The Lip Reader
|"The Lip Reader"|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Tom Cherones|
|Written by||Carol Leifer|
|Original air date||October 28, 1993|
"The Lip Reader" is the 70th episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. It is the sixth episode of the fifth season, and first aired on October 28, 1993.
Jerry and George are at the U.S. Open. During a break, George buys an ice cream sundae and gets it all over his face, which is broadcast on television and mocked by the commentators. Jerry becomes smitten with a lineswoman, Laura (Marlee Matlin). At first he thinks she is being rude, but realizes that she is actually deaf.
Elaine, who is using her company's car service, is tired of having to always make small talk with the drivers. She pretends to be deaf to avoid talking to him but is caught out when she is excited to hear a radio message to the driver to pick up Tom Hanks. When the driver is angry with her for faking deafness, she gets him tickets to a rock concert (which ends up causing the driver to temporarily lose his hearing).
George's girlfriend Gwen (Linda Kash) breaks up with him, telling him "it's not you; it's me". George is offended, but more by the fact he considers this to be his signature break-up line. Instead, George believes the real reason is that Gwen saw the video of him eating the ice cream and was disgusted.
When George finds out that Kramer knows sign language and Jerry's girlfriend Laura can lip-read, he asks them to come with him to a party that he knows Gwen will attend, so they can try to interpret her conversations and find out the real reason she dumped George.
The gang take Elaine's car service to the party, and the car is driven by the same driver as Elaine had before. When he recognizes Elaine, the driver throws everyone out of his cab.
When George gets Laura to interpret Gwen's conversation with a male friend, Kramer misinterprets her saying "sweep together" as "sleep together", and George confronts them angrily, causing a scene and ruining the party.
Later, the group return to the US Open to watch Kramer serve as a "ball man" at the first match of Monica Seles' comeback (from her stabbing injury). However, soon into the match, Kramer knocks Seles over.
After the match, Laura gets into the limo with the same chatty driver. When he starts talking to her, she explains to him that she's deaf. He gives her dubious expression, thinking she is faking it like Elaine.
David Sims of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A- / B+, calling it "perfectly good but just a little more forgettable than the stone cold classics season five opened with," including "some very memorable moments." Sims notes that much of the episode "makes George look like a fool."
Nick DeNitto remarked that "Laura's lip-reading isn't perfect, which leads to some funny moments of miscommunication."
Commentator Paul Arras praises the episode for its "jokes that take on stereotypes, political correctness, and other assumptions about etiquette."
While Elaine becomes the foil, Matlin plays the character with such self-confidence and empowerment, it's easy to forget that social etiquette implies her deafness should be cause for pity. In a hilarious scene, Jerry and George out to dinner with Laura, go to great lengths to guard their mouths in natural ways, raising a glass to their face or rubbing their eyes so Laura doesn't know they are talking about her. George, of course, lacks the shame he should be expected to feel about using Laura's skill for his own selfish interests. Jerry is more hesitant, saying, 'She's not a novelty act, George, where you hire her out for weddings and bar mitzvahs.' Eventually Jerry relents to ask, but before he can, Laura blurts out, 'Sure. I'll do it.' She's turned the tables and demonstrated her own empowerment. Their attempts to disguise their conversation from her failed. She is too good a lip reader to be outwitted.
Marlee Matlin told interviewer Heather Hogan about her experiences working on Seinfeld:
- Q: I think Seinfeld's "Lip Reader" episode is iconic. Did you catch any flak for taking on that role?
- A: The only thing I got for taking on that role was an Emmy nomination and a lot of approving looks, from people in airports, on the freeway, in public restrooms while I was freshening up! People across the board loved the episode and why wouldn't they? It was SEINFELD for God's sake, probably one of the top one or two funniest sitcoms in history. I am so honored to have been a small part of its legacy. And I am so jazzed to be working and developing a half-hour comedy with the creator of "Lip Reader," Carol Leifer. Funny lady!
- Sims, David (Feb 24, 2011). "Seinfeld: The Bris / The Lip Reader". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- DeNitto, Nick (August 26, 2013). "10 Famous People You Didn't Know Played Bit Parts On Seinfeld". WhatCulture!. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- Arras, Paul. "SEINFELD - Season 5, Episode 6 – The Lip Reader". Watching the 90s: Television and Film Notes and Musings. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- Hogan, Heather (June 15, 2009). "Interview with Marlee Matlin". www.AfterEllen.com. Retrieved February 24, 2014.