Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bait and Switch

Martin Crane (John Mahoney): I'll bring a quart of whiskey in case of snakebite.

Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce): Dad, Dad, there are no snakes up there.

Martin Crane: All right, I'll bring a snake!

On the episode of Frasier that aired 15 years ago tonight, Niles was emotionally drained from watching the blossoming relationship between Daphne (Jane Leeves) and Donny (Saul Rubinek).

On the other hand, he was encouraged because Daphne had confided that she and Donny weren't sleeping together.

He was further torn because, although Donny was pursuing the woman Niles had worshiped for years, he had done a great job as Niles' divorce attorney.

For example Donny had secured a rustic cabin from Maris in the settlement, and Niles planned to go there to get away from things. Actually, the suggestion was made by Frasier, who suggested that he, Niles and Martin go up to the cabin for the weekend. Niles would go first, then Martin and Frasier would join him the next day because Martin had a dentist appointment.

Then, while having coffee at the cafe, Niles learned from Roz that she and Donny had been lovers at one time, but the relationship had soured because he wanted a family and she didn't. Roz lamented the fact that now she had a family (her daughter, Alice) but no Donny.

"I wonder who he's seeing these days?" she mused.

Niles started giggling, and Roz asked him what amused him so. Niles promised to tell her in a minute; he wanted a few seconds to savor the irony. When he told her that Donny and Daphne were dating, Roz wasn't amused.

But Niles was hatching a plan.

He invited Roz to come to the cabin. "Frasier and Dad are coming up tomorrow," he told her, "but tonight it would just be us — love's losers, licking our wounds, laughing at our pain?" He told her she could bring her baby.

Roz agreed to it.

"This reminds me of that wonderful moment in 'Streetcar Named Desire' when the brutish Stanley says to the ultra refined Blanche, 'We've had this date with each other from the beginning,' " Niles said.

Roz protested that "I'm not all that refined."

"Actually," Niles replied, "I was picturing you more as Stanley."

Niles' plan was to invite Donny to the cabin as well — ostensibly to do some legal work. But the purpose was to reunite Roz and Donny, who would learn that Roz had the family he always wanted and, hopefully, be encouraged to drop Daphne — opening the door for Niles to step in.

It seemed to be working, too — until Frasier and Martin showed up a day early.

Frasier got the impression that Niles and Roz were having a rendezvous — and, although he had urged Niles to make a "fresh start" with someone now that Daphne was seeing Donny, he told Niles "Roz isn't the freshest start you could make."

While duck hunting with Martin, however, Frasier was reminded that opposites attract.

"Look at your mother and me," he said. "We went together six months, nobody thought it would last, we had 40 happy years together."

And the episode then became a revolving doors shtick with people popping in and out of rooms just in time to keep up various illusions.

But, eventually, the whole thing collapsed when Daphne showed up unexpectedly.

Frasier figured out what was going on and encouraged Daphne and Donny to go off by themselves. Daphne had the idea to go to a bed–and–breakfast for the night.

A crestfallen Niles had no choice but to watch them walk out the door.

I have liked this episode for a long time, and I never understood why it wasn't nominated for any Emmy awards. It had an excellent mix of comedy and pathos.

Pierce did win a Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series from the Emmys (for the third time), but nothing specifically related to the episode was rewarded.

The Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series went to Frasier's Jay Kogen for an episode that I didn't think was as good as the one that first aired 15 years ago tonight. David Lloyd, the writer of this episode, was with the series from 1994 to 2001 and wrote 15 episodes, none of which received an Emmy nomination.

But he had already secured his spot in television history as the writer of the legendary "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.