“The Bottle Deposit”
First Script Read: Sunday, March 10, 1996
Filmed: March 10-13 and 20, 1996
Aired: May 2, 1996 (1 hour special)
Nielsen rating: 21.8
Audience share: 35
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin
This classic hour-long episode was originally scheduled to be normal length, but as it went into production Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David decided there was too much good stuff to trim it down to half an hour. As a result, this episode has an epic quality, with all four storylines going through twists and turns before three of them come together in the end.
Kramer and Newman scheme to return a mail truckload of bottles and cans to Michigan where they can get 10-cents as opposed to the 5-cent refund in New York. Jerry's insane mechanic (played by Everybody Love's Raymond's Brad Garrett) steals Jerry's car after he decides Jerry doesn't take good enough care of it. Provoked by her rivalry with Oh Henry! candybar heiress, Sue Ellen Michke, Elaine overbids on a set of John F. Kennedy golf clubs she is sent by her boss, J. Peterman, to try to win at an auction. The clubs end up in the back of Jerry's car, which Newman and Kramer spot somewhere in Ohio. Newman and Kramer are sidetracked in pursuit of Jerry's car, which is never recovered. The mechanic, Tony, throws the Kennedy clubs one by one at the pursuing mail truck. Elaine gets those back to Peterman, but they are badly damaged.
George's story is unconnected, but for me it's the funniest of the episode. His boss, Mr. Wilhelm, chews him out for not paying attention. Moments later, Wilhelm ducks into the men's room. He assumes George follows him in so he keeps talking. George, however, awkwardly hesitates outside. When he does go in he finds Wilhelm has been explaining a special project he wants George to work on. George has no idea what the project is and is too afraid to ask Wilhelm to clarify. The rest of the episode follows George trying to puzzle his way through the project. Of course, he is almost completely unsuccessful in his attempts to figure out what he is supposed to be doing.
George's mystery is exactly the same premise, structurally speaking, as the Hangover films. The main characters find themselves with a blank space in their past that they are forced to gradually try to fill in. Their encounters other people who can provide clues seems to only complicate their confusion and push them farther away from their goal.
Wilhelm's suggestion that George go downtown is one of the additions to the episode added to make it one hour. Tantalizingly, Wilhelm suggests George has to go downtown "just like the song says." George has no idea what his boss means, so he enlists Jerry's help in figuring it out:
JERRY: The song “Downtown?” You mean the Petula Clark song?
JERRY: You sure he didn't just mention it because you happened to be going downtown?
GEORGE: I think he was trying to tell me something, like it had some sort of a meaning.
JERRY: Okay, so how does it go?
GEORGE: “When you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go...”
JERRY: “... downtown.”
GEORGE: “Maybe you know some little places to go where they never close...”
GEORGE: Wait a second. “…little places to go where they never close.” What's a little place that never closes?
GEORGE: “Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city. Linger on the sidewalk where the neon lights are pretty.” Where the neon lights are pretty. The Broadway area?
JERRY: No that's midtown.
GEORGE: “The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares. Just go...”
GEORGE: “Things'll be great when you're...”
GEORGE: I got nothing, Jerry. Nothing.
JERRY: Well, “don't hang around and let your troubles surround you. There are movie shows.”
If anything, that scene is even funnier knowing it was just added to fill time. It accomplishes nothing for the story. George is stuck in his problem without the glimmer of hope in finding a solution. It's a lot like his life; George Costanza's search for meaning is always futile and woefully misguided. If Wilhelm and God were standing there in the restaurant watching George grapple for the answers to his special project and to his life, they would both shake their heads. "Not even close."