The English Patient (Seinfeld)

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"The English Patient"
Seinfeld episode
Episode no. Season 8
Episode 17
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Written by Steve Koren
Production code 817
Original air date March 13, 1997
Guest actors
Season 8 episodes
List of Seinfeld episodes

"The English Patient" is the 151st episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. It was the 17th episode for the eighth season and aired on March 13, 1997.

Plot[edit]

At Monk's Café, a beautiful woman, Danielle (Chelsea Noble), mistakes George for her boyfriend Neil, a man who she claims looks just like him, except that George is taller and looks more fit. This intrigues George—he is flattered by Danielle, but he really wants to meet Neil.

Elaine and her date, Blaine (Todd Jeffries), are in a line to watch a movie. She wants to see a comedy called Sack Lunch; he wants to see The English Patient. When the former is sold out, they see the latter. The conversation among Elaine, Blaine, and some of her friends after seeing the movie has been cited often, as has the "just die!" dialogue quoted below.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

ELAINE: (very dissatisfied) Why is everyone talking about "The English Patient, it's so romantic"? (vehement) God, that movie stunk!
BLAINE: I kinda liked it.
ELAINE: (firm) No you didn't.
[From the exit emerge several of Elaine's friends, who hurry over to see her. They're all holding tissues.]
CAROL: Elaine, Elaine, did you just see The English Patient?
GAIL: (tearful) Didn't you love it?
ELAINE: No!
LISA: How could you not love that movie?
ELAINE: How about, it sucked?

Jerry is going to Florida to help his parents move out of their Del Boca Vista condominium. Kramer asks him to pick up some "Cubans" for him and gives him a pale blue T-shirt that says "#1 Dad." When Jerry gets to Florida, his father Morty finds the "#1 Dad" T-shirt and proudly wears it despite its small size:

MORTY: Son, this is the most wonderful and thoughtful thing you've ever done for me.
JERRY: You know, I bought you a Cadillac. Twice.[7]

At the Del Boca Vista exercise room, Jerry meets Izzy Mandelbaum (Lloyd Bridges), an 80-year-old man who cannot stand to lose any competition or dare (though he is not quite as bad as the Man from the South). Izzy promptly challenges Jerry to a weightlifting competition ("It's go time!"), but throws out his back. When Jerry and Morty go to visit him at his bedside to apologize, Izzy wants to compete with Morty over being the best dad after seeing the "#1 Dad shirt" and throws his back out again.

George becomes obsessed with meeting Neil to the point that he misses possible opportunities to date Danielle.

Jerry returns to New York, where Izzy Mandelbaum has come to see a back specialist.

Kramer's Cubans arrive, but they are people, not cigars. (Kramer knew they would be people; Jerry didn't.) Unfortunately for Kramer's latest get-rich-quick scheme, the "Cubans" are really Dominicans who are trying to pass as Cuban cigar rollers; his plan to involve investors in making Cuban-quality made-in-America cigars therefore fails.

Elaine's dislike for The English Patient alienates her from everyone. Not wishing to upset J. Peterman, she claims not to have seen the film. Her plan backfires, however, when he immediately takes steps to correct the situation by dropping everything and taking Elaine to see it. While watching the movie with him, she becomes increasingly rude to the audience members by playing with her popcorn, sighing heavily, clutching her head, and shifting melodramatically in her seat until she finally can't stand it anymore.

PETERMAN: Elaine, I hope you're watching the clothes, because I can't take my eyes off the passion.
ELAINE: (quiet vehemence) Oh. No. I can't do this any more. I can't. It's too long. (to the screen) Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid desert, and just die already! Die!!
CROWD: Shh!
PETERMAN: (surprised) Elaine, you don't like the movie?
ELAINE: (shouts) I HATE IT!!!
CROWD: Shh!
ELAINE: (shouts) OH, GO TO HELL!!!
PETERMAN: (quietly) Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? You're fired.
ELAINE: (grabbing her bag and coat) Great. I'll wait for you outside.[7]

In order to save her job, she agrees with Peterman's order that she take a trip to Tunisia (the filming location of The English Patient), where she must live in a cave.

Kramer fears that his unemployed Dominicans, whom he educated about communism, are planning to revolt. Jerry meets Izzy Mandelbaum at the hospital and both his son, Izzy Mandelbaum Jr, and his father, show up, both of whom are as fiercely competitive and old as Izzy; they also injure their backs while trying to lift the hospital's TV set. The Mandelbaums unfairly declare that Jerry has now put them all out of work by forcing them into the hospital and that their Magic Pan restaurant franchise will fail. Jerry therefore finds work for Kramer's "Cubans" at Izzy's restaurant, rolling crêpes. The Dominicans, however, roll the crêpes too tightly, causing the filling to spray out and burn the customers.

George finally meets Neil in a hospital, after Neil was burned by a crêpe. Somewhat like the English patient, Neil's face is heavily bandaged, so that George never does see what he looks like. When George flourishes a door key and asks Danielle to move in with him, she chooses Neil instead of him: "George, I can't move in with you. I'm sorry, but I'm taking Neil to a clinic in England."[7] When she leaves the room, Neil whispers to George through his bandages, "I win."[7] However, George gets the last laugh by pulling out his intravenous line.

During the end credits, Elaine's plane to Tunisia is about to play the movie Sack Lunch, but is hijacked by the angry Dominicans, who are all wearing pale blue "#1 Dad" T-shirts. Guillermo yells, "Everyone stay in your seats. And shut that movie off!" - much to Elaine's upset.

Themes[edit]

Even more than most episodes, this story is about competitiveness. Morty and Izzy compete over which of them is the Best Dad. Izzy and Izzy Jr. compete with Jerry about weight-lifting.[8] Elaine competes with her friends over their opinions of the movie "The English Patient." Mr. Peterman is competitive enough that when he learns Elaine hates the movie, he fires her. George competes with Neil over Danielle. In the hospital, Neil whispers through his bandages, "I win," and George has to agree. A moment later though, behind Neil, George yanks the IV free of the IV bag. Kramer competes with the businessman who wanted to invest in Cuban cigar-makers and tries to finesse his way out of the realization that they are actually Dominicans.

Probably more than any other episode, this one has all four characters with their own plot and all four plots affect the other plots and the entire story.

Critical response[edit]

Dr. Michael Dunne writes in his essay "Seinfeld as Intertextual Comedy" (his episode-numbering system appears in parentheses):

In "The English Patient" (8017) Elaine is one of the few Americans who will admit in 1997 that she finds the 1996 Academy Award smash The English Patient boring. In this respect The English Patient serves as Schindler's List does in The Raincoats (5019), as the movie that everyone is supposed to admire. "The English Patient" surpasses "The Raincoats" in terms of intertextual organicism, however, since the comic plot of the former also requires a character named Neil to be so badly burned by a crêpe that his gorgeous girlfriend will take him to England for burn treatment. All parallels to the plot of The English Patient are surely deliberate.[9]

Noel Murray of The A.V. Club wrote, "Who bears more responsibility for the declining reputation of The English Patient: Elaine Benes, or Harvey Weinstein?" [4] David Sims, at the same website, reviewed the episode with a certainty that Elaine is its "real hero": "Her finest moment is when Peterman, having gone on about loving the movie, asks her if she's seen it, and she just can't bring herself to lie and say she liked it, instead telling the fatal, but nobler white lie that she hasn't seen it yet. That means Peterman drags her to it again, of course, but then we're treated to the sight of Elaine sprawled in her seat, bored to the point of death, so we the audience are the real winners." Sims called the episode "classic Seinfeld, as well, in that it's a plot where very little happens but it's nonetheless very funny."[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coddon, David L. (March 28, 2008). "'English Patient' like slow death to some; others see a masterpiece". U-T San Diego. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ Northwood, Anton (June 28, 2012). "Book Review: Harbach's The Art of Fielding is My The English Patient". NW Daily Marker. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (Feb 22, 2012). "Oscars: 10 Best Picture Winners That Should Have Lost". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Warner). ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Murray, Noel (February 22, 2012). "The English Patient / Cold Mountain". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ Schleicher, David H. (June 3 [2012?]). "The Study of Film through Seinfeld". The Schleicher Spin. Retrieved September 20, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Parnell, Mike (January 27, 2004). "Cold Mountain". EthicsDaily.com. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Koren, Steve (Originally aired March 13, 1997). "The English Patient". Seinfeld Scripts. Retrieved September 20, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Lavery, David (2006). Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum. p. 51. 
  9. ^ Dunne, Michael (2006). "Seinfeld as Intertextual Comedy". In David Lavery and Sara Lewis Dunne. Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum. p. 54. 
  10. ^ Sims, David (January 12, 2012). "The English Patient / The Nap". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]