Appearances, assumptions, and anchovies are all up for debate in “Man Fights Tiny Woman,” another energetic outing for Curb Your Enthusiasm’s 11th season. The guest stars are once more in abundance, as Seth Rogen signs on to appear on Young Larry—and, just as quickly, backs out—while Josh Gad plays a chiropractor who should probably pay more attention to his own backside. And Larry and Freddy’s friendship suffers another blow from the contents of a refrigerator.
“Man Fights Tiny Woman” opens at the airport, as Larry and Jeff effuse about all the acting talent in New York. Young Larry is officially in production, and they’re both really impressed by one performer, a Jason Steinberg (Brews Brothers’ Zach Reino). Larry’s excitement is interrupted when he meets his driver, Miriam (Iris Anthony), a.k.a. the “tiny woman” from the episode title. Concerned that Miriam isn’t able to carry all three of his bags (just how long were they in New York, anyway?), Larry lugs them to the car himself, tweaking his back in the process.
This is just one of several instances in which “Man Fights Tiny Woman” explores the assumptions we make based on appearances. In the case of the driver, Larry’s initial assumption is mixed with concern about appearances. It’s not just that he surmises that Miriam can’t carry all of his luggage; he doesn’t want to be seen as the asshole who’s tasked her with trying do so. His fears are justified later in the episode, as the cast and crew of Seth Rogen’s Viking movie shake their heads (figuratively and otherwise) at the sight of Miriam struggling with Larry’s bags.
What makes things worse for Larry is the fact that he is somewhat correct in his assumption about Miriam’s strength (by the end of the episode, though, it also appears he was wrong). But before the fight that ends the collaboration with Seth Rogen that never really started, Larry tries to circumvent the issue by asking for only male drivers, a request that doesn’t go over well with A&K Limousine’s customer service rep (Franqi French, the 2020 winner of StandUp NBC competition).
“Man Fights Tiny Woman” challenges Larry’s assumptions throughout, but with very little alteration to his worldview, which sounds about right for an episode of Curb. His theory that the chiropractor’s threadbare underwear drove away the man’s clientele pans out (though, Dr. Jacobsen’s (Gad) new skivvies aren’t enough to bring Freddy back in the fold). A stickier wicket is the situation with the roofer, Jonas (Brad Grunberg, brother of Greg), who finds that Larry’s roof needs more extensive repairs than he initially thought. Larry and Leon both have their doubts about a heavyset man working on such repairs, and probably feel vindicated when he crashes through the roof near the end of the episode—though, you do have to wonder if they’d have raised similar issues if the guy had been the same weight but was 6’4.”
On the flip side, you could say tonight’s episode is about subverting expectations: pint-sized Miriam gives Larry a thrashing, and the very “Jewish” Jason Steinberg, who’s playing Cliff in Young Larry, turns out to be part of Jews for Jesus and even converts Dr. Jacobsen. We can still count on Larry to have a rocky friendship with a Funkhouser, though, and for Jeff maneuver through all the proceedings without catching any flak.
Seth Rogen certainly tries to help Larry break from his habit of judging a book by its cover—or, as Larry puts it, having “secret preferences.” As Larry rattles off some of the jobs he’d rather see done by women (including optometry, which checks out) and those he thinks should be done by men—at least, when he’s using their services—Seth points out how arbitrary some of these preferences are. He can’t quite keep his cool the entire time, eventually letting out an exasperated “Larry, just stop naming professions and which sexes should do them and which ones shouldn’t!”
And yet, Seth admits to feigning “stupidity” to seem more relatable—to be, as he puts it, an “everyman.” Is he playing with people’s assumptions or reinforcing them? He does seem to be crafting a certain public persona or “appearance.” Their exchange is lively and fun, but also offers something to mull over; I’d be interested to know how it came together, as so much of the dialogue is improvised from a story outline. Did Larry David suggest Seth Rogen skewer the latter’s real-life “nice, progressive everyman” image, or was it Rogen?
Larry, on the other hand, claims to be content with people thinking he’s an asshole. But he also ended up backing down on his request for male drivers when things went awry on his customer service call, and he seemed genuinely chagrined by the response to Miriam toting all of his bags—a feeling that at least partially informed why he was concerned about having a female driver in the first place. So, he’s not prepared to be a total pariah, either.
The upcoming eighth episode will see Larry utter one of the most notable lines from the season trailer: “I hate people individually, but I love mankind.” Is the goal of season 11 for Larry to fine-tune his misanthropy, after years of wreaking social havoc? It’s an interesting, promising prospect, even if the end result probably won’t change Larry much. He is, after all, a “singular man.”