Monday, February 20, 2012

Frasierquest 4.20: Daphne Hates Sherry

Daphne: I mean I have been keeping myself on the shelf lately. I'm feeling a little like the good china.

Niles: Someone should be eating off you every day.

The Niles and Daphne romance is mostly a classy affair. Oh, Niles may leer at his beloved and notice when she bends over, but until he's ready to actually make a move he's resigned to appreciating her like a rare and delicate flower, while she remains mostly innocent of the whole thing. But she's not really a delicate flower, and "Daphne Hates Sherry" takes their non-relationship into some tantalizing territory. If a cold winter's night in Season 1 inspired feelings of gooey sentiment between the two, a heat wave and some snappy fighting is sure to lead to hot times indeed.

As the title indicates, the whole thing kicks off because Daphne and Sherry aren't getting along. Daphne tries to look after Martin's health, Sherry wants to serve him spam fritters. There's a turf conflict involved, and with Frasier fighting off a flu and Martin indecisive, nobody's interested in mediating. When Sherry starts setting Daphne up with men she's never met, a fight results, and Daphne storms out. In search of shelter, she ends up at Niles' place, and with no air conditioning at the Montana, the two spend a particularly sweltering evening together.

Tennessee Williams gets name-checked a couple of times, and while my familiarity with the playwright is not what it should be, it's hard not to draw connections to at least the stereotype of his work- hot sweaty people in passionate clinches against appropriately humid backdrops. This episode really manages to get the atmosphere right, which is a challenge for a multi-camera sitcom, and it captures  some of the things which are driving people to extremes, such as a sickly Frasier being annoyed by every little noise and Daphne and Niles being lulled into a seductive paralysis by the heat. The dialogue is particularly vivid on these points as well, with some fairly creative imagery.

But let's face it, the whole thing is about sex. The big development this episode is that Daphne puts herself in a situation where having sex with Niles is, however briefly, a very real possibility. She was almost his in "Midwinter Night's Dream" too, but that was more a swooning after a breakup. Here, though she never says as much, she seems to consider it, albeit in that headspace in which one only considers very bad ideas. Because of the nature of Niles and Daphne's "relationship" thusfar, we rarely get her perspective on things, but little hints like this that not all the attraction is one-way provide a lot for fans to chew on. The writers like giving us more reasons to think it could happen while pulling back from actually going through with it.

True, there's other stuff happening in this episode- it's "Daphne Hates Sherry", after all. Both want to take care of Martin in their respective ways, and it's a well-drawn conflict revolving around their respective places in the Crane family as outsiders. While Frasier's illness is partly a plot device explaining why he doesn't interfere in the conflict sooner, it makes for an amusing subplot in itself.

There's some ambiguity to the story's resolution, in which a night of passion is narrowly avoided by circumstances which Frasier suggests were influenced by Niles' ethics (going back for Daphne's pills rather than writing a scrip himself.) It's certainly plausible that subconsciously, Niles wouldn't want it to happen like this, or see an ethical dubiousness to it. On the other hand, he only gets that "out" because of Daphne's thyroid rearing up (of course, her not bringing her pills may have been a subconscious move on her part, implying she meant to go back anyway.) Whatever the reason for what happened, though, it's probably for the best. Their story should not resolve in a bad decision in the middle of a heat wave; however, their encounter does suggest that though we're still far off from ignition, the sparks are there. And they're flying both ways.

No Guest Caller

Written by Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano
Directed by Kelsey Grammer

Aired May 6, 1997

Frasier: Bup! I don't care who did what to whom or in what disgusting manner. As we speak, hordes of viral Visigoths are hurling themselves over the battlements of my immune system, laying waste to my... Oh, dear God, you see how weak I am? I can't even finish a simple Visigoth metaphor.

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