Saturday, February 27, 2016

Leaps of Faith

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): As a matter of fact, this day only comes around once every four years. You know, it's like a free day — a gift. We should do something special — be bold. It's leap year. Take a leap!

Martin (John Mahoney): You know, I was just about to say the same thing to you.

Monday will be Leap Day — the 29th day of February, a day that only rolls around every four years.

1996 was a Leap Year, too, and, in an episode that premiered on this day in 1996 ("Look Before You Leap"), Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was challenging his radio listeners to take a leap of faith outside their comfort zones. He encouraged his family and friends to do the same.

It all began on the morning of Leap Day when Frasier uncharacteristically took Eddie for a walk. The weather was unseasonably warm, and it inspired him to urge his family and friends to take a leap, be bold, step outside their comfort zone.

He started with his father (John Mahoney) and Daphne (Jane Leeves). His father had a friend, Jimmy, who was born on Leap Day so he only had an actual birthday once every four years. It had been a ritual for Jimmy's friends to gather on Leap Day to celebrate, and Martin wanted to go, but it was in Montana. Frasier encouraged him to go. He said he would go if Daphne would also take a leap. She was always wondering if she should change her hairstyle. Martin said he would pay for it if she would just do it and stop whining about it. She said she would do it if he went to his buddy's birthday bash.

Niles (David Hyde Pierce) came over all bubbly. Apparently, his estranged wife Maris had let him know that she was in the mood for some lovin', and Niles was more than ready. He confided to Frasier that he had not had sex in six months.

"You've only been separated for three," Frasier observed.

"And your point would be?" Niles asked.

Frasier told Niles that what he and Maris really needed to do was talk through their problems. Sex would only cloud the issue, and he advised Niles not to do it. Niles was the only person who was not urged to take a leap for Leap Year.

A Leap Year challenge was born — and so was an idea. Frasier decided to challenge his radio listeners to take a leap.

He got things rolling with Roz (Peri Gilpin), his producer who was captivated by a young man she met on a bus. They had started to chat but then were separated before they could exchange phone numbers. Frasier thought Roz might be able to re–connect with this fellow if she told her story during his show, but she didn't want to — until Frasier observed, on the air, "Did you know that a woman over the age of 30 has less chance of getting married than of being killed in a terrorist attack?"

Roz capitulated and told the story of her chance meeting on a bus. She let it slip, though, that "I really liked you and thought you were cute" and was horrified at herself for saying she thought someone was cute. "Who am I? Marcia Brady?" she asked Frasier when they were off the air.

But Frasier's ploy seemed to work. Roz's young man came to the studio, with a bouquet of flowers in his hand, and things seemed to be going very well — until he let it slip that he was married.

Then Roz started hitting him with the bouquet.

Frasier had witnessed most of their reunion through the glass window separating the sound booth from the hallway, but he had turned away to talk into the microphone and missed seeing Roz strike her beau with the bouquet.

That was really the first clue that, like so many other times in his life, Frasier's advice was going to prove disastrous to those who heeded it.

Later, when Niles was helping Frasier practice for the challenging operatic aria he had promised to perform at the PBS Fundraising Drive, Martin came storming in. The plane he had been riding to his friend's birthday party had to make an emergency landing after a flock of geese flew into one of the engines. Martin described a harrowing 5,000–foot fall, followed by the passengers' hasty exit via emergency slide into a "sea of foam," as Martin described it.

That got Frasier to thinking that maybe his advice to people to take a leap had been ill–advised. And he started thinking that the aria might be a disaster, too.

At that point, Daphne came in. She was in tears. Her new hairstyle hadn't worked out. At all.

"Tell me the truth," Daphne said between sobs. "Is it as bad as I think it is?"

"How bad," Frasier asked haltingly, "do you think it is?"

Daphne was so upset she could only blurt out a couple of words at a time. "Mr. Maurice ... hair design ... 'trust me' ... children pointing ..."

She glared at Frasier. "Your fault!"

Niles had been wavering, but Daphne's experience was enough for him. He wasn't going to follow Frasier's advice. He was going to be with Maris.

"No one who has followed your little take a leap philosophy has ended up even remotely better," he told Frasier. "I'm going to Maris."

"You will rue the day," Frasier told him.

"I don't care," Niles replied. "Niles gotta have it!"

By that time, Frasier was almost convinced. He was convinced when he was at the PBS studio and became aware of just how challenging his own leap was going to be. So he retreated to his familiar "Buttons and Bows," the song he had sung at the fundraiser for a couple of years.

His problem was that he forgot the words, and his performance was its own cautionary tale for a Leap Year challenge gone awry.

The last thing the viewers saw was Martin and Daphne sitting in the living room watching a video tape of Frasier's awful performance — and having a good laugh over and over. Until Eddie ran off with the remote.