Episode Title: "Mister Softee"
Story By: Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer
Director: Larry Charles
Can all of Larry David's neuroses be traced back to a single childhood incident?
Probably not. But this week's episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" finds Larry mesmerized whenever he hears a Mister Softee ice cream truck drive by. While speaking to his new therapist, Dr. Arthur Thurgood (Fred Melamed); Larry relates a story about himself when he was still a boy, portrayed amusingly by Trevor Braun. Young Larry played and lost several hands of strip poker to a young girl inside of a Mister Softee truck. And while she seemed impressed by his hardware, her father (the ice cream man) threw Larry out of the truck and left Larry naked in front of his entire neighborhood.
In the present, Larry's flashbacks to the traumatic memory cause him to commit a Bill Buckner-like error that costs his softball team a championship. In response, his team captain, Yari (Robert Smigel) reneges on his promise to fix Larry's car and leaves it in worse shape than when Larry brought it in.
Eventually, Larry runs into Buckner himself and he witnesses first hand the abuse that Buckner still receives for blowing game six of the 86 World Series. Buckner actually seems to be having some fun with it by portraying himself as making another easy catch error when Larry tosses him a signed Mookie Wilson ball meant for Jeff's (Jeff Garlin) birthday… and Buckner misses it completely as it sails out of the window.
Meanwhile, Larry is dating a new woman named Jennifer (Ana Gasteyer), who doesn't seem to share any of his interests beyond a desire for sex. But thanks to Larry's malfunctioning passenger car seat, she brings herself to a sexual climax long before Larry can get her upstairs for the night. This was a funny bit that eventually overstayed its welcome. I shared Larry's look of horror when Susie (Susan Essman) took a ride with Larry late in the episode and experienced her own high. Jennifer also seemed like a pretty flat character compared to Larry's other girlfriends this season. But I guess the beauty of this show is that she'll be replaced next week by an entirely different woman.
Getting back to Larry's new therapist, Dr. Thurgood doesn't seem to like him very much. At the baseball card show, he attempts to get Larry to realize "that he doesn't live at school" meaning the office. So when Larry tries to work through his latest issues in line, Thurgood bills him for an entire session. The good doctor also has a disturbing habit of dropping his patients' names and issues into conversations even as he immediately denies that he did so. Larry is right to wonder what Thurgood is saying behind his back after two of those incidents.
Which brings us to Leon (JB Smoove); whom Larry uses as a social experiment this week. By giving Leon glasses, Larry theorizes that white people will believe that he's intelligent and give him preferential treatment. Not only does it work as described, but Leon even gets Dr. Thurgood to tear up Larry's extra bill! But the more hilarious bit was that Leon subtly stole Thurgood's signed Mookie Wilson ball so that Larry has a replacement for Jeff. Ah… Leon. Don't ever change.
In the finale of the episode, Larry reunites with Buckner outside of a burning building just as a trapped woman prepares to drop her baby to the firemen below. And you just know that the baby is going to go to Buckner. The only question was whether the show would go so far as to have Buckner drop the baby through his legs as well. That probably would have been too dark even for "Curb."
Instead, Buckner makes a diving grab and saves the child's life, redeeming himself in front of a crowd of people who hail him as a hero. As for Larry, he's left with a girlfriend who prefers a long ride his car over another night with him.
At the tail end of the eighth season, it's clear that the New York episodes haven't really shaken the show up at all. It's still the same "Curb Your Enthusiasm" that it's always been, with just a slightly different setting. The show remains one of the funniest on television, but I'm hoping that the season finale can give Larry's New York adventure the epic sendoff it needs to make the trip worthwhile.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.