Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm 8.4 'The Smiley Face'

“I will shit where I eat… Or eat where I shat.” – Larry

After a few episodes without the usual colliding storylines, ‘The Smiley Face’ saw Curb revert back to classic Larry David influenced writing, with several threads all intertwining for maximum David destruction.

Larry was like an octopus of chaos in this episode, with his numerous tentacles reaching out and damaging several innocent people’s lives, in other words exactly what we’ve all come to expect, and love, about the Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The several threads in this episode all frayed off Larry with him locking horns with his new office neighbour over their shared kitchen, inadvertently causing long-suffering assistant Antoinette to not be at her father’s death bed, insisting his new girlfriend Heidi not use the titular emoticon in text messages, slandering a dermatologist, causing friends to suspect Jeff was having an affair and remaining determined to, as the opening quote suggests, return to the restaurant Heidi works at after the inevitable break-up.

Not bad for one episode really is it? It’d take most men a lifetime to create so much turmoil, but not Larry. I genuinely think Larry David should be incorporated in to chaos theory and the infamous ‘butterfly effect’ somehow, if a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a tornado somewhere else in the world then imagine what Larry just opening his mouth can do…

Larry’s determination, even before things started to go wrong with Heidi, to “shit where he eats” and then “eat where he shat” had all the hallmarks of a Larry David social experiment. As beautiful, sexy and way out of his league as Heidi was I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that the whole relationship had just been Larry testing whether he could in fact “shit where he eats” and get away with it.

There seemed to be no real affection for Heidi and, although we know the most minor of offenses can cause Larry to make a snap decision about someone, the smiley face did seem like a very minor irritant to let set the wheels in motion for the end of the relationship, even by Larry David standards.

At least Larry clearly had the self-awareness that the relationship would end, most likely at his own hands, and quite humorously seemed already prepared for it – what a great way to live.

As someone who for years was staunchly anti-emoticons, but has recently fallen in to the habit of using them, I really enjoyed Larry’s indignation at someone using them. After now falling in to a bracket of people that Larry David considers to be “idiots” I don’t think I’ll be using an emoticon again now for quite some time, especially a smiley face.

I’ve often thought of Larry as something of a kindred spirit, albeit a rather extreme one, and I usually agree with all of his little social rules, so to find myself having done something that irks him so much was slightly disheartening!

It was blatantly obvious a mile away that poor Antoinette’s father would die the moment Larry guilted her in to returning to work for the day, and although his feud with ‘dog’ in the office next door was probably the weakest of the storylines it ended on such a great punch-line that all that went before it was easily forgivable.

One of the things that make Curb great is that usually the people with whom Larry is having a dispute have done something so minor it’s almost hard to empathise with Larry’s passion for proving them wrong, almost.

Here though, Dog was so blatantly in the wrong with how he took over the kitchen there was no moral or social analysis needed and Larry’s suffering felt unwarranted which isn’t what we want from Curb.

Of course you could argue that this inconvenience was karma for the ways in which he upset people throughout the rest of the episode but this storyline still felt too one-sided.

Having Susie mistake Antoinette’s mother as the woman Jeff was supposedly having an affair with though and that ultimate pay-off was worth the somewhat predictable way that we reached that point and all the disappointing Dog business before it… I bet Susie has a hell of a punch on her.

Elsewhere, Larry’s lie about the dermatologist and how that spiralled out of his control you could again see coming a mile away but it was very funny in it’s execution, as anything with Richard Lewis involved usually is.

Lewis seemed to instantly suspect Larry was lying, the running gag about the use of high-pitched inflection to the voice when lying making its first appearance of the episode, so it did seem slightly unbelievable that Lewis, without any evidence other than the word of a renowned liar, would go round town badmouthing the poor Doctor.

Larry having to sneak out in the middle of the funeral and then causing the Doctor to miss playing ‘Danny Boy’ on his flute as Antoinette’s father was buried were both really nice moments though.

All in all, although the pacing and the structure of ‘The Smiley Face’ were probably an improvement on last week’s episode, ultimately I don’t think this episode quite achieved the same level of greatness that last week’s season high ‘The Palestinian Chicken’ did, but when the show as a whole remains this damn good that’s a very minor gripe indeed.

A Hail of Bullets:

- Boy, that smiley face Heidi drew on Larry’s head with the sun cream was pristine wasn’t it?

- There were a number of notable guest stars in this episode, at least to me anyway.

First off we had Rebecca Creskoff, last seen as the manipulative coal mining company representative on Justified’s brilliant second season, as Heidi; the second sexy woman in as many episodes to be on Larry’s arm. Is this David sowing some long standing wild oats in the wake of his both on and off screen divorce?

Then we had Patrick Fischler from Lost and Mad Men as the annoying and overly huggy Stu, who read too much in to the high inflection in Larry’s voice and there was also Michael Gross of Family Ties fame as the poor dermatologist whose business Larry seemingly ruined, Gross may be more familiar to people these days for playing Ted’s dad on How I Met Your Mother.

- I had a feeling that the scene with Heidi’s niece was setting something up for later and that she would somehow gain revenge on Larry for his rudeness, but surprisingly there was no follow up – it’s unlike Curb to not have every scene and interaction Larry has be important later on.

- I loved Larry’s explanation of the smiley face on his head at the funeral – “I believe they refer to that as a smiley face, they’re frequently used by idiots at the end of emails and text messages, such as ‘I miss you, smiley face’” and the fact that he wouldn’t wear a Dodgers hat to cover it up because he “hate[s] the Dodgers”.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 continues in the UK Sunday @ 11.05pm on More4


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