First Script Read: Sunday, March 31, 1996
Filmed: Monday-Wednesday, April 1-3, 1996
Aired: May 16, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.3
Audience share: 35
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Larry David (Final episode with the show until "The Finale")
DOCTOR: Excuse me, are you the husband?
GEORGE: Well , not yet. Fiancee.
DOCTOR: Well , I'm sorry. She's gone.
GEORGE: ... What's that?
DOCTOR: She expired.
GEORGE: ... Are you sure?
DOCTOR: Yes, of course.
GEORGE: So... She's dead?
For anyone who has ever been angry at the sexual content and other controversial subject matters shown or discussed on Seinfeld, I would argue that this scene is the most objectionable behavior depicted on Seinfeld. As the doctor would testify in the series finale, George's reaction is one of "restrained jubilation." The characters often take pleasure in the misery of others, but in this case George is ecstatic over Susan's death. He is released, freed from the commitment he didn't have the courage to break. And it is only because Susan is dead.
This is Larry David's final episode, and he takes Susan with him. Behind him he leaves an audience that has been conditioned to laugh at the characters behaving badly. Over time, fans of the show have come to accept worse and worse behavior from the characters, so George's quiet glee is not shocking but hilarious. Is there anything more selfish than being relieved at what someone else's death has done for you? If there IS, it was probably shown on Seinfeld.
It is a brilliant episode, and the quintessential moment for George, one of the greatest television characters ever. The audience doesn't relate to him. No one wants to be the whiny loser George. But they know his character and so they know, as outrageous as it is, he really is happy at Susan's death. He may be trying to fool the doctor, but he isn't fooling the audience...or his friends. They know him too well.
Still, the quartet goes through the social expectations of pretending to mourn Susan, of course. They give their condolences to George, knowing full well he is happy at the turn of events. The scene is pure Larry David - characters self-consciously acting out their expected behavior even though all of them know they are all faking it. Kramer, perhaps, is momentarily sorry for Susan, although he can't get her name right; he calls her Lilly. But even he doesn't dwell in the moment, following George and Elaine out for coffee.
The only person who does experience tragedy in the scene is Jerry, but of course it is a selfish tragedy. He is now engaged to Jeannie (played by Janeane Garafalo), and suddenly he is feeling isolated as his life course veers away from his normal routines with his friends, just as George experienced all season. Susan is dead, but Larry David leaves Jerry's engagement behind, a thread for the season eight writers to deal with.