Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Frasierquest 4.15: Roz's Krantz & Gouldenstein are Dead

James Earl Jones as Norman

Norman: Are you here visiting somebody?

Frasier: Oh no. I'm just here with a friend of mine, Roz. She's here doing some community service.

Norman: Ah, the Angel of Death, nice girl.

Most Frasier episodes try to build themselves around one main plot or specific theme, with subplots and such around the edges. "Roz's Krantz & Gouldenstein Are Dead" is more of a melange, with two main stories build on slightly different themes which nonetheless end up intersecting. It's a very pleasant episode, built around scenes of genuine insight mingled with its humor, and not demanding too much of the viewer in terms of following a story.

The story begins when Frasier and Niles see Roz picking up trash beside a freeway, part of community service she's doing to avoid a fine for speeding. It was a choice between garbage duty and working at a home for the elderly, and Roz has never been comfortable around the aged. Frasier persuades her to go back, but then in quick succession two of the people she's visiting die on her. Frasier, who has himself been struggling with the lack of follow-up he gets from the "patients" he advises on air, accompanies her for one more trip to the home where she is now known as the "Angel of Death." While there, he meets Norman (James Earl Jones), a blind man who took some guidance from his show after the death of his wife, and gets a chance to see what an impact he's actually made.

From the start there's not much mystery over what Roz's problem is. Being around the elderly reminds her of her own mortality and that we all have to get old, slow down, and eventually stop. She knows it and she wants to avoid it if she can, and while anyone would be a little discouraged by being called the Angel of Death, for Roz it's an especially appropriate out. Eventually there's no solution other than to just face it head on, as she meets with Moira (Lois Smith), a lively and outgoing old woman who is in many ways like her- but is not everything she once was, and says as much. It's a scene that has a nice candor to it, confronting the problems of aging and the fact that it's better than nothing at the same time.

Candor also becomes an issue in Frasier's meeting with Norman, as he goes to great lengths to hide something, succeeds, tells Norman anyway, and finds out he needn't have gone through the trouble. Chances are we've all been there, but of course the real significance is simply Frasier coming to understand how he's helped someone. (Interestingly enough Norman wasn't even a caller, so Frasier really had no idea how much he was helping.) As you may imagine, Jones gives an excellent and believable performance, just understated enough to counterbalance some nice physical comedy from Kelsey Grammer.

A subplot for Niles involves him going to the wedding of two patients from his fear of commitment group. This ends up playing out in two ways; first, it serves as a catalyst for Frasier wanting a similar sense of closure from his patients, and second, he ends up bringing Maris. The two aren't quite ready to reconcile, but they're still technically man and wife.

There's not really a single overriding theme that this episode has, but it's significant that Fraiser and Roz both end up making brief but meaningful human connections in their time at the retirement home. Maybe there's a lesson there about taking the time to listen to your elders, even if they have the habit of dying on you. And maybe being the Angel of Death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.

Guest Caller: Eric Roberts as Chet

Written by William Lucas Walker
Directed by Jeff Melman
Aired March 11, 1997

Roz: One minute he's lying in the bed, smiling and happy, ten seconds later it's over.

Niles: For heaven's sake, it happens to every man a couple of times in his life. Why can't you women take it as a compliment?

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