“The Kiss Hello”
First Script Read: Wednesday, January 4, 1995
Filmed: Tuesday, January 10, 195
Aired: February 16, 1995
Nielsen rating: 22.2
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld
This is the penultimate episode Jerry Seinfeld shared a writing credit for, the last episode being season seven's "The Cadillac." It epitomizes the worldview he and Larry David embedded in the characters of Jerry, George, and Elaine.
KRAMER: Yeah. Hey listen, I, uh, I need a picture of you, buddy.
JERRY: What for?
KRAMER: Well, I'm, uh, I'm putting everybody's picture up in the lobby of our building.
KRAMER: So everyone will know everybody's name. See, people are gonna be a lot friendlier.
JERRY: I, I don't want my picture plastered up in the lobby.
KRAMER: Imagine walking by someone on the floor, and you say "Hey, Carl!" and he says, "Hey, Jerry!" You see, that's the kind of society I wanna live in.
JERRY: Kramer, I don't wanna stop and talk with everyone every time I go in the building. I just wanna nod and be on my way.
Seinfeld had survived on Cheers' coattails in its first years before eventually building its own success. But the society depicted in Seinfeld was not like the society in Cheers. A place "where everybody knows your name" is a sort of nightmare to Jerry. He prefers a private life with only a couple close friends. Every once in a while on the show Jerry even complains about the frequent visits of Kramer, George, and Elaine. Neighborliness is a cause for discomfort and anxiety as opposed to the comfort and satisfaction Kramer envisions.
Jerry refuses to let Kramer take his photo but Kramer won't give up. Later, Jerry catches Kramer rummaging around his apartment looking for a picture:
KRAMER: Oh, come on, Jerry. If everybody knew everybody we wouldn't have the problems we have in the world today. Well, you don't rob somebody if you know their name!
JERRY: You're robbing me.
Kramer's idealism rests on a familiar cliché that Jerry correctly dismisses. The value a person gets from knowing one's neighbor is more complex than Kramer sees it. Knowing a person's name is the first step towards building a relationship, and relationships are the foundation of so many fulfilling aspects of life.
But relationships also take work, as Jerry knows all too well from his existing relationships. His senile grandmother revealed that his Uncle Leo was supposed to give his mother $50 after their father won $100 at the track decades ago, but Leo denies the charge. Meanwhile, Jerry is also annoyed by Elaine's friend, Wendy, who has a habit of kissing him hello every time they meet. Jerry doesn't like the kiss hello. Alas, when Kramer does get his photo up in the lobby, Jerry runs a gauntlet of kisses every time he walks in the building:
JERRY: Ah, well. Thank you very much!
KRAMER: For what?
JERRY: For putting my picture up on that wall! I'm like Richard Dawson down there now. And every person I see engages me in this long, boring, tedious, conversation. I can't even get out of the building!
KRAMER: You should be thanking me for liberating you from your world of loneliness and isolation. Now, you're part of a family.
JERRY: You think I want another family? My father's demanding my uncle pay interest on fifty dollars he was supposed to give my mother in 1941, and my uncle put my Nana in a home to try and shut her up! And I tell you another thing, Cosmo Kramer, whatever you wanna be called. The kissing thing is over. There's no more kissing, and I don't care what the consequences are.
[KRAMER GRABS JERRY'S FACE AND GIVES HIM A LONG KISS ON THE LIPS JUST AS GEORGE ENTERS. WITHOUT A WORD GEORGE PAUSES A MOMENT AND THEN BACKS OUT OF THE ROOM.]
Kramer can't accept that Jerry enjoys his loneliness and isolation, but that is the truth about who he is.
Eventually, Jerry tries to tell the women in his building that he doesn't want to kiss hello anymore. This offends them and the whole building turns on him bitterly. The antagonism is so disagreeable that Jerry asks the women for a kiss, but it is too late. In the final scene, Jerry is on the outside looking in at a big party Kramer is having in his apartment. He regrets turning his back on the community, but if Kramer had never put his photo on the wall, Jerry would have continued to go about his business, nodding to people in his building and never incurring their wrath. There is risk to every relationship, risk that Jerry, who has been in many relationships and has been unsatisfied with most of them, doesn't want to take.