“The Phone Message”
First Script Read: Friday, December 14 (later than usual as the script read on Wednesday was “The Bet,” an abandoned episode written by Larry Charles)
Filmed: December 19, 1990
Aired: February 13, 1991
Nielsen rating: 9.7
Audience share: 15 (Lower rating led Seinfeld to be put on hiatus until April 4, when it was brought back once more as a companion to Cheers)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld
This episode begins with Jerry and George on simultaneous dates. At the end of the night, both are in their respective cars with their respective dates. Both dates seem to be going well before their respective personalities cause problems.
George's date unravels in a moment of stupidity. He takes Carol's proposition that he come up for coffee literally, declining the offer. Carol confusedly says goodnight, leaving a few moments before George recognizes the signal he missed. The next day he calls Carol and, as his social neuroses take over, leaves a dreadfully awkward message on her answering machine. When Carol doesn't call him back, he leaves increasingly angry messages for her four days in a row, not knowing that she has been in the Hamptons all week and didn't have access to her answering machine. He enlists Jerry's aid in a hilarious yet successful operation to switch out the tape, before discovering Carol thought the whole thing was one big joke.
Jerry, on the other hand, is much more suave and confident around women. In the beginning of the episode, his date is going very well. Donna tells him that since her apartment is being painted, they could go to Jerry's place. Jerry agrees, cracking, "Okay, but there’s no cake or anything if that’s what you’re looking for." Back at his place, Donna snuggles close until Jerry brings up a Docker's pants commercial that he hates. When Donna admits to loving the commercial, Jerry complains about it so much that they get into a fight. The following week they seem to have smoothed over this argument, until George and Kramer arrive and, one after the other, comment on the Docker's commercial, indicating to Donna that Jerry has been talking about her affinity for the ad behind her back. She leaves in a huff.
The simultaneous dates scene is an interesting juxtaposition of Jerry and George. George regales Carol with his thoughts on underwear, which even he seems to be surprised to discover she finds interesting. Jerry, meanwhile, is demonstrating his Scottish accent for Donna, playfully encouraging her to give it a try.
Ironically, while Jerry's relationship ultimately fails because of his own peculiar preoccupations - in this case, a hatred of an advertisement - George's succeeds despite his own flaws. In fact, he seems to have met a woman that thinks his flaws are hilarious. Well, Carol presumes his flaws are hilarious. She doesn't know him well enough, yet, to understand that he really is fairly insane. Maybe it is not surprising that Carol and George are never seen together again, even if she did find his discussion on underwear intriguing.
There is more to George's problems with women than Jerry's issues. Jerry is just incredibly and irredeemably picky. George lacks Jerry's confidence, and knows it. He also perceives a million other weaknesses, and this over-awareness cripples him. So the flaws of both characters are largely in place even at this early point in the series.