This Curb Your Enthusiasm review contains spoilers.
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 9
It’s remarkable how much Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 episodes tend to improve as they go along. Perhaps this has always been the case throughout the show’s run. Though I’ve only really noticed it now as I’ve watched this season with a critical eye.
The setups of season 9 all tend to be groan-inducing and “The Shucker” is no exception. Oh we’re going to have an episode revolve around a “shucker” who merely shucks oysters for the 1% at Hollywood dinner parties (played by Steven Weber)? Can’t quite remember a Seinfeld episode that began like that.
The same goes for Rose Shapiro, the woman who Larry bought his current house from and wants to return to just check things out while Larry is having the aforementioned dinner party. All of these various setups in “The Shucker” range from ineffective to awful. For a moment it even seems like Curb Your Enthusiasm is capable of doing the impossible: ruining a Lin-Manuel Miranda guest appearance.
Miranda should be a breath of fresh air for the stagnant first 10 or so minutes of “The Shucker” but instead he engages in all the same hallmarks that any Curb Your Enthusiasm guest star. His antagonistic relationship with Larry based around his ability to get to his manger’s mahogany desk before Larry can and therefore dictate the flow and agenda of their Fatwa meetings isn’t much different from Michael J. Fox, Shaquille O’Neal, or Wanda Syke’s contentious encounters with Larry.
It’s understandable that Curb would want to play on Miranda’s public persona for laughs. The Lin-Manuel Miranda known to the public is an excitable, gregarious, and all-around lovable nerd so it’s fairly fundamental comedy to turn him into another type-A jerk-off who butts heads with Larry. At first it just seems as though Curb has gone too far this time around. This is one antagonistic celebrity encounter too many.
But then something funny happens. That’s not a turn of phrase, something literally funny happens. Lin is rapping his vision for Fatwa when Larry tries to subtly make his way towards the big desk. Miranda immediately breaks off his rap and cuts Larry’s path off and gestures him back to his seat on the guest chairs.
Just like that, everything clicks into place. The remaining 25 minutes of “The Shucker’s” far too long running time are as funny and as pleasant as any stretch of Curb Your Enthusiasm this season.
The original setups that seemed unfunny and strained don’t necessarily get any fresher but they do get funnier. Curb Your Enthusiasm lives off of escalation. Jokes build upon one another to the point where the final act of any given episode are likely to be its funniest. “The Shucker” adopts the normal Curb model to the extreme where the first third is interminable, the middle is very funny, and the end is fantastically hilarious.
It’s hard to believe they actually got Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Hamilton creator is at the height of his cultural powers to the point where he just gets to stroll onto any show he pleases at this point. Thank our lucky stars he chose Curb Your Enthusiasm. For as unpromising as his introduction is, he and his Hamilton plot line really go to some excellent places.
Once the broad characterization of him being just some other asshole wears off, you can really see how he’s the perfect foil for Larry. Larry has built his whole career and his whole life upon recognizing subtle little social cues like the guy who sits behind the desk gets what he wants. Miranda seems to have a similar understanding of those folkways but is even better at exploiting them than Larry.
The fictional Miranda gets virtually everything he wants from the meeting and gets to control Fatwa the show. Meanwhile the real Miranda also gets everything he wants out of his first Curb appearance. He even gets to go toe-to-toe with Larry as they jointly squint their eyes and examine each other’s faces to determine who is really going to be going to the upcoming Hamilton show – Larry or the shucker.
Miranda is a breath of fresh air for “The Shucker” and helps get it out of its beginning doldrums but it’s also refreshing just how many other Curb mainstays take up Larry’s time in “The Shucker.” Susie, Jeff, Leon, Ted, Cheryl, and Bridget are all present for Larry’s opening dinner and everyone gets to play a role going forward.
Susie is turned on by Jeff wearing the shucker’s cowboy hat leading to the incredible and incredibly hilarious reveal that it’s because she’s banging the shucker. Prior to that, Curb gets a surprising amount of comedic mileage just from Jeff Carlin walking around wearing more cowboy garb. May we all one day get that image of Jeff on top of Susie in a cowboy hat out of our heads though.
Leon is particularly involved in Larry’s struggles with Mrs. Shapiro as she continues to let herself into Larry’s home to feed and then “rescue” her neglected plant. It’s amazing how much Leon is able to add to any episode just by being around. It’s like Leon and Larry are the same soul occupying separate bodies to the point where they react to stimuli in the exact same way. Of course Larry and Leon would be terrified of Mrs. Shapiro’s tiny pug.
Ted and Cheryl help contribute to Larry’s eventual downfall with Bridget when it’s revealed that Cheryl has communicated with Ted about some perverse sexual acts she and Larry performed on each other in Tahoe. Larry is so devastated by the concept that his exes are tattling on him that he presents Bridget with a sexual non-disclosure agreement.
Bridget has been a good sport up until now but understandably the sexual NDA is finally a bridge too far and she walks out on Larry and presumably out of Curb Your Enthusiasm altogether. This show never was fully able to make the most of Larry David and Lauren Graham’s easy chemistry but thankfully it does allow Bridget to deliver the two best lines of the season before she goes.
First, after Larry accuses Eddie of faking his Asperger’s, she comes back with “It’s not pretend. He has Asperger’s. What’s your excuse?” That’s about an accurate and devastating a takedown that Larry has ever deservedly received in the history of this show.
Then later on when she and her friend see Larry on Judge Judy, her friends asks “This is the guy you told me all the stories about?” To which Bridget excitedly responds: “Yes, that’s Larry Longballs!”Larry Longballs is perhaps the greatest callback in the history of the show and easily season 9’s funniest joke so far.
Oh, and that’s right. Larry and Mrs. Shapiro end up on Judge Judy together to litigate their disagreement. Naturally, Judge Judy sides with Mrs. Shapiro because Larry is the worst.
“The Shucker” is just relentless. We still don’t know if this is the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm yet but through sheer effort alone it seems as though Larry is getting us prepared for a real finale. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Judge Judy, Susie cheating on Jeff, the return of Larry Longballs, and a live-action performance is a lot to cram into one episode.
Part of the episode certainly suffers from that over-saturation – particularly towards the beginning. Still, “The Shucker” wears you down to the point where you can’t help but enjoy the spectacle of it all. If we are indeed approaching the end of Curb Your Enthusiasm, this is a good place for the beginning of the end: with Larry falling asleep before the second act of Hamilton for the second time in a row and losing a court case on Judge Judy.