Curb Your Enthusiasm S09E04 Recap: 'Running With The Bulls'

When news broke that Larry David was ready to bring back Curb Your Enthusiasm from the dead after nearly a decade off the air, most assumed it was because he had something important, something original and fresh to say. Four episodes in, we can safely confirm that to be the case, between all of Larry's new social commentary as well as the overarching Fatwa storyline. In fact, the thought that's transcended these four episodes for the most part is that Larry and the show haven't really changed. Curb is a rare case where this is a good thing and not a crutch, as it might be for many other TV revivals. Larry's social grievances are relatively timeless, and at the age of seventy, no one should expect him to change his ways or his point of view. What you see is what you get with Lvid, and once you're able to accept that, a 2017 curb with 2002 sensibilities makes a lot more sense.

With that preamble out the way, it has to be said that "Running with the Bulls" is probably the weakest of season 9's episodes so far. Maybe it's the magic of having the show back wearing off, or maybe it's a byproduct of this week's episode not having much to say about the Fatwa storyline or really anything at all outside of minor grievances (the latter possibly being the only thing Curb's inherited from modern television; that is the scripted show's affinity with slowly unfolding an overarching storyline). Instead, "Bulls" feels more like a familiar set of awkward situations interspersed with a couple of shocks at the most.

The lion's share of the action revolves around Larry's visits to Dr. Templeton, his new therapist played by the venerable Bryan Cranston, the latest in a series of great, high profile guest stars who seem to fit perfectly in this world. Dr. Templeton, like everyone else in the veritable peanut gallery of therapists and psychiatrists Larry has visited over the course of nine seasons, has his own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies which of course Larry revels in picking apart. Among other things, Larry exposes a discrepancy between patient and doctor chairs, he explores the idea of "patient-doctor confidentiality" (as opposed to the well-known doctor-patient confidentiality), and questions the formality Dr. Templeton uses with him as opposed to the familiarity he seems to have with Cheryl, who recommended the doctor to Larry. Listen, there's a lot about psychiatrists that's ripe for the picking, especially if you're someone like Larry David. And it's a subject that the show has touched up with much fascination from its very early beginnings (who can remember the thong-clad psychiatrist from the second season), all the way to Fred Melamed's turn as Larry's therapist in the previous season. And yet Larry keeps finding things about this very intimate, often unapproachable situation to be funny about, much of which is still present in "Bulls".

But it's nothing the show hasn't done before, much like the other plot of the episode, which involves Marty Funkhauser's nephew tragically and suddenly dying while running with the bulls, which, according to Larry, he only did to impress the prostitute he was introduced to a couple of weeks ago. Larry attends the memorial, and that goes as well as a funeral has ever gone on this show. Larry tries to reserve a good seat by bribing an usher, he makes a scene when Richard Lewis takes his seat, he shushes a grieving lady for crying too loudly, he has confrontations with everyone from Cheryl, to Susie to his therapist, and eventually ruins everything by yelling Fatwa at an unassuming Muslim man looking for his seat.

Again, this is nothing we haven't seen before, and while there's a lot of funny Larry is able to extract from this situation, there's almost one too many layers of familiarity with how the whole thing is tackled. More amusing than Larry shushing a crying lady is the fact that she kind of agrees with him that she's being too loud. Or how everyone just tacitly accepts that his crazy old asshole can cause a scene at a funeral he's ostensibly responsible for with no consequence. Same with everything with Dr. Templeton. Funnier than Larry getting into a confrontation with a mental health professional is one who can go toe-to-toe with him. Templeton presumably knows Larry well by now, so he can fuck with him right back, eventually getting him to pay for a new chair for his office.

Like I said, all of this is funny, but at some point you have to wonder what the endgame is if the show is purposely setting up this world where Larry faces almost no consequences for his actions, especially in a season where the main arc is about how there's supposed to be a hit on his head. Maybe that's a byproduct of a world where we pick apart and analyze every moment of television with more scrutiny than Larry himself does with his therapists' habits. Or maybe it's the first signs of rust for this returning show. In any case, while "Running with the Bulls" is still funny and probably as uncomfortable as any episode in this show's run, it's also probably the weakest of this young ninth season, and it gets 8 self-portraits out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Funnily enough, the better parts of the episodes came from subplots the episode spends the least amount of time with. Firstly, Richard Lewis is now an artist and the gang attempts his showing, where they mercilessly mock his work and his appearance. He draws a very flattering self-portrait which the show could have gotten a lot more mileage out of. Then Larry and Richard go to lunch together and Richard gets there much earlier than Larry to take the better seat, which he also does at the memorial. I would have liked them to extract much more mileage out of this joke.
  • Elsewhere, Jeff is sleeping around with a real estate agent because they can have sex on staging furniture without worrying about covering their tracks, but Susie catches on to his scheme pretty quickly and parlays it into a bigger house.
  • Also pretty funny are Larry's nightmares, which the therapist glosses over. He dreams about his Fatwa, or going to heaven and only having 71 virgins but not 72.
  • Larry Tackling The Issues Of The Day:
    • Therapist chair disparity.
    • Patient-Doctor confidentiality.
    • Pretentious celebrity art.
    • Putting two and two together.
    • The lengths men go to to impress women.
    • Taking the good seat at lunch with a friend.
    • Having sex with a real estate agent.
    • short flies on pants.
    • Degrees of nods and hellos at a funeral.
    • Using a therapist's first name.
    • Crying volume at a funeral.
  • Dr. Templeton/Larry: "Do you like truffles?" "No, I loathe them. They're disgusting."M
  • The description on Richard's art is aces: "Art is my milk of magnesia. Society is my Ipecac."
  • Larry: "Are you vying for the title of the most pretentious man in the world?"
  • Jeff: "It looks like the Little Drummer Boy's funeral."
  • Leon: "Once I start laughing I'm a part of this shit."
  • Larry: "So the pants fit the penis from whence they came."
  • Larry: "It's very hard to extricate the penis."
  • Larry: "You're the worst usher I've ever bribed."