“Elizabeth, Margaret and Phillip” has fun with Jon Hamm, racial profiling, business ideas and ill-advised relationships in a thoroughly Curb-like episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
This recap of Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10, Episode 8, “Elizabeth, Margaret and Phillip”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The gimmick in this week’s Curb Your Enthusiasm is Jon Hamm playing himself impersonating Larry David as research for a role in a Hobe Turner film; the best use of a guest star so far this season, and in an episode that is otherwise brimming with funny subplots, marital disputes, start-up business ideas, racial profiling, and ill-advised new relationships. If I were to point someone to an episode of this show that best exemplifies what it’s all about and why it’s funny, I’d probably point them to “Elizabeth, Margaret and Phillip”.
So, Jon Hamm is shadowing Larry for a day. Jeff (Jeff Garlin) and Susie (Susie Essman) aren’t getting on, and Cheryl’s (Cheryl Hines) sister is selling the house she and Larry bought for her. He, of course, thinks he should profit from the sale, and Jeff agrees, which doesn’t help his marital strife. He’s going to go and see her later to demand his cut — we’ll get to it in a moment.
In the meantime, though, Larry enjoys his first meal with Jon Hamm. When he can’t decide what to order from the big menu he assumes that the Chinese family dining nearby will be “more expert”, given their national culinary expertise. This is the start of a racial profiling gag that crops up a couple more times in Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10, Episode 8, and largely works in the same way that all Larry’s stubborn, potentially offensive personality quirks do — you can see his logic, even if you’d never admit it for the benefit of the tape.
At the magazine stand we keep revisiting — “No browsing! You browse you buy!” — Larry offers to watch it so the attendant, Milos (Nick Gracer), can go to the bathroom. Richard Lewis turns up and starts tormenting him, but also invites him to dinner; Larry, though, won’t let him bring Michelle (Sasha Alexander), which will spite him later. The attendant returns and puts a monetary value on the urination: $10, which gives Larry a business idea that he proposes to Leon (JB Smoove). “Gotta Go” could be the “pee Amazon”.
Anyway, Larry goes to see Cheryl’s sister, Becky (Kaitlin Olson). Her house is a mess, the windows are covered with drapes, and she’s drinking during the day. She’s also beefing with Cheryl, Queen Elizabeth to her Princess Margaret. When Larry proposes getting a return on his investment, she has a breakdown, revealing she lost her job and her boyfriend left her. As thanks for allowing her to keep all the proceeds from the sale, she kisses Larry and they have sex. “Elizabeth, Margaret and Phillip” — you see?
Naturally, Cheryl is fuming about this, and Susie agrees that Larry has taken advantage of a vulnerable woman. Jeff and Jon Hamm, who arrives extremely excited at the wealth of research material, take Larry’s side. “It’s actually not funny, Jon Hamm,” says Cheryl, although it obviously is.
At dinner, Richard is irked about Michelle not being allowed to be there and tells Larry he had to come up with an excuse about why. What he went with was that Larry has a bleeding rectum and was too embarrassed to discuss it in front of her, which will also return to spite him, as things tend to. Jon is becoming more and more like Larry, and Susie throws Jeff out for defending Larry’s relationship with Becky, whom he helps tidy up — with Jon Hamm — so that she can sell the house. She does and goes to Denver on a skiing trip. More on this later.
First, Gotta Go. Leon and Larry set out on their new business endeavor, which takes off immediately. This will — all together now — come back to spite virtually everyone.
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10, Episode 8 includes the requisite awkward dinner party. Michelle, visibly worried about Larry’s bleeding rectum, has given him a wooden chair since she’s scared he’ll ruin the expensive furniture. He’s livid, as ever, and forces Richard to get him a proper one or else he’ll reveal that he made the whole thing up. I should note that there’s a recurring gag in “Elizabeth, Margaret and Phillip” about how someone saying they appreciate something is a cheap way of manipulating a situation: For example, Larry would really appreciate a proper chair. He also continues to racially profile people — in this case, Alex (Aaron Takahashi) — and start petty arguments over non-issues, now aided by Jon Hamm-as-Larry. The argument with Cousin Andy (Richard Kind) and Cassie (Lisa Arch) is about the Lazy Susan, which apparently has racist and sexist connotations that get Cassie incensed enough to spin it so fast that it flings sauce at Larry and ruins his expensive chair. He and Hamm get thrown out.
Becky calls from Denver with an emergency: She’s had a skiing accident. Larry insists he’ll be on the first flight out, but he won’t since there isn’t a first-class one available until 9 pm and he refuses to fly coach. By the time he’s due to set off, Leon has had a Gotta Go emergency; the shoe-shine attendant is stuck on the toilet and he needs someone to cover the newsstand. Jeff won’t since we’ve reached sweatpant time, so Larry agrees. When Milos takes too long, Larry tags in Jon Hamm. He “really appreciates it”. At the airport he assumes that a black man (Avery Kidd Waddell) and woman (Tracie Thoms) are a couple, and is then, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, is subjected to a “random” security search. He misses the flight.
When Cheryl runs into Jon Hamm at the newsstand in Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10, Episode 8, I think we all assumed what was coming. But in Mocha Joe’s, Hamm becomes so Larry-like at the wobbly table and tepid beverages that Cheryl gets up and leaves. By the time Larry finally arrives at the hospital, Becky wants him gone. He even tries the bleeding rectum excuse, but no success. Perhaps he should have said how much he appreciates her.
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