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'Curb Your Enthusiasm': Swan's way

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)

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

Comments () | Archives (11)

This entire season has the look of slapdash to it, as if Larry is sorry he committed to a 7th season, what with his own divorce, and is running thru it without as much thought as usual, following a formula Seinfeld was rarely seen following as obviously. Scenes seem edited in a rush, episodes compressed, not leisurely as usual, as if Larry wasn't as interested in spending the time ad libbing scenes to flesh them out, but hurried, almost to get them over with and keep the show moving at a more relatively frenzied pace.

Not that there aren't a good assortment of laughs, tho unfortunately some of them we see coming, or know that they're building if not knowing exactly what they will build to, without the brilliant surprise that usually makes Curb funnier than Seinfeld was.

I have a few pages of plots for story arcs i came up with as a personal challenge, inspired by Larry and his aversion to coming up with story ideas. Maybe i can find out if they'd inspire him? Unashamedly ~~

Re: Larry v Swan: A swan is easily capable of breaking ones arm or leg with it's wings, so I would probablr have done what Larry did in that situation.

This episode is a massive improvement from the previous episode. And no, I couldn't care less if he offended God or Jesus. Seinfeld finale-style absurdities ruin episodes.

RE: Native Angeleno

Obviously you haven't watch enough Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes to know how Larry David feels about sharing ideas.

This weeks episode was great. I believe the killing of the swan was self defense. The leaving gratuity part was great, being that it's true. The only thing the show lacks is a third wheel. Somebody to really take sides, just so it's not always Larry against the rest of the cast. Granted there are times where somebody agrees with him, but they don't support him with actions.

I did not care for this weeks episode. Not funny.

This episode was a much needed improvement from last weeks funny but absurd episode.

I disagree that this season has been weak. The only episodes I've been disappointed with are The Bare Midriff and The Hot Towel. They were funny, but just so much more slapstick and unrealistic than the usual brilliant Curb.

The Black Swan brought back some of that reality. Not that it was such a realistic and grounded episode, but it had a realistic foundation to build off of.

Overall, it was probably one of the strongest of the season.

The reason I watch Curb every week is because almost everything that Larry does in the show would be probably something that I would do in my life.
I don't know if something is wrong with the rest of the world or if I'm some sort of sociopath but Larry David is the first and only character that I could relate to on television. (Minus the millions of dollars of course)

you kind of messed up on the 'black swan' in science narrative there. it comes from the idea that previously, people had observed that all swans were white, therefore they deduced that all swans are white. but when they discovered a black swan (as in Australia for example), it demonstrated that observation, or induction, was not a logically sound way of deducing facts.


Taleb coined the phrase Black Swan Events for those events described above. He was referencing the narrative that you yourself draw allusion to. But when used to relate to extremely unlikely and highly improbable events, the term applies.

This whole season has been a disappointment. I think the structure of the show changed too dramatically with the removal of Cheryl. Almost every episode from year 1-6 usually had a start place with Cheryl and Larry at their home at some point in the 30 minutes as the balancing foundation of the show. Cheryl was the perfect balance to the show. Now there is no foundation--no starting point but rather just scenes thrown together that have had 30% of the usual quality humor and much more vitriol. I didn' t care for the blood scene at all last week--a take off of a scene from season 4[I think] but what is funny about a man bashing someone's brain in? It's funny when they pick up a tire iron to see him showing his Holter monitor--that's funny but the blood and violent death is offensive at best. If this was season one there would not have been season 2 and while I would hate to think this is the end of the show--and man it would be a tough way to go out--maybe it's for the best. Maybe --unlike the Seinfeld show the season finale will be funny.
Overall--atleast to me Curb was the funniest show I have seen in my 40 years--along with Seinfeld. Let's be honest there has only been a few comedies worth mentioning over the last twenty five years and LD was responsible for the top 2. Are you my Caucasian???

I loved the way they filmed the swan attack scene...with Larry seeing his head pop over the hill and then start to slowly wander down and then pick up speed for the attack and Larry raising his voice as he got closer: "hey. Hey. Hey! HEY. HEY!!!"


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