S2 E4: Flour Child

fd s02-04-04  Director: James Burrows    ||    Writer: Christopher Lloyd
Airdate: October 11, 1994    ||    
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
The last episode written by (not that) Christopher Lloyd was I Hate Frasier Crane, exactly one season ago. He is one of the very best writers the show had– I laughed, for real, 11 times (and to give you some perspective on how little I laugh when I watch this show, I made note of it after I had only laughed twice). Lloyd will go on to write 14 more Frasier episodes. In 2009, he will also write the pilot for Modern Family. fd s02-04-00 Episode Synopsis:
Open on the air. Caller Maggie (Amy Madigan) is dating someone who is giving her roses every day. Roz keeps shaking her head, and Frasier gets upset about it, so he asks Roz what she would do. Roz suggests that Maggie break up with the needy guy, and Maggie is grateful to have her instincts validated. She hangs up, and there is a sweet, beautiful dial tone on the air—I love it not only because it’s a direct Frasier-denial, but because dial tones kick ass.

If you’re presenting a comedic or dramatic scene and you really want to button it up, a dial tone will suit your needs. Not a blue tooth. No. Not a smart phone, Skype, texting, retweeting, “favoriting,” “ ‘ Liking, ‘ “ slamming a microwave oven door, tying someone’s shoes together, tearing up a telegram, cooking a carrier pigeon for dinner, having Scottie beam you up—No. NO! The dial tone is the peak, you see. Nothing before or after it ever has or ever will do the trick. fd s02-04-01

Frasier signs off angrily before commercial (at this moment I notice that I best relate to Frasier when he’s pissed. Maybe this is because writing “angry” is easier to write well; on the other hand, maybe Frasier just aggravates a latent misanthropy in me that only Frasier can awaken). Roz enters the booth. She reviews Frasier’s dinner reservations with Martin at Chez Shrimp and puts some letters and a greeting card in front of him to sign, then exits.

Just like Kevin on Home Alone, Frasier speaks aloud about how he hates office parties and, as he opens an enormous, musical, cardboard pink bunny head, reminds us of the importance of writing something witty for birthday cards. He’s also disgusted by the chip tune noise of its little song, which is so Frasier!
Did you know that a musical birthday card has more computing power in it than all of the computers at the president’s fingertips just 50 years ago? (Also, you should probably tune out whenever someone says “Did you know”—but I’m serious!)

Scene 2
Frasier, Niles and Martin are riding in a cab through gridlock traffic. Martin exposits that Frasier’s car broke down and tells him that he should have bought American.

Martin starts conversing with Arleen, the cab driver. She starts having labor pains. Yeah. You know, so we can do a sitcom episode. (Maybe it’s not always a matter of jumping a shark—maybe sometimes it’s just jumping a few minnows every week).
fd s02-04-02Niles gets in the front seat; tries to talk Arleen through breathing. Martin calls dispatch. Niles is freaking out more than Arleen, so Frasier takes over. Frasier’s hapless rambling is more disturbing to her than her labor pains, so Martin pulls Frasier out. Martin knows what he’s doing, and he explains that for some reason being a cop made it necessary to deliver lots of babies. Two minnow-jumps in one scene.

Scene 3
Daphne runs into the living room in a towel to get her robe from the laundry basket. Frasier, Martin and Niles enter. She tells them to turn around. They do. Daphne puts a robe on. Martin is awed about the “miracle” (#blorch) of birth.

Say. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the “miracle of death”? They’re the same thing—bookends to the simultaneously intuitive and seemingly impossible boundary to an infinite void of consciousness, like the inner wall of a sphere.
fd s02-04-03Anywho, Frasier talks about Frederick’s birth. Martin talks about Niles’ birth as well.

Daphne reminisces about her mother. Then, she starts talking to her mother, playing both parts herself. She exits while continuing the “conversation.” I guess channeling is filed under the ‘psychic’ heading. Frasier makes a good joke about it, and I notice that jokes about Daphne’s psychic abilities don’t roll out very often.

Martin exits. Frasier gets some sherry. Niles says he wants to be a father.

Frasier describes the high school home economics class project where you care for a sack of flour for one week to get some perspective on what it’s like to be responsible for a baby. Niles misses no time at all:  He runs into the kitchen and starts just such a week with a bag of Frasier and Martin’s flour.
fd s02-04-00b

Scene 4
At Café Nervosa, Frasier discovers that the flour bag, Niles’ “child,” has been injured a couple of times. (See the end of the post for the complete list of deadly injuries the poor thing suffers at his hands). Niles gets up to go order his coffee.

Roz enters. Frasier puts the flour on the floor. Roz reveals that the greeting card that Frasier signed earlier was a ‘get well’ card for Clarence the KACL security guard’s kidney transplant, not a birthday card.

Niles returns, upset about the child being left on the floor, but it isn’t really addressed. Actually, I suppose it wouldn’t be, since it’s just flour. Frasier is, however, bent on somehow recovering the ‘get well’ card before it’s read, since he preceded his signature with what he considered a birthday-worthy death joke.
fd s02*04 08Scene 5
At the apartment, Frasier and Daphne are working on transcribing all of the greetings and signatures onto a fresh, new giant pink bunny head ‘get well’ card with assorted colors of ink. Now that’s some 80s/90s sitcom jive for you. Thank goodness Frasier is getting tangled up in useful dilemmas that might contribute some awe and knowledge to the human race.

Martin chides Frasier for not caring about the little people; points out that that is why he didn’t know what kind of card it was. Notice how Martin’s approach works just as well as mine? Check that shit out.
fd s02-04-05

The doorbell rings. Daphne answers; it’s Niles. Hey, you know what? Niles always rings the doorbell. He’s the Anti-Joey.

But right now, Niles has a baby-jogging-carrier-thing on, and it’s holding the sack of flour to his chest. Even Daphne rolls her eyes. Niles speaks at length about the experience so far. It has been difficult and eye-opening for him. More injuries are revealed to have occurred in the flour’s life since they met for coffee. An electronic timer goes off, indicating the “child’s” nap time. Niles puts it down; goes to get some wine. Frasier inquires whether Niles feels he is ready to be a father. Niles says now he is torn.

Speaking of tearing, Eddie destroys the bag of flour and completely covers the couch. It’s, uh…

***

It’s delightful, okay?

Niles is upset. Martin tells him to calm down; gives him actual advice about knowing in your gut what to do about certain decisions. Martin exits. There is a tender pause. Niles says he is not ready; feels that not wanting to have a child yet is selfish. Frasier explains that it’s actually selfish to instead do things for the wrong reasons. There is another tender pause! Frasier admonishes Niles to just wait a few years.

Scene 6
At the hospital, Niles and Frasier find Clarence’s room. Frasier tip-toes in. He opens the card to hang it with the others on a string precariously drooping above a man sleeping in a hospital bed.

fd s02-04-07

When Frasier opens the card, its music startles him. He freaks, breaking the string loose and dropping all of the cards on the man and the floor.

A man in the hall recognizes Frasier and reveals himself to actually be Clarence; exposits that his room was switched.

Frasier begins to admit to the simple fact that he put the card in the room that was supposed to be Clarence’s, which would hence tie up the episode in every way. However, when he opens the door to go in and get the card, the man in the room is saying “make the music stop!” and in response to this, Frasier slams the door.

Clarence mentions that no one else from the station sent their regards. Frasier shrugs, says that they must not care like he does, and dismisses himself. In that span of 10 seconds, Frasier has decided to make everything involved in the situation exactly, 180° wrong. Let’s examine how:

1) The music will not in fact stop, and the man in the bed (who is Frasier’s victim) will continue to be tormented by it indefinitely—no doubt exacerbating his injuries as he attempts to untangle himself from the paperboard and string.

2) Clarence, for whom Frasier has no affection or concern, will now think he is the best friend he has at the station, and Frasier will in no way even pretend to reciprocate his benevolence.

3) The efforts of the rest of the staff to send Clarence their well wishes are wasted.

4) Clarence will now think of the rest of the staff as cold, uncaring souls, no doubt resulting in broken friendships, his early retirement and untimely suicide, etc.

5) The hours that Frasier (and Daphne) spent obtaining, doctoring, and delivering the new card are completely wasted.

Frasier finds Niles at the maternity ward. Niles again changes his mind about being a father. Arleen emerges with sitcom efficiency, holding her newborn. Niles asks to hold him; inadvertently bends the baby’s arm, making him cry. Arleen patiently takes the baby back; says goodbye.

Niles stares at the babies some more.

Credits vignette:
Daphne takes a break from preparing some baking to cradle a bag of flour. Martin enters; laughs at her. They get into a powder fight, culminating with Daphne pouring the entire bowl over Martin’s head.

BONUS!- Injuries that Niles’ pretend infant child endured during the episode:
i. Puncture wound
(being poked by a chopstick)
ii. Multiple abrasions
(falling from the roof of Niles’ car onto the pavement)
iii. Bruises/possible concussion
(knocking head on coffee table)
iv. Broken ribs; water in lungs
(being kicked into the reflecting pool
v. 2nd and 3rd degree burns
(being set next to the fireplace to dry)
vi. Massive fatal hemorrhage
(getting torn to pieces by Eddie)

Closing thoughts:
The array of comic figurative acts of violence alone makes this episode a winner. Christopher Lloyd is a world-class writer. He gives to Frasier Crane jokes that rely on timing—you know, like actual comedy.

Lloyd also can’t hide his sitcom sweet tooth. The bulls of oddness and unnecessariness have plans for this China shop. In Lloyd’s case, it serves the format well, though. It reminds us that this is an art form. It’s like Green Day: of course they just write pop songs, but those pop songs know that they’re pop songs, and they still carry a valid and unique artistic voice. There’s the trick, see. Read that list of things that Frasier causes to go diametrically wrong at the episode’s climax again. That’s all unpacked from Frasier slamming a hospital room door. It’s too egregious (hence too wonderful) to happen by accident.

At the beginning of the episode, Roz is very decisive about ending a relationship with someone on account of clinginess. At the end, Niles longs for nothing else. Hmm.

I’m pretty sure that Full House, Saved by the Bell, The Cosby Show, The Facts of Life, Who’s the Boss, etc. all had flour sack episodes by this time.

Unnecessary conflicts:
Frasier doesn’t just tape some pink paper or a flowery sticker over his death joke on the bunny card.

Continuity errors:
Frasier does not mention that Frederick was also born in a taxi cab.

I’m only just noticing that there are far, far too few episodes with rain. How many have there been? Two? Three? For a suitable representation of Seattle, it should be raining in just under half of them.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

# 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: [14]   series cumulative: [14]

# 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: [2]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [15]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [5]   previous cumulative: [74]   series cumulative: [79]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [16]   series cumulative: [17]
Frasier is definitely being a sociopath when he shuts the hospital room door.

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [2!]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [15]

# of times Niles has smiled:

[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [8]

Kind of great TV moments:
(none)

Kind of great Frasier moments:
A caller hanging up on Frasier.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): When Frasier’s car breaks down, the entire Crane crew hitches a ride with a pregnant taxi driver, Arleen, who suddenly gives birth.”
fd s02-04 Eddie-Flour

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One thought on “S2 E4: Flour Child

  1. “Say. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the “miracle of death”? They’re the same thing—bookends to the simultaneously intuitive and seemingly impossible boundary to an infinite void of consciousness, like the inner wall of a sphere.”

    That sounds right up Frasier’s alley, actually. Seems like he and Niles would get into that.

    “Niles says he is not ready; feels that not wanting to have a child yet is selfish. Frasier explains that it’s actually selfish to instead do things for the wrong reasons. There is another tender pause! Frasier admonishes Niles to just wait a few years.”

    Wait… did Frasier actually give good advice for once? Damn.

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