Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Lip Reader” (S5, E6)

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: Man, lots to love here. The Driver and Laura were both great in their roles and I really loved Kramer the Ball Boy and Sign Language Translator. But, George is the choice as he had the best episode top to bottom. From devouring the ice cream like an animal to flipping out and calling Laura and Kramer idiots in front of everyone, he dominated the action.

Aaron: I had trouble with this one as I felt that no one really stood out for me. Until that is Kramer went on his quest to become a ball man. He also finished strong with his condemnation of Laura’s singing skills so let’s call him the best of the worst.

Andrew: I’ll go with George for best character. I like that he feels so insulted by Gwen using his own break-up strategy against him. Even better, I love that he assumes she is exactly as superficial as he is. The scene with he and Jerry hiding their mouths from the lip reader is great, and I thought he had the best line of the episode: “Oh, I was just going to wander the streets”.

Jordan: Gonna go with George because I feel like he’s been getting a lot of runner ups, but not taking home the award. Leave it to this jabroni to get dumped for eating ice cream like a toddler. I also like that he’s furious about “It’s not you, it’s me.” and coming up with the lip reading plan. Good stuff from Georgie boy.

Jason: As impressed as I was with Kramer knowing sign language and becoming a ball boy, George wins it here. There is no limit to why he can’t keep a girlfriend.

Best Storyline

JT: The lip reader all the way as it produced the two best scenes of the episode with the restaurant plotting and the party execution. Also, the six/sex mixup is a classic.

Aaron: Kramer breaks the ball barrier. I liked all the others (The lip reader and Elaine not wanting to talk to the driver) but I just didn’t feel they were mined to their comic potential. It was quick but I loved the ball training scene with the younger guys bullying “Pops” Kramer. I love when Seinfeld takes something and builds a ridiculous world around it. Of course there are bullies in the baling world.

Andrew: I think I liked George’s break-up and investigation the most. Seeing George’s chocolate covered face on national TV was great, and I still enjoy his inability to let things go. I also love the randomly absurd Newman scene that gets thrown in. I have some complaints about this storyline, but it’s very entertaining.

Jordan: The lip reader did a good job of carrying the episode. I really liked Kramer the ball boy, but it was definitely a secondary story and couldn’t have been fleshed out too much more. It also gives us the moment where Jerry and George start discussing the idea of using Laura to their advantage and covering their mouths, which is a classic.

Jason: The lip reader stuff was fantastic. From Jerry being attracted to her to not knowing she was deaf and convincing her to spy on Gwen at Todd’s party. 

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: If someone you are dating is humiliated publicly, is it OK to immediately cut the cord like a coward? If you are so revolted that you have to end things, at least have the guts to say why. Plus, they have mutual friends! That is a shit position to put poor Todd in. As it is he has to deal with being grotesquely short. Come on, Gwen. Play like a champion.

Aaron: When is George going to eat like a human being? At this stage of his life you’d think he’d be able to sit down for a meal/snack and not shovel it in as though it were coal running a train. Were the announcers right to mock him? Absolutely. His brazen attitude towards his vacuum-like food fetish is now bordering on the absurd. He needs to be shamed, humiliated then shamed again until he learns that his mouth is not a shop-vac. And here I was disappointed that we were done with the pig man.

Andrew: Is it OK to lie to a stranger to get out of talking to them? I do this all the time, so maybe I’m not the person to ask. In the grand scheme of life, honesty is always preferable, but if you’re just trying to minimize social interaction, sometimes lying is the way to go. I guess the real question is whether minimizing social interaction is an acceptable life goal. I am definitely not the person to ask about that.

Jordan: Kind of surprised I am the only one here to go with this. If you can read lips, should you “listen” in on any conversation you feel like? No, you shouldn’t, Laura. Keep your eyes to yourself, you little gossip.

Jason: Should you have to talk to livery drivers? I don’t blame Elaine for pretending not to hear him. Shut up and drive! Also, if you’re going on your first date with someone, you don’t need a third wheel with you. Jerry should have let George roam the streets.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: I really liked Jerry and Laura together and was sad that things end between them thanks to George flipping out at the party. They had a nice rapport and we could have used more scheming with Jerry using her powers for his benefit. Relationship Grade: Sex/Six

Aaron: George knows he would have broken up with Gwen for the exact same reason she dumped him. This revelation hints that maybe they were more right for each other than originally thought. They both show clear judgment. You don’t want a moth covered in chocolate around your genitals. Relationship Grade: 7/10

Andrew: I can’t take my eyes off this lineswoman either. I’ve always liked Marlee Matlin, and her character seems pretty easy-going and cool with hijinks. She’s kind of perfect. Relationship Grade: How about six? Six is good. You got a problem with six?/10

Jordan: Jerry seemed pretty smitten by Laura, and you’d think her smacking George while fighting with Kramer would only deepen his affection for her, given his joy in mocking him. Alas, it was not meant to be, as George is so bad at relationships, he can end ones he isn’t even involved in. Jerry sticking with his boy is noble, but also stupid. Relationship Grade: BROS BEFORE DEAF GIRLS/10

Jason: Once again George blows it with a woman. Whether or not Gwen saw him on TV with ice cream all over his face or she’s just tired of his shit, it’s more than likely his fault. “It’s not you, it’s me” is the oldest line in the book to end a relationship and if anyone should take credit for inventing it, it’s George. Todd says he’s friends with both George and Gwen, but how much do we really know about him? If he finds out George and Gwen are on the outs, did he really want to sweep with Gwen instead of sleeping with her? Relationship Grade: PEA SOUP/10

What Worked:

JT: George’s issue with the suntan lotion made me laugh; “BL” makes me giggle too; George eating the sundae is magnificent, he destroys it with such zest and vigor and then him getting caught on the screen was tremendous; Elaine’s deaf routine was really well done, until she botched it of course, but that was funny too; The driver was funny and I liked the scene where Elaine is busted followed up by the BL actually being deaf; Kramer knowing sign language is perfect Kramer booking; The K-Man’s ball man dream is also a really good angle; I love George trying to count out eight seconds as he panics over the ice cream incident; The discussion on who should attend the party was classic Seinfeld; The restaurant scene is an immediate classic and the scene in the car that follows is one I still quote to this day; Kramer showing up the young punk with his tremendous moves was so good; Great Newman cameo; I love Kramer trying to sign with Laura and Laura’s lip reading with Kramer’s translation, ending with George getting smacked in the face; Kramer wiping out Monica Seles and Laura and the Driver was a perfect way to tie it all up

Aaron: I love that Kramer is drinking out of a juice box while watching the tennis. Elaine’s deaf act is quite amusing especially since I totally empathize with her. Kramer’s stuff was all great. He was absolutely giddy he was going to live his dream, a dream that hilariously ended when he plastered Monica Seles to the court. That fall was perfect. I also think Elaine was absolutely an avatar for Larry David in this one. From the obsession with freaks to the outright refusal to act like she’s part of a society I felt a little like I was watching an episode of Curb. That’s a good thing.

Andrew: I’m with Elaine: why does everything have to have a social component? And I support her stance on making the freaks feel comfortable. I also enjoyed Kramer randomly sipping on a juice box, and George’s fear of being left behind when Jerry becomes one of “those guys”. Kramer’s ball-man escapades were pretty great, especially the preppy 80s villain who gives him a hard time during the try out. And I mentioned these earlier, but I thought the Newman and mouth covering scenes were excellent.

Jordan: George eating ice cream like a toddler is great, and I love that the announcers mock him. However, it’s also something that didn’t work, which I will mention there. Laura is a really good character. Kramer’s ball-boy dream is a nice little subplot with a great ending as he takes out Monica Seles. Elaine does a great job trying to ignore the driver, and he comes off like an annoying jerk by insisting on keeping up the chatter. The ending with Laura in his car was a nice touch. I already covered the awesome restaurant scene with Jerry and George using different methods to cover their mouths. Kramer knowing sign language is something that fits him.

Jason: So much goodness here. Elaine blowing her own spot when she hears the driver is picking up Tom Hanks after he drops her off. Kramer laying on Jerry’s couch drinking a juice box and watching the US Open. Kramer’s imitation of George eating the hot-fudge sundae. Laura thinking Jerry says sex instead of six. Elaine feeling bad for being a superficial bitch and getting the livery driver tickets to a Metallica show, causing him not to hear well after the show. Jerry and George’s conversation about getting Laura to spy on Gwen. Drinking water, shoving food in their mouths, pretending to blow their nose, and she still knows what they’re saying.

What Didn’t Work

JT: Since when is Jerry not the type of guy to randomly approach women? Ever since he stopped being such a pussy early on, he seems to be confident enough to pull off a move like this; Gwen is kind of a bitch to break with George over the ice cream incident; I never cared for George shoehorning into Jerry’s date, as it isn’t like he and Laura are a long term couple;

Aaron: Jerry’s objectification of Laura from the sidelines would be absolutely lambasted on social media today. I’m not the biggest fan of leering Jerry. Nor am I a fan of aggressive Jerry who sounds like he’s still in season one as he tells off Laura for not talking to him. I guess I’m just not a fan of Jerry in this one. I also hate the obvious exposition line about this being Monica Seles’ first match back. For God’s sake if you are going to write such an obvious line don’t give it to Jerry to say. Perhaps most egregious though is how they sold us on the fact that they were watching a Monica Seles match without any of the trademark grunting and or screaming. This woman was a monster that once led my father to exclaim, “That’s disgusting!” Shame on you Seinfeld for being disingenuous. Shame.

Andrew: The main story doesn’t hang together all that well; it’s more like a series of unconnected events than a plot. To put it another way, while I enjoy the sundae and “sweep together” scenes, they don’t have anything to do with each other, beyond the fact that they start and end that story. It doesn’t ruin the episode, but we’ve seen them do better. Also, I thought Elaine was a little too quick to go back to the car service after her first experience; maybe she assumed the guy would be won over by her gift? Also, fuck that guy for being mad about free Metallica tickets.

Jordan: So, I get George eating the ice cream leads to him getting dumped. But then, Jerry gets a call from someone ELSE who has seen it and that is where I draw the line. There’s no way everyone is watching tennis. Sorry, don’t buy it. George is dressed ridiculously, and the fact that a short, fat loser who dresses like this continues getting dates is becoming more and more unbelievable.

Jason: George’s stupid hat and flip shades are awful. If Gwen broke up with him for anything it should be this atrocious look.

Key Character Debuts

– Laura The Deaf, Beautiful Lineswoman

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– ’25? You don’t have anything higher?” – George “What, are you on Mercury?” – Jerry

– “That woman is absolutely stunning.” – Jerry “The Croat?” – George “Not the Croat, the lineswoman. That is the most beautiful lineswoman I’ve ever seen.” – Jerry “Yeah, she’s a B.L.” – George “B.L.?” – Jerry “Beautiful lineswoman.” – George

– “I said you know what I do when I want to relax? The Jumble. Hey do you make a book of Jumbles?” – Driver

– “Yeah yeah, I know your type. You’re too good to make conversation with someone like me. Oh god forbid you could discuss the Jumbles. But to go so far as to pretend you’re almost deaf, I mean that is truly disgusting. And Mr. Tom Hanks, may I say he too would be disgusted by your behavior.” – Driver

– “And you’re saying she’s deaf.” – Kramer “I’m not saying she’s deaf, she’s deaf.” – Jerry

– “No. When I shoo squirrels away, I always say “get out of here”. I never ever throw things at them and try to injure them like other people.” – Elaine “That’s nice.” – Jerry “Yeah, and when I see freaks in the street I never, ever stare at them. Yet, I’m careful not to look away, you know, because I want to make the freaks feel comfortable.” – Elaine “That’s nice for the freaks.” – Jerry

– “You’re giving me the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine? I invented “it’s not you, it’s me”. Nobody tells me it’s them not me, if it’s anybody it’s me.” – George

– “He’s the *loser*. She’s the victor. To the victor belong the spoils.” – Elaine

– “She’s not a novelty act, George. Where you hire her out for weddings and bar mitzvas.” – Jerry “Look. It’s a skill, just like juggling. She probably enjoys showing it off.” – George

– “They said they haven’t seen anybody go after balls with such gusto.” – Kramer

– “If this lip reading thing works tonight do you know how incredible this is going to be? It’s like having Superman for your friend.” – George “I know. It’s like X-ray vision.” – Jerry “If we could just harness this power and use it for our own personal gain, there’d be no stopping us.” – George “I hear you’ve got some lip reader working for you. You gotta let me use her for one day. Just one day.” – Newman “Can’t do it Newman.” – Jerry “But Jerry, we’ve got this new supervisor down at the post office. He’s working behind this glass. I know they’re talking about me. They’re going to transfer me, I know it. Two hours, give me two hours.” – Newman “Not going to happen.” – Jerry “All right, all right. All right you go ahead. You go ahead and keep it secret. But you remember this. When you control the mail, you control… information.” – Newman

– “No that’s what he said. “That’s interesting. I love carrots, but I hate carrot soup. And I hate peas, but I love pea soup.” So do I.” – Kramer

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Kramer is drinking a Minute Maid juice box

– Laura the Lineswoman is played by Marlee Matlin

– Marlee Matlin was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for this role

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This was a really strong offering with a tight story that pays off beautifully at the end. It featured two strong guest performances in Laura and the Driver and the main four were all really great as well. The scheming in the restaurant checks in as an instant Seinfeld Pantheon scene and the Six/Sex mixup and party scenes are right behind it. With performances and the writing, season five continues to roll on. Final Grade: 8/10

Aaron: I felt like all the pieces were here for a great episode but nothing seemed to really click for me. All the stories had great potential but just didn’t go in directions that worked for me. Sure they were all tied together nicely, which I love, but I only really got a chuckle out of Kramer juking and jiving catching balls. A well written episode that was amusing, but not really funny for me. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: This isn’t one of my favorites on the rewatch. I think it was better in my memory, partly because of a few really good scenes, and partly the Marlee Matlin bump. Maybe my standards are getting too high, but I think we’ve seen better. Final Grade: 6/10

Jordan: I didn’t love this one, but I liked it. The problem with that is the show has gotten so good, that I can’t really give an episode that I only like anything higher than an 8. Still, nothing is wrong with the episode, and it’s a very memorable one for the lip reading. If this is a down episode for the season, we’re in for a great one. Final Grade: 7/10

Jason: I love this episode from top to bottom. All four main characters were well represented and Laura is one bad ass chick. This season continues to shine. Grab a hot fudge sundae, a pair of flip-shades and enjoy this one. Final Grade: 9/10