Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Abstinence” (S8, E9)

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!

Seinfeld Season 08 Episode 09 - The Abstinence.mkv_snapshot_18.28_[2013.06.05_22.25.59]

Best Character

JT: I enjoyed Kramer and George a lot in this one but I have to go with my man Jackie Chiles. He electrifies any scene he is in and just slays it with his delivery and absurd turns of phrase. The way he describes Kramer to the Big Tobacco lawyer was brilliant, as was his killer final line.

Aaron: Sexual camel: George Costanza.

Andrew: I thought Elaine was the best. As far as I’m concerned, her dumb, sex-starved routine is the best part of the episode. Her exasperation during the Sue Ellen scene is quite good, too.

Jordan: Leather faced Kramer puts in a star effort, but the sexless genius version of Costanza is incredible. He has discovered absolute zero, he can hit dingers at Yankee Stadium, he is fluent in Portuguese. George illuminates our mind!

Jason: There’s a few choices to go with, but I’ll go with George here.  His lack of sex making his mind sharp was a lot of fun to watch unfold. From nailing the clues on Jeopardy to giving Jeter and Bernie batting tips and nailing the Portuguese waitress.  Him going back to old George after having sex with the waitress sealed the deal.

Best Storyline

JT: The Abstinence delivered some good laughs even though I thought parts of it came across as forced and rushed. It was almost too intricate of a story to play out in 22 minutes, I felt like it needed more room to develop or breather. Kramer’s slow development into a shrunken headed goblin was quite good as well.

Aaron: Everything with the abstinence is pure brilliance. George getting brilliant, Elaine descending to a place where rotating tires are mesmerizing; it all works. George just seems to work as a man of science. Whether he’s teaching the Yankees how to bat or illuminating young minds with some science experiments it truly is a loss to mankind when he finally bangs that Portuguese hussy. It’s certainly more of a loss to the women who now have to suffer his sexual advances.

Andrew: It’s The Abstinence, pretty easily. Abstaining from sex leading to an increase in intelligence is a pretty great conceit, and having the outcome reversed for women was a fun twist. Throw in George condescending to Jeter and Bernie, and that’s a great storyline.

Jordan: The Abstinence story is awesome. Even if it was just George being brilliant, I would like it, but throw in Elaine’s abstinence having the opposite effect and her becoming a blithering idiot that laughs at the word Pooh and is greatly amused by spinning tires, and we’ve got a great one.

Jason: Kramer’s smokers lounge and lawsuit along with Jerry getting bumped at the assembly were both good, but the abstinence stuff with George and Elaine wins it. George becoming sharp and Elaine becoming a slug played out really well.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should the Monk’s manager really be that pissed off at Elaine? Carlito should take better care of himself. Don’t get mad at the poor intern’s psychopathic girlfriend.

Aaron: If you’re a smoker are you less than human? On principle I guess no. I’ll amend though: If you’re a smoker and impose your habit on ANY other breathing human you’re being pretty damned impolite. If you subject your children to your habit you are liquid human shit and deserve nothing more than the same treatment James Bond gets at the end of Casino Royale. Think about it, we go out of our way not to fart around one another but we get all defensive if someone dares to ask us not to smoke around them. You want to get together in a small apartment and ruin each other’s lives? Fine. You set yourself up somewhere where anyone else has to suffer for you? LeChiffre. Chair. Rope.

Andrew: Is it OK for George to give up his ability to “better serve the world” for sex with a Portuguese waitress? I have no problem with it.

Jordan: Here’s a true ethical dilemma, should you have casual sex with a friend to help them become intelligent again? Jerry was so quick to say no to poor Elaine, and all she wanted was clarity to be able to do the crossword puzzle. PUSH THROUGH IT, JEROME.

Jason: Why does Radio Shack ask for your phone number when you buy batteries? Just because a person’s a smoker, does that mean that they aren’t a human being? As a smoker, I feel for the K-Man here.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: I don’t blame George for not giving up his newfound brilliance for sex with Louise. Doesn’t seem worth it. The Portuguese waitress? Bang on! Relationship Grade: Tungsten, or Wolfram/10

Aaron: Jerry’s a dick for not giving Elaine a pity fuck. Like if you’re single why wouldn’t you help out your hot friend who is legitimately in danger of devolving into a troll. Relationship Grade:0/10

Andrew: Poor Elaine ends up dumb and desperate, her dream of dating a doctor deferred. There’s not much spark with George and Louise, either. Relationship Grade: A fascinating turn of events/10

Jordan: It’s funny how this show has convinced me of things. For season after season, I have commented about the looks of George’s women and how they are out of his league. So you’d think Louise would be acceptable to me – only I immediately say to myself, “Why is George dating HER?” Congratulations Seinfeld crew, you’ve convinced me that Costanza deserves beautiful women. Relationship Grade: My mind is illuminated/10

Jason: Louise is not attractive at all. The Portuguese waitress is a major upgrade for George. Take away Ben’s “doctor” status and Elaine would want nothing to do with Ben. She better call Saul for some sweet loving. Relationship Grade: ABSOLUTE ZERO/ 10

What Worked:

JT: The cannibalism discussion was interested start to the show; I always enjoy George saying “Nucleosis”; The random conversation about debunk vs. bunk made me chuckle; Katie is always great; Jerry getting bumped from Career Day; Bob Odenkirk was really strong as Ben and I liked Elaine joking that she wasn’t really attracted to Ben because he wasn’t a doctor yet; Kramer’s Radio Shack observation is a great one; The slow revelation of George becoming brilliant due to no sex is really well done, starting with his Jeopardy dominance; Ben’s pathetic showing in front of Sue Ellen; I love Katie’s persistence and Jerry’s open disdain for her; George’s tutorial to Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams is an all time classic, “In six games”; Kramer turning into a leathery human voodoo doll is iconic; “Pooh” makes me laugh; Jackie F’N Chiles!; The scene with the Big Tobacco lawyer is tremendous; The Marlboro Man was a good capper, as was the cool David Letterman cameo

Aaron: OF COURSE! ABSOLUTE ZERO! Everything enlightened George does including considering mankind before going back to a sexual life. Everything “Moose” Elaine does including laughing at the word “pooh” as though she were a child. I love that the kids have zero patience for Jerry’s act, booing him the instant his first joke lands. The bunk vs. debunk conversation that opened the show was wonderful as was every run on sentence out of Jackie Chiles’ mouth. Bob Odenkirk was funny but was trumped by Elaine in every scene. Her angry correction of complicated terminology gets me every time. I love George’s girlfriend telling him she hates him as she leaves the diner. Who wouldn’t hate a guy so into atoms? It’s a small thing but I love how pleased George was when Jerry got bumped. It’s such smooth malice. The Letterman tag was a nice little treat.

Andrew: I really enjoyed the guest stars. Jackie Chiles is always a delight, I thought Bob Odenkirk was brilliant as “Dr.” Ben, and there’s even a Kyle Gass cameo. Kramer’s horror at his “wretched disfigurement” is fantastic, and clearly broke Jerry. George giving the Yankees players hitting tips is a classic. Elaine’s transformation into a moron is a lot of fun.

Jordan: One more time giving credit to genius George won’t hurt – I love everything about him here. My favorite part is his condescending response to Jeter that it took them six games to win the World Series. Stupid Elaine is almost as good, with her astonishment and wonder at the spinning tires. But let’s talk about Cosmo here – the poor man just wants to smoke with his friends. He’s willing to be subject to emphysema, birth defects and cancer – BUT HIS FACE WAS NOT PART OF THE EQUATION. Look away, reader, he is hideous. I almost wish this had crossed over into a second episode so we could get more Jackie, but I’ll take what I can. I also enjoy Katie, Jerry’s agent, constantly rebooking him at the school and breaking down to him what 6th through 8th grade means-  6th grade, 7th grade AND 8th grade!

Jason: Jerry and George’s plane crash discussion; Mono… Nucleosis; George asking Louise if she can’t have sex with him or in general; debunked; the teacher in full teacher mode; Jerry getting bumped for the lizard guy; Ben failing the licensing exam three times; Louise cock blocking George when he puts his hand on her thigh; Kramer firing up his cigar in Monks; graham crackers; “Single file, Jerry!” George nailing the clues on Jeopardy while playing with a Rubik’s Cube; Jerry asking if Jeopardy was a repeat; the head of lettuce as George’s brain; George remembering where he left his retainer in second grade; Kramer’s smoker rant; Sue Ellen sugar daddy, Rick the Periodontist; “He does Giuliani’s gums”; Ben hamming it up when Carlito passes out; non-filter section; Katie booking Jerry for two hours; Elaine shitting on Ben while they study for his exam; George giving the batting tips to Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams; George and Jeter’s exchange about winning the World Series in six games; Jerry filling nine minutes; George flirting with the waitress in Portuguese; pipe night; “Look away, I’m hideous.” Winnie the blank; “A simple joke from a simple man”; George preparing science experiments for the assembly; Jackie’s, “Oh no!” when Kramer pops in to his office; “Your face is my case.”; Elaine watching the tires spin; Elaine begging Jerry to have sex then asking if Kramer was home; rugged masculinity; Ben passing his exam and dumping Elaine to find someone better; George getting lost on the way to the school; George calculating the odds of having sex with a Portuguese waitress; the kids booing Jerry when he starts his material; Kramer not telling Jackie that the tobacco company settled; Cowboy Kramer on the billboard; Letterman bumping Jerry because he heard about him bombing at the school and got bumped for the lizard guy

What Didn’t Work

JT: George resetting the conversation by saying “so it’s just mono” out of nowhere so Elaine can walk in and hear it felt really forced and non-Seinfeld; Jerry immediately diagnosing George’s sudden brilliance felt a bit rushed and forced as well, at least let it breathe a bit; Rick the Periodontist is a dick, I am sure of it; I kind of get why they did the no sex idiocy twist for Elaine but it felt shoehorned in and not as organic as George’s newfound genius; I also thought it was silly that George becomes an instant dunce, even dumber than before, after having sex;

Aaron: Of all the wonderful things George does in this episode it makes no god damn sense that he’d be so into finding a retainer from second grade. If someone asked to used my cereal bowls as ashtrays they’d cease to be my friend.

Andrew: I kind of wish they had followed up on Elaine briefly considering sleeping with Kramer. I mean, I get why they didn’t, but while rewatching the episode, it felt like a missed opportunity.

Jordan: There’s a few things I could nitpick here, but I think the biggest issue is this. Jerry is supposed to be a very successful comedian, yet every time we ever hear some of his material, he’s terrible. The middle school booed him!

Jason: What kind of middle school books Rick James for an assembly? I don’t even think a college would do such a thing. Kramer’s white socks with his suit is a big NO for me. Black or brown, pal. Why does Jerry have a head of lettuce in his apartment? He never cooks.

Key Character Debuts

– David Letterman

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “George, I can’t have sex.” – Louise “With me or in general?” – George “I went to the doctor today. I have mono.” – Louise “Nucleosis.” – George

– “I can do six weeks standin’ on my head. I’m a sexual camel. That’s not the point. At least there was the possibility.” – George “Well, so, are you gonna break up with her?” – Jerry “I don’t know. I don’t wanna be one of those guys.” – George “What guys?” – Jerry “Like us.” – George

– “Listen, something just came up for Tuesday at the Dayton Civic Center. That’s Ohio, Jerry.” – Katie “I’ve heard of Ohio, Katie. But Tuesday’s no good. I’m doin’ career day at my old junior high.” – Jerry

– “They’re trying to screw with your head.” – Kramer “Now why would a junior high school want to screw with my head?” – Jerry “Why does Radio Shack ask for your phone number when you buy batteries? I don’t know.” – Kramer

– “I met some people smoking on the street, so I invited them up to my apartment to smoke.” – Kramer “Why?” – Jerry “Well somebody had to. You know, just because a person’s a smoker, that doesn’t mean he’s not a human being.” – Kramer “It doesn’t?” – Jerry “Jerry, these people aren’t just going to let themselves be flicked into the ashbin of society.” – Kramer “Why not?” – Jerry “Well you can confine them, you can punish them, you can cram them into the corner, but they’re not going away, Jerry.” – Kramer “All right.” – Jerry

– “Oh yeah, people really seem to be enjoying themselves. You know, they come in once, it’s like they’re addicted.” – Kramer

– “We won the World Series.” – Jeter “In six games.” – George

– “It’s from all that smoke. You’ve experienced a lifetime of smoking in 72 hours. What did you expect?” – Jerry “Emphysema, birth defects, cancer. But not this. Jerry, my face is my livelihood, my allure… my twinkle! Everything I have I owe to this face.” – Kramer “And your teeth, your teeth are all brown.” – Jerry “Look away, I’m hideous.” – Kramer

– “So you’re a victim. Now your face is shallow, unattractive, disgusting.” – Jackie “So Jackie, do you think we gotta case?” – Kramer “Your face is my case.” – Jackie

– “I used to share that same outlook. But now, I have so many things to occupy my mind. For instance, the atom.” – George “Goodbye, George. I hate you.” – Louise “What a fascinating turn of events.” – George

– “Miss Wilkie, your tobacco company has turned this beautiful specimen, into a horrible twisted freak.” – Jackie “Who could love me?” – Kramer “I disagree. In fact, I feel Mr. Kramer projects a rugged masculinity.” – Wilkie “Rugged? The man’s a goblin. He’s only been exposed to smoke for four days. By the time this case gets to trial, he’ll be nothing more than a shrunken head.” – Jackie

– “I’m sorry, Elaine. I always knew that after I became a doctor, I would dump whoever I was with and find someone better. That’s the dream of becoming a doctor.” – Ben

– “This is the most public yet of my many humiliations.” – Jackie

Oddities & Fun Facts

– “Dr.” Ben is portrayed by comedic actor Bob Odenkirk

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I liked this one a lot as it was loaded with great cameos, fresh storylines and some classic moments. However, I kept getting stuck on  few of the plot points with the Abstinence. Everything felt so rushed, from Jerry immediately discerning why George was suddenly smart to Elaine becoming an idiot over the course of a few days to George all of a sudden becoming a complete dolt minutes after having sex. I felt like they didn’t really get to explain the “I can have sex right now but choose not to” vs. “I want to have sex but can’t” aspect of the whole thing. It was a great idea that needed more time for proper exposition. Also, it is very unrealistic that Elaine couldn’t go find someone to bang to clear her head. I love all the smoking stuff, mainly because Jackie Chiles is a force of nature, but also because of Kramer’s physical deformations. Katie was good as always too and I love how Jerry clearly can’t stand her in any way. I wanted to go higher on this one but the issues I laid out above keep this a notch lower than great for me. Final Grade: 8/10

Aaron: I loved this one. LOVED it. It’s such an absurd concept but it’s played so earnestly that it works on every level. Even the smoking scenes which I kind of hate resulted in “who could love me,” and amazing interactions with Jackie. Big thumbs up here. This one is a classic for sure. Final Grade: 9/10

Andrew: This is a really fun episode. The Abstinence plot is really good, and I enjoyed Kramer’s smoking side-story once it got going. Jerry’s career stuff wasn’t quite on that level, but is still solid. A great story, good performances from the main cast, and top-notch guest stars make this episode a winner. I’d put it a notch below last week’s, but it’s not far off. Final Grade: 9/10

Jordan: This is one of my personal favorites. Genius George is a great character and I almost wish they did this in season 3 or 4 so they could revisit it again down the road, have him go through stretches where he’s not dating and he invents great things. Stupid Elaine is a lot of fun too, hitting up Jerry and even thinking about Kramer – I would have enjoyed a follow up scene where she discussed things with Kramer over the phone only to be repulsed by his face when they met up. I feel like I can’t give it the full 10, but if we could give half scores, I’d do 9.5 Final Grade: 9/10

Jason:  This is another gem from this season. George and Elaine swapping roles was a nice throwback to “The Opposite”. Good thing Louise got mono, because she was not easy on the eyes at all. It was cool seeing some fun secondary characters all pop up in the same episode in Jackie, Katie and Sue Ellen. Most of the plots blended in well with some strong writing for George and Elaine. This is another one to check out if you haven’t watched it in a while. Final Grade: 9/10