Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Cigar Store Indian” (S5, E10)

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: Shit if I know. Everyone was awesome. All of them. Jerry, George. Kramer. Elaine. Frank. Estelle. Ricky. Sylvia. Gepetto. Winona. The mailman. Everyone! They all killed it. Perfection.

Aaron: From the moment Frank and Estelle enter their home, George’s life begins to avalanche out of control quicker than Mt Vesuvius genocide (too soon?) What starts as an indictment of the weight of their mail quickly escalates into the hysterical discovery a prophylactic wrapper in their bed. Presumably days later “Petty” Frank Costanza is still mad about Elaine taking HIS TV Guide and is not only harping on it but declaring that she is no longer welcome in his house. Frank’s radiating joy later as he peruses his old “fall previews” with the creepy fuck in the glasses and Estelle’s cock blocking of George at the antiques store lock this one down for the sitcom’s best power couple.

Andrew: I wouldn’t have expected it going in, but I think Jerry is the best character in this episode. As we know, cocky, uncaring Jerry is the best Jerry, but cocky, uncaring, racially insensitive Jerry might be even better. He’s just OK for stretches, but man, does that first scene in Elaine’s apartment make me laugh.

Jordan: I am having a tough time deciding between Jerry and Kramer, so I’ll go with Jerry just because I feel like he’ll get less of these as the show goes on. His complete obliviousness to his own racial insensitivity when he gave Elaine the Indian turned the total opposite by refusing to say words like reservations and scalpers was pretty awesome. Calling Winona an Indian giver at the end was a nice capper.

Jason: How the hell am I supposed to choose from just one person here? The core four all brought their A game. Estelle and Frank are at their best. Ricky, Winona, Sylvia and the Mailman were fantastic. The entire cast wins here!

Best Storyline

JT: Again, all of it. Everything blended in together so beautifully here, everything was linked together and played a role across the board. Brilliant writing, tons of laughs.

Aaron: Kramer’s quest to build the world’s best coffee table book about coffee tables has just the right amount of strangeness and serendipity to make it a classic Seinfeld storyline.

Andrew: You really can’t go wrong here, but I like the coffee table book. This is one of the all-time great C stories, as it’s just absurd enough to work for Kramer, but still a good enough idea that you could imagine it getting published. I’ll always admire a goofy joke with such great staying power.

Jordan: I liked Frank’s missing TV guide and the challenge to get him a copy. The fact that he collects them all (and knows their volume and number) is funny in itself, but it also led to Elaine getting a bouquet of paper, dripped gyro sauce and an Al Roker appearance!

Jason: As good as everything is with George at his parents’ house, I really enjoyed the Indian statue being shuffled around and finally landing in Mr. Lippman’s office. From the antique store, to Jerry, to Elaine, to Kramer, to Lippman. Brilliant.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should Elaine have at least approached a coworker with Kramer’s idea, even if she didn’t go to Lippman directly? I know Kramer can be a bit all over the place and she knows he is a train wreck, but still, at least toss the guy a bone. It was a solid idea and if it pays off, you look like a genius. Pure laziness by Lainey.

Aaron: Have we gone too far with our sensitivity? Imagine; this was someone asking this question in 1994! What would Jerry say today? Well we know what he’d say today. He’d say: I hate college kids! It’s crazy that this point is brought up within the cultural zeitgeist as it was twenty years ago. Crazier still as the tamest of comics being the crusader for free speech in comedy today. Well second tamest, the other guy raped a bunch of people. Zip zippidy doo!

Andrew: Is it OK to steal a gyro? In this case, I’ll allow it. I’m not going to say you should never throw your arm in to stop a subway door, but if you do, you have to be prepared to live with the consequences.

Jordan: Should the mailman have flown off the handle at Jerry like that? I guess you could make an argument for him thinking it was racially motivated since he’s Chinese, but Jerry even explained what he meant. That guy flipped out for no reason. Mailmen DO know neighborhoods!

Jason: Having sex in your parents’ bed. Was Frank right for grounding George? I’m on his side with this. Also, should Elaine have pressed charges against Ricky for stalking her? What a creep. Ok, the TV Guide has what Ricky thinks is Elaine’s address on it. Throw it in a box and mail it back to her with a note. Should Jerry have had to give Winona the TV guide back after she gave it to him? Take a hike, Indian giver!

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Frank and Ricky, best buds forever. They will live on Queens and spend the rest of their days flipping through The Guides of years past, reminiscing of their salad days. Also, I think Sylvia is the best George match we have had to date. Relationship Grade: Here’s Lucy/10

Aaron: The city of New York has a scary love affair going on with those damn sandwiches. The RUN from an open subway car? Jesus I certainly hope they taste like angel semen for the sheer effort it takes to get one. Also Elaine should have banged Al Roker. Relationship Grade: 3 bucks/10 no change

Andrew: I’ve always liked Winona. She’s understanding enough to give Jerry a second chance, which is a good sign. Her story about needing the TV Guide back isn’t great though. Setting aside my doubts about the usefulness of a TV Guide interview to her report, if she’s a journalist, can’t she just get a copy at work? Why is she bugging Jerry for that one specific copy? Very fishy. As for George: his plan to pass off his parents’ house as his own had no business working, but he went for it anyway, and actually pulled it off. Way to close the deal, my friend. Truly, a great moment in fictional hookup history. Relationship Grade: Prophylactic/10 

Jordan: Winona is a really attractive woman who is willing to overlook Jerry’s ignorance and give him a chance. He goes out of his way to not make another mistake, and she seems to know what he’s doing and is actually impressed by it. And then, the apartment scene happens, shattering a potential love that would rival John Smith and Pocahontas. Now, the casual viewer may THINK it was the Indian giver line. But it wasn’t. Winona used that as her excuse. Watch it again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you back? Did you see that Jerry wore a purple sweater vest over a long sleeved denim shirt? Now you get it. Relationship Grade: COLORS OF THE WIND DON’T BELONG ON A SWEATER/10

Jason: I dig Jerry wanting to get Elaine something because he feels bad about not being able to drive her home. Classy move, Jerome. Winona needs to loosen up some. Jerry didn’t know she was Native American and he felt bad about it. I don’t blame Elaine for being creeped out by Ricky right away when she meets him on the subway. The Costanzas knock it out of the park again with their bickering. I want to spin-off series with Frank and Ricky. Relationship Grade: Kasha/10

What Worked:

JT: George fretting at his parents’ house was fantastic out of the gate, between the party limitations and the stained coffee table, we got off to a hot start; The gyro stuff was really good too, and perfect physical comedy setup for Kramer; Ricky was amazingly cast; Gepetto the table fixer landing the dig in at George abut being left home alone cracked me up; The Cigar Store Indian, that is all; Sylvia is awesome too; Jerry’s card and ensuing pow wow with the Indian in front of Winona was great, and the reveal of Winona’s heritage was well done; Sylvia getting the house tour; The Chinese mailman is so on edge and back-to-back with Kramer in the cab with the Indian was top notch; The Costanzas, as always; Of course Frank collects TV Guide and of course Estelle would find the condom wrapper, tremendous; Poor Jerry, completely on edge with everything he says; Great linking of stories with Lippman and Kramer meeting in the cigar store and Kramer was super smooth in bringing up the coffee table book; Great capper with Al Roker at the end

Aaron: Kramer is also phenomenal here. He starts off strong by eating the guest soaps and becoming indignant when questioned because he’s a guest. His interruption of Jerry’s talk with Winona using the Indian cries is probably horribly racist in retrospect but I still get a laugh at the innocence of it all. He’s just so happy about getting that statue! “I can HAVE this???” Perfect line reading from a man desperate for a Southwestern motif. In fact that whole scene where Jerry is trying to reason with Winona is great, culminating with the angriest Asian mailman this side of Ryu from Street Fighter. Mr. Lippmann’s reaction to hearing about the coffee table book is the look of the man who’s been let in on the greatest secrets of the Earth. He chomps down on his cigar and chastises Elaine to perfection. Speaking of perfection, Elaine’s little quirks were on high display here. I love it when she can’t contain her disdain over something small. The tone in her voice when she confirms that Frank collects TV Guide is nothing short of fierce loathing. There’s a great brief moment in the subway with the creep where she has to decide whether she’d rather admit to him that she’s single or lie and say Kramer is her boyfriend. She takes the bullet and goes with the former as it’s apparently that humiliating to be attached to the K-Man. Of course George is excellent here too. The freaking out to the antiquated rules of his parents house is such a nice contrast to “The Collector” who collects things of beauty. It’s a special kind of asshole who has a one night stand in his mother’s bed.

Andrew: Man, that was a really well plotted out episode, with all the storylines tying together, and the jokes coming one on top of another. Good stuff. Elaine’s admirer is perfect, so awkward I feel uncomfortable even watching him have a conversation. George’s furniture store friend is pretty funny, too. Despite the way it turned out, Jerry’s plan to impress Winona by giving Elaine a gift in front of her is really solid (judge the process, not the results). The incident with the mailman is an all-time great. And George’s parents are amazing, as usual. Frank’s rants never get old, and George’s mom blowing up his spot was great.

Jordan: I mean, just about everything. The Indian statue getting passed from person to person is good, and it landing Kramer his coffee table book is a nice payoff. Kramer shouting like an Indian in battle out the taxi window is hilarious. I also like the gyro story, specifically Elaine pushing the lady out of her way. Ricky is a nice, weird one off character. He sure loves Lucy! Frank and Estelle just hit home runs like they are Barry Bonds on full juice, every time they are on screen together they rule. George offering his date prune juice because it’s chilled is hilarious, as is his line about forgetting the combination to the liquor cabinet. Speaking of George, I like him flipping out over the coaster not being used. Winona is gorgeous and I can see why Jerry would trip over himself to impress her. Jerry tiptoeing around any possible racially charged word is fun, then he steps on a land mine by asking an Asian mailman where the Chinese restaurant is. I also liked the subtle line that Jerry gets Al Roker confused with other black people, proving he probably is more racist than he realizes. I also love that Frank doesn’t call it a condom wrapper, but a prophylactic wrapper.

Jason: Oh man, where to begin. The Indian statue being shuffled around. George landing Sylvia. Convincing her that his parents’ house is his. Sleeping with her in his parents’ bed, getting caught and Estelle blowing up George’s spot when he bumps into her at the antique store. George serving Sylvia prune juice because his parents keep a lock on the liquor cabinet. Kramer’s idea about the coffee table book coming to life. Jerry rocking the Indian statue back and forth and making stereotypical chants without knowing Winona is Native America. Kramer riding in the cab with the statue and making war-whoop sounds. Jerry catching himself saying, “reservation” and “scalper”. Frank losing his shit over Elaine taking the TV Guide from his house.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Even in these overly politically correct times, Winona feels a bit oversensitive, I mean how would Jerry know her heritage; And the Chinese mailman is an asshole too, and why the hell is he working at night anyway; George is so airtight with his plan, but he forgets the condom wrapper? Doesn’t totally fit his personality here, but I know the feeling of executing a perfect plan and overlooking one thing, causing it to unravel

Aaron: Is that poker game taking place at New York’s “Worst dressed women’s club”? Jesus.

Andrew: Who eats a gyro over her purse? Come on, Lainey, you’re better than that. Jerry’s reluctance to say “reservations” to a Native American has always seemed forced. I guess the joke is that he’s gun-shy and overreacting, but that particular instance has never worked for me. Also, at one point he says “Aren’t we all getting a little too sensitive?”, so I guess he’s been beating that anti-PC-police drum for a while now.

Jordan: I don’t see how I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy equals six hours of Lucy. That’s an hour and a half. Unless each of them are being shown in four episode blocks, which I doubt. This isn’t The Big Bang Theory on TBS, it’s Lucy! Nice try, Ricky, you freak!

Jason: Are you kidding? Next!

Key Character Debuts


Ricky the TV Guide fanatic

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “How would you describe the smell in this house?” – Jerry “Dandruff?” – Elaine “Yeah, that’s part of it. Kasha?” – Jerry “There’s some kasha.” – Elaine “Yeah. Dandruff, kasha, mothballs, cheap carpeting. It’s pot pourri,
really.” – Jerry

– “You’re not allowed to have people over?” – Jerry “I can’t have any parties while they’re out of town.” – George

– “Hey, hey, hey, hey. You know what would make a great coffee table book? A coffee table book about coffee tables! Get it?” – Kramer

– “Fine, okay. It’s just, I’ve never seen a beautiful lady reading ‘The Guide’ so far away from a TV. You must really like television.” – Ricky

– “Alright, but no later, because my parents are coming back.” – George “They left you home alone, huh?” – Gepetto

– “Wow, you bought the Indian? Oh, you guys have great taste.” – Sylvia “Well, we’re collectors. We, uh, see objects of great beauty and, uh, we must have them.” – George

– “We had a little fight this afternoon. Let’s bury the hatchet. We smoke um peace pipe.” – Jerry

– “You got very unusual taste.” – Sylvia “I hope prune juice is alright. It’s the only thing I had that was chilled.” – George “Fine.” – Sylvia “I’m sorry about that lock on the liquor cabinet. The combination musta just flown outta my head. It’s a mental block.” – George “Ahh! Is this your son in the bubble bath?” – Sylvia “No, that’s me.” – George “Oh. You don’t see many guys your age who keep baby pictures of themselves around. I like it. Consistent with the rest of the house.” – Sylvia “Yes, it is consistent. I’ve, uh, I’ve tried to maintain a consistent
feel throughout the house.” – George “What is this we’re listening to?” – Sylvia “The Ray Conniff Singers.” – George “Mmmm, what’s that smell? Kasha?” – Sylvia “It’s a potpourri.” – George

– “Why must I know? Because I’m Chinese? You think I know where all the Chinese restaurants are? Oh, ask honorable Chinaman for rocation of restaurant.” – Mailman “I asked because you were the mailman, you would know the neighborhood.” – Jerry “Oh, hello American Joe. Which way to hamburger, hotdog stand?” – Mailman

– “I’m missing TV Guide volume forty-one, number thirty-one.” – Frank “Uh, Elaine took it to read on the subway.” – Jerry “Elaine took it?” – Frank “I didn’t know she took it!” – George “Ah, it’s two weeks old.” – Jerry “How could you let her take the TV Guide?!” – Frank “He collects them.” – George “You collect TV Guide?” – Jerry

– “Your bed is too small? I’m gone two weeks and you turn our house into, into Bourbon Street!” – Frank

– “That’s it! You’re grounded!” – Frank “You can’t ground me, I’m a grown man.” – George “You wanna live here? You respect the rules of our house. You’re grounded!” – Frank

– “Wait a second, you got the Mark McEwan TV Guide.” – Jerry “That’s Al Roker.” – Winona “Oh well, they’re both chubby weathermen. I get Dom Deluise and Paul Prudhoe mixed up too. Could I have this?” – Jerry

– “I thought it was a pretty good idea. It’s about coffee tables, it’s on a coffee table.” – Jerry “Yeah, right, right, and on the cover is a built-in coaster.” – Kramer

– “How do you just walk into a house and take a TV Guide? How does she expect you to watch TV? Am I just supposed to turn it on and wander aimlessly around the dial?” – Frank

– “Well, why would I assume. I never assume. Leads to assumptions.” – Jerry

– “You mean like, an Indian giver?!” – Winona “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that term.” – Jerry

– “Those. I’ve been saving those from the beginning.” – Frank “These are worth like, a lot of money.” – Ricky

– “Elaine! Hello! You look scrumptious.” – Ricky

– “You see, this is the kind of idea you should be coming in with. What the hell do you do round here all day anyway?” – Lippman “Well I …manuscript that I…” – Elaine

– “George doesn’t work. He’s a bum. That’s why he lives at home with us.” – Estelle

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Kramer comes up with the idea for his coffee table book about coffee tables

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: Well, this came out of nowhere. I always knew I enjoyed this episode, but never realized how flawless it was. The writing was airtight and everything came back around in one way or another, whether it the Indian, the Guide, the coffee table or the gyro, nothing went to waste. Every character was brilliant too, all playing to their strengths, including the Costanzas and the guest stars as well. We also get the start of the coffee table book storyline, which would become pop culture icon within weeks of its first mention. Toss in Jerry’s insensitive, casual racism and then overcorrecting, and we got ourselves a pantheon great installment. Final Grade: 10/10

Aaron: This one was awesome top to bottom. I don’t think I can go full monty, but it’s damn close. Everything and everyone was clicking here. Probably the best episode of season five to date and a must watch for all TV enthusiasts. Final Grade: 9/10

Andrew: Welp, that’s the way to clear out the stench of last week’s disappointing entry. Great writing, solid performances, and some real laugh out loud moments. I had never thought of this as one of my favorite episodes, but it holds up incredibly well. Final Grade: 9/10

Jordan: Might be an overrate based off the weakness of the last episode, but this was great. Seinfeld’s greatest strength is weaving a bunch of stories together and they do that here. The gang visits George and he frets over a coffee table, which leads to Elaine meeting Ricky in the subway and the great gyro chase, Jerry buying the cigar store indian and making Winona think he’s a racist and George sleeping with a woman in his parents bed. Great stuff. Final Grade: 10/10

Jason: A very entertaining episode from beginning to end. This has always been one of my personal favorites and I’ve been looking forward to watching it again for this column. A perfect episode that casual fans should check out. Brilliant writing all around and some discussion should be made for this episode as a top ten in the series. Grab a gyro, a TV Guide, throw on some Ray Conniff Singers and enjoy this gem. Final Grade: 10/10