"The Understudy" is the 23rd episode of Season Six, and the 110th overall. It originally aired May 18, 1995.

The episode was directed by Andy Ackerman and written by Marjorie Gross and Carol Leifer.


Jerry is dating Gennice, the understudy of stage performer Bette Midler, who bursts into tears for foolish reasons (for instance, when she drops her hot dog at the park) but not for expected reasons (such as when her grandmother dies). In the opening moments of the episode, Jerry and Gennice are in his Jerry's Apartment watching the film Beaches (starring Midler), and she is sobbing. He cannot decide whether to move from his chair to the couch to console her, but is not inclined to.

Kramer is enthused to hear that Midler is in town performing and will be playing in their Improv softball game in the park: "Bette Midler is going to be in the park today? Yeeee. Jerry, don't tease me." Kramer also warns Jerry, "understudies are a very shifty bunch. The substitute teachers of the theater world." Jerry admits, "I'm glad she's an understudy. I don't have to avoid going back stage and having to think of something to say."

During the game, in a parody of the 1994 Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal, George accidentally injures Midler, who is playing catcher, while he charges for home base. While Midler goes to hospital, the understudy takes Midler's part in the musical Rochelle Rochelle. Gennice believes George did it all for her - "I know this is going to be my big break" - but Kramer is outraged at George, Gennice and Jerry (who, after all, did nothing wrong):

"So, my dear, you think you can get to Broadway. Well, let me tell you something. Broadway has no room for people like you. Not the Broadway I know. My Broadway takes people like you and eats them up and spits them out. My Broadway is the Broadway of Merman, and Martin, and Fontaine, and if you think you can build yourself up by knocking other people down... GOOD LUCK."

Enraged New Yorkers turn against George, Jerry and Gennice, while Midler is nursed back to health by Kramer, who fetches every food and drink she desires.

Meanwhile, Elaine brings Frank Costanza to her favorite beauty shop to translate the jokes being made at her expense by her Korean manicurists. (Kramer tries to cheer her up with a kinder interpretation: "You know, maybe in Korean "dog" isn't an insult. Could be like the word "fox" to us. Oh, she's a DOG!") Within moments, Frank realizes what they speak in Korean is insults: "I heard every word you said. You got some nerve!" It happens that an old flame, Kim , is also working there, but Elaine is thrown out of the shop and banned for "spying." Despondent, she wanders the streets of New York on a rainy night, where she meets J. Peterman, and when they find themselves compatible in discussing clothing, she wins a new job.

Frank takes Kim out and discuss their future in his car. When he uses his "special move" on her, "stopping short" (reference to "The Fusilli Jerry"), she gets angry and never wants to see him again.

When Gennice finally takes the stage, she has a problem with the laces on her boot and, in an act reminiscent of Harding's bootlace incident, tearfully asks that she be allowed to start over. In a scene after the credits, Jerry is seen unlocking his front door. He overhears Kramer and Bette singing in Kramer's Apartment.

Notes About Nothing

  • First appearance of Jacopo Peterman.
  • This is the first episode to not have Jerry's stand-up in the opening during its original run.
Season Six Episodes
The Chaperone | The Big Salad | The Pledge Drive | The Chinese Woman | The Couch | The Gymnast | The Soup | The Mom and Pop Store | The Secretary | The Race | The Switch | The Label Maker | The Scofflaw | The Highlights of 100, Part 1 | The Highlights of 100, Part 2 | The Beard | The Kiss Hello | The Doorman | The Jimmy | The Doodle | The Fusilli Jerry | The Diplomat's Club | The Face Painter | The Understudy
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