Jeff Garlin and Larry David
Curb's last episode of the second season, "The Massage" tests the strengths of Larry's relationships with his wife (Cheryl), his manager (Jeff), his co-worker (Julia) and his employers (network executives). Will Larry pick and choose what's important and save something? Or blow the whole thing in a series of bad choices? I think you already know the answers, as it IS Curb Your Enthusiasm we're talking about here...
Ahhh the Season Finale. A lot is expected of a Season Finale, especially if it's a comedy. There are overall story arcs to wrap up, there are jokes to tag-back to from earlier in the season, and there are cliff hangers to leave for the new season. I'm happy to say Curb hit all these things and wrapped up Season 2 nicely.
First, the story season arc: Larry convinces Julia Louis-Dreyfus to stick with the "Aren't You Evelyn" show pitch. Since this season began, Larry's been trying to get a new show off the ground first with Jason Alexander, then with Julia, and he's screwed up with both HBO (by claiming the President stole his shrimp) and with ABC (by making them think he's a misogynist and someone who shouldn't be left with children). So though he's managed to burn the bridges of HBO and ABC (he won't pitch to FOX, he doesn't like their politics), he's still got CBS to go to. Remember this is pre-Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Burn Notice, Dexter and Rescue Me so the thought of pitching to anybody other than the big four just wasn't there. Or Larry hates non-pay cable.
The episode isn't without its new items, for instance Larry introduces a new term: the "stop and chat." He doesn't like to do it. He's not good with banter and innocent conversation. It's just one more of life's little things that the rest of the world knows is a bit of a polite necessity in civilized society but Larry doesn't buy into. Do you buy into the "stop and chat" or pull an LD? I waffle somewhere in the middle and will continue walking with a shout of "I gotta run, but I'll talk to you later!" if I don't particularly feel the need for a "stop and chat." As always, Larry handled it poorly by just waving and not giving an excuse to not stop. What do you think? How should he have handled it?
Jeff, the manager with the worst advice, tells Larry to see his masseuse who (unbeknownst to Larry) gives 'happy endings' to her clients. It's a tribute to Larry's faithfulness to Cheryl that he stops her from --er 'finishing the massage,' but it's a testament to his bad choices that he doesn't tell her. Oh Larry, so consistent in character, so hopeless in decision making.
Cheryl, who always seems to think of Larry first, decides to take him out to dinner in a limo at the W Hotel restaurant to celebrate his CBS pitch. Larry demonstrates his ability to think of everyone but himself and Cheryl by fixating on the limo driver's happiness. Sure, we all know that Larry used to be a limo driver (in real-life and in Curb mythology) so maybe he's a bit more sympathetic to a driver's needs. But the amount of attention he heaps on this man borders on sad. He's worried that he'll be bored. He's worried that he'll be hungry. He's worried he won't have a fork. So he borrows one from the restaurant and gets caught stealing.
In court, Larry tries to play the "Hey, I'm Jewish too" card to Justice Katz, but it doesn't work. The Judge knows that a fine won't mean anything to the man who's got a lot of post-Seinfeld dough to play with so he enforces some 'Scarlett Letter' punishment to make sure he'll never do it again.
The last shot of the finale shows Larry outside of the W Hotel wearing a sandwich board that reads, "I Steal Forks From Restaurants." It's a great sight gag and I wonder if Larry came up with more extreme versions of his on-screen punishment. He could have been in medieval stocks parked with a necklace of silverware around his neck. Or maybe a caning using a plastic Spork? The possibilities are numerous, but the sandwich board surely worked. The insult to the injury (that Curb so often specializes in) is that that particular night happens to be a 'Network Symposium' so Larry gets to stand there as each network exec that he's met with over the season gets out of a stretch limo and awkwardly walks past him. This 'Parade of Shame' is a great way to remind viewers of jokes and situations from earlier in the season and still offer some closure on this season of Curb.
Larry shouts out apologies to each set of execs as they head up the stairs.
HBO: "I didn't beat my wife!" "How's the shrimp Alan? You enjoyin' the shrimp?"
ABC: "That was a water bottle in my pants! Water bottle!"
CBS: "I was trying to help a driver, a working man so he wouldn't have to eat with his hands."
As for a cliff hanger, we're left with these questions: who will Larry pitch to now that he's managed to alienate himself from all the nets that would have him? Will this show idea still be a go at all? Will he have to start from scratch with a new member of the Seinfeld crew? I, personally, can't wait to see what's in store for Mr. David and friends in Season 3.