Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving "Classic" Recap: Seinfeld: "The Mom and Pop Store"

“What’s so great about a mom and pop store. Let me tell you something, if my mom and pop ran a store, I wouldn’t shop there.”

It’s been a while since I watched Seinfeld (I was a pretty religious watcher of the show in the mid-late 90’s, basically once I was old enough to be allowed to watch it). What stands out to me watching it now, particularly with Thanksgiving classic “The Mom and Pop Store” is how expertly disparate plots and details that all seem inconsequential on their own come together in the end. The amount of tiny details that all became important by the end of the half-hour really impressed me. I know Seinfeld is considered to be the “Show About Nothing” that focuses heavily on the egos of the four leads and the inane situations they find themselves in, but there was one plot in this episode that really felt close to home for me. Jerry is trying to figure out if he’s been invited to a Night Before Thanksgiving Party that the rest of his friends have been invited too, and he starts analyzing vocal inflections to try and figure out if he should go to the party or not. As someone with pretty significant social anxiety, it was a visual depiction of how my brain works when confronted with a potential social event.

Anyway, the first of these disparate plots we hear about is that friend of Jerry and the Gang Tim Watley, a dentist, is throwing his annual Night Before Thanksgiving Party. His apartment overlooks where they blow up all the balloons for the Macy’s Day Parade, so it’s kind of a big deal. Tim has asked Jerry for Elaine’s address so he can send her an invitation, and Elaine, who has been interested in Tim for a while, is very excited about this development. Before she can engage in pre-Thanksgiving revelry, though, her ridiculous boss, Mr. Pitt, gives her a job to do. She was in the middle of taking the salt off of his pretzel sticks when he realizes she has an encyclopedic knowledge of big band music and can potentially use that knowledge to win him a spot holding the Woody Woodpecker balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade through a radio station contest. Elaine does indeed win a spot through the contest, but she has to spend a whole day listening to big band music at the Dixieland Deli in order to pick up Mr. Pitt’s balloon-holding pass. This will have other consequences later.

Meanwhile, George is shopping for a new car. He has done extensive research, and he wants an ’89 Volvo. The salesman, however, tries to steer him towards an ’89 Le Barron by saying it used to be owned by none other than Jon Voight. The blurbs about this episode in all the listicles about great Thanksgiving episodes I was reading as I was trying to decide what to blog refer to “Angelina Jolie’s father,” but back in the mid-90’s, I have a feeling Jon Voight was a name in his own right. Anyway, George falls for the con, and he’s super excited to be driving “Jon Voight’s” car. He finds a pencil in it at one point and also proudly wears Jon Voight’s pencil behind his ear for much of the episode. While Jerry is riding in the car at one point, he discovers the name of the car’s former owner written on the manual, which had been in the glove box. It turns out that it wasn’t owned by Jon Voight. It was owned by someone named John Voight. George doesn’t want the illusion shattered, and he kicks Jerry out of the car. Jerry gets harassed by some tough guys on the street, and he slips and falls while walking away because he’s wearing cowboy boots (more on that in just a sec).

Kramer is upset that the “mom and pop” cobbler shop near their apartment building may close soon. He would be very upset if another coffee shop moved into the neighborhood. Gentrification is actually a very important issue, but as you’d expect since this is “Seinfeld,” it doesn’t really get extensive discussion. Kramer asks the gang if anybody has some business they could throw Mom and Pop’s way. Jerry has a bunch of sneakers that need cleaning, so Kramer takes them all to the shop (which is why Jerry was left only with cowboy boots). While Kramer is at the shop, he gets a nosebleed, and when “Mom” has him lie back on a bench, he remarks that the exposed wiring he can see in the ceiling of their shop looks really dangerous. Mom and Pop have an electrician come out who says the fix is going to be expensive, and he’s going to have to report them if they don’t fix it. Mom and Pop close the shop, leave no trace, and take Jerry’s sneakers with them. Also at one point, Kramer sees the real Jon Voight, who bites Kramer’s arm because he feels threatened. Kramer and George want to compare the bite marks to the bite marks on George’s pencil.

Everything comes to a head at Tim Watley’s party. George and Kramer spend the whole time being awkward asking people to compare bite marks. Jerry shows up, even though he’s pretty sure he wasn’t invited, because he hopes he can get help with some dental pain caused by his earlier fall. Tim pretty much confirms that Jerry wasn’t invited, but Jerry gets his dental work, so all is well on that front. Poor Elaine can’t hear well because she was listening to big band all day, and she accidentally just shrugs and says no when Tim asks her out. Needless to say, Tim is not happy about that. Elaine had set her trophy from the big band contest on the window sill, and Jerry accidentally knocks it out the window, where of course it falls right on the Woody Woodpecker balloon. Later, we see footage of Mr. Pitts trying to control the collapsing balloon during the parade. Like I said, it all fits together in the end.

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