Monday, November 19, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 16 - The Pothole

“The Pothole”

First Script Read: Wednesday, January 22, 1997
Filmed: Monday-Thursday, January 27-30, 1997 (Shot out of order, rather than in front of a studio audience because of the complexity of the episode.)
Aired: February 20, 1997
Nielsen rating: 22.6
Audience share: 34
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Steve O’Donnell (also wrote season eight's The Checks) and Dan O’Keefe (His first of six episodes)

Jerry's neatness is often joked about in the show. Here it drives his storyline. He accidentally knocks his girlfriend's toothbrush into the toilet. Before he can warn her, Jenna (played by Kristin Davis of Sex in the City fame), uses it to brush her teeth. Disgusted, Jerry can't kiss her. 

Without telling Jenna what happened, he buys her a new electric toothbrush and discreetly adds bleach to her mouthwash. Still, Jerry can't kiss her. He lies and says he's coming down with a cold. Later, Elaine gives him a warning:
ELAINE: Jer', do you see where this is going?
: Being really clean and happy?
: Jerry, you have tendencies. They're always annoying, but they were just tendencies. But now, if you can't kiss this girl, I'm afraid we're talking disorder.
: Disorder?
: And from disorder you're a quirk or two away from full-on dementia.
: Hmm, that could hurt me.

As a television character, Jerry can get away with his various tendencies because he is so self-aware. He acknowledges his traits in a frank, humorous fashion. Kramer, for contrast, has limited self-awareness. He doesn't realize how strange he is. That makes him lovable, too, but his character functions as a source of weirdness among his three other self-aware friends who greatly desire to be normal. Jerry's character is the straight man and the center of the show's universe, and thus when he exhibits tendencies, such as his anal-retentive side, that could otherwise come off as unlikable and/or a mark of strangeness, his character must either fix himself to restore order to the center or mock himself to acknowledge that order is an impossible ideal. Usually, Seinfeld takes the opposite approach.

Jerry finally tells Jenna about the toothbrush. Angry, she locks him out of his apartment for a moment while she puts something in the toilet. She leaves without telling him what it is. He freaks out and starts throwing out every item he owns. Finally Jenna tells him what it was - his toilet brush. Jerry, noting with relief that he can replace his toilet brush, heads to Jenna's for dinner. (He threw out all his dishes.) Once there, Jerry and Jenna put the toilet incident behind them. Meanwhile outside, George is jack-hammering a pothole to retrieve his dropped keys. He hits a pipe which (somehow) causes Jenna's toilet to explode all over her. Jerry takes one look at his soaked girlfriend, makes a quick judgment, and bids her, "Have a nice life!"

Jerry's tendencies remain, but he can still occupy the center of the show. He did make a noble effort to make things work with Jenna. It's his sarcastic attitude towards the tendencies of his world - his own and those of the people around him - that establish him as an authority on his own world. He is the judge. And his proclamations about the behavior he observes may be bitter and cynical, but they are also honest.

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