First Script Read: January 17, 1998
Filmed: January 21, 1998
Aired: February 5, 1998
Nielsen rating: 21.1
Audience share: 31
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Dan O’Keefe (story and teleplay) and Billy Kimball (story only)
I have to be honest with you. Even though I've seen this episode several times, most recently a couple months ago, I couldn't remember what the heck it was about based solely on the title. A strongbox? When was there a story involving a strongbox??
That's another characteristic of Seinfeld's Late Period. Some of the episodes, especially the weaker ones, are so wild and scattered in their stories that they defy a simple description. That's not to say "The Strongbox" doesn't have its fair share of funny moments - they just don't come together as well as most classic Seinfeld episodes.
Have you remembered what "The Strongbox" is about? The strongbox belongs to Kramer, who purchased it to protect his valuables after hearing of a burglary in the building. The strongbox actually rarely appears in the episode, and the focus turns to the key. Kramer hides the key in Jerry's apartment but Jerry keeps stumbling across it, forcing Kramer to find increasingly elaborate hiding places. He also takes the liberty of locking up Jerry's prized "Jerry Lewis" cufflinks, which becomes a problem when the key gets lost and Jerry can't get to his cufflinks as a conversation starter for meeting the real Jerry Lewis. The key was actually eaten by Jerry's neighbor's parrot, killing the bird, so Jerry and Kramer go dig up the parrot in the pet cemetery.
George's girlfriend won't accept his break up declaration, so he tries to cheat on her with a secretary from work who is mysteriously quite tan (my favorite running joke of the episode). This fails, first because his initial girlfriend STILL won't break up with him, second because the secretary refuses to sleep with George, and third because now the secretary won't break up with George either.
Elaine dates a man who refuses to bring her back to his apartment. Elaine suspects he is cheating on his wife, but eventually discovers the man is poor. Elaine decides to break up with him, but finds him too charming. Eventually, their romance is interrupted when Elaine discovers the man is both poor AND married.
What would you call the episode? "The Poor Boyfriend?" "The Tan?" "The Parrot?" Personally, I like "The Cufflinks," but even that falls short. The episode feels more like a bunch of distinct jokes cobbled together in the writer's room. Even when its about nothing Seinfeld is best when it does a lot with that nothingness.