In an interview with Entertainment Weekly about Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s 11th season, showrunner Jeff Schaffer said of the beginning of the season, “There are lots of disparate threads that don’t seem to have anything in common at the start of the season, but they’re all going to knit together in the end to make an exquisite petty shame blanket.” Yet between the first episode of the season, “The Five Foot Fence,” and this second episode, “Angel Muffin,” we’re starting to see a pattern of what the through lines of this season will be, and especially with this second episode, we continue to see just how brilliant Schaffer and Larry David are at interweaving stories that seemingly have nothing to do with each other.
Between these first two episodes of the season, we can start to get an idea of what to expect this season. For example, like the Seinfeld reunion of Season 7, the Fatwa! musical of Season 9, or the spite store of Season 10, this season’s big arc certainly seems it will come in the form of the Young Larry series that already seems doomed. By the end of only the second episode, Young Larry has cast a terrible actress in a primary role, lost the potential star power of Dylan O’Brien, and after an argument with Netflix executive Don Winston Jr. (Reid Scott), Young Larry is without a home.
Which leads to another clear interest of Schaffer and David, which is to handle some political commentary, without going overboard. Last season saw Larry wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat to ward off people, but this year seems to be going just slightly more subtle. In “The Five Foot Fence,” we saw how quickly the cast of Curb turned on Albert Brooks when they found out he was a COVID hoarder, and in this episode, Larry can’t trust Netflix’s Don Jr., because who could trust a Don Jr.? As if to really punctuate exactly who they’re talking about, Don Jr.’s office even has a framed photo of him big game hunting prominently featured in the background. Considering how so many expected Season 11 to be directly focused on Larry’s experience during the pandemic, the show has already smartly shifted away from the obvious joke, and is instead throwing in its political jabs in a more clever way.
Finally, Season 11 is also giving Leon what seems to be one of his most significant arcs, as he attempts to find a new girlfriend that he can take with him on his trip to Asia. In two episodes, Larry’s actions have already led Leon to lose Mary Ferguson, and Mary Ferguson #2 (Charlotte Newhouse).
But the beauty of “Angel Muffin” – and Curb Your Enthusiasm at its best – is the show’s ability to knit that aforementioned “petty shame blanket” with seemingly disparate storylines. Even after twenty years of Curb, it’s still a wonderful joy to see this series throw so much out in a single episode, and tie everything together with an exquisite bow. “Angel Muffin” isn’t just about Larry trying to win over O’Brien for his show, or Larry’s ability to lose Leon yet another girlfriend. This episode also throws into the mix Larry’s problems with his new Greek dentist Dr. Thanapapalous (Mitch Poulos); Dr. T’s assistant Angie (Katy Fullan) who Jeff (Jeff Garlin) had a fling with and then paid for her to get an abortion; an entire issue with a toilet seat at the Netflix offices that won’t go down; an untrustworthy maintenance guy; and on top of that, there’s still plenty of time for Larry to defend his ratty towels multiple times in the episode.
Yet what makes this all work is the absolutely remarkable weaving of these stories together. Like Schaffer hinted, what could Dylan O’Brien have to do with Mary Ferguson #2’s dog Angel Muffin? How could Larry and Jeff going to see O’Brien’s terrible band – Dylan O’Brien and the Entrails – cover The Presidents of the United States of America’s “Peaches,” possibly affect Angie’s abortion? By the end of “Angel Muffin,” Curb Your Enthusiasm manages to put everything in its right place, structuring the episode impeccably, and ending on a perfect culmination of all these disparate stories.
Even more impressive is how recent seasons have taken all of these ingeniously crafted episodes, and had them factor into the framework of an even more ingeniously crafted season as a whole. As each episode concludes with a perfect crescendo, there are still enough dangling threads here that seem likely we’ll see in the future. By the end of the episode, Larry has put tissue in his ears, which allows him to miss the truth about several of the assumptions he’s made throughout the episodes about various characters, and while he’s blissfully unaware of the truth, it’s this type of avoidance that seems extremely likely to come back and bite Larry in the ass by season’s end.
While “The Five Foot Fence” did seem like Curb Your Enthusiasm setting up the stories for Season 11, “Angel Muffin” loosens up a bit more and gets the show back into its sweet spot: having Larry get pissed off about the most minor things. Sending Larry to a dentist’s office is just asking for neurotic instincts to come out, as he’s already annoyed the staff and the waiting patients before ever getting his teeth looked at. But Larry’s infuriated rants about his towels, his confusion over how to use a toilet with a seat that won’t stay down, and his absolute hatred over Angel Muffin gets Larry right back into his discomfort comfort zone.
“Angel Muffin” is a fantastic showcase of Curb You Enthusiasm‘s strengths, be it Larry’s tiny frustrations that balloon to absurd levels, or the unbelievably constructed narratives on an episodic level that eventually blend into an even more spectacular overall season. Already, Season 11 has excelled at both of these aspects that have made this series so great. In its eleventh season, “Angel Muffin” proves that Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t a ratty towel that’s starting to show its age, but instead, a soft towel so perfect that it’s easy to take for granted just how skillfully woven together it truly is.
KEEP READING: 15 Essential ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Episodes to Watch Before Season 11