|Episode nos.||Season 9|
|Directed by||Andy Ackerman|
|Written by||Larry David|
|Original air date(s)||May 14, 1998|
|Running time||56 minutes|
"The Finale" is the two-part series finale and the final episode of the American sitcom Seinfeld. They are the 179th and 180th episodes of the show and the 23rd and 24th episodes of the ninth season. It aired on NBC May 14, 1998 to an audience of 76 million viewers. Its initial running time was 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The fake working title for this show was "A Tough Nut to Crack" to throw off outsiders about the contents of the episode. For the final time and the first since the end of season seven, Jerry performs a stand-up comedy routine. Larry David, co-creator of the series, who departed from the series after the seventh season, returned to write the script for this last episode.
The episode garnered strongly divided responses upon airing, and continues to polarize critics and audiences.
Jerry and George have finally struck a deal with NBC to produce their pilot Jerry as a series, upon receiving a call from Elizabeth Clark calling from the office of NBC President James Kimbrough (Peter Riegert). Jerry and George will be leaving New York City for California to begin work. Jerry is given use of NBC's private jet by NBC executives Jay Crespi and Stu Chermak as a courtesy and he, George, Elaine, and Kramer decide to go to Paris for "one last hurrah". Elaine tries to get hold of her friend Jill. First, she can't get any reception with her cell phone on the street. Then, Jerry interrupts her with news of the pilot pickup and Elaine hangs up on Jill to take the call. Jerry then scolds her for trying to rush the call before they all leave for Paris, and for thinking about calling from the plane. On the plane that is piloted by Captain Mattox and his co-pilot Kurt Adams, George and Elaine argue over the quality of the plane and what Elaine considers an "effeminate" way in which George sits in the jet, while Kramer is still trying to get water out of his ears from a trip to the beach he made earlier in the day.
Kramer's desperation to get the water out of his ears causes him to jump up and down on the plane and, as a result, he stumbles and falls into the cockpit, which causes the pilots to lose control. While the plane is nosediving, the four prepare for death. George, momentarily feeling the need to confess, reveals he cheated in "The Contest", and Elaine begins to tell Jerry that she always loved him; but the plane steadies itself and they make a safe emergency landing in the fictional small town of Latham, Massachusetts.
While waiting for the airplane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man named Howie (John Pinette) getting carjacked at gunpoint by a criminal (Jeffery Thomas Johnson). Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about his size while Kramer films it all on his camcorder, then proceed to walk away. The victim notices this and tells the reporting officer Matt Vogel (Scott Jaeck), who arrests them on a duty to rescue violation that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation.
Because this is the first case implementing this law, they are advised by the deputy to call a lawyer to represent them. Jerry and his friends do not have any choice but to call on Jackie Chiles to represent them for the upcoming trial. District Attorney Hoyt (James Rebhorn) hears that Jackie Chiles will be representing Jerry and his friends and tells the prosecutor that he will find out everything about them.
Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are in their cell having their meal while awaiting the trial when Jerry's beeper goes off stating that their airplane is ready. Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells cover the news about the trial of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer. The people associated with the main characters are packing for the trial and heading to Latham, Massachusetts. Jerry's parents Morty and Helen, George's parents Frank and Estelle, Newman, Jerry's Uncle Leo, Jacopo "J." Peterman, David Puddy, Mickey Abbot, Kenny Bania, Susan Ross' parents, Rabbi Glickman, Keith Hernandez, and George Steinbrenner are among those shown making their way to Latham, Massachusetts. In addition to these people, many others from New York like Kramer's mother Babs Kramer and Matt Wilhelm have made the trip to watch the trial in the courtroom. A lengthy trial ensues presided over by Judge Arthur Vandelay (Stanley Anderson). George considers this to be a good sign as Arthur Vandelay was one of the many fake names he used for himself and phony companies he claimed to have worked for.
District Attorney Hoyt starts his opening statement that the defendants have ignored their Good Samaritan Law and mocked the victim of a mugging. He also states that the defendants must pay for this crime. Jackie Chiles starts his opening statement that this trial is a waste of the taxpayer's money, the defendants are innocent from bystanding, and that the real criminal is still out there.
District Attorney Hoyt starts to ask a lot of witnesses in hopes to make Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer pay for breaking the duty to rescue law.
- Officer Matt Vogel testifies that Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine were simply standing there while the victim was being robbed. During his testimony, Kramer's video is played upon Matt Vogel getting permission from the court to play it.
- Howie claims that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George just did nothing while he was getting robbed. District Attorney Hoyt has no further questions towards Howie. Following the testimony, Jay Crespi and Stu Chermak take their seats as George shouts at them for the jet nearly killing them causing Judge Vandelay to bang his gavel.
- Mabel Choate (Frances Bay), the elderly woman Jerry mugged for a loaf of marble rye bread for George to give to his soon-to-be in-laws in "The Rye", recounts this incident that took place on January 4, 1996. Her use as a witness upon her taking the stand leads to an objection by Jackie Chiles because she was not present at the crime. District Attorney Hoyt states that they plan to use a series of character witnesses and the judge overrules the objection so that he can hear what she has to say.
- Marla Penny (Jane Leeves), the virgin whom Jerry dates in "The Virgin" and "The Contest", reluctantly explains that she broke up with Jerry on October 28, 1992 after learning of the contest that the four had to see who could go the longest without "gratifying themselves". This caused everyone to groan as J. Peterman even quotes "For the love of God."
- Donald Sanger (voiced by Jon Hayman), the Bubble Boy whom Jerry tried to visit, was brought in the courtroom by his father Mel Sanger (Brian Doyle-Murray). Donald describes the argument he had with George on October 7, 1992 while playing a game of Trivial Pursuit where Moors was misprinted as "Moops" when it came to the "Who invaded Spain in the 8th Century" question. Their argument ultimately led to Susan Ross accidentally destroying the protective bubble in which he lives (due to an unspecified medical condition). The bubble actually popped while Donald was choking George who was framed for trying to kill him by those who knew Donald. George and Donald then start their "Moors or Moops" argument again.
- Lola (Donna Evans) describes events from "The Handicap Spot". George parked in a handicapped space, which caused her to travel a greater distance to get to where she was going. Her electric wheelchair was destroyed in an accident when it lost power and Kramer bought her a used wheelchair with faulty brakes which caused her to go careening down a hill.
- Dr. Wexler (Victor Raider-Wexler) recaps the events of "The Invitations" where he treated George's ex-fiancee Susan Ross after she passed out from licking envelopes covered with toxic glue on May 16, 1996. Dr. Wexler described a look of "restrained jubilation" on George's face when he was informed she died. His testimony causes Susan Ross' parents to angrily react (which confirmed Mr. and Mrs. Ross' suspicion in "The Wizard" that George was behind their daughter's death) where Henry Ross calls George a murderer and Mrs. Ross stating that George knew those envelopes were toxic as Judge Vandelay had to do an "order in the court" to break up the commotion. George is last seen looking quite upset at himself for treating Susan rather negatively.
- Sidra Holland (Teri Hatcher), the woman Jerry dated from the health club in "The Implant", recounts an incident in 1993 when Elaine tripped in the sauna and landed on her breasts. She claimed that Jerry had sent Elaine into the sauna to find out if her breasts were real or implants. When Sidra entered the courtroom, Jackie Chiles developed a crush on her.
- Lt. Joe Bookman (Philip Baker Hall), the library cop from "The Library", talks about what a library cop does and mentions about how Jerry had a 25-year-overdue library book. He calls Jerry a "criminal" which is what a "delinquent" for 25 years have been called.
- Robin (Melanie Chartoff), a comedy club waitress and George's girlfriend from "The Fire", recounts her child's birthday party where a flashback shows George cowardly and selfishly pushing children and an elderly woman out of the way to escape a small kitchen fire. A deleted scene had Robin also answering yes to the question if her mother was also knocked down during the incident.
- The Garden Valley Shopping Mall Security Guard from "The Parking Garage" (David Dunard) testifies about catching Jerry urinating in public and his reasoning for doing so. The flashback showed Jerry telling the security guard that "I could get uromysitisis poisoning and die, that's why." District Attorney Hoyt quotes "Uromysitisis! I wonder if they're having any trouble controlling themselves during this trial? Perhaps these two hooligans would like to have a pee party right here in the courtroom!" When Jackie Chiles objects stating that his clients' bathroom problems are not an issue of the trial, Judge Vandalay tells him to sit down when Jackie tries to refer to the Disability Act of 1990.
- Detective Hudson (James Pickens Jr.) refers to an incident that took place at the end of "The Wig Master" due to an odd set of circumstances that led to Kramer being mistaken for a pimp and getting arrested by the police.
- Kramer's ex-girlfriend Leslie the Low-Talker (Wendel Meldrum) from "The Puffy Shirt" is apparently there to testify against Jerry for bad-mouthing the puffy shirt she had him promote on The Today Show. Jackie Chiles objects because Leslie is a low-talker and that nobody can hear her. He tells Judge Vandalay to either get Leslie a microphone or they should move on with the trial. A deleted scene had District Attorney Hoyt getting close enough to hear that Jerry's negative comment ruined her business prior to Jackie Chiles' objection.
- George's former boss with the New York Yankees George Steinbrenner (played by Lee Bear and voiced by Larry David) recalls how he was rumored to be a Communist in "The Race", but did not state how he was traded for Tyler Chicken in "The Muffin Tops". Frank Costanza stands up and shouts to Steinbrenner "How could you give $12,000,000.00 to Hideki Irabu?" Judge Vandelay had to do an "order in the court" to break up the argument.
- Marcelino (Miguel Sandoval), the sleazy grocer and cockfighting ringleader from "The Little Jerry", has his testimony simply consisting of him saying "cockfighting" in response to a question from District Attorney Hoyt.
- Roger Hoffman (David Byrd), the pharmacist from "The Sponge", testifies about the event on the night of December 7, 1995 where Elaine came into Pasteau Pharmacy and "said she needed a whole case" of Today sponges shortly after they were pulled from the market. Roger also added that the sponges in question are not "the kind you clean your tub with. They're for sex." This caused everyone to groan upon hearing this testimony. A deleted scene had him also stating that Elaine was agitated and desperate at the time.
- Elaine's ex-boyfriend and co-worker Fred (Tony Carlin) from "The Pick" testifies about Elaine's accidental nipple exposure in a Christmas card on December 1992. A deleted scene had Elaine stating that it was inadvertent and that Kramer took the picture for the Christmas card as Kramer claimed that the lighting called for it. Judge Vandelay banged his gavel.
- Elaine's former boss Justin Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) mentioned that he fired her over a misunderstanding in "The Diplomat's Club". Pitt even believed Elaine was trying to kill him and testifies she tried to smother him with a pillow. A deleted scene prior to this accusation had him mentioning how he hired Elaine where she worked for him from September 1994 to May 1995. When Elaine shouted to Pitt that her trying to smother him with the pillow was not true, Judge Vandelay banged his gavel. When asked by District Attorney Hoyt on why she tried to kill him, Pitt stated that she and Jerry had somehow found out that she was in his will.
- Yev Kassem, The Soup Nazi (Larry Thomas) is first asked to spell his name, which he refuses to do. Then he testifies that the four used to come into his soup shop, mentioning that George didn't know how to order right. He even banned Elaine from the soup shop for a year. Elaine later found soup recipes in an old armoire that once belonged to the Soup Nazi and in an act of revenge reveals his recipes to the public. This caused the Soup Nazi to close his soup shop and move to Argentina while mentioning that Elaine ruined his business. When Elaine whispers to Jerry, Kramer, George, and Jackie that his soup was not good anyway, Yev stands up and shouts "WHAT DID YOU SAY?!"
- Babu Bhatt (Brian George), a former Pakistani restaurateur who appeared in "The Cafe" and "The Visa", was brought back into the United States where he retells the story of how Jerry's advice to change the menu of his restaurant "The Dream Cafe" from varied to Pakistani caused his customer base to dry up. Then he charges that Elaine and Jerry purposely mixed up his mail so he did not get his visa renewal papers and was deported back to Pakistan. Babu ended his testimony by quoting "All they do is mock me, just like they did the fat fellow. All the time. Mocking, mocking, mocking, mocking, mocking. All the time! Now it is Babu's turn to mock. Finally I will have some justice. Send them away! Send them all away! Lock them up forever! They are not human. Very bad! Very, very, very bad!" Babu then waves his index finger at them. Babu's story is only partially true where his restaurant did not get any business except for Jerry's patronage before he changed the menu, and his renewal papers were accidentally delivered to Jerry's house while Jerry was out of town. When back in Pakistan, Bhatt had stated to a friend that he made a promise that he would go back to the US one day to have his revenge on Seinfeld.
As the jury goes over the evidence, Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells recap to those watching their show about what was heard during the trial. Jane Wells even stated that the testimonies went into the night until Judge Vandelay has decided that he has heard enough. It was also mentioned that the closing arguments have occurred and that the jury has been deliberating for four and a half hours. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer hope that Jackie Chiles would get them acquitted. Estelle enters Judge Vandelay's office in order to get him to reduce the punishment for her son if he is found guilty by doing something for him. Judge Vandelay asks "What do you mean?" and Estelle responds "You know."
Everyone else is seen killing time awaiting for the jury to be done:
- Mabel Choate, Justin Pitt, Marla Penny, Marcelino, Joe Bookman, Roger Hoffman, Jay Crespi, and Stu Chermak are standing in the halls of the courthouse.
- Rabbi Glickman is reading something from his book to Jerry's parents and Frank Costanza.
- J. Peterman, Keith Hernandez, Kenny Bania, and Mickey Abbot are playing pool for money at the bar.
- David Puddy is lying under a tree using a tanning mirror on his face.
- Matt Wilhelm is trying to break up an argument between George Steinbrenner and a waiter.
- Newman is eating food in his car while lying down in his back seat.
- Yev Kassem is seen outside a building serving some of his soup to Babu Bhatt, Robin, Mr. Lippman, and Poppie. When Poppie is seen asking for some salt for his soup, Yev Kassem does his "No Soup for You" gesture and takes away his soup and spoon.
- Henry Ross is seen buying a gun (possibly to kill George if the trial finds him not guilty).
- Jackie Chiles is in bed with Sidra Holland until he gets a call that the jury has reached a verdict.
The jury re-enters the courtroom. When Kramer claims that a woman on the jury is smiling at them, Jerry tells him that she's smiling at them because they might go to prison. Everyone rises when Judge Vandelay enters the courtroom. When it comes to the verdict, the forewoman of the jury (Myra Turley) states that the jury finds Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer guilty of criminal indifference. Mr. and Mrs. Ross and the testifiers are pleased with the verdict, Estelle faints, and Newman has a brief choking moment from laughing while eating food. Judge Vandelay breaks up the commotion by threatening to clear the courtroom if they didn't stop.
He then says to the four "I do not know how, or under what circumstances the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you to spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves. I know I will." Judge Vandalay adjourns the court and takes his leave from the courtroom as George angrily quotes to Kramer "You had to hop! You had to hop on the plane!" As everyone starts to leave, Elaine tells David not to wait for her to which he indifferently says "Alright." Frank tries to wake up Estelle from her fainting so that they can beat the traffic as Uncle Leo comforts Babs in the background. Before leaving with Sidra, Jackie Chiles tells the four that he may have lost the case, but he did get satisfied with Sidra while commenting "And by the way: they're real, and they're spectacular!"
In the final scene before the credits, the four main characters sit in their holding cell awaiting their prison transport. Kramer is finally able to get the water out of his ears after days of trying. Elaine decides that she's going to use her one phone call from prison to call Jill, saying that the prison call is the "king of calls". Jerry begins a conversation about George's shirt buttons, using lines from the first episode. George then wonders if they've had that conversation before, which Jerry acknowledges.
During the credits at the Latham County Prison, Jerry is wearing a Latham County orange jumpsuit and performing a stand-up routine of prison-related jokes to an audience of fellow prisoners. (including Kramer and George; Elaine is not seen as she is in the women's section of the prison) No one is laughing except for the studio audience and Kramer. As Jerry is then escorted off the stage by a prison guard (Jon Hayman) for talking back at a heckler, he says to his audience of fellow prisoners, "Hey, you've been great! See you in the cafeteria!" as the audience jeers and Kramer gives him a standing ovation, capping off the episode and the show.
Broadcast and reception
The top price for a 30-second commercial during the U.S. broadcast was approximately $1 million, marking the first time ever on American television history that a regular primetime television series (as well as a non-sport broadcast) had commanded at least $1-million advertising rate (previously attained only by Super Bowl general telecasts).
In its original American broadcast, 76.3 million U.S. television viewers tuned into "The Finale", becoming the fourth most watched overall series finale in the U.S. after M*A*S*H, Cheers and The Fugitive. When this episode originally aired on NBC, TV Land paid tribute by not programming any shows opposite it, instead just showing a still shot of a closed office door with a pair of handwritten notes that said "We're TV Fans so... we're watching the last episode of Seinfeld. Will return at 10pm et, 7pm pt."
Although the finale of Seinfeld enjoyed a huge audience during the May 1998 telecast, it received polarized reviews and was criticized by many for portraying the main characters as people with no respect for society and for mocking the audience who tuned in to watch them every week. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker seemed to echo this sentiment in declaring the episode "off-key and bloated...Ultimately, Seinfeld and David's kiss-off to their fans was a loud, hearty, 'So long, suckers!'" Others valued it for the large number of cameo appearances from past episodes, as well as the perceived in-joke of the four characters being convicted and imprisoned on the charge that they did nothing, a play on the "show about nothing" mantra.
Although Larry David has stated he has no regrets about how the show ended, a 2010 Time article noted that the Seinfeld reunion during the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm "was viewed by many as his attempt at a do-over." This was also referenced by Jerry in the seventh-season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, saying "We already screwed up one finale" with David responding "we didn't screw up a finale, that was a good finale!" Having said that, during a Seinfeld roundtable reunion discussion, Larry admitted to understanding the disappointment and said if he were to redo it he would have kept the plot of the finale less of a secret, which only heightened expectations.
In the final Top Ten List of the Late Show with David Letterman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus jokingly criticized the episode by thanking Letterman for letting her take part in "another hugely disappointing series finale", much to the faux chagrin of Jerry Seinfeld who was also there.
This version had cut several parts from the original episode (US) or rearranged some parts:
- In the plane:
- When the plane was falling, Elaine said to Jerry "Jerry, I've always loved...", but in the syndication version, "loved..." is cut.
- In the trial:
- The testimonies of Donald Sanger, George Steinbrenner, and Detective Hudson.
- The scene between Jerry and Elaine before the jury re-enters the courtroom.
- The scene with Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer having a meal in their cell was used for the credits of the first part.
- Jerry's opening stand-up comedy act, which was the first since the finale of Season 7.
- The scene in Monks where George tries to convince the couple in the next booth to give him their ketchup.
The scenes that were cut are now available on DVD.
- First half
- The scene with Kramer in the car is much longer than originally aired.
- Dialogue between Jerry and George in a taxi.
- The coffee shop scene with Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George is much longer, examining more locations than before.
- Second half
- The exchange between the minor cast members before the jury is cut down. It consists of Keith Hernandez telling Newman that he has been doing some announcing, Rabbi Glickman talking to Frank and Estelle Costanza and Morty and Helen Seinfeld about enlightenment, Uncle Leo meeting Babs Kramer, J. Peterman meeting David Puddy, and Mickey Abbot telling Kenny Bania that he took his seat.
- Jackie Chiles' opening dialogue is much longer than aired. It had him mentioning that the criminal is also lying and laughing at this while the defendants are lucky to be alive from the airplane's emergency landing. He also claimed that he can get the pilot of the airplane to the court to testify on their behalf.
- Justin Pitt being called to the stand was featured as well as an extended version of his testimony.
- The extended testimonies of Robin, Leslie, Roger Hoffman, and Fred.
- Testimonies from Arnold Deensfrei, Detective Blake, Mr. Lippman, Ramon, and Poppie.
- Jerry's final standup is much longer than before.
- An alternate ending was also filmed. The jury re-enters the courtroom. When Kramer claims that a woman on the jury is smiling at them, Jerry tells him that she's smiling at them because they might go to prison. When it comes to the verdict, the forewoman of the jury states that the jury finds Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer not guilty of criminal indifference which disappoints the testifiers and leaves Judge Vandelay speechless. This ending can be found as an Easter egg on the "Seinfeld" season 9 DVD set.
- "The Finale, Part 2 episode on Seinfeld.com". Sony Pictures. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "The Finale, Part 1 episode on Seinfeld.com". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "5 Things You Didn't Know: Seinfeld". AskMen. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- Battaglio, Stephen. "2010: The Year in Numbers", "TV Insider", TV Guide, December 20, 2010, Page 9
- "All Videos—Newest—Video—NBC.com". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "TV Land Last Seinfeld". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Ken Tucker (1998-05-29). "Seinfeld Review | News Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- "The Lost Finale: Top 10 Most Anticipated Tv Endings". Time. 2010-05-23.
- TV's Most Unforgettable Finales—Aired May 22, 2011 on TV Guide Network
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