The Finale (Seinfeld)
"The Finale" is the name given to the final two episodes of the American sitcom Seinfeld. They were the 179th and 180th episodes of the show and the 23rd and 24th episodes of the ninth season. It aired on NBC May 14, 1998 to an audience of 76 million viewers. Its initial running time was 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The fake working title for this show was "A Tough Nut to Crack" to throw off outsiders about the contents of the episode. For the first and final time since season seven, Jerry performs a stand-up comedy routine. Larry David, co-creator of the series, returned to write the script for this episode.
Jerry and George have finally struck a deal with NBC to produce their pilot, Jerry, as a series and will be leaving New York City for California to begin work. Jerry is given use of NBC's private jet as a courtesy and he, George, Elaine, and Kramer decide to go to Paris for "one last hurrah". On the plane, George and Elaine argue over the quality of the plane and what Elaine considers an "effeminate" way in which George sits in the jet, while Kramer is still trying to get water out of his ears from a trip to the beach he made earlier in the day.
Kramer's desperation to get the water out of his ears causes him to jump up and down on the plane and, as a result, he stumbles and falls into the cockpit, which causes the pilots to lose control. While the plane is nosediving, the four prepare for death. George, momentarily feeling the need to confess, reveals he cheated in "The Contest," and Elaine begins to tell Jerry that she always loved him; but the plane steadies itself and they make a safe emergency landing in the small town of Latham, Massachusetts.
While waiting for the plane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man (John Pinette) getting carjacked at gunpoint. Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about his size while Kramer films it all on his camcorder, then proceed to walk away. The victim notices this and tells the reporting officer, who arrests them on a duty to rescue violation that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation. Because this is the first case implementing this law, the prosecutor wants to find out everything he can about Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer in order to win. Jerry and his friends do not have any choice but to call on Jackie Chiles to represent them for the upcoming trial.
The second part starts with people associated with the main characters packing for the trial. Jerry's parents, George's parents, Newman, Uncle Leo, J. Peterman, David Puddy, Mickey, Kenny Bania, Susan's parents, the rabbi from Elaine's building, the pool guy, George Steinbrenner, and Keith Hernandez are among those shown. Chiles mounts the defense that the witnesses are only exaggerating to settle scores with the four and that the four did not want to get shot by the criminal, and that the carjacker is free to "laugh and lie".
A lengthy trial ensues, presided over by Judge Arthur Vandelay. George considers this to be a good sign, as Arthur Vandelay was one of the many fake names he used for himself and phony companies he claimed to have worked for. In addition to the officer who arrested them and the carjacking victim, many of the four's former acquaintances — including Marla Penny, the low-talker, Donald Sanger, Babu Bhatt, Yev Kassem, George Steinbrenner and Dr. Wexler from "The Invitations" — are called as character witnesses against them. They tell alternate versions of what really happened, and many of their "enemies" believe that. In addition, many others from New York have made the trip to watch the trial in the courtroom.
Despite the effort of George's mother to try to convince Judge Vandelay to reduce the punishment, the jury finds Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer guilty of doing nothing and they are each sentenced to one year in a state prison.
In the final scene before the credits, the four main characters sit in a jail cell. Kramer is finally able to get the water out of his ears after days of trying. Jerry begins a conversation about George's shirt buttons, using lines from the first episode. George then wonders if they have had that conversation before.
Elaine's minor storyline
Throughout the first half of the episode, Elaine tries to get hold of her friend Jill. First, she can't get any reception with her cell phone on the street. Then, Jerry interrupts her with news of the pilot pickup and Elaine hangs up on Jill to take the call. Jerry then scolds her for trying to rush the call before they all leave for Paris, and for thinking about calling from the plane. Finally, Elaine decides that she's going to use her one phone call from prison to call Jill, saying that the prison call is the "king of calls".
In the final scene of the series, Jerry is wearing a Latham County orange jumpsuit, and performing a stand-up routine of prison-related jokes to an audience of fellow prisoners (including Kramer and George; Elaine is not seen as she is in a women's prison). No one is laughing, except for the studio audience and Kramer. As he is then yanked off the stage, he says to his audience, "Hey, you've been great. See you in the cafeteria."
During the trial portion of the two-part finale, a large number of witnesses take the stand to testify against the group, often recalling scenarios from earlier seasons that help to implicate them.
- Matt Vogel—The arresting officer. Vogel testifies that Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine were simply standing there while the victim was being robbed. During his testimony, Kramer's video is played.
- Overweight Victim—The victim of the robbing, claiming that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George just did nothing while he was getting robbed.
- Detective—From "The Wig Master". The detective refers to an incident that took place due to an odd set of circumstances that led to Kramer being mistaken for a pimp and arrested.
- Marla Penny—The virgin whom Jerry dates in "The Virgin" and "The Contest". She explains that she broke up with Jerry after learning of the contest that the four had to see who could go the longest without masturbation.
- Marcelino—The cockfighting ringleader from "The Little Jerry". His testimony simply consists of him saying "cockfighting" in response to a question from the district attorney.
- The Sponge Pharmacist—The pharmacist testifies that Elaine "said she needed a whole case" of Today sponges shortly after they were pulled from the market, adding that he is not referring to "the kind you clean your tub with".
- Fred—Elaine's ex-boyfriend from "The Pick". He testifies about Elaine's accidental nipple exposure in a Christmas card.
- Mabel Choate—The elderly woman Jerry mugged for a loaf of marble rye bread for George to give to his soon-to-be in-laws in "The Rye". She recounts this incident. Her use as a witness leads to an objection by Jackie Chiles, because she was not present at the crime, but the prosecution states that they plan to use a series of character witnesses and the judge allows her to testify.
- Donald Sanger—The Bubble Boy whom Jerry tried to visit. Sanger describes the argument he had with George while playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, which ultimately led to the destruction of the protective bubble he lives in (due to an unspecified medical condition); the bubble actually popped while Donald was choking George.
- Lola—Describes events from "The Handicap Spot": George parked in a handicapped space, which caused her to travel a greater distance to get to where she was going. Her wheelchair was destroyed in an accident and Kramer bought her a used wheelchair with faulty brakes, which caused her to go careening down a hill.
- Dr. Wilcox—The doctor from "The Invitations" who treated Susan Ross, George's ex-fiancee, after she passed out from licking envelopes covered with toxic glue. Dr. Wilcox discusses a look of "restrained jubilation" on George's face when he was informed she died. His testimony causes Susan's parents to scream at George and call him a murderer.
- Sidra Holland—The woman Jerry dated from the health club in "The Implant". Sidra recounts an incident when Elaine tripped in the sauna and landed on her breasts, claiming that Jerry had sent Elaine into the sauna to find out if her breasts were real or implants.
- Joe Bookman—The library cop from "The Library" who testifies about Jerry having a twenty-five year overdue library book. He calls Jerry a "criminal".
- Robin—George's girlfriend from "The Fire" recounts her child's birthday party, where George selfishly threw multiple children and elderly people out of the way to escape a small kitchen fire.
- Mall Security Guard—From "The Parking Garage". He testifies about catching Jerry urinating in public and his reasoning for doing so ("...I could get uromysitisis poisoning and die, that's why.").
- The Low-Talker—Kramer's ex-girlfriend from "The Puffy Shirt". It is apparent that she is testifying against Jerry for ruining her career by bad-mouthing the puffy shirt. However, due to her low-talking, Jackie Chiles objects because no one can hear her.
- George Steinbrenner—George's former boss with the Yankees, who recalls how he was rumored to be a Communist in "The Race", but did not state how he was traded for Tyler Chicken in "The Muffin Tops"). Frank Costanza reminds Steinbrenner that he gave $12 million to Hideki Irabu.
- Justin Pitt—Elaine's former boss who fired her over a misunderstanding in "The Diplomat's Club". Pitt believed Elaine was trying to kill him and testifies she tried to smother him with a pillow.
- The Soup Nazi, Yev Kassem—Testifies that the four used to come into his restaurant, and that he banned Elaine from the shop by saying "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" Elaine later found soup recipes in an old armoire that once belonged to the Soup Nazi, and in an act of revenge reveals his recipes to the public. This caused the Soup Nazi to go out of business and move to Argentina.
- Babu Bhatt—A former Pakistani restauranteur who appeared in "The Cafe" and "The Visa". Babu retells the story of how Jerry's advice to change his restaurant's menu from varied to Pakistani caused his customer base to dry up, and he charges that Elaine and Jerry purposely mixed up his mail so he did not get his visa renewal papers and was deported. Babu's story is only partially true; his restaurant did not get any business except for Jerry's patronage before he changed the menu, and his renewal papers were accidentally delivered to Jerry's house while Jerry was out of town.
More witnesses were shown in deleted scenes:
- Ramon-The Pool Guy who Jerry and Newman argue on which one of them will do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Mr. Lippman-Elaine's boss during her time at Pendent Publishing: He recounts the time when George had sex with the cleaning lady in The Red Dot.
Broadcast and reception
In its original American broadcast, "The Finale" was viewed by an estimated 76.3 million households becoming the 3rd most viewed series finale in the United States after M*A*S*H and Cheers and the 4th most viewed finale of any kind (series finale and season finale) in the U.S after M*A*S*H, Roots, and Cheers.
When this episode originally aired on NBC, TV Land paid tribute by not programming any shows opposite it, instead just showing a still shot of a closed office door with a pair of hand written notes that said "We're TV Fans so... we're watching the last episode of Seinfeld. Will return at 10pm et, 7pm pt."
The finale of Seinfeld was criticized by many for portraying the main characters as bad people with no respect for society, and for mocking the audience who tuned in to watch them every week. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker seemed to echo this sentiment in declaring the episode "off-key and bloated...Ultimately, Seinfeld and David's kiss-off to their fans was a loud, hearty, 'So long, suckers!'"
Others valued it for the large number of cameo appearances from past episodes, as well as the perceived in-joke of the four characters being convicted and imprisoned on the charge that they did nothing, a play on the "show about nothing" mantra.
The night before "The Finale" aired, competing ABC television show Dharma & Greg aired the episode "Much Ado During Nothing". Their story centered around their title characters trying to win back a duck lawn ornament from Dharma's friend Jane by doing the most daring sexual act in public. After getting caught by the police once, they devise a scheme sure to succeed. Their plan centers on them "doing the deed" while the final episode is airing, saying that "...everybody in the country is going to be watching the last episode of Seinfeld."
Although Larry David has stated he has no regrets about how the show ended, a 2010 Time article noted that the Seinfeld reunion during the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm "was viewed by many as his attempt at a do-over." This was also referenced by Jerry in the Curb season finale, saying "We already screwed up one finale" with David responding "we didn't screw up a finale, that was a good finale!"
The U.S. West Coast airing of the finale of Seinfeld coincided with the death of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's ambulance was able to arrive at his home and then to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center very quickly in light traffic, due to many in Los Angeles being indoors to watch the show.
This version had cut several parts from the original episode (US):
- In the plane:
- When the plane was falling, Elaine said to Jerry "Jerry, I've always loved...", but in the syndication version, "loved..." is cut.
- In the trial:
- The Bubble Boy, George Steinbrenner, Ramon the Pool Guy and the police detective from the episode "The Wig Master"
- The scene between Jerry and Elaine before the jury re-enters the courtroom
- Jerry's opening stand-up comedy act, which was the first since the finale of Season 7.
The scenes that had to be cut are now available on DVD.
- First half
- The scene with Kramer in the car is much longer than originally aired.
- Dialogue between Jerry and George in a taxi.
- The coffee shop scene with Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George is much longer, examining more locations than before.
- Second half
- The exchange between the minor cast members before the jury is cut down.
- Jackie Chiles' opening dialogue is much longer than aired.
- Jerry's final standup is much longer than before.
- An alternate ending was filmed where the four were found not guilty of their crimes. This ending can be found as an Easter egg on the "Seinfeld" season 9 DVD set.
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- "The Finale, Part 1 episode on Seinfeld.com". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
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- Battaglio, Stephen. "2010: The Year in Numbers", "TV Insider", TV Guide, December 20, 2010, Page 9
- "All Videos—Newest—Video—NBC.com". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "TV Land Last Seinfeld". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Reviewed by Ken Tucker (1998-05-29). "Seinfeld Review | News Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "The Lost Finale: Top 10 Most Anticipated Tv Endings". Time. 2010-05-23.
- Caruso, Michelle (1998-05-16). "WAIL OF SIRENS HERALDS CROONER'S LAST HOURS". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- "Nancy Sinatra". Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- TV's Most Unforgettable Finales—Aired May 22, 2011 on TV Guide Network
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