Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch – “The Revenge” (S2, E12)

Welcome to Seinfeld: The PTBN Series Rewatch! On a regular basis, Justin Rozzero, Aaron George, Andrew Flanagan and Jordan Duncan 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!

Seinfeld pic 2.12 - The Revenge

Best Character

Justin: I really wanted to give this to Elaine for her great performance at the bar, but Kramer takes this one again. His early scene trying to shake down the laundromat owner was good, but watching him attempting to pour the concrete into the washing machine was a thing of beauty and the first time we really get a dose of his physical comedy prowess. I loved how every time he looked to finally have it down, something else happened to thwart him. And then his line at the end, “I didn’t realize it was a full box” to explain why he was covered in powder was fantastic. Layup decision here for that one scene alone.

Aaron: Kramer. It’s the first time we’ve really seen him do some major physical comedy and all the business with the concrete is simply fabulous. The rest of his story with Newman is incredibly off putting, George and Jerry both seem like they’re doing a different show than for the past two years and Elaine is (again) underused. I’d like to say Kramer wins by default without taking anything away from that concrete bit. It really was great.

Andrew: I think George was the best. All the funniest qualities of the character are on display: the explosive anger at this boss, the self-delusion when discussing his career prospects, the crackpot schemes to get his job back, and later to get revenge. Kramer and Elaine had quality performances as well, but George gets the edge on quantity.

Jordan: George, Jerry and Elaine are OK here and don’t really do anything wrong, but Kramer wins this one in a runaway. He would have won it even if he only had the one scene in the laundromat, that’s how funny it is. We FINALLY get some physical comedy from him and he doesn’t fail to deliver. Kramer vs. Concrete is laugh out loud funny and I honestly would have been OK with it taking up 15 minutes of the episode. Casually approaching the desk covered in powder and nonchalantly explaining that it was a full box is the cherry on top of Kramer’s first classic moment.

Best Storyline

Justin: I liked the parallel revenge storylines and for a while it seemed like George’s scheme would lead the way, but Kramer dumping concrete powder all over the place swung my vote completely. Even the scene prior where Kramer continues his interrogation prowess was really funny. Jerry’s form of distraction, asking about washing machine cycles, was so inane that he should be embarrassed it even worked. George and Elaine showed off some great chemistry in the bar but I thought that scene dragged just a bit towards the end.

Aaron: I enjoyed the idea (not so much the execution) of George going back to his office the next day after he quit and acting like it never happened. It’s these ideas that make the show great. You know it’s not going to work, but you know that George is just enough of a liar to try and pull it off.

Andrew: George’s storyline was my favorite. His impulsive decision to quit leads to a weekend of regret, and he eventually comes up with the idea of taking it back by pretending it never happened. It’s just perfect, and the fact that Larry David actually tried this in real life makes me love it that much more.

Jordan: I’m tempted to give it to Kramer exacting revenge via concrete, but I’ll mix it up and spread the love a bit: George’s decision to slip his boss a mickey is so absurd, but so very Costanza and is a more fleshed out story than Kramer and Jerry. Starting with George getting furious and quitting over having to use a different bathroom, coming up with the idea to show up and act like it was all a joke, then deciding to get back at his boss by drugging him is definitely a storyline that fits George perfectly.

Ethical Dilemma of the Week

Justin: When is it OK to destroy somebody’s property for revenge? In “The Statue”, Jerry was confident that Ray stole his statue and went right at him verbally. He tries that again here, but once again he fails. So, he again listens to Kramer, but this time they decide to destroy a washing machine as revenge. The plot is a poor one for a few reasons: a) they have no real proof the guy took Jerry’s money, b) it was really obvious that something was up as it was going on, and c) the guy would know it was them based on watching Kramer having loaded up the machine that eventually broke. It was really a no-win situation as Jerry was going to be forced to pay for the damage either way, if the money was found or not. If you are going to cause destruction to even out a perceived slight, be a bit more sure and have a much better plan in place.

Aaron: If your friend is considering suicide should you tell him just to go ahead and “do it?” No. No you shouldn’t. Up until this point I’ve enjoyed Kramer taking joy in the pain and failures of others, but this one seemed just a little too mean-spirited. Tough love can work, but short of inviting Newman over to listen to Van Halen’s 1984, Kramer probably does the worst thing you can do for a suicidal friend.

Andrew: Is it ever OK to take revenge? We all have a sense of justice and fairness, and don’t like to see that balance upset, but is trying to correct it ever a good idea? It’s not like destroying the washing machine is going to get Jerry his money back; all he’s doing is hurting someone else because he got hurt. I understand the impulse, I just don’t think revenge really helps anybody. As a great philosopher said, you have to push those feelings down deep inside where you’ll never, ever, EVER find them.

Jordan: There’s not a lot to choose from this time around: Just encouraging suicide, destruction of property and drugging people to get back at them. You know, standard everyday stuff. I’ll say the biggest dilemma is this: Why would Elaine go along with George’s plan to do this to a man just because of something George told her? George is obviously a liar by this point in the show. And to take it a step further-should Elaine continue to allow George in her life, knowing he has access to AND WILL USE mickeys when people get on his bad side? As a woman, she should be frightened to eat or drink anything around him.

Relationship Scale (Scale 1-10)

Justin: Elaine talking about routine trips to nudist colonies is about all we have in this one. But the thought of that alone makes this a win. Relationship Grade: 10/10

Aaron: I’ll go ahead and grade the possible relationship between Rick and Elaine. I picture them naked. Rick oiled up like a majestic porpoise, coming down on Elaine with the force of a thousand violins. Elaine looking with fear into Rick’s pink face, wondering when his head will explode in watermelon like fashion. The climax of their passion erupts as Rick’s head pops and the room is painted with the literal thoughts of this winner. Elaine writhes not only in the literal mess but is also crippled by her depravity, which only now, she sees, has led her to not only ecstasy but also a pile of fat man brains. Relationship Grade: 1000 Violins/10

Andrew: Are we grading Rick and Elaine? Rick is gross. Keep that gross, awful man away from my sweet Elaine. Relationship Grade: 1/10

Jordan: Kramer and Newman is a cautionary tale that ends in tragedy. For anyone watching the series for the first time, they may have gotten some laughs from Kramer explaining that Newman would never truly jump….but those of us who have watched the show entirely know that something is amiss. That voice shouting to Kramer from the rooftop is NOT the voice of the Newman we will come to know in the future. This can only mean one thing: The original Newman is dead and the Newman we meet later is probably a relative who moved into his apartment. Where it gets scary though is we KNOW Newman would never jump, and Kramer was getting fed up with him. I’m just putting this out there: Kramer pushed the first Newman off the roof at some point to make it look like a suicide. He may have even slipped him a mickey before getting him up there.Still — not as bad as Jerry and Donna. Relationship Grade: 3/10

What Worked

Justin: George’s speech when he quit and the fact that he quit because he couldn’t use the private bathroom anymore is so very George; Jerry’s explanation of why he wants to keep his laundry separate from Kramer’s was an example of how Jerry’s standup bits can translate into dialogue on occasion; George and Jerry discussing career options is a great scene and the delivery is perfect on both ends; Jerry’s idea for George to just show back up at work after quitting was pretty smooth; Rick is a pretty good sleaze ball; George planning his revenge even though he quit was great and it still felt well deserved for Rick because he was such a douche; Jerry’s take and argument about the laundromat’s warning sign is very accurate; Kramer loading the cement into the washing machine was a classic scene; Also, we finally got a good dose of all four and them being split off into different pairs was nice to see; George threatening Linda with tearing off her wig was a nice touch given how annoying she is

Aaron: Kramer trying to put the concrete into the washing machine. That is all.

Andrew: Kramer is upping his physical comedy game, which is a big boost for the series. I love the discussions of George’s career options: he’s irrationally hopeful when thinking about potential new jobs, but seems to already know he’s made a mistake, while Jerry and Elaine are just trying to let him down gently. Very well conceived and executed.

Jordan: I liked that Kramer was wearing Jerry’s ruined jacket and I’ve already stated his laundromat scene was pure gold. I liked a lot of George’s story too-from the reason he quit being bathroom use, to his failed plan to act like it was all a big joke, and even his revenge idea. It is similar to the Jerk Store in that it’s clearly dumb, but George can’t be swayed. I liked George listing his possible career choices: From baseball general manager to stable boy. Where would George use the bathroom if he was a stable boy, and how quickly would it be before he was drugging all the horses?

What Didn’t Work

Justin: There was a lot going on in this episode, and they didn’t really have time for the stand up cut-in, especially one that wasn’t really too funny; George’s co-workers are really annoying, which was probably the point; We don’t get to see what happened to Rick that cost George his job again, how did he find out George did him wrong?

Aaron: I really felt while I was watching Jerry and George that the writers from “Step by Step,” or “Two And a Half Men,” were writing their dialogue. Not only did I find it trite and uninteresting, but their delivery looked again like it belonged on another show. Jerry looking like a comedian who’s trying acting is one thing, but when George and Elaine look that way too we have a major problem. Seinfeld is best when it’s itself (smart, awkward and truthful) here they felt like they were pandering to an audience that wasn’t theirs. Listen to the George and Elaine exchange in the bar again, it’s everything that’s wrong with laugh track comedy. I could go on and on about writing about suicide as a comedic plot point, or placing George in a scene with his colleagues without any of the satire but I think you get the point. This is not the show I love. Also, Rick Barr is a terrible character. Just a complete dick from the moment we meet him. I can deal with sexist and mean as long as your funny, and besides having a face the shape of an egg, this guy’s not funny. It really makes you appreciate the guest stars of the later episodes, as they craft characters that are sometimes antagonists but are all lovable in their own way.

Andrew: Glenda, George’s unpleasant, bewigged co-worker, has always bothered me. She’s just so loud and unlikeable. While watching the episode, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe she’s supposed to remind us of a fast-talking, over-acting 1940’s Hollywood movie character, in keeping with the theme of George’s “slip him a mickey” plot. But even if that’s true, I still say it didn’t work. And while I appreciate that Elaine was involved in the story and not just forgotten, this is the second episode in a row where all she gets to do is flirt with random dudes. As much as I love flirty Elaine, I think she deserves a bigger role.

Jordan: George’s boss was a real jerk, and it made you WANT George to get revenge. Seinfeld is better when George is completely overreacting to things, not when he’s justified. I also thought it was stupid that the laundromat manager was smoking a cigar-would you take your clothes to be cleaned to a place that reeks of cigar smoke? More than that, LOOK at that place! I mentioned last episode the set design was lacking: This laundromat could have easily doubled as a crack house! Something else I want to address: Elaine is an attractive woman-but who in the world keeps giving her this gigantic helmet style hairdo? Sometimes it’s inoffensive, but other times it’s the only thing I see when she is on screen. And if her job is to distract George’s boss, why not dress her in something a little more appealing? It’s like the wardrobe and makeup department thinks Elaine is Jerry’s grandmother.

Key Character Debuts

Newman (Voice Only)

Iconic Moments, Running Themes & Memorable Quotes

– George’s obsession with toilets continues

– “Maybe I could be an announcer, like a color man. You know how I always make good comments during the game?” – George “Yeah, yeah you make good comments…” – Jerry “So, what about that?” – George “Well you know, they tend to give those jobs to ex-ball players and people that are…you know…in broadcasting” – Jerry “Well, that’s really not fair.” – George

– “You got a Mickey source?” – Jerry

– “The best revenge is living well!” – Jerry “Well, there’s no chance of that!” – George

– “What did you say?” – Jerry “I said wave to me when you pass my window” – Kramer “Did he wave?” – Jerry

– Kramer is wearing Jerry’s ruined leather jacket when they go to the laundromat

Oddities & Fun Facts

– Newman is suicidal and is voiced by Larry David

– Jerry hides large amounts of cash in his laundry bag

– Kramer is compared to Lex Luthor by Jerry for not using his mind for good

Overall Grade (Scale 1-10)

Justin: This episode felt very similar to the one before it in that it was quite solid but not one that really stands out over time. It had some good moments but I felt there was potential to be a home run and they just missed crushing the pitch. If this premise was transported into season six or seven, I think they would have killed it. As is, there were still some good bits, with Kramer’s concrete assault leading the way. It was nice to finally see a dose of Kramer’s physical comedy and it was eye opening how good he was at it. I also enjoyed Elaine and George working on a scheme together as there chemistry has developed quite well. Again, there were things here to like and not much to hate, but not one that will be looked at as a classic. That Seinfeld Curve is a tough one.  Final Grade: 5/10

Aaron:  I don’t know if you can tell but I really didn’t like this one. Poor writing, acting and even casting sink this one for me. In the past when someone tells me they don’t like Seinfeld I’ve dismissed them as horrible, awful people, but now I’m imagining them tuning in for the first time and seeing this and I get it. They must have turned it off before the end though cause Kramer’s scene really is that good, and it’s what I’m giving all my points to. Final Grade: 2/10

Andrew: This is a tough one for me to rate. There are some truly classic scenes: I’ll always love George’s career counselling sessions, Elaine is great at the bar (“I wanna tell you a secret about my bra!”), and Kramer’s laundry escapades are the stuff of legend. There are also some cool and ambitious ideas, like George trying to “un-quit” his job, and his old-timey movie revenge plot. But I don’t think the overall execution succeeds; the plot(s) feel a bit rushed, the character motivations kind of get lost, none of the revenge feels particularly justified. Those flaws make it harder to relate to the characters, and the episode ends up feeling like less than the sum of its parts. Even if some of those “parts” were classics. Final Grade: 3/10

Jordan: This one is a tough call for me: The Kramer scene is really, really fantastic and worthy of bumping things up a couple points. On the flipside though, I want to deduct some points for how they handled the end — George becomes sympathetic. I am never in favor of this scenario. Everything else is pretty average, so here’s my thinking: 4 of 10 for the whole thing, +2 for the Kramer scene, -1 for the George ending. That leaves us with a 5….and I’m taking off one more point because of Elaine’s hair, and in memory of the first Newman. Final Grade: 4/10