The Rye

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"The Rye"
Seinfeld episode
Episode no.Season 7
Episode 11
Directed byAndy Ackerman
Written byCarol Leifer
Production code711
Original air dateJanuary 4, 1996
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Gum"
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"The Caddy"
Seinfeld (season 7)
List of Seinfeld episodes

"The Rye" is the 121st episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the 11th episode for the seventh season. It aired on January 4, 1996. It was written by American comedian Carol Leifer.


Most of the plot revolves around a loaf of marbled rye bread, with its appearance and disappearance causing repercussions that last until the very end of the Seinfeld show.

Elaine dates a jazz saxophonist named John Jermaine and admits to Jerry that she has reservations about their dating, because John "actually, he, um, doesn't really like to do 'everything'"[1] (a reference to oral sex). In spite of this, Jerry incautiously tells one of the band members, Clyde (played by Leonard Lightfoot) that John and Elaine are "pretty hot and heavy."

When Jerry tells Elaine what he said, Elaine is alarmed and shows some uncharacteristic consideration: "I don't want John thinking that I'm hot and heavy if he's not hot and heavy. I'm trying to get a little squirrel to come over to me here. I don't wanna make any big, sudden movements. I'll frighten him away!"

The main plot begins when George's and Susan's parents meet and have dinner for the first time. It is a social disaster. Mrs. Ross (Grace Zabriskie) evidently likes to drink; Frank displays his ignorance and social gracelessness with every sentence. Estelle Costanza says she has never heard of Merlot; George is mortified, and Susan is helpless to patch up each conversation.

The Costanzas have brought a loaf of marbled rye bread from Schnitzer's Bakery. It isn't served with the meal, so Frank sneaks it away when they leave. While George and his parents are in the car, his parents continue to complain about the Rosses:

ESTELLE: The mother seems to hit the sauce pretty hard. I didn't like that.
FRANK: And who doesn't serve cake after a meal? What kind of people? Would it kill them to put out a pound cake? Something!
GEORGE: So, they didn't give you a piece of cake? Big deal.
ESTELLE: It is a big deal. You're supposed to serve cake after a meal. I'm sorry. It's impolite.
FRANK: Not's stupid, that's what it is.
ESTELLE: Your father's absolutely right. We're sitting there like idiots, drinking coffee without a piece of cake![1]

Mrs. Ross realizes that the Costanzas brought a rye loaf as a courtesy to them and wonders where it has disappeared.

MRS. ROSS: Oh, dear. I forgot to put out that - that bread they brought... Where is it?
SUSAN: I don't know. Where'd you put it?
MRS. ROSS: Right over there.
SUSAN: Well, it's gone.
MRS. ROSS: Is it possible they took it back?
SUSAN: Who would bring a bread and take it back?
MR. ROSS: Those people, that's who. I think they're sick.[1]

Meanwhile, the Costanzas are obsessing on the rye as they drive home:

ESTELLE: We forgot to bring it in!
FRANK: No, I brought it in. They never put it out.
GEORGE: You stole the bread?
FRANK: What do you mean stole? It's my bread. They didn't eat it. Why should I leave it there?
GEORGE: Because we brought it for them!
FRANK: Apparently, it wasn't good enough for them to serve.
ESTELLE: People take buses to get that rye.
GEORGE: Maybe they forgot to put it out!
FRANK: Aw, they didn't forget to put it out! It's deliberate! Deliberate, I tell ya![1]

George wants to please his parents, but he wants to impress the Rosses. He decides that, by getting Susan's parents out of the apartment for one evening, he can get a new rye and place it in the kitchen, making it appear as though it had always been there.

Kramer has taken over a friend's horse-drawn tourist carriage for a week and agrees to take Susan's parents on a hansom cab ride in the Central Park area as a distraction for George. The Rosses are having an anniversary and begin the ride with romantic feelings toward each other; but the plan falls apart when neither Kramer nor Susan's parents can bear the horse's extreme flatulence after Kramer had fed it an entire can of "Beef-A-Reeno", a fictional beef and pasta concoction analogous to the real life canned pasta and beef dish Beef-A-Roni.

Meanwhile, John wants to try adding something "new" to his repertoire with Elaine and takes her back to his place before a performance in front of some record executives.

George persuades Jerry to go in pursuit of another loaf of rye. Unfortunately, the Counter Woman (played by Kathryn Kates) at Schnitzer's Bakery happily sells the last rye to an elderly woman, Mabel Choate (portrayed by Frances Bay), who refuses to sell it to Jerry, even when he offers her fifty dollars. Jerry follows Mabel down the street in order to get the marble rye loaf, though she still refuses to sell it. Eventually he snatches it from her, shouting the infamous line, "Shut up, you old bag!" (This will come back to haunt him in "The Cadillac" and "The Finale".)

By now the Rosses have returned and the only way George can retrieve the rye is by using a fishing pole to tug it out of Jerry's hands from a third story window. He is, of course, caught in the act by Susan and her parents. Unable to defend himself, George merely shrugs and says, faintly, by way of explanation, "Schnitzer's."

John shows up late to his show with Elaine and apparently his enthusiastic "performance" has affected his saxophone playing to the point he can't play even a single bar.[2] Elaine sheepishly sneaks out of the club as John's potential record contract goes up in smoke.

Critical reception[edit]

Sara Lewis Dunne, in the book Seinfeld: Master of Its Domain, comments on possible reasons why the Costanzas and the Rosses clash:

Dinner party "rules" seem to baffle all the regular characters on Seinfeld... [I]n this episode we see a peculiarly New York culture clash between the schlubby Costanzas and the ritzy Rosses. Much has been written about whether the Costanzas, whose name "sounds" Italian, are really Jewish, with George, according to both Carla Johnson and Jon Stratton (in this volume), as the ultimate schlemiel. A food called Schnitzel's Marble Rye certainly would seem to fit into the ethnic tradition that would offer it as a dinner-party gift, and its rejection by the Rosses seems an affront, which could easily be read as an ethnic affront, to Frank Costanza. When I first saw this episode, I (and probably many other viewers as well) was reminded of Jackie Mason's summation of the difference between Jews and Gentiles: Jews eat and Gentiles drink, and the Rosses are usually seen with a drink in their hands.[3]

David Sims of The A.V. Club "was in general disappointed with the return of the Ross family here, especially with the juicy setup of them meeting the equally bonkers Costanzas." He thought that the episode The Cheever Letters was stronger: "the whole thing feels more like your classic in-law dinner from Hell rather than the special kind of crazy we might come to expect. But The Rye redeems itself somewhat with the much wackier sight of Jerry stealing a marble rye from an old lady and trying to toss it to George on a second-floor [sic; it was third-floor] window..."[4]

Linda S. Ghent, Professor in the Department of Economics at Eastern Illinois University, discusses this episode in view of its economic themes, specifically willingness to pay and willingness to sell.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Leifer, Carol (January 4, 1996). "The Rye". Seinfeld Scripts. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  2. ^ Lavery, David; Sara Lewis Dunne (2006). Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum. p. 247. ISBN 9780826418036.
  3. ^ Dunne, Sara Lewis (2006). "Seinfood: Purity, Danger, and Food Codes on Seinfeld". Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum. p. 154. ISBN 9780826418036.
  4. ^ Sims, David (September 8, 2011). "The Rye/The Caddy". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  5. ^ Ghent, Linda S. (2010). "Seinfeld Economics: The Rye". Critical Commons. Retrieved July 13, 2012.

External links[edit]