Saturday, April 21, 2012

Frasierquest 4.22: Ask Me No Questions

Frasier contemplates, Daphne doesn't.

Niles: Do you think Maris and I are meant to be together?

Frasier: Right, well, that's a tough question. Well, perhaps, the better question would be do you think Maris and you are meant to be together?

Niles: I serve you up a question, you clumsily bat it back to me. We've hardly missed our squash game at all.

"Ask Me No Questions" feels like an earlier episode, something built around a simple, straightforward psychological concept. Frasier is handed a difficult question by someone who very much trusts his answer, and his obsession with getting it right drives him mad. It's a story that plays on Frasier's high opinion of his own importance and the awkwardness we all feel when put on the spot. On the heels of "Are You Being Served?" it looks more at Niles and Maris' changing relationship, and raises some questions of its own which aren't answered right away.

Still going through marital counseling, Niles asks Frasier if he thinks he and Maris are meant to be together. Frasier tries to deflect or ignore the question at first, but Niles seems insistent. He then plans to tell his brother what he thinks he wants to hear (i.e., "Yes"), but Martin reminds him that Niles values his opinion and trusts what he says. But Frasier doesn't know what to say, and he starts to obsess. His focus on the question jeopardizes his date with a smitten coworker (Cindy Katz), and eventually sends him wandering the streets looking for an answer.

This is a speedy episode, focused on one thing and able to explore it to the fullest. There's a subplot about Martin and Daphne exchanging gifts while managing to anger each other at the same time, but the episode focuses almost entirely on Frasier's attempt to resolve his dilemma, and it benefits from that. We learn more about Frasier in the process than we do about Niles and Maris; he's always been one to obsess, and as shown here it leads to indecision, because he values his own opinion too highly to make a decision quickly.

But even if the episode is mostly about Frasier, we do see a little more of Niles and Maris' developments. On the whole, things are going well- they're going to the sessions, and Niles' reports are hopeful. This contributes to this episodes' feeling like a throwback, with the two almost a happy couple again, even if we're as unsure as Frasier about whether it can last. And it provides another appearance by the ever-adorable Marta, who is now learning how to be fashion conscious.

I actually like the Martin/Daphne subplot, though they've been getting thrown together a lot by this point. I've never been in the escalating gift situation myself, but it seems to reflect their personalities quite well- Daphne does a sweet thing because she's a nice person, Martin is worried about the rules of when you give gifts and why. They'll hopefully be getting more to do soon than just get on each other's nerves.

As we finally close in on the season finale, we're seeing some changes, and one of them is that Niles and Maris are within hailing distance of reconciliation. In this episode they even sleep together, a big hop back into dangerous territory. Frasier reveals in this episode that he doesn't think this can work out, but we don't know for sure. It's a nice ambiguous note on top of a fun, speedy episode.

No Guest Caller

Written by Dan Cohen & F. J. Pratt
Directed by Jeff Melman
Aired May 20, 1997

Marta: Missy Crane very different, nicer to everyone, and this time no happy pills! For my birthday she give me a beautiful Chanel makeup bag. Is a knock-off, but is big!

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