Saturday, April 01, 2017

Living Up to Expectations

Roz (Peri Gilpin): All right, there's a guy on second, one guy's out, I drive one to the gap. The throw to the cutoff man is late, our guy's safe at home, and I try to stretch it to a double. I make a beautiful hook slide right under the tag. How can I be out?

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): I'm still trying to understand why you drove to the Gap in the middle of the game.

There are certainly exceptions, but, for most of us, our first heroes are our parents. They are capable of doing so many things that are routine in the adult world — like changing a light bulb or making a sandwich — but are nothing short of miraculous to a child.

It is a healthy part of growing up when a child discovers that his/her parents are not perfect after all; nevertheless, it can be a painful experience. Whether it is more painful for the parent or the child depends, I suppose, upon the individuals.

When the episode of Frasier that first aired 20 years ago tonight — "The Unnatural" — began, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was anticipating a visit from his son Frederick (Trevor Einhorn), who was living with his mother in Boston.

Frasier seldom saw his son and always wanted their time together to be perfect so when Frederick told Frasier he wanted to take a tour of Microsoft while he was in Seattle, Frasier tried to make it happen, but he couldn't. He turned to Roz (Peri Gilpin), who had once dated a Microsoft employee, and tried to get her to call the fellow to play on her status as an insider.

But Roz and the Microsoft employee had broken up. It hadn't been a clean break, either, and she was very reluctant to call him, but Frasier used emotional blackmail, reminding Roz of a story she had told him about when she was a girl and wanted her mother to take her to see late '60s/early '70s pop music star Bobby Sherman at a mall opening, but her mother couldn't do it. Her schedule was simply too demanding.

"So what did that little girl do that night?" Frasier asked. "She cried herself to sleep on her Bobby Sherman pillow."

Roz gave in — only to learn that her ex–beau no longer worked at Microsoft. He left after he and Roz split up. So Roz couldn't capitalize on her insider status, but she told Frasier that if Frederick wanted to tour a seminary, "I've got an in there now."

That didn't disappoint Frederick, though. While Roz and Frasier had been talking in the control booth, Frederick had been having a conversation with Bulldog, the host of KACL's sports program and coach of the station's softball team.

Bulldog was a reprehensible character, but on this occasion, he honestly tried to do Frasier a favor. He knew Frasier wasn't an athletic sort, but he didn't want to destroy Frasier's son's image of his father so when Frederick pressed him on letting his father fill in for Roz, who had been injured and couldn't play in the next game, Bulldog insisted that Frasier was a good player and that they would certainly win if he could play, but he was busy that day. Frederick conceded that they were supposed to go to Microsoft that day, and Bulldog thought he was off the hook.

When Frasier returned, though, Frederick told him that he no longer wanted to go to Microsoft. Instead, he wanted to see Frasier play softball. This created a tremendous dilemma for Frasier. He didn't know how to play softball, had never shown any interest in it when he was a child. Now he had to learn how to play the game in a short period of time.

But if there was one thing that Frasier had always been able to do, it was learn a new subject thoroughly and quickly. So he set about learning how to play softball in a crash course at the batting cages with his father helping him out.

It is hard to imagine a more inept pupil than Frasier. While it was never made clear in the episode how long they spent at the batting cages, the only hopeful sign Martin had seen was that Frasier was improving with his followthrough and was no longer hitting himself in the kidney. As for hitting a ball, well ...

Eventually they had to acknowledge that Frasier simply wasn't the softball type. In time, Frasier would have to acknowledge that to Frederick. He wasn't looking forward to admitting to his son that he wasn't perfect.

Frederick, meanwhile, had been creating a different set of problems with his Uncle Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

Regular Frasier watchers knew of Niles' infatuation with Daphne (Jane Leeves). In this episode, they learned that Frederick also had a crush on Daphne. He said he was Daphne's boyfriend and repeatedly drove Niles mad with his discreetly intimate behavior with her. Frasier and Martin (John Mahoney) didn't see it, but Niles certainly could.

And, by his own admission, he was envious of his nephew. Since he had been in Seattle, Frederick had spent a lot of time around Daphne, but at one point he crossed the line. He went into Daphne's bathroom while she was taking a shower.

Daphne chased him out of her room, prompting the following exchange between Frederick and his father:
Frasier: What have I told you about running in the house?

Frederick: You told me to never run in the house.

Frasier: And what have I told you about splitting infinitives?
Frederick got the last laugh. After learning that his father wasn't good at softball and his grandfather couldn't do math in his head, Frederick was moping in the living room. Daphne asked if she could do anything to make him feel better.

"Maybe a hug?" he suggested, and Daphne was very obliging.

Frederick smirked triumphantly at Niles.

The closing credits always had some sort of relevance to something from the preceding program, and during the closing credits of "The Unnatural," Frasier brought the real Bobby Sherman to the sound booth for Roz.