16. ‘The Implant’ (Season 4, episode 59)

the-implants

No! I’m lefty, can’t go right. What about women? Do they go left or right?
Nah, we just play defense.

When you look at virtually the entirety of conversation about Season 4’s ‘The Implant’ you see that it appears almost purely centered on the (supposed) outrageousness of mainstream TV dealing with the titular ‘implants’ of Teri Hatcher’s Sidra and her triumphantly, if arrogantly, delivered “…and they’re spectacular!” at the episodes close. This is a genuinely iconic Seinfeldian moment, as is the other oft-quoted moment; where George is seen, then involved in a physical altercation for, ‘double-dipping’ a tortilla chip (Doritos Cool Ranch it would appear to be) in a buffet style served dip at a wake for a family member of his girlfriend. But, as I’d say with virtually every Seinfeld moment with a real culture capturing iconic moment (‘No Soup for You!’, ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’, ‘Master of his Domain’, etc. are just a few off the top of my head) what is elsewhere in the episode is the real substance of the episode. Whether it be the important meat of the episode which builds all the dynamic theatrical forward thrust, or it be the more interesting stuff bubbling underneath—but everywhere and at all times—, or it’s the other multitude of jokes and conflicts that are infinitely more humorous, and in ‘The Implant’ we’re treated to each of these three, they’re the moments that actually make these episodes the brilliant ones that they are. In doing these essays for this countdown it was perhaps the idea that occurred to me most often, and the one I returned to in my spare thoughts when beginning to write.

In ‘The Implant’ it is hard to avoid Sidra, not necessarily because she’s a remarkably memorable character (no, Teri Hatcher isn’t asked to do that much more than any typical Jerry girlfriend) but because the 4 regular characters are split into two pairs and the Jerry and Elaine pairing—whose story has nothing else to do but talk and obsess over Sidra—has a little more screen time then the Kramer and George one (who, by the way, are embroiled in a scheme to score cheap airline tickets that is highly comical). Since it is the dominate plot line of the episode, you’d expect the most glaring piece of brilliance to be at its core. I’d argue it does, but it does it in such a sly way that it almost always sneaked by.

It leapt up at me during my most recent watching, my third in about a week since I just couldn’t find a way into tackling the episode for presentation here (for the record, it proved easily the most difficult in the countdown thus far for this very reason), and still I’m not sure if I’ve completely untangled my thoughts about it. It seems that in entering the idea (in conversation) of the sexuality of someone that isn’t us (the two pair in conversation), and how we—when comfortable with the other in the conversation—freely talk about it (and them, the outsider) is itself a highly evolved history within our social being (and our social engagements each have their own contained history in and of themselves, which would probably be the more accurate thing to say in regards to my comments on this episode). We open in a very contemporary setting to begin such an articulation, the Health Club (when else has a culture ever evolved to the point to designate areas—that we pay to be in—for the sole point of working out and ogling each other). Elaine and Jerry (the comfortable ones in regards to conversation between each other) talk openly, or as ‘open’ as cheap gossip could be constituted, in a particularly highly destructive way. If this was Pinter we’d notice all the highly charged points and counterpoints and how intricately they follow and spar, but in this situational comedy everything plays for quick, rapid laughs. Elaine opens the possibility that Sidra’s breasts are fake, not after factual confirmation, no, but half a beat after Jerry claims, “He really likes her” (just why Elaine is jealous—because Sidra is with Jerry, or because Sidra has a body Elaine is envious of—is a matter never fully settled in the episode). Elaine’s proof is citing Jerry’s ability to be equally unfactual (but no less certain) in freely gossiping on the potential possibility of lesbianism (or lesbians). They’ve built the prehistory of such things in one quick turn: the unsubstantiated claim.

The provocation of action would be the next step in the evolution of this sexual social history, and after a little more banter, Jerry dares Elaine to see her naked to “follow up” on the “allegation”. It’s the next logical step after the first prepubescent titillation of gossip, we’re now the age of puberty, where sexuality is birthed upon rumor, myth and tall tale. George, when we enter his plotline (and it’s conveniently a smash cut after Elaine and Jerry articulate his exact position), is frozen in this ‘close but no cigar’ historical epoch. You could say that this is essentially George’s permanent state in the Series as a whole, even if he does show an ability to move backwards and forwards temporarily throughout. Not only do I feel George’s plotline to be the funnier one, it’s also the more interesting one in our present contemplation. George begins doing things outside his innate ideas because he wants to attain a social standing (be someone’s boyfriend) and the normal means have been taken from him (most humorously he hasn’t been able to sit next to Betsy in such a way that he “can make a move”). It’s all the more interesting because this social standing is one he wants out of both genuine yearning, but also because he wants others to view him as a stable man, a man that can be seen as long term building material. It’s ultimately what the term of boyfriend (and to seriously date) has become in the linguistic evolution of the social history. It’s all the early pre-developmental stages meeting the suddenly civilized adult world, when sex becomes something completely unsexual, and the evolution of history becomes more about status, place, and presentation than it does about desire, sensation and expression (Elaine’s humorous line that females are merely playing ‘defense’ throughout this history is wonderfully subversive).

Jerry meanwhile rides both fences, at one point genuinely wanting gossip confirmed or denied in a life of sexual conquest, to the next moment losing interest in hypocritical condemnation. Sidra, to Jerry (and those like him), is guilty of the societal ‘no-no’ of daring to have work done that replicates exactly what outsiders around her want to see in her physical make-up (a false desire put on you by others [in this case that you have perfect breasts] should never be realized by you falsely [getting breast implants] is the hypocritical moral in this brand of ethics). He needn’t even have it confirmed to squash his desires and momentarily break up with her (he even humorously attempts to get at ‘the truth’ by starting conversations about the busts of several well-endowed celebrities of the past). Kramer is then mixed into the episode when an interesting progression from the importance of an outsiders view of ourselves in the defining of sexual identity against outsiders completely mistaking our entire identity on misread signs is made. The latter, Kramer seeing the author Salman Rushdie, in an altogether different man named Sal Bass (either ironically intentional or purely accidental that the similarly named Saul Bass is himself a famous real New Yorker) makes him become as obsessed with seeing himself proven right. The ideas converge again, when that great setting—the Health Club—is pushed back into service. Jerry spots his confusion, Sidra, as Kramer spots his, and as Elaine has gone into the intimacy of the sauna to physically have her claim validated, Kramer does likewise in the sauna, though he trades verbal interaction over sensual touch (much like George has become more about linguistics so has the otherwise always animalistic Kramer). (As an aside, I would say the Jerry perspective is even deeper since he’s painted as very shallow throughout, but then writes a line for Sidra to say that he “would have made a great Nazi”. To say that about yourself, as a Jewish comedian, is a telling articulation on what he feels about this character he has shoehorned himself into playing)

Perhaps as a post history to all this is just how spectacular everything blows up for all involved at the episodes two main climaxes. Jerry is rounded told off in a dramatic way (the shoe wasn’t often on his foot in such matters), Elaine has a face-to-face shaming from Sidra, while George has any number of negative things happen to him at the wake. His explosion, to wrap up my earliest point, is my personal favorite part or the episode and easily the most memorable to my eyes. He gleefully attempts to name himself exactly what he wants to be so that others catch on (call it weirdo subliminal messaging), no less than three times in one wonderfully uncouth, arrested moment;

Well, I’m the boyfriend. Otherwise, what’s the point of being the boyfriend? This is where you have to be when you’re the boyfriend.

It becomes the end of our sexual history; unsubstantiated claim, provocation of action, linguistic gymnastics, braggadocio. Foucault had his The History of Sexuality in several parts, but here’s a loose adaptation, easily accessible, and in a scant 22 minutes. Yes, it is spectacular.

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