Curb Your Enthusiasm S08E09 Recap: "Mister Softee"
This week on "Curb Your Enthusiasm", Larry David continued his quest to prove he hadn't lost touch with his "Seinfeld" roots. I don't really understand why, but this season, David seems obsessed with rehashing Seinfeld-like schemes and giving that New York feel to his Los Angeles show, but he's doing it. In the eyes of many, Curb proved a long time ago that it was just as good as if not better than Seinfeld. But the transition to New York has been relatively smooth, the gags have been great, and quite frankly, this might be one of the best seasons of Curb yet.
There's only one episode of the season left, however, so did "Mister Softee" continue the positive trend, or has the obvious derivativeness of this second half of the season finally catch up to David? My inclination would be to say that this week's episode was just as good as mostly anything else David's put out there this year. "Mister Softee" could very well be a Curb classic.
In the episode, Larry is playing in a championship softball game. The team's manager is Yari, a garage owner, played by the amazing Robert Smigel, infamous not for his acting, but for his voice and controversial characters, from his SNL cartoons to, especially, Conan's Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. Yari is just as noxious as his puppet persona, who shouts obscenities at his team to motivate them to win and compares himself to George Steinbrenner. Larry sees hears the music from a Mister Softee ice cream druck during the game and fumbles the ball -- much like Bill Buckner did for the Red Sox in 1986 -- costing the team the championship and alienating Yari, who completely overreacts, even going as far to ruin Larry's car.
Yari: “You f*cking Bucknered it! Why is Buckner on my team?!?”
The problems for Larry don't stop there. The music makes Larry impotent, which his new girlfriend Jennifer -- Ana Gasteyer -- of course isn't too fond of. Earlier, Larry relived his traumatizing experience with his therapist, Dr. Thurgood -- played by Fred Melamed from "A Serious Man". Playing strip poker at a young age -- more great casting for Young Larry -- with a girl in the back of an ice cream truck, Larry is forced into an embarrassing situation in front of a bunch of mean kids, ruining Mister Softee and that annoying truck music for him forever.
Larry: "I feel like if she had taken her top off, my whole life would have been different."
Later, Larry is at a baseball signing with Leon -- who he's convinced to wear eyeglasses because of his trouble getting into New York buildings -- to get Mookie Wilson's autograph for Jeff, where he once again sees his therapist. He chats with Dr. Thurgood for a few minutes about his Mister Softee incident, but Thurgood is too busy namedropping Grand Funk Railroad's guitarist and revealing that client's deepest secrets. Larry sees Bill Buckner at the next booth, and the two immediately hit it off, as Larry relates to Buckner's 1986 World Series fumble. It turns out that even 25 years later, Buckner still gets a lot of hatred for his error, but he's found a way to be very zen -- or at least, oblivious -- about it all, much to the dismay of Larry's narcissism. The duo even gets kicked out of a Jewish funeral after the victim's nephew turns out the be a Red Sox fan. At Jeff's, Buckner fumbles the ball, which flies out the window, infuriating Susie.
Grieving Jewish Nephew: "Don't let the door go through your legs on the way out Buckner!"
Larry: “I don’t want to see your stupid minyan anyway. I hope there is no afterlife. To hell with the Kishka."
Later, Larry and Jennifer are on a date, and on the ride home, Jennifer gets off on Larry's rickety seat, ending their date short, since the chair did more for Jennifer than the chair ever did. The next day, Larry opens his mail to find a bill from Dr. Thurgood for the five minutes they spoke at the signing. Leon and Larry take matters into their own hands, and take a trip down to his office. On the way, Leon finds out first hand why Jennifer didn't want to want to go home with Larry.
At the doctor's office, Larry tries to get Thurgood to kill the bill, but is instead treated to a story about George Lucas's premature ejaculation problems with prostitutes. This only worries him about what Thurgood says to other people about his own problems, which leads Thurgood to exclaim "nobody asks about you". Ya, neither did Larry, doc. Leon, sporting his brand new glasses, tries his hand at convincing Thurgood to tear up the bill, and of course, since "white people revere black people in glasses", he does just that. Leon even manages to get the doctor's Mookie Wilson autographed ball, but he stole that.
Finally, Larry runs into Susie and gives her the ball, but she's distraught. Her cousin's building is on fire and she wants a lift. Afraid of what might transpire if she sits in the rickety, vibrating seat, Larry tries everything from getting her to sit in the back, even offering to pay for a cab, but Susie wants nothing of it. She sits in the front, and what happens next is simply indescribable, but includes both expressions of discuss and pure pleasure from both parties. Larry once again hears that awful music and crashes into an ice cream truck, but is once again distracted by the fire at the nearby building.
Buckner turns out to be there too, his hotel down the street. They watch as a woman makes the tough decision to throw her baby down to the firefighters below. The baby goes flying, and the man who's been reviled for a quarter century redeems himself, catching the baby in mid air in one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen on TV.
Finally, we see Larry and Jennifer in bed. Larry has seemingly satisfied his woman, but she decides she'd rather end her night with a long, long drive.
As a whole, "Mister Softee" may have been my second favorite Curb episode of the season, behind, of course "Palestinian Chicken", possibly the new benchmark for the entire series, yet alone the season. But Mister Softee definitely comes close, balancing the utter ridiculousness of vibrating seat dildos and terribly fake-looking flying babies with amazing characters like Dr. Thurgood and Yari, as well as tying everything up as they usually do.
Both those characters and the situations Larry found himself in were very much like things we've seen in Seinfeld. Thurgood was reminiscent of the blabbermouth rabbi, Yari any number of overreacting Seinfeld characters, the Bill Buckner / Keith Hernandez thing, not to mention the revolving door of unrealistic girlfriends for Larry. But the show has a unique capability of making us see past all of that thanks to amazing writing, and in this case, some amazing performances.
The episode ended up being a few minutes longer than the show usually is, and it actually allowed them to add so much more to the episode. I fear if the normal 28 minute run time stuck, we may not have been treated to the amazing Robert Smigel as Yari or even Larry and Bill Buchner crashing a minyan, two of my highlights of the season. The end result was really an epic episode that strayed into some schtick that may have been a little too silly or low brow, even by Curb standards, but more than made up by a very well pieced together series of events.
But of course, the episode belonged to none other than J.B. Smoove, who, as always, nailed his line delivery and offered a surprising amount of grounded comedy in a somewhat sensational episode.
Line of the Night: Too many to pick from tonight, but they all belong to Leon, of course
- "I'm gonna get a whole new class of bitches with these on."
- “You try to put a noodle in a woman; women hate that man.”
- "This shit is a moving dildo… This chair is a fuckk machine! This chair is the other fucking man”
- “I get a fuckin' tingle in my johnson when a motherfucker tell me he's about to get some ass”
- “No wonder she didn’t come upstairs. She was coming downstairs.”
Honorable mention goes to Yari for: "We will fuck their sisters in the cunt. Are you listening? Fuck these people.”
Awkward Moment: Larry and Bill Buckner crashing a Jewish death ceremony, only to be shooed away because one of the grieving family members is a Red Sox fan.
Goat of the night: Larry, for having to relive his traumatizing experience in the back of an ice cream truck, for being unable to satisfy his woman (and subsequently getting outworked by his rickety car seat), for losing the softball championship, and for having a blabbermouth therapist.
"Only Larry David:" See above.
"I can relate:" I do trust black people with glasses more than those without glasses.
Overall: Amazing episode, even though it bordered on the absolute ridiculous. 9 out of 10.
Next Week: "Larry vs. Michael J. Fox" (season finale) -- "Larry accuses his neighbor, Michael J. Fox of harassment; Jeff takes a bullet for Susie; Larry gives an inappropriate gift to Elizabeth's son. "