Thursday, December 17, 2009

Frasierquest 1.15: You Can't Tell A Crook By His Cover

Daphne leans over to take her shot; the other players are distracted.
Niles: Excuse me. Has a young woman been in here this evening approximately five foot nine and three quarters, with skin the colour of Devonshire cream and the sort of eyes that gaze directly into one's soul with neither artifice nor evasion?

We move away from embarassing relationship troubles for a bit, for a brief romp through poor character judgement and trust issues. Structurally speaking, “You Can’t Tell A Crook...” seems kind of slapdash and rickety, like the script was supposed to go one way at some point but ended up going another. Still, it’s consistently fun enough for it not to matter, and it illuminates relationships in the Crane household in an entertaining way. Memorable would be the wrong word for it, but it’s the kind of story that leaves a nice impression.

After an exchange at the station, Martin and Frasier make a bet over whether the latter can identify the ex-con in his dad’s poker group. Frasier attempts to use his psychological expertise to profile Martin’s buddies, but ends up getting the guess completely wrong. In the meantime, Daphne has ended up making a date with the felon, a prison snitch named Jimmy (Tony Abatemarco). Frasier and Martin have an argument over whether she should date him or not (pro and con, respectively), which Daphne settles by telling them to butt out. She ends up going with Jimmy to a place called the Topaz Lounge, and while Frasier is for her choice at first, he ends up tagging along with Niles to “rescue” her when he hears about the place’s shady reputation, specifically, the fact that it’s still open after multiple shootings.

It’s good to focus on Daphne for a bit (as Niles would agree), and in some ways the episode is about her relationship with the men she lives with. Though I forgot to mention it at the time, “Guess Who’s Coming For Breakfast?” ends with a scene in which Frasier and Daphne, two single people with a night free, decide to use that time to get some laundry done. A pre-emptive kibosh is put on any romantic entanglement, and so Daphne becomes more of a den mother to the Crane men. Here, Frasier and Martin temporarily put her in a daughter role by trying to decide whom she’ll date. (We learn that Daphne never took such advice even as a schoolgirl.) She quickly breaks out of that role, and the climax, in which she uses her skill with a pool cue to hold her own at the Topaz Lounge, establishes that she’s not just the show’s requisite “wacky” character, but a strong figure in certain situations. If Frasier has the book smarts and Martin provides worldy wisdom, Daphne’s more of a wild card- you never know what she’ll be good at or what story involving her childhood in Manchester will be used to justify it. (And now I am thinking of the FRASIER cast as an RPG party, and should probably stop.)

Jimmy, interestingly enough, is disposed of off-screen; a bartender (Ivory Ocean) tells Frasier and Niles that he tried to get fresh with her and she showed him the door. In some ways this is a cheat; the character who seemingly drives much of the action is really only in one scene. Indeed, the last act really isn’t about the bet that kicked off the story, or the underlying question of Frasier’s alleged God-given gift to intuit. Daphne’s unexpected control of the situation at the Topaz Lounge may be a thematic link- another example of not judging someone by appearances, to say nothing of the trust issues involved- but if there is a connection it’s underplayed.

This is more just a series of funny events, though the plot is logical and the conclusion satisfying. What it lacks in structural elegance it makes up for in just being funny, and though I doubt anyone learns a lesson at the end, it’s still a fun climax. Daphne gets to shine again, Frasier and Niles get to look out of place, and keep an eye on that red-haired waiter who hears a bit of their conversation at CafĂ© Nervosa. He’ll be back.

No Guest Caller

Written by David Lloyd
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Aired January 27, 1994

Frasier: You know dad, he’s so judgemental.

Niles: He is, and I’ve often condemned him for it.

(Quotes via IMDB and John Masson's transcript. Again, caveats about heavy advertising on the latter site apply.)

No comments: