The Best Episode for Each 'Seinfeld' Character
It’s been a quarter century since Seinfeld last aired, but Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer still rank among television’s most iconic characters. Each was uniquely brilliant in their own way, and together they made the perfect ensemble.
But while Seinfeld ran at its best as an ensemble, some spotlights shone brighter on certain members in certain episodes. Which is why we’re picking the episodes that ultimately got the best out of each character, starting with...
Episode: “The Race,” Season Six, Episode 10
Synopsis: Jerry’s old high school rival, Duncan Meyer, comes back into his life and accuses him of cheating in a race years prior. When he challenges Jerry to a new race, Jerry needs to decide whether to race Duncan again or decline the challenge so that the legend of his speed lives on forever.
Why It’s Jerry’s Ultimate Episode: One of the reasons behind Seinfeld’s success was that as a writer and performer, Jerry selflessly gave his co-stars the funniest storylines, allowing them to shine. But “The Race” was special — not only is it a Jerry-centric episode, but it also highlights his love for Superman. From wearing red-and-blue clothes for most of the episode, to dating a girl named “Lois,” to the Superman theme song playing during the race, it’s all a perfect homage to Jerry’s idol. I also love what a blast Jerry, the actor, seems to be having in this episode. His ability to deliver a somewhat dramatic retelling of his high school race while still demonstrating his Jerry-esque humor solidifies his status as a master of the comedy domain — “I choose not to run!”
Episode: “The Sponge,” Season Seven, Episode Nine
Synopsis: Elaine faces a dilemma when her preferred contraceptive, “the sponge,” is discontinued, leading her to ponder whether her potential partners are “sponge-worthy” enough to justify the use of her limited supply.
Why It’s Elaine’s Ultimate Episode: Seinfeld writer, Peter Mehlman, said in an interview that he always felt “if Julia didn’t have a strong story in an episode, then it was never going to be quite as good.” This was certainly the case in “The Sponge,” which was among Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ greatest performances and highlighted her Emmy award-winning seventh season.
The montage of her searching for sponges all over Manhattan and the homage to Tommy Lee Jones’ “hard target search” speech in The Fugitive are outstanding. “The Sponge” is also the perfect showcase of how Elaine is as a person. She’s selfish, even when it comes to her friends, as she’s not willing to give George, who is on the verge of make-up sex with Susan, a sponge to use. But our favorite scene is when she questions her handsome date Billy prior to sleeping with him like it’s a job interview, famously asking him, “So, you think you’re sponge-worthy?” It remains one of Elaine’s all-time greatest catchphrases.
Episode: “The Opposite,” Season Five, Episode 22
Synopsis: George decides to do the opposite of his natural instincts and behaviors, unleashing life-altering results. George says, “My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be,” to which Jerry replies, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” By defying his natural instincts, George finds that his life begins to improve in ways he never imagined. He secures a job with the New York Yankees, starts dating a beautiful woman and moves out of his parents house.
Why It’s George’s Ultimate Episode: “The Opposite” opens with George alone at the beach, contemplating his life — the life the audience has seen for five seasons as a series of unfortunate and unlucky circumstances. But here, we see a reawakening of George as he makes the opposite decisions than he normally would. Case in point: He famously approaches a beautiful woman in the coffee shop by saying, “My name is George, I’m unemployed and I live with my parents,” to which she replies with a smile, “I’m Victoria, Hi.”
With his fresh start and newfound confidence, George delivers one of my favorite moments from the series: He’s interviewing for a job with the New York Yankees and rips into George Steinbrenner by telling him, “You have caused myself and the city of New York a good deal of distress, as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughingstock! All for the glorification of your massive ego!”
“Hire this man!” Steinbrenner replies, introducing us to one of George’s all-time greatest story arcs.
It’s so rare to see George come out on top for once, but it’s an admittedly refreshing twist.
Episode: “The Merv Griffin Show,” Season Nine, Episode Six
Synopsis: Kramer finds the set of The Merv Griffin Show in a dumpster and transforms his apartment into a talk show. Kramer hosts the show, interviewing his friends and neighbors with his wacky enthusiasm and offbeat charisma.
Why It’s Kramer’s Ultimate Episode: The absurdity of this episode could only work with a character like Kramer, who thrived in the later seasons of Seinfeld as the characters became more outrageous. The evolution of this particular story is perfect. It starts with Kramer innocently finding a set and talking to Jerry, George and Elaine in his apartment. Then, by the next scene, the set begins to light up. Kramer dresses in all different types of suits and holds note cards, while Newman becomes his sidekick. He also has a celebrity guest, Jim Fowler, for his new segment, “Scandals and Animals.”
You can tell that the cast members were all having fun as they break character and try to hold back their laughter. My favorite is when Michael Richards improvised during the “commercial break” to drink his soda and let out a giant burp. If you look closely, you can see Jason Alexander cracking up.