Nine Reasons Why the Allegedly Bad Season Nine Is Actually Peak ‘Seinfeld’
When Seinfeld co-creator Larry David left the show after Season Seven, some fans felt the characters became cartoonish, and that the stories were no longer grounded in reality. When Jerry Seinfeld would get questioned about this, he would always say, “Do you remember the episode where Kramer hit a golf ball into the blowhole of a whale? Is this any less believable than that?”
Although it’s hard to top what David and Seinfeld accomplished during those first seven seasons, the post-David seasons had their fair share of memorable moments, too. In particular, in Season Nine (aka the Final Season), Seinfeld chose to take the show’s characters to places they’d never been before.
Would David have approved of stories like The Merv Griffin Show, Festivus or a backwards episode? It’s tough to say, but here are nine reasons why I think Season Nine was, in fact, peak Seinfeld…
The Brilliance of ‘The Betrayal’
“The Betrayal” is a polarizing episode for Seinfeld fans. The remarkable script, written by David Mandel and Peter Mehlman, is based on the Harold Pinter play Betrayal, which was also told in reverse chronological order. One of the highlights is a flashback to the origins of the story, where Heidi Swedberg makes her triumphant return as Susan. We also get a fantastic callback to the first episode when we witness Jerry and Kramer meeting for the first time. “I saw your name on the buzzer — you must be Kessler,” Jerry tells him. “We’re neighbors. What’s mine is yours,” resulting in every zany Kramer entrance thereafter. If you don’t appreciate the uniqueness of this episode, “You can stuff your sorries in the sack, mister!”
Kramer’s Genius Cold Open
Among the more noticeable changes in the last two seasons was the replacement of Jerry’s stand-up bits with cold opens, like when Kramer and Newman debate the wonders of the Bermuda Triangle. But my favorite cold open comes in “The Bookstore” when Jerry leaves Kramer alone in his apartment. For nine years, we always saw Kramer in Jerry’s apartment, but in this episode, we finally get a glimpse at what Kramer is doing when Jerry isn’t home — namely, rearranging Jerry’s furniture, doing an impression of Jerry’s stand-up act and throwing a party. There is a fun Easter egg here to boot: Jerry’s IRL mother, Betty Seinfeld, makes a cameo, sitting next to Kramer on the couch during the party.
George’s Last Great Lie
Whether he was cheating on his IQ test or pretending to be a marine biologist, George was one of history’s great liars. But maybe his best lie came in “The Wizard,” when he tells Susan’s parents that he can’t make an event for the Susan Ross Foundation because he’s just leased a house in the Hamptons. George later finds out that the Rosses know he’s lying. And so, he decides to invite them to his fictional house to see “who will blink first.” This all culminates in George and the Rosses driving hours to the farthest shore in Long Island where George finally admits the truth. George doesn’t get away with his last great lie, but remember, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
The Dream Team of Kramer and Darin
Why It Was Peak Seinfeld: Darin, Kramer’s earnest intern from NYU, works for him at Kramerica Industries. The company’s mission? To put an end to maritime oil spills. Darin’s responsibilities include doing laundry, sipping high tea with Newman and taking notes on George and Jerry’s conversation at the coffee shop when Kramer can’t make it. Although NYU doesn’t approve of the internship, Darin persists anyway. His passion for Kramerica Industries and Kramer himself was fun to watch.
Like “no soup for you,” “master of my domain” and “yada, yada, yada,” “serenity now!” is an all-time great Seinfeld catchphrase. It derives from Frank Costanza’s relaxation tape Serenity Now, a saying he uses every time his blood pressure spikes. But as we learn from Lloyd Braun later in the episode, the Serenity Now method doesn’t really work. Instead, it bottles up the anger, which eventually explodes from you. Or as Lloyd famously puts it, “Serenity now, insanity later.”
After working for George Steinbrenner for three seasons, it was hard to imagine George ever having a better boss. But Mr. Kruger at Kruger Industrial Smoothing takes things to a whole new level. He and George are kindred spirits, and Kruger’s goofiness and laissez-faire attitude perfectly match Season Nine’s overall tone.
‘The Merv Griffin Show’
When Kramer finds the set of The Merv Griffin Show in the dumpster, he rebuilds it in his apartment and gradually becomes the renowned talk show host. The magic of this episode lies in its ability to straddle the line between the silliness of Kramer speaking to an imaginary audience and the borderline plausibility of Kramer believing that he’s hosting a television show in his apartment. On the Seinfeld DVD interviews, Michael Richards said the episode was “a clear departure from the earlier authenticity of Seinfeld,” which, of course, made it a perfect fit for Season Nine.
A Festivus Is Born
Festivus, celebrated on December 23rd, was invented by Frank Costanza as a result of his hatred for the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas. Instead, Frank invites family over so he can air his grievances with them, and displays a metal pole as opposed to a Christmas tree. Festivus was inspired by true events — Daniel O’Keefe, the father of writer Dan O’Keefe, created the holiday back in the 1960s. However, it was Frank Costanza who made it famous, and 25 years later, fans still celebrate it. In fact, in 2022, the official Seinfeld social media account petitioned to make Festivus a true national holiday.
Puddy Makes His Legendary Return
David Puddy, Elaine’s most memorable boyfriend, appeared for two episodes in Season Six, but was noticeably absent thereafter. In Season Nine, however, the mechanic-turned-salesman returns to Elaine’s life. Throughout the season, he and Elaine break up and make up too many times to count, and the self-proclaimed germaphobe shows off his many interesting sartorial choices (e.g., fur coats and eight-ball jackets). Sure, he may ask for one too many high-fives, but his quirkiness makes for an amazing arc and provides the best part of the final days of Seinfeld.