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 finale, “Fatwa!”
While I’m not sure any episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm needs to border on 50 minutes, the Season 9 finale made me wish the episode was longer, because I would’ve loved to have seen more musical numbers from Fatwa! The Musical. The play that’s been building for a full season came together Sunday, as we saw Lin-Manuel Miranda spit bars as Salman Rushdie and F. Murray Abraham put in killer work as the Ayatollah … in rehearsals, that is. Naturally, by the time opening night came around, things had seriously fallen apart.
Ironically, a couple of gestures of kindness were Larry David’s undoing this time. Treating the musical’s crew to a game of paintball, which everyone was stoked for, spelled doom for Larry, since he scheduled it on the same day as Sammi’s wedding, at which he was supposed to deliver a speech. He also offered his house to Miranda’s cousin, Valentina (Tipper Newton), and her husband, Ernst (Flula Borg), when their Airbnb fell through—not discovering that they were swingers until it was too late (Leon was certainly intrigued, however).
Elsewhere, Larry was still butting heads with Miranda because the guy couldn’t give a proper thank-you or apology. And one more problem: Wearing the same clothes around F. Murray Abraham, a judgmental “outfit tracker” who chided Larry for wearing the same pants twice to rehearsal.
It was perhaps cathartic for Larry to air his grievances with Miranda on the paintball battlefield. Still, Larry planned to shoot his paintball pistol in the air à la Alexander Hamilton—an honorable gesture—but the new pants he picked out to avoid the scorn of F. Murray Abraham proved too loose without a belt, and when they began to fall off his waist, he accidentally fired his paintball gun and shot Miranda straight in the mouth. He Aaron Burr’d him!
By the end of the finale, Miranda was out of commission for six months, Fatwa! The Musical was over, Larry missed Sammi’s wedding, and all of his friends who invested in the musical lost a lot of money. People were hospitalized; a wedding was ruined. And to make matters even worse for Larry, the news of his canceled fatwa didn’t spread fast enough, so Season 9 ended with an Iranian man hell-bent on murder chasing Larry through the streets of L.A.
In other words, everyone lost in the finale. There were no winners (except maybe Fatwa’s stage manager, played by Nick Offerman, since he managed to pocket some extra cash from Larry). That befits a show with this much chaos. Yes, characters had minor wins this year—Leon had hot yoga sex, Susie got a fancy new house, Larry no longer has a fatwa on his head—but everyone mostly ended up getting screwed over, which is more or less the overarching theme of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And now, some awards.
Best Larryism: “Please do not misconstrue this. This is not a pickup in any way, shape, or form. I don’t pick up; I put down.”
Best Fatwa! The Musical Number: “Salman, Get Out,” in which Miranda’s Rushdie is kicked out of someone’s home for not doing the dishes, or—in Larry’s latest edit—is such a meticulous outfit tracker that he pisses them off. (F. Murray Abraham was not impressed by this change.)
Worst Thank-You: Lin-Manuel Miranda, who all but dismisses Larry after he agrees to host Miranda’s cousin and her husband. It’s even worse when you realize he knew they were swingers. The Mirandas can’t give a good thank-you!
Least Questionable Repeat Clothing Item: In my opinion: a sweater. So long as you’re not breaking a sweat or getting rained on, what’s the problem with wearing a sweater more than once before washing it? I say this having worn my favorite Twin Peaks sweater, like, three days in a row. Don’t judge me, F. Murray Abraham!
And because Season 9 is over, we’re also handing out some overall awards.
Best Larryism: From Episode 4, “Running With the Bulls.”
“Well, that’s not so shocking. You’re running with the bulls. It’d be shocking if he didn’t die. That’s the shock.”
Worst Screw-up: Related to the greatest Larryism, Larry being partially responsible for Kenny Funkhouser—the prized jewel of the Funkhouser family—getting killed in Pamplona after Larry set him up with a prostitute. To add insult to injury, Kenny’s funeral erupted in chaos when Larry assumed an Iranian man was there to assassinate him, and everyone in attendance stomped on Kenny’s portrait.
Pettiest Complaint: Larry refusing to say “Thank you for your service” to Sammi’s veteran fiancé, Victor, in Episode 5 because three people said it before him. That is an elite level of shirking societal norms. It somehow trumps the fact Larry triggered Victor’s PTSD later in the episode.
Best Guest Star: Salman Rushdie, the man with an actual fatwa on his head, gave Larry a much-needed pep talk on the benefits of a fatwa. You can get out of any social engagement by using the fatwa as an excuse, Salman says. Also, every woman is attracted to you, which lead to steamy “fatwa sex.”
Season MVP: Leon Black. Though he rarely left the confines of Larry’s house and was usually on the periphery of Season 9’s biggest plots, Leon (and actor J.B. Smoove) constantly brought his A game. Some of the best terms to add to Curb’s perpetually expanding lexicon are thanks to Leon, including “lampin’” and “sleepfucking” (where “subconsiously, your brain is fucking, but your conscious mind is not”). He also came up with the best solution to taking a piss when your fly is too small.
Curb’s changed for the better since Leon entered in Season 6; and if David has enough ideas in mind for a 10th season, hopefully Leon will make a return as well. Of course, we don’t know if this is the last season of Curb. But that’s what makes “Fatwa!” a great closer. Whether it’s a season finale or a series finale, Larry’s ending on appropriate terms: running for his life.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.