“There’s no discretion anymore,” Larry David laments in the penultimate episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s ninth season, and there’s an inkling of truth to his complaint. Were Larry’s company more discreet, Cheryl might not have divulged personal information about Larry to her new beau, Ted Danson. In the event that there is still discretion in a world full of big mouths, it usually comes at a price: $2,500 to be exact, from an extorting shellfish shucker (Steven Weber), in exchange for not telling Lin-Manuel Miranda that Larry fell asleep during a performance of Hamilton.
The sharing or withholding of information is about control, a theme that’s at the core of “The Shucker.” When Bridget (Lauren Graham) tells demeaning stories about her exes at a dinner party, Larry’s concerned that she could share harmful anecdotes about him. At the behest of his wingman, Leon (J.B. Smoove), Larry approaches Bridget with a sexual NDA. The document not only sends her running, but it also confirms Larry’s suspicions about his yenta girlfriend: Bridget has been referring to her other half as Larry Long Balls.
The episode’s biggest power struggle is between Larry and Lin-Manuel, who officially confirms his involvement in Fatwa! The Musical. Lin-Manuel insists on sitting behind “the power desk” in his meetings with Larry and Jeff (Jeff Garlin), and Larry has trouble saying no to the man in the “boss chair.” Soon Mandy Patinkin is out as the Ayatollah, F. Murray Abraham is in, and Fatwa! begins to err on the side of hip-hopera. Just as David exaggerates his own neuroses to play “Larry,” Lin-Manuel satires his “nice guy” persona, becoming a pretentious, naïf version of himself. The pair’s desire to reign over the meeting comes to a head when Lin-Manuel and Larry physically tussle over the seat, leaving Larry with an injured shoulder.
The sharing or withholding of information is about control, a theme that’s at the core of the episode.
Larry and Lin-Manuel make believably competitive adversaries, but it’s Larry’s nature to butt heads with as many people as possible. His other enemy in “The Shucker” is Rose Shapiro (Carol Herman), the woman who lived in Larry’s house before he purchased it in 2012. Mrs. Shapiro first makes an appearance at the dinner party, which Larry has organized to celebrate his freedom from the fatwa. After Larry answers the door, Mrs. Shapiro invites herself in to critique Larry’s carpet and mourn the removal of her pirate-themed wallpaper. The stake in Mrs. Shapiro’s heart is the sight of her withered ficus, which she steals in order to bring it back to its former glory.
It would have sufficed had Larry merely dismissed Mrs. Shapiro as a “fuckin’ psycho,” but he can’t in good conscience let the old woman come out the victor, especially after his bruising loss to Lin-Manuel. So he takes Rose to court. In theory, Larry David entering Judge Judy’s chambers should make for some excellent crossover television, and it’s certainly satisfying to watch the judge shut him down. But too much of the courtroom scene is devoted to callbacks to “A Disturbance in the Kitchen” from earlier in the season, from Larry trying to woo Judy with a lozenge to repeating his “beasts in the field” speech verbatim. He also makes a crack about filtered water, a punchline that was revived last week. In an episode that already runs close to 45 minutes, it’s a curious decision to spend a chunk of time bringing Larry back to court to settle yet another small squabble.
Though “The Shucker” could have benefitted from some editing, it has some of the season’s strongest errant bits of humor, such as Leon’s defense of the doo-rag (it may or may not be in the ascot and pocket square family), Jeff’s Jewish oil-tycoon garb, and top-notch zingers from Mrs. Shapiro. The episode also divulges some information about Susie (Susie Essman) that may cause a hiccup at Sammi’s wedding next week: She’s shtupping the shucker. Can you blame him? Being a prick is the shucker’s way.
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