Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Puffy Shirt” (S5, E3)

Welcome to Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch! On a regular basis, Justin 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: The Costanzas. All of them. They won and dominated every scene. They were so good that the amazingness of the Puffy Shirt was overmatched by them. The bickering, the nonsense, the guilt trips, all of it is gold. Put the damn bananas on the side!

Aaron: Jerry is humiliated standing there in a Puffy Shirt. Jerry goes so far as to call said shirt “the stupidest shirt he’s ever seen.” Jerry is my pick.

Andrew: I think it has to be George. He really sells the living with his parents storyline, showing real terror at being left alone with them, and frustration at their pestering. As always, he has great chemistry with Jerry, competing over who has crazier parents or better hands. But what seals it is the change that comes over him when he gets the hand modeling job. He immediately become full of himself, transitioning so easily from the badgered loser son to an entitled prick. The hand care scene is so good.

Jordan: George takes it here. Even without the hand modeling storyline, just getting a few scenes of the Costanzas together is probably enough for me to give it to someone in their family. The constant fighting is gold and Frank screaming about bananas is just hilarious stuff. But when you factor in the modeling and George needing emery boards and cuticle scissors, he has to get the nod here.

Jason: George by a mile. The roller coaster life of George Costanza is in full effect here. Having to move back in with his parents spells disaster for him, but can’t miss television for the rest of us.

Best Storyline

JT: George’s hand modeling career takes it for me. As great and as memorable as the Puffy Shirt was, everything to do with George’s move home and brief moment of glory was so perfectly executed that is has to win here. Seeing him so happy for once before it all instantly blows up is what Costanza is all about. Him being forced to move home and being tortured at dinner before turning the tables and making his mother into a doting servant was brilliance. And Frank…well, Frank is Frank.

Aaron: Everything to do with the Puffy Shirt takes this one for me. The low-talker, the humiliation and Kramer’s gleeful joy that it’s the right time for people to start dressing like pirates are all gold. (Jerry! Gold!)

Andrew: I’m also going with the hand model storyline, and not just for the great George performance I mentioned earlier. I really enjoy the absurdity of doing a Hollywood-rise-and-fall story about something as ridiculous as hand modeling. It’s also a perfect George story, as he gets some unearned good fortune, wastes no time letting it go to his head, and is brought down by his own overconfidence.

Jordan: The Puffy Shirt is one of those legendary Seinfeld stories and moments. The low talker, the actual shirt, Jerry whining, “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!” It’s iconic…and yet I’m giving it to George the hand model. Just so awesome from start to finish. The shot of him prancing down the street wearing oven mitts is better than Jerry in the shirt, and his tragic end before he even really started is awesome.

Jason: Tough call. Jerry agreeing to wearing the puffy shirt on the Today Show with out knowing he agreed to wear it is such an iconic series moment. Damn low talkers. On the other hand, the ups and downs of George Louis Costanza is always fun to watch. Seeing him interact with his parents is always uncomfortable, but so good.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

JT: Should Jerry have been forced to wear the Puffy Shirt on the Today Show based on the misunderstanding? I think his relationship with Elaine supersedes Kramer’s brief dalliance with the Low Talker. Jerry should have said no to the pirate wear and did what he set out to do, get awareness for Elaine’s fundraiser. Learn how to speak up, Leslie!

Aaron: So should Jerry have felt obligated to wear the shirt? When you really look at it, it is really his fault. All he had to do was get the low talker to speak louder to begin with. Sure that’s a Herculean task that he’s fundamentally opposed to is you listen to his comedy routine, but where he dismissively smiled and nodded he should have been asking for some much needed clarity.

Andrew: Couldn’t Jerry have backed out of the Puffy Shirt deal? Just said something along the lines of, “Now that I see the shirt, there’s no way I can do this”? And if he felt like he had to because of the orders had already been placed, shouldn’t he have gone all-in and tried to own it? Maybe he could have asked for a stake in her company. Half-assing it was clearly not the way to go.

Jordan: Should someone have unplugged the iron? Not only did it destroy poor George’s modeling career, it shows carelessness towards our future generations. Your carbon footprint matters, people!

Jason: I love Frank Costanza, but people who snap their finger to get a waiter’s attention drives me nuts. Are these the same people who leave their shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot instead bringing it back to the cart corral? Probably so.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

JT: Leslie was annoying. Kramer can do better. He is so brash and outgoing, how can he date someone that he can’t even hear? Or can he? Either way, she is a crappy designer and a crappy speaker. Relationship Grade: Jack Sparrow/10

Aaron: I don’t think any of us can fully understand the sacred love that Ray McKigney possessed for his hand. We should not stand in judgment but embrace it as the purest form of love there is. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Andrew: The low-talker would be incredibly frustrating. But more importantly, this episode gave us an important message about the dangers of self-love. Poor Ray McKigney. Be the Master of your Domain, kids. Relationship Grade: Claw/10

Jordan: The Costanzas clearly hate each other. Were they ever in love? Perhaps. Maybe they’ve always hated each other and confused it with love. Think about it – when you love someone, you think about them a lot, they get your attention and your focus, they draw emotional reactions from you. It’s essentially the same thing when you hate a person. This marriage is a lie. Relationship Grade: THIN LINE/10

Jason: It’s pretty cool that Jerry and Elaine go out on double dates with Kramer or George and their significant other. Gotta hand it to the K-Man, he doesn’t discriminate and will date anyone, even low-talkers. Bickering Costanzas is in full force here. George getting fed up at Estelle and Frank while out to eat that he has to step outside to get some air is phenomenal. Relationship Grade: Silver Dollar/10

What Worked

JT: George moving back home is a great storyline to execute; Kramer offering both his and Jerry’s apartments to George was a good laugh as was the scene where they move him into the house; The bologna sandwich argument is one of my all time favorites; The fucking Puffy Shirt, The fucking Low Talker; The Constanza Family dinner is amazing, from civil service tests to silver dollars to incompetent waiters, it had it all; George being discovered as a hand model is a randomly tremendous idea; Kramer’s hand buzzer gag was good; Jerry’s delayed reaction to Kramer mentioning him agreeing to wear the Puffy Shirt into the reveal is top notch; The manicure scene at the Constanza home is pure aces with George scolding his mother for holding the scissors the wrong way to the bananas and the Jell-O, so great; Elaine’s reaction to the Puffy Shirt on Jerry is so good; Ray McKigney and the callback to the Contest is amazing; Bryant Gumbel’s obsession with the Puffy Shirt driving Jerry to snap was well done; George’s gallop through the park always makes me chuckle; Poor George’s modeling career went right to shit so quickly; The bums with the Puffy Shirts is a great way to close the episode

Aaron: Obviously all the George hand modeling stuff is wonderful. He gets arrogant immediately which makes his fall from grace all the more satisfying. Frank and Estelle Costanza are always welcome additions and the argument over George’s love for bananas is them in a tight little nutshell. Jerry Stiller’s exaggerated “s” on silver dollar is the exact thing that will make me laugh every single time. I couldn’t in good conscience give him the best character but he was fantastic throughout. I’m also a huge fan of when Seinfeld takes something banal, for example hand modeling, and gives it a world in which it lives and breathes. We get hand modeling legends, agents and groupies all tied nicely together with a shorthand that most sitcoms would stay away from.

Andrew: The Costanzas remain the best. Frank’s silver dollar story is epic, and I love the way he shoots down Estelle’s stories about George’s hands. And Estelle is a perfect counterpoint to George, picking on him when he’s down and fawning over him when he’s up. I also enjoyed Kramer’s commitment to the shirt (“I think people wanna look like pirates”). Jerry was really good as well, selling the crap out of the shirt drama. And speaking of the shirt, we should acknowledge how perfectly ridiculous looking it was.

Jordan: I understand George and Kramer are more important to the show, so they are more widely remembered, but Frank is probably my favorite character in the show’s run. Anytime he’s on, I’m happy. Screaming about bananas in jello (by the way, gross) seems like such a write off moment and he steals the scene with it. George’s dreams inflating only to be popped almost immediately is a great story no matter how often it happens. The low talker is a good character, and I know a few people like that who always want to chat on the phone. Frustrating! The Puffy Shirt is ridiculous, and I like that Jerry is mocked by Bryant Gumbel. George’s manicure is terrific, and Kramer using the hand buzzer was fun. Frank’s silver dollar rant was weird but good. The legend of Ray McKigney is not only funny, but an awesome call back to previous episodes.

Jason: Listening to the background of former hand model Ray McKigney is incredible. A great throwback to “The Contest”. I enjoy Jerry and Elaine nodding their heads and agreeing with everything “low talker” Leslie is saying, although they can’t hear a word she’s saying. Jerry’s “I don’t wanna be a pirate” line will always make a series highlight reel . My God, is there anything better in the history of television than meal time with the Costanzas? Holy shit, so good, every time! Also, if everyone 65 and older dressed liked Frank, the world would be a better place. He’s the OG of OGs.

What Didn’t Work

JT: The crazy overreaction of the model scout when George knocks her purse over is absurd.

Aaron: Elaine was criminally underused here. Elisa Carlisle’s exclamation “Look what you’ve done, you’ve spilled my bag!” really couldn’t have been the best take could it?

Andrew: I don’t think I’ll need this section today.

Jordan: I felt like Elaine was just there and wasn’t too important this week. Not sure what she could have done, but after her awesome rabies scene in the last episode, it’s definitely something you take notice of.

Jason: Not much to complain about here. Maybe George not wanting to take a Civil Service test? If he takes the test, it’s one step closer to him moving out of his parents house.

Key Character Debuts

– Leslie, the Low Talker

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– “Listen carefully. My mother has never laughed. Ever. Not a giggle, not a chuckle, not a tee-hee… never went ‘Ha!'” – George

– “No, no, no, no. Borrowing money from a friend is like having sex. It just completely changes the relationship.” – George

– “I made some bologna sandwiches.” – Estelle “Bologna?! No one eats bologna anymore!” – George “What are you talking about?! Have a sandwich.” – Estelle “No thanks.” – Jerry “Oh, stop it! You don’t want one, Kramer?” – Estelle “Uhh.. no thanks.” – Kramer “I think you’re all a little touched in the head. (Puts the plate down) You’re so worried about your health.. You’re young men.” – Estelle “I really don’t eat it.” – Jerry “What am I gonna do with all these sandwiches?! Will you take them home? Give them to someone in your building?” – Estelle “I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable handing out bologna sandwiches in the building.” – Jerry

– The terms “Puffy Shirt” and “Low Talker” immediately become pop culture catchphrases

– “Yeah, see, I think people want to look like pirates. You know, it’s the right time for it.. to be all puffy, and devil-may-care…” – Kramer

– “Maybe you should take a civil service test.” – Elaine “I’m not taking a civil service test.” – George “Look at this, George. You ever seen a silver dollar?” – Frank “Yes, I’ve seen a silver dollar.” – George “Why don’t you want to take a civil service test?” – Estelle “To do what?! Work in a post office? Is that what you want me to do?” – George “Would you believe when I was 18, I had a silver dollar collection?” – Frank “I don’t understand. You get job security – you get a pay check every week…” – Estelle “I’m a college graduate. You want me to be a mailman?” – George “You know, I couldn’t bring myself to spend one of these. I got some kind of a-a-a-a-a phobia.” – Frank “So what are you gonna do?!” – Estelle “I don’t know. I do know that I have some kind of a talent – something to offer. I just don’t know what it is yet!” – George “I bet that collection would be worth a lot of money today.” – Frank

– “What, are you kidding? The knuckles are all out of proportion. you got hair over there – where do you get off comparing your hands to my hands?! This is a one-in-a-million hand.” – George “Well, that’s what comes from avoiding manual labor your whole life.” – Jerry

– “Yes, yes. This pirate trend that she’s come up with, Jerry, – this is gonna be the new look for the 90’s. You’re gonna be the first pirate!” – Kramer “But, I don’t want to be a pirate!” – Jerry

– “I knew it. I knew it.. I always knew you always had beautiful hands. I used to tell people. Frank, didn’t I use to talk about his hands?” – Estelle “Who the hell did’ya ever mention his hands to?” – Frank “I mentioned his hands to plenty of people!” – Estelle “You never mentioned them to me!” – Frank

– “Georgie, would you like some Jell-O?” – Estelle “Why’d you put the bananas in there?!” – Frank “George likes the bananas!” – Estelle “So let him have bananas on the side!” – Frank “Alright! Please, please! I cannot have this constant bickering!.. Stress is very damaging to the epidermis! Now, I have an important photo session in the morning – my hands have got to be in tip-top shape, so please – keep the television down, and the conversation to a minimum.” – George “But Georgie.. what about the Jell-O?” – Elaine “I’ll take it in my room.” – George

– “”Why am I wearing is now?’? I’ll tell you why I’m wearing it now – because the lowtalker asked me to, that’s why! And I said ‘yes’. Do you know why? Because I couldn’t hear her!” – Jerry

– “You’re all puffed up!.. You look like the Count of Monte Cristo!” – Elaine

– “l feel ridiculous in it. l think it’s the stupidest shirt l’ve ever seen, to be perfectly honest with you.” – Jerry

– “‘Avast ye, matey”? What the hell does that mean? ”Twenty degrees off the starboard side. lt’s a Spanish galleon.’ There’s no comeback for that.” – Jerry

Oddities & Fun Facts

– The businessman at the photo shoot is portrayed by David Brisbin, who also portrayed Mr. Ernst in Nickelodeon’s Hey Dude

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

JT: This was pretty much the perfect Seinfeld episode. Zero wasted scenes, no down moments, everything tying together seamlessly. It had it all. Oh, and two iconic all time pop culture crossover bits in the Low Talker and the Puffy Shirt. Those terms immediately blew up in popularity. George was amazing here, as were Frank and Estelle, and their constant arguing was nonsensically great. Bologna sandwiches, silver dollars, sharp scissors, civil service tests, bananas, Jell-O and dickhead waiters. What more do you want? The Puffy Shirt jokes and reactions were perfect as was the payoff of Jerry melting down while wearing the shirt. Plus, the Contest callback was a nice touch and wasn’t forced at all. Easy perfect score for me on this one. Iconic. Final Grade: 10/10

Aaron: This is a pretty legendary episode and with good reason. While it lacks the gut-busting laugh out loud gags, it more than makes up for it with absurdity and humiliation. Just great stuff here. Final Grade: 8/10

Andrew: This was a great episode. It has the excellent Costanza performances, an iconic moment in the Puffy Shirt, and a classic George storyline. I can’t ask for much more than that. Final Grade: 10/10

Jordan: Just epic. What I love about this episode is that the parts of it that became pop culture legends aren’t even the best parts. The low talker and the Puffy Shirt are a very funny storyline with some good visual comedy and bits, but man is the George storyline fantastic. I thought about giving the last episode a higher score, and held off knowing this one was coming. This is iconic. Final Grade: 10/10

Jason:  An instant classic. Anytime you get the Costanzas in the same room, you’re in for a treat. Jerry being confused about agreeing to wear the Puffy Shirt and then feeling so out of place while wearing the shirt is great. George burning his hands when Leslie pushes him into the hot iron hurts just watching it. It’s fun to imagine how funny it would be if Jerry actually came swinging in on a chandelier wearing the Puffy Shirt. From beginning to end this episode has it all. If you haven’t watched this one in a while, grab some Jell-O with bananas and watch it! Final Grade: 10/10