Sunday, November 30, 2008

"It's been a week, it's up to the cat now": Seinfeld Series 2, Episode 3

The Busboy is another of my early Seinfeld favourites, giving us the opportunity to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus's capacity for physical comedy, and the developing the awkward relationship between Kramer and George.

Food is one of the recurring themes in this episode, with Jerry's first stand up deriding contemporary culture's obsession with food and foodie culture.

Nice too, is the opening scene with Jerry, George and Elaine eating out at the restaurant. George is lamenting his poor choice of pesto, "why do I get pesto?", "where was pesto 10 years ago?" - yes, good question George. I have always found pesto an unsatisfactory meal. Here the Elaine storyline for the episode is also introduced. She's borrowing Jerry's car to pick up her new flame, Ed from Seattle, at the airport.

Jerry: Everyone's moving to Seattle

George: It's the pesto of cities.

Anyway, after learning that Ed is coming to visit Elaine for a week, we witness the real turning point for the episode, when George (somewhat uncharacteristically I think) bravely puts out a fire at the next table, caused when the busboy puts the menu too close to the candle. A sequence of events quickly follows, the busboy is fired, George freaks out because the restaurant manager tells the busboy that George is the one who alerted the manager, and put out the fire, and Jerry reassures George in his inimitable fashion, "He'll probably kill his family over this...lots of excons become busboys".

Back in the apartment George is still hassling over his possible role in the busboy losing his job. Elaine arrives to get the car keys, also bearing the busboy's address. George is now a man on a mission, off to the busboy's apartment to apologise. Jerry thinks it's a bad idea, especially for George to go alone.

Jerry: "Take the K man"
Kramer: (entering in a timely fashion for this suggestion) "Take me where..where??" - in the manner of an excitable five year old, or a puppy that sees its owner get the lead out and realises it's walk time.

So the odd couple of George and Kramer set out for the busboy's apartment. Upon arrival, George nicely asks Kramer to refrain from speaking when they get inside. It's hard to take George seriously here, as he's wearing a cute bobbly beannie. He timidly knocks on the door. Kramer pushes by with a great big confident knock and the busboy appears.

The actor playing the busboy Antonio (and if you're really interested you can look who this is up on wikipedia yourself) does a great job as a silent, threatening presence. George turns to jelly and gives a wussy apology. Kramer makes himself at home, asking if there's anything to drink. And then, the worst moment of all...someone left the door open and the busboy's cat "Perchita" (I'm guessing the spelling here) has disappeared. Now Antonio explodes in anger and rage and George and Kramer are looking in vain for the cat.

Sometime later, the cat has not reappeared, Antonio, George and Kramer are sitting round the kitchen table in some more awkward silence. Kramer gets up to leave, trips over the cord of the lamp and breaks it. He carefully repairs the broken lamp base and he and George make their escape, with George in a characteristic ineffective gesture leaves his business card with Antonio.

Back at Jerry's apartment, he's chatting to George onthe phone as Kramer arrives. On his way through the door he buzzes up Elaine from downstairs.
Jerry: George wants to know when you're going to look for the cat again.
Kramer (typically unconcerned): It's been a week, it's up to the cat now.
Elaine arrives frantic, and desperate to get Jerry's car keys and send Ed packing back to Seattle in the morning. It has not been a successful week. An ensuing discussion about alarm clocks, and the best route to take the airport sets up the following scene, where Elaine and Ed oversleep and Louis-Dreyfus does a crazy comic turn to get Ed up, dressed and out of the apartment. She leaves still in her nightgown, throwing a giant red parka over the top.

Return to Jerry's, where Jerry is testing George on his boast that "Anywhere in the city, I'll tell you the best public toilet". This fascinating discussion is interrupted by Elaine, dejected and drained with a tale of woe after failing to beat the traffic and get Ed on the plane. Then the mood quickly turns to one of glee and excitement:

Kramer: The busboy's comin', The busboy's comin'

George is terrified, imagining Antonio coming for revenge for the loss of his job and his cat.
As Antonio enters in his usual swaggering, threatening manner as George futilely backs away into the corner of Jerry's kitchen. But Antonion arrives bearing good news. The night after he was fired there was an explosion in the restaurant. George getting him fired has saved his life. He has now found a new job and best of all, the cat has returned.
Awkward hugs all round.
But of course, there can be no happy ending.
As the busboy leaves we hear him meet Ed in the hallway. The following confrontation and fight leads us to a final scene in the diner.

George can't stay, he has to go and feed Perchita until the busboy gets out of hospital.
Elaine has to go and feed Ed who is still staying with her until he can get back to Seattle.
Jerry, unaffected by both of their plights, remains enjoying his dinner.

And in a cute final touch, the diner's busboy comes over to clear the table.

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