Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Last Time Niles Saw Maris

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): All right, what's going on?

Martin (John Mahoney): Maris is really gone. I'm on the phone with the station right now. ... Yeah, Mike, I'm still here. Yeah, that's right. She's been missing three days. ... Thin. Make that very thin. Caucasian. Very Caucasian.

Maris Crane has to be the greatest television character no one ever saw but about whom everyone knew everything since Vera Peterson on Cheers! — which isn't surprising given that they were both created by the same writing team.

And when I say the viewers knew everything about them, I include all the inside jokes the other characters told about them. Maris was always the butt of jokes about her appearance. As a child, she was overweight but she lost weight as an adult and became painfully thin with a phobia about gaining weight. She was ghostly pale, perhaps moreso than Frasier's wife Lilith, who was seen often.

Other abnormalities emerged as the seasons went on. Because Maris was entirely fictional with no actress portraying her who could be typecast by the role, the writers were free to make her as bizarre as they could. Maris was born into an enormously wealthy family, which produced a spoiled, demanding, neurotic woman, prone to all sorts of medical conditions that could be tragic in real life but contributed to a cartoonish image. David Hyde Pierce, who played her husband Niles, has described her as "a refugee from Taming of the Shrew."

Twenty years ago tonight Maris turned the Crane household upside down. She had disappeared, and Niles was frantic. There had been no note, no indication that she was going anywhere. She might have been kidnapped — but no ransom demands had been made.

Niles didn't notice that Maris was gone for three days. He had knocked on her bedroom door and been greeted by what he interpreted as Maris' customary icy silence. He presumed that everything was status quo.

But then he realized she was gone and became worried. (His first instinct was to drag the koi pond for Maris' body. Cooler heads prevailed.)

So his father and brother were at his house to lend him their support. Martin (John Mahoney) was on the phone with one of his buddies at police headquarters. He told the family there had been a bunch of charges on Maris' credit cards in New York — Cartier, Tiffany's, Armani. Niles, fearing that Maris had been kidnapped and someone was using her credit cards to charge things, wanted to know if there were any charges at restaurants.

"Not a one," Martin replied.

"She's alive!" Niles exclaimed, and a wave of relief washed over him. But he could see that Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was not as relieved.

And that sparked a conversation in which Frasier said Maris was arrogant and selfish. Niles preferred to label Maris' behavior eccentric. But he soon conceded that Frasier was right.

Apparently, Niles and Maris argued (out of sight of the cameras, of course), and Niles stormed out, announcing that he was going to Frasier's.

That was where Maris finally reached him by phone. When their conversation was over, Niles told Frasier that Maris wanted a divorce.

Frasier felt responsible. After all, he had encouraged Niles to stand up to Maris.

So Frasier went to see Maris to plead Niles' case, but he got nowhere with Maris.

So Frasier and Martin accompanied Niles to his house to pick up some of his things, and Marta, the Cranes' maid, informed Niles that his wife had told her that if he said their split had been his fault — which it hadn&pos;t; Maris had gone to New York without leaving a note or any kind of indication where she had gone or whether she had left by choice — he didn't have to leave.

Niles asked his brother and father for their opinions. Frasier was against it, but Martin wouldn't give an opinion. All he would say was that he and Frasier would support Niles, whatever he decided to do. When Niles turned and began walking toward the stairs, Martin exclaimed, "What are you, nuts? You're going to go up there and grovel to that woman after what she did to you?"

Niles said he had only been going to get his car keys, which were resting on the table at the foot of the stairs. "But thanks for the impartial advice, Dad."

Niles and Maris were separated for the next couple of years before they finally got their divorce and Niles proceeded to pursue his longtime attraction to Daphne (Jane Leeves), even though there was a brief marriage to Mel (Jane Adams) in the interim.

The episode was a nice reminder that there will always be people who will be impossible to please. They might be your spouse, classmate, co–worker, and you may try to appease them up to a point.

If at first you don't succeed, they say, try try again.

Then stop, I say. No use being a damn fool about it.