Wait, there is one way to find out. We set up a sting. You know like Abscam. Like Abscam Jerry.
‘The Sniffing Accountant’, or perhaps ‘The Marine Biologist’ (see number 12 below), is the episode I have seen more than any other I think. As such, it makes me able to quote it virtually at will. This is saying something, of course, in a show as insanely quotable as this one is. Perhaps the ranking at 6 isn’t high enough (maybe there was a bit of me saying, “I can’t accurately judge this episode because I’ve seen it over 30 times” and it should switch places ‘The Hot Tub’, or rather ‘The Bris’ should be 6, and ‘The Hot Tub’ 7, but this could go on endlessly so I’ll stop), so I’ll just close this with, on another day when making another list, this easily could have been number 1. Hours spent watching this episode on a dubbed VHS from Bob, itself a copy of a copy, blurred to virtual muddy abstraction at times, or even, when I entertained ideas of being a painter in college, painting to it while it was playing in the background. I’ve literally listened to this episode like most would listen to a record. I can recall the hearty explosion from a male audience member that realizes before anyone else that, yes, Kramer is about to chug a mug of lager while never removing the cigarette from his mouth without seeing a single frame. “Here’s to feeling good all the time, ah?”
Now that we’re finished with the idiosyncratic stuff, let’s dive right in. ‘The Sniffing Accountant’ shows the series wonderfully settled into its groove; it had just seen a rise in popularity on the back of the incredible run that was Season 4, a run that saw both wonderful one off episodes intertwined with the continued storyline of Jerry and George creating the fictitious pilot Jerry. Into Season 5, the show finally had an audience (Season 4 collectively saw a Nielsen rating of 23—the shows highest up to that point by several slots—while Season 5 leapt all the way to a rating of 3, showing this factually; Season 4 starting really building the groundswell of a pop culture phenomenon from what Season 5 finally harnessed completely) and all that goes with that. The show struck out in wild new interesting directions, a perfect capitalization on the hilarious minutia of feeling romantic partners (both desired and realized) clothing fabrics with your fingers, going on job interviews that your manic father set up (complete with buffo bull shitting on a life long attraction to bras), severing relationships on disagreements over punctuation (in this case exclamation point usage), and finally the crème de la crème (and the plot line that bears the episodes title): a scandalous, corrupt accountant that may or may not be using his clients money to finance expensive South American coke runs. How this is all sussed out by a couple of guys (Jerry and Kramer and then Newman) with obviously too much time on their hands is deceptively simple and yet genius in its ambiguity and originality. First the ambiguity: Elaine pleads that her acquaintance (evidently it was her recommendation that got Jerry and Barry in touch in the first place) isn’t actually “on drugs” but merely the victim of an acute allergy to (and now here’s the originality) Jerry’s obsessively bulky mohair (“I think”) sweater. Jerry and Kramer (and then Newman) are then dropped down a worm hole of escalating unfounded and unprovable conspiracy theories obviously the result of living amidst cramped conditions without anything but the mundane to toil away worrying about. It’s the shows great barb against its self-proclaimed exaltation of ‘nothingness’; sometimes the examination leads to the profound, but sometimes it leads to excessive paranoia, illusions of grandeur, or neurotic meddling into others’ privacy. Like Hitchcock’s Rear Window and it’s suburban malaise Reagan America cousin The ‘Burbs before it, it shares this unmistakable quality, but unlike those two, Seinfeld skirts the realized affirmation of the paranoid voyeurs beliefs, thus leaving us in a better position to laugh, and ultimately contemplate (and then condemn) Kramer’s alarming breach of privacy in the episodes chief masterpiece comedic scene. A scene where he kicks in a toilet stall door holding a flashing camera hoping to find Barry nose deep in a pile of Colombian snow but instead apparently finds him doing nothing one wouldn’t expect over a toilet (all this happening as Jerry and Newman sit in the car arguing hilariously over various dental flosses). The affirmation of suspected guilt found in Rear Window, The ‘Burbs, and all the other copy cats we’ve gotten over the years, confirm the desire to be suspicious and doubting as the right thing to do, while in Seinfeld it’s rightly mocked by the episodes unwavering moral compass, Elaine. ‘The Sniffing Accountant’ presents a Seinfeld that most uninitiated never realize exists, a show of unmistakable ethical exactness.
(Not that it’s not without sly guilty-pointing innuendo, obviously drug references abound toward those in the financial sector, but I’ve always personally loved the quick use of names in the financial firm Jerry, Kramer, and Newman have decided to go in on a CD with: Prophet and Goldstein. ‘Prophet’ having the obvious religious connotation, ‘Goldstein’ exhibiting the stereotypical Jewish roots in banking. Though the episode never makes it definitively clear, it’s obvious that this accountant did indeed take a bunch of other peoples money to turn into coke to sniff up his nose, only to then skirt all responsibility by executing an accountants trick. Who said this show was about nothing, saying nothing?
Plus there is this great little bit I’ve always loved about how work ultimately implants itself on how people, and therefore cultures, evolve and operate. Social theorists have discussed the interplay of work-a-day humans in terms of alienation, how we approach leisure time, or to the buying of goods for the sole purpose of offering small victories or status. Here on similar grounds, Seinfeld gives us a humorous Kramer explaining that he “feels Tuesday and Thursday” while Newman, says “Tuesday has no feel” and that “he feels Mondays” with the implication being that the opening of a workweek after two days off would create a definite sensation over the individual. Newman, being the sole member of the inhabitants in the car with a Monday through Friday nine to five, is the only one really able to accurately articulate this truth. Kramer having never seemingly worked or operated under the normal pressures of daily life, thus finds himself freed from the constraints and feelings most human beings feel on a daily level. His eccentricities and whole general approach to life—one I view as correct—to take it as it comes, and live it to the fullest are born from this simple hypothetical that is leftist in origin: remove the tedium and temptation as you can and you’ll see a world more as it actually is.)