Thursday, November 1, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 8, Episode 9 - The Abstinence

“The Abstinence”

First Script Read: Friday, November 1, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, November 6, 1996
Aired: November 21, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.6
Audience share: 34
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Steve Koren (This is the first of five scripts credited to Koren who was on the writing staff through the final two seasons.)

As in "The Bizarro Jerry," "The Abstinence" doesn't just cross the line between coincidence and magic; it flies far beyond it. George's girlfriend has mononucleosis so she can't have sex with him for up to six weeks. Initially he panics but gradually Jerry notices positive effects of his friend's abstinence. He is nailing the answers to Jeopardy and quickly picks up Portuguese from his cleaning woman.
JERRY: You're no longer pre-occupied with sex, so your mind is able to focus.
GEORGE: You think?
JERRY: Yeah. I mean, let's say this is your brain. [HOLDS UP LETTUCE HEAD] Okay, from what I know about you, your brain consists of two parts: the intellect, represented here [PULLS OFF TINY PIECE OF LETTUCE], and the part obsessed with sex. [HOLDS UP REMAINING LETTUCE] Now granted, you have extracted an astonishing amount from this little scrap. But with no-sex-Louise, this previously useless lump, is now functioning for the first time in its existence.
George starts reading physics books and passes on hitting tips to Yankees players. Eventually he even turns down sex with Louise because he is enjoying his intelligence. 

Meanwhile, inspired by George's results, Elaine stops having sex with her boyfriend to help him pass his medical exams. It works for him, but Elaine starts getting dumber. Jerry figures out why.
JERRY: Wait a second, I know what's happening. The no sex thing is having a reverse effect on you.
ELAINE: What? What are you talking about?
JERRY: To a woman, sex is like the garbage man. You just take for granted the fact that any time you put some trash out on the street, a guy in a jumpsuit's gonna come along and pick it up. But now, it's like a garbage strike. The bags are piling up in your head. The sidewalk is blocked. Nothing's getting through. You're stupid.
ELAINE: I don't understand.
JERRY: Exactly.

It's a zany, comical theory, and its proven by the drastic change in the two characters. However, that same major shift within this one episode is not in keeping with the Seinfeld style. Like "The Bizarro Jerry," it's funny and interesting for the audience to see the opposite of what they've come to expect from these well-known characters. But the edge of the social commentary that worked so brilliantly under Larry David's watch is dulled by the drastic move into cartoonishness. It's still funny. It just rings a little more hollow.

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