The Plot: Officially titled “The Phone Message” most people remember this episode for the Cotton Dockers reference. In an odd moment for the show (and one noted by George), both he and Jerry have girlfriends at the same time. Early in this episode, Jerry and his date, Donna, are at Jerry’s apartment, when he tells her about his hatred of the television commercial for Cotton Dockers. Donna actually likes the commercial, causing Jerry to question how he could be attracted to someone who likes that ad. The relationship ends when George and Kramer both mention the Docker’s commercial to her face.
This is secondary to George, who bungles his date with Carol to the point that later in the episode, he is drinking Pepto Bismal out of a brown paper bag. At the end of his evening with Carol, she invites him up to her place for “coffee”. George declines because it is late and coffee keeps him up. Only after she has left his car does George realize that coffee was just a euphemism for sex. His boneheaded rejection of her proposition has caused him so much anxiety that he attempts to phone her and apologize. After getting her answering machine on multiple calls and getting no reply, as George describes it, “Yesterday, I’m a volcano – I try one more call, the machine comes on, and I let it fly like Mussolini from the balcony.” George unleashes a flurry of four letter words on the machine, only to find out that Carol has been out of town and not gotten any of his messages. So he and Jerry devise a plan to stand outside of her apartment until she comes home that night and then when they all go up together, George will distract her while Jerry replaces the cassette tape in her answering machine, thus erasing all of his idiotic messages (so the technology is a little dated. Trust me, in 1991, this was state of the art). Going through all of the trouble to pull off this switch, the episode ends with Carol telling George that she listened to his messages remotely and thought he was hilarious.
- This was a replacement episode, written in two days by Seinfeld and Larry David after the script for the scheduled episode was deemed to dark and not funny during rehearsal.
- The original script called for Kramer to reveal his first name, but it was removed and became a storyline of its own several seasons later.
- Larry David had first written the concept of switching tapes on an answering machine for a Saturday Night Live skit that never made it to the air.
George: She invited me up. Coffee's not coffee, coffee is sex.
Elaine: Maybe coffee was coffee.
George: Coffee's coffee in the morning, it's not coffee at twelve o clock at night.
Elaine: Well some people drink coffee that late.
George: Yeah, people who work at NORAD, who're on twenty-four hour missile watch.
Favorite Scene: Jerry’s utter disgust when describing his hatred for Cotton Dockers. “Yeah, those guys are so funny and comfortable with each other. I could be comfortable too if I had pants like that…I mean all those quick shots of the pants. Pants, pants, pants, pants, pants, pants, what is that supposed to be.”
The Lesson: There were so many little lessons for entrepreneurs in this episode, yet no large overriding theme, it was difficult to pick just one. In my opinion, the most compelling lesson comes not from a main character, but a bit player. Carol’s failure to return George’s phone calls leads to an escalating sense of anger on George’s part. Every message that goes unreturned, causes him to seethe with rage. It doesn’t matter if his anger is justified. Ignoring his outreach results in irrational fury. Most entrepreneurs are overworked. They have too much to do and not enough time to get to even the most fundamental aspects of their business. This often causes them to be delinquent in responding to phone calls, emails or other correspondence. And yet this failure to respond, even if justified, can cause the other party significant angst. Sometimes, that can lead to lost opportunities. It is amazing how a simple call back or email reply can not only establish solid interpersonal relationships, but can open up opportunities that you might never have anticipated. The lesson: Pick up the phone and call people back. It’s not that hard.