The Finale (Seinfeld)

"The Finale"
Seinfeld episode
Episode no. Season 9
Episode 23/24
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Written by Larry David
Production code 923/924
Original air date May 14, 1998
Running time 42 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Season 9 episodes

"The Finale" is the two-part series finale of the American sitcom Seinfeld. They are the 179th and 180th episodes of the show and the 23rd and 24th episodes of the ninth season. It aired on NBC May 14, 1998 to an audience of 76 million viewers. Its initial running time was 1 hour and 15 minutes.[1]

The fake working title for this show was "A Tough Nut to Crack" to throw off outsiders about the contents of the episode.[2] For the first and final time since season seven, Jerry performs a stand-up comedy routine. Larry David, co-creator of the series, returned to write the script for this episode.

The episode garnered strongly divided responses upon airing, and continues to polarize critics and audiences.


Part 1

Jerry and George have finally struck a deal with NBC to produce their pilot Jerry as a series, upon receiving a call from Elizabeth Clark calling from the office of NBC President James Kimbrough (Peter Riegert). Jerry and George will be leaving New York City for California to begin work. Jerry is given use of NBC's private jet by NBC executives Jay Crespi and Stu Chermak as a courtesy and he, George, Elaine, and Kramer decide to go to Paris for "one last hurrah". Elaine tries to get hold of her friend Jill. First, she can't get any reception with her cell phone on the street. Then, Jerry interrupts her with news of the pilot pickup and Elaine hangs up on Jill to take the call. Jerry then scolds her for trying to rush the call before they all leave for Paris, and for thinking about calling from the plane. On the plane that is piloted by Captain Mattox and his co-pilot Kurt Adams, George and Elaine argue over the quality of the plane and what Elaine considers an "effeminate" way in which George sits in the jet, while Kramer is still trying to get water out of his ears from a trip to the beach he made earlier in the day.

Kramer's desperation to get the water out of his ears causes him to jump up and down on the plane and, as a result, he stumbles and falls into the cockpit, which causes the pilots to lose control. While the plane is nosediving, the four prepare for death. George, momentarily feeling the need to confess, reveals he cheated in "The Contest," and Elaine begins to tell Jerry that she always loved him; but the plane steadies itself and they make a safe emergency landing in the small town of Latham, Massachusetts.

While waiting for the airplane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man named Howie (John Pinette) getting carjacked at gunpoint by a criminal (Jerry Thomas Johnson). Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about his size while Kramer films it all on his camcorder, then proceed to walk away. The victim notices this and tells the reporting officer Matt Vogel (Scott Jaeck), who arrests them on a duty to rescue violation that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation.

Because this is the first case implementing this law, they are advised by the deputy to call a lawyer to represent them. Jerry and his friends do not have any choice but to call on Jackie Chiles to represent them for the upcoming trial. District Attorney Hoyt (James Rebhorn) hears that Jackie Chiles will be representing Jerry and his friends and tells the prosecutor that he will find out everything about them.

Part 2

Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are in their cell having their meal while awaiting the trial when Jerry's beeper goes off stating that their airplane is ready. Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells cover the news about the trial of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer. The people associated with the main characters are packing for the trial and heading to Latham, Massachusetts. Jerry's parents Morty and Helen, George's parents Frank and Estelle, Newman, Jerry's Uncle Leo, Jacopo "J." Peterman, David Puddy, Mickey Abbot, Kenny Bania, Susan Ross' parents, Rabbi Glickman, Keith Hernandez, and George Steinbrenner are among those shown making their way to Latham, Massachusetts. In addition to these people, many others from New York like Kramer's mother Babs Kramer and Matt Wilhelm have made the trip to watch the trial in the courtroom. A lengthy trial ensues presided over by Judge Arthur Vandelay (Stanley Anderson). George considers this to be a good sign as Arthur Vandelay was one of the many fake names he used for himself and phony companies he claimed to have worked for.

District Attorney Hoyt starts his opening statement that the defendants have ignored their Good Samaritan Law and mocked the victim of a mugging. He also states that the defendants must pay for this crime. Jackie Chiles starts his opening statement that this trial is a waste of the taxpayer's money, the defendants are innocent from bystanding, and that the real criminal is still out there.

District Attorney Hoyt starts to ask a lot of witnesses in hopes to make Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer pay for breaking the Good Samaritan Law:[3]

More witnesses were shown in deleted scenes:

As the jury goes over the evidence, Geraldo Rivera and Jane Wells recap to those watching their show about what was heard during the trial. Jane Wells even stated that the testimonies went into the night until Judge Vandelay has decided that he has heard enough. It was also mentioned that the closing arguments have occurred and that the jury has been deliberating for four and a half hours. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer hope that Jackie Chiles would get them acquitted. Estelle enters Judge Vandelay's office in order to get him to reduce the punishment for her son if he is found guilty by doing something for him. Judge Vandelay asks "What do you mean"' Estelle says "You know."

Everyone else is seen killing time awaiting for the jury to be done:

The jury re-enters the courtroom. When Kramer claims that a woman on the jury is smiling at them, Jerry tells him that she's smiling at them because they might go to prison. Everyone rises when Judge Vandelay enters the courtroom. When it comes to the verdict, the forewoman of the jury (Myra Turley) states that the jury finds Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer guilty of criminal indifference. Mr. and Mrs. Ross and the testifiers are pleased with the verdict, Estelle faints, and Newman has a brief choking moment from laughing while eating food. Judge Vandelay breaks up the commotion by threatening to clear the courtroom if they didn't stop.

He then quotes to the four "I do not know how, or under what circumstances the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of you to spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves. I know I will." Judge Vandalay adjourns the court and takes his leave from the courtroom as George angrily quotes to Kramer "You had to hop! You had to hop on the plane!" As everyone starts to leave, Elaine tells David not to wait for her to which he indifferently says "Alright." Frank tries to wake up Estelle from her fainting so that they can beat the traffic as Uncle Leo comforts Babs in the background. Before leaving with Sidra, Jackie Chiles tells the four that he may have lost the case, but he did get satisfied with Sidra while commenting "And by the way: they're real, and they're spectacular!"

In the final scene before the credits, the four main characters sit in their holding cell awaiting their prison transport. Kramer is finally able to get the water out of his ears after days of trying. Elaine decides that she's going to use her one phone call from prison to call Jill, saying that the prison call is the "king of calls". Jerry begins a conversation about George's shirt buttons, using lines from the first episode.[4] George then wonders if they've had that conversation before, which Jerry acknowledges.

During the credits at the Latham County Prison, Jerry is wearing a Latham County orange jumpsuit and performing a stand-up routine of prison-related jokes to an audience of fellow prisoners (including Kramer and George; Elaine is not seen as she is in the women's section of the prison). No one is laughing except for the studio audience and Kramer. As Jerry is then escorted off the stage by a prison guard (Jon Hayman) for talking back at a heckler, he says to his mostly hateful audience, "Hey, you've been great! See you in the cafeteria!" as his mostly hateful audience jeers, and Kramer gives him a standing ovation.

Broadcast and reception

The top price for a 30-second commercial during the U.S. broadcast was approximately $1 million, marking the first time ever on American television history that a regular primetime television series (as well as a non-sport broadcast) had commanded at least $1-million advertising rate (previously attained only by Super Bowl general telecasts).[5]

In its original American broadcast, 76.3 million U.S. television viewers tuned into "The Finale", becoming the fifth most watched overall series finale in the U.S. after M*A*S*H, Roots, Cheers and The Fugitive.[6] When this episode originally aired on NBC, TV Land paid tribute by not programming any shows opposite it, instead just showing a still shot of a closed office door with a pair of handwritten notes that said "We're TV Fans so... we're watching the last episode of Seinfeld. Will return at 10pm et, 7pm pt."[7]

Although the finale of Seinfeld enjoyed a huge audience during the May 1998 telecast, it received polarized reviews and was criticized by many for portraying the main characters as people with no respect for society, and for mocking the audience who tuned in to watch them every week. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker seemed to echo this sentiment in declaring the episode "off-key and bloated...Ultimately, Seinfeld and David's kiss-off to their fans was a loud, hearty, 'So long, suckers!'"[8] Others valued it for the large number of cameo appearances from past episodes, as well as the perceived in-joke of the four characters being convicted and imprisoned on the charge that they did nothing, a play on the "show about nothing" mantra.

The night before "The Finale" aired, competing ABC television show Dharma & Greg aired the episode "Much Ado During Nothing". Their story centered around their title characters trying to win back a duck lawn ornament from Dharma's friend Jane by doing the most daring sexual act in public. After getting caught by the police once, they devise a scheme sure to succeed. Their plan centers on them "doing the deed" while the final episode is airing, saying that "...everybody in the country is going to be watching the last episode of Seinfeld."

Although Larry David has stated he has no regrets about how the show ended,[9] a 2010 Time article noted that the Seinfeld reunion during the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm "was viewed by many as his attempt at a do-over."[9] This was also referenced by Jerry in the seventh-season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, saying "We already screwed up one finale" with David responding "we didn't screw up a finale, that was a good finale!" Having said that, during a Seinfeld roundtable reunion discussion, Larry admitted to understanding the disappointment and said if he were to redo it he would have kept the plot of the finale less of a secret, which only heightened expectations.

In 2011, the finale was ranked No. 7 on the TV Guide Network special, TV's Most Unforgettable Finales.[10]

Syndication version

This version had cut several parts from the original episode (US) or rearranged some parts:

Deleted scenes

The scenes that were cut are now available on DVD.


  1. "The Finale, Part 2 episode on". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  2. "The Finale, Part 1 episode on". Sony Pictures. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  3. "The Finale". Seinfeld Scripts. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  4. "5 Things You Didn't Know: Seinfeld". AskMen. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  5. Battaglio, Stephen. "2010: The Year in Numbers", "TV Insider", TV Guide, December 20, 2010, Page 9
  6. "All Videos—Newest—Video—". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  7. "TV Land Last Seinfeld". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  8. Ken Tucker (1998-05-29). "Seinfeld Review | News Reviews and News". Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  9. 1 2 "The Lost Finale: Top 10 Most Anticipated Tv Endings". Time. 2010-05-23.
  10. TV's Most Unforgettable Finales—Aired May 22, 2011 on TV Guide Network
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