Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Fire” (S5, E20)

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: So, I was ready to give this to Jerry because he was at his sarcastic best throughout. Then I was good to go with George after his performance at the party. But then Kramer told his Batman story. And nothing else mattered, Cracker Jack.

Aaron: There may be a litany of contenders here but if we can’t give this one to the guy who pushed children while fleeing a fire then what kind of society have we become?

Andrew: Kramer was the best. I’m basing that entirely on the bus story, and I will not apologize for it. It’s that damn good.

Jordan: Ronnie the prop comic, obviously. Nah, but really, I think I actually liked Elaine the most here. She’s angry and sassy, which is the best Elaine.

Jason: Eric the Clown is miserable. Toby is an ugly loud ginger. George is a little bitch. Kramer is Batman. Batman wins everything.

Best Storyline

JT: Everything tied together so well, that I don’t feel too dirty just saying “all of it”. If I had to pick on particular thread, I will go with George being a pussy, but really it was like one giant storyline that involved everybody.

Aaron:  I love Elaine’s vendetta against Toby. It starts with her barely tolerating Toby’s coffee table gushing to her being buried under a pile of magazines, crushed by her co-worker’s well wishes. Elaine hangs over the obnoxious Toby like the sword of Damocles; waiting and longing to cut her fucking head off.

Andrew: I’ll go with The Fire storyline. George’s mad stampede through children and the elderly has lost its shock value now that I’ve seen it so many times, but that’s just a brilliant moment. And it’s perfect for the character, putting his selfishness and need to be liked in direct opposition to one another.

Jordan: Easily George pushing over children and the elderly because some hamburgers were burned. It’s one of those scenes, along with his explanation afterwards, where you can show someone and they will fully understand the character. Great stuff.

Jason: Everything meshed together very well here, but I’ll go with Jerry getting revenge on Toby for her being an obnoxious, stupid, piece of shit human being at his show.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should Jerry have held back or just roasted Toby? I say he should have let loose. They had just started dating and he was well within his rights to let her have it with the way she was acting. Plus, he cussed her out afterwards anyway, which was bound to cause the same issues. He may as well have saved his gig and dealt with the rest later.

Aaron: If someone starts using your sayings is it right to call them out on it? I have a friend who constantly steals my expressions. It’s insanely frustrating made all the more enraging by his insistence that HE started using them first. George spent years cultivating catchphrases like “baby” and “Ho Ho!” He deserves the credit. Jerry could at least admit that maybe there’s been some subconscious run off after spending years basically married to the man, but that opens a whole different can of worms that was eaten during season four.

Andrew: Is heckling OK? I guess it’s one thing if you’re expressing worthwhile disapproval. But I feel like most heckling comes from a desire to make everything about you. Those people need to get over themselves.

Jordan: Should people have to sit through prop comics? I feel like if I paid to go to a comedy club, and a prop comic came on stage, I would have every right to not only demand a refund, but twice what I paid. Prop comics gigs should be restricted to prisons and funerals.

Jason: Is it right to heckle someone at their job after they heckle you at yours. In this case, yes! Toby has no self control and Jerry had every right to march into Toby’s office and rip into her. He should have dropped his draws and shit on her desk.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Toby is the worst. Annoying, unattractive, loud, bad dresser…nothing positive to see here. Robin was OK but nothing special either. Weak crop this go round. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Aaron: Kramer should break up with Toby. She’s the worst human we’ve seen on the show in five seasons. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Andrew: Toby is the worst. She was not worthy of Kramer’s heroics. Also, why is her name Toby? Relationship Grade: BOOOO/10

Jordan: Not only does Toby suck, but I also kind of wish there really was a fire in Robin’s apartment and her monster of a son didn’t make it out alive.  Relationship Grade: Worse than any grade I’ve given so far/10

Jason: Poor Robin. All she wanted to do was give her son a nice birthday party and George pussied out when he saw smoke instead of taking charge of the situation. Toby is a complete whack job. Her voice is like fingernails on a chalk board. Relationship Grade: Pinky Toe/10

What Worked:

JT: Bitter Elaine is the best Elaine; George dealing with the kid was great; Bozo!; The Costanza birthday flashback was tremendous; Ronnie’s pride in being a prop comic is admirable; Jerry’s reactions to Toby’s awful jokes were great, so great; I also loved him just tearing her apart after the show; I will forever love Eric the Clown and his anger for George about Bozo; George plowing his way out of the fire was perfection and his explanation later was amazing; Jerry’s sarcastic grilling of George was great too; Jerry heckling Toby was a tremendous idea; Kramer’s bus Batman story was as good as it gets; Elaine getting knocked over in the office always makes me laugh; The payoff with the prop comic and the fake gun was a great wrap

Aaron: During George’s horrific birthday flashback: “Blow the candles out! Blow the damn Candles out!!!” “Stop it Frank you’re killing him!!!” This was the most I’ve laughed since we started re-watching this thing. Elaine comparing Toby to a Price is Right contestant was great and the subsequent dancing and prancing was gold. Kramer’s monologue about him driving the bus and becoming Batman is also legendary. All of George’s cowardly behavior and ridiculous justifications about leadership and fire safety are great as is Jerry raking him over the coals for his moral ineptitude. There’s a bunch of little things too but I think the best compliment I can pay this episode is I didn’t stop laughing throughout. Everything clicked and all four characters were at their best.

Andrew: George’s birthday flashback is amazing (“Stop it Frank, you’re killing him!”). Toby is really unpleasant, but that does get laughs from time to time, and her “goose bumps” bit worked for me. I also enjoyed Dom Irrera acting so proud of being a prop comic. The idea to have Jerry go heckle the heckler was pretty good. The recurring bit about Jerry stealing George’s signature “baby” was fun. And I really, really enjoy bitter Elaine.

Jordan: Of course, the birthday party scene. It’s so awesome, and not JUST for the fire. George is giving it to Eric for not knowing who Bozo is and Eric freaks out on him. Then the fire happens and George just tramples everyone. So great. Speaking of George, the flashback to his birthday party was great. Jerry laying it on thick to George at the diner afterwards was a nice touch. I liked Jerry heckling Toby, and Kramer’s toe story.

Jason: Elaine comparing Toby to a Price is Right contestant. George’s frustration with Robin’s kid when he’s playing under the table. The flashback to George’s 7th birthday. BLOW OUT THE CANDLES! Ronnie K is the man. I’d pay good money to see his props and big nostrils. Jerry losing his shit at Toby after she heckles him. Jerry heckling Toby at her job. George trying to explain who Bozo is to Eric. Move over Doink, Bozo and Krusty because Eric is the greatest clown of all time. George knocking over kids and old ladies to get out of the apartment. His bullshit story to the EMTs and firemen. “Eric the Clown put it out with his big shoe.” Kramer’s bus story is incredible. “Now I’m driving the bus!” Kramer hustling Toby so she can help get his book published. Ronnie comparing Jerry to Rosa Parks, because he opened the door for all comedians who have been heckled. Ronnie pulling out his water gun and George making a scene.

What Didn’t Work

JT: I hate everything about Toby, including her name; I can’t stand the closeup on Kramer’s face when Toby has her accident.

Aaron: Toby’s annoying but was a pretty accurate description of someone we all know. She made feel angry and filled me with regret that I never heckled “that” person at their work. I don’t want to feel anything ever.

Andrew: I get why they wouldn’t show the actual street sweeper incident, but showing Kramer’s close-up reaction instead was just odd.

Jordan: Robin is a terrible mom based off the scene with her and George in the diner. She totally ignores him as he acts like a monster, LICKING THE FLOOR OF A NEW YORK CITY DINER. I feel like this mom/son combo gets off the hook because of how grating Toby is, but man, George really dodged a bullet here.

Jason: All of the co-workers showing sympathy for Toby after she comes back to work drives me nuts. Fuck her and her stupid toe.

Key Character Debuts

Eric the Clown


Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “‘And that coffee table is saying, put some coffee on me!’ I’d like to put some coffee on her. Hot, scalding coffee – right in her face! I swear! This is like working with a contestant from “The Price Is Right”! ” – Elaine

– “Oh, that’s gold, baby.” – Jerry “‘Baby’? What, are you doing George now?” – Elaine “I was saying ‘baby’ way before George!” – Jerry

– Who’s Bozo? Bozo the Clown, that’s who Bozo is. When I was a kid, Bozo the Clown was the clown, bar none.” – George “George…” – Robin “With the orange hair, and the big clown shirt with the ruffles…” – Georg “George…” – Robin “And the TV show! He had cartoons!” – George “George! Forget Bozo, George. Bozo’s out. He’s finished. It’s over for Bozo.” – Robin

– “No! Not part of the show! Booing and hissing are not part of the show! You boo puppets! You hiss villains in silent movies!” – Jerry

– “You’ve never heard of Bozo the Clown?” – George “No!” – Eric “How could you not know who Bozo the Clown is?” – George “I don’t know, I just don’t.” – Eric “How can you call yourself a clown and not know who Bozo is?” – George “Hey, man – what are you hassling me for? This is just a gig, it’s not my life. I don’t know who Bozo is, what – is he a clown?” – Eric “Is he a clown? What, are you kidding me!?” – George “Well, what is he?” – Eric “Yes, he’s a clown!” – George “Alright, so what’s the big deal! There’s millions of clowns!” – Eric “Alright, just forget it.” – George “Me forget it? You should forget it! You’re livin’ in the past, man! You’re hung up on some clown from the sixties, man!” – Eric

– “Because! Because, as the leader…if I die…then all hope is lost! Who would lead? The clown? Instead of castigating me, you should all be thanking me. What kind of a topsy-turvy world do we live in, where heroes are cast as villains? Brave men as cowards?” – George “But I saw you push the women and children out of the way in a mad panic! I saw you knock them down! And when you ran out, you left everyone behind!” – Robin “Seemingly. Seemingly, to the untrained eye, I can fully understand how you got that impression. What looked like pushing…what looked like knocking down…was a safety precaution! In a fire, you stay close to the ground, am I right? And when I ran out that door, I was not leaving anyone behind! Oh, quite the contrary! I risked my life making sure that exit was clear. Any other questions?” – George “How do you live with yourself?” – Fireman “Its not easy.” – George

– “Yeah. She should be commending me for treating everyone like equals.” – George “Well, perhaps when she’s released from the burn center, she’ll see things differently.” – Jerry

– “So, what was the fire? Just a couple of greasy hamburgers?” – Jerry “Yeah. Eric the Clown put it out with his big shoe.” – George

– “You’re Batman.” – George “Yeah. Yeah, I am Batman. Then the mugger, he comes to, and he starts chokin’ me! So I’m fightin’ him off with one hand and I kept drivin’ the bus with the other, y’know? Then I managed to open up the door, and I kicked him out the door with my foot, you know – at the next stop.” – Kramer “You kept makin’ all the stops?” – Jerry “Well, people kept ringin’ the bell!” – Kramer

– “You know, throughout this whole thing, she always kept a smile on her face.” – Kramer “Oh, of course! She’s deranged.” – Elaine

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Eric the Clown is portrayed by Jon Favreau

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: I enjoyed this one quite a bit but as we have said time and time again, it is hurt by the Season Five curve. I enjoyed how everything flowed so seamlessly and it actually made the episode fly by. There was some really good banter in here, especially Jerry’s sarcastic barbs to Elaine and George. The fire stuff was really and I love Eric the Clown so much. So angry. Kramer’s story is an all timer as well and I clip I had on my iPod for a decade. A very good effort overall that certainly is worth a watch but comes up just short of the classics. Final Grade: 7/10

Aaron: This one killed if from start to finish with me. Everyone remembers George shoving everyone out of the way but this one is chock full of awesome moments. Super tight writing blended with awesome character work and a psychotic Frank Costanza, screaming at his child to enjoy his birthday; how can this one not be a classic? Final Grade: 10/10

Andrew: Not one of my favorites. Maybe I’d feel differently if I was watching George flee from the fire for the first time, but I found the episode overall a bit boring. There’s just not a lot going on for any of the characters, and the writing and dialogue are just OK. Kramer’s bus hijacking story makes up for a lot, though. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: Here’s the issue with this one: Is it funny? Sure. Is it memorable? Sure. But Toby is there, and it’s a fine line when you have a character like this. She is SUPPOSED to be annoying, I get it. But she’s SO over the top annoying that it actually takes away from my enjoyment of the episode. I don’t really know how they rectify that though – maybe cut her out of a scene or two? She just really bugged me. This is an episode that is more known for a moment than the episode itself, with George and the fire. I actually think Kramer’s bus story was just as funny. A really solid effort. Final Grade: 7/10

Jason: This was a very fast 23 minutes with plenty of laughs. The fire stuff is so good and in my book, Eric belongs in the clown hall of fame. Kramer’s Batman story is a top ten K-Man moment in the series. I really like the episode, but it falls a little short of perfection. Especially in a season as strong as this one. Final Grade: 7/10