Curb Your Enthusiasm
To Curb’s credit, “Namaste” tiptoes somewhat delicately around the topic of Asperger’s syndrome. Jeff actually offers the caveat that most folks he knows who’ve been diagnosed with the neurobiological disorder are utterly pleasant. He and Larry just happen to agree that Bridget’s (Lauren Graham) autistic teen son Eddie is a prick. This is problematic for Larry, who otherwise likes Bridget very much, but can’t seem to sneak in so much as a kiss with Eddie around barking demands about donuts. At least the suspension of their consummation is good news for fans of Graham, who one imagines will reappear before season’s end.
The most shocking development in tonight’s episode — which, like many that have aired this season, is hilarious but also stretched about five minutes and one-plot-point too thin is — was Susie’s willingness to set up Bridget and Larry to begin with. After all, as Justin (Marc Evan Jackson) puts it while haggling with Larry over fender-bender etiquette, he can often “seem like a complete garbage person.” But despite Susie’s assertions, Larry insists that if there’s one thing he’s not, it’s a two out of five when applying Uber’s user-satisfaction scale to good looks.
The episode’s ongoing informal survey about Larry’s appearance, solicited or not, pays dual dividends: treating us to the latest in a long line of children mocking his shiny pate, and pointedly addressing the typically conspicuous gap in surface appeal (and often age) between him and his love interests. Though the real payoff comes when Larry strikes back at his Romanian Uber driver, who fancies himself an honest three out of five by noting, “You’re from one of the most unattractive countries on the planet.” And, in a later tussle over actual Uber satisfaction ratings, doubling down by insulting the man’s sister, whom he naturally assumes would be an ugly Romanian.
The irony is Larry might prefer to sleep with a surly Uber driver’s sister in Bucharest than bed Bridget in his sweltering Santa Monica home. When Loretta was still around, she kept the house steadily warmed in the 70s — even Larry’s more of a mid-60s guy. Now, Leon’s cranked the thermostat to an unconscionable 92 degrees so he can simulate saunalike conditions while sleeping with Yogi Tina (Alison Becker). “There’s nothing wrong with people having the scent of fuck on their body,” Leon encourages his good buddy, who will unsurprisingly have none of it. Even Bill the repairman (Will Sasso), who’s working in the humid conditions, preaches the virtues of topless sex (among other activities), leaving Larry revolted at the thought of either of them half-naked.
Bill is no real help, but Leon, as he tends to do, redeems himself. When Justin comes knocking on the door with a car-damage estimate, he encounters Leon, whom he assumes to be Larry, and instantly walks back his big talk. Leon, you see, didn’t sound black to Justin over the phone. Nor did Greg (Doc Farrow), Jeff’s mechanic friend, sound non-Caucasian to Larry’s ears. Not that this explains what compels to Larry to blurt out a bemused, “You’re black” before even shaking Greg’s hand. Greg doesn’t care for this much, but then again, few mechanics have taken kindly to Larry over the years, no matter their race. Luckily for L.D., he recalls Jeff’s half-kidding notion that he’s “gonna start telling people that you’re on the spectrum,” and feigned Asperger’s symptoms with Greg, who couldn’t backpedal away from his standoffishness quick enough. Both he and Larry know that, in 2017, no one — white, black, or otherwise — dare appear insensitive to the spectrum. (The Rain Man reference may have been overkill.)
Sandwiched into a busy 35 minutes are two disastrous David gaffes. In his haste to finally fornicate with Bridget, Larry hops a couple of city buses (one, incidentally, driven by Murray brother and Mad Men alum Joel Murray), which manages to set off social chaos with members of the white, black, and Asian communities of greater Los Angeles County. (Comedian Ron Funches gets a solid exchange in there.) But it’s his earlier brush with Susie in her boudoir that’s the stuff of scene-selection gold. “You don’t come upstairs in somebody’s house,” she says as if it were one of Larry or Leon’s golden rules. (Unless, if Curb memory serves, you’re being given a tour when it’s newly acquired, so Larry can be forgiven for not decoding Susie’s mixed messages.) “Haskell access,” Larry’s new shorthand for neighborly carte blanche, is this season’s stickiest catchphrase yet. He’s not even deterred when Susie emasculates Eddie Haskell in absentia as “a kiss-ass, obsequious little shit.”
It’s transparent in Larry’s scenes with Susie and Leon that no one gets him to the precipice of breaking character quite like Curb’s two greatest ensemble assets, Susie Essman and J.B. Smoove. “Namaste” could have been entirely constructed around them, abandoning the sprawl of dealing with Justin and Eddie and mass-transit language barriers. But who can split hairs with an episode that featured a Sophie’s choice between A/C or heat maintenance and Larry bragging — deservedly, as we observe in the final moments — about how not only can he discern a Jewish inflection over the phone but also “you give me two minutes and I can tell you if they’re reform or conservative”? And it turns out that bearing witness to Leon and Yogi Tina’s sweaty sex beats one more ride to Bridget’s on that cold, unforgiving bus.
Apart From All That
• Larry David does the best enunciation of “fuck” this side of Bob Odenkirk.
• Good to see Soap’s On is still on.
• Fender/bumper, potato/poh-tah-to.
• Who knew A/C maintenance was the more relative bear?
• In an episode densely packed with guest stars, you may have missed Hugh Dane, a.k.a. Hank from The Office, riding the bus.