SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Our heroes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” are right where we left them last episode: on an airplane, eating Pinkberry, ready to take off into the skies and land in old New York. With the impending skyline in the distance, things seem to be looking up for Larry. Yet, what was interesting about Episode 6 of Season 8 was that Larry, “The Hero,” (as this episode is titled) hasn’t really changed or developed much outside of location and circumstance. Larry seems to be playing his surroundings, and the happenings within them, to his benefit without actually changing his outlook, his cynicism, or his chutzpah. Yet what we ultimately see is a faulty lionheart trying to negotiate new life and New York.
Because he has a negligent, schmoozy waiter in a restaurant, Larry retrieves his and Jeff’s meals personally: Hero. Because Larry has unusually long shoe laces, he (accidentally) trips on and defeats an unruly man harassing a stewardess on the plane: Hero. However, the character/caricature that Ricky Gervais plays is in direct competition with Larry for the role of “the hero.” Gervais also benefits from circumstance to rise to hero-status at Susie and Jeff’s dinner party, where he has the added benefit of his celebrity to push him one step further than Larry, who is then further brought down by Susie ratting out his shoe laces as the true heroes in the air plane incident. Should Larry be in New York if the same things keep happening to and because of him that were happening in LA? Is this really the change that he needs?
My heart leapt, however, when my favorite “Seinfeld” schtick of all time was brought back to life and given a fresh coat of funny in this episode. “The Pez-Despenser” dilemma reprises when lone mystery voices in an audience end up causing a performer to make a mistake and suffer humiliation. Though no Tweety pez-despenser was placed on a leg to induce “that laugh,” Larry and Susie bicker in whispers during Ricky Gervais’s World War II drama in which he stars. The gargantuan finger pointing from Jeff telling them to shut up was comically brilliant amidst the silence of the theater, before a sweating Gervais. For this brief moment, Larry is winning in the hero-contest, until the schmoozy waiter tips off Gervais that it was Larry who was whispering at his performance. How waiters seem to overhear everything is a mystery to Larry and Jeff, yet it’s not entirely unsurprising to them that these waiters’ covert efforts would ultimately be used against them.
At the end of the episode, when Larry uses a baguette to beat up a man robbing Gervais and Larry’s cheating girlfriend on the subway, he is not a hero. He is just Larry, who just so happens to have a baguette, striking a mugger to make a point to his victims. There is no sense of good deed in Larry’s act, nor is there even the gratification of having really triumphed. There is just Larry, rubbing yet another pseudo-victory in the faces of people who don’t really care, with his shoelace still caught in the door.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Ultimately, this episode felt a bit dissonant. Things like the waiter, the argument with the coachy woman, even the courtship/breakup with the hero worshipper, none of it felt coherent in the usual Curb Your Enthusiasm way.
That said, it is just fine with me if some episodes involve Larry battling a series of disconnected opponents. And Ricky Gervais was absolutely perfect as the Larry foil, from his theater pretensions to his open mocking of Seinfeld’s laugh track. I hope he returns.
Ultimately, I did expect some New York-specific storylines- and I still do. Perhaps this episode simply represented jet lag and finding familiarity in the land that was once Larry’s own.
In the meantime, I am happy that Larry David exposed the raw truth: overly-chatty waiters, by their actions, produce dire consequences for other diners.