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Monday, July 25th, 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap, "Palestinian Chicken"

“Palestinian Chicken” is exactly the kind of Curb episode that couldn’t have existed back when Larry was married. His newfound singlehood has freed up the storytelling considerably, as last night’s show gets a lot of mileage out of Larry struggling to choose between his Jewish identity and his sexy new Palestinian girlfriend. Navigating the dating world is an area Larry David’s previous series, Seinfeld, drew a lot of material from, and it’s entertaining seeing him continue to tackle the topic on Curb this season.

The episode opens with Larry and Jeff discussing an upcoming golf tournament with new-to-the-show friends Ron and Eddie (played by Jason Kravits and Larry Miller). The fifth man in their golf tournament is Marty Funkhouser, whom Larry and his golf buddies haven’t seen in a month. With Funkhouser’s recent divorce, I was looking forward to seeing him run wild a little, but instead, he’s chosen to rededicate himself to Judaism. Funkhouser’s Jewish rebirth causes him to clash with Larry, which is always welcome. These Funkhouser-Larry quarrels are a highly-enjoyable part of the show — and almost grow as heated as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After accidentally backing into Ron’s car at a dinner party, Larry becomes indebted to him. Ron, in awe of Larry’s habit of constantly speaking his mind with complete disregard for the feelings of others, requests that Larry call his wife Ilene (played by Maggie Wheeler — Janice from Friends) out for constantly using the acronym “LOL” in conversation. People who say “LOL” are a pet peeve of mine — not that I know anyone who does so as constantly as the character in this episode — and observing Larry David put this group of language manglers in their place brought me great satisfaction. No decent human being can be comfortable with another person saying “LOL” in response to something they find amusing, while not laughing (and certainly not laughing out loud). Although Larry botches his first assignment, Jeff deems him a “social assassin,” a fitting name for what Larry David’s role in the Curb universe has been all along. It’s about time the other people in Larry’s life start using his powers of borderline-justified impoliteness to their own benefit.

Ron being mesmerized by Larry’s aversion to manners was a nice touch. Larry’s obsession with enforcing trivial social etiquette has been the focus of the show since the get-go, and this episode felt like a deconstruction of that device. In the course of Curb's past seven seasons, I’ve seen hundreds of people grow outraged at Larry’s behavior, but I don’t recall anyone ever complimenting him on the way he treats others. It was a refreshing spin on a vehicle for humor that Curb uses a little too frequently, and it was nice to see the show approach it from another angle.

Ron’s not the only one to try to hire Larry as a social assassin. Jeff and Susie’s daughter, Sammi, requests his help in putting a stop to an obnoxious habit her mother has while drinking beverages. Larry “bungles this hit” too, and Sammi is forced to confess to putting him up to it. Ashly Holloway, who plays Sammi, has been with Curb since its second season when she was a small child, and it’s a little shocking to see her emerge into adulthood here. Now that Holloway’s a grown-up, she seems to be given more to do. In this episode, her character drives the plot forward more than usual, rather than just being part of the backdrop behind Larry David’s little messes. The writers are trying pretty blatantly to mold her into a younger version of Susie, but that doesn’t quite work for me. Her meanness seems a little disingenuous, but we’ll see if they keep pushing the character in this direction in future episodes.

While Ron idolizes Larry for speaking his mind, the staff and patrons of Jeff and Larry’s new favorite Palestinian restaurant make him a hero after a skirmish with Funkhouser outside the store in which Larry snatches the yarmulke off the top of his head. It’s a nice change of pace to see Larry so well-liked in a Curb episode, but the ending fixes this, with Larry forced to make a decision outside of the new Palestinian restaurant that will invariably frustrate one of two frenzied groups of protesters Larry David can’t stay a hero for long.

Bradford Evans loved that Scott Aukerman cameo towards the end.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Feinsod/558621366 Mark Feinsod

    This was a great episode! Though I'd say Sammi has had a mean streak in her ever since she decided she loved the family dog more than her own father.

    • http://twitter.com/bradfordevans Bradford Evans

      @Mark Feinsod Yeah, I took that as just a four or five year old kid being honest, not as a sleight on Jeff. I don't think that was a consciously mean decision.