Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Frasierquest 3.10: It's Hard To Say Goodbye If You Won't Leave

Frasier and Kate recreate the last shot from The Graduate
Kate: You know what? I'm not one of those people for whom "antique" is a verb.

Going into Season 3, I was surprised to find out just how relatively quickly the Kate Costas arc resolves. We’re not even to the halfway point of the season and we’re already at the end, which can’t help but feel abrupt. This is the nature of guest stars on television- they’re only around for so long, especially if they happen to be acclaimed stars of stage and screen with many awards and many offers. Mercedes Ruehl has been fun, but it’s time for her to go, and “It’s Hard To Say Goodbye If You Won’t Leave” serves as a thoughtful exit.

Frasier has a hard time getting his mind off of Kate after their previous trysts. He’s inwardly debating whether to try and make this an actual relationship, despite her apparent lack of interest, and even lets slip to Roz that Kate was indeed the on-air Dirty Girl. Heroically, Roz keeps this a secret. But before Frasier can even begin to pursue Kate, she tells him that she’ll be leaving shortly to take charge of a station in Chicago. This puts Frasier in the position of either having to let her go or make some stupid romantic gesture, and after a couple of minor misunderstandings, he ends up making a mad dash to the airport.

It’s what happens next that’s the important thing in this episode, as Frasier and Kate finally get to discuss having an actual relationship. There are many ways this could have ended, and there’s something very refreshing about the way it does. Frasier and Kate like each other, they have seemingly compatible personalities, but when they compare the details of their lives and desires, they don’t just match up. Frasier wants more children, Kate doesn’t. Kate has a cat, Frasier is allergic. Kate wants to live on a ranch, Frasier in a penthouse. They just can’t fit, and while so many actual relationships end because of this, movies and TV shows tend to avoid this particular downfall for fear of it being undramatic. More often it’s a temporary obstacle on the way to a happy ending, with one party willing to sacrifice their dreams for the other, but neither Frasier or Kate are in a position to give ground.

But while the episode’s resolution is almost perversely anticlimactic, it works surprisingly well. It’s not really sad or unpleasant, there’s just the calm and gentle comedown after heights of romantic tension. It’s almost a relief. Frasier gets to keep the life he’s accustomed to, rather than throw it away; he’s the kind of guy who would like to be able to sacrifice everything for love, but he’s not there yet, and this isn’t quite love anyway.

The only major subplot here is Niles attempting to get used to the bachelor life, hanging out at Frasier’s apartment and testing the patience of Martin and Daphne ever so slightly. His being there does prompt a discussion on the story of CASABLANCA, and I’m honestly not sure how Niles hasn’t had that ending (nay, half the story) spoiled yet. I’m sure such things are possible, but it seems uncultured of him not to have seen the picture before now. We also get THE WAY WE WERE spoiled, but somehow I care less about that.

Since this episode is the last to feature Kate Costas, it’s time to look back over the arc. The five episodes are an example of decompressed storytelling compared to how FRASIER normally moves; their relationship isn’t jammed into one or two episodes, which allows it to rise and fall more organically at the expense of there not being as much happening in each individual episode. The pacing is not entirely there- “Leapin’ Lizards” is really a placeholder- but overall we’re left with a satisfying story. It’s a mature, adult romance where sometimes things don’t work out and it’s not anyone’s fault.

So while it’s been frustrating trying to write substantive pieces on episodes that are just parts of a larger whole, to the extent that my complaining about it is probably a cliché by now, I can’t say this little experiment in long-form storytelling has been anything but a good thing. Not only is Kate a good character and fun to watch with Frasier, she’s something that right off the bat made Season 3 different. Recurring guest stars are going to pop up more often, as will new story arcs, and while FRASIER will always be episodic, there’s evolution taking place.

No Guest Caller

Written by Steven Levitan
Directed by Philip Charles Mackenzie
Aired January 9, 1996

Martin: Grow up you two! I'm just saying it's perfectly natural. I can't tell you the number of times I was on a stake-out in the cold picturing your mother in front of a warm fire wearing nothing but a...

Frasier/Niles: DAD!!!

Martin: Oh, I'm sorry. One day your mother and I went on a church picnic and the two of you came floating down the river in little wicker baskets!

Niles: Was that so hard?

Quotes by Iain McCallum at

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