Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: ‘The Smiley Face’

We’re almost halfway through Curb’s eighth season, and the show’s drawing some of its highest ratings ever, but this season’s New York story arc has yet to manifest itself. The past few episodes, although very funny, have been one-off affairs that had little impact on Curb’s ongoing continuity. In past seasons, Larry David has gotten to his season-long story arcs much sooner, usually within the first episode or two, but Season 8 has, so far, shown that he doesn’t need ongoing plot lines for the show be at its best.

Last night’s episode, “The Smiley Face,” began in Larry David’s office, with him forgetting about a lunch engagement with Jeff. Larry explains he’s been having trouble keeping track of his appointments because his assistant Antoinette has been visiting her dying father (who Larry says is “lingering”) for several weeks. Larry and Jeff are interrupted by Larry’s new office mate Dino (played by L.A. Law’s Harry Hamlin), who prefers to be called “Big Dog.” Big Dog asks Larry to allow him to use an extra cabinet in their shared kitchenette and Larry politely obliges, later taking an absurd amount of flack about it from his friends and colleagues.

Larry takes Jeff to lunch at his favorite restaurant and surprises him by revealing he’s been dating Heidi (played by Hung’s Rebecca Creskoff), a beautiful hostess who works there. Jeff warns Larry about “shitting where he eats,” but Larry’s convinced he will be able to continue eating at the restaurant when he breaks up with Heidi. His only complaint about Heidi is her frequent use of smiley faces in text messages, which he says makes him feel like he’s getting texts from a 10-year-old.

Larry and Jeff’s acquaintance Stu (played by character actor Patrick Fischler, whom you may remember as the Don Rickles-esque insult comic Jimmy Barrett on Mad Men), ambushes them in the restaurant with a request to have dinner with he and his wife. Jeff coolly offers up the excuse that “things aren’t going so great with Susie,” while Larry agrees to attend out of politeness. From a later conversation with Larry, Stu and his wife assume that Jeff is cheating on Susie. With the cabinet space conflict with Big Dog escalating and another forgotten appointment with Richard Lewis, Larry asks Antoinette to rush back to the office to tend to his needs. Once Antoinette returns, her father predictably passes away, his last words being, “Where’s Antoinette?”

Larry’s relationship with the hostess turns sour, too. She’s in the process of applying sunscreen to his head during their breakup, and she mischievously dabs the sunscreen on in the shape of a smiley face, leaving Larry with no choice but to attend Antoinette’s father’s funeral with a smiley face sun-burnt into his forehead. At the funeral, Larry asks Antoinette’s mother (played by Laugh-In’s Jo Anne Worley) how long Antoinette will be grieving before returning to work, and Antoinette’s mom volunteers to fill-in for her in the interim.

With Antoinette’s mother as his new assistant, everything looks like it’s going to work out fine for Larry, until Susie shows up to Larry’s office to confront Jeff about the supposed affair that Stu and his wife have led her to believe he’s been having. Susie spots Jeff consoling Antoinette’s mother over her husband’s death and attacks her, under the impression that she’s the one with whom Jeff has been having an affair. Larry David is once again left without an assistant. Larry returns to Heidi’s workplace for a meal, not looking to lose his favorite restaurant in the break-up. After an awkward chat with her, he sits down for lunch, only to find that something is terribly wrong with his food.

Last night’s show had some great scenes in, but there were a lot of loose threads that didn’t get tied up. I was expecting the Big Dog storyline to have a little more of a resolution, although watching Larry frustratedly tear the sign off and pound on the locked kitchen door was a funny visual gag. Heidi’s niece was also introduced as if she would have more bearing on the story but never reappeared. Like most this season, this episode had its fair share of comedy nerd-delighting guest stars, and the preview for next week’s show indicates that this will continue, with stop-ins from Brett Gelman and Mad Men’s Rich Sommer.

Bradford Evans wonders why Larry even needs an office when the only things he’s worked on in all of Curb’s run have been that Seinfeld reunion and the ill-fated Julia Louis-Dreyfus pilot.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: ‘The Smiley Face’