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'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Swan's way

November 1, 2009 |  9:35 pm

Curb09_15 In science, a black swan relates to an event that is impossible to predict because it exists outside the realm of normal expectations.

Within the off-kilter world of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," most of the consequences of Larry David's actions could be considered black swans, but never with the literal-mindedness of this week's episode, which found Larry committing involuntary manslaughter, voluntary cellphone abuse, misunderstood additional gratuities, and defensive homicide upon a prized swan with a golf club.

Unfolding with the tension of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, this week's episode focused on the catastrophic fallout from various decisions that Larry made, whether that be a benevolent gesture that goes awry or the wanton killing of a rare bird.

The Additional Gratuity. Judging from the amount of time that tipping has come up over the course of seven seasons of "Curb," it's a contentious subject to Larry David, whether it be overtipping, coordinating the tip, tipping the dining room captain, or the vagaries of the additional tip. Personally, I've never understood the concept of the additional tip, which is often confusing and misleading. In this case, Larry had already paid a mandatory 18 percent tip, so the addition of a further tip seems superfluous at best. (As for the waiter's explanations of how to calculate a 2 percent tip, he should really head back to high school math class, despite Larry's promise to protest math at the table.) I'm siding with Larry on this one. Yes, amazing service should be rewarded, but a waiter demanding an extra tip on top of the mandatory one is a little much. (As for Larry giving the waiter a $500 tip because he mistakenly believed he was being blackmailed? Chalk that one up to miscommunication.) Larry: 1. Humanity: 0.

The Verboten Cell Phone. I'm siding with the management of the club on the cellphone issue. If cellphone usage is forbidden, that rule applies to everyone, even Larry David. He'd been given numerous attempts to curtail his cellphone use in the clubhouse and kept not only leaving his phone on but also answering calls. I'm never without my mobile, but even I abide for the rules of the places I visit ... and Larry even has the gall to leave his ringer on during a memorial service. Yes, I'd say that's the final straw. Larry: 1. Humanity: 1.

The Ignored Introduction. I hate when people don't introduce strangers to me when we're in a social setting. It's rude and shows a lack of common courtesy. That said, should everyone be introduced? Even when someone comes over to a table for a few scant seconds? Hell no. Marty Funkhauser's annoyance at Larry for not introducing him to a friend from New York was a little uncalled for. It's a stalemate, this one. Larry: 1. Humanity: 1.

The Yell-Induced Heart Attack. Should you yell at someone with high blood pressure, even if they are driving you crazy by searching for an errant golf ball for 20 minutes and holding up everyone? No. But Larry didn't know that Norm had high-blood pressure and, let's be honest, Norm was yelling at Larry as much as Larry was yelling at him. While the confrontation turned nasty (Larry was, after all, still angry at Andy for ordering those "extra crispy" onions for his eggs), Larry wasn't to blame for Norm's death, as much as everyone might hold him culpable. Larry: 2. Humanity: 1.

The Massively Magnanimous Gesture. Every now and then Larry does something that manages to surprise ... in a good way. This week, he made an extremely generous offer to his cousin Andy (Richard Kind) and his wife to pay for their daughter Skyler's college education. It's the sort of generosity that someone in Larry's position can afford to make and he knew just how much saving for college was costing them. But then for Andy to ask Larry to pay for his wife to go to cosmetology school? Beyond the pale, I'm afraid. When someone gives you an unexpected gift, don't ask for another one and then throw a fit when they refuse. I'm glad Larry flat out refused Andy, especially given his wife's predilection for kooky hobbies. (Derek Jeter wouldn't be caught dead in one of those atrocious hats.) Larry: 3. Humanity: 1.

The Savage Swan. While I imagined that Larry might do something incredibly cavalier and foolish toward the swan bounding toward him, I didn't actually think he would brandish his golf club like a deadly weapon and bludgeon the bird to death. Sure, it could be viewed as an act of self-defense. But the cover-up that follows -- one that enmeshes Andy, Marty Funkhauser and Jeff -- is where Larry truly goes astray. Yes, the black swan was beloved by the club's owner, with whom Larry is already on the outs, but to bury it in a shallow grave and make the witnesses remain silent is a little much, even for Larry. Double points to humanity on this one. Larry: 3. Humanity/Swans: 3.

His act of swan slaying does come back to haunt him, of course, in the form of a newly redone headstone for his mother's grave, courtesy of the head mason whom Larry offended not once but twice. Not only is his mother's headstone not improved (the "past away" [sic] misspelling drove him batty), but he's now called out for his swan-killing ways as well.

A vendetta enacted on a headstone? That's one black swan that even Larry David couldn't see coming.

What did you think of this week's episode? Do you agree or disagree with Larry's actions? Would you leave an additional gratuity? Or murder a swan? Head to the comments section and debate.

-- Jace Lacob (follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

Related:
'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Trust your gut
Larry David talks about putting 'Seinfeld' back together for 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
Complete 'Curb' coverage on Showtracker

Photo: Larry David and Jeff (Jeff Garlin) engage in one of their usual debates. Credit: Doug Hyun / HBO.

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