Sunday, April 02, 2017

You Really Can't Go Home Again -- Or Can You?

One of the recurring themes of the Frasier sitcom was the sibling relationship between Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

Frequently the emphasis was on sibling rivalry, which has been a staple of sitcoms for decades, but Frasier showed that behind a sibling rivalry is a unique relationship between the siblings, and Frasier told the Crane brothers' story best when it incorporated younger versions of Niles and Frasier into the story. It provided a context, an insight into both of their personalities.

And that is precisely what was done in the episode that first aired on this night in 2002 — "Deathtrap."

When the episode began, the viewers saw a young Niles and a young Frasier sneaking into a science classroom at their prep school to take a skull that they intended to use in a backyard production of "Hamlet." But young Niles dropped it, and it sustained a fracture.

Fast forward about 40 years or so.

As they were drinking coffee in the cafe one day, Niles told Frasier that the house in which they grew up was listed for sale. The neighborhood was being revitalized, and that sparked an idea. Frasier and Niles thought of buying the house and turning it into a B&B. They decided to look it over with their father Martin (John Mahoney) in tow.

It was a nice stroll down Memory Lane, but it turned out the house wasn't as big as they remembered — probably because they were small when they lived there. I have visited places as an adult that I remember being much bigger when I was a child. It's a matter of perspective.

The house wouldn't be adequate to be a B&B, but as they were leaving Frasier recalled that they had left a metal box — a "time capsule," he called it — beneath some loose floorboards in the living room. He wondered if the owner would let them retrieve their box. The owner of the property said that wasn't possible; concluding that they were not interested in buying the house after all, the owner escorted the Cranes out of the house and locked it up.

But Frasier and Niles returned under cover of darkness. Frasier just knew that box was beneath the floor — even though the owner of the house insisted there were no loose boards in the floor. And Frasier proceeded to pry some boards loose. Then he reached into the darkness beneath the floor to search for the box.

Frasier didn't find the box — but, speaking of skulls, he found one beneath the floor, and Niles and Frasier began wildly speculating about whose skull it could be.

Inspired, no doubt, by their presence in the house where they had co–authored the Crane Boys Mysteries, a series of unpublished crime fiction stories.

Anyway, they concluded that the skull belonged to the landlord's wife, who had disappeared mysteriously, and Frasier began salivating at the idea of getting those Crane Boys Mysteries published to capitalize on the notoriety of their discovery.

Their assumption at the time had been that the landlord and his wife had split up. In light of what the Cranes had just discovered, the new assumption was that he had split her up.

Death was a big topic on Frasier 15 years ago tonight.

Roz (Peri Gilpin) was wrestling with talking to her daughter Alice about their hamster, who had met an untimely end. Martin had a little conversation with her about death and heaven when Roz was gone. Before that conversation, Alice thought the hamster was lost.

Alice seemed to take it in stride, and she left with her mother and a new hamster Roz had purchased. That was when, wordlessly, Martin and his dog Eddie showed everyone the bond between man and dog.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

The Cranes had torn up the floor of their old home and found their box. The owner was brought to the house by the police, who apparently had been summoned by Frasier or Niles, and was indignant about what they had done. But Frasier and Niles simply shrugged it off and told him that the police had some questions for him.

Then they decided to open the memory box.

They found a copy of their program from their backyard production of "Hamlet," and they put two and two together.

"You know, Niles," Frasier remarked, "we may owe Mr. Lasskopf an apology."

Seems like an understatement, doesn't it?