First Script Read: December 4, 1997
Aired: January 8, 1998
Nielsen rating: 21.8
Audience share: 31
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Steve Koren
With "The Dealership," writer Steve Koren builds a classic Seinfeld "bottle episode," with all of the action, aside from Kramer's epic test drive, taking place at the car dealership where David Puddy works. It makes sense that bottle episodes were done more frequently in the early years, as a single set was a cheap way for Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, et al to do some ground breaking sitcom writing and flex their skills at observational humor. Once Seinfeld became a hit, money was virtually no object (see: the elephant brought in for one brief shot in "The Betrayal"), and the writers could craft increasingly elaborate shots on a wider variety of locations. Of course, the show's style was simultaneously speeding up, with four storylines jammed into a 30-minute sitcom necessitating exponentially higher scene counts.
"The Dealership" is a refreshing throwback. To be sure, it's rife with Late Seinfeld-style silliness, such as George's elaborate candy bar lineup set up to prove that a mechanic ate his Twix. But it also delves into two vintage Seinfeld topics: 1. A common experience (the process of buying a car, teased out in both Jerry's and Kramer's storylines), and 2. A dating relationship (Elaine and Puddy). Going deeper into the banal, Jerry offers a stand-up-eque critique of the male ritual of the high-five - "What do you think the Nazis were doing? That was the heil-five!" - and George struggles with a fickle vending machine.
Still, ultimately this episode relies on the absurd to get its biggest laughs. Even more than George's candy bar lineup, Kramer's test drive is the hysterical highpoint. The car salesman takes Kramer for a routine test drive that turns into a life changing experience. Kramer takes the car's gas tank far below the "E," stressing the car salesman out, but ultimately giving him the thrill ride of his life. It's a crazy, fun type of humor for the viewer that, while it isn't something Seinfeld would have done in its early years, became one of its strengths in the final seasons.