Monday, July 16, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 5, Episode 12 - The Stall


“The Stall”

First Script Read:  Thursday, December 2, 1993
Filmed: Wednesday, December 8, 1993
Aired: 9:00pm, January 6, 1994
Nielsen rating: 22.5
Audience share: 33 (highest rating of season 5)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry Charles


There are plenty of interesting social dynamics to explore in this episode. Let's see if I can tie them together by the end of this post. They revolve around the gang's interactions with Jerry's girlfriend, Jane (Jami Gertz of Twister and Still Standing, among others) and Elaine's boyfriend, Tony (Dan Cortese, who you probably don't know, but I felt bad crediting Gertz and not Cortese).

Elaine coincidentally ends up in the stall next to Jane at the movies. Elaine realizes too late that her stall is out of toilet paper, but Jane refuses to share even a single ply. The two haven't met, and they never see each other, so they don't realize their connection until the end of the episode. Maybe I'm too nice, and maybe I don't understand the women's bathroom dynamic, but I have to side with Elaine in this case, who calls Jane "insane" for her unwillingness to help. Jane explains to Jerry, "A person needs a certain amount of toilet paper to be covered. I simply could not spare it. This woman just didn't get it. She kept harassing me." Jane doth protest too much. She seemed too uncomfortable with the stall-to-stall interaction to pass toilet paper under the stall. I can understand feeling uncomfortable if the person requesting the toilet paper were acting sketchy in some way, but Elaine is a fairly respectable-sounding person and was very polite. Jane finished up and left the bathroom still claiming she couldn't spare a square, NOT that there were no sheets left after she finished. Also, what are the odds both stalls ran out of paper at the same moment?
VERDICT: Jane is insane.

Meanwhile, Kramer is messing around with phone sex lines. His interest is less erotic than playful, similar to his curiosity towards Penthouse Forum in the following episode, "The Dinner Party." In this case, he tells Jerry he thinks the calls are "hilarious." Elaine and Jerry overhear Kramer using Jerry's phone for one such call:
WOMAN'S VOICE: ...then we'll get a cab and we'll do it in the back seat. How's that Andre?
KRAMER'S VOICE: What about the driver? We could get an accident.
WOMAN'S VOICE: So what?
KRAMER'S VOICE: That wouldn't be very good.
JERRY: Hey Andre! Get the hell off the phone!

Kramer is acting more like a silly teenage boy looking for a laugh than a lonely 30-something man seeking sexual gratification. The revelation that the woman is Jane is more shocking than Kramer's behavior. Jane manages to hide this secret from Jerry and Kramer until the final scene, when she tells both of them not to call her. The audience is left to make their own moral judgment about Jane's occupation, but apparently the type of person who refuses to offer a scrap of toilet paper to another woman in a public restroom is also the type of person who would work on a phone sex line.
VERDICT: Kramer has never been one to take sexual topics too seriously and has a sophomoric but harmless sense of humor. Jane's back story that led her to the phone sex business and formed her to be so unkind in bathrooms could be, one can only imagine, the backbone of a fascinating Hallmark Channel original movie.

Jerry accuses Elaine of dating Tony solely because he is attractive:
ELAINE: Okay, Jerry, I would be going out with him no matter what he looked like
JERRY: Of course you would.
ELAINE: Oh yeah. Oh, like you're one to talk.
JERRY: Elaine…
ELAINE: What?
JERRY: It's different for a man.
ELAINE: Huh?
JERRY: We're expected to be superficial.
ELAINE: I'm not being superficial
JERRY: Elaine, he's a…he's a male bimbo. He's a mimbo.
ELAINE: He's not a mimbo. He's an exciting, charismatic man. He just happens to have a perfect face.
JERRY: And that's why you're going out with him.
ELAINE: No, it is not.

When Tony injures his face rock climbing with George and Kramer, Elaine is forced to admit her interest in Tony was purely superficial. Not for the first or last time, Elaine hits a higher mark on the "looks" category on the female xGbDI than might be expected. There is a double-standard that makes it more acceptable for a male to make romantic decisions based on appearance than for a female. Jerry is unembarrassed about his superficiality, but mocks Elaine when she dates Tony because he is good looking.
VERDICT: Elaine is superficial in her interests in a mate. In the Seinfeld universe, she is just as superficial as the males, but more superficial than women are expected to be.

George, actually, is more attracted to Tony for his personality:
JERRY: Yeah, yeah. What is it with you and Tony? What are you, like his sidekick now?
GEORGE: Yeah, that's right. I like it. He's such a cool guy.
JERRY: Cool guy? What are you, in 8th grade?
GEORGE: He's the first cool guy I've ever been friends with in my whole life. You know, it's a different world when you're with a cool guy. He's not afraid of anybody. You should hear the way he talks to waitresses. He gets free pie!
[...]
GEORGE: Hey nice move today!
KRAMER: What?
GEORGE: Horning in on my rock climbing trip. It's just supposed to be me and Tony!
KRAMER: He asked me.
GEORGE: You put him on the spot.
KRAMER: You know I think you're in love with him.
GEORGE: What? That's ridiculous!
KRAMER: No, no, no. I don't think so. You love him.

When Tony refuses to see him after the accident, George is devastated by the loss. Elaine, meanwhile, will probably dump Tony's mangled face at the first opportunity.
VERDICT: George is a bit childish, but he really does love Tony is a more meaningful way than Elaine ever could.

In Larry Charles' penultimate Seinfeld script, the women come off a bit worse than the men. The guys are all rather childish, but this allows them to be more honest and laid back about the world. Kramer innocently messes around with a phone sex line. Jerry can admit his own superficiality. George stops short of admitting his love for Tony, but does go far in revealing some of the depth of his feelings for his new pal. Elaine, by contrast, admits her own shallowness at the end. However, she is trapped by a double standard. It is okay for Kramer and George to act childish, and for Jerry to be superficial because they are men. It is thus understandable that Jane, who is so uptight in the women's bathroom, will find success in an occupation where she can feel some control over men, regaining some of the ground her gender has lost to society.

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