Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm courtesy HBO
'Fess up, fellow Curb Your Enthusiasm fans. Your first response to Sunday night's pivotal episode was: What took her so long?

When Cheryl left the TV version of Larry David in this blisteringly funny episode (reflecting, though one has to imagine far more humorously, the recent real-life split of Larry and wife Laurie David), you've got to admit that you've often wondered, as most of their acquaintances have, why she ever stayed with this misanthropic, myopically self-obsessed, shriekingly miserable kvetch-aholic.

It took a turbulent plane flight for long-suffering Cheryl to wake up to the unnecessary turbulence in her domestic life. In a scene I've seen in promos since before the season began, but without a hint at the repercussions, Cheryl has the misfortune of calling Larry from her terrifying flight, to pass on some petrified final thoughts of love and whatnot, only to be hung up on by her distracted mate because he's too busy with the TiVo repairman (an incompetent one, as it climactically and inevitably turns out). Back on terra firma, a firm Cheryl packs her bags, telling Larry she's fed up with defending him every time she's asked, "How do you stay with him?"

"Not everyone's like you. There are normal people out there," she says, as if that's a revelation. And with that, she's gone - and, as usual, Cheryl Hines nails her scenes with graceful, subtle aplomb.

The rest of this uproarious episode finds Larry lost in a world without Cheryl, while asking us to consider who would rightfully get the friends in the choosing of sides that will follow. Anyone surprised that Larry gets the short end? He goes for solace to (where else) Jeff's house, where Jeff and Susie are having the Funkhousers over for dinner. Susie initially shows unusual sympathy for the man who is the bane of her existence, but soon enough, after Larry gripes about the "small plate" on which she serves him dinner (a classic Davidian detour) and then fights with her for trying to answer the phone during dinner (a Greene no-no), Susie finally barks: "You weren't invited. Go eat somewhere else!" Susie Essman is always both a figurative and literal scream.

And while everyone at the Greenes' promises to stick by Larry, as the episode unravels (with an eclectic array of plot points that includes a $10,000 loan to Diedrich Bader as Simon, an impulsive date with Lucy Lawless - Larry's new pickup line is "I'm not a cool guy" - and much ado about No-Fly-Zone underwear) it becomes clear that Larry's loyalists are going to be far and few between. Even the maid picks Cheryl. And honestly, who can blame her?

Beyond the weirdly voyeuristic meta vibe of this comedy-reflects-life storyline, this episode puts us in the bizarre position of feeling sorry for Larry while he continues to behave in such inexcusable ways that you also can't help laughing at his comeuppance time and again. When he confronts Cheryl at home and says he needs to talk to her about something, you don't really expect it to be a tender moment. But when it turns out that he's merely asking her to call a restaurant to confirm that she left him, which was his excuse for canceling a reservation, she is as unamused as we are tickled that lonely Larry is still an appallingly funny Larry.

There is one scene, however, in which Larry is our hero. He sits in a restaurant alone, next to another solo diner who is talking loudly into his Bluetooth headset. To irk this jerk, Larry starts chatting up an imaginary companion even more loudly, and when the irate stranger tries defending his own behavior for at the very least not being insane, Larry smiles and shrugs, "To an outside person, it's the same level of annoyance."

Larry, as we all know, is an expert on annoyance. This week, his annoying ways cost him dearly. Will this separation last? At this point, we don't know. But while nearly everyone Larry knows has picked Cheryl, for now I'm sticking with Larry, at least until the end of the season.