Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Masseuse” (S5, E9)

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: Not the strongest performance of the season for our beloved crew, but I do think Jerry stood out the most. Kramer had a few good spots but Jerry’s delivery and desperation kept this one moving along. Just give Jerome a massage! He is tense!

Aaron: Kramer made me laugh the most with his robbing of Jerry’s paper towel, followed by his condemning of the adopted as serial killers. His love for the massages makes it all the more tragic when the reality of life without Jody sinks in. He should have known better than the hook up with one of Jerry’s single serving girlfriends. Poor guy, HE’S BURNED OUT!

Andrew: I’ll go with Elaine. That’s partly a vote against the other three, but she does enough to win here. The scene where she is trying to plant the idea of changing his name in Joel’s head is good, and the angry outbursts are always entertaining. And I do love her terrified reaction to Joel coming up behind her, as well as the relieved laughter afterward.

Jordan: I suppose I’ll give it to George. His obsession over Jodi not liking him was fun enough, but this is really an episode where the other characters lost this one more than George earned it. I thought Elaine’s name choices were awful, Jerry is always terrible when trying to be funny while shouting and Kramer…well, let’s just say I will have trouble sleeping with the knowledge that adoption breeds serial killers. Is my daughter going to grow up to be a monster?

Jason: No one had a stand out performance, but I’ll go with Jerry here. All he wants is a massage from Jodi and she won’t cave.

Best Storyline

JT: I will go with Little Stuart Rifkin. The writing was strongest here, between Elaine dancing around the subject, the Giants game announcement and the tremendous arguing over names. There was some fun stuff with the massages too, mainly when Kramer and Jerry were going at it.

Aaron: I guess Elaine dealing with the serial killer boyfriend who’s too much of a coward to murder people. The reveal at the Giants game was great as was her jump when he was going to strangle her. He was going to kill her right? No one starts intercourse by approaching their partner like a zombie.

Andrew: I like George’s storyline the most, if only because it has the most emotional weight to it. There’s really nothing sexier than a woman who openly hates you, is there? Once again, when I find myself identifying with George, I know it’s time to reevaluate my life choices.

Jordan: George’s intense desire to get Jodi to like him is really interesting, especially when he’s done nothing wrong to her, so it’s purely a matter of personalities. That George cannot let this go makes for a fun little side story. Unfortunately, I also can’t let go of the idea that sleeping softly downstairs, my little girl is innocent now, but if Kramer’s words are correct, what have I unleashed upon this world? Is the blood of her victims on my hands?

Jason: Being from New York, I remember watching the real life Joel Rifkin stuff on the news as it was unfolding. Elaine dating a guy with the same name as a serial killer is freaking brilliant.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: I can see why Karen would get so annoyed, but a little part of me thought she could have really tried to better understand George’s plight. If she dug him as much as she claimed to, she should have supported his quest to win Jodi over. Finding a common interest and providing support only brings couples closer. More risotto, waiter!

Aaron: Sex versus massage? In the end the sad reality is I can pleasure myself, but I can’t reach around and get the knots out of my back. I would at least like to live in a world where it wasn’t inappropriate for me to demand a massage at least as long as the time we spend doing sex stuff. I can stretch that out if it leads to me being able to sit up straight.

Andrew: This is some real straw man shit, but is it OK for Jodi to not give Jerry a massage? Of course it is. Setting aside how gross it is to pressure your girlfriend into doing something she doesn’t want to do, that’s her job, man. I don’t see her asking you to do a stand-up routine in her apartment every night. Not cool, Jerry. Not cool.

Jordan: Should I have adopted my daughter, now knowing that she could wind up being a psychotic murderer? When choosing adoption, I thought of it as rescuing a child. Instead, I may have sealed the fate of dozens of lives. Still, she is adorable and says goodbye to her stroller every night, so it’s a fair trade, right?

Jason: If you’re dating a masseuse, then massages should be free of charge. I’m sure if you date a dentist, there’s a free cleaning involved. Jodi needs to get over herself and hook Jerry up.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Not feeling the relationships here at all. Jodi was awful across the board, Joel was a whiny bitch and Karen, well I like Karen, I just wish she helped George with his neuroses. Relationship Grade: Remmy/10

Aaron: Why is Elaine dating that bozo? He’s awkward and is clearly a sneeze away from a murder spree. Why is Karen dating George? You know she’s seen him eat at least once. Why is Jerry dating some broad that won’t put out? The real tragedy here is that Kramer loses Jody and will inevitably be driven into Newman’s sweaty palms. Relationship Grade: 0, 4, 3/10

Andrew: I’m glad to see “the risotto broad” return, but George doesn’t seem to share my enthusiasm. And as funny as Jennifer Coolidge is in other stuff, she’s put into a joyless role here. There’s not much to Elaine and Joel’s relationship beyond the name thing; when she’s listing his good qualities, “he’s a good shaver” makes the top three, and that can’t be a good sign. Relationship Grade: Stuart/10

Jordan: George losing Karen, a woman who ACTUALLY liked him, over Jodi, who hated him is such a Costanza move. And boy did Karen like him! In their breakup scene, she’s ready to straddle him…and he’s wearing khakis and a sweater vest. THAT outfit was enough to get her motor running? Bad move, George! Relationship Grade: Sweater vest/10

Jason: Jodi is a Jerry “4” and a total bitch from the get go. Jerry can do way better. Karen gives George another chance and he blows it again. George is wasting his time being upset because Jodi doesn’t like him. Relationship Grade: Stifler’s Mom/10

What Worked:

JT: Kramer’s adoption serial killer correlation is great; George’s double date theory is a good one; Jerry’s desperation for a massage is funny in a cringeworthy way, and his eye roll when Jodi goes in for the kill always cracks me up; Poor George just wants to be loved; Elaine trying to Svengali Joel into changing his name was well done; The OJ Rifkin thing is so randomly awesome in retrospect, what are the odds?; Jerry’s delivery of “I don’t like him” is great too; As frustrating as it was to watch, the story of Jodi doling out massages to anyone but Jerry was well worked, almost as well worked as George’s cab hailing techniques; Jerry and Kramer arguing over the massage is one of my favorite scenes of the season; Joel being adopted was a nice touch; Jerry is killing it with the delivery in this one as his “Ask Newman” is tremendous too; The Joel & Elaine name lists were funny; George leaving during making out with Karen to win over Jodi sums up Constanza perfectly; Good for Jerry to tell off Jodi, she sucked

Aaron:  I love the type of comedy that lets you paint the picture in your own mind. So when George analyzes the night with Jody and Jerry by saying, “When I sent the noodles back for the second time, I think she made a face,” it gives me not only the clear image of an asshole who will never be satisfied with his noodles, but also the crystallization of a prick who has no idea how he comes off. I love that Elaine gives her co-workers about two and a half jokes before she loses it on them. Explosive Elaine is the best Elaine. Of course Jody hates George. If you met George you’d hate him too. It was nice to see how a normal person would react to his obnoxiousness instead of mysteriously dating him. I get a kick out of seeing the birth of moments on Curb Your Enthusiasm so when Elaine decries people named Alex for ahhhing after each sip of a drink the fair menacing visage of Suzie Greene pops into my mind.

Andrew: It’s kind of eerie that Elaine suggests “OJ” as a name, less than a year before the murders. Obviously it wasn’t intended as anything, but that scene always sticks in my mind. I enjoyed the Elaine storyline overall, especially the way she goes from gently broaching the name subject with Joel to a screaming fight over how similar “Ellis” and “Alex” are. I enjoy and relate to George’s obsession with needing people to like him, although it’s always frustrating to watch him turn down a woman who is way out of his league. Kramer is pretty underutilized, but “Come on, just look at me. Tell me I’m not Kramer.” is a classic moment.

Jordan: I liked Jerry’s constant playing with Jodi’s hands to try and get her to start massaging and hoping that muscle memory would take over. That clip of Lawrence Taylor looking up while Joel’s name is called at the game is hilarious to me for some reason. George fretting over what Jodi may not like about him is good stuff, and I like his casual mention of sending noodles back a second time. Elaine suggesting the name OJ is great, given the circumstances. Deion is funny too, but not as much. And Kramer provides a barrel of laughs, since we all know he’s not right about adopted children growing up to be dangerous killers…right?

Jason: When this episode originally aired in November of 1993, Elaine suggesting the name OJ didn’t mean much, but it sure as hell does now. Elaine referring to Karen as the Risotto broad might be the line of the episode. Kramer needing massages because he’s burnt out is the perfect excuse from him. The stock footage of Lawrence Taylor after Bob Sheppard announces Joel’s name over the PA system is a nice touch. Ticket booth guy is a little creepy, but standing behind a ticket window is the best place for him. Jerry’s vomit streak being brought up for the first is a cool moment for die hard fans.

What Didn’t Work

JT: I want to punch Elaine’s co-workers in the face; Jodi is really unlikeable, almost immediately; Joel is a pussy, this is a bad showing for significant others outside of Karen, but even she has some issues

Aaron: How dare they blow their own continuity by saying that Jerry last threw up in 1980. George and Elaine once bonded over said throwing up. That couldn’t have happened, he didn’t know Elaine then. THAT’S ALL THEY HAD! We’re not stupid either, we have attention to detail. So much so that we pick apart each episode in a seemingly endless project. IT’S BECAUSE WE CARE SO MUCH DAMNIT! Also Elaine’s girly begging seemed very out of character. George also got on my nerves in this one. I get him being distracted about her not liking him but to take it to this point?

Andrew: I realize just about every Seinfeld plot could be resolved with a little bit of maturity and honesty, but Jerry’s storyline is especially frustrating. Just make an appointment if you want a massage that badly! Maybe the joke is that he wants one for free, but that’s never made clear. The biggest problem here is the creepy scene with Jerry trying to coerce Jodi into a massage. It’s possible there’s a joke to be made here, but staging a sexual assault wasn’t the way to go about it.

Jordan: I felt like they went a bit too far with the massage stuff. Jerry trying to get Jodi to rub his shoulders as a start was fine, but the “No means no” line was distasteful, and I’m usually not bothered by anything like that on this show. I also hated Elaine in the name change scene – it’s HIS name, why does she have such a say in it? And why are her names so terrible? Remmy???? Joel was right to suggest a beret.

Jason: Jodi is the absolute worst. George should have thrown her massage table into oncoming traffic. Ned and Remmy? Come on, Elaine! Does Joel not have a middle name to go by for the time being?

Key Character Debuts

Joel Rifkin

Jodi the Masseuse

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “No I haven’t vomited in thirteen years.” – Jerry “Get out!” – Elaine “Not since June 29, 1980.” – Jerry “You remember the date?” – Elaine “Yes, because my previous vomit was also June 29th… 1972. That’s why during the ’80 vomit, I was yelling to George: “Can you believe it? I’m vomiting on June 29th again.”” – Jerry

– “Would you change yours?” – Elaine “f someone asked me nicely. I’m Claude Seinfeld.” – Jerry

– “You know why Rifkin was a serial killer? Because he was adopted. Just like Son of Sam was adopted. So apparently adoption leads to serial killing.” – Kramer

– “Well it’s like going to Idhao and eating carrots. I like carrots, but I’m in Idhao, I want a potato.” – Jerry

– “I tried brushing my teeth by holding the brush and moving my head from side to side. It didn’t work.” – Jerry

– “Well maybe you’re not the Dion type. OK then let’s see, let’s see, what do we got? Oh! Oh oh oh! O.J.! O.J. Rifkin! You don’t even use a name, it’s just initials. Oh please please please change your name to O.J.! Please, it would be so great!” – Elaine

– “I don’t even know her sister but believe me, if she’s getting traffic tickets, she’s not that good-looking!” – George

– “First she sets the mood perfectly with this new age music played over ocean sounds. Then she lays you out on this table, and she proceeds to rub oil over your entire body. And she rubs long… and deep… Jerry, she rubs with love. Every muscles she touches just…  ooo-zz-es. Beneath those silky, soft fingers, you can scarcely contain yourself, buddy.” – Kramer

– “Why? Why? Look, I paid for her.” – Kramer “Don’t you ever talk about her like that!” – Jerry

– “What about my massage?” – Kramer “Ask Newman.” – Jerry

– “Ned’s a guy who buys irregular underwear. Next!” – Joel

– “Remy Rifkin? Should I get a beret?” – Joel :Oh, Stuart’s a lot better! Little Stuart Rifkin likes to go shopping with his mother.” – Elaine

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Jerry hasn’t vomited in thirteen years

– Legendary announcer Bob Sheppard is doing the public announcing at the Giants game

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: Surprisingly, this may have been my least favorite episode of the season. On paper, and just based off memory, this is a pretty well known offering, so I assumed it would continue the hot streak of season five, but it fell apart fairly quickly. Jodi really sucked and made the episode tough to watch because she just had nothing redeemable going on. The Rifkin stuff was good but probably could have been fleshed out more. Kramer was really funny but only saw limited action. George’s storyline was fairly weak too. There are some laughs here, but it just never seem to kick into gear. Final Grade: 5/10

Aaron:I think all the pieces were here for this one but it didn’t quite click. A few decent sized laughs keeps it out of the basement but it still remains a bit of a miss. It felt a little like the writing was pushing to see how far they could take the characters before they strained believability. They hit the line. This one didn’t feel truthful. Final Grade: 6/10

Andrew: Not one of my favorites. The “Joel Rifkin” plot is pretty memorable, and there are enough good lines to make the episode worth watching, but the massage storyline has always skeeved me out. I guess even a classic season has a dud or two. Final Grade: 5/10

Jordan: This is a classic example of bad timing. If this was a season three episode, it would probably be an 8. But it’s Season Five and they are in a groove of classic episodes, lines and moments. This one had none of those things. It’s not terrible and has some decent parts to it, but I noticed myself checking how much time was left in the episode multiple times.  Final Grade: 4/10

Jason: Not too many laughs here and a long 23 minutes. Jodi ranks at the bottom of Jerry’s girlfriend list. Sad to see Karen go, but not Jodi or Joel. Aside from the Joel Rifkin subplot, this episode doesn’t do much for me. Jerry owes it to himself to hit up a massage parlor to release the stress from dating Jodi and perhaps a happy ending. Final Grade: 5/10