Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Chinese Woman” (S6, E4)

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: Kramer was at his best here, a force that takes over scenes and had multiple issues going on. The stuff with the Jockeys was really well done and him possibly knocking up Noreen was a good payoff to this mini arc. Honorable mention to the Costanzas, who were tremendous in their brief spurts. The cape argument and final fight were perfect.

Aaron: Imagine you’re sitting at your favorite coffee shop and you hear a crazed man screaming and clapping his hands, his heart full of sadness and rage over having being snubbed in the street; imagine said man throwing down the gauntlet of divorce to his wife in front of a room full of people including a stranger. This statement may not stand the test of this re-watch but this is the quintessential Frank Costanza episode for me. He destroys every scene and I’ve been quoting him since I first saw the episode twenty years ago.

Andrew: I think it has to be Kramer. The terror at the thought of not being able to reproduce, acting out the comfort/discomfort of his various undergarments, “calling the shots” for Noreen: he’s really a cut above everyone else in the episode.

Jordan: Kramer was a lot of fun in this one. His underwear dilemma was hilarious, and becoming Noreen’s adviser and lover at the end was a good turn. I liked him shouting out into the streets that his new girlfriend was late!

Jason: A great showing from everyone here, but I gotta go with the K-Man. He was flipping and flopping all over the episode, topped off with him yelling out of the window that Noreen was late!

Best Storyline

JT: The divorce. It featured all the great Costanza scenes plus the man in the cape. George’s fretting and the oven scene were great and I love that final fight when Estelle learns the truth about Chang.

Aaron:  I guess I’ve got to go with the Costanza divorce after my lauding of Frank’s performance but I’d like to give a strong honorable mention to Kramer’s war with underwear culminating with him being free and loving every minute of it. I’ve never seen a man so content to be unfettered.

Andrew: Again, I think it has to be Kramer and his fertility. This storyline has the best lines of the episode by far, from Jerry’s “slipped one past the goalie”, to Elaine wondering if Kramer’s discomfort with providing a sperm sample is because it “conflict[s] with your regular schedule”, to Kramer being “out there and loving every minute of it!”

Jordan: The Donna Chang story is it for me. I like the idea of a woman secretly wanting to be Chinese and immersing herself kn the culture, even letting people think she is. Calling herself Donna Chang and not just Donna is awesome. Jordan Duncan likes this idea.

Jason: Kramer’s sperm count was excellent and the Costanzas stuff was top shelf as always, but I gotta go with Donna Chang not being Chinese. Her misleading people because the rines were crossed was brilliant. A Larry David special that delivered all throughout the episode.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Donna Chang knew what she was doing. It was sneaky and deceitful. But, advice is advice right? Estelle’s reverse racism may be admirable to some, but at the end of the day this crazy girl from Long Island clearly struck a chord. Listen to your heart, Estelle.

Aaron: Are the Chinese truly wise? I don’t feel comfortable answering that question as I really am unprepared for the wild storm of “You’re a racist!” and ” How dare you compliment anyone!” Man this episode would not fly in 2015.

Andrew: Is it racist to say you like Asian women? Asking for a friend. Joking aside, I think this ranks as a tad worse than the “Asian people are good at math” stereotype. Even if it’s a “compliment”, it’s not cool to ascribe a person’s qualities to his racial makeup, rather than his individual character.

Jordan: We live in a world full of people who are socially unaware. If you are a long talker, seek immediate help. Look for the signs. When chatting in person, does the other person look at you with the dull gaze of a dairy cow? Do they seem uninterested!? While on the phone, are all of your long and elaborate tales met with short grunt responses such as “uh huh”, “wow” or “cool”? If so, do us all a favor and shut up.

Jason: If you’re over ten years old, please stop wearing Jockeys. Boxers help you breath much better down there. Your boys can still have a home, but with boxers it’s more spacious living.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Frank and Estelle are meant for each other. Who else will deal with either of them? Does Frank just want his own space? Is Estelle looking for some strange? Suck it up and make it work, for the sake of your fans. True love at its most Queens finest. Relationship Grade: Costanza/10

Aaron: Donna Chang is simply lovely and Jerry’s a bit of a dick for chastising her for his unreasonable Chinese expectations. You hang on to that perky girl from Long Island. She’s hot AND wise. Also Kramer clearly drove Noreen to suicide. Relationship Grade: Might as well Jump/10

Andrew: Not much chemistry between Jerry and Donna. His reason for dating her (“Well, she is a woman”) just about sums up the relationship. And poor Noreen has had a rough time with relationships. It seemed like Kramer might be a good move for her, but even then she ended considering jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Relationship Grade: Well, she didn’t seem to be having so much fun/10

Jordan: Noreen has some real baggage. High talkers, long talkers and Kramer? And through all of them, she goes to Elaine for her approval! Perhaps we have a single white female situation on our hands. Relationship Grade: Jennifer Jason Leigh/10

Jason: Donna Chang is pretty good looking for a Chi…girl from Long Island. Noreen is an absolute train wreck. Kramer should be double bagging it with her. Relationship Grade: Supercilious/10

What Worked:

JT: I like that Noreen hung around and has another awful boyfriend; The man with the cape!; I like Jerry & Elaine dodging Frank and also the reveal that Elaine was schlepping Jerry’s groceries; Kramer’s water line always makes me chuckle; Phone lines getting crossed sounds so weird in retrospect; George being perplexed about the cape is great; Really anything with the cape is awesome; Elaine dodging Paul is funny, whether is hanging up or talking for hours with the hair dryer to the phone in a true commitment to a lie; The second hand smoke dig by Jerry made me laugh; Kramer trying to pawn his Jockeys on Jerry was fantastic, just throw them away!; Frank’s anger about Jerry and Elaine’s snub; I loved how Donna broke the news of the divorce to George and that followed by him sticking his head in the oven was great too; The slow revelation that Kramer was free ballin’ was well done; Elaine destroying two straight relationships for Noreen; While I didn’t care for the mispronounced words, I did like the acupuncture and Confucius bits; Jerry tossing Elaine under the bus with Frank was great as was Estelle getting pissed that Donna wasn’t Chinese; Kramer taking control of Noreen’s life was a nice payoff; The final scene with Frank and Estelle deciding on the divorce was tremendous; I want footage of Frank and George playing Clue

Aaron: ELAINE I CAN SEE NOT SAYING HELLO, SHE’S WHAT’S THE WORD? SUPERCILLIOUS…HOW COULD JERRY NOT SAY HELLO!!!!! That is my favorite Seinfeld moment of all time. If you watch George closely you can see him turn his head away from the camera, presumably a laughing broken mess. YOU WANT A DIVORCE? YOU’VE GOT ONE!!!! That is my second favorite Seinfeld moment of all time. If only we had been blessed enough to see the scene where George and Frank play Clue…His obsession over not being told hello is marvelous as is his anger when his suspicion that it was all Elaine is confirmed. Poor Kramer’s dance of discomfort with the boxer shorts was sublime as was the dance of absolute comfort that followed. “I’m free and I’m loving every minute of it,” is a truly iconic Seinfeld moment. George’s reaction to his parents’ impending divorce is Biff Lowman on a platter. His insistence that the man in the cape is “somehow mixed up in this,” is just the right level of insanity for the character. Elaine is fantastic as she struggles to carry her groceries in the face of Jerry’s complete lack of human caring. She also excels while lamenting Jerry’s obvious disappointment that Donna Chang resembles her. I absolutely love how the blocking and setting for Elaine telling Noreen that her boyfriend is a long talker is exactly the same when she explained her last boyfriend was a high talker. Jerry’s depiction of Elaine’s destructive influence over Noreen is just the right amount of truth mixed with the right amount of spite. Larry David is King of the capes as “Frank Costanza’s Lawyer” is the King of the character names. Also “NOREEN’S LATE! SHE’S LATE!”

Andrew: I really enjoy (and relate to) Jerry’s comment about seeing Frank “out of context”. I also enjoy and relate to Jerry and Elaine blowing Frank off because they don’t want to get into a conversation with a man in a cape. And speaking of, Frank’s reaction to finding out they didn’t say hello is both predictable and perfect, and I hereby resolve to use the word “supercilious” more often. “Man in a cape” is such a perfect Seinfeld plot point, somehow both absurd and relatable all at once. And Larry David plays him just about perfectly; we probably should have known then that he deserved more screen time somewhere. Also, Frank’s explanation of the cape (“he doesn’t follow the trends”) is just about perfect too. And I loved George’s befuddled walkout when he hears about his father hanging out with a man in a cape. Finally, I covered this earlier, but so many of the lines about Kramer’s underpants situation are classics (“The only thing between him and us is a thin layer of gabardine”), and the message George leaves on the answering machine is right up there with them.

Jordan: I love that Jerry is ultimately just a douche. He doesn’t even care about Elaine lugging the groceries around. Frank’s lawyer strutting around town in a cape is excellent use of LD. The Costanzas’ divorce saga is awesome, and anytime they show up it ramps up the comedy factor. Kramer was terrific with the underwear choices, and the reveal (thankfully not literal) that he was swinging free was perfect. “I’m free and I’m loving every minute of it!” George wanting his parents to stay together simply because of his travel convenience fits him perfectly. I liked Jerry guilting Elaine as he lays out how awful of a friend she is to Noreen. And of course there is Donna Chang. I love her and her whole story. On paper it seems REDICUROUS, but in execution it works so well. Estelle changing her mind about taking Frank back because Donna is from Long Island is terrific.

Jason: Elaine humping Jerry’s groceries down the street. The distant shot of Frank and his lawyer on the street is so iconic in the series; Good cape weather.  Cool. Breezy. Jerry seeing Frank in Manhattan being so out of context. I’m with Jerome, it’s not racist if you like the race. Kramer going through water like water. Kramer uneasy about rubbing one out during the day and Elaine asking if that conflicts with his regular schedule. Jerry being pumped about his first date with someone from the Pacific rim. Elaine hanging up on Paul because he’s boring. George asking if his father was in a cape. Frank losing his shit because Jerry and Elaine didn’t say hello; Oh, the hell with them! Kramer swinging into the apartment with a hand full of Jockeys. Jerry’s disappointment that Donna Chang isn’t Chinese; Changstein. Kramer going commando. George hopping in the oven after Donna says Frank and Estelle are getting divorced. Jerry thinking Donna Chang likes people thinking she’s Chinese; Acupuncture class and a few bits of wisdom from Confucius.Jerry calling out Donna Chang about not being Chinese. Elaine not making eye contact with Noreen while defending the Paul hang up’s and call him boring. Donna Chang saving the Costanza’s divorce because Estelle thinks she’s getting advise from a Chinese woman, then meeting Donna in person;  She’s not taking advise from some girl from Long Island. Kramer hooking up with Noreen after Elaine ruins her life. Jerry blaming Elaine for not saying hello to Frank. George being worn out after spending the day with his parents. Kramer’s shout out from the window that Noreen is late.  The payoff with Noreen being saved by Frank’s lawyer from jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge was perfect!

What Didn’t Work

JT: The whole discussion around Kramer, George and Jerry knocking up women is really odd, none of them used protection? Weird storyline; I didn’t think we needed Donna Chang blatantly mispronouncing words to get the point across, felt over the top; How often does Elaine call Noreen?

Aaron: I hate Jerry’s shirt that he wears on the date with Donna. It’s hideous and Frank would have surely screamed that Jerry had “NO EYE FOR FASHION” had he laid eyes on that piece of shit. Do lines every actually get crossed? I’ve never heard of that happening in real life. It was always perplexing to me.

Andrew: Something about the “Chinese Woman” storyline doesn’t quite work for me. In theory, I really like the idea of a plot involving a person misrepresenting their race, but it never really hits the right notes to make it enjoyable. Maybe it’s a simple as this: Jerry saying Donna “likes people thinking she’s Chinese” isn’t a substitute for actually showing her enjoying people thinking she’s Chinese.

Jordan: I am very nervous about the safety of our country if the Army takes Noreen. She is suicidal and cannot commit to anything. Is this who is protecting me from Al-Qaeda?

Jason: Kramer can do way better than Noreen.  Let the Army try and get that whack job squared away.

Key Character Debuts

Donna Chang

Paul the Long Talker

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Why is Mr. Costanza with a man in a cape?” – Elaine “Well, it is good cape weather. Cool. Breezy.” – Jerry “Yeah, why a cape? Who wears a cape? Where do you even get a cape?” – Elaine

– “Hey, it’s George. I got nothin’ to say…” – George

– “Should’ve talked to her. I love Chinese women.” – Jerry “Isn’t that a little racist?” – Elaine “If I like their race, how can that be racist?” – Jerry

– “Yeah, I think these Jockeys shrunk.” – Kramer “I thought you wore silk underwear.” – Elaine “No. Well, you know, I wore ’em for about a month but I couldn’t stay with it. Yeah, I need the secure packaging of Jockeys. My boys need a house.” – Kramer

– “Sperm count? Well how many sperm should I have?” – Kramer

– “She knew who I was! She saw me in a club one time! My first date ever with the Pacific Rim. I’m very excited.” – Jerry

– “Well, but what if I am? I’m the last male Kramer! We’re facing extinction!” – Kramer

– “No…go ahead…I second-hand smoke two packs a day.” – Jerry

– “Well, she’s…like you.” – Jerry “Oh, how…disappointed you must have been.” – Elaine “Well, it’s false advertising, see? And the thing is, I think she likes people thinking she’s Chinese. She suggests Chinese food. She always introduces herself as Donna Chang!” – Jerry “So why’re you seeing her again?” – Elaine “Well, she is a woman.” – Jerry

– “Boxers! How do you wear these things!! Look at that–they’re baggin’ up, they’re rising in! An’ there’s nothing holding me in place! I’m flippin’! I’m floppin’!” – Kramer

– “Queens is full of mosquitoes.” – Frank “So, Dad…” – George “Gnats, too. If I’m not mistaken.” – Frank

– “Elaine, I can see, not sayin’ hello. She’s very–what’s the word–supercilious.” – Frank “So Dad.” – George “How could Jerry not say Hello?!!” – Frank

– “Yeah, you know it’s a shame his parents didn’t get divorced thirty years ago. He could have been normal.” – Jerry

– “Have you ever spent any time with these people? – Jerry “You know what this has to do with? The man in the cape. I bet you he is mixed up in this! I don’t trust men in capes.” – George “You can’t cast aspersions on someone just because they’re wearing a cape… Superman wore a cape… And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stand here and let you say something bad about him.” – Jerry “All right Superman’s the exception.” – George

– Jerry’s Superman obsession comes out for the first time in a while

– “The only thing between him and us is a thin layer of gabardine. Kramer, say it isn’t so.” – Jerry “Oh, it be so. I’m out there, Jerry, an’ I’m lovin’ every minute of it!!!” – Kramer “Don’t you need a little…help?” – Jerry “Surprisingly, no. I’m free, I’m unfettered…I’m like a naked innocent boy roamin’ the countryside!!” – Kramer

– “So she breaks up with him. Somehow picks up the pieces of her life. Miraculously meets: A New Guy! Ya bust that up! An’ then, just as they’re reconciling, you announce to the world: He’s Boring.” – Jerry

– “Who wears a cape?” – George “He’s very independent; doesn’t follow the trends.” – Frank “He looks ridiculous in that thing.” – Estelle “You have no eye for fashion!” – Frank “I have no eye for fashion?” – Estelle

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Larry David portrays the man with the cape

– Phone lines being crossed is a very 90s issue

– Boxers vs. Briefs is another very 90s issue

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: There were a lot of funny bits and moments and honestly many of them were classic ones. But…this was an odd case where tremendous parts didn’t equal a great sum for whatever reason. Like, the individual scenes were all really good but as a whole it just never seemed to click for me. Some of the Chang stuff was forced as well, which took away from things. I adored the man in the cape and all things Costanza and Kramer’s underwear foibles were fantastic. The pregnancy stuff was odd in many ways too. Like why are they proud about knocking up random women? Has Jerry done it before and then they have an abortion? A miscarriage? It was just an odd direction to go. Again, this grade feels low because of some of the classic moments here, but I just wasn’t feeling the total…ahem…package. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: A few months ago I sat down and tried to figure out what my favorite Seinfeld episode of all time was; after much consternation I landed on “The Chinese Woman.” After re-watching this one I love it even more. The Costanza stuff is brilliant, the Kramer stuff kills and the rest of the supporting players excel. The writing is tight and everything is wrapped up with a nice tidy pregnant bow. As of right now it’s still my favorite. Final Grade: 10/10

Andrew: There’s a lot to like about this episode, particularly some classic lines about the relative merits of men’s undergarments. But the overall episode doesn’t come together for me. I feel like it needed a better payoff; none of the closers (Estelle finding out Donna Chang isn’t Chinese, “She’s late!”, the bridge) got a laugh big enough to end the episode on a high note. High marks for memorability on this one, but I was still left wanting more. Final Grade: 7/10

Jordan: I love this one. It’s got a social quirk commentary with the high talker. It’s got Jerry being careless to the needs of others, Kramer is great, George is panicking, and Elaine is ruining lives. Throw in a really good guest star with Donna Chang, the return of the Costanzas and even a Larry David appearance, and I am sold. Final Grade: 9/10

Jason: Another episode with so much jam packed in it. A lot going on and everything tying in makes this episode a fun watch. The mystery of Frank’s lawyer, the Costanzas’ divorce. Kramer’s sperm count and Donna Chang all made for tons of laughs. The flame is starting to burn bright on this season after a slow start. Final Grade: 7/10