S2E9- Adventures in Paradise: Part 2

fd_s2e9-zzS2 E9: Adventures in Paradise: Part 2
Airdate: November 22, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Ken Levine, David Isaacs

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I am so please to return to Frasier Crane’s beige Seattle with you. We rejoin our tormentor as his tormentor appears at the worst possible time. Actually, I’m sure we are both thinking that there is no good time for Lilith to show up, but… people, I have a “# of women Frasier has slept with” category to tend to here, and so far, Lilith is the only one on it! Then again, I suppose Frasier’s perpetual failure in this area of life is a crucial part of his tortured persona.

Before the episode itself, there is a recap of part 1—several clips, over some of which Frasier narrates. Not Kelsey Grammar, mind you—Frasier Crane, in character. I had forgotten that this used to be pretty common in late ‘80s/early ‘90s sitcoms. Cast members would also say that the show was taped in front of a live studio audience during the theme or credits. In fact, I suppose even now it’s usually one of the show’s actors who says “previously on (whatever show)”.
fd_s2e9-02Episode Synopsis:
Open at the grass cottages by the beach. Frasier asks Lilith what she is doing there; she returns the question without answering. Frasier invites Madeline out. He calmly asks Lilith if she has a date, which she does. Frasier protests that Lilith has brought someone else to “their place”—which is perfectly hypocritical, since he has obviously done the same. Madeline is understandably frazzled that her date’s ex-spouse has “joined” them for their getaway.

Lilith’s boyfriend, Brian, returns from snorkeling. Frasier is surprised that Lilith shows the ability to laugh at a joke, but she quickly reverts to her familiar, humorless demeanor. While barely breaking eye contact, Frasier and Lilith try to out-kiss each other with their respective dates, who quickly grow uncomfortable. Brian asks if perhaps the four of them should have cocktails together later, and Madeline suggests that they all in fact have dinner. What an amazingly terrible idea.
fd_s2e9-01Scene 2
Frasier and Madeline return to their cottage after dinner. Rather than finally enjoying some time alone with her, Frasier gives the impression of lingering feelings for Lilith, first by angrily complaining about Brian showing him up while the couples were out together for dinner, then by inferring (from the silence coming from the other side of the wall) that Lilith and Brian are making love. Madeline convinces Frasier to refocus his attention, which he does. However, she decides to take a shower to wash off the sand from spending time on the beach.

Frasier uses this time to shout and rock the bed, so that Lilith will think that he and Madeline are getting busy, which is completely absurd, since they are in fact about to begin doing so, hence there is no reason for him to pretend they are. Well, I suppose, no reason beyond assuring that Dr. Crane remains a tragic figure, that is. Frasier goes positively crazy on the bed, which is kind of a great TV moment. He then stands and thrashes the bed canopy against the wall rhythmically while continuing to shout in comedic mock sexual ecstasy.
fd_s2e9-03Madeline emerges from the bathroom. Lilith and Brian also come into view through the window, which has been open this whole time. They watch him, understandably somewhat in awe. When at length Frasier notices them, he says nothing, but shrugs in fatigue and despair. Again, we are savoring a tragic struggle with sanity, and again it is in a social context.

If faced with this scenario, the Fresh Prince would have come up with a flimsy but sufficiently entertaining excuse, which would have kept the audience (and his date) on his side. If this were Who’s the Boss?, Tony would have been a perfect cross between Frasier and the Fresh Prince— offering an excuse that is funny, but not quite smooth enough to assure that he will get lucky. If it were Perfect Strangers (Larry being the one jumping on the bed), he would have a superlatively lame excuse, which would secure him several weeks of chastity, and Balki would tell a touching speech about being a virtuous person, over a slow interlude featuring heavily on melodica. Here is the official Frasier Denied stance on this issue: At such a momentous juncture as this, Dr. Crane is the only person in the (sitcom) universe who is pathetic enough to merely sigh and look down at his feet.
fd_s2e9-04Scene 3: Paradise Lost
Frasier’s KACL radio show is on the air. He gives Madeline a detailed apology, heard by his entire listening audience, and laments the potential loss of the connection that they have shared. There is a tender pause as he explains that he genuinely cares for her. Roz signs for him to wrap it up and he goes off air for the traffic report break. Roz enters the booth and kindly assures Frasier that Madeline will most likely respond well to his explicit, public plead.

They go back on the air. The control room phone rings; Roz answers. Frasier begins listening to an on-air caller, but Roz leans in and says that Madeline is on the phone for him. Not only is Roz flipping the caller, the audience, and the station the bird with this cruel interruption, but she is certainly being picked up by Frasier’s microphone— an act of reckless neglect that would surely have gotten her fired. Frasier jumps at the chance to take Madeline’s call and, as if to eagerly encourage the station to fire him too, and despite Roz’s frantic silent protests, he dumps the caller over to her line so that she can hear the caller’s issue and advise him.
fd_s2e9-05Scene 3:
At the apartment, Niles enters the living room and exposits that he, Daphne, and Martin are going to the ballet, to see Maris in a non-dancing part. Daphne gets her binoculars so that she can get close-up views of the male dancers’ personalities. Frasier is rather flustered. He actually says to everyone in the room “Will you get out of here?” He chastises himself for his behavior in Bora Bora, but Niles encourages him not to blame himself. Daphne is hopeful, as Roz was, that Madeline will understand.

Niles, Daphne, and Martin exit, just as Madeline arrives. She and Frasier timidly reconcile. She interrupts his apology, charitably interpreting the events but making it clear that she likely cannot handle any more “complicated” crazy from Lilith and Frasier’s situation.

Scene 4: What Number Sunblock Must She Use?
(This is a pleasantly scary foreshadowing. For the scene-title typist to sympathize with the family’s disdain for Lilith is genuinely pretty funny—though I may be taking it too far if I infer that they, like the Cranes, suspect she may be a vampire.)

Later at the apartment, Frasier and Madeline are eating mangoes on sticks and drinking pitcher Mai Tais. “Well, we never got around to sampling this tropical delicacy while we were in the islands,” Frasier says. The most important thing that we learn from Frasier is that intelligence and sanity are two entirely different things, and the latter is far more crucial to social fulfillment. Pointing that out in every episode is probably our mission here.
fd_s2e9-06They verbally indicate that it is time to get busy, but Madeline halts everything and confides that she has had unsuccessful relationships with divorced men. Frasier assures her that no romantic ties remain between him and Lilith. They resume kissing, and Eddie jumps onto the couch to keep them company.
fd_s2e9-07Frasier picks him up and heads down the hall. There is a knock on the door. Madeline answers; it’s Lilith. Madeline is horrified. Lilith claims that she has something urgent to talk about with Frasier. Madeline, now out of patience, exits forever.

Alone, Lilith sits in Martin’s chair. Frasier emerges from the hall and dims the lights. Lilith stands and when he sees her silhouette, Frasier howls in pure terror. He first seems to suspect that Lilith has killed Madeline, then angrily laments that Lilith has once again stolen potential happiness away from his grip.

She rolls her eyes and sits on the couch. The “urgent” news is that Brian has proposed to her. Frasier gives her his blessing, and she reports that Frederick, their son, is very fond of Brian. As they are hugging, Niles, Daphne, and Martin enter.
fd_s2e9-08When Martin sees Lilith, he bellows in horrified abandon—it seems that he may have a heart attack. Frasier tells them the announcement; when it is clarified that he is not the one whom Lilith is marrying, Martin drops his cane and limps hurriedly across the room to “congratulate” Lilith. His joy, of course, only derives from the knowledge that she may now be finally getting out of their lives for good.

Frasier walks Lilith out and says that he ought to try bringing Madeline to Bora Bora again.
He then does go back, and to the very same cottage.

…with Niles.

Credits vignette:
Niles watches as Frasier runs around the room attempting to kill an insect with a shoe.

Closing thoughts:
When (over the course of the first 7 years or so after it was published) I would hear the Radiohead song “Air Bag”— the opening track of their 1997 masterpiece OK Computer— I misheard a lyric from the chorus. Where I heard “I’d like to say to you…” Thom Yorke was in fact singing “I’m back to save the universe.” Can we misinterpret art of every sort in just this way? When we infer Frasier Crane’s daily existence as a deplorable chaos of awkwardness and frustration, might we equivocating? Might we have missed some underlying essence of tormented genius, hence “Denying Frasier” for reasons that are in fact unjustified?

I doubt it. However, this forum gives us the room to carefully separate some of the conceptual layers that comprise the show’s overall jive, so we can in fact avoid dismissing it as pretentious schlock or cheap sitcom claptrap. It has elements of those, but I find that the creators have knowingly placed those aspects—toxic as they are in high homogenous concentrations—in the overall Crane gang panorama, among the element of social mayhem that results from Frasier’s madness. There are fansites out there that simply treat Frasier as a great work of televisionary art. I don’t want to detract from the experience those folks have—nor, especially, from the contribution they make to analysis and criticism of the TV canon alongside me, but I could never stand to go without examining the insane and otherwise unimpressive parts as well as the entertaining and enlightening ones when I sit in front of this perplexing beast of a show.

What I want to point out is perhaps a sharpened recognition of its nuance, when compared to the more generally Frasier-positive sites. It’s as simple as that. I have mentioned before that the “ironic-to-genuine ratio” in my affinity for Frasier is about 70/30, and this is important to our design. The satirical blog medium is not well-served with drooling fandom—not even a little; not ever. The humor I contribute to the meta-TV canon (and, strangely enough, to the Frasier canon itself) has a lifeblood of mild disdain at a resting heart rate—a baseline of polite cynicism, if you will.

But that is nothing new. Show review sites exude varying levels of sincere enthusiasm for their subjects. What did shake things up for me a little was in a book I was reading in my free time (you know, when I’m not on my couch counting how many times Niles smiles), namely Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter:

“With many television classics that we associate with “quality” entertainment—Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Frasier— the intelligence arrives fully formed in the words and actions of the characters onscreen. They say witty things to each other, and avoid lapsing into tired sitcom clichés, and we smile along in our living room, enjoying the company of these smart people. But assuming we’re bright enough to understand the sentences they’re saying—few of which are rocket science, for that matter— there’s no intellectual labor involved in enjoying the show as a viewer. There’s no filling in, because the intellectual achievement exists entirely on the other side of the screen. You no more challenge your mind by watching these intelligent shows than you challenge your body watching Monday Night Football. The intellectual work is happening onscreen, not off”        (p. 64).

Johnson’s thesis is that with time, all entertainment media increase in complexity and require more focus, patience, problem-solving skills, and better memory on the part of their viewers. The best-known comparison from this book is a subplot-count in a Dragnet episode vs. a Sopranos episode, in which the former deals with only one plot—solve the crime of the week, while the latter has around twenty interrelated plots for nearly all of the characters. Anyway, for our Frasier-Denying purposes, Johnson’s analysis contributes a few things:

1. It’s possible for someone to consider Frasier a “smart” show.
2. There is a difference between keeping up with the complexity of a show’s content/themes/etc. and typing up a detailed, ostensibly intelligent synopsis of it.
fd_s2e9-00It’s all in how you watch. In the sense that Johnson is describing, in my personal experience, watching a Beavis & Butthead episode is more thought-provoking than watching a Frasier episode. “What?! Then why are you typing reviews of Frasier, rather than Beavis & Butthead?” you may ask. “Shouldn’t you be going where the material is most fertile for intelligent analysis? And by the way, are you shitting me? Beavis & Butthead—seriously?” you may also ask.

I answer those questions thusly: Because, on a meta-medium such as this, Frasier is far funnier subject matter, Beavis & Butthead comes with the meta-analysis already packed in, and said meta-analysis is too ethereal for this medium—it’s better suited to the couch itself, with a giggly companion and a bag of nacho chips. In short, Frasier is flawed, but it is complicated enough that those flaws are up for debate. Tongue-in-cheek, we call that debate “Denial.”

***

When Lilith appears at the apartment and the rest of the cast comes home from the opera, it’s just like the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader is standing at the table in cloud city (and Martin is Han Solo. I suppose that makes Niles Chewbacca. How could we have predicted that comparison? Well done, my friends).

Unnecessary conflicts:
Lilith showing up at the apartment entirely unannounced.

Continuity errors, etc.:
Niles, Daphne, and Martin seem to get home from the ballet a little early. Niles assured them on the way out that they would be gone for a long time. Not a technical flub, but a little bit of lazy “sitcom convenience.”

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [1]    series: [4] (same woman as in part 1, of course)

# of women Frasier has slept with:
Episode: [0]    series: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]    series: [20]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]    series: [6]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [0]    series: [12]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [0]    series: [17]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [3]    series: [87]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]    series: [16]

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [1]    series: [15]

# of times Niles has smiled:
[Episode: [1]    series: [11]

Kind of great TV moments:
Frasier jumping around on the bed.
fd_s2e9-yzKind of great Frasier moments:
The “confidential” message that Frasier gives to Madeline over the air.

Niles identifying Maris’s part in the ballet as “Ulrich, the hunch-backed draw-bridge operator.”

Frasier screaming at Lilith that he doubts driving a stake through her heart would kill her.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “As Frasier and Madeline prepare for a romantic night in Bora Bora, Lilith and her new boyfriend coincidentally show up in the cottage next door.”
fd_s2e9-09


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