If any episode of season nine thus far is going to get Larry David in hot water, it’s “Thank You for Your Service.” Though even before L.D. flubbed his first encounter with Sammi Green’s war-vet fiancé, tensions were already boiling over at the golf club. Larry, apparently not satisfied with his recent kitchen-disturbance fiasco, walks right into a communicative Bermuda triangle with the club’s chef (Jordan Black) and one of its servers (Neil Casey). Somehow, he escaped without grossly aggrieving any key parties, but the shenanigans did bring two central issues to fore: Whether it’s permissible to request a special entrée be prepared distinctly from how its creator intended (in this case, broiled sole as opposed to sautéed), and the literally unspoken semantics that separate approving from disapproving facial gestures. Or as Larry clinically assesses this quandary: “That a face?”
A universally accepted solution to that first scenario is, typically, order the meal how it’s offered. But as is his wont, Larry flouted convention rather than, say, ordering the flounder instead. Ergo, he and the waiter find themselves entangled in an escalating volley of muted tics to deconstruct whether dining etiquette had been breached. The results are inconclusive, but at least when it comes to fish, these are fairly low stakes.
The same cannot be said of Larry’s botched first date with female letter carrier Jean (The League and Legion’s Katie Aselton). She’s not exactly turned on by his curmudgeonly carping about whether she’s at fault for failing to “beckon” him through the darkness at their screening of The Goat of Cadiz, but is basically repelled by his pleas to “reset” their relationship so his mail gets delivered with minimum awkwardness. Her parting glance isn’t exactly a solid tell (at least he came clean that Shacucus was neither a real holiday nor spontaneous flash of wit), and all Larry can do is fret when his parcels and packages fail to arrive for the next several days.
As he relays to Leon, this is a matter of social life and death. He’s expecting the latter from club owner Mr. Takahashi (Dana Lee, back for the first time since losing his precious swan in season seven) determining his immediate status on the links. Takahashi took it awfully personally when Larry insulted fellow golfer Ken (Andrew Secunda) by remarking that he and his wife Shannon’s (Shelly Slocum) baby “looks a little Asian.” Takahashi’s involvement was curious enough that, ordinarily, Larry might have stared him down with a suspicious leer. Alas, the last thing he expected was that Shannon and Takahashi were playing footloose behind Ken’s back, and that his eye for spotting infants with interracial features was spot-on. It’s a rare moment of vindication, sweetened by the fact that chatty club parking-lot attendant Sal (Murphy Brown’s very own Joe Regalbuto), whose mouth Larry deems to be teeming with “bullshit and drivel,” has been supplanted at his post by affable Randy. It is the coveted reset, twice over.
It is, unsurprisingly, a short-lived victory. And it is, without fail, Larry’s fault. After offending Sammi’s husband-to-be Victor and the entire Greene family by failing to thank the ex-soldier for his service, Larry makes amends by bringing Victor to a simulation of actual life and death — a Revolutionary War reenactment. In fairness, neither Larry nor Jeff considered how this might trigger some post-traumatic stress for poor Victor, who has yet to experience any symptoms since coming home. That changes mighty fast once a vengeful Sal starts firing real cannonballs in their direction — yes, this all plays out as absurdly and convolutedly as it sounds — and a bit later when Victor mistakes valets for Revolutionary redcoats and flies into a rage.
Curb’s ninth season continues hopscotching around various topical soft spots from past and recent present, and “Thank You for Your Service” even reaches back to the 18th century for reference. That doesn’t mean some viewers, or those who hear second hand of tonight’s closing minutes won’t find it indiscreet, just as there were doubtless plenty appalled when season four’s “The Survivor” measured Holocaust trauma against the modern world’s fixation with televised endurance competitions. But if either or both rubbed you the wrong way, make sure to let Larry know with an unequivocal eye roll and wholehearted horse whinny.
Apart From All That
• Between Larry’s NYC maps and Brooklyn Bridge portrait, mention of his childhood building, and Richard Lewis’s Light of New York coffee-table book, looks like somebody’s homesick.
• Love that Larry fulfilled his own wish of “ill things” on Sal.
• I knew Ken’s reaction seemed a bit too defensive.
• What, your mother or grandmother didn’t walk around in a schmatta?
• Does one even need context for, “Are you making up this story to me about fucking a garbage woman?”
• Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Larry set himself up for disaster by trusting a server to gauge the chef’s flexibility.
• Nor is it the first occasion of Larry dazzling by tossing fruit in his mouth.
• Maybe Larry and Jean should have seen Alone in Paris instead.
• At least Leon got his CD-of-the-month purchase.