For some, watching Curb Your Enthusiasm’s sixth season has been an exercise in exorcising the elephant in the room: the real-life curbing of Larry and Laurie David’s fourteen-year-marriage. Here, Vulture does what everyone has been quietly doing all along: assessing the Larry-Laurie David split based solely (and, probably, unfairly) on the early plot points.
Episode 51: “Meet the Blacks”
Synopsis: Cheryl threatens to have Larry sleep on the couch after Larry reveals during the Newlywed Game he’d like to have sex with Richard Lewis’s girlfriend Cha Cha. As a result, Larry agrees to harbor a black family of hurricane victims, the Blacks.
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: If, say, the 98 percent of couples who have never played the Newlywed Game were forced to, it would blow the roof off America’s divorce rate like a Category 5. And Larry’s friendship with the increasingly frail Richard Lewis would be problematic for any marriage, onscreen or off. Still, that Larry had enough Newlywed Game guilt to take a displaced family into his home should bode well for any marriage.
Episode 52: “The Anonymous Donor”
Synopsis: In the episode that, perhaps, hit closest to home, Larry donates a wing to the National Resources Defense Counsel, only to be outdone by Ted Danson, who donates his anonymously. Meanwhile, Uncle Leon, a family member of the hurricane victims, is wrongly accused of masturbating in the guest room — it turns out to be Jeff’s “ejaculate,” Danson tells Cheryl, and Cheryl bans Jeff from the house. Larry bonds with Leon when the acquitted houseguest retrieves the Joe Pepitone jersey Larry lost at the dry cleaners, likely the only time in the history of television the words “Joe Pepitone up in this motherfucker!” have been uttered. Meanwhile, Larry protests his concurrent ban from Jeff’s house by masturbating on Jeff’s daughter’s teddy bear in some sort revenge, masturbatory payback, which is ultimately blamed on Danson.
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: Putting aside the lewd felony for a second, Larry’s ambush of California senator Barbara Boxer over dry-cleaning corruption at the NRDC opening smacked of Laurie and Sheryl Crow’s sneak attack on Karl Rove at the White House Correspondents Dinner earlier this year. And Laurie doesn’t strike us as the flirty, tapping type, as Cheryl is depicted in this episode. Then again, Cheryl’s fawning over Ted Danson’s faux philanthropy is so justifiably nauseating, we’d be disillusioned, too.
Episode 53: “The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial”
Synopsis: Larry spends the entire episode trying to make up for a doomed trip to get Cheryl ice cream — part of his sex strategy — and resorts to stealing a flower bouquet off the roadside memorial for Marty Funkhouser’s mother. He later swipes a bottle of Cheryl’s favorite perfume from the shrine to Ida Funkhouser.
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: Impossible to know where the truth lies, but Larry’s exhaustive quest for sex with Cheryl this season would seem to be the unlikely sticking point in their matrimonial burnout. And if ice cream is sexual currency for the Davids, the split shouldn’t be so shocking after all.
Episode 54: “The Lefty Call”
Synopsis: After the Hurricane Edna refugees the Davids are harboring complain that the environment-friendly toilet paper Cheryl uses in the house is worse than the Port Authority, Larry agrees to buy soft paper in exchange for use of the guest bathroom. Cheryl finds out — and rips Larry a new one.
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: Aside from Larry David’s inclusion of a Prius, this is the first direct nod to Laurie’s fervent environmentalism in Curb’s loose scripts. Marriages have been broken up over far less than toilet paper, and Laurie’s insistence on stocking the house with post-consumer ply could be a strong source of connubial chafing. The Port Authority was sure irritated.
Episode 55: “The Freak Book”
Synopsis: Larry invites his lush limo driver into Ted Danson’s birthday party; the driver gropes Danson’s wife, Mary Steenburgen. In an otherwise throwaway line, Larry reveals to guest star John McEnroe he has sex once a week. “Good week, twice, but I can go longer than that if necessary.” (That McEnroe and David are cut from a similar, self-loathing cloth is not lost on us. Both are aging, cynical New Yorkers who love New York; both are temperamental sports nuts; and both have found lucrative second careers in what got them careers in the first place: being themselves).
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: For that age and stage in a marriage, once a week ain’t too bad, really — that’s “bringing the ruckus” 52 times a year. Although when you put it that way…
Episode 56: The Rat Dog
Synopsis: Cheryl is sick in bed. Larry tries to seduce her and is roundly rejected. “She had a little temperature,” Larry tells Jeff. “She’s sick, helpless — I guess I just like sick sex.”
Sign of Real-Life Marital Trouble: Attempting — and, for that matter, failing —to seduce your spouse while he/she has a 104-degree fever is like reading your marriage’s last rites, and a surefire sign your little bulletproof nuptials have gone straight to hell. —Dylan Stableford