Monday, February 03, 2014

Lilith's First Trip-Up in Seattle

Frasier Kelsey Grammer): Hello, you're on the line.

Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth): Congratulations, Frasier, you've done it again. You've led another unsuspecting innocent down one of your dark, dead–end Freudian hallways.

Frasier: Lilith?

Lilith: Overeating is very simply a behavioral problem caused by negative reinforcement. It can be cured quite readily by behavior modification.

Frasier: I see. Well, Seattle, we have a celebrity of sorts on the line. This is my ex–wife Lilith.

Lilith: What do you mean by celebrity?

Frasier: Oh, they know you.

Some of my favorite Frasier episodes involved the folks from Cheers. Maybe it was because the running gags about each one — Sam's sexual compulsion, Woody's idiocy, Cliff's verbosity — were well established. The laughs came much more easily.

So it was, certainly, with Frasier's ex–wife Lilith.

Bebe Neuwirth made several appearances on the Frasier show during its 11–year run, giving the writers additional opportunities to write jokes about her icy personality, her unusually pale skin, etc.

The Frasier episodes with Lilith were always good. But I always thought some of the best stuff came in her first visit to Seattle — when the affair that had preceded the breakup of their marriage had unraveled and a despondent Lilith had come to Seattle seeking reconciliation with Frasier after finding a note he had left for her in Boston.

The note was a year old, though, and had fallen behind the dresser.

That part of the story came later. First was an uneasy (to say the least) reunion with Lilith and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Martin (John Mahoney). The Crane men weren't keen on seeing her again — and, of course, Daphne (Jane Leeves) had never met her.

But Daphne's psychic powers proved too sensitive to Lilith's dark aura, and Daphne suffered excruciating headaches while Lilith was in town.

Martin insisted that Lilith was "weird." Frasier tried to blunt that by suggesting an alternative word — "strange."

Martin didn't go along with that. "Maris (Niles' wife) is strange," he said. "Lilith is weird."

And Niles held a grudge against Lilith for her behavior at Niles' and Maris' wedding.

It added up to a very entertaining dinner at Frasier's apartment — and some of my favorite lines.

After Daphne shook Lilith's hand upon their introduction, she told Frasier, "When I shook hands with that woman, I lost all feeling in my arm."

Frasier asked Lilith for an update on their son, and Lilith said she had enrolled him in a chess camp in the mountains. Martin asked if he got to spend any time outdoors, and Lilith replied that they went on nature walks after lunch every day.

"Unfortunately," she continued, "Frederick is allergic to seven different kinds of ivy so he has to wear long sleeves and long pants, a bonnet with a net on it."

"I sure hope the other campers don't make fun of him," Frasier said.

"Oh, I'm sure they don't," Martin said. "You know how kind kids can be. Hell, all he needs is a birthmark on his forehead, and they'd beat him to death with a shovel."

I could always count on Martin for great lines.

After Martin had gone to bed and Niles had left the apartment, Frasier and the viewers learned the real reason for Lilith's visit.

And Frasier had to confess that the letter was old. Lilith left, but the two agreed to get together for dinner the next night. When Frasier arrived at Lilith's hotel room, the two were so driven by sexual desire that they fell into bed together, leading to an honest conversation the next morning. Neither was in love with the other.

Countless couples must have had similar experiences. I always thought it was one of the more honest episodes in the Frasier series.