Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 13 - The Seven

“The Seven”

First Script Read: Saturday, December 9, 1995
Filmed: Wednesday, December 13, 1995
Aired: February 1, 1996
Nielsen rating: 24.3
Audience share: 36
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer

The episode explores, through its various storylines, how an individual's ownership of property, both intellectual and physical, is tested by the bonds of friendship and family.

George has come up with a name for his firstborn child. Regardless of Susan's negativity, he is enthusiastic about about the name "Seven" because it is unique and meaningful; it's Mickey Mantle's number. George has been suggesting other names to Susan's cousin, Ken, and his pregnant wife, Carrie. When they hear about "Seven" they decide to take that name:

KEN: Why can't we use Seven?
GEORGE: It's my name. I made it up. You can't just steal it.
CARRIE: Well, it's not as if Susan's pregnant. You've already postponed the wedding. Who knows if you'll ever get married.
GEORGE: Hey, hey hey. Don't worry about me. I'm not a waffler. I don't waffle!
KEN: Right, we're both big Mickey Mantle fans, and we love the name. It's very unusual.

George is claiming basic intellectual property rights; as creator of the unique name, he insists on exclusive rights to use it, and to deny usage to other people. As George explains to Susan in another scene, part of its value as a name is that it is original and thus has cachet. Ken also likes it because it is unusual. Partly, he is taking the name because there is no legal recourse for George to stop him. His stated justification, though, is that if he doesn't use it the name may very likely be unused. George may never get married to his cousin and the excellent name will remain only an idea. At least Ken has the opportunity to put the name into practice. Also, had Susan already been pregnant and George had convinced her to name the baby "Seven," Ken suggests that he would not steal the name. The determining factor on both sides is whether the name will be used. If it is used by one side or the other, it loses its value to the opposite party. At no point does either side cite the familial relationship between Ken and Susan as a reason to use or not use the name. It doesn't come up, and we can only assume it doesn't occur to either Ken or George that their relationship might be strained down the road by their choices in this dispute.

Things are equally tense between other close friends. Kramer finds himself in the middle of two complicated property arguments, one with Jerry and one with Elaine. Early in the episode Kramer makes himself a sandwich from Jerry's refrigerator, but he leaves it unfinished on the counter when he discovers Jerry has no Dijon mustard. Jerry complains:
JERRY: Hey, hey. Wha... wait... what, you're gonna leave it there? That's like half a pound of turkey!
KRAMER: No, no, I can't eat that. You can't eat a sandwich without Dijon.
JERRY: Yeah, you're right. I really should keep more of your favorites on hand.
KRAMER: Hey, hey, hey. I'm getting a vibe here. What, are you unhappy with our arrangement?
JERRY: What arrangement?
KRAMER: Well, I was under the impression that I could take anything I wanted from your fridge, and you could take whatever you want from mine.
JERRY: Yeah, well, lemme know when you get something in there and I will.

Later, still worried about his relationship with Jerry, Kramer returns with an idea. He'll keep a list of the food he takes from Jerry and at the end of each week Jerry will give him a bill. Jerry, to his credit, protests and invites Kramer to continue taking whatever he'd like, but Kramer insists. The system actually causes more tension in their relationship. Kramer begins leaving half-eaten fruit and half-drank cans of soda, claiming he only bought one half. The more both of them worry about the value of the goods Kramer is taking, the more each one frets. When Jerry does present Kramer with the bill, they're both amazed at how high it is. Jerry closes the "food court" until Kramer can pay. Their relationship has been strained, but Kramer, to his credit, does go and get the money to pay Jerry back immediately. Both are satisfied. More importantly, Kramer's plan to continue paying Jerry for food he takes is never mentioned again. Their relationship is at its healthiest when Jerry is generous AND when Kramer embraces his neighbor's offer of generosity. The only problem is, still, Kramer's lack of complete respect for Jerry's property, but that is something Jerry must accept. It's what makes Kramer Kramer and, in a way, is what Jerry loves about his neighbor.

Kramer is deeply concerned with fairness, and his motivation in settling his food account with Jerry stems from his realization that his neighbor thinks their arrangement is unfair. Likewise, when Elaine offers, in a completely off-hand way, a bicycle she purchased at a vintage toy store to anyone who can fix her sore back, Kramer expects her to live up to this offer when he makes her feel better. Elaine refuses and a rift opens in their friendship, complicated when Kramer's fix proves to be only temporary for the suffering Elaine. Both are stubborn in this case, but they finally agree to put the case into the arbitration of a third party. Newman's wisdom is sought. He borrows a solution from King Solomon, proposing to cut the bicycle in half. When Kramer protests that he'd rather see Elaine get the bicycle than destroy it, Newman awards the bike to Kramer.

In the three cases, only Jerry and Kramer's dispute is settled amicably, and that is because they settle back into their old habits, Jerry's neighborly acceptance of Kramer taking his property and Kramer's neighborly assumption that Jerry's property is welcome to him. Elaine is unhappy with the bike solution, especially when Kramer sells the bike to Newman to pay his debt to Jerry. No matter her friendship with Kramer, Elaine was not serious in her offer to give up her bike, and is resistant to giving it to her friend, especially when her back pain returns. Kramer, in return, is unsympathetic to Elaine's case. A deal is a deal, even when it involves miscommunication between friends. In their appeal to a third party, they are both seeking justice OVER friendship. True friendship should not seek fairness and justice, but should ideally be selfless and loving. George and Ken will be related, albeit distantly, once George gets married to Susan. Their future relationship might also benefit from selflessness, but, like Kramer and Elaine, neither is willing to put the health of their relationship over their own desires. Ironically, it is only Jerry and Kramer who manage to navigate their property dispute at the end of the episode, and it is only by ignoring his claim to his property can the otherwise quite selfish Jerry restore harmony to his relationship with Kramer.

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