This Curb Your Enthusiasm review contains spoilers
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 6
There used to be an active Twitter account called Modern Seinfeld (@SeinfeldToday). From 2012 through 2015 it would periodically tweet out hypothetical plots from Seinfeld as if it were still on the air today.
They ranged from missives like:
The appeal is obvious. Seinfeld in addition to just being a very funny show, had a real knack for striking upon the various unspoken annoyances of day-to-day life. Just because the technology and culture involved in day-to-day life changes, doesn’t mean that our human response to be annoyed it all do.
It would have been amazing to see George grapple with Tinder or Elaine analyze her texts. Thankfully, the ornery soul of Seinfeld still lives on with its co-creator Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Not only is “The Accidental Text on Purpose” one of the funnier episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 thus far, it’s one of the best episodes of “Modern Seinfeld” we never got to see.
Funnily enough, it starts off in a decidedly ‘90s way: an airplane. Jokes about the flight experience are so tired at this point that the go-to is to make fun of them in Jerry Seinfeld’s characteristic whine.
“What’s the deal with airplane food?!?” “What’s the deal with coach on an airplane?!?!” “What’s the deal with airpl….” *thousands of locusts spill forth from Jerry’s mouth, and cover the audience until they leave only sinew and bones slumped over in their chairs*
Larry David’s observations on airplanes have little to add to the hacky standup joke canon. Yes, it sucks to get the middle seat. Yes, it sucks to miss your flight because you were watching Sophia Loren in Arabesque.
Thankfully, this is just a quick set up to introduce some of the central players in this week’s tragedy of Curb Your Enthusiasm hubris. Nine seasons in, Ed Begley Jr. makes his debut on Curb Your Enthusiasm (that feels impossible to write. Begley Jr. really hasn’t been on Curb yet??) as Marty Funkhouser’s friend Dr. Nathan Winocour. While Larry is dealing with the consequences of abdicating his aisle seat to the woman with a supposedly overactive bladder, Bebe (June Diane Raphael), a medical emergency breaks out on the plane. Larry turns to Nathan and asks if he’ll intervene but Dr. Winocour declines to “heed the call.”
Just like that, “The Accidental Text on Purpose” has its first real villains in the guise of Bebe (who doesn’t once get up to pee during the flight) and Dr. Winocour.
The best part of this episode is that it is just purely funny. That’s always step one for any episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and for really any comedy on television. But what it’s able to do in presenting characters who are just as selfish as Larry but refuse to admit it. This then becomes the rare episode in which Larry is almost an unambiguous hero to the everyman.* His greatest tool in this quest for justice in the eponymous “accidental text on purpose.”
*I’m sure some people feel this way about every episode. If you’re one of them. Please seek some help.
The accidental text on purpose is pretty simple as far as Larry’s harebrained schemes and theories go. It’s simply the act of texting something to a person while pretending you meant that text for another person so that person A thinks they are getting an unguarded look into your soul. This, my friends, is Modern Seinfeld. And it’s just as beautiful as we had hoped.
Larry counsels many of his friends to send the accidental text on purpose. The first is Jeff. Larry and Jeff want to go to the Rams game on Sunday* but Jeff has to drop Susie off at the airport. So Larry suggests sending the accidental text to Susie with something like “sorry, L.D. Gotta take Suze to the airport.”
*One point of contention for Curb Your Enthusiasm: no one wants to go to Rams games.
Then the opportunity for another text arises. Funkhouser’s new girlfriend, Marilyn (played by a tragically underutilized Elizabeth Perkins) is upset with Larry because he ruined her dinner party by complaining about the quality of her tap water and remarking on how fun it would be to stab someone with a steak knife. Funkhouser fires off a text to her ostensibly meant for Larry chastising him and it works! At least until Marilyn later witnesses Larry push a perfume lady at Nieman Marcus out of his way. And then Susie ruins the accidental text on purpose gambit altogether.
It’s not that Larry is unusually combative in this episode – he’s unusually combative in every episode – it’s just that he starts to pile up some victories in this one. He scores a major win with his accidental text on purpose strategy. It works for Funkhouser (until Larry ruins it). It works for Jeff (until Susie’s deep understanding of Larry and Jeff’s bullshit ruins it). He even helps Richard out with his girlfriend Rhonda (Andrea Savage). Rhonda is clearly uncomfortable with Richard calling her “honey” so Larry comes up with the brilliant scheme of inviting her to lunch with them and then having Richard call everyone he sees “honey.” This works until Larry antagonizes Rhonda with a Sophia Loren-induced boner during a pants fitting and then Richard calls her his “girlfriend.” Whatever though. Still a win for LD because the “honey” plan is as brilliant as the accidental text on purpose.
Even the episodes this season that have struggled on a pure humor and charm level have still mostly succeeded in pulling off that wonderful Curb Your Enthusiasm sense of comedic snowballing.* “The Accidental Text on Purpose” is no exception. After Dr. Winocour clearly ducks out on their golfing trip because he’s losing, costing Larry $200, Winocour tries accidental text on purpose trick with Larry. Big mistake. Larry invented this shit.
*The snowball rolling down the hill gaining momentum version of snowballing. Not the Clerks version. Don’t look it up.
Larry confronts Winocour about this treachery at an event at the golf club and while Winocour doesn’t cop to it, Larry is able to sense that both he and his date, Bebe from the airplane, are lying. Winocour obviously sent that text on purpose and Bebe obviously doesn’t have a bladder condition.
It’s like the last 5 minutes of David Fincher’s Zodiac in which **MILD SPOILER ALERT** Jake Gylenhaal just needs to look who he thinks is Zodiac in the eye to satisfy his need for justice and logical conclusion forever. Then Larry gets to not “heed the call” when Winocour needs an emergency joke for his speech after his original is stolen. It’s so unusual and satisfying to see someone other than Larry catch a karmically needed “L” at the end of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The only real issue with “The Accidental Text on Purpose” is that it’s just about as long as the aforementioned Zodiac. The airplane jokes are tired and the “wash me” car subplot is entirely unneeded. Still, episodes in which Larry David wins this thoroughly while still being classic-Curb funny deserve our attention and respect.