Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Canister Conflict

I didn't watch Everybody Loves Raymond much when it was part of the prime time lineup, but I've been making up for lost time since it has been in syndication.

There are several episodes that always make me laugh, and the one that first aired 10 years ago today is one of them.

It is called "The Canister," and it is the tale of a can that had great sentimental value for Marie and her two sons. It once belonged to Marie's mother and had been passed along to Marie in due course. Ray and Robert had fond memories of the cookies their grandmother always kept in that canister.

Speaking of cookies, Marie (who reminds me more and more of my stepmother with every episode I watch) had made some cookies for her grandchildren and wanted Debra to give back the canister, insisting she had loaned it to her, but Debra claimed she had returned it. Marie didn't (or wouldn't) believe that, but she finally accepted Debra's version of events and apologized for impugning her honesty.

It was the day before Easter, she observed, and she wanted it to be a good holiday for the whole family.

Everyone in Ray and Debra's kitchen at that moment — Ray, Debra and Robert — was stunned. "Wow! A Marie Barone apology," Robert said in astonishment. "Until today, I had only heard about it."

"And to you," an equally stunned Raymond said to Debra. "There's your Easter miracle."

Debra was generous in her victory. That apology had been a difficult thing for Marie, she said, but it had been sincere.

Then Ray and Debra's daughter came in and spoiled the whole thing.

She was carrying the canister. "Is this what Grandma was looking for?" she asked. When Debra asked where she had gotten it, she replied, "You gave it to me" — ostensibly for storing her crayons.

So, as it turned out, Marie had been right — and Debra was afraid of how miserable Marie would make her life because of that. She decided to throw the canister away, and she swore Raymond and Robert to secrecy.

But, like the proverbial bad penny, the canister kept coming back. When the family was preparing to go across the street for Easter lunch, it came tumbling down the stairs. The twins, who had retrieved it from the garbage, were playing a version of kick the can, and Ray decided that the canister had to be returned to his mother's house.

The fact that the canister had come back twice was a sign, he told Debra. "It's like when you think the movie is over, and then a hand comes up!"

They conspired to smuggle it into the house and leave it somewhere where Marie would find it — and deduce that it had been there all the time.

In spite of various obstacles, they managed to get the canister into the house, but then things began to unravel when Frank caught Debra holding it. Debra asked Frank what she should do. "Give your heart to God," he advised, "because your ass is Marie's."

But, at the moment of truth, Frank couldn't permit that to happen, and he took the fall — and the scorn and abuse Marie heaped on him. Frank took it all silently.

Debra was overwhelmed. "I don't know what to say," she told him. "Why did you do that?"

"I didn't want that to happen to you," he confessed. "You're like my daughter."

Then, before things could get too sentimental, he added, "And she was going to yell at me like that, anyway. I ate the backside of that ham."

Sure enough, a couple of seconds later, the audience could hear Marie bellowing from the kitchen, "Frank!"

And Frank smiled and looked at his wristwatch. His prophecy had been fulfilled.

Patricia Heaton (Debra) won an Emmy for her performance in that episode.