Friday, June 11, 2010

Frasierquest 2.10: Burying a Grudge

Martin and Artie attempt to have wordsMartin: Oh, all right, it was worse than any of that. [pause] He told people... I cried at "Brian's Song."

Frasier: Dear God! You always think that's the kind of thing that happens to other people's fathers, not your own!

It’s good to get back to a “normal” episode after the big sweeps epic. “Burying A Grudge” is a story drawing on Martin’s past, and these are always kind of offbeat. Martin inhabits a different world, and when we get a glimpse of it, it’s like what would happen if a 70s cop drama had a 20-years-later reunion. The episode’s main story sidles up to us, and it’s a low-key affair all around, lacking huge laughs but sweet enough to make up for it.

Maris is having a facelift, and Niles is running over to the hospital frequently to check up on her and make peace with the nursing staff. While accompanying him, Frasier and Martin find that Artie (Lincoln Kilpatrick), one of Marty’s old pals from the force, is in the hospital and not doing too well. However, Marty and Artie haven’t spoken to each other in a long time, all owing to a petty spat and some harsh words. Both men are too proud to actually apologize, but Frasier feels that since Artie might not be around much longer, it’s worth settling things. Martin always wants the last word, though. In the meantime, relations between Maris and the hospital staff continue to worsen.

It’s weird for Maris, of all people, to be the plot driver for this episode, considering how little the actual plot has to do with her. (And also the fact that she can never be on camera.) For the first several minutes I found myself trying to remember which episode this was; it’s similar to how you can watch a SIMPSONS episode and not know which one you’re watching until the first act break.

We’ve seen Martin’s stubbornness in display in many previous arguments with his son, who inherited the same trait. In Artie, he has another worthy foe, one just as desperate to win in a conflict that no longer exists. The sheer triviality of the cause for the split is, itself, an inspired touch (seriously, who doesn’t cry at BRIAN’S SONG?)- there’s really not much for either person to apologize for, so it’s not like they’d really be conceding anything. But for Martin and Artie, it’s enough to have to even appear to begin to concede. It’s stupid and it’s immature, and it is a twist that Frasier is the voice of reason in this story.

The B-story surrounding Maris is brilliant. In a relative handful of scenes the character’s neuroses create a situation that rapidly spirals out of Niles’ ability to control it, to the point where he has to bribe the staff with gifts. By now it’s clear that Maris can never be shown; she works too well as an immaterial force causing pain, suffering, and chaos. She is what Lilith is joked about as being. The plot also gets us Daphne saucily joking to Niles about having a mole removed “just south of Manchester”, and even though she doesn’t know what she’s doing, it’s fun to watch her wind him up.

Even though Artie’s in bad shape, the episode never gets too maudlin or sentimental. It’s never stated what’s wrong with him, and maybe he’ll recover, maybe he won’t. That he’s ill isn’t the point- that they need to talk to each other again is, and though Frasier uses some manipulation to make it happen, that manipulation is never pointed at us. Even the reconciliation scene is played mostly for laughs, with a genuinely great gag revolving around Martin and Artie’s inability to let either have the literal last word. There’s also a great early example of a recurring mannerism for Martin, where he can never let a statement speak for itself. He always has to explain it. He wants to make sure everyone knows what he’s saying. He doesn’t know when to stop himself.

Maybe I’ll take a lesson from this and stop the article here. Good episode, a little offbeat.

Guest Callers: Betty Comden as Linda, Adolph Green as Walter

Written by David Lloyd
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Aired November 29, 1994

Niles: Maris's doctor feels it's more soothing for the patient to duplicate the home environment as closely as possible. So I slipped a pearl-handed revolver under her pillow and got myself a room across the hall.

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