Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Frasierquest 4.10: Liar! Liar!

Daphne straddles Niles

John Rajeski: How is Niles, anyway?

Frasier: Ah, he's, ah- he's abroad now.

John: Really? Woah, that musta hurt.

Are the SeaBees over already? Man, I didn't even get to make my predictions. This year the awards are disposed with off-screen as a starter for a less glamorous story about Frasier confronting an element of his past. "Liar! Liar!" is kind of odd. The episode focuses on something that Frasier did wrong years ago, and is unable to really fix, but he does his best. The structure is weird and we end in a way that's barely foreshadowed by the rest of the story, but it ends up being pretty funny so it's easy to let go. And Niles and Daphne's relationship takes an interesting turn.

After a defeat at the Seabees, Roz calls her grandma from Frasier's apartment to tell her she won. This prompts a debate among those present about whether it's ever acceptable to lie, and during the course of the conversation, Frasier and Niles reveal that they got out of their physical fitness exam at school by pulling a fire alarm and blaming it on the local bully, John Rajeski (Saul Stein). Martin is upset with them, since the bully ended up getting expelled, and Frasier decides to find out where John ended up and maybe come clean. He finds John in prison for passing a bad check, and John can, with some assistance, trace his life of crime back to being kicked out of Frasier's prep school. Rather than let John know what happened then, Frasier tries to help him indirectly, going to his wife (Carlene Watkins) to work on their marital problems. Her problems revolve around wanting a more exciting and dangerous sex life, and since her husband has been released and is on his way home, she's got plans for the doc.

The episode sets up its major premise explicitly; is lying ever acceptable? On the one hand, the lie that we follow through the story is clearly a bad one- it set a young man on a life of crime and all to get out of exercise. On the other hand, Frasier quickly decides that just telling John the truth won't solve anything (especially since John has a way of messing guys up.) When John's wife comes on to him, he ultimately has to hide in their apartment to get out with his limbs intact. Once again he has to weasel out of things rather than confront them head-on, so he's not entirely unsold on the "lying" bit.

Niles gets caught up in the lying business too, sort of. When he actually throws his back out, he happily accepts Daphne's offer of a lotion rubdown, only to discover it's the kind of lotion that goes on cold and turns into a raging inferno. So he tries to pretend it worked in order to avoid a second coat.  It's an unusual twist on their normal shenanigans, and it ties into the episode's theme a bit, though "lying" is a broad category and applies to a lot of sitcom plots.

So the actual story for this ends up going all over the place, but there's a certain elegance in how it wraps up. Frasier does his best to try and get the couple to reconcile, and they sort of do, or at least reach a state of stable dysfunction. So in lieu of taking a strong moral stance on the lying issue, "Liar! Liar!" concludes that lies cause trouble but we do our best to muddle through. That's probably accurate.

No Guest Caller

Written by Chuck Ranberg & Anne Flett-Giordano
Directed by James Burrows

Aired January 14, 1997

Daphne: Just yesterday you reconciled that couple on the brink of divorce, and today, you helped Molly from Tacoma overcome her addiction to Swedes…

Frasier: That was sweets, not Swedes.

Daphne: I thought it was strange when you told her to limit herself to one or two after meals.

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