The Finale (Seinfeld)

The Finale (Seinfeld)

Infobox Television episode
Title = The Finale
Series = Seinfeld

Caption = The 'New York four' are led into prison at the end of "The Finale".
Season = 9
Episode = 179-180
Airdate = May 14 1998
Production =
Writer = Larry David
Jerry Seinfeld
Director = Andy Ackerman
Guests = See "Guest stars" below
Episode list = List of "Seinfeld" episodes
Season list = Infobox Seinfeld season 9 episode list
Prev =
Next =

"The Finale" is the name given to the final two episodes of the NBC sitcom "Seinfeld". They were the 179th and 180th episodes of the show and the 23rd and 24th episodes of the ninth season. It aired on May 14 1998 to an audience of 76 million viewers. Its initial running time was 1 hour and 15 minutes. [cite web|url= | title = "The Finale, Part 2 episode on" |publisher=Sony Pictures |accessdate=2008-06-30]

The fake working title for this show was "A Tough Nut to Crack" to throw off outsiders about the contents of the episode. [cite web| url = | title = "The Finale, Part 1 episode on" |publisher=Sony Pictures |accessdate=2008-04-21]


After finally striking a deal with NBC over their sitcom pilot, "Jerry", Jerry and George are faced with having to leave New York City for California. Before doing so, they decide to take NBC's private jet to Paris with Elaine and Kramer, for one "last hurrah". Unfortunately, Kramer causes engine troubles by hopping up and down on the plane while trying to get water out of his ears, nearly killing the four friends in a crash. Upon what looks to be their final moments of life, George reveals he cheated in "The Contest", and Elaine tells Jerry "I've always loved...", but the pilot manages to steady the plane, so in the court near the end, Elaine is going to say "I've always loved United Airlines." They make an emergency landing in the small, fictional town of Latham, Massachusetts.

While killing time in Latham, waiting for the plane to be repaired, they witness an overweight man getting carjacked at gunpoint. Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about his size while Kramer films it all on his camcorder, then they proceed to walk away. The victim notices this, and tells the reporting officer. The four main characters are then taken into custody for violating a Good Samaritan law that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation.

A lengthy trial ensues, bringing back many characters from past shows as character witnesses testifying against the group for their "selfish" acts from throughout the series. The Virgin, the low-talker, the Bubble Boy, Babu Bhatt, the Soup Nazi, George Steinbrenner, Dr Wexler from "The Invitations", the overweight man who was carjacked, and several others are called to the witness stand, among many more enemies and acquaintances. Attorney Jackie Chiles defends them with the defense that the witnesses are just trying to settle scores with the four and are really exaggerating, that the four did not want to get shot by the criminal, and even George's mother tries to get them released by offering to have sex with the judge. The four are found guilty, and sentenced to a year in prison, with Judge Arthur Vandelay (Art Vandelay - George's fictitious alter ego) proclaiming: "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."

In the final scene before the credits, the four main characters sit in a jail cell - strangely unfazed by what has just happened to them, still concerned mostly with the minutiae that preoccupied them beforehand. Jerry begins a conversation about George's shirt buttons, using lines from the very first episode of the series ("The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt..."). George then wonders if they have had that conversation before. Also, Kramer is ecstatic about finally getting the water out of both his ears, which was the real cause of the near plane crash accident in the first place. Elaine still cannot believe they are in prison, but Jerry tells her they can get out on parole in six to seven months, which is the amount they will have to pay on the apartment, and he will attempt to have "Jerry" picked up again. A side story also wraps up about Elaine's call to Jill which is her only chance after being criticised at the beginning.

In a last bit of comedy during the credits, Jerry is seen wearing an orange jumpsuit, performing a stand-up routine of prison-related jokes to an audience of fellow prisoners (including Kramer and George). No one is laughing, except for Kramer. He is eventually threatened by a heckler/fellow prisoner (voiced by Larry David). Then the series ended as Jerry, being yanked off stage while the crowd boos him.


Because of the immense amount of attention and interest that the finale generated, producers went to extreme measures to keep the plot of the final episode absolutely secret.Each cast member had to sign off for his/her script and return it at the end of the day, at which time the script would be shredded.Only the script supervisor was allowed to keep a copy of the script.The set was under 24-hour surveillance, both by security cameras and a security guard, and all on-location shots were carefully guarded to prevent outside camera crews from sneaking in.The studio audience, which consisted solely of friends and family members of the crew, was required to sign an affidavit swearing that they would not reveal the plot of the final episode to anyone.According to an NBC Executive, Jimmy Fallon (who at the time was not a member of the Saturday Night Live cast) sneaked into the taping with a friend.

In retrospect, Larry David commented that he now wishes he had not gone to such lengths to keep the finale secret, as he feels it contributed to some fans' disappointment.

Reaction and ratings

The finale of "Seinfeld" was criticized by many for being vindictive towards the characters - who are shown to be amoral, selfish misanthropes - and, by extension, towards the audience who tuned in to watch them every week. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker seemed to echo the majority 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!'" [cite web| url =,,283381,00.html | title = "So long, suckers!" ] 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. One way or the other, the 1998 episode made TV history as the third most watched finale of a U.S. television series ever, behind only "M*A*S*H" in 1983, and "Cheers" in 1993.

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"."

Coinciding With the Death of Sinatra

The U.S. West Coast airing of the finale of Seinfeld, considered by many to be among the best TV shows ever, coincided with the death of Frank Sinatra, the noted singer and actor perennially considered one of the very top U.S. entertainers of the 20th Century. Sinatra's ambulance was able to make it to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 10 minutes in very light traffic, due to many in Los Angeles being indoors to watch the show. [cite web| url = | title = "Nancy Sinatra" |publisher=Sunday Star Times |accessdate=2008-07-28]

yndication version

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

*In the Plane:
**Jerry's opening stand-up comedy act, which was the first since the finale of Season 7, is cut out.
**When the plane was falling, Elaine said to Jerry "Jerry, I've always loved...", but in the syndication version, "loved..." is cut.
*In the trial:
**The Bubble Boy, George Steinbrenner, Ramon the Pool Guy and the police detective from the episode "The Wig Master"
**The scene between Jerry and Elaine before the jury reenters the courtroom

Deleted scenes

The scenes that had to be cut are now available on DVD.

*First half
**The scene with Kramer in the car is much longer than originally aired.
**Dialogue between Jerry and George in a taxi.
**The coffee shop scene with Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George is much longer examining more locations than before.
**The syndication mentioned above available in the US only.
*Second half
**The exchange between the minor casts is cut down before the jury.
**Jackie Chiles opening dialogue is much longer than aired.
**Following guest stars in the court has been shortened or cut in throughout the scene.
**Jerry's final standup is much longer than before.

Guest stars


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