The Plot: I’m doing these one at a time, so I guess I should be a little more conservative when I throw around the “classic episode” or ‘iconic episode” tags, as I constantly forget how great the “next” installment is while writing about the current one. That being said, this is truly one of the special episodes that explored areas rarely touched by network television up to that point.
As they are watching TV in , and flip through the channels, stumbling upon the soft-core pornography channel. Upon the realization that neither of them has had sex in awhile they start toying with the idea of sleeping together. They refer to their friendship as "this" and sex as "that". However, as they do not wish to ruin their friendship, they establish a set of ground rules.
Rule #1: No calls the day after “that”.
Rule #2: Spending the night after “that” is optional.
Happy with their agreement, they make their way to the bedroom. The next day, Jerry has lunch with , and makes him aware of his situation with Elaine, causing George to almost pass out. George requests details prompting Jerry to discover that “It pains me to say this, but I may be getting too mature for details.” After coaxing him into a full disclosure, George remains skeptical, even after Jerry explains the rules system to him. He is proven right when Jerry and Elaine get into an argument over the second rule: "spending the night." Elaine believes that the option of spending the night is granted to the owner of the apartment where they are. It is her apartment, so she gets the option of having Jerry spend the night. Jerry eventually bails, leaving their agreement on shaky terms.
With Elaine's birthday coming up Jerry has to decide on what to get her. Since they are not in a relationship but they are still having sex he feels that the symbolism of the gift needs to be carefully thought out. “I have to be very careful here. I don’t want to send the wrong message…Whatever I give her, she’s going to be bringing in experts from all over the country to interpret the meaning behind it.”
He looks for a gift with George but is unable to think of anything, though he vaguely remembers her saying "something about a bench". Elaine is unhappy with the eventual gift: $182 in cash. When gives Elaine the bench she was looking for, for which she is much more grateful, she and Jerry talk over their agreement. They decide to start dating; when Kramer sees them again and asks what they are up to, Jerry notes that they now do "this, that and the other", "the other" being their newly reformed intimate relationship.
- This episode is the first time we ever see Elaine’s nutty roommate Tina.
- At the end of the episode, Kramer remarks that he liked Jerry & Elaine better as friends than as a couple. This was Larry David’s subtle shot at NBC brass who kept pressuring David to write the script with Jerry & Elaine as a couple. David added the last line to protest NBC’s meddling with his show.
- Larry David often bragged that this was the only episode of the show to ever contain sincere emotions. The disappointment both Elaine and Jerry show when discussing the possible end of their friendship was real.
George: Sure, all right. Tell me the rules.
Jerry: Okay. No calls the next day.
George: So you're having sex, next day you don't have to call. That's pretty good. Go ahead.
Jerry: You ready for the second one?
George: I have tell you, I'm pretty impressed with the first one.
Favorite Scene: The scene where Jerry informs George that he slept with Elaine is one of the greatest scenes in show history. It rolls from one hilarious George line to another.
George: You ask me to have lunch, tell me you slept with Elaine, and then say you're not in the mood for details. Now you listen to me. I want details and I want them right now. I don't have a job, I have no place to go. You're not in the mood? Well you get in the mood!
Jerry: So she's flipping around the TV, and she gets to the naked station.
George: Oh, see? that's why I don't have in my house. Because of that naked station. If I had that in my house, I would never turn it off. I wouldn't sleep, I wouldn't eat. Eventually, firemen would have to break through the door, they'd find me sitting there in my pajamas with drool coming down my face. All right, all right. So you're watching the naked station.
Jerry: Well, we've tried to arrange a situation where we'll be able to do this once in a while and still be friends.
George: Where are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet? It's impossible. It can't be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can't be done.
Jerry: I think we've worked out a system.
George: Oh, you know what you're like? You're like a pathetic gambler. You're one of those losers in Las Vegas who keeps thinking he's gonna come up with a way to win at blackjack.
The Lesson: There are so many lessons to be found in this episode, I’m afraid I may use up a lot of good ones that I will need later, but here goes nothing. The first rule is an obvious one, be careful who you climb into bed with. Startups are often presented a number of opportunities from potential investors, vendors, licensors and partners. All of them may provide some short term pleasure for your business, but it is important that you get to know the people you will ultimately rely on. As they hold the key to your success, and if you are not comfortable with the rules of the relationship, things can disintegrate pretty quickly.
Equally important, is the rule of managing expectations. Even the clearest words communicated to one another may evoke a different set of expectations in the minds of the speaker and the recipient. “Spending the night is optional” is a pretty clear set of rules, until you have to decide who holds the option. In business, it is not enough just to have a very neat and clean contract. Business relationships fall apart all the time because one party had a different set of expectations as to what the contract actually required. It is imperative when discussing matters with your partners, your vendors, your investors and others, that you make sure that each of you understands exactly what is expected of all parties involved and you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you.
Finally, it’s worth noting that sex is a little like a business in that it can ruin an otherwise good friendship. Just as it is dangerous for good friends to have sex since it fundamentally changes the way each person looks at the other, it can be equally dangerous for friends to go into business together. Many a great friendship has been destroyed by partnering on a startup, only to find out that each person had a fundamentally different understanding of what the business would be and each of their responsibilities to that company.
Given so much good information packed into one show, I reserve the option to recycle any of these lessons at a later date if I need them. And to be clear, the option is MINE.