontificates about penmanship. A very good effort and (I feel like we say this a lot) if it were in a different season or part of a different show, it probably checks in higher. Final Grade: 6/10

Aaron: This is a weird one. It made me laugh quite a bit, but it all had to do with little moments and nothing to do with the scenario. It’s like the elements of farce worked really well for me but the elements of comedy and situation fell flat. Let’s call it an even seven and be done with it. Final Grade: 7/10

Andrew: This episode has its moments, but never really blew me away. I think this is one of those cases where a bunch of funny moments don’t add up as well as it seems like they should. For example, over-tanned Kramer meeting his girlfriend’s family always seems funnier to me in clip shows than it does in the context of the plot. It’s not a bad episode, by any means, but not really up to the standards of this season, either.  Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: I dunno, this one started off pretty good and kind of fizzled by the end. I thought the Meryl stuff was a little too much, with the fighting like married people and Jerry “cheating” with another woman. I would have preferred an episode full of George falling off of exercise equipment. Still, there was enough fun stuff in here for me to not hate it, it’s just not a great storyline episode. Final Grade: 6/10

Jason: A great pre-other NBC hit 90s show performance by Courteney Cox. George pissing in the showers is one of the best Costanza tales in the series. Uncle Leo killed it when he bumped into Jerry at the dry cleaners. A slightly above average episode as we head to the back stretch of this season. Final Grade: 7/10