Ah, Larry, it didn’t take long for you to give us a gem, did it? ‘The Pickle Gambit’ feels wonderfully like Curb Your Enthusiasm of old in many places, with Larry David continuing some of the central narrative themes of the new season as he picks out half a dozen little social mores, many of which he strings together for a delightfully farcical climactic moment of failure.
Part of the problem with the premiere was how one or two of the jokes, even the ones based on observations, felt forced – that’s not the case here. You must surely know someone who has taken a jar off you, full of pickles or not, confident they can unscrew the tight lid, partly to prove their own masculinity. It’s that kind of gag which ‘The Pickle Gambit’ manages to make work, frequently in spades.
Larry, of course, is now in hiding after the Ayatollah of Iran declares a fatwa on him following his obliviously insulting Jimmy Kimmel appearance. You do kind of get the sense that Larry created this entire plot line just so he can dress up in the kind of outlandish wig and moustache get up that we’ve seen occasionally before – such as playing a mobster for Martin Scorsese in ‘The Special Section’.
The whole sub-plot with Larry in disguise, facing an officious hotel clerk over the use of tongs to pick up cookies, is probably the strongest running gag of the episode (his alias, Buck Dancer, is sublime too). The best Curb episodes manage often to wring comedy out of a single location and Larry uses the hotel in this way here; be it the cookies, the disguise, the hooker he gives presentation advice to, all the way to Funkhouser’s injured, unable to masturbate baseball prodigy nephew.
We don’t get much of Jeff here, but Larry does make good use of his supporting players. Bob Einstein is always a delight as the dry, lugubrious, exasperated Marty Funkhouser, while it looks like JB Smoove is getting increasing amounts to do as the brilliant Leon, here hiring security to protect Larry from assassins – incidentally, it was great to see sexy Palestinian, Sharra, back to angrily shag Larry while calling him an infidel; ‘Palestinian Chicken’ is easily one of the strongest episodes of a weak season so Sharra was a welcome return.
Also – called it on Ted Danson & Cheryl! That was a great moment – Larry failing to spite-ask out Mary Steenburgen after Ted asks his permission to date Cheryl, only to then see Mary dating a man who looks *exactly* like him. Fairly subtle compared to the high farce of the rest of the episode, or the kind of social arguments Larry gets into, but it’s just hilariously put together.
Just altogether a great episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm which feels like Larry having strong ideas and successfully managing to tie them all seamlessly. Very few moments don’t click or fall flat here and though perhaps it doesn’t quite have the kind of conflicts or farcical beats to make it perfect Curb, ‘The Pickle Gambit’ is proof that Larry may have been away, but he is most certainly back on form. I’m totally using the alias Buck Dancer one day, too!
Curb Your Enthusiasm airs on Sky in the UK every Monday. What do you think of the new season? Let us know!