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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Rachel and the Rug Merchants

In this election year of 2024 (sorry for the reminder), it’s only appropriate that Larry David honor one of the more noble U.S. presidents from back when we maybe, sort of had them. Honesty — and the other side of the penny, deceit — are the themes on Larry’s mind in this episode. Ahead of the water-bottle trial that has elevated him to something of a political icon — an “emancipator,” if you will — could Larry be reckoning with his own integrity or lack thereof? Or does he just want to show off to Ted Danson, who is playing the 16th president in a play called House Divided with Lori Loughlin, of Full House and college-admissions scandal fame, as Mary Todd? (If there’s any justice left in America, Cole Escola will invite Loughlin to make her real-life theater debut in Oh, Mary! Her telling Danson’s Lincoln that his red stockings have been thrown out, “or to put it a way you might appreciate, emancipated,” is comedic gold — er, copper.) In today’s house divided, where truth is far from the chief priority among politicians, Larry looks to Honest Abe for inspiration as he finds himself surrounded by liars, cheats, and assholes. As in this season’s promotional poster, he is a lone polar bear on a melting ice cap, seeking a sense of decorum where there is none.

At the beginning of “Gettysburg Address,” at a not-really-all-you-can-eat restaurant, Larry muses to Leon about how much time people waste going to the bathroom. (Remember the pee cube?) Later, he decides to post the Gettysburg Address above his toilet in an attempt to be productive while peeing — a story line lifted directly from real life. As Jeff Schaffer told The Hollywood Reporter, Larry already had the Gettysburg Address memorized because he had put it up in his office bathroom years ago. “Like the fallen soldiers in Gettysburg, his urination was not in vain,” Schaffer said. “In our offices, our editors put one up in the bathroom.” In season ten, he recited the address at Susie and Jeff’s housewarming party. Larry is a real-life American history buff with a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland. (Here’s a picture of him from a family vacation to the Civil War battlefields with his unimpressed daughter.)

This search begins at Shimon’s All You Can Eat, a local “all you can eat” restaurant where Leon is piling food onto his fourth plate. While he objects to this behavior, Larry, ever the loyal friend, comes to Leon’s defense when the angry owner, Shimon, blacklists him from the restaurant with a “lifetime ban.” When they leave the restaurant, Larry bumps into Ted, who tells him Lori is having trouble joining a golf club because of the whole admissions scandal and asks Larry if he can sponsor her at Ocean View. Larry agrees because he’s a “champion of the underdog”; after all, he’s something of a Teflon celebrity himself, routinely offending strangers and friends alike.

Ted gets one more chance to remind Larry that, while he wasn’t working on the last two seasons of Seinfeld (during which Loughlin guest-starred), he was, in fact, present for the widely panned finale. It’s yet another case of Larry acknowledging the disappointment around the Seinfeld finale and yet another hint that the final episode will be some kind of playful homage to the last time he tried to end things. (Side note: I’m not sure why both Ted and Larry pronounce finale like “Biennale.” Is this what happens when you spend enough time in L.A., inching past FYC billboards on the 101?)

Speaking of billboards, fashion icon Susie has a new caftan business and she’s up there on a sign that looks like it was made on Canva, modeling a Pucci-print piece. Of course the line is called “Catch as Caftan,” like the phrase “catch as catch can,” because Susie is not to be fucked with, particularly when it comes to style (or birthday gifts). Her snakeskin-pant brown ’fit in this scene, where she asks Larry why Sienna Miller would go out with “an old fuck like you,” is a testament to this. (According to Schaffer in the THR interview, Larry would only pursue the Sienna Miller story line in the show if everyone around him acknowledged the 34-year age gap.) For his date with Sienna Miller, she brings him to the movies to see her new film, Edgewater Park, a serious drama in which she sports a curiously Susie-like wig and aggressively eats an apple. Sienna is nervous, “like Rachel and the rug merchants” — a biblical story she’s convinced, as she was with the erroneous Yiddish phrase “Shmeitz,” is correct. It’s not. (Apparently, Miller improvised the “Shmeitz” line, thinking it was genuinely Yiddish because her Jewish boyfriend had said it — a real-life “Rachel and the rug merchants” moment.) Larry notices her apple acting and points out that she’s often eating fruit in her films, including Anatomy of a Scandal: “You take a bite, you act, you take another bite, you act.” (I couldn’t help but think of Kramer getting banned from Joe’s fruit store, just as Shimon bans Larry and Leon from his restaurant.)

Larry is right, though Sienna shrugs it off. Meanwhile, the man behind Larry is mad he put his jacket on the back of his seat. Larry uses his knowledge of the Gettysburg Address to make a hilarious speech at the golf club, arguing for Lori Loughlin’s rightful acceptance. Once again, Larry is a political maverick “of the people, for the people.” “I can’t thank you enough,” Lori tells Larry, though he knows this is an empty statement because when people say that, they rarely follow up with even a second thank you. The irony is that Lori ends up being the opposite of gracious. She cheats at golf, lies about having Epstein-Barr virus to get special privileges, and pays off club staff for tee times. Kudos to Loughlin for being able to poke fun at herself. Guest-starring on Curb is probably the best PR move she could make at this point, though it would’ve been even better had Olivia Jade showed up too. Is the world ready for a Loughlinaissance?

After finding out from Jeff that Sienna Miller might be fired from her movie, he decides to bring her a pear, thinking she can only act while eating a piece of fruit. (The choice of fruit is a possible reference to the Lincoln quote, “A man watches his pear tree day by day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit.”) Larry’s pear plan works; Sienna knocks it out of the park. This joke, while initially funny, might be one of the weakest of the episode. It simply doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sienna’s comedic timing is on point, though. She’s quite great as Larry’s love interest with a fetish for all things Jewish, real or not. (Rachel and the rug merchants really spoke to her.) But while it seems she can’t act without a piece of fruit in her hand, Larry starts to suspect she’s not totally genuine. He asks her why she’s wearing a different wig in every role, and she tells him she has alopecia.

Only time will tell if Sienna will forgive Larry — or whether he can get past her insistence that “shmeitz” is a real Yiddish word — but second, third, and fourth chances are easily granted in the Curbiverse. A drawing of a penis on Susie’s caftan billboard sends her into a small spiral, and she accuses Jeff and Larry of having done it. “I don’t even put a dick in my mouth,” she says. “Why can’t you give a blowjob every now and then?” asks Larry. “Would that kill ya?” In a sweater that says “I’m a luxury” on the front and “few can afford” on the back, she replies, “You know, it might kill me.” All the more so when the dick vandal returns to give her a second one. Susie is tired of being taken for granted, as is her right. She’s a national treasure, a bright caftan in a sea of Lululemon. But Jeff redeems himself at Ted’s play when a stranger identifies her as “that lady with a dick in her mouth.” In a fortuitously timed reference to the never-forgotten Oscars slap of 2022, Jeff nearly slaps him across the face, saying, “And keep my wife’s business out of your motherfucking mouth!” This directly references Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage after he joked about Smith’s wife, Jada, looking like “G.I. Jane,” for like Sienna, she has alopecia. While the Oscars were airing Sunday night during Curb, the joke wasn’t deliberate. The Oscars were supposed to be a few weeks earlier, but they were pushed back due to the writers strike. It’s one of those cosmic happenings that seem to affirm Larry David’s brilliance. The gods of Hollywood are on Larry’s side.

At the play, Larry is confronted with yet another person who cannot not tell a lie: the waiter from the Chinese restaurant who, in the last episode, told Larry, “Fish not stuck, fish sick.” He’s sitting in the seat in front of Larry, with a long coat gratuitously taking up his leg space. “You have not draped the coat properly,” Larry says, a callback to the man who yelled at him at the movie theater. “Coat fine!” insists the waiter. “Coat long,” Larry replies. “And fish dead.” When Ted starts to recite the Gettysburg Address onstage, Larry, having recited it so many times while in the bathroom, has a Pavlovian response; he’s conditioned himself to have to pee when he hears it. Cheryl, sitting next to him, tells him to hold it. But the urge is too strong. He gets up abruptly to leave for the bathroom but trips on the long coat in front of him — “foot stuck!” — and pees his pants just as Ted concludes his address. Larry is our everyman, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Even he is not immune to a little accident.

Another stroke of bad luck hits Larry while he’s driving home. When he sees that the dick vandal got to the billboard of Sienna Miller’s movie, Larry makes an illegal U-turn to take a picture of it to send her, but he soon gets stopped by the police. The cop sees the spray paint in his car from when Larry drove Leon back to Shimon’s restaurant with spray paint to add “Not” in front of “All You Can Eat” and immediately accuses him of also having drawn the penises. (She’s also, like everyone else in the show, highly skeptical that Larry went on a date with Sienna Miller, though, of course, he’s telling nothing but the truth.) Honest Larry tells the cop about the “Not All You Can Eat” stint, but in doing so admits to a second crime and is swiftly taken away. The theories about Larry ending the season in jail — a nod to the maligned Seinfeld finale — are looking more likely. But considering there are still four episodes left, this may be a red herring. I think Larry will pull off something a little more clever than the expected jail plot — he still has to go to trial, where he will surely recite the Gettysburg Address— but it’s clear Larry is cooking up something to rectify his finale-writing reputation.

It’s not that each of these story lines and jokes aren’t clever, but something about this episode didn’t fully cohere. The Gettysburg Address in the bathroom wasn’t properly set up; something as simple as Ted struggling to memorize it for his play and seeking Larry’s counsel would suffice. But, like the Sienna Miller fruit joke and the dicks on the billboards, it just felt a bit too random to incite any laughs. While the alopecia reference is clever, I wasn’t really convinced. Lori Loughlin, while brilliant, could’ve been used better; her admissions deceit played out for more laughs. Still, the cameos in this episode were pretty, pretty great: Loughlin, Miller, Ike Barinholtz as an Israeli restaurant owner who says “Shalom, bitch,” and the Fish Stuck guy, making his return to insist “Foot not stuck!”

As we move closer to the finale, I can only hope these story lines begin to come together and that Larry delivers on his promise to emancipate America from its voting-line thirst. Hopefully, though, no one will subsequently suffer from a Pavlovian pee. After all, all men (and women) are created equal; no one is above a little public humiliation, especially Larry.


• On “all you can eat” restaurants: “It says all you can eat, right? So you fucking eat.”

• On the Peeus: “You know who’s gonna be a billionaire? Motherfucker who’s gonna create a car that runs on piss. No more time wasted. You’re driving across the country, you drink water and Gatorades and shit, fucking coffees and shit the whole fucking trip. You pull over, take your dick out, put it in that little hole where the gas goes, and fill that motherfucker up. You’re on your merry way. The Peeus.”

• On getting banned from the restaurant: “If this was a brothel, I’d be fucking pissed.”

• On Shimon: “That’s five pounds of short ribs and ten pounds of fuck you!”

Sarah Nechamkin , 2024-03-11 18:31:08

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