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"The Bottle Deposit"
The bottle deposit
Season 7
Episode 131/132
Air Date May 2, 1996
Writer(s) Gregg Kavet

Andy Robin

Director Andy Ackerman
The Calzone · The Wait Out

“The Bottle Deposit” is a two-part episode, and the 131st and 132nd episode and 21st and 22nd episode of the seventh season of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. It aired on May 2, 1996.

The episode was written by Gregg Kavet & Andy Robin and was directed by Andy Ackerman.

The Bottle Deposit, Part 1

Since he will be out of town, Mr. Peterman wants Elaine to bid for him on a set of golf clubs owned by John F. Kennedy at an auction. He tells her he is willing to go as high as $10,000 for the clubs. Jerry thinks he hears a strange clunking noise in his car and asks Kramer and Newman, who had previously borrowed the car, about it, but they don't know anything. Newman learns that bottles and cans can be refunded for 10 cents in Michigan (as opposed to 5 cents in many other states), but Kramer tells him it's impossible to gain a profit from depositing the bottles in Michigan due to the total gas, tollbooth and truck rental fees that would compile during the trip, noting he had tried it before but "couldn't crunch the numbers." Newman becomes obsessed with finding a way to make such a scheme work.

Meanwhile, George is scolded by Mr. Wilhelm for not paying attention when he gives him orders. George promises it won't happen again, but shortly after, Mr. Wilhelm begins talking of a big project for him to do just as he enters the bathroom. After waiting outside for a short while, George decides to go in, too. But when he enters, he finds that Wilhelm, who had thought George had followed him inside the entire time, had unknowingly been telling about the details of the big project out loud to nobody. Not wanting him to think he wasn't paying attention again, George pretends he heard everything. He later asks Jerry what to do and Jerry tells him to ask Wilhelm a follow-up question.

Jerry then takes Elaine to the auction, where they bump into Sue Ellen Mischke, the bra-less "Oh Henry!" candy bar heiress, who taunts them about "getting a glimpse of high society." During the bidding, they start a bidding war over JFK's clubs, and Elaine ends up paying $20,000, twice what she was authorized by Peterman to spend. Jerry again hears a loud clunking noise while dropping Elaine off. Elaine decides to leave the clubs in Jerry's car and pick them up later. As he starts to leave, smoke begins billowing out from under the hood and Jerry finds out that Kramer and Newman had left some groceries in his car engine.

He visits Tony (Brad Garrett), a mechanic who is obsessed with car care. George tries to use Jerry's suggestion at work the next day, and Wilhelm unknowingly drops a hint: to get started, he first has to go to payroll. There, the clerk gives George a hard time because he's not being specific enough about "the project." The clerk calls Wilhelm to verify George's claims, but doesn't drop George any further hints.

Meanwhile, Newman, who has spent days trying to calculate a profit to the deposit scheme, realizes that there will be a surge of mail the week before Mother's Day (the "mother of all mail days") to be sorted in Saginaw, Michigan. He tells Kramer that he signed up for a mail truck that would carry spillover mail from the other four main trucks, leaving plenty of space left over in theirs for bottles and cans to refund in Michigan. Kramer realizes that by avoiding truck rental fees, Newman has found a loophole and they set off collecting cans and bottles around the city.

Wilhelm visits George to see how he is doing with the project. George informs him that he went down to payroll and Wilhelm asks if he is going downtown then. When asked if "going downtown is really necessary for the project", Wilhelm tells George that he has to go downtown, and mentions the Petula Clark song 'Downtown'. Thinking it's another clue, George and Jerry try to decipher it, but to no avail. George considers coming clean and admitting to Wilhelm that he has no idea what the project is. Jerry goes home and finds a message from Tony saying he needs to talk to him at the Auto Shop. Elaine calls shortly after and wants to pick up Peterman's golf clubs. Jerry tells her he left them in the car at the mechanic's, so they decide to meet up there.

Tony wants to make a lot of changes to the car, but Jerry doesn't want to spend so much money. He asks Tony if he could just have it back so he can take his business elsewhere. Tony is disappointed, but tells him he'll bring the car out front for him. Elaine arrives and meets Jerry to pick up the clubs just in time to see Tony driving away with Jerry's car.

The Bottle Deposit
Tony

Brad Garrett guest stars as Tony, an auto mechanic who steals Jerry's Saab.

The Bottle Deposit, Part 2

Mr. Wilhelm is delighted with the job George did on the project; however, George has no idea what he did or how he did it. Unknowingly to George, Mr. Wilhelm had forgotten to take his medication, which would explain his compliment. While riding in the mail truck with Newman, a surprised Kramer suddenly spots Jerry's stolen car on an Ohio highway and alerts Jerry on his cellphone. Newman and Kramer quickly argue whether to deliver their mail and empty bottles to Saginaw, Michigan as they had planned, or to pursue Jerry's stolen car as it exits the highway in Ohio, to which Kramer agrees. George is sent to a mental hospital by Steinbrenner, due to George's "report". At the mental hospital, George bumps into Deena, (from "The Gum"), who believes George is finally getting the help he needs. While still chasing Jerry's car, Kramer dumps their empty bottles to make the truck move faster and soon after dumps Newman. Newman then finds a farmer's house, complete with the proverbial daughter. However, Newman violates the farmer's only rule, to keep his hands off his daughter, and runs off. As Kramer continues his chase, Tony throws all of the JFK golf clubs at him, and Kramer is soon forced to give up the chase. Peterman's golf clubs (a valuable collectors' item) are returned (albeit in a bent and battered state), but not Jerry's car. Elaine gives the bent golf clubs to Mr. Peterman, who mistakes it being in a battered state by thinking Kennedy was an angry golfer.

Quotes

Part 1

Jerry (To Kramer): Hey. You put your groceries under the hood of my car?
Kramer (to Newman): Aw, that's right, we forgot about those.
Newman (to Kramer): That's where my missing soda is.
Jerry: And your crab legs, and a thing of cheese. The Triple-A guy said I was this close to sucking a muffin down the carburetor.

George and Jerry in a booth.
Jerry: The song Downtown? You mean the Petula Clark song?
George: Yeah.
Jerry: You sure he didn't just mention it because you happened to be going downtown?
George: I think he was trying to tell me something, like it had some sort of a meaning.
Jerry: Okay, so how does it go?
George: 'When you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go...'
Jerry: '... downtown.'
George: 'Maybe you know some little places to go, where they never close...'
Jerry: '...downtown.'
George: Wait a second. 'Little places to go, where they never close.' What's a little place that never closes?
Jerry: Seven-eleven?
George: 'Just listen to the music of the traffic, in the city. Linger on the sidewalk, where the neon lights are pretty.' Where the neon lights are pretty. The Broadway area?
Jerry: No, that's midtown.
George: 'The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, just go...'
Jerry: '...downtown.'
George: 'Things'll be great, when you're...'
Jerry: '...downtown.'
George: I got nothing, Jerry. Nothing.
Jerry: Well, 'don't hang around and let your troubles surround you. There are movie shows...'
George: You think I should come clean? What d'you think, you think I should confess?
Jerry: How can you lose?

Part 2

Kramer/Newman: (singing) Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine bottle and cans in the trunk, nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine bottles and cans.
At ten cents a bottle and ten cents a can, we're pulling in five hundred dollars a man.
Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight bottle and cans in the trunk, nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight bottles and cans.
We fill up with gas, we count up our cash!!...
Their singing ends symbolically as they lose track of the lyrics. But the pair still look gleeful.

Kramer and Newman spot a car that looks like Jerry's in Ohio.
Kramer: Hey, d'you see that car? Looks like Jerry's. I'm gonna check out that license plate..Yeah, those are New York plates.
Newman: Is that Jerry's number?
Kramer: I don't know, but that's New York and we're in Ohio. Those are pretty good odds. (Kramer starts reaching under his seat)
Newman: What are you doing?
Kramer: I'm calling Jerry.
Newman: On what?
Kramer: I brought my phone. (He calls Jerry)
Jerry: Hello.
Kramer: Yeah, hey Jerry, what's your license plate number?
Jerry: Why, what's up?
Kramer: Yeah, well I think I spotted your car.
Jerry: Oh my god, you're kidding. (dives for his wallet) Hang on a second...It's JVN 728.
Kramer: Hey, that's it! That's it Newman. Hey, uh look, we got him. We're driving right behind him in a truck.
. Jerry: Oh my god. Yeah, yeah, he said he brought it to the country.
Kramer: Well we're in the country and we're right on his tail.
Jerry: Good work Kramer, this is incredible.
Kramer: Yeah, don't worry Jerry. We're right on this guy like stink on a monkey! I'll check back with you.

Scene: After the events and JFK's clubs are recovered, Peterman comes in Elaine's office in a rush.
Peterman: Elaine! You found the clubs. That's wonderful news. Where are they?
Elaine: Yep. Lemme get 'em for you, Mr Peterman.
Peterman: Oh, I'll be inaugurating them this weekend, with none other than Ethel Kennedy. A woman whose triumph in the face of tragedy is exceeded only by her proclivity to procreate. (Elaine places the mangled clubs in front of him. Peterman picks them up to examine them.)
Elaine: The uh, the letter of, authenticity's in the side pocket there.
Peterman: Elaine. I never knew Kennedy had such a temper.
Elaine: (Spotting a chance to keep her job) Oh. Oh yeah. The only thing worse was his slice. (she laughs nervously)
Peterman: See you on Monday. (He heads for the door)
Elaine: Have a good game.

Trivia

Part 1

  • This was originally an hour-long episode, but split into two parts for syndication.
  • An actual regional mail sorting facility is based in Saginaw, Michigan.
  • Michigan Law prohibits the return of bottles from out of state. In addition any bottle returns made cannot be in excess of $25. According to Newman and Kramer they had a total of $1000 in bottle returns, which came to $500 for each of them. If completed it would have taken 40 individual trips to stores to make the returns in order to complete their goal.
  • In syndication, this is the only episode of Season 7 to feature Jerry's stand-up comedy routine.
  • Jerry claims that when Kramer and Newman put their groceries under the hood of his car, "The Triple A guy said I was this close to sucking a muffin down the carburetor." However, Saab 900s are fuel injected.
  • In September 2007, a 15-person operation was busted for illegally smuggling millions of beverage containers from other states and cashing the deposit in Michigan. Police found over $500,000 in cash. Unlike Kramer's scheme, the operation sold the cans to merchants at a discount, who then redeemed them for full value.
  • After discovering the farmhouse, Newman tells the farmer he was ambushed by survivalists. This is a reference to The Postman by David Brin.

Part 2

  • Since this episode was supposed to be 30 minutes, but it was upped to an hour, it did not make the usual 44 minutes that hour episodes on sitcoms are. It only made 41 minutes.
  • This is Larry David's last voice over while still working as a writer for the show. He voiced George Steinbrenner.
  • This is the first Seinfeld episode to depict one of the main characters using a cell phone.
  • Jerry's New York plate on his Saab 900 Convertible is JVN-728
  • The farmer's daughter's cry of "Goodbye, Norman! Goodbye!" at the end of the episode was not originally scripted. Actress Karen Lynn Scott forgot that Wayne Knight's character was called Newman and accidentally called him "Norman", but the goof actually made the scene funnier, so it was kept in.
  • At the end of the episode, Kramer and Newman make a harried escape through a cornfield. After filming this scene, Wayne Knight began experiencing heart palpitations from running so animatedly, and upon receiving advice from his doctor, he began an active attempt to get into better shape. Today, Knight has shed much of his formerly trademark girth and is a much slimmer and healthier man, and credits this episode with prompting him to begin a healthier lifestyle.
  • The highway where the mail truck was chasing Jerry's car took place on the Pasadena Freeway in South Pasadena, California.
  • The best route from New York City to Michigan for Kramer and Newman's budget would have taken them across I-80, and through the northern part of Ohio -- or something near that route. However, the second time Kramer calls Jerry he mentions that the guy they're following is "going south on 135", which Newman objects to since they're headed north to Michigan. The closest Highway 135 in that region is near Lynchburg, Ohio, which would have already put them well out of their way.

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