Second Banana Semifinals Recap: You Have Betrayed Spock, and So You’ve Betrayed All Second Bananas

My god, what have you done? Inexplicably, your votes helped Canada turn death into a fighting chance to live. In the process, you’ve eliminated a fictional character who has been and ever shall be … my friend. Look, I could go on quoting Star Trek movies for the rest of this essay, but I won’t. Allow me instead to commence scolding you for your glaring error in judgment. You might think you did the right thing by putting two top seeds in the finals, but you didn’t.

You robbed us of the George Costanza–Spock throwdown that this tournament was made for. These polar opposites were destined to meet: the ultimate best friend versus the absolute worst best friend in television history. If Kirk and Spock were a pro wrestling tag team, they’d be the Road Warriors: inseparable, complementary, two sides of the same coin. If Jerry and George were a tag team, they’d be the Rockers. You can guess who’d be Shawn Michaels. George would gladly sell Jerry out for a discarded éclair if he had the chance, but outside of the Mirror Universe, can you ever imagine Spock turning his back on his captain? How did you all get this so wrong?

Over the course of three TV seasons and six movies (eight, if you count the J.J. Abrams reboot films), Spock perfected the art of the running buddy. He’s the five-tool player of second bananas. He can literally do it all. What are those five tools, you ask? They are, in no particular order:

  1. Loyalty
  2. Humility
  3. Honesty
  4. Extreme vocational competence
  5. Love of being a second banana

All right, maybe there should have been an order to this, because no. 5 is paramount to the sidekick position. Other than being really, really good at your job, what’s more important than also enjoying your job? Too often, the second banana starts behaving as though he or she also deserves some of the shine. This is inexcusable! Don’t be a Fredo. It doesn’t turn out well for Fredo!

Jealous, covetous second bananas shouldn’t even get past the first round of a contest like this.1 Kobe Bryant’s unwillingness circa 2004 to support Shaq for another two or three seasons of Shaq’s prime absolutely cost the Lakers’ 2000s dynasty one or maybe two more championships. Vulcans, on the other hand, are ideal sidekicks, because as Spock says in Star Trek II, he has no ego to bruise. The guy is captain of the Enterprise when Trek II starts, but once shit starts to go down on Regula I, he knows to back away and let Kirk do his thing. That entire movie is Spock going off like, well, Kobe in the 81-point game. He surrenders command of the ship to his lead dog, uses his tactical brilliance to outwit Khan while Kirk is stranded on the Genesis planet, and then sacrifices himself in the ultimate display of second-banana bro-love.

Are you not entertained?!

Oh, I see you Trekkers out there who are prepared to tell me about all the times Spock defied Kirk, but what you fail to realize is that Spock had a reasonable excuse every time — those moments only strengthened their friendship. In the classic two-parter “The Menagerie,” Spock uses his superior intelligence to hijack the Enterprise computer and divert the ship to the forbidden planet Talos IV. His aim: to deposit his crippled former boss, Captain Christopher Pike, on the planet so he can live out the remainder of his days inside an illusion created for him by the planet’s creepy, big-brained, telepathic inhabitants. Dishonest, but for a good cause. Clearly, we’re dealing with a guy who truly cares about his coworkers.

Kirk took Spock to task for his insubordination, because, as we all know, Kirk hates anyone not named “James T. Kirk” who breaks Starfleet regulations. It takes Spock’s court-martial for Kirk to realize his first officer was acting primarily out of affection for Captain Pike. This was an important lesson that Kirk and Spock had to learn about each other early in Season 1 of the show. Spock came to understand that Kirk values the chain of command and the rule of law. Kirk discovered that Spock, despite his icy exterior, has something resembling actual feelings for human beings. By the time Star Trek III rolls around, the tables have turned. Kirk has to disregard the Starfleet chain of command and steal the Enterprise to reunite Spock with his “katra” and resurrect him. In Star Trek V, Spock picks Kirk over his own half-brother. These two are like Thelma and Louise, if Louise were an alien with a bowl cut.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ultimate Spock-Kirk tussle, the Season 2 premiere, “Amok Time.” In that episode, Spock, consumed by a biological need to consummate his arranged marriage, fights Kirk for the affection of his fiancée. For a brief second, Spock thinks he’s killed his friend. When Dr. McCoy reveals that Kirk’s death was a ruse/third-act twist designed to snap him out of his “pon farr” sex stupor, Spock has an emotional breakdown that shows just how much he cares for his captain.

This is the kind of friendship that doesn’t come along very often. As I am wont to say, it’s the rarest fruit that tastes the sweetest. If you’re not regretting your vote and/or pouring one out for your homie, Spock, then I literally don’t know what else to say to you. You blew it.

Yes, you.

This brings me to the pretender to the throne: George Costanza. Now, let it be known that I love George Costanza. It’s no coincidence that the New York Yankees had an unprecedented championship run during his tenure as assistant to the traveling secretary. It’s just that we love George because he’s so blatantly pathetic. This poor man suffers greatly for nine seasons of television, and it’s just about always his fault. He’s self-centered, willfully ignorant, and lazy. Would you really want that guy supporting you? He comes up woefully short in all five of my second-banana skills categories, but especially in the “Love of the Game” department. George has absolutely no interest in being Jerry’s sidekick. He’s threatened by his first banana even when he has absolutely no reason to be.

Rewatch the Season 4 Seinfeld episode called “The Visa.” Per usual, George is dating a woman way out of his league. In this instance, she’s a high-powered attorney named Cheryl. The centerpiece of the episode is a double date between George and Cheryl and Jerry and Elaine. Our Second Banana finalist can’t even get through one dinner with Jerry around before he flips his shit over how hilarious his best friend is. In a classic Costanza moment, George devises an absurd theory that Jerry is going to eclipse him because of his prodigious sense of humor. Since George thinks Cheryl only likes him because she thinks he’s funny, he assumes she’ll fall in love with Jerry instead. So, George demands Jerry not be funny whenever Cheryl is around.

Of course, Cheryl finds Jerry’s dour, cynical con job irresistible … until George reveals that it was all an act designed to make himself seem more appealing. Cheryl tells them all to piss off, and George is left alone to ripen under the intense heat of his own failure yet again. Yes, there are memorable instances of George laying it all on the line for Jerry, like “The Race,” but more often than not, you just can’t trust that George is going to get in line behind his superior. In fact, none of the characters on Seinfeld even come close to the lofty sidekick standards set by Mr. Spock. There’s literally an episode of Seinfeld called “The Betrayal”! This contest is a farce and you have only yourselves to blame. I would not be surprised if, years from now, we have to put an asterisk next to the winner of this tournament in the Grantland Hall of Fame. Until that day comes, you won’t see the word “justice” in my columns again, because that concept clearly does not exist in this world.

Click here to vote in the Second Banana Bracket!



Voting Results

2. Scottie Pippen (5,344 votes)
2. George Costanza (6,714 votes)

2. Spock (4,674 votes)
2. Canada (7,368 votes)

Filed Under: Second Banana, Spock, Star Trek, Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls, Seinfeld, Canada, George Costanza

Dave Schilling is a general editor at Grantland.

Archive @ dave_schilling