Thursday, September 12, 2013

Episode 33 - The Fix-Up

The Plot:  Once again, an episode that can be summed up in one line: “My boys can swim!!!”  This episode also was the start of NBC’s crossover actor approach.  This episode features Maggie Wheeler (who was better known as the obnoxious Janice on NBC’s “Friends”) as a friend of Elaine’s.  Jerry and Elaine try to setup George and Cynthia (Wheeler) on a blind date.  George has given up on women because “it’s hard enough to find a woman I dislike, much less a woman I like.”  Cynthia has given up on men because the good one’s know their good and so they don’t want to be tied down and the mediocre ones are so insecure they act like they’re not good enough.  Cynthia is looking for someone who has nothing, because “he just has to appreciate me because he’s so desperate.”  Elaine immediately thinks of George.

In ping ponging scenes, Jerry is describing Cynthia to George, while Elaine is describing George to Cynthia.  This provides great insight into the different characteristics that are important to men and women.  George’s concerns seem centered on finding a low intellectual, but highly attractive date, while Cynthia wants to know if he has a job.  Jerry and Elaine have a “pact” that despite telling George and Cynthia that all details will be kept secret, they will tell each other all of the intimate details they get from the daters. 

 On his way out to the blind date, George is at Jerry’s when Kramer walks in with a brown paper bag filled with colored condoms that he got from Bob Sacamano. George, ever the optimist, takes one just in case.

In a split screen, George calls Jerry to tell him that the date went great and that they had sex on the floor in his kitchen.  At the same time, Cynthia calls Elaine to tell her about the kitchen sex.  Unfortunately her take on it was a little different.  “How good could it be, my head was on a hotplate.”  Despite their previous pact, when Jerry and Elaine reconnect, neither is willing to divulge even the slightest detail.  George, thinking the date went great, continues to pursue Cynthia who has now stopped taking his calls.  George and Jerry begin to argue over the way to address Cynthia’s rejection, prompting Kramer to come into the apartment and break up the fight.  On the way out, Kramer absentmindedly tells George not to use the condom he took as the whole batch was defective.  The next scene finds Cynthia telling Elaine she thinks she’s pregnant.

In one of the greatest show moments of all times, George walks into Jerry’s apartment while he and Elaine are discussing Cynthia’s possible pregnancy, and instead of freaking out, George bursts out in joy, shouting, “I did it!!  My boys can swim.”

The episode concludes with Cynthia not being pregnant, deciding that George is not such a bad date and agreeing to go out with him again.

Fun Facts:
  • The first reference to Bob Saccamano, who will become a recurring but unseen character.
  • This episode won an Emmy for Larry David for outstanding writing.
  • The first of several “Friends” crossovers.
Favorite Quote:   Once again, a couple of classics:

Jerry: How was it? What'd you talk about?
Elaine: Well, you know, the usual; The Federal Reserve, the rainforest. Cynthia thought we should nuke the rainforest, you know, get rid of it in one fell swoop so we can at least eliminate it as a subject of conversation. What about you?

Cynthia: What does he look like?
Elaine: Pardon?
Cynthia: What does he look like?
Elaine: Um, well, he's got a lot of character in his face. Um, he's short. Um, he's stocky.
Cynthia: Fat. Is that what you're saying, that he's fat?
Elaine: Powerful. He is so powerful, he can lift a hundred pounds right up over his head. And um, what else. What else. Oh, right. Um, well, he's kind of, just kind of losing his hair.
Cynthia: He's bald?
Elaine: No! No, no, no, he's not bald. He's balding.
Cynthia: So he will be bald.
Elaine: Yup.

Cynthia: Has he ever been married?
Elaine: No.
Cynthia: Has he been close?
Elaine: He once spent a weekend with a woman.

Favorite Scene:   One of the great scenes in show history.  Jerry and Elaine are arguing a discussing the fact that Cynthia might be pregnant when a stunned George stops cold in the doorway, looking at first like he might pass out:

Elaine: I knew those condoms were defective!
Jerry: How did you know they were defective?!
George walks in.
Elaine: Because! Because she missed her period!
George: She missed her period? Oh my god. I can't believe it! I'm a father! I did it! My boys can swim! I can do it! I can do it!

The Lesson:  The point of the episode from the writer’s standpoint is that the things that are important to men and women when dating are very different.  George and Cynthia are focused on completely different things when evaluating whether to accept the blind date setup.  This is also a great lesson for entrepreneurs.  So often, you are so focused on your company and the process of building it, that you become myopic in your viewpoint.  The things that are important to you about your product or service, may not be as important to your customers.  I’ve seen so many instances where a founder gets consumed with certain elements of the business, that ultimately have no bearing on consumer adoption or revenue.  Steve Jobs has taught all of us that the details in designing a product or a service are important, but they are only important if the customer thinks they are important.  Don’t sacrifice your vision for your company, but don’t be blind to the needs/interests of others, or you may find yourself as desperate as Cynthia and George.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Episode 32 - The Suicide

The Plot:  The episode begins with Elaine telling Jerry that she must fast for three days in order to get tested for ulcers.  Jerry leaves to take his trash to the garbage chute, bumps into George and then Gina, a very attractive woman who dates Jerry’s neighbor Martin (or Marteen, as she pronounces it).  Martin is clearly not pleased that Gina is talking to Jerry.

The next scene has Gina banging on Jerry’s apartment door asking for help because Martin has tried to commit suicide.  Martin was so upset that Gina was dumping him and he believed Jerry has something to do with it.  When Jerry goes to visit Martin in the hospital, Gina comes onto him, urging Jerry to kiss her in front of Martin while he’s in a coma.

In an alternate storyline, George (who is still unemployed) is going on a vacation to the Cayman Islands, using a non-refundable super-saver ticket.  Elaine convinces George to go see a psychic before the trip and she warns him not to take the vacation, but it interrupted by Elaine who criticizes her for smoking while pregnant.  The psychic throws them out without ever telling George why he shouldn’t go on the trip.

Jerry becomes worried when Newman sees him with Gina. Later, in the comatose Martin's hospital room, Newman hints to Jerry that he will tell Martin what's been going on with Jerry and Gina, while Kramer is in there to tell Martin to give him back his vacuum cleaner. Jerry attempts to buy Newman off with the extra Drake's coffee cake that he has; however, Elaine (now starving without food) takes it and devours it before he can even eat it. Meanwhile, George finds Rula the psychic in another hospital room as she is going into labor. He tries to discover from her the reason why he shouldn't go to the Caymans; however, she is taken away to give birth before she can divulge it. Amidst all the commotion Martin awakens from his coma and Newman promptly tells him everything, resulting in Jerry being choked.


While in the Caymans, Kramer played nude backgammon with Elle Macpherson, one of the models who was there for a shooting of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. Upon his return he explains to George that he was mildly stung on the foot by a jellyfish, and theorizes that this is why the psychic didn't want George to go on the trip. George sarcastically agrees. George and Jerry leave to have dinner with Elaine (who had to reschedule her appointment) while Kramer rushes back to call Elle.

Fun Facts:

  • Once again, George is concerned that he might contract Lupus, and asks the psychic if this is why he shouldn’t go.  This seems to be the go to disease for George.
  • This is the first episode in which we see Newman.  It also prompts the very first “Hello…Newman”
  • Jason Alexander’s mother makes a cameo appearance playing a woman sitting next to Elaine on a bench. 

Favorite Quote:   Once again, a couple of classics:

George: Hey, I’m all set. I got the ticket. I’m going to the Cayman Islands this Friday.
Jerry: I don’t get you. Who goes on vacation without a job? What, do you need a break from getting up at 11:00?
George: It’s an incredible deal. I don’t know why you don’t come with me.
Jerry: Nah, I don’t go for these non-refundable deals. I can’t commit to a woman. I’m not going to commit to an airline.

Jerry: I didn’t know what the coma etiquette was.
Kramer: There is no coma etiquette. You see that’s the beauty of the coma, man. It doesn’t matter what you do around it.
Jerry: So you’re saying, his girl, his car, his clothes, it’s all up for grabs. You can just loot the coma victim.
Kramer: I’d give him 24 hours to get out of it. They can’t get out of it in 24 hours, it’s a land rush.
Jerry: So if the coma victim wakes up in a month, he’s thrilled, he got out of the coma. He goes home, there’s nothing left?
Kramer: NOTHING LEFT! That’s why I’m trying to get that vacuum cleaner. Because somebody’s going to grab it.

Kramer: So what’s going on between you and Gina?
Jerry: Well, I went with her to the hospital last night.
Kramer: Uh, uh.
Jerry: So we’re in the room and she’s trying to get me to kiss her right in front of him.
Kramer: Uh, uh, you see that’s the great thing about Mediterranean women. All right, so what did you do?
Jerry: Nothing.
Kramer: Ah, what kind of a man are you? The guy is unconscious in a coma and you don’t have the guts to kiss his girlfriend?

Favorite Scene:   When Gina wakes Jerry after Martin tried to kill himself, he scrambles back and forth over changing his clothes:

Gina: It’s Martine. I think he’s dying. He tried to kill himself with pills.
Jerry: What?
Gina: Come on.
Jerry: In my pajamas? I better get my robe.
Gina: We don’t have enough time.
Jerry: It’ll take two seconds.
Gina: There is no time.
Jerry: We don’t have two seconds?
Gina: All right. Go ahead.
Jerry: Nah, forget it.
Gina: No, go ahead.
Jerry: Nah. I’ll just wear the pajamas.
Gina: Will you just get it.
Jerry: Are you sure?
Gina: Forget it. Come on.
Jerry: Nah, I’ll go get the robe.

The Lesson:  I wish I hadn’t used the lesson from Episode 17 – The Busboy (Things are never as good or as bad as they seem at the time), because that applies so well here.  But since I’m trying to find a unique lesson in every episode, I’ll just go with “make sure you know the whole story before you make a decision.”  Entrepreneurs live in a rapid fire world where they do not have the time to “study” every issue before needing to make a decision.  Hopefully, you have a core set of principles that guide your decision making process and you are not subject to the actions of others.  Yet, sometimes you are forced to react to a set of actions or circumstances that dictate a certain direction for your company.  In such case, make sure you are operating with a complete set of facts.  In The Suicide, George decides not to go on vacation because something bad is going to happen, but he does not know the extent of the “bad”.  Before pulling the plug on some aspect of your business (or your vacation) make sure you know why you are pulling the plug and make sure you know the whole story.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Episode 31 - The Pez Dispenser

The Plot:  Another episode with several unrelated plotlines that tries to tie everything together at the end.  Feels a little forced this time. 

It begins with George astounded that he is dating a classical pianist, Noel.  He can’t believe his good fortune to have met a woman as attractive and talented.  He is thrilled with dating her, but a little frightened as well.  Since she is so far out of his league, she has the upper hand in the relationship.  In fact, not only does George not have the upper hand, he “has no hand at all.”  He invites Jerry and Elaine to one of her piano recitals, believing that if Noel sees him with his friends, he will look more popular and somehow at least become equal to her.

On his way out the door to the concert, Jerry shows Kramer a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser he got at a flea market and brings it with him to the showIn the middle of the concert, Jerry puts the Pez dispenser on Elaine's leg and she begins to burst out laughing. Noel keeps on playing and many people shush Elaine, but she can't stop laughing and is forced to step outside.

While out in the lobby, Elaine runs into an old friend who tells her that another old high school friend, Richie, is now a comedian but is "kinda messed up" on drugs and will not listen to anyone to stop.  The only person he will listen to is Jerry, whom he admires. They concoct a plan to have an intervention at Jerry's house with a whole bunch of old school friends there as well.

When Elaine goes backstage to meet up with Jerry and George after the recital, Noel is humiliated.  She can’t believe someone was laughing at her playing.  While unaware that it was Elaine, she vows that she will never forget the sound of that laugh.

As George realizes that his plan to gain some hand has backfired, Kramer inspires him to break up with Noel, and when she begs him to take her back, he will have the upper hand.  Initially Kramer’s plan works to perfection.  The two meet at Monk's and Noel actually says she'll do anything to get back together with him

Meanwhile, Kramer joins the Polar Bears, a group of swimmers who swim in the winter.  Inspired by the brisk dips in the ocean, Kramer comes up with an idea for a cologne that smells like you just came from the beach.  He pitches the idea to an exec at Calvin Klein who tells him he’s crazy and throws him out of the office.

The final scene occurs in Jerry’s apartment where the intervention is getting startedKramer attends and  brings his Polar Bear friends and then George and Noel come unexpectedly. At the intervention, Noel realizes that Elaine is the one who laughed at her recital. As a result, Noel dumps George.

When Richie comes, he simply asks "What's going on?" and the screen fades to black. In the end credits, Jerry tells George that Richie now is doing great in rehab, but is now addicted to Pez   

Fun Facts:
  • This was the first reference to “The Beach”, Kramer’s ocean inspired cologne.
  • Noel’s recital is at the McBierney School, a reference to the McBurney School in Manhattan that counts Henry Winkler and Ted Koopel among its famous alumni.
  • The friend that tells Elaine about Richie’s drug problem is John Mollica.  He was named after a filmmaker friend of Larry David.

Favorite Quote:   Kramer at Calvin Klein:

Kramer: Go ahead smell, smell
Steve: Yeah, so?
Kramer: Do you recognize it? ... The beach.
Steve: What are you talking about?
Kramer: Oh, I'm talking about the beach.
Steve: What about it?
Kramer: You know the way you smell when you first come home from the beach?  Well, I want to make a cologne that captures the essence of that smell.  Oh yeah.
Steve: That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.
Kramer: Oh, wait, Did you hear what I just said?
Steve: Do you think people are going to pay $80 a bottle to smell like dead fish and sea weed? That's why people take showers when the come home from the beach. It's an objectionable offensive odor.
Kramer: So you don't think it's a good idea?

Favorite Scene:   After hearing Elaine’s laugh at the intervention, Noel knows it was her and she now breaks up with George: 

Noel: You lied to me George, you lied to me.
George: No, I, uh, um, wa, wa, What did I do? ... Where are you going?
Noel: I ... am breaking up ... with you!
George: You can't break up with me. I've got hand.
Noel: And you're going to need it.

The Lesson:  The lesson from this episode is all about hand.  While George’s concern that he has no hand is quite juvenile in his personal relationship, a little hand is extremely important for entrepreneurs.  Startups face extreme pressure from countless directions.  Your early investors are trying to squeeze you on valuation and their equity for their investment.  Your early customers are squeezing you trying to get guarantees that you can deliver on the product/service that they are paying for.  Your early vendors are trying to squeeze you on a guaranty that they will get paid for the work they are performing.  All of these take a little chunk out of the company.  If you do not have some sort of leverage, (a highly scalable company that can produce significant returns in a relatively short period of time; a cash rich bank account that can support your personal guaranties; tremendous good will) you will end up giving away much more of your company or profit margin than necessary.  In the early stages of your company, it is important to use whatever assets/advantages you have to gain as much hand as possible.