Thursday, April 26, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 3, Episode 23 - The Keys

 "The Keys"

Aired: 9:00 pm, Wednesday, May 6, 1992
Nielsen rating: 11.4
Audience share: 18
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry Charles

Lurking beneath Jerry's sarcasm, George's neurosis, and Elaine's toughened shell is an existential desperation. These characters are not happy. They are not at peace with their existence. They are searching for something, but they certainly do not know what it is. The closest they come to contentment is in their relationships with each other, but even this often seems to fall short. Kramer, of course, recognizes this. In one of the greatest exchanges in Seinfeld history, he tries to bring it to George's attention:

KRAMER: Because you see, George, having the keys to Jerry's apartment - that kept me in a fantasy world. Every time I went over to his house it was like I was on vacation. Better food, better view, better TV. And cleaner? Oh, much cleaner. That became my reality. I ignored the squalor in my own life because I'm looking at life, you see, through Jerry's eyes. I was living in twilight, George. Living in the shadows. Living in the you.
KRAMER: Oh, yeah. I can barely see you, George.
GEORGE: Alright, stop it Kramer, you're freaking me out.
WAITRESS: Hi, are you ready to order? [George tries to order, but Kramer waves her away.]
KRAMER [moves over and sits next to George]: Do you ever yearn?
GEORGE: Yearn? Do I yearn?
KRAMER: I yearn.
GEORGE: You yearn.
KRAMER: Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often, I-I sit, and yearn. Have you yearned?
GEORGE: Well, not recently. I crave. I crave all the time, constant craving, but I haven't yearned.
KRAMER: Look at you.
GEORGE: Aw, Kramer, don't start...
KRAMER [moving back to the other side of the booth]: You're wasting your life.
GEORGE: I am not! What you call wasting, I call living! I'm living my life!
KRAMER: O.K., like what? No, tell me! Do you have a job?
KRAMER: You got money?
KRAMER: Do you have a woman?
KRAMER: Do you have any prospects?
KRAMER: You got anything on the horizon?
KRAMER: Do you have any action at all?
KRAMER: Do you have any conceivable reason for even getting up in the morning?
GEORGE: I like to get the Daily News!
KRAMER: George, it's time for us to grow up, and be men. Not little boys.
KRAMER: I'm going to California. You know, I got the bug.

It's the acting bug, explains Kramer, awakened by his ill-fated chance to act in the Woody Allen movie shot on his block. But it is clearly more than that. Kramer loves his friends. But it seems he senses Jerry et al are holding him back, in some indefinable way. He tries to warn George, but his questions are misdirected. Jerry does have money, prospects, action, and quite often women. But Jerry, too, must be yearning. He does not wear his discontentment on his sleeve like George does. Humor is his defense mechanism. Certainly, his mental and emotional health is better than George. But occasionally it slips through in the series that Jerry is not happy either. After all, he understands George and sympathizes with him. They, like their real life counterparts Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, differ in their worldviews only by degrees.

Season three ends on a cliffhanger, with Kramer leaving it all behind and trying to heal his yearning on the other side of the country. This blog will pause on a cliffhanger, then, too. We know he eventually comes back. The question I will be asking when I put the next DVD in is, why does he come back? Why reason does the show provide, explicitly or implicitly, for Kramer's return? The answer will provide insight into the soul of Seinfeld, its hilarious, yearning soul.

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