“IRASSHAIMASE!” drops the ball a little bit, fitting together less neatly than usual and delivering far fewer gags.
This recap of Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 5, “IRASSHAIMASE!”, contains spoilers.
When Curb Your Enthusiasm is at its best, it seems near-genius. When it isn’t, it seems a bit aimless and self-indulgent. This season, at least so far, has been excellent – even standalone episodes have built to strong payoffs and been littered with great gags. “IRASSHAIMASE!” isn’t a bad episode, per se, but it feels both disconnected from the main narrative and not satisfying enough on its own terms to really justify that.
Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 5 recap
We’re back to Larry’s dating life, at least, which usually yields some good material. Here, Larry’s seeing Gabby McAfee (Julie Bowen), a friend of Jeff’s who, for initially mysterious reasons, started and then stopped seeing Hal Berman (Rob Morrow), who Jeff also set her up with. Almost all of the episode’s plotlines are concentrated in this setup. There are various odd rumors swirling around Gabby and the men she dates, Larry has to borrow a shirt from Freddy for the date, and the restaurant staff gets annoyed at Larry for using “Irasshaimase!” as a greeting.
The main problem with all this, I suppose, is that none of it feels new. We’ve seen Larry having awkward dates and getting into arguments with restaurant staff before. When he eventually gets soy sauce on Freddy’s shirt, it becomes a typical matter of “how does Larry deal with this awkward situation given his own neuroses?” There’s even a minor scene out of nowhere in which Larry gatecrashes Jeff’s house to sample his TV and gets into an argument with Susie about it that feels as if it’s there just to kill time – a 35-minute episode shouldn’t have any spare.
The basic interactions still work. Everyone has great chemistry, and some of the back-and-forth dialogue – especially Larry, Jeff, and Freddy laughingly debating whether or not Hal slept with his mother-in-law – is funny in the way Curb always is. And there’s definitely some payoff, particularly Hal sabotaging Larry’s second date with Gabby, but it was undermined anyway due to the fact that Gabby had already been exposed as a tattletale (her whole date “thing” is swapping secrets which she then reveals – Larry’s is a shortcut through the valley because of course it is.) Freddy’s revenge on Larry for the shirt situation is weirdly mean-spirited, and a whole bit about the restaurant holding Larry’s umbrella hostage doesn’t really amount to much.
If any of this was furthering the main plot it could be justified a little easier, but since “IRASSHAIMASE!” has absolutely nothing to do with Young Larry – it doesn’t even get a passing reference – it’s the kind of episode that needed to be funny and smart enough on its own terms. And it just isn’t, really. Anyone who has seen a single episode of Curb will know exactly what’s coming next, or at least the general shape of it, and you can’t help but miss that sneakily genius sense of everything fitting together perfectly by the end.
You can catch Curb Your Enthusiasm season 11, episode 5, “IRASSHAIMASE!”, exclusively on HBO.