S2 E1: Slow Tango in South Seattle

Tuesday1994-1995Airdate: September 20, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writer: Martin Weiss
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Well, holy crap cakes. It’s autumn 1994. Finally, I can take Driver’s Ed.

Let’s see what we can do now that we have passed the season threshold! Time to get down to the nitty gritty. On the night that this season premier aired,  Frasier switched to Tuesdays (Full House had done the same thing three years earlier, apparently in some coy ploy to never be watched by me again).

YES: I have tidied up the category headings a little and even tinkered with what we’re evaluating. For instance, we now have a “Kind of great Frasier moments” category. Sadly, I can’t add new counters, because we’re a whole season into the show, but I am semi-vigilant in my more-than-vague intention to run over the last 24 reviews and make an official note of what great Frasier moments there are. Hold on. Oh my Maris! Hold on! Guess what? We can put up a new counter, because there is one thing that only happened once last season. Realsies. Give up? It’s Niles smiling. I know, right!? Jumpin’ Jeebus. “Niles!” Of course.

I’m not even going to mention the things that I promised not to do this season. Hopefully, we will steer our way into some brand new deplorable habits.

Book us on Likeface!
You’ll get mid-week links to ostensibly fun Frasier-related nonsense and will be needlessly pestered to come back here on a regular basis (come to think of it, if you actually just stay here, that’s skipping two steps).

Alright! This Frasier isn’t gonna Deny itself.
FD s02e01-05Episode Synopsis:
Frasier says hello to caller Steven (voice-over by James Spader) on the air. Steven asks for advice on whether to let his infant child climb into bed with him and his wife. Frasier interrupts before Steven can even finish his question and assures him that it is good for a child to bond with the parents in this way.

All the while, Roz is engrossed in a book. Frasier signs off for commercial, runs into the control room, and demands to know why Roz is reading while they are on the air. The book is called Slow Tango in South Seattle, and both Frasier and Roz hack up some exposition hairballs about how much of a current smash hit it is with “the women.”
FD s02e01-02
Roz tells Frasier to read the first paragraph. He reads it with a deliberate, deep and poetic tone, then announces his disdain for it. Roz informs us that all men are alike in that they lack a soul, with the exception of the author of the book, Thomas Jay Fallow. Intrigued at the mention of the name, Frasier grabs the book from her again. He explains that Fallow used to be a regular at Cheers. (Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience. Did you hear that too?!) Frasier used to help Fallow get through his writer’s block.FD s02e01-01Roz explains that Fallow will be coming to the station tomorrow to be on the Book Chat show and demands that Frasier introduce her to him. Frasier refuses, since it’s clear to him that he doesn’t like the book, and he would have to lie to his old friend about it, and surely Fallow won’t fall for that. Roz pulls a ‘contrast’ gag by lying to Frasier about how smart and smooth he is, in response to which he immediately changes his mind. Then, she confesses to tricking him so that we can fade to commercial while he makes the “Whyyy I oughtaaa” face.

...that one.

…that’s the one.

Scene 2
(I’m frickin’ not doing scene titles this year. You heard me.)

Daphne is contorting Martin’s legs for his physical therapy. The doorbell rings. It’s Niles. He explains that he recently noticed that in Martin’s bedroom, there are pictures of everyone except for him and Maris (and Roz and Bull Dog). With that, Niles presents a  framed picture of himself and Maris to Martin.

Frasier enters, fuming about a secret that he once told Thomas Jay Fallow being included in the Slow Tango in South Seattle book. That secret is the circumstances of Frasier losing his virginity, and, as Frasier (and Daphne) explain, it’s in fact the plot of the whole book. Martin makes a generic late-virginity joke. Niles smiles for the second time in the series.

While Frasier removes his tie in the bathroom, Martin asks who the lucky lady was. Frasier refuses to answer. Daphne immediately reveals that it was Frasier’s piano teacher.

(OK. Now, by any standards– I don’t care what your walk of life is, where you came from, what you believe in– that is just objectively and entirely hot.)
FD s02e01-04Frasier is pissed. Daphne presses, describing some of the things that the book reveals. Martin mentions that he was the one paying for the $10-a-week piano lessons. Niles stands up, shocked as he asks for confirmation that it was Miss Warner, who also taught him. Martin asks Niles whether he was also carnally familiar with the teacher. As Niles begins his reply in the form of another joke at the young Frasier’s expense, Daphne listens carefully, and when Niles concludes with a response in the negative, she is visibly relieved.

Martin and Niles continue to laugh at Frasier. But why? Man, woman, gay or straight– an affair with one’s piano teacher is something that someone should be congratulated for (if in a dignified, understated way)– not openly mocked. The way that these gents are carrying on, you would think that the book had revealed some kind of public, voyeuristic shaming or being molested by a girl with flipper hands. Clearly, they are lividly jealous.

Frasier demands their attention and announces that it was by no means just a fling. He refers to her by her first name, Clarice, and says that they cared for each other. The audience approves of the serious moment with their silence.

Then, Daphne channels Fallow, describing Frasier’s feelings for Warner, which turns Niles on. (It’s right in there, folks– this isn’t some tabloid.)
FD s02-e01-10Frasier interrupts her with an ad hominem attack against Fallow, referring to his frequent drinking. Niles mentions that Fallow didn’t remember who had told him this autobiographical story, since Frasier was never mentioned in the acknowledgements or otherwise contacted about it. Frasier leaves, announcing his intention to remind Fallow who it was.

Niles and Martin inexplicably wrestle to get a hold of the book.

Scene 3
At the station, Thomas Jay Fallow is reading an excerpt from the book on Amber Edwards’ Book Chat show. Frasier and Roz are standing out in the hall. Frasier seems intent on scalping Fallow; Roz asks him to wait until she gets her book signed. He asks if she has, um, told anyone, so, I guess he told her for some reason, and she assures him that she hasn’t (should I just skip the ‘contrast’ gag featuring Bull Dog? OK. It’s a deal– Oh, wait. We can’t. They follow through with a conversation about it).

So Bull Dog knows too, but he reveals that he had a similar experience with an older woman. He makes a couple of “because I’m Bull Dog” jokes, then Gil comes over and makes fun of Frasier. Bull Dog produces a copy of the book, and he and Gil read aloud from it and laugh (this falls under the “characters mocking each other is always funny” cliché, and it’s sort of bamboo under my nails). They exit.

Roz and Frasier turn their attention back to the booth as Amber Edwards asks Fallow what the inspiration was for the story. He reports that it was given to him… um… by God.

Frasier erupts in impassioned protest, declaring himself to be God (like we didn’t know that already). Amber breaks for commercial. She exits to make a phone call. Frasier enters the booth; addresses Fallow. He is ecstatic to see Frasier, who immediately calls him a thief and emphatically bemoans the absence of his own name in the acknowledgements.

Fallow is silent for a moment, then apologizes. He begins to weep and penitently embraces Frasier, declaring that he owes him everything. Amber, Roz, and two other women enter the booth to console Fallow. Roz chides Frasier.
FD s02e01-06Four more women then enter the booth to tend to Fallow (because only women have read the book, and only people who have read the book would bother to tend to someone in this situation). Frasier exits.

Scene 4
At the apartment, Niles tells Martin that Maris is reading Slow Tango in South Seattle. Martin doesn’t care.

Frasier enters; explains that he made Fallow cry and is feeling rather guilty about it. Martin stands up and points out that Frasier got what he wanted out of the situation and still isn’t happy. He criticizes Frasier’s insistence on analyzing everything so much, extols Eddie’s simple “outlook” on pursuing happiness, and tells Frasier he should learn from it.

Hold on. Martin is saying that it’s no big deal that the author wept when Frasier confronted him– not a little weird; no clarification needed at all– and that Frasier should go by Eddie’s example and be happy about the “simple things” in life, such as this event in which the author cried. Mmkay? Just wanted to take an extra second so you can be sure you’re on board with it.

Martin and Eddie exit.

Niles approaches Frasier with two glasses of red wine; hands him one. Niles disagrees with Martin about the source of Frasier’s uneasiness. He tells Frasier it seems that in this situation, some problem persists even after Frasier got the chance to confront Fallow. Daphne enters swiftly, holding the book in front of her. She chides Frasier; he asks what for. She details from the book how Frasier left Clarice. without saying goodbye.
FD s02e01-07Frasier defends himself, indicating that he had just been accepted to Harvard. Daphne is rather upset; Niles joins her, asking whether Frasier really just left that abruptly after they had shared so much. Frasier waffles unconvincingly as Daphne exits.

Niles abandons his glass of wine, heading for the door. He tells Frasier that the closure he needed obviously didn’t come from his encounter with Fallow because there still is the need to make things right with Clarice.

Scene 5
Late at night, Frasier is reading the book by the window (this is the first time in the series that a character has relayed their thoughts to the audience with a voice-over). It is narrated by the character based on Clarice Warner, lamenting her student’s unkept promise to return. After he finishes the book, as he pensively lays his head back on the chair, Daphne storms through the room and slaps him with her copy of the book. The audience heartily approves, but I’m not really sure what is happening. Was Daphne able to read his mind through a “psychic flash” as he finished the book, hence being reminded of how upset she is over him leaving his piano teacher like he did?

Scene 6
A woman plays a heavy-hearted rendition of The Blue Danube on the piano. Frasier approaches the door and watches her. He knocks. She comes to the door and answers to ‘Ms. Warner.’ He identifies himself. She doesn’t remember him. She invites him in, and he sits on the couch. He describes to her their last evening together, confesses his broken promise, and asks for her forgiveness. She complies, but, due to her uncertainty concerning whether she has ever in fact seen this man before (or heard his name), we still get to wonder whether she is now senile or simply slept with a large number of her students.

Then, she calls to her daughter in the other room, addressing her as, uh, “Clarice.”
FD s02e01-09Clarice comes in. She recognizes Frasier. She can tell that he is there because of the book. The mother exits. Frasier apologizes that their story made it to print. Clarice tells him not to feel bad; says that she enjoyed getting a chance to relive it. Frasier gets around to apologizing for leaving her. He asks if she would like to get coffee. She refuses, and her stunning, young, bronze god of a boyfriend pops his head in, asking if she’s ready to go. She exits, and Frasier is alone.

What happens next is so obvious that even the audience starts laughing while Frasier is just standing there in silence:  The mother comes in with iced tea and is ready for action.

Credits vignette:
Frasier and Mrs. Warner sit at the piano, playing together. She pushes closer to him and he inches away, until they both fall off the piano bench.

Closing thoughts:
The pacing and dialogue have taken a step up in quality. I really get the sense that this episode could be performed as a play. It still has silly coincidences, like Frasier knowing Fallow from Boston and Fallow appearing on a KACL show a day after it’s brought to his attention, but that’s what we’re here for, right?

I don’t see why this writer never took the opportunity for a tender pause. The scene with Thomas Fallow crying in Frasier’s arms is just played off as “Man crying? Absurd!” and there is no payoff for Frasier’s little quest. What did the author decide to do? No idea.

This is the second episode in a row in which Roz mentions that she wants to find someone to marry and have a life with. It also features a standard dose of Niles/Daphne flirtations. I think it’s only the second time that we have seen Daphne help Martin with his physical therapy exercises. There even was (unseen) photographic evidence of Maris’s existence.

You know what have not seen once, though? An episode about the dog. That’s right:  Stay tuned for next week’s Frasier Denied, as we bring you the very first Eddie episode!

Fight bravely, my friends, and live to deny another day.

Unnecessary conflicts:
Frasier initially planning to completely avoid interacting with his old friend simply because he would “have to” lie about liking the book that he hadn’t read.

Also, it’s a cheap-o gag when Frasier says “Ms. Warner?” instead of “Clarice?” to Clarice’s mother.

Continuity errors:
There isn’t anything called “South Seattle.”

# of women Frasier has dated:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]
(He also got shot down in this episode. So, that was nice.)

# of women Frasier has slept with:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [10]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [4]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [13]

# of mentions of Maris:

Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [69]   series cumulative: [71]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [16]   series cumulative: [16]

# of tender pauses:

[Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [12]   series cumulative: [12]

NEW CATEGORY- # of times Niles has smiled:

[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

Kind of great TV moments:

Kind of great Frasier moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “After Roz introduces Frasier to a hot new best seller, Frasier is stunned to learn the story was based on his long ago affair with a former teacher.”

1 thought on “S2 E1: Slow Tango in South Seattle

  1. Ugh. Though he dealt with it like a perfect ass (thus the Denial), I can’t help but sympathize with Frasier’s situation. If someone had novelized one of my romantic encounters and all of my friends knew about it, I’m pretty sure I would have hidden in my closet and never come out again.

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