Monday, November 07, 2011

Frasierquest 4.13: Four for the Seesaw

Laura and Beth, the ones who will inevitably get away

Frasier: Maybe we should ask them out.

Niles: On a date? We just met!

Frasier: Good point, Niles. Perhaps we should go out with them a few more times before we ask them on a date.

On the surface, "Four for the Seesaw" is basically a misadventure; the Crane boys get into a good situation and ultimately screw it up. It's an odd kind of story which doesn't rely on building comic momentum, but while it seems inconsequential at first, there's some interesting character stuff going on. And hey, any episode with Megan Mullally is worth remembering.

On a crowded day at the Nervosa, Frasier and Niles decide to take a chance on sharing a table with two lovely ladies. Laura (Lisa Darr) and Beth (Mullally) are kitchen designers, and delighted at encountering two men who are actually interested in kitchen design. The two end up having an informal double date that goes on all day, and on another impulse, Frasier suggests they all go out for a weekend at a mountain cabin he has access to. Things are moving very fast indeed, and this makes them both just a little nervous, especially Niles, who is still working out just how separated from Maris he is. And just how quickly do Laura and Beth want to go, anyway?

This is a story about acting in the moment, something that does not become Frasier and Niles. They like to plan things out or at least carefully weigh their options. The major conflict of the episode is not so much their relationship with Laura and Beth- who seem like the perfect girlfriends for them- but the fact that they are straying outside their comfort zone. They can't really sustain this for very long, and they end up overthinking it, which predictably leads to tragedy and humiliation.

But that may not be the real problem either. Niles is the one who has a harder time with all this, and it's because of Maris. He's separated from her but still thinking he may have made a mistake, and lets that uncertainty get the better of him. Though Frasier mostly ruins things with some poorly chosen words in a moment of frustration, in the end, Niles just can't let Maris go yet.

It must be said that both Darr and Mullally are utterly charming, so much so that we end up sharing the Cranes' frustration when things go south. It's one of those cases where it really is a shame that the wrong thing said at the wrong time ruins everything. There's also a nice subplot involving Martin caring for a flu-ridden Daphne, not relevant to anything but fun nonetheless.

Moving forward, the episode does a good job reminding us of the major conflict in Niles' life- how he's separated but not quite willing to let go. Frasier, meanwhile, continues his drought, his desperation contributing to continued failure, and it's actually impressive how the writers follow this as an arc. His inability to live in the moment is something that will come up again. I'll miss Laura and Beth, though.

No Guest Caller

Written by David Lloyd
Directed by Jeff Melman
Aired February 18, 1997

Frasier: I am always ready to debate the merits of down-draft cooktops and ceramic tile backslashes.

Laura: Woah, whose little boy are you?

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