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Curb Your Enthusiasm: Swan Song

Considering the last two weeks, which have featured silly plotlines revolving around belly flab and Christian Slater’s penchant for caviar, this funny and focused episode is a welcome return to form. Although we couldn’t help but notice that the main story line — a peripheral character having a heart attack after being insulted by a main character on a golf course — appeared on Entourage a couple of seasons ago. (We confess: We once watched Entourage. We’re not proud of it.) We’ll let it go this one time. On to the outrageous moments ...

3. Larry has never been to his mom’s grave. Larry visits his mother’s plot (she died in October 2001) with his father and cousin Andy (played again by Richard Kind, fresh off a triumphant performance in A Serious Man), where he learns that papa David purposely misspelled “passed” on the headstone as “past,” in order to save $100. Larry is just noticing this because … well, because why exactly? He really hasn’t visited since she died? Nevertheless, he is appalled, and hires a mason to correct the bad grammar. As one might expect, Larry finds a way to offend the mason, who hates Derek Jeter, Larry’s favorite Yankee, criticizing the shortstop’s defense. He is the rare mason familiar with advanced baseball defensive metrics.

2. Two species, dead on the golf course. Larry grows angry with slow-golfer Norm, and they have a shouting match on the fairway. Minutes later, Norm’s dead from a heart attack. But that doesn’t stop Larry and the gang (including Funkhouser, whose presence is always appreciated) from golfing the next day. At the same hole, though, Larry is attacked by a black swan, the inspiration for the golf club’s crest and the beloved pet of club owner Mr. Takahashi. Larry, perhaps overreacting, bludgeons the swan to death with his pitching wedge, and suddenly, Curb Your Enthusiasm turns into a remake of Very Bad Things. The foursome attempt to cover it up, and we’re back in Christian Slater land again.

1. Larry’s loose with his cash. Larry’s never been cheap — usually, his fights are about who gets to pay the check, not avoid it — but he’s especially generous here. He “bribes” a waiter $500 to keep the secret of the black swan from Mr. Takahashi, and, even more impressively, he randomly offers to pay for cousin Andy’s daughter’s college education. Neither gambit works, of course: The waiter doesn’t know anything, and Andy and his wife decide that they’d rather have Larry pay for the missus’s cosmetology school. At the end, Mr. Takahashi knows who killed his swan, Larry’s insulting Norm’s family at his wake, and Larry’s mom's headstone says “mother of Larry David, asshole and swan killer.” And all Larry wanted to do was play some golf.

More Recaps:
Amelie Gillette points out that Larry’s like a mafia don, except “he is allowed to do basically whatever he wants because he's so unpleasant, no one wants to deal with him.” [AV Club]
Alan Sepinwall: “I didn't love ‘Black Swan,’ but it was a good example of a type of Curb episode we haven't had a lot of this year, in that Larry was in the right for most of the episode, but circumstances, other people's reactions and Larry's own innate abrasiveness kept making him into the bad guy.” [What’s Alan Watching?]
Jace Lacob: This episode was “unfolding with the tension of an Agatha Christie murder mystery” (which might be pushing it a bit). [LAT]

Photo: Courtesy of HBO