Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Junk Mail” (S9, E5)

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 liked Kramer the most here. The mail story was the best of the bunch and he had some strong delivery in multiple spots throughout the episode, including one of my favorite all time moments when he pops in the apartment and says that he called about the van. The dummy bucket stuff was funny too as was his showdown with the Postmaster General.

Aaron: It’s David Puddy for his ten seconds of screen time. He busts himself up with the Maytag man line then walks off towards immortality. What an indictment of this episode.

Andrew: It’s Kramer. I get the sense he’s partly on auto-pilot here, but he’s mastered the small touches so completely that the character always works. The “You said ‘a mailman I know’ and you’re a mailman I know!” line has always stayed with me, even coming from one of the weaker episodes. This isn’t the most ground-breaking performance, but it’s still worthwhile to recognize competence.

Jordan: I’ll go Kramer here. Even for a Kramer storyline, I felt the mail storyline was a stretch. So many episodes in the past have seen me struggle to choose because of so many good options, here it’s a case of trying to find anything I enjoyed.

Best Storyline

JT: The van had its moments but Kramer’s battle with the post office stands out here. It had the funniest lines and overall concept and I really liked he payoff the end with Newman being marched into far the Postmaster General. George’s cousin plot was creepy and The Wiz stuff was weak.

Aaron: George’s parents having enough of him takes the cake here. It’s as though they watched the show, saw the monster that they created and cut their losses. At first I was put off by the cousin dating, but then it struck me that it may be the most sensible relationship George has ever had.

Andrew: Definitely the post office stuff for me. George’s parents cutting him loose has an absurdist bent I enjoy, but they don’t explore the concept any further. The paranoid conspiracy movie pastiche, on the other hand, is the most fully realized idea this episode has to offer. And with Newman, Kramer, and the Postmaster General, this storyline has the best performances by far.

Jordan: As I type it out, the episode sounds fine. The post office stuff with Wilford Brimley was solid, the van stuff wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t even mind George desperate for his parents attention. Yet in execution – they all kind of fell flat? I’m going with Jerry’s van just for the scene where Kramer wants to buy it and asks about trades.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Is being starved for attention reason enough to bang your cousin? Probably not if your cousin is Rhisa. I will let you sort out the rest.

Aaron: I’ve often wondered about incest. I guess my main question would be is there less of a stigma towards homosexual incest as opposed to heterosexual incest because of the lack of potential abominations? Countless men have fantasized about bedding twins with little regard to the damage those poor sisters would do to their souls. No one seems to bat an eye when two brothers dance the night away before a certain trip to a certain town. Why do we stand in the way of cousins, or sterile siblings? THEY ARE STERILE! If we let them own a cat together we should let them express their love in a free and horrific way.

Andrew: Is it OK to stop getting mail? Should citizens be able to opt out of government services they don’t personally care for? No. When did this segment turn into Libertarian Corner? Oh, so now I’m setting up strawmen in an argument with myself, am I? No YOU sound crazy!

Jordan: I would like to confess that I once went to a BBQ and saw a girl who I thought was smoking hot, only to be told that she was my cousin I had not seen for years. It was difficult to come to grips with, but thankfully, I maintained my dignity and did not flirt with my cousin. Nor should any of you.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Frankie Merman wants all of Jerry’s babies. The love AND lust in his eyes shone through anytime they were together. He got Jerry that van because he pictured them taking family trips to the country together every Sunday. Just tell him how you feel, Summer George! Relationship Grade: Van’s a Rockin’/Don’t Come Knockin’

Aaron: What’s grosser: Frank and Estelle christening the van or George banging his wine cooler infused cousin? Either one is preferable to Elaine and the God Damn Wiz. Relationship Grade: 0/10

Andrew: This episode is full of abhorrent couplings. But David Puddy remains a golden god. Relationship Grade: 0/Hoochie Mama

Jordan: If I can take any solace in this, it’s that Elaine Benes’ standards are so ridiculously low, that I have a legitimate shot with her. Seriously – The Wiz? Learn to love yourself, Laney! Relationship Grade: I’M NOT THE WIZ, AND I’M… AWESOOOOOME/10

What Worked:

JT: Whitey Fisk; “Jackbooted thugs” makes me laugh; What’s Jerry going to do with the old looking phone?; PUDDY~!; George scripting his calls to his parents is great; Jerry asking Elaine if the man she met was Whitey Fisk; What was Kramer’s original idea regarding the choke point?; I always enjoy how George reverts to the third person when he gets angry, such a fun callback for the rest of the series; Kramer’s brick line; Newman telling Violet to take her three hour break and his sweaty conversation with Kramer; Kramer walking in and saying “yeah I called about the van” is one off my all time favorite moments; Puddy trolling Elaine over The Wiz; The Bucket stuff is a funny running joke; Frank bringing back “hoochie mama”

Aaron: I like the creepy gravediggers who inhabit the park, especially the fact that there were potentially undressed ones the deeper into the woods you strode. The moment where Kramer realized that his “revenge” on Pottery Barn was fruitless was perfectly played. Rhisa just going for it with George was a fun twist.

Andrew: The whole Junk Mail storyline works for me. Kramer’s impotent revenge at Pottery Barn, the bricked up mailbox, the whole government conspiracy angle, and most of all the Postmaster General, gave me the most genuine laughs of the episode. David Puddy laughing at his own jokes at Elaine’s expense is great. I may be in the minority here, but Jack’s absurd strut with the Wiz crown makes me laugh.

Jordan: I popped big for Wilford Brimley. Long before he was simply “Diabetus” to today’s world, he was a legit actor. I always loved his voice. Him calmly talking to Kramer was both soothing and threatening. He did great. I also liked that Frank and Estelle are basically just done with George. The van seat lowering into a bed was a nice touch, as was George commenting that it was “a rockin'”.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Frankie Merman always looks like he just ran a marathon; I didn’t need the mental imagery of the Costanzas having intercourse; the immediate leap George makes to date his cousin feels a step too far for both him and the show; the coincidence that Jerry stumbled into the Wiz commercial just as they were talking about Jack was a bit too much; Why did George have to drive deep into the woods to execute his scheme; Jack doing that fucking Wiz dance, go get fucked

Aaron: What is going on with Elaine? Remember when she was picky with men? Sure she always dated but now she’s basically turned into a complete whore. She dumps her boyfriend at the mere hint of another man looking her in the eyes. That’s why Puddy’s Maytag man joke landed. It’s true! Ugh. What an awful turn for a once-great character. Why does callous Jerry suddenly care about ANYONE’S feelings? There is no way the guy who dropped “that’s a shames” left and right would give a living shit about some freak burying himself to death in a park. He had contempt for a bubble boy for Christ’s sake. Kramer’s whole production during the van sale made me want to vomit the compliments I lauded him with in countless of these things. Look no further than the preposterous Wiz dance for a terrific example of a guy having no idea what show he’s on.

Andrew: There are some fun, absurd ideas here that just don’t land. A park full of weirdos digging holes to lay in is a wonderful image, but somehow the episode can’t get the joke to land. Likewise, a son who’s only known withering levels of attention from his parents being “cut loose”, who then responds by trying to win them back, is a solid plot idea. And yet I’ve never given that story a second thought after the episode is over. It’s generally a bad sign when a show has a bad plot device (George’s parents agreeing to pick up the van from the woods), but the writers just lampshade it instead of fixing it (No parking meters out in the woods!). This is one of those episodes that feels rushed and unpolished to me.

Jordan: Full disclosure here, I am entering my thoughts after others have, and I scanned what JT wrote, and he sums it up for me. These stories sound OK on paper, but they seem to just dive right in. George going right to “I’ll date my cousin!” seems really far fetched, even for him. There was no escalation at all. To me, it was the same with Newman warning Kramer about getting rid of mail, it all just hits these big moments out of nowhere. Also, Jerry making fun of The Wiz after some of the things he’s worn FOR FREE is hypocrisy at it’s finest.

Key Character Debuts

– Frankie Merman

– Rhisa

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “He was not the summer you. Besides, you had a summer me. Whitey Fisk, the guy who snuck you into Last Tango in Paris.” – Jerry “I made him up.” – George “So you never saw Last Tango in Paris?” – Jerry “No.” – George “Too bad. It was erotic.” – Jerry

– “Well… I’ve had it with these jackbooted thugs!” – Kramer “‘Pottery Barn’?” – Jerry

– “After dark? Please. At their age, that’s like swallowing stun grenades.” – George

– “So, this is beautiful. You, and Puddy, and this new guy, in a big pot of love stew.” – Jerry

– “Will you look at this? More catalogs! ‘Omaha Steaks’, ‘Mac Warehouse’, ‘Newsweek’?! I can’t stop all these
companies, so, I’m gonna attack this problem at the choke point.” – Kramer “Stop the mail?” – Jerry “That’s… even better!” – Kramer

– “Where’d you get the bricks?” – Jerry “Jerry, the whole building is brick.” – Kramer

– “Oh, that’s it. They have gone too far. They keep pushing me, and pushing me. Now I got no choice but to go down there… and talk to them.” – Kramer

– “Ah, shut up, Jerry. My parents think they can ignore me. Heh heh. Well, they better think again.” – George “Oh, no. George, please. What are you going to do?” – Jerry “You remember my cousin Rhisa? I’m gonna date her.” – George

– “That’s pretty pathetic.” – George “I know. They’re not even related.” – Jerry

– “Oh, it’s fantastic. We were out in front of the post office today, and not one person went in.” – Kramer “It’s Sunday.” – Jerry

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Legendary actor Wilford Brimley portrays the Postmaster General

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This is another weak episode here in season nine. I really liked the mail saga and there was plenty of laughs but the other three stories never quite clicked. Frankie was a weirdo, George was a creep and Elaine was an idiot. I don’t mind that they are getting a bit over the top here in their final season but some of this stuff is way too much and just not believable after a certain point. The Kramer mail stuff is a bit nutty but in line with the character’s motivations. A man digging holes in Central Park when his feelings are hurt and George wanting to bang his cousin to get his parents’ attention just don’t resonate at all. They still seem to be figuring out what they want this season to be and hopefully it all clicks together soon. Final Grade: 5/10

Aaron: I think I hate this show now. The barely-recognizable characters suck, the performances are stiff and wooden and when Frank and Estelle can’t save an episode we’re in serious, serious trouble. Man the writing has become awful too. Everything used to feel organic. Everything used to feel like it would actually happen. How on Earth is Frank Costanza finding that van in the woods? The over convenient situations have reached an absurd point. Fuck the Wiz. Final Grade: 1/10

Andrew: This is not a good one. I have fond memories of the post office stuff, but otherwise it’s pretty much a dud. Final Grade:  5/10

Jordan: This feels like an episode where they had to come up with something for everyone, rather than just fit everyone into on e story. I liked the mail stuff with Kramer, and feel like they could have just built the entire episode around that story -easily bringing George and Elaine into it somehow. Instead, we have a huge swing and a miss with George and his cousin, another miss with Elaine and The Wiz, and if I’m being generous, a base hit with Jerry’s van. But it’s not memorable at all. Final Grade: 4/10