The Finale (Seinfeld)
"The Finale" is the two-part series finale of the American sitcom Seinfeld. They are 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 upon receiving a call from Elizabeth Clark calling from James Kimbrough's office. Jerry and George 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". 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. 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 airplane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man named Howie (John Pinette) getting carjacked at gunpoint by a criminal (Jerry Thomas Johnson). 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 Matt Vogel (Scott Jaeck), 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, they are advised by the deputy to call a lawyer to represent them. Jerry and his friends do not have any choice but to call on Jackie Chiles to represent them for the upcoming trial. District Attorney Hoyt (James Rebhorn) hears that Jackie Chiles will be representing Jerry and his friends and tells the prosecutor that he will find out everything about them.
The second part starts with people associated with the main characters packing for the trial. Jerry's parents Morty and Helen, George's parents Frank and Estelle, Newman, Uncle Leo, Jacopo "J." Peterman, David Puddy, Mickey Abbot, Kenny Bania, Susan Ross' parents, Rabbi Glickman, Ramon the pool guy, George Steinbrenner, Matt Wilhelm, and Keith Hernandez are among those shown. In addition, many others from New York have made the trip to watch the trial in the courtroom. 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 covered by Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells where the trial is presided over by Judge Arthur Vandelay (Stanley Anderson). 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.
District Attorney Hoyt starts his opening statement that the defendants have ignored their Good Samaritan Law and mocked the victim of a mugging. He also states that the defendants must pay for this crime. Jackie Chiles starts his opening statement that this trial is a waste of the taxpayer's money, the defendants are innocent from bystanding, and that the real criminal is still out there.
District Attorney Hoyt states to ask a lot of witnesses in hopes to make Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer pay for breaking the Good Samaritan Law:
- Officer Matt 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.
- Howie claims that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George just did nothing while he was getting robbed. District Attorney Hoyt has no further questions towards Howie.
- Mabel Choate (Frances Bay), 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" recounts this incident that took place on January 4, 1996. Her use as a witness upon her taking the stand leads to an objection by Jackie Chiles, because she was not present at the crime. District Attorney Hoyt states that they plan to use a series of character witnesses and the judge overrules the objection so that he can hear what she has to say.
- Marla Penny (Jane Leeves), the virgin whom Jerry dates in "The Virgin" and "The Contest," explains that she broke up with Jerry on October 28, 1992 after learning of the contest that the four had to see who could go the longest without masturbation. J. Peterman even quotes "For the love of god."
- Donald Sanger (voiced by Jon Hayman), the The Bubble Boy whom Jerry tried to visit, was brought in the courtroom by his father Mel Sanger (Brian Doyle-Murray). Donald describes the argument he had with George on October 7, 1992 while playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, which ultimately led to Susan Ross accidentally destroying the protective bubble he lives in (due to an unspecified medical condition). The bubble actually popped while Donald was choking George, who was framed for trying to kill him. George and Donald start their argument again.
- Lola (Donna Evans) 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 (Victor Raider-Wexler) recaps the events of "The Invitations" where he treated George's ex-fiancee Susan Ross after she passed out from licking envelopes covered with toxic glue on May 16, 1996. Dr. Wilcox described a look of "restrained jubilation" on George's face when he was informed she died. His testimony causes Mr. and Mrs. Ross to angrily react (which confirmed Mr. and Mrs. Ross' suspicion in "The Wizard" that George was behind their daughter's death) where Mr. Ross calls George a murderer and Mrs. Ross stating that George knew those envelopes were toxic as Judge Vandalay had to break up the commotion. George didn't actually react to Susan's death in the way that Dr. Wilcox described.
- Sidra Holland (Teri Hatcher), the woman Jerry dated from the health club in "The Implant," recounts an incident in 1993 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.
- Lt. Joe Bookman (Philip Baker Hall), the library cop from "The Library," talks about what a library cop does and mentions about how Jerry had a twenty-five year overdue library book. He calls Jerry a "criminal" which is what a "delinquent" for 25 years have been called.
- Robin (Melanie Chartoff), George's girlfriend from "The Fire," recounts her child's birthday party where a flashback shows George selfishly throwing multiple children and elderly people out of the way to escape a small kitchen fire is shown.
- The Garden Valley Shopping Mall Security Guard from "The Parking Garage" (David Dunard) testifies about catching Jerry urinating in public and his reasoning for doing so. The flashback showed Jerry telling the security guard that "I could get uromysitisis poisoning and die, that's why." District Attorney Hoyt quotes "Uromycitisis! I wonder if they're having any trouble controlling themselves during this trial? Perhaps these two hooligans would like to have a pee party right here in the courtroom!" When Jackie Chiles objects stating that his clients bathroom problems are not an issue of the trial, Judge Vandalay tells him to sit down when Jackie tries to refer to the Disability Act of 1990.
- The Detective from "The Wig Master" refers to an incident that took place at the end of the episode due to an odd set of circumstances that led to Kramer being mistaken for a pimp and arrested.
- Kramer's ex-girlfriend Leslie the Low-Talker (Wendel Meldrum) from "The Puffy Shirt" is apparent that she is testifying against Jerry for ruining her career by bad-mouthing the puffy shirt on The Today Show. Due to her low-talking, Jackie Chiles objects because nobody can hear her. He tells Judge Vandalay to either get Leslie a microphone or they should move on with the trial.
- George's former boss with the Yankees George Steinbrenner (played by Lee Bear and voiced by Larry David) 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 shouts to Steinbrenner "How could you give $12 million to Hideki Irabu?" Judge Vandalay had to break up the argument.
- Marcelino (Miguel Sandoval), the cockfighting ringleader from "The Little Jerry," has his testimony simply consisting of him saying "cockfighting" in response to a question from District Attorney Hoyt.
- Roger Hoffman (David Byrd) the Pharmacist from "The Sponge" testifies that Elaine "said she needed a whole case" of Today sponges shortly after they were pulled from the market. Roger also added that the sponges in question are not "the kind you clean your tub with. They're for sex."
- Elaine's ex-boyfriend Fred (Tony Carlin) from "The Pick" testifies about Elaine's accidental nipple exposure in a Christmas card.
- Elaine's former boss Justin Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) mentioned that he 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.
- Yev Kassem The Soup Nazi (Larry Thomas) testifies that the four used to come into his restaurant, and that he banned Elaine from the shop for a year 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. When Elaine whispers to Jerry, Kramer, and George that his soup wasn't good anyway, Yev shouts "What did you say?!"
- Babu Bhatt (Brian George), a former Pakistani restauranteur who appeared in "The Cafe" and "The Visa", was brought back into the United States where he 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 ended his testimony by quoting "All they do is mock me, just like they did the fat fellow. All the time. Mocking, mocking, mocking, mocking, mocking. All the time! Now it is Babu's turn to mock. Finally I will have some justice. Send them away! Send them all away! Lock them up forever! They are not human. Very bad! Very, very, very bad!" Babu's story is only partially true where 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. When back in Pakistan, Bhatt had stated to a friend that he made that he would be back in the US one day to have his revenge on Seinfeld.
More witnesses were shown in deleted scenes:
- Ramon (Carlos Jacott) The Pool Guy mentioned how Jerry and Newman argued on which one of them will do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to him.
- Elaine's ex-boss Mr. Lippman (Richard Fancy) recounts the time when George had sex with the cleaning lady in The Red Dot.
As the jury goes over the evidence, Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells recap to those watching their show about what was heard during the trial. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer hope that Jackie Chiles would get them acquitted. Estelle enters Judge Vandelay's office in order to get him to reduce the punishment for her son by doing something for him. Everyone else is seen killing time by waiting in the pool hall and the restaurant. Mr. Ross is seen buying a gun. Jackie Chiles makes out with Sidra until he gets a call that the jury has reached a verdict.
When it comes to the verdict, the forewoman of the jury (Myra Turley) states that the jury finds Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer guilty of criminal indifference with Mr. and Mrs. Ross and the testifiers being pleased with the verdict, Estelle faints, and Newman having a brief choking moment. Judge Vandelay breaks up the commotion and quotes "I do not know how, or under what circumstances the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you to spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves." Judge Vandalay adjourns the court and takes his leave from the courtroom. As everyone starts to leave, Elaine tells David not to wait for her to which he says "Alright." Frank tries to wake up Estelle from her fainting so that they can beat the traffic as Morty comforts Helen in the background. Before leaving with Sidra, Jackie Chiles tells the four that he may have lost the case, but he did get satisfied with Sidra while commenting "And by the way: they're real, and they're spectacular!"
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. 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". 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, to which Jerry acknowledges.
During the credits, 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 the women's section of the prison). No one is laughing except for the studio audience and Kramer. As he is then yanked off the stage by a prison guard (Jon Hayman), he says to his audience, "Hey, you've been great. See you in the cafeteria."
Broadcast and reception
The top price for a 30-second commercial during the U.S. broadcast was approximately $1 million, marking the first time ever on American television history that a regular primetime television series (as well as a non-sport broadcast) had commanded at least $1-million advertising rate (previously attained only by Super Bowl general telecasts).
In its original American broadcast, 76.3 million U.S. television viewers tuned into "The Finale", becoming the fifth most watched overall series finale in the U.S. after M*A*S*H*, Roots, Cheers and The Fugitive. 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."
Although the finale of Seinfeld enjoyed a huge audience during the May 1998 telecast, it was criticized by many for portraying the main characters as 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!" Having said that, during a Seinfeld roundtable reunion discussion, Larry admitted to understanding the disappointment and said if he were to redo it he would have kept the plot of the finale less of a secret, which only heightened expectations.
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 which disappoints the testifiers and Judge Vandalay. This ending can be found as an Easter egg on the "Seinfeld" season 9 DVD set.
- "The Finale, Part 2 episode on Seinfeld.com". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "The Finale, Part 1 episode on Seinfeld.com". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "The Finale". Seinfeld Scripts. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- "5 Things You Didn't Know: Seinfeld". AskMen. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- 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.
- 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.
- TV's Most Unforgettable Finales—Aired May 22, 2011 on TV Guide Network
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