"The Sponge" is the 119th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the ninth episode for the seventh season. It aired on December 7, 1995. It was written by Peter Mehlman and was directed by Andy Ackerman.
Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer are at Monk's Cafe and they mention that Jerry still wears a size 31 pair of jeans. Kramer also mentions the female contraceptive sponge is being taken off the market. Kramer passes both of them an AIDS Walk sheet for them to sign. While reading the list of signatures Jerry sees a girl's name (Lena, played by Jennifer Guthrie) whom he once met, but doesn't know her unlisted number. Jerry takes down the number and calls the girl. When George and his fiancée Susan get into a fight about sharing their secrets, in order to get back into her good graces George tells her that Jerry does not actually wear size 31 jeans.
Meanwhile, Elaine goes on a 25-block radius hunt to find the contraceptive sponges. When she finally arrives at a pharmacy which still carries them, she purchases a full case. Her limited supply requires that she restrict her usage. She puts her current boyfriend, Billy (Scott Patterson), through a rigorous examination to make sure he's "sponge-worthy." Jerry tells George that he found his new girlfriend on the AIDS walk list. George then tells Susan against Jerry's wishes. Susan then tells her friend, who tells a friend until the phone tree reaches Jerry's new girlfriend. When George comes to Jerry's apartment Jerry tells him that he is "out of the loop", because he told Susan about Jerry.
When Kramer takes part in the AIDS Walk, he refuses to wear an AIDS ribbon in opposition to "ribbon bullies", led one more time by Bob and Cedric from "The Soup Nazi". The storyline appeared to be based on the real-life controversy of former Days of Our Lives actress Deidre Hall, who, in 1993 publicly refused to wear AIDS ribbons at public events, such as the Daytime Emmys. Hall claimed that the volunteers who passed out the ribbons bullied celebrities into wearing the ribbons.
At his new girlfriend's, Jerry finds out that she has a lifetime supply of contraceptive sponges (assuming the boxes shown are all she has, there are approximately 720 sponges). While trying to disguise that he has seen the sponges he tells her his secret about his jeans and she dumps him.
Original story ideas
When Peter Mehlman originally wrote this episode, it included several storylines which never made it into the final episode. These included a story in which Kramer and Newman bought stock in a company that sells over-the-counter contraceptive devices because Kramer had heard that the sponge was going out of business, and that this other company would capitalize on this. Then, in order to improve on their investment, Kramer and Newman go to Wall Street in order to start a buyout rumor on their company by whispering loudly about it at brokerage houses, so that their stock would go five or ten points before they sell. It was at this point in the show's original story that Kramer shared his scheme with Elaine and told her about the sponge; she immediately panics and rushes off to buy as many sponges as possible. However, their plan backfires when they have a fight with an obnoxious guy in an elevator at Wall Street and a negative rumor about the company they've invested in is immediately generated.
George's story was originally different, too, and was later modified to fit in with Season Seven's story arc of his engagement to Susan. In its original conception George meets a girl who argues that she and George are so like each other, that if they dated, they would have great sex for about ten days and then hate each other and split up. George, seizing the opportunity, wonders out loud if there would be any problem if they stayed with each other for a week and then, by mutual consent, they would call it quits. That way they could have all the pleasure without any of the pain. George is on the edge of victory when he learns that the girl likes a certain type of contraceptive and the entire West Side has been cleared of the product by Elaine.
Jerry's story was much the same as it is in the final episode, except when his girlfriend asks him if he donates to AIDS charities, he says he does and blurts out the name of Kramer and Newman's company. Jerry's girlfriend, believing in his ramblings about this terrific company and its AIDS research capacity, buys 5,000 shares, just in time for the negative rumors to take hold, and Kramer and Newman's stock's price falls through the floor.
- Elaine: Oh, you're not gonna copy a girl's phone number off an AIDS charity list!
Jerry: (copying down the number) Elaine, you should admire me...I'm aspiring to date a giving person.
Elaine: You're a taking person.
Jerry: That's why I should date a giving person. If I date a taking person, everyone's taking, taking, taking. No one's giving. It's bedlam!
- Jerry: How'd you find out?
Lena: A friend of a friend of a friend knows Susan.
Jerry: (under his breath) George!
- Walker #1: Hey, where's your ribbon?
Kramer: Oh, I don't wear the ribbon.
Walker #2: You don't wear the ribbon? Aren't you against AIDS?
Kramer: Yeah, I'm against AIDS. I mean, I'm walking, aren't I? I just don't wear the ribbon.
Walker #3: Who do you think you are?
Walker #1: Put the ribbon on!
Walker #2: Hey, Cedric! Bob! This guy won't wear a ribbon!
(Cedric and Bob turn around and look at Kramer) Bob: Who?! Who does not want to wear the ribbon?!
- Jerry: She's kind and caring and generally concerned about the welfare of others. I can't be with someone like that! I mean, I admire the hell out of her. You can't have sex with someone you admire!
George: Yeah, I know what you mean. Where's the depravity?
Jerry: No depravity.
- Kramer takes part in the New York AIDS Walk.
- The Sponge going off the market affects Elaine and George's personal lives.
- Yahtzee game in Jerry's apartment.
- AIDS red ribbon mentioned during the AIDS walk.
Quantification of "spongeworthiness"
Economist Avinash Dixit quantifies the concept as an option value problem in his 2011 paper.
|Season Seven Episodes|
|The Engagement | The Postponement | The Maestro | The Wink | The Hot Tub | The Soup Nazi | The Secret Code | The Pool Guy | The Sponge | The Gum | The Rye | The Caddy | The Seven | The Cadillac, Part 1 | The Cadillac, Part 2 | The Shower Head | The Doll | The Friar's Club | The Wig Master | The Calzone | The Bottle Deposit | The Wait Out | The Invitations|