9 Episodes into the Third season, Seinfeld had already re-defined the television sitcom. Phrases like “I had a pony” and James Wong’s belting of the name “Cartwright” served as comedic gold in the series’ Second season. “The Library” and “The Parking Garage” served as examples of the show’s ability to handle absurd storylines and experimental writing; episodes in which we never leave the parking garage and cops motivated by late fees pursue justice at all costs. By the ninth episode, the show seemed ready to further wade into artistic waters.
“The Nose Job”, arguably Seinfeld’s artsiest episode, experiments with several techniques in both writing and production. The episode’s title is a nod to George Costanza’s unfortunate situation, as if he’s plagued by any other kind. While he has very little to complain about when it comes to new girlfriend Audrey, it’s only a matter of time before he finds something to obsess about, her nose. George does have a point, especially considering the fact that Susan Diol, the actress portraying Audrey, is wearing a prosthetic appliance to give the appearance of a massive beak. Not only is this a first for the series, the use of a makeup prosthetic, it’s depiction on screen is also one of the first examples of the show’s flirtation with experimental shooting. The lens used to film Audrey’s face as George is conversing with her gives us a three-dimensional effect, like we’re watching a theme park show themed after Seinfeld. Not to mention that the first time we see the nose, it’s thrown on the television midway through Jerry and George’s conversation.
Several flashbacks occur during the episode, a technique used only 4 episodes earlier in “The Library.” The first flashback concerns Jerry’s elevator encounter with a struggling actress, portrayed by none other than Tawny Kitaen.
The quick shot to the elevator sets the tone for the rest of the scene, allowing George’s less than perfect interview to come to life on the screen. Speaking of George’s interview, the camera once again challenges your sense of distance by zooming in on the leafy greens wedged between George’s teeth.
The episode’s weirdest moment however, comes courtesy of the show’s title character and the celebrity that plays his love interest. Jerry’s “Chess Game” comment in the diner foreshadow’s the bizarre incarnation of the scenario later in the episode. The match between Jerry’s “manhood” and his brain is like no other scene the show had done, or would ever go on to do. The physical manifestation of Jerry’s struggle provides both comedic relief and insight into the mentality of a male, struggling with what many of us would claim is our inherent nature. Kitaen’s obnoxious reading of her script really increases the stakes, as the viewer roots for Jerry’s brain to call “Checkmate.” Eventually Jerry’s brain wins, causing his rival to disappear, which he does in whimsical cartoon fashion.
The episode ends in typical Seinfeld fashion, with George feeling the Karma Audrey’s newly sculpted face. Although the episode travels between the past and present, and showcases the inner workings of one man’s mind, it still manages to remain a favorite among Seinfeld fans. Maybe that is what truly makes Seinfeld a great show, it’s ability to create art out of “nothing.”