“The Cigar Store Indian”
First Script Read: November 11, 1993
Filmed: November 16, 1993
Aired: 9:00pm, December 9, 1993
Nielsen rating: 19.9
Audience share: 30
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Tom Gammill and Max Pross
Jerry buys a Cigar Store Indian as a gift for Elaine, partly to apologize for making Elaine take the subway home while he and George take Estelle Costanza's coffee table to be refinished after Jerry fails to use a coaster, and partly to impress Winona, Elaine's attractive friend. Winona turns out to be Native American and extremely sensitive about her heritage. The Cigar Store Indian, coupled with Jerry's over-the-top use of Indian stereotypes, offends Winona. Jerry spends the rest of the episode trying to smooth things over while avoiding any other potentially offensive terms. At first, Jerry's behavior is clearly offensive, but Winona's position, and the politically correct sensibility in general, seem increasingly ridiculous as Jerry continues to consciously modify his behavior. He is even hesitant to use the phrase "reservation" to explain how he secured a table at an exclusive restaurant. Later, he stops himself from using the more problematic phrase, "Indian giver," but not soon enough to keep from offending Winona. She flips out and leaves him, ending their brief relationship. Not for the first time Seinfeld suggests Jerry shouldn't have to make exhaustive efforts to be polite. After all, he clearly isn't a racist.
The real social outcast of the episode is Ricky (Sam Lloyd), the weirdo Elaine meets on the subway. He pursues Elaine, turning the TV Guide she borrowed from the Costanza's house and left behind on the subway car into a paper bouquet. Frank's TV Guide collection is yet another line on his own list of eccentricities, but even he is more "normal" than Ricky. The balding, creepily-voiced Ricky might also collect TV Guides, as he shows an interest and understanding in Frank's collection when he shows up unannounced at the Cosanza's, but his mannerisms and his inability to read Elaine's disinterest mark him as the most socially abnormal character in the scene, and one of the most abnormal on Seinfeld's long list of zany characters. He will pop up again five episodes later in "The Pie" as the mysterious creator behind the mannequins that look exactly like Elaine. But that is the sort of person the characters are liable to encounter in the public spaces of Seinfeld's New York City setting. Ricky's creepy affection for Elaine is the real price she pays for not getting a ride home with Jerry.