62. "The Deal," Seinfeld (1991)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here and an introduction to the project is here.
Like the last entry on this list, "Kim's O," this episode is about the futility of trying to apply logic to sex. In "The Deal," ex-couple Jerry and Elaine become friends with benefits, the result of a dull night at Jerry's apartment when a glimpse of "the naked channel" on TV puts an idea in their heads.
This is only the 13th episode that was aired, before Seinfeld became known as the show about "nothing" (more accurately, the show in which nothing would hold the characters' interest for very long). Jason Alexander and Michael Richards are still feeling out their characters, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great as Elaine, trying to be both alluring and dispassionate as she and Jerry rationalize their way to the bedroom. I love her over-enthusiastic delivery of "Well, why should that be?" when Jerry fears that sex will lead to her expectating a day-after phone call. (He'll find out "why that should be.")
Jerry: What do you think?
Elaine: I don't know. What do you think?
Jerry: Well, it's something to consider.
Jerry: I mean, let's say we did.
Elaine: What if?
Jerry: Is that like the end of the world or something?
Elaine: Certainly not.
Jerry: Why shouldn't we be able to do that once in a while if we want to?
Elaine: I know!
Jerry: I mean, really, what is the big deal? We go in there. (points to the bedroom) We're in there for a while. We come right back out here. It's not complicated.
Elaine: It's almost stupid if we didn't.
Jerry: It's moronic.
Naturally, the plan to keep sleeping together without becoming a couple runs into difficulties — as even George can recognize immediately. Things reach a breaking point on Elaine's birthday, after Jerry thinks he's found a present that doesn't send the wrong message of how he sees their relationship.
Elaine: (after unwrapping her gift) You got me cash?!?
Jerry: Well this way I figure you can go out and get yourself whatever you want. No good?
Elaine: Who are you, my uncle?
Jerry: Well come on. That's $182 right there. I don't think that's anything to sneeze at.
Elaine: Let me see the card. (reading) "To a wonderful girl, a great pal, and more"?!? (Kramer enters)
Kramer: Hey. Oh, Elaine. I'm glad you're here. Stay right there. I'm gonna be right back. (he exits)
Elaine: Pal? You think I'm your pal?
Jerry: (greatly pleased with himself) I said..."and more!"
Elaine: I am not your pal.
Jerry: What's wrong with pal? Why is everyone so down on pal?
Seinfeld's "and more!" has to be one of my favorite moments of the series; he's just so sure that he's handled things perfectly, right just before everything collapses on him.
Somewhat surprisingly, "The Deal," which was filmed as the last entry in the short second season, doesn't end with a reset to the beginning of the episode. Instead, it has a fairly definite conclusion that was completely ignored when the show resumed production. I'm fine with that. As Elaine would ask, why should it be that we have to sit through the mechanics of moving all the characters back into place? Better to have a satisfying end to the episode, even if points toward an alternate timeline for Seinfeld that was never explored.
• The A.V. Club reviewed this episode and provides more behind-the-scenes details here.