“The Watermelon” is Curb at its silliest, but while it might not be the most elegant of episodes, it’s still brilliantly funny all the same.
This recap of Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 4, “The Watermelon”, contains spoilers.
At this point, I’m not holding out much hope that Young Larry is ever going to get made. It doesn’t help that Curb Your Enthusiasm and even Larry David himself seem keen to forget all about it, or at least not prioritize it. The show is barely mentioned in “The Watermelon”, aside from excusing the week’s guest star, but you can’t really consider that a criticism. The more time Larry has spare, the wackier the situations he finds himself embroiled in. Mostly divorced from the overarching plot, you’d call it filler in any other show, but the precise plotting of Curb means you can’t just dismiss something like “The Watermelon”. You wouldn’t have thought that a Klansman, Woody Harrelson, a litterbug ophthalmologist, and watermelon had anything to do with each other. But you’d be wrong.
Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 4 recap
Harrelson is the obvious guest star, another potential recruit for a character in Young Larry, but here he’s an uber-woke Academy Award-winning interspecies equality enthusiast who thinks having cream in one’s coffee perpetuates a cycle of terrible violence – a viewpoint that forces a desperate Larry to lie about having a cow named Jessie, whom Woody would like to meet before he leaves town. But where to find a cow? As it turns out, quite by accident.
The accident involves Larry spilling his coffee on Joe (Marc Menchaca), a surprisingly reasonable Klansman who nonetheless can’t attend his upcoming hate rallies with coffee stains on his robes. Curb is uniquely positioned to mock this kind of thing, it seems. I thought about it, and I couldn’t come up with a single other comedy that could get away with having its protagonist run around doing favors for someone in the KKK. Of course, everyone else, from the Jewish dry cleaner to Susie, thinks Larry is nuts. But he’s adamant about the robes being his responsibility now. The whole thing works because Larry and his neuroses are being ridiculed. The ridiculousness of Joe’s extremism is treated as self-evident. Curb isn’t preaching to us about racism being wrong – it expects us to know that already. In the same way, Woody Harrelson making a ridiculous speech at the Academy Awards is clearly poking fun at all the celebrities who have done so in recent years, without coming down against the ideology.
“The Watermelon” isn’t about bigotry. It’s about Larry David. Everything being filtered through his perspective lets the show make jokes about modern politics and cultural issues without getting on its soapbox about them. There’s a whole subplot with Larry trying to help Leon get over his shame of eating watermelon in front of white people that ends up being a nice moment of friendship, not to mention proof that Larry is, fundamentally, a decent guy. He wants his friend to feel comfortable doing something he enjoys. It’s the same attitude that allows him to put dry-cleaning responsibilities over moral outrage. For better and worse – often worse – Larry treats everyone the same.
This is how Larry also manages to ruin Freddy Funkhouser’s relationship with Kaley Cuoco’s ophthalmologist. She carelessly drops a Pirate’s Booty cheese snack and makes a conscious decision not to pick it up, which Larry can’t ignore. When he tells Freddy, he can’t ignore it either. The whole thing’s absurd, but it gives Cuoco an excuse to have arguments with them both, which you can tell is the point. Out of spite she also hurts Larry’s eyes, which leads to him crashing into the back of another Mary Ferguson, which allows for the payoff to the watermelon subplot. For a show built on so many inane encounters, it’s often amazing how cleverly everything gets tied together by the end. And how many times serious actors can say “Pirate’s Booty” with a straight face.
You can catch Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 4, “The Watermelon”, on HBO.