‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’: The C Word

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Larry David has never been one to shy away from controversial topics, whether that be cancer, disabilities, death, or in the case of this week’s episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ er, vehicular fellatio. That particular carnal act was a central piece of this week’s episode of ‘Curb,’ which found Larry struggling with several issues, including looking for a way to break up with the cancer-stricken Loretta (Vivica A. Fox), avoiding kissing the latest girlfriend (guest star Lolita Davidovich) of BFF Richard Lewis, and… attempting to open a plastic package.

Haven’t we all been in this position, taunted by what’s behind the clear, seemingly indestructible plastic coating, unable to peel away that thick transparent shell? Like “Seinfeld” before it, “Curb” mines comedy from the most ordinary and universal of experiences, creating a string of seemingly tiny moments that slowly snowball into an explosion before Larry’s eyes such as:


The Impenetrable Plastic Packaging. Larry struggled to open an impregnable plastic container containing a GPS, a gift from Jeff and Susie. In a masterful display of physical comedy, Larry attempted to use his hands, a butter knife, a screwdriver, and then a massive chef’s knife to crack open the packaging. I thought for sure that we were in for a crossover with “ER,” as that knife seemed to come dangerously close to cutting off one of Larry’s fingers.

‘Desperate’ was the word du jour for Larry. He was reaching the end of his tether with the insufferable Loretta, who continued to throw Larry’s life (read: golf) out of its regular orbit this week. But still the question remained: Is it wrong to leave someone with cancer? Or better still, is it wrong to manipulate that person into breaking up with you? Not if you’re Larry David and that person has interrupted your Herculean efforts to cut through some plastic to ask what channel E! is on.

The Cure for Cancer. Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse for Larry, he blindly stumbled onto a possible solution to his Loretta problem in the form of author Dr. Karen Trundle (guest star Sharon Lawrence), a guest on ‘Dr. Phil’ who believes that cancer can be cured by walking out on stressful or energy-sapping relationships. Thus the plan: He can get rid of Loretta and, even more importantly, not succumb to his crippling guilt. After all, the world’s most annoying person just has to dial up the nuisance to 11 and get her to walk out.

And, oh, how he does. I thought that the scene in Dr. Trundle’s office -- as Larry imitated a horse, pointed out some African art, and picked a fight over a photograph of Karen’s ‘follically blessed’ husband before doing a rather good Jackie Mason impression -- was as genius as much as it painted an exaggerated version of Larry himself. After all, he is precisely the type of man whom Karen would advise a patient to leave. Irony, thy name is Larry David.

The Unwanted Hug. Lest we forget, Larry can do no right. So even as simple an act as sitting in the waiting room leads to strife and awkwardness with a capital-A. I have to side with Larry on the glasses issue. Even though ex-neighbor Dean has cancer, there’s absolutely no reason why Larry should have to pay for -- sorry, ‘replace’ -- Dean’s glasses after they’re broken during an unwanted hug. Sorry, Dean, but that’s all on you. Every word of the argument that follows (after which Larry actually backs down) is perceptibly felt as you too feel the sting of indignation from the sheer stupidity of Dean’s whining. (Personally, I would have followed through on Larry’s threat to tear up Dean’s invoice into little pieces and urinate on it.)

Larry is never comfortable with the conventions of polite society. Never more so than at the restaurant after learning that Richard’s new girlfriend engaged in some, uh, mouthy shenanigans on the car ride over. His refusal to take a sip of her Pomegranate Surprise or kiss her when she left spoke volumes about Larry’s queasy discomfort with personal interactions. (No, folks, there’s no way they could have gotten away with this storyline on ‘Seinfeld.’) Loved that he concocted a lie about having a cold sore only to spill the truth to Richard’s girlfriend later on when confronted. Oops.

That act of carnal affection popped up several times throughout the episode and played a key role in Loretta dumping Larry, though not before he incited Dr. Trundle to an act of violence after he accused her of performing the same act on her husband. (Did the good doctor really drop her phone while her husband was driving?) Likewise, Loretta caught Larry in a similar — and similarly misunderstood — act. Checkmate, right? Sort of. While Loretta and the Blacks are out of the picture Larry is still saddled with Leon (J.B. Smoove), who apparently didn’t get the message to move out.

The Payoff. But Larry was finally free. There was a buoyancy to Larry as he drove to a party that evening that is rarely glimpsed on ‘Curb,’ but it’s a calm that was shattered as he discovered Jeff and Susie’s car on the side of the road after, uh, some vehicular dalliance of their own. Trapped in the car, Susie and Jeff called for Larry to spring into action. And he remembered that x-acto knife he purchased earlier … a knife that’s, of course, contained within the very same impenetrable plastic coating as the GPS.

Savage wit and biting irony? Just another episode of ‘Curb,’ of course.

-- Jace Lacob