Seinfeld: Season 4, Episode 11

The Contest (18 Nov. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy
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After George's mother catches him alone in a somewhat embarrassing situation, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer stage a contest to see who can last the longest without any sexual ... See full summary »

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Title: The Contest (18 Nov 1992)

The Contest (18 Nov 1992) on IMDb 9.5/10

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Storyline

After George's mother catches him alone in a somewhat embarrassing situation, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer stage a contest to see who can last the longest without any sexual gratification. Temptation quickly sets in for everyone. Kramer is the first to fall after ogling the woman across the street who walks around her apartment naked. George is next after he visits his mother in hospital and her roommate gets a sponge bath across from the curtain separating them. Elaine signs up for a fitness class where none other than JFK Jr. is enrolled. Her fantasizing does the rest. Finally, Jerry's new girlfriend Marla decides it's time to lose her virginity but Jerry has to explain the contest. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Comedy

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18 November 1992 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The word "masturbation" (the subject of the episode) is never mentioned. The script originally did use the word but Seinfeld and David realized that the episode would be funnier and less controversial without it. David's claims that if NBC had rejected the episode he would have quit. NBC received only 31 complaints from viewers. See more »

Goofs

When Jerry and Marla are making out on the couch someone walks past the bathroom window. See more »

Quotes

[after Kramer is out]
Elaine Benes: And then there were three.
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Connections

Referenced in Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Car Salesman (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

The Wheels on the Bus
(uncredited)
Traditional
Performed by Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld
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User Reviews

 
"I'm out!"
26 September 2010 | by (Italy) – See all my reviews

Whenever there's a poll for the greatest Seinfeld episode, The Contest

  • which happens to be the show's fiftieth, not counting the original


pilot - usually comes on top, and for good reason: it perfectly embodies the creative boldness the series is known for, and uses all four of the main characters - plus a couple of guest stars - in the best possible way. Even now, years after Seinfeld went off the air, its brilliance is unmatched.

Premise: having been caught masturbating (!) by his mother (Estelle Harris), George vows never to do it again. When Jerry suggests he could last longer, all four decide to make a bet to see who can refrain from their impulses the longest. Naturally, problems arise almost immediately: Kramer is tempted when he sees a naked woman in the building across the street, George fantasizes about the nurses in the hospital where he goes to visit his mom, Elaine has a run-in with John Kennedy Jr. and Jerry is nervous because Marla still hasn't agreed to sleep with him. The contest can begin...

Based on a real incident involving, among others, Larry David (who won a deserved Emmy for the script), the concept is still incredibly brave from a conceptual standpoint, at least for network television: even more than a decade later, few producers would green-light an episode that's entirely focused on masturbation. That they did is purely down to the ingenious writing: by replacing the "dirty" word with the now classic euphemism "master of his domain", David draws huge laughs from a subject few mainstream comedians had contemplated joking about, and the self-censorship is part of the episode's appeal: if the word had been used even once, it wouldn't be as funny.

Alongside the snappy dialogue, the other source of comedy gold is the cast. As expected, Richards (who won his second Emmy thanks to this episode) and Alexander make the most of it, with the former delivering the single funniest line of the entire season and the latter enjoying his first on-screen pairing with Harris, a TV mom to be reckoned with. As for the other leads, Dreyfus brings a welcome feminine view on the matter, while Seinfeld himself has to carry an excruciating payoff scene with Jane Leeves that plays out like a cringe-worthy Curb Your Enthusiasm with an added studio audience.

Proving once again, and perhaps in the strongest fashion, that no subject is taboo in American sitcoms, The Contest is the definitive Seinfeld episode, and a milestone in US television. How many other shows can boast an Oustanding Comedy Series Emmy on the grounds of a script about masturbation?


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