This Curb Your Enthusiasm review contains spoilers
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 8
Of all the phrases in the shitty white guy canon, “I’m an equal opportunity offender” falls somewhere between “but some of my best friends are Black!” and “I don’t see color.”
If things have escalated to the point where the line “equal opportunity offender” is deployed you might not be able to save yourself. Equal opportunity offender is childish and dumb to begin with and oftentimes comes from a source whom it’s clear is unable to acknowledge the various complexities and inequalities inherent to human life on Earth.
Having said all that, the Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm might be the first legitimate equal opportunity offender in all of fiction or reality.
There’s a moment partway through “Never Wait for Seconds!” in which Morsi, a devout Muslim operative, is looking into Larry’s previous actions throughout the entirety of Curb Your Enthusiasm to determine if the fatwa against him should be lifted.
Morsi was previously impressed by Larry sticking up for him and going against an army of angry brunchers at a buffet line. You’re not going to believe this, but Larry has strong feelings about when it’s appropriate to cut the line at a buffet.
After confirming that Morsi was just coming up for some more homefries, Larry announces to the horde:
“I’m hungry too! We’re all hungry. But this man has already spent his time waiting. We don’t wait for seconds in America! Never wait for seconds.”
Morsi is understandably touched so he goes back to examine some of Larry’s previous social encounters.
The whole thing plays like a shortened version of the much-maligned Seinfeld finale in which the gang was literally put on trial for their social infractions. This version in which an investigator catches up with previous characters for three minutes of running time works much better and is a highlight in an otherwise mediocre episode.
As Morsi meets with these people from Larry’s life, it’s clear how much the show has revolved around Larry arguing with the marginalized and disenfranchised this whole time.
There’s the Thunder Thighs-esque prostitute who Larry paid to be able to use the carpool lane on the way to a Dodgers game. There’s Yoshi, the Japanese art dealer whose father Larry doesn’t believe can be considered a kamikaze pilot because he just skimmed the surface of the plane. There’s Lisa Thompson and her huge vagina. There’s Rachel who Larry wouldn’t jump out of a ski lift for.* There’s a girl in a wheelchair. There’s Krazee Eyez Killa. And most importantly: there is Michael J. Fox, who finally admits to shaking up the soda can for a bit before handing it to Larry.
*Morsi’s clear delight when saying “so he didn’t follow the tenets of Jewish orthodoxy?” is another episode highlight.
This montage of Larry’s past transgressions is fantastic. It also reveals just how much we’ve relied on believing Larry is an equal opportunity offender all these years. Dude, you made fun of some chick’s large vagina?
But somehow, he gets away with it all because he’s Larry. It helps that Curb Your Enthusiasm has historically been very funny. Season 9 has not been the show at its funniest or most successful, but even this, possibly the season’s worst episode, has it’s fair amount of laughs.
The other area that helps us laugh at Yoshi and his failed kamikaze dad and all the other racially or culturally charged moments is how consistent Larry is with all of this. The Larry David of season 1, episode 1 and the Larry David of season 9, episode 8 are remarkably similar. There has been very little change or growth to speak of here. Life remains an affliction, never to be celebrated. Only the smallest of things matter such as how to behave at a buffet line.
Most importantly, though, Larry seems to have just enough self-awareness (most of the time) to pick up on his role in all this.
The first 5 minutes or so of “Never Wait for Seconds!” have the potential to get a bit ugly. Who among us, doesn’t know what the day-to-day hassle of trying to tip your Mexican handyman and having him prefer to cash in favors feels like? It’s petty and small like al of the jokes on this show have always been but it also runs the risk of being wildly out of touch and borderline demeaning. Thankfully, whether Larry does so consciously or not (a lot of this show is improvised to be clear), he provides us with a clear picture of why this is all so annoying.
“The whole point of the tip is you to be indebted to me!” he tells the handyman, Cesar. “But now I’m indebted to you! You reversed it!”
And that’s what this is always all about for Larry. The freedom not to be bothered. That’s a universal concept that transcends all race, creed, religion, and sex. Larry thought he had bought that freedom not to be bothered from Cesar but Cesar knew better and instead preferred to keep an uncashed favor check from Larry which he then turns in for a pool day for his family.
Larry really is an equally opportunity offender in the sense that everyone he comes across may as well be a Black Mirror “White Christmas” style silhouette with the text “potential annoyance” splashed across it. This is not the most sophisticated social statement of course and it’s barely a sophisticated comedic one. It’s just consistent enough to work though.
Unfortunately, the Morsi investigation and Cesar request are about the only things that work in “Never Wait for Seconds!” It’s refreshing to have Lauren Graham back for another episode and right for the get-go she is in tune with Larry’s neuroses. When she broaches the topic of sending Eddie to Pemberton boarding school, Larry just outright admits he’s delighted to help send Eddie an hour and a half away and Bridget doesn’t recoil in response.
Still, she’s being underutilized. There has to be a place in this show for another character who appreciates Larry for who he is but Curb Your Enthusiasm just can’t figure it out quite yet. For now, she and Eddie just provide another opportunity for Larry to screw up. The fact that it involves Cesar’s family misusing the Pemberton pool is nice but there just has to be more there when you’re gifted with an actress who fits so seamlessly into this improvisational world like Graham has.
It’s also not quite clear what Marilyn needed to come back for save for the chance to share Larry’s commentary on ketchup. Which is asinine by the way. This is America! If you can cut in line for seconds at the buffet line, you can certainly also use as much ketchup as you’d like. Just don’t do that because ketchup isn’t that great.
The conclusion of “Never Wait for Seconds!” is its most disappointing aspect though. It’s nice to see the fatwa plot line progress and I’m generally appreciative of the work Morsi put in to exonerate Larry but the punchline when in a group of Muftis just can’t be “they’re like us!” They have feelings on buffet lines and Lin Manuel Miranda too! It’s not necessarily that that is an offensive track to take, it’s just that it seems to be the only route this season has been able to figure out when dealing with Larry’s fatwa.
Previously, Larry spoke to an iman in “The Pickle Gambit” and the joke there was that he liked Seinfeld. There has to be a richer comedic vein to mine from a fatwa and the show has not been able to get there since Salman Rushdie.
“Never Wait for Seconds!” ends up being the baseline we can expect from Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9. Some laughs here and there and some cheerful references to seasons’ past. It’s not time misspent but if it’s the best the show can muster at this point, we may not need a season 10.