Episode Recap: "The Pants Tent"
Season 1, Episode 1 - "The Pants Tents" - Larry David
What do a 5 inch bunch-up of fabric, lies, deceit, improper speakerphone etiquette and more than a few references to Nazi Germany have in common? Nothing. And everything. Welcome to Larry David's post-Seinfeld exercise in neuroses Curb Your Enthusiasm. Episode 1: "The Pants Tent."
Larry David. Co-creator of Seinfeld one of the most popular shows in the history of American television. After a two year retirement he decides to return to the format that made him rich and famous. What do you suppose the first image of his new HBO program is --the very FIRST thing you see? It's Larry David... squeezing the fabric in his groin.
It starts off innocently enough... well, at least after the groin thing. Larry's distressed about his pants that seem to have a "5 inch fabric bunch-up" every time he sits. He calls his wife Cheryl over and demonstrates the inflated fabric by pushing down on it a number of times. The subject changes and Larry brings up going to see the new Dustin Hoffman movie, Hard Nut to Crack. (Even with a title like that, it still sounds like a better watch than Ishtar.)
Cheryl suggests going alone, but he tries calling buddy Richard Lewis. Richard, although going to the same film, is going with a date so he declines. Larry can't process this and Cheryl tries to educate him on what is polite in society-- basically: no you can't go out with Richard when he's on a date. Cheryl's friend Nancy calls and, to Larry's dismay, she volunteers Larry to go and see the movie with her.
On the way there, Larry dials up Jeff (Garlin) on his speakerphone and starts talking freely until this exchange:
Larry: "My wife tells her friend that I'm looking for someone to go to the movies with, so now I'm going to the movies with my wife's friend who I find really annoying."
Jeff: "Forget about all that... you wanna play golf this weekend?"
Larry: "I don't know, I have to ask Hitler."
Larry hears shouts of indignation at his Hitler reference (the 1st of many Nazi Germany references in this episode) and Jeff explains his parents are in the car. Larry gets livid that Jeff would put him on speakerphone and not let him know that it isn't a private conversation.
As someone who has had this happen to him, I can say that I completely understand Larry getting angry. Now... I didn't drop a Hitler reference in front of my friends' Jewish parents or anything. Mine was much more innocent, I just spoiled a movie twist for someone. But, hey, if you don't let me know someone is in the car, how am I supposed to know, right? And, really, what's the statute of limitations on movie spoilers? 1 week? 1 month? What do you guys think?
Anyway, at the theatre, Larry tries to get by the woman with the plunging neckline in the aisle seat who isn't getting out of his way and an argument ensues. She accuses him of looking at her breasts, and he emphatically states that she can move her feet. In a fantastic line I'm sure he cultivated from his years doing stand-up, Larry says "You wear that dress because you want people to look at your shoes, right?" After sharing a 'can you believe the nerve' moment with Cheryl's friend, she notices his 'pants tent' and looks away awkwardly. Larry's gaze drifts over to Little Miss Can't-Get-Out-of-the-Way and who plunks down in the seat next to her? Richard Lewis. Richard plants a kiss on the woman, notices Larry and gives a wave.
Outside, Richard introduces Larry to his girlfriend and the two share a forced smile. Richard invites them out for a cappuccino --on him-- and after Larry repeatedly tries to dodge the invite it prompts Lewis to drop an obscure reference (and our second Nazi reference) "I get the distinct feeling, I'm like Himmler's ghost." (Heinrich Himmler was Hitler's #2 guy. Needless to say he, or his ghost, wouldn't be invited to too many tea parties.)
Larry gets back home and explains to Cheryl that he thinks her friend saw his 'pants tent' and thinks he was aroused. They inspect the evidence again, making his pants flare up with fabric. Oh, and he explains that they're not going out to dinner with Richard Lewis because he got into a fight with his girlfriend. Cheryl rubs her head and says Jeff called and said he's "sorry." She wants to know what happened. Larry lies and says he can't remember.
The next day, in Jeff's office, Larry says it was uncool to leave that apology message for Cheryl to hear because now she's going to push him as to why he would apologize. Jeff's a bit distracted and reveals he's writing Kathy Griffin an apology letter. In a three line exchange that speaks volumes as to what celebrity managers have to endure, Larry asks "Why what'd she do?"
Jeff: "We did nothing to each other, but every week I wind up writing her an apology letter."
Larry: "What a job you have."
Larry comes up with the harebrained scheme, rather than tell Cheryl the truth (that he called her Hitler in front of Jeff's parents on the speakerphone) why doesn't Larry tell Cheryl that Kathy Griffin wanted Larry to write a pilot for her but Jeff declined without consulting Larry first and THAT'S why Jeff called to apologize. They both agree on the story. It's a perfect lie. What could go wrong?
Anyone else remember that commercial from the 80s by the Church of Latter Day Saints where there's a whole song and dance number with lyrics like "If you tell one lie, it leads to another... then you tell two lies, to cover up each other..." This could be the theme song for this episode.
Jeff admits to Larry that they have a gay cousin who escaped Nazi Germany and his parents are very sensitive to it and that's why they were so offended in the car. He asks Larry to please come by the house and apologize to them.
Back at his office, Larry calls Cheryl back and tells the lie about Kathy Griffin and the pilot. As he's hanging up, Richard Lewis shows up stern-faced and they have it out.
Richard: "You looked at her breasts!"
Larry: "They're not breasts they're big chemical balls!"
It gets worse from there with Richard storming off saying "You better apologize [to her] by sundown!"
Larry: "By sundown? Why is the posse gonna come get me?"
With Larry's day getting booked up with apologies, he heads to Jeff's house to apologize to his parents. He does so, in his Larry way, and they accept. Everything seems fine until Jeff's wife runs in and says they all should come see how cute the baby is and Larry tells Jeff he doesn't really need to see the baby and slips out.
Larry saunters in the front door of his own home to encounter Cheryl and Nancy hashing out the other evening's events. Nancy says she understands as she was rubbing his arm and he got aroused. The arm-rubbing is news to Cheryl (and you, dear readers, as I don't think I mentioned it above) so now Cheryl's upset. Nancy insists he was aroused, Larry insists he wasn't, Cheryl insists it was pants and it all ends with Nancy storming out insisting Larry was -ahem- excited.
That night, Cheryl and Larry show up for dinner and bump into Jeff and his parents who are less than pleased to see him... again. Jeff pulls Larry aside and tells him that his parents are upset because Larry didn't come see the baby.
At the hostess station of the restaurant, Larry's reservation is for four but they're only a party of two now because he told Richard he wasn't going to dinner. It seems like an SAT word problem: Larry and Cheryl were a party of four, but now are a two. They can't be sat a four and take two settings away. But it's an hour and a half wait for a two. How many hors d'oeuvres can they fit in a truck traveling at 55 mph? Restaurant math aside, Jeff steps in to save the day by telling them to come sit with them.
After what I'm sure felt like weeks of awkward conversation at the table:
Jeff: "Get the whitefish dad."
Jeff's Dad: "I'm going to have the Fish Frenzy."
Jeff: "Where do you see that?"
Jeff's Mom: "Well I'm having whitefish."
Jeff: "Get whatever you want mom."
Over his shoulder, Larry sees Richard Lewis and his girlfriend being seated. His face sells it: Perfect. What ELSE can go wrong? Enter: Kathy Griffin. She strolls up and asks Larry if he'll write something for her. Larry keeps trying to cut her off saying he knows about it to which she asks "How do you know?" As Cheryl's "explain yourself" stare slowly cranks to 11, Larry can't bring himself to look at her. They sit for a beat in silence: he-- caught, she-- staring daggers. Cut to black.
Welcome back to TV, Larry David.
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