“The Mini Bar” has its fair share of funny guest stars and jokes, but it doesn’t all come together quite as well as it might.
This recap of Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 3, “The Mini Bar”, contains spoilers.
Three episodes into the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, some patterns are beginning to emerge. There always has been a pattern – weekly guest stars, a collection of random events that eventually, almost magically coalesce into a narrative – of course, but I mean within the season rather than in general. Last year we had the spite store. This year, we have Young Larry, and more specifically we have Maria Sofia.
Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 3 recap
Maria Sofia shouldn’t really work as a character. She’s actually quite a mean-spirited caricature. But Keyla Monterroso Mejia, who plays her, leans so heavily into absurdity that she steals every scene she’s in, and the show keeps doing interesting, funny things to keep her tethered to the plot. It seems, for a minute, like Larry has found a way to get rid of her this week, by getting Jeff to dispense Stage 4 Cancer Wisdom to Marcos about how Hollywood chews up and spits out young women. It works, but Hulu are so fond of her demo tape (which is actually her attacking Cheryl and Ted Danson for real) that they call Marcos and offer her the part anyway.
Hulu is replacing Netflix as the potential home of Young Larry, but you’d be forgiven for not realizing the difference since everything from the layout of the office to the interchangeability of the head honcho and his three diverse stooges is designed to be almost identical. It’s obviously a commentary on streaming culture, not to mention a joke at the expense of performative representation, but I’m not sure how well it lands in the age of HBO Max – it’ll be interesting to see if Larry ends up in those offices when his door-slamming and other misbehaviors inevitably result in Young Larry needing yet another new home.
This stuff doesn’t even take up the bulk of the episode, really, but it stands out because it’s the recurring thread tying everything together. A lot of the comedy in “The Mini Bar” comes from a guest-starring Patton Oswalt as Jeff’s business manager Harry, who has put a potential new fling off by being too clingy and is advised by Larry to lie about participating in hot dog eating competitions, and a returning Freddy Funkhouser (Vince Vaughn), who has bought a hotel, the minibar of which Larry wants to curate. This is all funny in the way Curb usually is, having a weird assemblage of well-known stars bicker about dinner party etiquette and such, but it also feels oddly detached from the rest of what’s happening, unlikely to deliver some kind of surprising payoff down the line (although it’d be nice if it did.)
On the upside, though, Curb is still as funny as it has always been, even if it isn’t always quite as clever, and these subplots, while tangential, facilitate some pretty great gags. If subsequent episodes can make those gags mean something when taken together, then everyone’s a winner.