Saturday, February 20, 2016

An Offer You Can't Refuse

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): [Maris] drove up on the sidewalk, and when the police ran her name through the computer, they found quite a little backlog of unpaid parking tickets.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): What else would you expect from a woman who thinks her chocolate allergy entitles her to park in a handicapped space?

When the episode "A Word to the Wiseguy" premiered on Frasier on this day in 1996, Niles (David Hyde Pierce) was excited.

In fact, he was elated because, for the first time since his separation from his never–seen spouse Maris, she needed him to do something for her. Need is the key word here. It wasn't, as Frasier said, a case of Maris wanting something from him, and Niles made that distinction.

(Now, before I proceed, I should say that I have always thought the writing on Frasier was one of the sharpest I have heard on television, but the dialogue in this episode was especially clever.)

"This is my chance to show her how necessary I really am to her," Niles said, "and all I have to do is fix one small problem."

"What's the problem?" his father (John Mahoney) asked.

"She's wanted by the police," Niles replied.

Maris had been driving past a shoe store when she saw a pair of shoes that caught her eye — and Niles casually reminded the family of the influence such a sighting could have on Maris' hand–eye coordination. She veered onto the sidewalk. A police check of her name found an apparently considerable number of unpaid parking tickets.

Maris hadn't appeared for her summons so a warrant had been issued for her arrest. By asking him for help, Niles believed he saw an opportunity for reconciliation in Maris' predicament.

Maris had always called her father "Commodore." No problem was too great for him to resolve. When Maris spoke to Niles about her legal problem, she asked him, "Will you be my Commodore?"

Niles needed his father, a former policeman, to square things with his buddies on the force. Martin, however, wouldn't go along.

So Niles had to resort to more drastic measures — which meant conferring with a "fixer" who had been recommended to him by Roz (Peri Gilpin).

The three of them — Niles, Frasier and the mobster — met at the cafe at midnight, and Niles showed the fixer a list of Maris' arrest charges.

"Ignoring a summons, speeding, reckless endangerment," the mobster recited. "Your wife sounds like a very carefree lady."

"She's ounces of fun," Frasier said in yet another reference to Maris' weight.

The fixer fixed the matter, and Niles asked him how much he owed. The fixer said there was no charge. "I was in a position to help you," he said. "Perhaps someday you'll be in a position to help me."

Niles didn't realize how soon the wiseguy would be seeking that favor.

Well, I guess it was soon. The viewer never knew how much time had elapsed, only that Niles and Frasier came in to Frasier's apartment after apparently competing in a squash match — to discover that Jerome (Harris Yulin) was chatting amiably with Martin and Daphne (Jane Leeves).

Jerome was there because his fiancee of eight years refused to set a wedding date. He was upset about it, Jerome said. "It also upsets my mother, whose comments on the subject are frequent and vivid."

Jerome wanted Frasier to talk to her and persuade her to marry him. Frasier wasn't sure he was comfortable doing that. After all, Frasier was concerned — as always — about his ethics.

"I've heard your show," Martin told him. "One more piece of half–assed advice isn't going to kill you. Jerome, on the other hand ..."

The mobster's girlfriend called Frasier's show. She recited a laundry list of her complaints before going right to the heart of the matter. She had always wanted to be a "career woman," but Jerome wouldn't permit her to work. She begged Frasier to tell her what he thought "because I really, really respect you."

And ethically minded Frasier could not tell her to marry Jerome. "Run," he advised her. "Save yourself. Do not marry this man."

Then, after concluding the conversation, Frasier told the listening audience, "This is Dr. Frasier Crane saying 'Good night,' and see you, God willing, tomorrow."

Later that day Frasier went to the cafe, and Niles joined him.

"I heard you on the radio today," Niles said. "I thought what you did was noble."

Then after a pause, Niles asked, "To what South American nation will you be fleeing?"

"Oh, like I'd tell you," Frasier replied. "One minute of interrogation and you would crack like a Jordan almond!"

About that time Jerome showed up. He did not think Frasier had been noble. He was displeased and ordered some hot milk.

"When I'm displeased I get acid in my stomach, Dr. Crane," Jerome explained.

"Believe me," Frasier replied, "the last thing I want to do is displease you ... or to hear the words 'acid' and 'Dr. Crane' in the same sentence."

But how could he have advised otherwise, he asked. Jerome's girlfriend had said that he cheated on her.

Jerome pointed out that she had said she suspected him of cheating, but he insisted he hadn't cheated.

Frasier then brought up Brandy's complaint about not being permitted to work. Jerome acknowledged there was truth in that. It was also true that he had called in favors from friends to get Brandy employed at more than a dozen jobs over the years.

"She lost all of them," Jerome said.

"So you're saying she's had trouble finding her niche?" Frasier asked hopefully.

"I'm saying she's a dodo," Jerome replied. "Now you may love a dodo. You may think the dodo is beautiful. You may even wish to marry the dodo. But you do not encourage a dodo to fly."

Losing jobs, Jerome said, made Brandy unhappy. "So for her sake I said, 'No more jobs.' But now in order to convince her to marry me I've had to reverse this policy."

She had agreed to marry him if he got her a job, Jerome told Frasier. But it couldn't be any job. "A job that she can never lose. A job where, if she burns the place down, they will apologize to her for having made it so flammable."

And it was decided that Niles had to be the one to offer her such a job.

I guess it was only fair. Jerome, after all, had done the original favor for Niles, not Frasier.

The viewing audience got a glimpse of the results as the episode drew to a close.

The setting was Frasier's apartment. Frasier came into the main area wearing his bathrobe. Daphne told him Niles had called to tell him their squash court was reserved for 11 a.m. Frasier said he had told Niles he wasn't available until noon and started to call Niles' office. Martin told him to put the conversation on speaker. The audience soon found out why.

Brandy was answering the phone at Niles' office, complete with the pronunciation puh–sychi–atrist.

Frasier identified himself, and Brandy said she would put him on hold. The next thing the viewers heard was a dial tone.