The Pony Remark
|"The Pony Remark"|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Tom Cherones|
|Written by||Larry David
|Original air date||January 30, 1991|
"The Pony Remark" is the second episode of the second season of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld, and the seventh episode overall. The episode was written by series co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, based on a remark David made once.
In this episode, Jerry, at a relative's 50th anniversary dinner, makes a tactless remark about hating anybody who had a pony when they were a child. His remark upsets the female guest-of-honor, causing her to storm out in anger. When the woman dies shortly after the dinner, Jerry and his friends wonder if the pony remark had something to do with her death.
The episode featured the first appearance of Jerry's uncle Leo (Len Lesser), who became a recurring character on the show. The episode also featured the first appearance of Barney Martin as Morty Seinfeld, replacing actor Phil Bruns, who had portrayed Morty in the season 1 episode "The Stake Out". "The Pony Remark" aired on January 30, 1991, and gained a Nielsen rating of 10.7/16. It gained positive responses from critics and The New York Times considers the episode a turning point for the show.
Jerry's parents, Helen (Liz Sheridan) and Morty Seinfeld, are staying at Jerry's apartment in New York City, making themselves at home. He bursts in, wearing baseball clothes, carrying a bat and glove, and proudly tells them that during his softball game, "I made an incredible play in the field! There was a tag-up at third base and I threw the guy out from left field on a fly! We'll be in the championship game Wednesday because of me. It was the single greatest moment in my life."
Morty shares the reflected glory by remembering his own greatest moment; he is sympathetic, but Helen reminds them that they are all going to the 50th anniversary dinner of Helen's second cousin Manya (Rozsika Halmos) and her husband Isaac (David Fresco). Though Jerry does not want to go—he has made plans, he doesn't know the people—his mother coerces him: "At least come and say hello, have a cup of coffee, then you'll leave." Jerry knows it won't be that simple, so he persuades Elaine to attend, too. (To their unspoken dismay, she is seated at the kiddie table, lower than the grown-ups.)
During the dinner, he makes the tactless comment to which the title refers:
HELEN: I hear the fella owns a couple of racehorses. You know, trotters, like at Yonkers.
JERRY: Horses? They're like big riding dogs.
ELAINE: What about ponies? What kind of abnormal animal is that? And those kids who had their own ponies...
JERRY: I know, I hated those kids. In fact, I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.
MANYA: (angry) I had a pony.
(The room goes dead quiet.)
JERRY: Well, I didn't, uh, really mean a pony, per se...
MANYA: When I was a little girl in Poland, we all had ponies. My sister had pony, my cousin had pony... So, what's wrong with that?
Jerry tries to apologize, even going as far as to compare ponies with compact cars, but Manya gets even more angry and leaves the table. Just after she leaves, Jerry tries to reason with the others that he did not know she had a pony and wonders why immigrants with ponies would leave Europe to come to America without ponies ("Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country?") After the dinner, when Jerry's parents are leaving, his father soothes: "Hey, I agree with him. Nobody likes a kid with a pony." But Jerry receives a phone call from Uncle Leo, who informs him that Manya has died. Jerry is very upset about it, but he's also upset to learn that the funeral will be held on the same day of his softball championship.
At Monk's Cafe, Jerry discusses the situation with George and Elaine. They speculate whether his comment may have been a factor, though both are self-centered: Elaine wonders about her own death, and George urges Jerry to play in the softball game, because he thinks Jerry needs "to play left field", as Jerry's replacement fielder "stinks," and, George adds, "I just don't see what purpose is it gonna serve your going? I mean, you think dead people care who's at their funeral? They don't even know they're having a funeral."
Feeling guilty, Jerry ends up going to the funeral, where he, again, apologizes for his remark. Isaac informs him that Manya had forgotten Jerry made the pony remark: "Oh, no no no. She forgot all about that. She was much more upset about the potato salad." Elaine asks Isaac multiple times about what is going to happen with their apartment. Isaac eventually tells her that Jerry's cousin Jeffrey is going to live in it. When it starts to rain, Jerry realizes that the game will be postponed. The following day, after the game, Jerry, George and Elaine meet at Monk's Cafe, where they discuss the lousy way Jerry played softball. (Jerry recalls a certain play, about which he admits, "It was the single worst moment of my life.") Elaine wonders if Manya's spirit put a spell on him.
In a subplot, Jerry and Kramer bet whether or not Kramer will rebuild his apartment so that it has multiple flat wooden levels instead of needing furniture. Kramer changes his mind and decides not to build levels, but refuses to pay Jerry, arguing that since he did not attempt it, the bet was invalid.
This episode was written by series creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, in their second episode for this season, and directed by Tom Cherones, also his second episode this season, during the course of the second production season. This episode was based on a remark David once made during a conversation. Cherones deliberately made Elaine sit at a smaller table while directing the dinner scene. "The Pony Remark" was the first episode in which Kramer wants to gamble, it is later established that he has a gambling addiction. The idea of Elaine asking Isaac what is going to happen with his old apartment was added during rehearsals. The first table reading of the episode was held on October 24, 1990, and a run through was held two days later. "The Pony Remark" was filmed in front of a live audience on October 30, 1990, while Seinfeld's stand-up routine was filmed one day earlier, along with the performances used in "The Ex-Girlfriend" and "The Busboy"; Seinfeld would change wardrobe between takes.
"The Pony Remark" featured the second appearance of Helen and Morty Seinfeld, who had previously appeared in the season 1 episode "The Stake Out". In "The Stake Out", Morty was portrayed by Phil Bruns; however, David and Seinfeld decided they wanted the character to be harsher, and re-cast him with Barney Martin, who auditioned for the part on October 15, 1990 at 12.45 PM. Martin was unaware that another actor had already established the part. Helen was portrayed by Liz Sheridan; in an early draft of the episode, her name was Adele, though this did not match her name from "The Stake Out". It was later changed back to Helen. The episode also introduced Jerry's uncle Leo, portrayed by Len Lesser, who was known for his acting in gangster films, and also The Outlaw Josey Wales and Kelly's Heroes. When Lesser auditioned for the part on October 22, 1990, he got a lot of laughs from David, Seinfeld and casting director Marc Herschfield, but did not understand why, because he did not think his lines were funny. Herschfield stated that Lesser was the right actor for the part when Lesser had auditioned. David Fresco guest starred in the episode as Isaac. Fresco had some difficulty with his lines in the episode, and would sometimes burst into laughter during filming. Other actors who guest-starred in the episode were Rozsika Halmos, who portrayed Manya, and Milt Oberman, who played the funeral director.
On January 30, 1991, "The Pony Remark" was first broadcast on American television. It gained a Nielsen rating of 10.7 and an audience share of 16. This means that 10.7% of American households watched the episode, and that 16% of all televisions in use at the time were tuned into it. The episode gained two Primetime Emmy Award nominations; Seinfeld and David were nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Cherones was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series. Though the episode did not win either of its Emmy nominations, Seinfeld was praised for co-hosting the Emmy telecast.
Dave Kehr of The New York Times felt that "The Pony Remark" was a turning point for the show, stating that, after the first few episodes, the show "turn[ed] into something sharp and distinctive [...] Here, suddenly, is the tight knot of guilt and denial, of hypersensitivity and sarcastic contempt that Seinfeld would explore for the next eight years." Holly Ordway of DVD Talk considered the episode the best episode of Seinfeld's second season. "The Pony Remark" is considered one of Seinfeld's "classic episodes". Writing for Entertainment Weekly, critics Mike Flaherty and Mary Kaye Schilling called the episode "Seinfeld at its mordant best" and graded it with an A-.
In the book Something Ain't Kosher Here: The Rise of the "Jewish" Sitcom, Vincent Brook analysed the episode, saying, "Jerry is made to feel guilty for his 'lethal' pony remark, whence the episode's macabre humor; yet the moral in terms of ethno-spatial identity is clear. In its violent rejection of Manya, Seinfeld has driven descent-based ethnicities (and their legacy of privation and self-sacrifice) off the face of the earth, and literally off the air. There is no place for traditional Jewishness in the hedonistic Seinfeld world, "The Pony Remark" vociferously proclaims."
David Sims of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A, calling it a "classic" and writing that it "is so damn clever in how it bonds Jerry's fears about social niceties with larger fears about mortality"; he also praised Louis-Dreyfus's acting, saying that Elaine "has an amusingly stark little bit of dialogue about death midway through the episode: "You know, funerals always make me think about my own mortality and how I'm actually going to die someday. Me, dead. Imagine that!" I think it's probably Louis-Dreyfus' best moment of the show so far, because she's really starting to nail Elaine's declarative, vaguely imperious, self-centered tone." He also admired "the estimable Barney Martin in his first appearance as Jerry's irascible dad."
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