Monday, December 24, 2012

Frasierquest 5.8: Desperately Seeking Closure

Roz: Oh, come on, Frasier, why don't you just admit what you're doing here. This isn't some "help-me-be-a-better-person" thing. You're trying to figure out what you can fix so you can win Sam back.

Frasier: Oh, now, Roz, that's proposterous.

Roz: Look who you're talking to! I've been down this road so many times, I call it "The Roz Expressway".
Niles: I've heard that phrase before but in a slightly different context.

(Note: From now on transcriptions are coming via

And it ends as suddenly as it began. You always expect this to happen; sitcom girlfriends and boyfriends are fleeting things. Still, "Desperately Seeking Closure" makes an interesting companion piece with its prior episode, if not the most gripping one. It's another introspective episode for our protagonist, where he faces his need to be liked and ends up finding out at least one thing that's very wrong with him.

Frasier and Samantha have been together a month, and he's been living the high life, visiting ski lodges with Jack Nicholson and Donna Karan and "someone named Puff Daddy." So he's naturally a little shellshocked when Samantha dumps him on their anniversary dinner. She gives him the standard "It's not you, it's me" spiel, but he can't accept that, and he tries to find out- first from her and then from his friends- what he did to get dumped. Niles, however, steers him away from this line of inquiry to ask why he's so desperate to get Sam back, when he's not even sure he loves her. Perhaps he just misses running with the cool kids.

It's hard to watch characters we like suffer, so Frasier's in extra-smug mode pre-breakup, and it's not hard to see how his behavior might drive someone off even if that's not quite the answer. Post-dumping, he's simply pathetic, finding excuses to run into Sam in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. Kelsey Grammer always walks a fine line with material like this, and it stays on the right side of embarrassing for the most part; we're just detached enough to find it funny, without being completely disinterested. The break-up is as sudden for the audience as it is for him, so we can see things from his point of view even if we were expecting him to get slapped down sooner or later.

At the same time, the fact that this is happening one episode after the two got together means it's not quite as compelling a story as it could be if we'd gotten used to Sam being around. It's a problem the series faces with Frasier's girlfriends- the writers clearly decided from an early stage that he was going to go through a lot, since they didn't want to return him to a married status quo. So there have to be quick outs, which run the risk of becoming routine or unsurprising. Overall, I'd say that while what happens to Sam and Frasier's relationship is expected, the writer at least finds a relatively fresh twist to the story by making it about the aftermath more than the end itself.

The notion that Frasier misses his celebrity lifestyle more than his actual girlfriend fits with his character, though I can't help but wonder if he overreacts to this understanding. It's not that he doesn't like her, and when Samantha asks him for a second chance, he's perhaps too quick to say no, or rather to conclude that the celebrity was everything. (He was clearly smitten before he knew how famous she was.) But Frasier has always applied a kind of purity test to his relationships- it's a quirk of his ethical system, a desire to be truly madly deeply in love without anything that could cloud that emotion. It's kind of respectable even if it does lead to him making an ass of himself in front of Lesley Stahl.

So this was a neat little experiment, a two-part look at beginnings and endings with not a lot of time spent on those pesky middles. It suffers from being too brief for us to get really invested, but there's always something to mine from these crises. The point with these episodes seems to be much more about Frasier himself than anything involving the woman he's dating. Still, Samantha was a welcome presence, even if she wasn't the one.

Written by Rob Hanning
Directed by Pamela Fryman

Aired December 9, 1997

Frasier: It's hard to believe this picture was taken only three days ago. Look at us. How happy I was. Now, I'll never see her again.

Niles: Aren't you over dramatising? You're bound to run into her now and then.

Frasier: No, I was talking about me and Lesley Stahl.

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