The Summer of Seinfeld: ‘The Dealership’

By: Chris Dagonas

We here at the Same Page are huge Seinfeld fanatics. Any time we are shooting the breeze, inevitably we will come to a point where we start tossing around Seinfeld quotes and references. To honour our favourite sitcom of all time, we’re launching a new weekly feature for the summer to document the most memorable episodes. What happened? What was said? Who was there? And what has managed to become part of our everyday cultural language?

Episode Information

Title: The Dealership

Season: 9

Episode: 11 (Episode 161 of the series)

Air Date: January 8, 1998

Written by: Steve Koren

Watch the full episode here.

What’s the Deal with this Episode?

Each week our gang of New Yorkers were put into and then got out of (well, sometimes) uncomfortable situations. Here is the episode recap of their exploits.

I love this episode. No matter how many times I watch it, I know it’s going to make me laugh harder than any other episode of any show. The plot twists and bends, the interactions are incredible, and at the end the characters are all at the same place where they started, as they always are in Seinfeld.

The gang are all at the car dealership for Jerry to buy a new car. George is inherently suspicious of car dealerships and salespeople.  Kramer is interested in testing new cars for their ability to keep up with his lifestyle (he will obviously be borrowing Jerry’s car all the time). Elaine is dating David Puddy (more on that later) and he has been ‘promoted’ from mechanic to salesman.  With Puddy’s “insider deal”, Jerry expects to buy a new car at a fraction of the usual price.

The opening scene is a classic: Jerry and George wonder why flying cars, which have always seemed right around the corner, have never materialized. George’s analysis: “The government is very touchy about us being in the air. Let us run around on the ground as much as we want, anything in the air is a big production!”

A luckless salesman (Rick) stumbles on Kramer, and the two wind up going for a test drive. Except that with Kramer, nothing is typical. Kramer plans on running a full day of errands, and at the end of it all, he notices the gas tank is almost empty. Rather than fill the tank, Kramer uses this as an opportunity to see just how far the car will go without filling up.

"Where's the needle?" "Oh, it broke off, baby!"

“Where’s the needle?” “Oh, it broke off, baby!”

George is starving, but can only find a vending machine, and zeroes in on a Twix bar. Unfortunately, the Twix gets stuck. (“Come on! Jump!”) Determined, George rushes off to alert the manager and get his Twix, but by the time he returns to the vending machine, the Twix is gone. A mechanic is eating it in front of George.

The Twix: So close, yet so far away.

The Twix: So close, yet so far away.

Puddy and Elaine get into a fight over Puddy’s constant “high-fives” and the term Grease Monkey. Elaine goes home, and Jerry’s “insider deal” is gone, resulting in the usual, exaggerated car purchasing fees (“Floor mats, keys…” “KEYS?” “How are you gonna start it?”)

Jerry convinces Elaine to return to the dealership and get back together with Puddy, negotiating the terms of their romance (“Arby’s no more than once a month.”) as a salesman would negotiate the terms of a car purchase. This can be interpreted as an interesting insight into the concessions and agreements we sometimes come to in order to maintain a relationship.

The bane of George's existence, this week.

The bane of George’s existence (this week).

George, in an effort to receive proper restitution for his stolen Twix (“All I want is my 75 cents back, an apology, and for him to be fired!”), has created a candy lineup that will prove that the mechanic was eating a Twix. He leaves the room to get the manager, and on his return, some customers and employees are eating the candy bars. This leads to probably the quote of the episode (more below) as George’s fury is finally unleashed.

Jerry negotiates the couple back into a relationship, and is about to sign the contract on a new car with the “insider deal”, until Puddy asks for a high-five and Jerry refuses. Though it’s not shown, the implication is that Puddy took offense to Jerry’s refusal, and the gang ends up driving away in a cab.

All except Kramer. He and Rick see the dealership again, after the needle has broken off the gauge entirely, but rather than return, they decide to see how much further the car can go. The car stops running shortly thereafter, and Kramer leaves Rick in the car on the side of the highway, saying simply “I’ll think about it.”

* * * *

Anyone who has been car shopping can sympathize with George and Jerry. Since cars are so useful, even necessary, it always seems like we are battling the salespeople and mechanics, rather than working with them, to make the purchase. We usually bring someone (a friend, a parent, a spouse) with us to make sure that we’re not getting hoodwinked, but that sometimes can work against us as well.

The notion of the “Inside Deal” is always tempting, because it feels that we have been fortunate enough, or shrewd enough, to see past the sales pitch and extra unnecessary frills, and pay the lowest possible price.

This episode connects with us on those levels of universal understanding; car shopping can be scary, and a good deal is hard to find. By mixing those simple ideas with the extreme, sometimes manic, perhaps goofy side stories of George’s extreme hunger-turned-anger and Kramer’s unbelievable test drive, the laughs come thick and fast in this episode.

Many critics have said that the last few seasons of Seinfeld were significantly less interesting than the first few. While that is probably true, and true for all sitcoms anyway, if this episode is a product of a “bad” season for the cast and crew of Seinfeld, that’s only because their previous work was so exemplary. If this is “bad” Seinfeld, that’s still not too shabby.

It’s Really Just Something You Say

Endlessly repeatable and immediately recognizable, here is were we discuss the episode quotes to remember.

This episode does not have the superb level of quote-ability as some of Seinfeld’s earlier episodes. I chose it more for the plot itself, and the ironic, anticlimactic ending. That being said, there is still a handful of usable material.

Jerry had established a trend of answering a frantic phone call with a sarcastic “Who is this?“; he had done this to Elaine and George several times in the past, so it’s fairly rewarding to see Elaine get him back. When Jerry calls Elaine to beg her to return to the dealership, Elaine answers with “Who is this?”. Of course, Jerry is prepared to counter his own sarcasm, and responds by banging the earpiece against the phone booth, making Elaine wince. Yes, I will do this occasionally to my friends.

George teaches Jerry and Elaine his trick for dealing with pushy salespeople: “The only thing these guys fear is the walk-out. No matter what they say, you say “I’ll walk out of here right now!” Elaine later alters it for her phone conversation with Jerry (“I’ll hang up this phone right now!”). Again, any time friendly negotiations are taking place, whether they be about who’s paying for beer or who’s driving to the movies, I can’t help but throw in an “I’ll walk out of here right now!” in an attempt to get my way. It seldom works.

"I'll walk out of here right now!"

“I’ll walk out of here RIGHT NOW!”

Obviously, I have to wrap up this section with George’s “TWIX!”. The build-up to this moment, as George’s rage had stoked, had been coming for the entire episode, and we all knew it was only a matter of time before he burst. In true geeky Seinfeld fashion, the “TWIX!” shout was shot to parody William Shatner’s “KHAN!” from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.  The rage that Jason Alexander could portray in George added a great antithesis to Jerry, Elaine and Kramer’s nonchalance. When he exploded, it was comic gold.

You Know Who I Ran Into Today?

Aside from its hall of fame main cast, Seinfeld had an amazing gallery of side characters. Each episode has a favourite worth talking about.

With all due respect to Rick the salesman and Ned (Kip? Sol? Lem?) the Mechanic, there is only one side character in this episode worth mentioning: David Puddy. Elaine’s on-again, off-again mechanic boyfriend for several seasons, makes a re-appearance here as a car salesman. He’s dumb, he’s slow-witted, he’s monotone, but you gotta love him! I kinda see why Elaine would always backslide.

In this episode, Puddy runs the full gamut of Puddy emotions: from stunned to mildly annoyed to mildly interested. He breaks up with his girlfriend, gets back together with her, and almost makes a big commission sale. Yet his face barely moves an inch.

A grease monkey in a suit. "I don't care for that term."

A grease monkey in a suit. “I don’t care for that term.”

Patrick Warburton played Puddy to perfection, with his blank stares and listless dialogue. Warburton ended up fashioning a decent career, primarily as a voice actor (you may also know him as Joe Swanson from ‘Family Guy’) and occasionally in films and sitcoms as a Puddy-esque type of dim-witted blockhead.

Yada Yada Yada

Every classic episode has at least one element that has become part of the cultural lexicon somehow. Here is where we discuss those random elements.

High Five!

High Five!

The high-five has been around forever. Seinfeld didn’t invent the high-five, but was able to successfully lampoon it to such a degree that it’s basically become an ironic joke. Jerry’s assessment of cultural tropes can be so keen as to make almost any action seem stupid and useless. “Slapping hands is the lowest form of male primate ritual. In fact, even some of them have moved on – they’re doing sign language now!”

Somehow, Jerry is even able to circle all the way back to a joke he used to make in the 1980s about the Nazis doing the “Heil Five”, which Elaine quickly points out.

That’s Jerry’s innate observational skills at full power. Why do we slap hands? How did this come into being? Why hasn’t it gone away yet? Perhaps to Jerry’s delight, this action has mostly faded away, replaced by bumping fists. I’m sure he feels much the same way about that, though.

All this writing has made me hungry. I’m off to find a Twix.

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One response to “The Summer of Seinfeld: ‘The Dealership’

  1. I love this episode too, but I’ve always thought the George storyline wasn’t as tight as it could have been. He’s starving, absolutely ravenous. And if I’m remembering this right he doesn’t have any cash on him that is crisp enough for the machine so he has to wrangle up enough change for the 75 cent treat. So how does he all of a sudden come up with the cash to create this Candy Bar line-up? And why bother creating the line-up if he was that hungry to begin with? Small details, but ones that always stand out to me when I watch this episode.

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