Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Butter Shave” (S9, E1)

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!

Best Character

JT: I thought this episode featured strong performances across the board but Jerry and George were the best to me. They were tied at the hip for pretty much the whole episode and their chemistry is so effortless that everything just flows along. From the Holland conversation through the Rascal scene, their interactions were the highlights of the episode and they never let up for a moment.

Aaron: It’s a tight race between George and MAGNUS, but since the latter does not possess a powerful surname like VON MAGNUSSUN that we know of Costanza squeaks it out. George reaches a new high by pretending to be handicapped to get/keep a job. That bathroom better be worth it, in theory, he has to keep up the charade for the rest of his life. In reality it’s a small price to pay to be a gargoyle.

Andrew: George was the best. His unalloyed glee while taking advantage of the kindness of others is really something to behold. And his self-justification of his own abhorrent behavior is so perfect, it should be in psychology textbooks.

Jordan: I mean, it’s not even a question for me. George rode up the stairs in one of those seats that the lady from Gremlins used. He got chased in a Rascal. He looked like an out of work porn star. THIS was the summer of George!

Jason: It’s a tough call between George and Kramer, but I’ll go with George by a slight edge. He was tremendous running with the handicapped gimmick. From the 9-5 montage, to the reverse image explanation, to the big payoff at the end with the Rascal chase. Just when you think George can’t be anymore George, this comes along and is one of his finest moments.

Best Storyline

JT: Kramer baking himself had a bunch of laughs but George faking a handicap to get a job and private bathroom takes the cake. It is such an underhanded move but it being George, it feels perfectly natural when he does it. The 9 to 5 montage is a classic and I loved him trying to explain the reverse image theory to his boss. Plus, the Rascal chase is always entertaining. GET THE BIKES!

Aaron: George pretending to be fucking handicapped!

Andrew: George pretending to be handicapped follows the very best George storyline template. He tries to demur, but eventually gives in to the temptation of an unearned advantage. But he is unable to restrain himself from pushing his luck, until his greed and overconfidence inevitably lead to the situation blowing up in his face. Also, we should acknowledge what an impressive achievement it is to do a “pretending to be handicapped” storyline that doesn’t make the viewer immediately despise the character.

Jordan: This is a Top five Costanza scheme. He pretended to be disabled, and it’s heavily implied he did it solely for bathroom privileges! How can it not be this one?

Jason: As much as I enjoyed George’s handicapped saga, the butter shave wins here. Kramer’s physical comedy was really good and Newman’s attraction to the K-Man was filled with laughs.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should you throw a major break in your career away for spite? Jerry is rich and successful enough that it is a worthwhile endeavor, especially if it breaks up Bania and Jenna, who he misses.

Aaron: George is right; Holland has waaaaay too many names. It’s like calling yourself the United States but then declaring you’re also America. Despite the fact that there are tons of countries that comprise America. How arrogant do you have to be to drape yourself in bright orange??? Yes. Yes there are hookers on every corner but Amsterdam has two on every corner. Most important citizen? The Netherlands? Anne Frank. America? Hacksaw Jim Duggan. See? Hoooooooooo!

Andrew: Should you break up with someone while you are on vacation? That seems like a terrible idea, even just in terms of self-preservation. On the other hand, silently resenting someone you are vacationing with doesn’t sound so great, either. Clearly, celibacy is the only answer here.

Jordan: I feel like we have drifted far, far away from the actual topic here over the years. This episode gives us an actual ethical dilemma. Should you accept a job you desperately need if it’s being offered because the employer thinks you are something you aren’t – in this case, handicapped? While it’s easy to say George is a scumbag here, he had been out of work for months! In his mind, this may be his only chance at gainful employment. He could wind up homeless, unable to take care of himself, and eventually ACTUALLY be disabled due to poor health.

Jason: If your shoe laces hit a public restroom floor, do you chuck the laces? EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Newman nearly blowing his load in Kramer’s apartment is about the most pure lust we have seen on Seinfeld. Who knew butter was such an aphrodisiac? Also, Jenna is about 100 levels above Bania. And Vegetable Lasagna would have treated Laney like the queen from whatever country he is from. He also would have been a sad cuckold when Elaine banged Puddy in the airport bathroom. Relationship Grade: 2/10

Aaron: Elaine and Puddy are soul mates. Point finale. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Andrew: I love me some David Puddy. I would go on a month-long tour of Europe with him. Relationship Grade: “Fimty” kroner / 10

Jordan: Puddy and Elaine are the more realistic Ross and Rachel. They are on again/off again, but always find their way back to each other. Interesting how I would pretend to be disabled if it meant dating Rachel Green or Elaine Benes! Relationship Grade: THEY WERE ON A BREAK/10

Jason: We’re lucky Newman didn’t hop in the hot tub with Kramer and have his way with him. Did Laney and Vegetable Lasagna guy joined the Mile High Club? I hope they did! Bania and Jenna is one the most bizarre series hook-ups. Relationship Grade: Shredded Coconut/10

What Worked:

JT: I liked the Holland conversation and the mustache stuff was funny too; They did a good job of setting up the season and wrapping the “Summer of George” stuff in one quick opening scene; Always great to see Bania; Kramer quickly shaving was a funny bit; Kramer and Jerry roasting Elaine and Puddy was fantastic; PUDDY RETURNS!; Kramer reading about Bania on the internet is a crazy throwaway line and then him buttering up his face and Jerry feeling it with the bread that Kramer then eats was well done; George having no issue with pretending to be handicapped at Play Now is peak Costanza; Bania dating Jenna on Jerry’s coattails was a nice decision; Puddy telling his story to the stewardess always cracks me up; George’s Play Now Sheena Easton montage is a classic and a great callback to Kramer’s version with the same song last season; Newman stalking his way to Jerry’s because of the smell is great; Elaine and Puddy calling the guy on the plane “Vegetable Lasagna” always makes me laugh; Kramer getting medical advice from Bon Appetit magazine; George liking Bania is a good twist; Puddy staring at the seat and pissing off Elaine is one of my all time faves; George trying to trick his boss with the cane being on the other side; George on the Rascal is amazing, especially at the end when he lays on the horn so Jerry can unwedge his wheel.

Aaron: The “My Baby Takes The Morning Train,” montage is one of the best things in the history of the show. The swordplay, the joyous tripping of a fellow employee… it all works. Everything Kramer does physically with the food and butter was tremendous. In a lesser man’s hands that kitchen scene would be as hacky as Jerry’s suspenders, but Kramer makes it all work. Elaine trapped on the plane with Puddy gives me nothing but hope and joy for the rest of the season. Puddy nails Elaine to a tee by declaring she’s a bitter, unstable person. SHE WAKES A MAN UP ON THE PLANE TO COMPLAIN AND THEN DRINKS HIS APPLE JUICE. Fucking Magnus. Despite his completely fascinating Kroner knowledge if he put his hands anywhere near my Elaine he’d be going home in a body bag. Elaine just HATES poor Puddy. His mere presence annoys her to the point of rage. Jerry constantly setting up Bania was a great sub plot. Bania was his usual annoying self and the man yelling “I HAVE CANCER!” at Jerry’s curiosity regarding the disease will never not make me laugh. Finally over the course of this project I’ve been hard on Jerry for his acting but he crushes the line readings here. “Do I have to ask??” and “Wait. YOU’RE PRETENDING TO BE HANDICAPPED????” are perfect.

Andrew: George’s work montage was fantastic, both for the song choice and for watching George shamelessly enjoy his ill-gotten status. I could not be more excited to have David Puddy back in my life. Bania unintentionally torturing Jerry is always good. In the abstract, the butter shave storyline is so silly and unmoored from reality, that it’s all the more impressive that they somehow made it work, and Kramer deserves most of the credit for that.

Jordan: George at the new job with the musical montage is an all time great Seinfeld scene. I love that he’s so stupid that he sword fights with his cane, and does it quite emphatically, with the door wide open. These people are fools to believe him. In another episode, I may think the mustache stuff is stupid in most situations, but it fits for a season premiere. I absolutely love the moment where Puddy just shuts down like a robot, content to stare blankly into nothing for the duration of a flight. Elaine being disgusted and confused by it is a perfect response. The Kramer becoming a turkey stuff is a little ridiculous, but in a good way here. His stumbling around in the kitchen and covering himself with oregano and parmesan was funny, and of course the visual of Kramer the cooked turkey waving his wing at Newman is great. Elaine calling the guy Vegetable Lasagna and drinking his juice was funny too. And I didn’t even bring up Bania yet! A nice little subplot leads to Jerry bombing on purpose with the rainbow suspenders and cancer bits. Gold, Jerry!

Jason: The Holland discussion was a top shelf cold open; Bania killing it and going to pick up some chicks; Jerry being Bania’s shark; Kramer not getting the memo about the mustaches and his aftershave fumble; Jerry’s dig at Elaine about batting around and back at the top of the order; Puddy and Elanie’s cab bickering; ten kroner; Jerry’s reaction the butter shave and feeling Kramer’s face with bread; Mr. Nosey; Oh Moses, smell the roses!; Kramer’s bulk butter tub; Newman’s “BUTTER?”; George picking up the butter have habit; Elaine triggered by Puddy staring at the back of the seat; right, wrong, right, wrong, right, right, wrong; George rolling into Jerry’s apartment with the Rascal; George going straight to hell at no more than 3 MPH; Jerry’s rainbow suspenders; GET THE BIKES and EAT HICKORY;  “a big giant turkey”; oregano and parmesan; Newman biting Kramer; Vegetable Lasanga and Puddy hoppin in the cab with Elaine

What Didn’t Work

JT: I have never understood what the fuck Puddy is doing when he and Elaine first get on the plane, is he crying? Sleeping? Having a seizure?; How does Bania land Jenna?; Why is there a full cooked turkey brought out onto the counter of a coffee shop?; The way Kramer says “parma-zaahn” always bugged me

Aaron: Are we to believe that Newman is a cannibal?

Andrew: Is this the dumbest and/or least creative title for a Seinfeld episode? Having done zero research, I want to say yes. Also, I think Kramer got makeup on the butter while rubbing it on his face, which is somehow the grossest part of the episode for me.

Jordan: So the visual of Kramer AS the turkey was funny… but why did the waitress put it on the counter? Is it Thanksgiving? And what were those giant white pom pons at the end of each drumstick?

Jason: Although it had a few laughs, the Elaine and Puddy plot went no where and felt very flat. What coffee shop has a full turkey on hand?

Key Character Debuts

Mr. Thomassuolo

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “What is Holland?” – George “What do you mean, ‘what is it?’ It’s a country right next to Belgium.” – Jerry “No, that’s the Netherlands.” – George “Holland *is* the Netherlands.” – Jerry “Then who are the Dutch?” – George

– “Nah, with crutches it’s a funny story, with a cane it’s a sad story.” – George

– “Because I killed first and warmed up the crowd. He’s like that fish that attaches himself to the shark.” – Jerry “And you’re the shark?” – George “Yeah, I’m the shark and he’s the fish eating my laughs.” – Jerry “I don’t know how a fish could eat laughs.” – George “Well, I’m glad I brought it up.” – Jerry

– “Look, postcard from Elaine from Europe.” – Jerry “Don’t tell me she’s dragging another poor guy across Europe.” – Kramer “Remember David Puddy?” – Jerry “She’s dating him again, huh?” – Kramer “Well, I guess she’s batted around and she’s back at the top of the order.” – Jerry “Boy, a month in Europe with Elaine. That guy’s coming home in a body bag.” – Kramer

– “Oh Moses smell the roses.” – Jerry

– “Jerry, let’s face it, I’ve always been handicapped. I’m just now getting the recognition for it. Name one thing I have that puts me in a position of advantage. Huh? There was a guy that worked at the Yankees– no arms! He got more work done than I did, made more money, had a wife, a family, drove a better car than I did.” – George “He drove a car with no arms?” – Jerry “Alright I made up the part about the car, but the rest is true. He hated me anyway!” – George “Do you know how hard it’s getting just to tell people I know you?” – Jerry “I love that bathroom. It’s got that high, high toilet. I feel like a gargoyle perched on the ledge of a building.” – George

– “Damn you Seinfeld. You useless pustule.” – Newman

– “I’m fried.” – Kramer “Technically, you’re sautéed.” – Jerry

– “Well, you’re not gonna believe what happened.” – George “You mugged Stephen Hawking?” – Jerry

– “Well it must be comforting to know you’ll be going straight to hell at no more than three miles an hour.” – Jerry

– “No, you had some good stuff. The cancer bit? It was edgy, it was not my sort of thing but some of those people out there, they really liked it.” – Kramer “Like who?” – Jerry “Like that guy who yelled out.” – Kramer “He had cancer!” – Jerry “And laughter is the best medicine.” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– We last saw David Puddy in The Face Painter (S6, E23)

– We last saw Jenna in The Pothole (S8, E16)

– The montage of George at work is set to Sheena Easton’s 9 to 5, which was also used for Kramer’s work montage in The Bizarro Jerry (S8, E3)

– Jay Shermak and Stu Crespi are the same NBC Executives from Season Four, but portrayed by different actors

– The episode was dedicated to the memory of Brandon Tartikoff, NBC’s President of Entertainment from 1981-91, who had died on August 27, 1997 at the age of 48 after lifelong complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: Season nine starts with a bang. I have always loved this episode as it is filled with quick hitting zingers and such an easy chemistry. The characters all feel so at ease with each other and everything flows so naturally that it now allows them to go a bit further off the reservation with stuff. George’s fake handicap was tremendous writing and Jerry’s never ending war with Bania always brings laughs. We had some quality callbacks here too, with 9 to 5, the NBC executives, Puddy and Jenna. Newman was really funny too as he lusted after Kramer’s buttery skin. Elaine and Puddy on the plane was funny too but some of the scenes dragged just a bit, keeping it from hitting the pantheon. However, we are hitting the home stretch and kick off the final season with a near all timer. Final Grade: 9/10

Aaron: Man if not for the weak and absurd Newman plotline I’d be close to going full monty on this one. I loved the storylines and found myself laughing more than I remembered. Very strong start to the final season. THIS is the George and the Seinfeld I remember loving as a teenager. Final Grade: 9/10

Andrew: This is a pretty solid start to the final season. George’s storyline is a classic, and keeps the episode on a good pace. Elaine’s storyline is a bit of a downer, but I’m so glad to see Puddy I almost don’t care. And Kramer turning himself into a roast turkey is funnier than it has any right to be. Final Grade: 8/10

Jordan: So when I grade an episode, my first thought is to break it down into Great, Good, Average or Bad. From there I kind of choose a number. This one was great, so I immediately say… was it a 10? The George storyline is a definite 10, and I even think Jerry’s Bania sub-plot is a 10 side arc. Where I take a point away is the dumb ending with Newman apparently becoming a cannibal and the Puddy/Elaine stuff not really having a great conclusion. But man, George in the Rascal chase is so good. Final Grade: 9/10

Jason: Here we are, the home stretch. Season nine starts out quite well. Even though their roles didn’t make a lot of sense it was nice to see Jenna and Puddy pop up. Newman was a force of nature with his sexual urge towards Kramer. George running with the handicapped gimmick was an all-time Costanza moment. Overall, plenty of laughs and the only dead spots were on the plane.  Final Grade: 8/10