Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Checks” (S8, E7)

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 was a fairly strong ensemble effort with no real stand out. Kramer destroying the tourists’ livelihoods with the best of intentions had some fun moments and I loved all the interactions between Jerry and Brett too, with tons of passive aggressive condescension. Elaine was solid as well. George lagged but he wasn’t given much to work with this time around.

Aaron: Witless toward the Japanese and completely broken when not taken in by a cult, George Costanza has a strong outing here.

Andrew: I’ll go with Elaine. I enjoyed her put-upon response to Jerry trying out a new bit, and she did a very good job playing off Brett’s condescension. But it was the “Well, I’m running outta guys here in this city!” line that really got me. Dating an endless succession of weirdos must really wear on a person.

Jordan: Kramer takes this one for me with the tourist stuff. I like to think that my humor is high brow and sophisticated sometimes, and I really appreciate “smart” comedy. Then I find myself laughing at men sleeping in dresser drawers and I realize the levels of my hypocrisy.

Jason: Kramer takes it for me this week. I really enjoyed him hooking up with the Japanese tourists and spending all their money on crap, setting them up in his Farbman chest and getting them liquored up in the hot tub.

Best Storyline

JT: I will go with the Karl Farbman stuff.I liked the tourism story too but the scenes with Brett dumping all over Jerry were pretty funny and felt warranted from a karmic point of view. Plus, the end scene was the perfect capper as Jerry bashes him with the ax and then he and Elaine sing Desperado to him as he passes out.

Aaron: It may not be the biggest part of the episode but the Bureau and Breakfast is one of my favorite moments in the history of the show. Those poor Japanese men have their lives destroyed by a doofus in a cowboy hat.

Andrew: I think I enjoyed the Japanese tourist storyline the most. Kramer’s good-natured attempt to show them a good time quickly turns into him cashing in the tickets for their return flights. He’s turning their trip into a nightmare, but doing so with such good intentions, and something about that speaks to me. Plus, I recall a fair amount of regrettable film/television about Japanese people in the 90s, and it’s good to see one where the joke is on the ignorance of the Americans.

Jordan: Kramer showing the Japanese tourists a great time because he thought they were filthy rich, only to find out that yen and dollars are not the same was pretty fun. Sauntering around town in cowboy hats like they owned Manhattan, only to have it come crashing down when they ran out of cash was a lot of fun.

Jason: Kramer and his buddies all the way. After he causes them to go piss broke him and George tried to use them to get the Jerry pilot on Japanese TV, only to backfire when they throw Jerry under the bus for almost killing them with the fire ax. An honorable mention goes to Brett thinking that Jerry is down on his luck.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should you destroy a gorgeous oversized chest of drawers with an ax if tiny men are trapped inside of them? I think there is a better way to go about it to save the men and the draws. It wasn’t like the apartment was on fire. Take a minute and sort out a better plan, Jerome.

Aaron: Should you date man who prefers a song to a woman’s touch? I guess it depends on the song. I mean if the song is The Gambler you know the man has learned many a life lesson by the side of his radio. Desperado though? Sure she’s no Karl Farbman but Elaine deserves better you pompous fuck.

Andrew: Is it OK to shush someone because “your song” is playing? Naw, man. That’s weird. But Elaine trying to come up with “their song” isn’t cool either. You gotta let that stuff happen naturally.

Jordan: If you have your own song, and you are in a relationship, does that song remain off limits to your partner? I say no. Brett, why don’t you come to your senses? You’ve been out riding fences for so long now.

Jason: Is it WItchy Woman or Wit-chay Woman? Someone get Don Henley on the horn and let’s get this sorted out.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Brett had his quirks and was a real douche but Elaine could have definitely made it work with him if Jerry didn’t murder him by accident. He was well off, had a touch of class and treated Elaine and her friends like gold while simultaneously lording his status over them all. A true rare gem. Relationship Grade: $.12/10

Aaron: The less said about Elaine and Brett the less bullets loaded into my gun. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Andrew: Poor Elaine, it must be getting old trying to find someone normal. And even when she finds someone reasonably acceptable, he catches an axe to the head. Relationship Grade: I’m sure things’ll pick up for you/10

Jordan: We’ve gotten to the point where I firmly believe Elaine’s relationships are written for poor schmucks like me to think, “If she’s willing to date a weirdo who stops functioning when Terry Funk’s ECW theme song plays, then surely I’d have a chance!” Elaine, I have so much to offer you. A steady job. No weird quirks or traits. We can share whatever song you want. Let me clear things with my wife to make sure she’s cool with this, and then call you. Relationship Grade: Come down from your fences/10

Jason: Let’s talk about the Japanese network executive for a second… She was very easy on the eyes. I like to think that Brett goes home at night and rams his penis in a hole that he drilled in a piece of Karl Farbman furniture while blasting Desperado.  Relationship Grade: 50,000 Yen/ 10

What Worked:

JT: Jerry sneakily testing out a bit on Elaine, pissing her off in the process, was great, especially when she still helped out with the formatting; Brett being entranced by Desperado is so bizarre that it worked; “So when do I meet this jerk?”; Jerry taking credit for the umbrella twirl was another randomly funny storyline; Teddy Paddilac!; George admitting he unknowingly steals umbrellas; “Super Terrific Happy Hour”; That poor Japanese tourist made the worst decision of his life by asking Kramer to take that picture; Brett doing the claw wave back to Jerry always cracks me up; As lame as he is, Brett’s casual condescension is amazingly well delivered; Kramer assuming all Japanese people are rich, including “Jerry… they’re Japanese” is so aloofly racist but because it’s Kramer just trying to generous it all feels so warm; Nice throwback with revisiting the Pilot; Kramer quickly changing his tune and shouting down Jerry about how much money the tourists have was great; “Rice Krispies… East meets West”; Jerry getting shut out of an umbrella purchase by Teddy Paddilac was nice story telling, as was the urban sombrero tie-in; I love the scene with Brett and Jerry in the rain; George being into the Japanese TV executive was a nice callback; Kramer cashing in the plane tickets; Jerry destroying the Farbman, smacking Brett with the ax and leading to the tourists shitting on him to the executives and Wilhelm with the cult was a good capper for the episode; The doctor being distracted by Witchay Woman as Brett’s life hangs in the balance was one of the better epilogue scenes we have seen

Aaron: Jerry was great with the one liners throughout. Cutting his friends deep with a few measly words. Was he a little over the top in his umbrella pantomime? Of course. But he invented the damn technique. Bringing the pilot back was fun as was its outright rejection and revulsion from the Japanese. George’s bitter disappointment and not being good enough for the cult was tremendous as was the cultist…culters… cult guy’s reaction when questioned about Wilhelm. I also loved that they killed Brett. LOVED it.

Andrew: I enjoyed the opening scene, with Jerry trying not to admit he’s trying out a new bit and Elaine being tired of the whole thing. Brett’s condescending attitude toward Jerry was really enjoyable. Jerry being weirdly proud of his former career as an umbrella salesman was fun, and the scene with Kramer encouraging the Japanese tourists to laugh at him worked for me. In fact, the tourists storyline was the most satisfying overall, and Jerry going after the chest of drawers with an axe was memorably wacky.

Jordan: Jerry just doing stand up to Elaine, who has NONE of it, is fun, and probably pretty realistic for being friends with a comedian. Brett was a total weirdo, but in a good way, and his strange hatred of Jerry is fun to watch. Kramer and the tourists of course is the best part of the episode. But the best line may be George wondering why anyone would buy an umbrella, when they are free in the cans at coffee shops. I also like that the Urban Sombrero has hurt the corner umbrella salesman market.

Jason: Jerry’s indigestion bit; Brett’s trance when he hears Desperado; George thinking that umbrellas left in the can at the coffee shop are free; Kramer sitting on the umbrella; George calling out Jerry for being on Elaine’s list; Kramer and the tourists laughing at Jerry twirl the umbrella; George’s backwards hat reminded me of Tony; Jerry being one kind of comedian; un-Karl Farbman like; “You look like you could use a…”; Brett thinking that Jerry is jealous of Kramer’s chest; Bret blowing off Elaine when Desperado comes on; “Four morons sitting round an apartment, whining about their dates!”; the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners not being interested in George; Jerry and George bringing oranges to the pilot meeting; Elaine singing Witchy Woman; Kramer tucking the tourists in the drawers and feeding them Rice Krispies for breakfast; Mr. Oh wanting to sleep in; international incident; Brett shutting down Witchy Woman and not wanting to share Desperado; the saleman charging Jerry $200 for an umbrella; Tropical Storm Renee; the Urban Sombrero name drop; Kramer saying the the tourists want to run the bases and shouting for the peanut guy; Brett and his two-seater with Carl Farbman; boogety man; Elaine running out of guys in the city; Nakahama Broadcasting Corporation; Kramer and his crew drinking sake in the hot tub with cowboy hats; Uncle Leo?; the humidity warping the drawers; Jerry taking the fire ax to the chest; the tourists talking shit about Jerry to the executives; the executives hiring the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners; ” Most of the world is carpeted and one day, we will do the cleaning.’; Tania; Elaine and Jerry singing Desperado to Brett; the doctor getting distracted when Witchy Woman comes on followed by Brett dying

What Didn’t Work

JT: Fuck Karl Farman, Brett and Desperado; George always looks odd with his backwards hat, especially that odd plaid nondescript one; Remember when fax machines were a big status symbol?; How often does Desperado come on the radio?

Aaron: What a waste of Elaine this week. I mean I’m all in on her dating a douchebag as a storyline, it lets me maintain the fantasy she’ll date me, but the song business felt very shoehorned.

Andrew: The cleaners/cult storyline never really got going, and while a freshly recruited Mr. Wilhelm was good for some laughs, the plot as a whole just felt tacked on. And it seems out-of-character that Jerry couldn’t find a better solution for the checks than signing each individually, or a better solution for the trapped tourists than swinging an axe at them. A questionable thought process doesn’t ruin the jokes, but it makes the episode overall less satisfying.

Jordan: George’s story left a lot to be desired. It had some real promise, but it ended up feeling like a, “Wait…what is George doing this episode? We forgot about him.”

Jason: I hate everything about Brett. His stupid clothes, that dumb hair; his choice of Eagles songs. After doing some research, it turns out that the umbrella was invented over 4,000 years ago. Over this time, some schlump didn’t invent a twirl?

Key Character Debuts


Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Most people go their whole lives without sitting in a Farman.” – Brett “Wuh, if you call that living.” – Elaine

– “So when do I meet this jerk?” – Jerry “He’s not a jerk, Jer. He only works with Karl Farman.” – Elaine

– “I find it disorienting. Who buys an umbrella anyway? You get ’em for free in the coffee shop in the metal cans.” – George “Those belong to people.” – Jerry

– “He’s giving you furniture? Who is this guy?” – George “Ah, who are any of her losers?” – Jerry “You’re on that list.” – George

– “What’s with the claw?” – Elaine “Super terrific carpal tunnel syndrome.” – Jerry

– “Looks like what you really need is a decent desk for writing your skits.” – Brett “I don’t write skits.” – Jerry “Well, of course you don’t. You don’t have a proper workstation. I’ll fax you over my catalogue.” – Brett “Mmm. Brett, uhm, Jerry doesn’t have a fax machine.” – Elaine “Oops. Well, I’m sure things’ll pick up for you soon. Elaine, maybe we should get going.” – Brett “Oh. Jerry, you wanna join us?” – Elaine “Oh, where you going? The coffee shop?” – Jerry “Coffee shop? I think we can do a little better than that. You look like you could use a solid meal at a real restaurant.” – Brett “You look like you could use a…” – Jerry

– “You know, maybe they thought you looked too smart to be brainwashed?” – Jerry “Please.” – George “Too dumb?” – Jerry

– “George is right, Jerry. See, here, you’re just another apple, but in Japan, you’re an exotic fruit. Like an orange. Which is rare there.” – Kramer

– “What does he listen to? The all Desperado station?” – Jerry “He is just in his own world when he hears that song. It’s like, I’m sitting there in the car, and he’s.. out riding fences.” – Elaine

– “You have them sleeping in drawers?!” – Jerry “Jerry, have you ever seen the business hotels in Tokyo? They sleep in tiny stacked cubicles all the time. They feel right at home.” – Kramer “This has ‘international incident’ written all over it.” – Jerry “Oh yeah, yeah.” – Kramer

– “Brett said you ran away from him, as if he were the boogetyman.” – Elaine “Boogeyman.” – Jerry “Boogey?” – Elaine “I’m quite sure. Anyway, any luck getting together on a song?” – Jerry “No. He blew out my Witchy Woman, and he won’t share Desperado. Hey, what d’you think of Oye Como Va?” – Elaine “Eh.” – Jerry “Well, I’m running outta guys here in this city, Jer!” – Elaine

– “Did I tell you that story’s relatable?! That was a great show! That is why I’m bringing it back to NBC.” – George “NBC?” – Jerry “Nakahama Broadcast Corporation.” – George

– “Jerry! The Japanese guys had sake in the hot-tub! You gotta get ’em outta the drawers and get ’em down here, or I don’t have a focus group to sell the pilot to Japanese TV!” – George “Uncle Leo?” – Jerry

– “<Subtitle> With these two idiots I don’t know how the Yankees won the World Series.” – NBC Executive

Oddities & Fun Facts

– George and Jerry take the pilot of their sitcom to the Japanese television executives that was originally filmed in The Pilot (S4, E23/24)

– The umbrella salesman references the Urban Sombrero, which was invented by Elaine in The Foundation (S8, E1)

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I enjoyed this one much more than I expected to as I came in with low expectations. The dialogue has remained real strong since Larry David left and I think that speaks to the comfort and strength of the performers at this point. The quips and zingers and sarcastic comments still flow with ease and land the majority of the time. That said, some the story cohesion has suffered with his departure and many times the storylines tying together at the end can feel forced or out of place. I won’t necessarily say that is the case here though as I thought everything was bought together nicely and had some good payoffs to close thing out. Another weakness that was on display here is the soft background storyline. Often times a strength in the past, it seems as if that the character left out of the main stories has had little substance to their bits. It harkens back to the early seasons when they were sorting things out. George’s issue with the carpet cleaners felt forced and out of place and he probably just should have been tied in with Kramer’s antics. Overall this was a fun watch, a step behind the high quality of the past but we aren’t really fading in any material way. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: This was a step up for me from previous weeks but still not the highest end stuff. Still love those Japanese men in the drawers though. Final Grade: 7/10

Andrew: This one felt a little disappointing. There are some moments that do well in clip shows (Kramer and the tourists in the apartment hot tub, Jerry with the axe), but the episode as a whole feels sub-par. Whether it’s fair or not, this one felt mailed-in to me. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: This one was a let down for me. I really enjoyed the Kramer stuff, but it wasn’t enough to carry the episode. George being basically MIA was a big miss for me, and I don’t care for Brett. I know I’m not supposed to, but that’s a hard story to pull off, a character you shouldn’t like but are entertained by. Rare miss for the show this far along. Final Grade: 5/10

Jason: I liked this episode better than I thought I would. Brett was such dickhead, but was the perfect counter for Jerry here. Kramer and the tourists was a ton of fun. The carpet cleaner stuff had some legs in the beginning, died off in the middle and then finished strong with Wilhelm getting converted. Another solid showing in this season with some good laughs along the way. Final Grade:  7/10