"The Sniffing Accountant" is the 68th episode of the sitcom Seinfeld, being the fourth episode of the series' fifth season. It aired on NBC on Thursday, October 7, 1993.
In the episode, George's father gets him an interview as a brassiere salesman. Evidence points to Jerry's accountant being a cocaine user. Jerry, Kramer and Newman set up a sting to find out the truth. Elaine's new boyfriend is perfect except for his unwillingness to use exclamation points.
The episode was written by creators of Seinfeld, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, and directed by Tom Cherones. To research for one of this episode's recurring jokes where the characters feel others' shirt sleeves between their thumb and forefinger, David did this himself, assessing the different kinds of fabric and the owners' reactions. The episode received positive reviews from critics and received a 19.1/21 Nielsen rating.
The episode opens with one of Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up comedy bits, centering on the government and the IRS.
The episode then jumps to Monk's Café, where Elaine discusses her new boyfriend, Jake Jarmel (played by Marty Rackham), who she met in her office. She explains how he approached her, and felt her gabardine jacket between his thumb and forefinger rather seductively. The conversation then jumps to Jerry’s new sweater, which he found in the back of his closet. At that point, Elaine looks out the window of the café and sees Barry Prophet (John Kapelos), Jerry's accountant. They invite him in, but are stunned to find him repeatedly sniffing during their conversation. The group discusses the possibilities that he could be on drugs. Jerry is panic-stricken, considering that Barry could write checks out of his account for illegal narcotics.
George goes home to his parents' house, and his father explains how he got him an interview with Sid Farkus (Patrick Cronin), the manager of a company that sells women's underwear, in an attempt to get George a job as a bra salesman. Meanwhile, Jerry tells Kramer about the "Barry on drugs" situation, and Kramer is convinced he is a drug addict after hearing he went to the bathroom during their confrontation. At this point, Jerry gives Kramer his sweater because it was too itchy. Meanwhile, Elaine comes to her apartment, where Jake is preparing dinner. Initially, they laugh and flirt with each other, but an argument ensues when Elaine gets surprised after finding out Jake did not put an exclamation point after an important phone message he wrote down. Jake takes extreme exception to Elaine's trivial criticism and breaks up with her, putting an exclamation point after his parting words: "I’M LEAVING!"
To find out once and for all as to whether he is on drugs or not, Kramer, Newman, and Jerry organize a sting. They wait inside a car in front of Barry's workplace, and when they see him going into a bar, Kramer (wearing Jerry's sweater) goes after him. He finds Barry sniffing in the bar, and manages to get a picture of him in a bathroom stall.
George carried through his interview with Sid Farkus and made a wonderful impression, resulting in him getting hired for the job. He becomes so consumed with confidence from his perfectly executed interview that he feels a random woman's shirt between his thumb and forefinger on his way out. The woman (Christa Miller), who turns out to be Farkus' boss, is enraged by the act and demands that George leave the company. Farkus obeys her order and fires George, which makes Frank mad (at George). Jerry writes a letter to Barry, stating that their relationship is officially terminated, and gives the letter to Newman to mail it. Kramer slips the picture he took of Barry in the bathroom into the letter as well, but in an affair involving a pizza delivery man, Jerry and Kramer conclude that it was actually Jerry's mohair sweater that caused Barry to sniff involuntarily. Jerry rushes out to stop Newman from mailing the letter.
Newman, who was remarkably confident at the time, felt a random woman's coat between his thumb and forefinger on his way to mail the letter. The woman freaked out and called her boyfriends to get Newman. Newman runs away in a mad panic, dropping the letter while doing so. The last scene shows Jerry announcing that Barry filed for bankruptcy, and if he had terminated his relationship with him prior to the filing, he could have gotten his money back.
It is implied but never actually revealed that Barry spent all of Jerry's money on drugs, thus instigating him to file for bankruptcy.
This episode was written by series co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, and was directed by Tom Cherones. The cast first read the script for this episode on September 8, 1993, at 11:00 a.m. Filming took place on September 14, 1993, with eighteen members of the Vandelay Industries Mailing Listing (a Seinfeld fan club) among the audience.
In real life, Seinfeld has claimed, without proof, that his accountant stole money (about US$50,000) from him to buy illegal drugs, with his suspicions thus inspiring the main plotline for this episode.
David actually worked as a bra salesman during his years as a struggling comedian. That had been many years prior to this episode though, so he had to do research in order to write dialogue pertaining to the configuration of modern bras. This was pre-Internet, so the writer's assistants called bra companies to ask questions.
Kramer's display of simultaneous drinking and smoking in this episode was unscripted, and required two takes to get right. After the first attempt, Michael Richards let out a loud belch (with smoke) that necessitated a second try at the scene. This scene helped Richards win an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the character. The first take was seen in Seinfeld's one-hour retrospective The Chronicle, which took place prior to the original airing of "The Finale." It is now included in the 2005 Season Five DVD set's blooper reel. Julia Louis-Dreyfus said that she was "in awe" when seeing him pull that off.
The line "barring some unforeseen incident" was first uttered in this episode by the character Sid Farkus, and the line eventually became a catchphrase around the show for years after this episode was filmed. Julia Louis-Dreyfus commented on how much she loved that line on the "Inside Look" commentary of the season 5 DVD set. She said that it was like a line from Foghorn Leghorn, and worked as a "precursor to chaos."
A big element to this episode was the element of private investigations. In actuality, Wayne Knight had experience with this line of work. He said, on the "Inside Look" commentary of the season 5 DVD set, that "before coming to Seinfeld, I’ve worked for five years in New York City as a private investigator. It was after having done Broadway, I crapped out, and needed a [...] job, didn’t want to work as a waiter, and had a friend who got a job as a PI, because they liked hiring actors."
During this episode, Kramer mentions how he wants to become a professional private detective. Coincidentally, after Seinfeld had ended, Richards later played a Los Angeles private detective on The Michael Richards Show.Although Elaine and her boyfriend, Jake Jarmel, break up during this episode when he does not put an exclamation point on a note, they briefly get back together in the season finale, "The Opposite." In the season 6 episode "The Scofflaw", Elaine and Jake presumably broke up again and Elaine plans revenge on him.
The exclamation point is mentioned again in "The Muffin Tops".
Christa Miller has a brief role as Sid Farkus' boss, in which George touched her clothes briefly resulting in his firing. She would later play a different role as George's girlfriend in season 6's "The Doodle."
The mohair sweater Kramer wears in the bar is the same sweater worn by Mrs. Sokol's daughter in Season 3's "The Boyfriend (Part 2)" on her second date with George.
Patrick Cronin reprises his role as Sid Farkus again in "The Doorman", where he is considering doing business with Frank Costanza and Kramer after they create a male bra. The line "barring some unforeseen incident" is uttered once again in that episode by Farkus.
The lady that had the coat on that Newman rubs in his fingers at the mailbox is Glenda (Patrika Darbo), a former co-worker of George's at his old real estate job in Season 2's "The Revenge".
George is reading an issue of Glamour magazine at the Costanzas' house, the same magazine he was reading when he was "caught" during Season 4's "The Contest".
This episode gained a 19.1 Nielsen Rating and a 29 audience share, meaning that 19.1% of American households watched the episode, and 29% of all televisions in use at the time were tuned into it. It reran on March 24, 1994, and earned exactly the same numbers, which was a good sign that the show was becoming a hit. Michael Richards considers this episode to be one of his favorites.