Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is Blood Thicker Than Wine?

Fifteen years ago tonight, Frasier explored relationships. Well, in a way, I guess it always examined relationships in one way or another. Usually it explored Frasier's love relationships — which tended to be short–lived — but the episode that aired 15 years ago tonight dealt with more permanent relationships.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was depending on his brother (David Hyde Pierce) to nominate him for corkmaster of their Wine Club. Ordinarily, Niles was a dutiful brother and would have gladly done that favor for Frasier. He was willing to do so, anyway, but he was under the spell of his latest love interest, Mel Karnofsky (Jane Adams), who had coaxed him into seeking the post himself.

When the club met to decide its next corkmaster, Niles told Frasier he would nominate him — adding that he hoped Frasier would return the favor, which Frasier grudgingly did.

Frasier didn't realize that Mel had been pressing Niles to pursue the post of corkmaster when he spoke to Roz (Peri Gilpin) of his misgivings about Niles' and Mel's relationship. When Roz asked him on what his misgivings were based, he confessed that he really didn't know Mel very well — and decided to have a Sunday brunch for her to meet the family and vice versa.

By that time, Frasier hoped to be the corkmaster–elect, and the brunch could serve two purposes — introduce Mel to the family and celebrate Frasier's triumph.

To Frasier's surprise, though, Niles explained that he wanted Frasier to reciprocate — "unless you're afraid of a little competition."

Predictably, I suppose, the vote ended in a tie. To resolve the tie, there had to a blind taste–off with five bottles of wine.

It remained deadlocked until the final bottle, which turned out to be a blend. Niles won because he identified the wine that represented 55% of the blend whereas Frasier identified the wine that represented 45%.

So Niles was corkmaster–elect, setting up one of my favorite moments in Frasier's 11–year run — Niles doing the British monarchy wave while the club members serenaded him to the tune of "Rule, Brittania."

"Hail, Corkmaster!
The master of the cork
He knows which wine goes
With fish or pork."

Anyway, it was at the brunch for Mel that Frasier learned she had been the catalyst for Niles' apparently sudden interest in the post of corkmaster. Things seemed to go downhill from there.

But not so that Niles or Mel noticed. Mel was called away, and Niles stayed behind to find out how everyone felt about her. Frasier and Martin (John Mahoney) tried to be nice, but words slipped out, first from Daphne (Jane Leeves), whose tongue was loosened by one too many Bloody Marys, then from Roz who had left the room to liberate Eddie the dog from his exile to the balcony.

Niles was shocked by the revelation that no one in his family unit liked Mel, and he stormed out of the apartment.

Oh, yes, there was a side story in this. Martin had been sleeping with the recently widowed wife of an old friend — and feeling guilty about it. He confided in Frasier, who thought it was cute, but that wasn't what Martin needed to hear.

At the end of the episode — in dialogue that rapidly foreshadowed her changing relationship with Niles — Daphne learned about Martin's relationship with the widow and chastised him for it. We all have impulses, she told him, but we don't explore them, no matter how tempted we may be.

Before long, though, Daphne would be pursuing her temptation.