"The Reverse Peephole"
First Script Read: December 13, 1997
Filmed: December 17, 1997
Aired: January 15, 1998
Nielsen rating: 21.3
Audience share: 31
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Spike Feresten
OK, pop quiz. Let's say all you knew about Seinfeld was my Early Period/Mature Period/Late Period breakdown (discussed most prominently in my post on "The Bizarro Jerry"). Let's say I put all the titles of Seinfeld episodes into a hat. Let's say you pulled out "The Reverse Peephole." Which period would you think that episode would fall? A reverse peephole? CLEARLY, zany, quirky, a little ridiculous...Late Period. And let's say you knew the basic traits of the four main characters. Which character do you think would have a reverse peephole? Obviously, Kramer.
Really, the reverse peephole is just a small element in a very funny episode. And you can tell how elaborate the plot is by how many clauses I have to use to explain each character's storyline. George helps buy a massaging chair as an apartment gift for the gang's mutual friend, Joe Mayo, but secretly keeps the chair for himself to help soothe his back, which is sore from carrying an extremely filled wallet. To keep his friend from being evicted, Kramer helps Newman cover up the postman's affair with the landlord's wife by pretending that a fur coat the landlord found wasn't given to the wife by Newman but actually was left in the laundry by Jerry, who is a fancy boy. The fur coat ORIGINALLY belonged to David Puddy until Elaine, disgusted with his fashion choices, threw it out the window at Joe Mayo's party, only to have Puddy mistaken Joe Mayo's fur coat for his own, leading Elaine to get in blamed for losing Joe Mayo's coat since she was responsible for the coats. And Jerry starts using a European carry-all to carry around his and his girlfriend's belongings, leaving him open to mockery.
I like the way this episode uses gender stereotypes, though not in the obvious ways that might be expected. Puddy looks RIDICULOUS wearing the fur coat, but nobody ever calls Elaine's big boyfriend a woman. Elaine just thinks he looks like an idiot. When Jerry puts on the coat and grabs his purse-like carry-all to strut around in front of Silvio, the landlord, and help Kramer clear Newman's name, no one says he looks like a woman. They do use some words that are code for referring to someone as a homosexual (dandy, fancy), but their critique is more about Jerry's fame going to his head and turning him into an effete elitist:
KRAMER: Hey, Silvio! Look at Jerry here! Prancing around in his coat with his purse! Yup, he's a dandy! He's a real fancy boy!
JERRY: Maybe this isn't my coat...
KRAMER: All right, you're not fancy!
SILVIO: No, he's very fancy! Want me! Love me! Shower me with kisses!
Silvio is hardly an astute observer of human behavior, so his critique of Jerry comes off as ridiculous. In the end, it's a funny scene, not because of Jerry is gender-bending, but because Jerry looks very funny. And ultimately, that's all the Seinfeld writers and costume department intended with the fur coat. There is no brilliant commentary on gender stereotypes. Jerry just looks like an idiot.