“I think you can call me Niles now.” The Great Frasier Rewatch, Part V

Okay, readers, this is it. The day has come. Eight months after starting this thing, we’ve reached the final installment of The Great Frasier Rewatch. It’s been awhile since part IV, so if you’re totally clueless, previous entries can be found here.

Previously, we discussed seasons 5 and 6. Today, we shall start with season 7 and go all the way to 11. Now, I have to admit, there are not as many stand-out episodes in the later seasons, but the ones that *do* stand out are pretty darn excellent. 

Season 7
This was the season when the proverbial shit hit the fan for the Niles and Daphne saga. And it all culminated in a smashing two-part season finale, and one of my all time favorite episodes:

Something Borrowed, Something Blue: Lots happens in this episode, but the important things are: Days before her wedding, Daphne finds herself thinking about Niles more and more. She finally confesses her feelings to Frasier, who tells her to confront Niles. The only problem? Niles is a newlywed himself, having married girlfriend Mel in an act of spontaneity during their weekend getaway. The Frasier gang tackles this storyline in their trademark farce style. My favorite running gag come from the neighbor who overhears everything on several elevator rides. First she hears Daphne has feelings for Niles, on a separate elevator ride hears that Niles eloped, and finally, is ready for Daphne with open arms after Daphne learns the news. (Ok, it’s not funny to read about, but it’s a good bit.) Here’s a bit of it for you:

So Daphne moves forward with her plans to marry Donnie, and tells Frasier she’s not in love with Niles, just had a bit of cold feet. Well, we all know that’s not true, and after seeing Niles and Daphne share an intimate dance, Frasier decides to take matters into his own hands, and tell Niles about Daphne’s feelings for him. The scene plays as one would expect and David Hyde Pierce delivers a great bit of physical comedy upon hearing the news.

 

Niles confronts Daphne, tells her he loves her, and they share a tender kiss. But after, she tells him she made a promise to Donnie, and has to follow through. She leaves him alone on the balcony. The next day, Niles is alone in the Winnebago, unable to attend the ceremony, when Daphne knocks on the door and comes in. She asks him, very sweetly, “I was wondering if you might be free for a date?” Niles says yes, starts up the Winnebago, and the two set out for a new adventure.

This episode gets me no matter how many times I see it. It’s exactly the right about of funny and sweet. I will never not laugh at Frasier screaming “NILES!” , interrupting the first of many attempted conversations between Daphne and Niles. Anthony LaPagalia as Daphne’s daft brother, Simon, always makes me giggle, and my heart always breaks a bit after Daphne initially rejects Niles. Plus, we get a seven-year payoff at the end. SEVEN YEARS. So good, you guys. So good. I honestly never tire of watching this one.

Season 8
This is the season generally known as the start of a three-year slump for Frasier. While I agree seasons 8-10 are not as fresh and maybe not as funny as the earlier ones, there are still some gems. You just have to know where to look. Season 8 actually has three episodes I consider standout. (Four if you count the first one as a two-parter.)

And the Dish Run Away With the Spoon: Well, first of all, I kind of love the episode for its title alone. Seeing as it starts exactly where we left off in season 7, it’s aptly named, too. Well played, Frasier writers. Well played.

So this is the season 8 opener, and it’s a doozy. Last we saw Niles and Daphne, they were fleeing her wedding. That lasts all of a minute, and then they realize they need to go back and face the music. Predictably, Mel and Donnie do not take the news well. Donnie faints and Mel won’t stop screaming. And it only gets worse: The next day, Daphne is smacked with a lawsuit and Niles is tricked into staying married for three months in order to keep up appearances. First order of business: Their wedding reception. Just one snag – it’s the same night as Niles and Daphne’s first date. Oops.

Their reception is probably my favorite part of the episode. First, we get nervous, jumpy Niles, which is always fun. Next, we get bitter Roz, played to perfection as always by Peri Gilpin. And last, we get Frasier’s wedding toast, which manages to both celebrate Niles and Daphne, and zing Mel something good. However, things are never easy on TV (conflict fuels story, after all) so we find out that one of Mel’s requests is that for the next three months, Niles not be seen in public with Daphne. Upon hearing this, Daphne is both heartbroken and angry. This leads to a big fight between the whole family, which leads to my other favorite scene: Niles and Daphne finally get their first date, on the rooftop of Frasier’s building. It also leads to a hilarious exchange about pygmies, but I’ll let Marty and Niles handle that. (Watch for it at about 4:15)

Taking Liberties: Ok, I admit it – this episode is on here solely for Victor Garber as Frasier’s short-lived butler, Ferguson. He plays the role to perfection, and watching how each of the Crane men take to  having a man of service is pretty amusing, as well. “Taking Liberties” is also noteworthy in that Niles regains his spine. He finally realizes what his charade of a marriage is doing to his relationship with Daphne, and ends things with Mel in a very public forum. It’s pretty great, and satisfying for those of us watching and waiting to be rid of her.

But honestly, it’s all about Ferguson. Take a look.

Daphne Returns: Yes, you bet your ass I am including this episode, and here is why: This season gets a lot of flak. A lot of it is deserved, but I stand behind their decision to hide Jane Leeves’ pregnancy by making Daphne gain a bunch of weight. Were the jokes leading up to it kinda tasteless? Yes. BUT the pay off was so good, I forgive them for it.

Some background, for anyone who isn’t familiar: Instead of creative editing, when Jane Leeves got pregnant, the writers decided to embrace it, turning Daphne into a compulsive eater. She never had been before, and wouldn’t be after Leeves returned from maternity leave, but those 7 or 8 episodes led to something pretty powerful: The reason Daphne ate and ate and ate was because she was trying to distance herself from Niles. After everything with Mel blew over, they were free to be together, and Daphne felt she had to live up to the pedestal Niles put her on for seven years. Of course, no one can live up to that kind of worship, thus, she ate.

“Daphne Returns” addresses all of this, as well as Niles’ realization that, while he loves Daphne, he doesn’t really see her as a human being. She’s his goddess. Through Frasier’s help, he tries to see Daphne as she really is. This leads to one of the most honest and frank discussions between a sitcom couple. It’s not pretty, but it is necessary if they want to continue their relationship. Not to put this episode on the same pedestal as Daphne, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how brave it is.

Ahem. So anyway, it’s great. Here’s how it all flushes out:

Season 10
Yes, folks, we’re skipping right past season 9 and diving into season 10. While not on par with others, the 10th season had two episodes I’d like to single out, the first being:

The Ring Cycle: Only because it was satisfying to see Niles and Daphne finally get married after 10 long years. And I love that they ended up eloping. Very sweet. Some of the hijinks I could do with out (Donnie showing up, anyone?) but for the most part, this is a solid episode for me. Also, there is the line “Apparently it’s some sort of dolphin emergency” which is stupid, but makes me laugh anyway.

Room With a View: In my limited knowledge of the Frasier fan world, this seems to be the most controversial episode. You either love it or you hate it. I am firmly Team Love. Is it a necessary episode? Not really, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

“Room With a View” centers around Niles going into the hospital for heart surgery. While in the operating room, Frasier, Marty, Daphne and Roz sit and wait. The hospital becomes the storytelling device – Marty remembers when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, Frasier remembers when Niles was in the hospital as a boy, and Daphne is worried their life together will end just as it started. Nothing groundbreaking happens, and of course, Niles survives the surgery, so there aren’t any long-lasting effects. It’s just a nice, quiet little episode, and sort of deceptively powerful.

Season 11
Well folks, this is it, the final season. While Frasier’s last season had a creative upswing, there is really only one episode that stands out to me. While I liked a lot plot developments – Daphne’s pregnancy, Frasier starting a private practice, and meeting Laura Linney, it wasn’t my favorite season for individual episodes. Except for one:

Murder Most Maris: The return of Maris! Or, un-return, as running joke of never seeing her continues. This is the second of a two-parter. In the first part (“Maris Returns”), Maris contacts Niles for some relationship advice. On the advice of Frasier and Marty, Niles doesn’t tell Daphne about it. (Who is pregnant, feeling insecure, and quite hormonal.) The seemingly harmless meeting turns serious when Maris is charged with murder. She calls on Niles to be both a witness and for support. Niles temporarily becomes her whipping boy again. The whole situation proves to be so stressful, he cannot sleep and has a bit of a mental breakdown in Cafe Nervosa. (Note to the world: DHP having a mental breakdown = comedy gold.) After sleeping it off, he finally stands up to Maris, stands up for Daphne, and all ends well. (For now. In a later episode, Maris escapes from prison never to be heard from again.)

Below is one of the funniest scenes in the series, as well as the brilliantly shouted line: “Of course you’re alone. You’re alone because you KILLED YOUR BOYFRIEND!”  Never gets old.

And that’s it! Brief shoutouts to “The Proposal” from season 9, if only for seeing Kelsey Grammer tackle a trumpeter; “No Sex Please, We’re Skittish” for the final scene with Niles’ pants; “High Holidays”, because seeing Marty Crane stoned is also comedy gold; “Crock Tales” for the ridiculous wigs; and all the Laura Linney episodes, because it’s freaking Laura Linney and she is always amazing.

Thanks for your patience with this project. When I started rewatching Frasier back in the spring of 2009, I honestly did not think I’d love it as much as I did. And do. It’s truly been a pleasure to rediscover this gem of a show. If you’ve been reading along but never got into the show (well, first of all, I’m flattered, but why are you reading along?) do yourself a favor and get the DVDs.

I’ll leave you with some classic Niles moments. Thanks for playing, everyone!

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3 thoughts on ““I think you can call me Niles now.” The Great Frasier Rewatch, Part V

  1. I’m with you, the later seasons weren’t as consistently good but all the Niles/Daphne stuff was so well done it’s hard not to like these seasons.
    One episode I really get choked up over is the one right after Niles and Daphne get together where they are supposed to have a dinner on the roof and Niles gets stuck in the stairwell. I think it’s the first time they say “I love you” to each other.
    Now I want to go watch these!

  2. I luurvved the Daphne and Niles stuff, and agree it was done well. (I know you’re shocked to hear that.) Yes, the episode on the roof is called “The Bad Son” and it’s very sweet. Also, Daphne tells a hilarious story about tin cans in a way on Jane Leeves can. (Seriously)

    You should get the DVDs!

  3. Funny that you skipped over S9 so nonchalantly. Don Juan in Hell is an epic season premiere. The ending of Moons Over Seattle will make you weep. Not a lot in between, and the forgettable Cheers reunion foisted on them by NBC is kind of a nadir, but still…oh, yea, Bla-Z-Boy is pretty excellent as well…

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