Thursday, August 30, 2012

Frasierquest 5.3: Halloween

Roz as O.

Roz: Even the best protection is only effective ninety-nine out of a hundred times. I can't beat those odds!

I've been lax with Frasierquest over the summer, seemingly too busy to watch 25 minutes of television, but as August starts to wind down I think I'm ready to really dive into the fifth season, and into the start of the biggest plot arc the show has attempted so far. Big changes are afoot in "Halloween" and what's notable is how deftly the show navigates a revelation that can be fatally clich├ęd. It does this by making the plot point in question the impetus for a classic misread behavior story, playing on multiple character relationships on top of Roz's own dilemma.

Roz thinks she may be pregnant, and is waiting on test results to be sure. She's only told Frasier so far, but in the meantime everyone is headed to Niles' Halloween party, where everyone comes dressed as a character from literature. Martin is Sherlock Holmes, Niles is Cyrano, Frasier and Daphne go as Chaucer and the Wife of Bath, Gil Chesterton is the Last of the Mohicans, Bulldog is Waldo, and Roz is O from "The Story of O." (We get the obvious but still funny running gag.) Frasier accidentally lets Daphne in on the secret, thinking she already knows, and when overhearing the two talk about it, an increasingly besotted Niles starts to think that it's Daphne who's pregnant and that Frasier is the father (based on the two having gone on a beer-tasting weekend and acting more close than usual.) As the night rolls on he plans to confront Frasier about his apparent indiscretion, and to marry Daphne to protect her honor. Meanwhie, Roz is still waiting on those test results.

Simply waiting to hear back about something important, while agonizing for the person undergoing it, is not necessarily dramatic, so it makes sense that Roz's worry takes a backseat for most of the episode. This allows the story to deepen the irony- we know that Niles is fussing over something that hasn't happened, and we also know that in the process he and others are totally ignoring the actual dramatic situation unfolding in the background. And it's not the only irony in the story- Daphne's own misinterpretation of what's happened to Roz leads to a particularly brilliant exchange between her and Frasier. And there's an interesting use of the device in regards to Niles' belief that Daphne and Frasier may have slept together- we don't know for sure that they haven't but given what we've seen in the past five seasons, we know that they never would.

The episode also provides a nice look into Niles' twisted psyche. He may be a snob concerned with keeping up appearances, but underneath the fussiness beats the heart of a romantic. To a certain extent he wants to believe that his beloved Daphne is in grave distress so that he can come to her rescue, and it's not hard to imagine that sibling resentment makes it easy for him to see Frasier as the villain. Of course it's as much self-serving as romantic, but aren't all our delusions? Especially when we've had a few? David Hyde Pierce gets to really run wild in this episode, and it's a side of Niles we haven't seen before.

Of course, the episode is also an excuse to get everybody in fancy costumes and have them play off their characters. Frasier and Daphne exchange some bawdy banter before their chumminess turns into irritation, Martin and Gil have a rare interaction that shows why their interactions are so rare, and it's just plain funny to see Bulldog frustrated over nobody "getting" his costume. As panicked and disheveled as Roz is, she still rocks a leather corset. (Camilla Donatacci-Grammer, Kelsey's then-wife, shows up as Eve, and well, she looks all right, let's leave it at that.)

Of course, Roz has more than fashion to worry about now. The confirmation of her pregnancy leads us to a cliffhanger, and it's a story that'll conveniently last the length of the season and change the character significantly, but not so much that she becomes unrecognizable. The one drawback of this episode working the way it does is that she doesn't have a big part to play in it, but that will soon be remedied.

Guest Caller: Cindy Crawford as Dorothy

Written by Suzanne Martin
Directed by Pamela Fryman

Aired October 28, 1997

Man at Party: "Are you here alone?"

Roz: "God, I hope so."

1 comment:

Nora said...

For the last 19 months I've been watching and rewatching Frasier. I even put on random episodes to play when I'm doing things around the house. I like the way you talk about Frasier. There's a painful shortage of people willing to dissect every little bit of every single show and discuss it and gush and rave and laugh, like I do. I don't know if this was part of what you wanted to achieve by posting those articles, but when I read what you post about Frasier it makes me feel a sort of Frasier-camaraderie that I treasure. Thank you for those great posts! I will definitely be checking out your non-Frasier posts after I'm done enjoying the Frasier ones. Have a great day.