Because Larry David’s world is certainly one full of judging, slights, and winners and losers, each week during Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm we will be applying a keen eye to all of the show’s social chaos to effectively answer this question: Who won the week? We’ll also be handing out a few other stray awards, much as we did while ranking every episode of the series. Let’s get started with Sunday night’s episode, “The Pickle Gambit.”
Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show in which things very rarely get better — instead, they almost always get worse. So of course the shitstorm that Larry started in the Season 9 premiere — to recap: His new project, Fatwa! The Musical, and an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! resulted in the ayatollah declaring a real-life fatwa against Larry — only intensified in the second episode. Larry sets up a Skype call with the consul of Iran so they can work out this fatwa mess, which would mean Larry would no longer have to disguise himself in public and stay at hotels under pseudonyms like Buck Dancer. Unfortunately, in typical Curb fashion everything comes to a head during the call just as things are looking up. The bodyguard that Leon hires to protect Larry from all fatwa-related threats, Swat, thinks some bedroom escapades between Funkhouser’s nephew and a prostitute Larry befriended at the Grand Marina Hotel are an assassination attempt against Larry. So Swat kicks the two out of the house mid-coitus, in full view of the Iranian consul. (“Just get rid of the Muslims!” Leon shouts in pursuit).
It’s hard to pick a winner in an episode gone so wrong for so many parties. The fatwa wasn’t called off; Swat the bodyguard interrupted sex and messed up in front of foreign dignitaries; Funkhouser’s nephew, Kenny, injured his prized pitching arm opening a jar of pickles — a jar that Leon was unable to open on two separate occasions. So by process of elimination, this week’s winner comes from the episode’s B plot: the smarming Ted Danson. After all, it is confirmed in “The Pickle Gambit” that he’s going out with Larry’s ex-wife, Cheryl, and everything following that reveal works out pretty well for him.
After telling Larry the news — which is the gentlemanly thing to do, even though Larry would prefer that his friends went after Cheryl behind his back, which Marty admits to doing after their divorce — Larry attempts a quid pro quo by asking Ted’s ex-wife, Mary Steenburgen, out on a date. It ends very depressingly. “Not really her type, physically,” Larry admits to Ted, who then gets to bask in Larry’s failure. (Adding insult to injury for Larry, he later sees Mary on a date with someone who could well be his doppelgänger.) Later, Ted takes Cheryl to the Grand Marina Hotel, and Larry — who was staying there in disguise post-fatwa — is forced to watch him escort her upstairs.
Though they’re friends, Ted and Larry have often come into conflict on Curb (“The Larry David Sandwich,” “The Freak Book”) and Ted has prevailed basically every time. He’s the anonymous donor. He’s the man with a tastier sandwich at Leo’s. He’s the winner of this episode. Now, for some other awards.
Best Larryism: “Don’t tuck in. Who sleeps like that? It’s suffocating. It’s absolutely suffocating.”
Best Callback: The return of Shara (and a hilarious Anne Bedian) from one of Curb’s best episodes, Season 8’s “Palestinian Chicken,” with an even more profane sex scene with Larry. It’ll be hard to get the image of Larry shouting the names of several members of Donald Trump’s administration and nearly climaxing out of my head.
Best Guest Appearance: Jim Rash (best known as Community’s Dean Pelton) as the Grand Marina Hotel’s purveyor of all lobby-related incidents. That includes overseeing the cookie spread, made by an in-house pastry chef — though Larry is convinced they’re just Pepperidge Farm cookies. Rash’s character got to kick Larry’s alter ego, Buck Dancer, out of the hotel after two rule-breaking cookie grabs. He didn’t use the tongs!
Most Important Inanimate Object: The aforementioned tongs, used by the Grand Marina Hotel and the consul of Iran for picking up cookies. Larry’s not a fan.
Come back next week as Larry continues to confront the two biggest issues in his life: the fatwa and Ted Danson’s relationship with Cheryl.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.