Sunday, April 22, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 3, Episodes 17-18 - The Boyfriend: Parts 1-2


“The Boyfriend (Parts 1&2)” aka “The New Friend” (its original title in production scripts)

First Script Read: Wed, January 8, 1992
Filmed: Mon-Tue, January 13-14, 1992
Aired: February 12, 1992 (First one hour episode)
Nielsen rating: 12.1
Audience share: 18 (17 million viewers)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David and Larry Levin


 "All the boys are acting like girls in this episode," Julia Louis-Dreyfus points out in the DVD commentary. Jerry's pursuit of a relationship with baseball star Keith Hernandez captures the stereotypes of a male-female dating relationship. But Louis-Dreyfus makes this observation while George's character is occupying the screen.

George, having failed in his fraudulent scheme to convince Mrs. Sokol of the New York State Department of Labor that Vandalay Industries was thinking about hiring him to be their latex salesman, is now trying to sweeten Mrs. Sokol by complementing her daughter:

GEORGE [SEES PHOTO ON MRS. SOKOL'S DESK]: Who is this?
MRS. SOKOL: It's my daughter. 
GEORGE: This is your daughter? My God! My God! I I hope you don't mind my saying, she is breathtaking.
MRS. SOKOL: You think so?
GEORGE: Ah, would you take this picture away from me. Take it away and get it outta here. Let me just sign this and go.
MRS. SOKOL: You know she doesn't even have a boyfriend.
GEORGE: Okay, Okay. Who do you think you're talking to? What are you… You trying to make a joke? Because it's not funny, I can tell you that.
MRS. SOKOL: I'm serious.
GEORGE: It's one think to not give me the extension, but to tease and to torture me like this, there's no call for that.
MRS. SOKOL: Would you like her phone number?
GEORGE: Mrs. Sokol, I- I don't know what to say. I, uh, where should I sign this thing?
MRS. SOKOL: No, no, no. Don't worry about it.

Mrs. Sokol's daughter is, if you can't guess or don't remember, no great beauty. George's gushing would be out of character if it wasn't a total lie. In the excessive underlying emotion, as Louis-Dreyfus notes, it is also a little feminine. That appeals to the toughened old mother, and George gets an extension on his unemployment benefits, at least until Miss Carrie Sokol dumps him at the end of their second date:

CARRIE: I've been thinking about it. You got no job. You got no prospects. You're like Biff Loman.*
GEORGE: I went to the hardware store interview.
CARRIE: You think I'm going to spend my life with somebody because he can get me a deal on a box of nails?

 [*Jerry first referred to George as Biff in "The Subway" and then again in "The Pez Dispenser" and Part 1 of this episode. Those three episodes were written and filmed in that order, though other episodes aired in between them. Larry Charles wrote "The Subway," and Larry David wrote this episode and The Pez Dispenser - one more sign that Larry David, more than anyone else, is responsible for Seinfeld's self-referentiality.]

Louis-Dreyfus's observation is true only to an extent. George's gushing over Carrie's photo is feminine in style, but not in substance. His interest in physical appearance matches the most important characteristic Seinfeld's males look for in a woman. And Carrie's interest in George's occupation matches the most important characteristic Seinfeld's females look for in a man. In the previous episode, "The Fix Up," George's first question about, Cynthia, his prospective blind date is, "What does she look like?" Cynthia's first question about George is, "What does he do?"

It is Jerry who is really acting like a girl. His friendship with Hernandez matches Elaine's dating of Hernandez to underscore this point. Jerry frets over whether he should shake Hernandez's hand at the end of their evening together. Elaine wonders whether Hernandez will kiss her at the end of their date. Actually, Jerry is initiating while Elaine is hoping Hernandez initiates, so they are both filling their gender roles in these paired scenes.

It is Jerry's agonizing over whether to help Hernandez move that places Jerry in the feminine role. Hernandez's request that Jerry help him move is a metaphor for a man trying to get a woman to have sex with him. Kramer's and George's reactions underscore this, with Kramer explicitly linking the proposal to sex:

JERRY: Keith Hernandez just asked me to help him move.
KRAMER: What?! Well, you hardly know the guy! What a nerve! You see? Wasn't I right about this guy? Didn't I tell you? Now, you're not going to do it are you?
JERRY: I said yes.
KRAMER: You said yes!? Don't you have any pride or self-respect? I mean, how can you prostitute yourself like this? I mean, what are you going to do? You're going to start driving him to the airport?
JERRY: I'm not driving him to the airport!
KRAMER: Oh yeah.
JERRY: Hey Kramer do me a favor.
KRAMER: What?
JERRY: Don't mention it to anybody.
KRAMER: I wish you never mentioned it to me.

Later...

GEORGE: All right, I've got to go down to the unemployment office. Want to take a walk?
JERRY: No, I can't. I've got some stuff to do then I've got to meet Keith at my apartment at three. I'm helping him move.
GEORGE: What? The guy asked you to help him move? Wow.
JERRY: I know isn't that something?
GEORGE: He's got money. Why doesn't he just pay a mover?
JERRY: I don't know, he's got some valuable antiques. He's worried they'll break something.
GEORGE: The next thing you know, he'll have you driving him to the airport.
JERRY: I'm not driving him to the airport!

Maybe "helping him move" is making out and "driving him to the airport" is sex. Or something like that. Anyway, when the moment comes, Jerry backs down:

JERRY: I'm sorry I can't do this. I can't do it. I can't. It- it's too soon. I don't know you. I can't help you move. I'm sorry. I can't. I just can't.

So what happens to their relationship? It ends! Jerry tells Elaine he broke up with Hernandez. Their relationship could not survive Jerry NOT helping Hernandez move. The episode takes this fact for granted. It follows that a male-female dating relationship cannot survive the woman NOT agreeing to have sex with the man.

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