'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Trust your gut
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" has always been an absurd, oftentimes off-kilter comedy, but it's usually somewhat grounded in reality, constrained by the same sort of physics and rational thought as our own existence.
Not so this week, which found "Curb" leaving behind absurdity for surrealism. Over the course of 30-odd minutes, Larry David encountered more than his typical social infractions, instead venturing into a world overflowing with flashbacks, splashbacks, murder, an arrest for napkin theft, a bald police lineup, a urine-stained Jesus painting, a suicide attempt, and finally life-saving belly flab.
As Larry himself might say, it was pretty, pretty, pretty odd.
While I could see Larry hanging an episode (both figuratively and literally) off of his assistant Maureen's belly fat or both Larry and Jerry Seinfeld's reluctance to slide across the booth for Richard Lewis, the opening minutes of this week's installment gave no indications as to just how weird and twisted this misadventure would get.
One hint should have been the seriously out-of-nowhere flashback to 1962, where Maureen's mentally ill mother (who happened to also be the nanny to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' children ... don't ask) recounted how her husband, the spitting image of Larry himself, was brutally murdered in front of her after he honked at a driver. Did I mention it was on their wedding day? Putting aside that it was an odd change of pace to see Larry playing someone else, even if it was a vintage version of himself, it seemed so out of place with the naturalistic visual style of the series, which seems almost like a documentary at times.
The firehose-powerful urine stream was also a little too far out there for my liking as well. It was somewhat amusing, if bizarre, when Jerry referred to the gushing sound of Larry urinating by asking if Seabiscuit were in the bathroom with him, but the strangeness went even further when Larry accidentally splashed urine onto a painting of Jesus, leading Maureen and her mother to look upon the incident as a miracle. (They clearly didn't suspect that Jesus' tear was in fact urine. Nor did Larry think to perhaps, you know, use some toilet paper to blot it dry.) And it came back for a third off-putting time when Larry found himself locked out of his building on the studio lot and had to relieve himself on the side of the building, an act stumbled on by Maureen and her mother. Huh?
But that wasn't quite as weird as it got. What was the audience to make of Maureen's mother's efforts to run over Richard Lewis when she thought he was going to kill Larry, as a stranger had her first husband? Or that she would then try to throw herself off of Larry's office building? Or that Larry was actually arrested for taking too many napkins from an Italian restaurant? Just what dimension did we stumble into here?
The overall effect definitely reminded me of the hugely divisive series finale of "Seinfeld," which David claims to love. It took characters we knew, existing in a heightened version of reality, and pushed them into territory that lacked any connection to logic or actuality.
I normally watch "Curb" with my jaw on the ground, but it's typically because of Larry's inability to keep his mouth shut when dealing with social convention or his ability to get into hot water time and time again. Had this been an episode about Larry dealing with the unwanted sight of an assistant's bare midriff or debating the necessity of an "official callback" after a dropped call or proper restaurant booth etiquette, I would have been on board. But when an episode takes such a turn, my jaw hits the floor for a very different reason. And it will definitely take more than two napkins to clean it up.
What did you think of this week's episode? Did it go too far and cross into some truly bizarre territory? Did it remind you of the "Seinfeld" finale in a good or a bad way? Head to the comments section and debate.
-- Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)
Photo: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld engage in a friendly debate. Credit: Doug Hyun / HBO.