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Monday, August 8th, 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: "Vow of Silence"

Those wondering when Larry David would get around to this season’s New York story arc are finally given an answer on this week’s episode, and LD’s reason for going to the Big Apple is definitely worth the wait. Five episodes in is the latest Curb has ever introduced a season-long story arc (these storylines are normally set up in the season premiere), but Larry David has been trying a lot of new things in Season 8. He’s shared credit with other writers for the first time on this series, hasn’t used Cheryl Hines beyond the premiere episode, and has given supporting players like Susie Essman and Bob Einstein more screentime to fill the Cheryl void.

This week’s show opens with Larry David frustrated over a double-parked red Volvo (later applying the term “pig parker” to those who double park) outside of Jeff and Susie’s going away party. Jeff and Susie will be spending the next three months in New York because their daughter Sammi has been accepted into Juilliard’s summer program. At the party, Larry and Jeff are waiting in line at the buffet when they fall victim to what Larry terms a “chat-and-cut,” a move in which a person starts up a conversation with someone waiting in a line, with the ulterior motive of joining them in their advantaged position in said line. Larry calls the woman out on the “chat-and-cut” and sends her to the back of the line.

Also at the party, Larry runs into Matt Tessler (played by Michael McKean, reprising the role of Larry David’s office neighbor and a parent of a special needs child from Season 7). Tessler asks Larry to participate in a charity event for Kegan’s Club that would involve him volunteering with special needs children for an entire day. Larry, afraid of admitting he doesn’t want to devote his time to such a cause, quickly lies by saying he’ll be in New York the weekend of the event, and it seems like he’s off the hook.

Larry accompanies Jeff and Susie to the veterinarian’s office, where they’re told by the vet (played by Mad Men's Rich Sommer) that their dog Oscar will have to be put to sleep. Susie, feeling extremely remorseful over Oscar’s death sends Larry and Jeff to Pinkberry to buy the dog a last meal. On the way home from Pinkberry, Jeff and Larry get into an argument that involves them eating all of Oscar’s yogurt, but not before their friend Vance (played by Christopher Guest regular Michael Hitchcock), who has taken a vow of silence for spiritual reasons, spots them with the Pinkberry container. When they return to the vet’s, Larry and Jeff lie by saying that Pinkberry was closed for a Korean holiday — a very specific and smart fib on Larry’s part.

Larry is forced to explain why he’s still in L.A. after bumping into Matt Tessler twice (once because he was called out for a “chat-and-cut” he committed) and he makes up a story about planning several trips to New York because of a secret project he’s working on with Jerry Seinfeld. Tessler offers to put Larry up for free in a friend’s apartment for three months, and Larry agrees, unwittingly committing to stay in New York for the summer to get out of helping special needs kids. Later that day, Larry sees the red Volvo from the party double-parked once again and scrawls out a nasty note to leave on the windshield. Unbeknownst to him, Vance is the driver of the car and he breaks his vow of silence to rat out Larry and Jeff to Susie for greedily eating the frozen yogurt that was to be the dog’s last meal. Susie freaks out in typical Susie fashion, telling Larry she’s thrilled to be spending the next three months away from him in New York, unprepared for his newfound summer plans.

Seeing Larry David caught in a lie is always amusing, and this season, I’ve enjoyed him mining humor out of his ridiculous excuses moreso than him policing social etiquette. While the scenes in which he calls people out on unspoken social norms have been a staple of the show since the beginning and a source of a lot of great comedy, it’s been feeling more and more like a crutch this season. In “Vow of Silence,” we get to see Larry David go off on double parkers, but I feel like I’ve had my fill of Larry enforcing parking protocol in Curb and Seinfeld, which have now both tackled double parking and parking in handicapped spots. Whenever Larry David revisits a topic like this, he always brings something new to the table, but the parking disputes in this episode seemed to echo past plotlines a little too closely.

I’ve written in recent weeks about how impressed I’ve been with the abundance of great comedic talent in guest starring spots this season, but this episode in particular knocked it out of the park. If you’re anywhere as big a comedy nerd as I am, you were probably made giddy by the parade of familiar faces Larry David crossed paths with in last night’s show, including Christopher Guest regulars Michael McKean and Michael Hitchcock, Brett Gelman (Eagleheart), Rich Sommer (Mad Men), Brian Huskey (Childrens Hospital), and Cedric Yarborough (Reno911!). Curb Your Enthusiasm has always featured amazing guest stars, but this season’s lineup, so far, has been especially strong.

Overall, “Vow of Silence” was another exceptional Curb episode in an already impressive season. The escalation of Larry David’s selfish lie played out beautifully, and Larry not wanting to volunteer for charity is a worthwhile justification for the trip to New York that will be the focus of the rest of Season 8.

Bradford Evans emitted what may have been his first-ever snort at Jeff’s out-of-the-blue line, “Seriously, how much would it take for you to see Eat, Pray, Love?”

  • EXP +1

    Did the scenes with the vet feel like something more would come from them? His wife gets upset over the personal question and Larry brings it up later.

    • SpacemanSpiff

      @EXP +1
      Susie exclaims at one point, "She doesn't care about you! You're not the center of the universe!".

      I was also expecting more from that story, but when Susie said this, it reminded me that in the Curb 'universe' there are still normal functioning people that don't over think every little thing that disrupts their day. Sure, she probably thought of Larry as a massive douche at that time but didn't let it annoy her so much that she kept it with her the whole night.
      I feel that it their relationship was used to highlight Larry's overly scrutinising personality.

      Wow. Happy with that.