Sunday, May 29, 2011

Frasierquest 3.22: Frasier Loves Roz

Frasier helps Roz put herself together
Niles: He claims to have been with, at last count, one hundred and fifty women!

Frasier: Oh puh-leeze. A hundred and fifty...

Niles: As if anything over, say... seven weren't absurd.

Frasier: Well, I would say eleven, but I get your point.

As we near the home stretch for this season, we’ve got some big episodes to go through. “Frasier Loves Roz” is not as Earth-shattering as its title would indicate, but it is an extremely important episode in terms of defining the relationship between the two characters. Roz-focused episodes are welcome because of how rare they are, and this one, executive producer Suzanne Martin’s first writing credit on the show, is a real gem.

On hearing about the latest problems Roz is having with her love life, Frasier advises her to maybe make a change from her usual pretty boys and look for someone more substantial. Roz starts to get serious with a man named Ben (Michael Mitz)- unfortunately, Frasier learns from Niles that Ben is a serial womanizer and sexual compulsive who tends to discard women as quickly as they start to try and get a commitment out of him. Even more unfortunately, Frasier can’t tell Roz about this becase Ben is Niles’ patient and Niles told him this in confidence. Frasier tries to drop subtle hints to Roz that maybe she shouldn’t get so attached to this one, but Roz interprets it as jealousy and, with some unintended help from Daphne, starts to think that maybe Frasier wants her for himself.

One of the things that we learn about Roz in this episode is that despite her penchant for one night stands, she wants a significant relationship as much as the next person. She’s not necessarily looking to settle down, but she’s in the mood for romance. It’s another nice, believable shading to her character that- she’s not inherently lovelorn but everyone gets lonely sometimes. Perhaps her feelings are triggered by the fact that someone back home is getting married, and she’s been asked to wear a hideous green bridesmaids dress, and never expected the bride-to-be to go to the altar before her. Whatever the reason, it puts her in a weaker state than we normally see her.

Frasier and Roz’s interaction in the episode is made especially entertaining by how they talk past each other the entire time. It’s sort of a mirror episode to “Roz in the Doghouse”, where a man coming between them in a professional capacity nearly killed their friendship entirely. Here, with a romantic relationship doing the splitting, they both deeply care for each other and have each other’s happiness in mind. It’s hard to do comedy where almost all the characters are basically decent folk, but it’s always been one of Frasier’s strengths. The misunderstanding which makes up the basis for the humor is plain enough, but it’s a device that lets us see two friends trying to be there for each other without getting to treacly and sentimental.

This is also another test for Frasier and Niles’ legendary and often-strained ethics, another example of how psychiatry as a premise creates plot hooks for the show. It’s solved more by circumstance than by anything else, but that doesn’t prevent Frasier and Niles from hitting the books and looking for any reason that Roz might be declared mentally incompetent so she can be told not to get too close to Ben. Even with her best interests at heart, Frasier can’t help but undercut some of Roz’s more unstable behavior, as well as things he just finds insane (like drinking white zinfandel.) The things we do for our friends.

There’s some very nice acting here by Peri Gilpin, showing Roz at a personal low as she gets her heart broken and ends up sobbing and smearing her makeup while wearing the most hideous green dress. She and Kelsey Grammer establish just the right note for a man and woman who are very close friends but could never really be more than that. (The subplot with Niles and Frasier trying to get Martin on videotape for future generations doesn’t really go anywhere but has a couple of inspired gags.)

The irony of the title is that it’s actually true; Frasier’s not in love with Roz, but he does love her in a way that this episode makes clearer than any before it. We’ve seen Frasier and Roz as partners and friends, but we see now, close to the end of the season, that they’re really best friends. “Frasier Loves Roz” is a sweet, fun episode that quietly shows just how far they’re willing to go for each other.

Guest Caller: David Duchovny as Tom

Written by Suzanne Martin
Directed by Philip Charles Mackenzie
Aired May 7, 1996

Roz: Can you believe I actually have to be seen in public in this thing?

Frasier: Well, Roz, it’s only for a few hours, after that you can donate it to the Salvation Army, and one day make some Irish drag queen very happy.

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