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October 8, 2015

Seinfeld: The Letter

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 30th 2006 8:37PM
Seinfeld: The Letter(S03E20) I know this episode was produced over fourteen years ago, but it was still hard for me to recognize Catherine Keener in this episode. I'm usually pretty good at recognizing younger versions of now well-known actors, but even when I watched this episode the other day, I was surprised when the "Notes on Nothing" mentioned that Nina, Jerry's jealous artist girlfriend, was played by Keener. Maybe it was because she was younger, or it could have been her hair or something. Either way, she did a great job in this episode, foreshadowing how she'd do in movies like Being John Malkovich and The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Anyway, if you're a fan of Neil Simon, you probably loved that episode. If not, then it was still pretty damned good.

Unlike the Entertainment Tonight folks, who refused to give the producers permission to use their music in the previous episode, "The Good Samaritan," Neil Simon's people had no problem giving Jerry and Larry permission to use lines and an audio clip from Chapter Two. It was integral to the plot, as Nina tries to get back on Jerry's good side by writing him a letter with one or Marsha Mason's speeches from that movie. Jerry also used a line from Plaza Suite to dump Nina, but that part got cut.

Also funny was Elaine's fumphering as Mr. Lippman talks to her about the woman who wouldn't take off her Orioles cap at the Yankee game. The reason why she was fumphering? Because Lanie was that woman... and she skipped Lippman's son's bris to go to the game, saying she was visiting her sick dad. The throat clearing and pained looks on Elaine's face were pure Julia Louis-Dreyfus, one of the aspects she brought to the part that could never be written into the script.

Oh, and I also liked what she said her father had: "Neuritis... neuralgia..."

On to the "awards":

Best line: Not a lot of stand-outs in this episode, so I'll just go with Jerry's definition of a posse: "The posse has tremendous appeal. Get away from the job, camp out, you're with your friends... Come on, it's a week-long game of hide-and-seek on horseback."
Best facial expression: The eyeroll George gives Jerry's back when he false-scincerely says to him, "You know, it's a miracle you're not married."
Best Kramerism: The painting, of course! "He is a loathsome, offensive brute. Yet I can't look away."

Observations and DVD tidbits:
  • The Orioles cap incident actually happened to Larry David; his friend, who was the accountant for the then-California Angels invited him to sit in then-owner Gene Autry's box for a game. Larry came to the game wearing a Yankee hat (he's a big fan, of course) and someone from Autry's office asked him to take the hat off.
  • Among the actresses who auditioned for the part of Nina were Amy Yasbeck of Wings, and Heidi Swedberg, who we all know came back to play George's fiancée, Susan Ross.
  • Richard Fancy is back as Mr. Lippman. I love how chummy he is with Elaine, as if she's more than an employee: "So Lenny gave me the tickets for tomorrow night. I'm inviting Frank and Marsha. I want ya to come." Who are Frank and Marsha? Anyway, when Elaine tells her she has plans -- doesn't want to get caught there by Nina's dad, who gave her the seats the last time -- Lippman insists: "Well, break 'em! You missed the bris, I want you at the game." How friendly of him.
  • This is one of those episodes where the writers thow in a couple of instances where a speaker mispronounces a word and isn't aware that they did it. Elaine says "stupid stuperstition" and pronounces "bouyed" like it's "boyed". Those incidents are usually sprinkled in every few episodes. But its that small stuff that made Seinfeld so different at the time.
  • The two snobby art collectors who are so enthralled by the "Kramer" are Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong in the script. They buy the painting for $5,000.
  • For some reason, the Notes on Nothing identify Phil Rizzuto, who we hear at the end of the episode describe the meele as Elaine gets in another scuffle over her hat, as a Mets broadcaster. For shame, Notes on Nothing! Everyone in New York knows that the Scooter played and announced for the Yankees for fifty-five years. He refers to "Seaver" in the clip; that's Tom Seaver, a Met legend who was actually working as a broadcaster on Yankee games in 1992. Yes, I know far too much about this stuff.

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Tom Heintjes

I liked how Jerry referred to "Chapter Two" in a Paul Harvey sort of cadence, like "page...TWO!" I also thought a good line was when Jerry told George that Nina paints abstract art, then adds "in fact, she's painting Kramer right now." Nice way to refer to Kramer's persona.

Also, I like the ambiguity of whether Lippman knows that it was Elaine who wore the hat in the first place, and is just tormenting her. You suspect it's the case, but you never know for sure.

And in the DVD, I think Nina cops to cribbing from Neil Simon, but in the broadcast episode she never admits it. I wonder why that change was made, since it's pretty significant.

And of course, nobody takes a baseball to the noggin like Cosmo!

August 31 2006 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Design, I'd bet most of that cost was for the frame.

August 30 2006 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw this painting (print) at the local mall last week. This one and the one a George posing in his boxers. The store wanted $60 or $70 for each framed.

August 30 2006 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My mom adores Catherine, so it would just be a breeze for her. :) Hope you had fun watching it though. :)

August 30 2006 at 8:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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