The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: The Return of Lilith Sternin

Along with a number of questions the show keeps asking — but never seems to answer
The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: The Return of Lilith Sternin

We’ve known for close to a year that Bebe Neuwirth would reprise her role as Lilith, ex-wife to Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), in the Frasier revival. Finally, we get our first glimpse at her in “Freddy’s Birthday.” The episode title tips us as to the main event around which the episode is arranged. Specifically, the conflict arises when Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) realizes he’s going to have to invite both his parents to his party, even though avoiding their bickering had been his gift to himself. It’s a straightforward setup… but we’ve still got questions!

Freddy Doesn’t Know How to Work a Booth?

In the cold open, Frasier comes to Mahoney’s Pub straight from seeing Turandot with his friend Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst), and is surprised to see Freddy there. When Frasier had invited him, Freddy had said he had plans, and now it seems like Freddy’s on a date!

How heartbreaking for Frasier to have to see his son using a booth wrong: If you’re sharing it with one other person, you sit on opposite sides of the table! 

Especially if there’s no reason to sit close enough to your “date” to put your arm around her because she is, in fact, your mom.

What Happened to Frasier and Lilith’s Relationship Since We Saw Them Last?!

Lilith’s last appearance in the original Frasier was in a final-season episode called “Guns ’N Neuroses.” Lilith comes to Seattle for a conference, and she and Frasier get set up on a blind date with each other. They both end up skipping it, due to a misunderstanding, then share a room service dinner and fall asleep watching a movie. Yes, the episode opens with a gag about Frasier dreaming about a volcano that spews ice before checking his messages and finding one from Lilith, but it ends with the exes parting on terms that are respectful and warm. 

In the 20 years (nearly to the day) between then and now, Frasier and Lilith have, apparently, fallen out spectacularly: Frasier is essentially calling Lilith a monster and a witch, while Lilith denigrates Frasier’s old TV show before saying she’s never seen it — which puts her vastly in the minority among characters on this show. Whenever the turn came, it was long enough ago that Freddy is used to it: He lied to Frasier about his plans with Lilith, and he invited her to his birthday party without telling Frasier it was happening. This feels well beyond the jokes Lilith and Frasier used to make at each other’s expense. And while the joke of the show has always been that being a psychiatrist hasn’t given Frasier much insight into his own mental health, surely two psychiatrists might have noticed that their behavior is causing distress to their son.

Speaking of Insults… Are the Gags About Alan’s Suits Maybe Some of This Show’s Best Writing So Far?

Alan’s annoyed when Lilith doesn’t remember him from the week they spent together in Aruba during her and Frasier’s destination wedding, so he shows up to Freddy’s birthday party in the white linen suit and fedora he wore on the trip, hoping to jog Lilith’s memory. 

Instead, it kicks off a classic pile-on from all the Cranes.

Frasier: Good lord, what were you doing? Lowering someone into a pit of alligators? Trying to raid a lost ark, maybe romance a stone?
Freddy (to Lilith): Surely you recognize the mayor of Key West.
Frasier: No, no, he’s that chicken magnate from Kentucky.
Freddy: No, dad, he’s obviously the simple country lawyer who doesn’t have a lot of fancy book learning but knows the good people of this parish.
Frasier: Oh, Frederick, please, don’t insult the supervillain who squared off against James Bond at the Monte Carlo casino.
Lilith: Boys, please. They’re just joking. I know who you are. So: go ahead and welcome us to Jurassic Park.
Alan: I must go. I have a riverboat to catch.

Pretty good.

Frasier Wears a Size 14 Shoe?

Freddy’s birthday party is being held at a bowling alley, which means anyone who intends to bowl has to rent shoes. (Exception: Lilith, who established at Freddy’s last birthday that she would not wear community footwear, and established it so firmly that the shoe-counter guy still remembers her a year later.) Frasier asks for a size 14. Seems huge, right? Particularly since Alan asks for a size 9 and he’s definitely the taller of the two? Well, SHOWS WHAT I KNOW: behold an old listing for a pair of shoes Kelsey Grammer wore on (the original) Frasier, sized 15. And that concludes the commentary I plan to make on the size of Kelsey Grammer’s feet.

THIS Version of ‘Frasier’ Booked a Real Football Player?!

Lilith’s gift for Freddy is a football: “Because you like football.” Freddy is a little flummoxed until Lilith reveals that it’s supposed to be signed, and reveals the surprise waiting at the bar with his hood pulled down: It’s Vince Wilfork.

Though he has since retired, Wilfork helped the New England Patriots win two Super Bowls. According to the episode, he also sought treatment from Lilith for his shyness, which is how she has enlisted him for Freddy’s birthday surprise. 

In terms of this episode’s guest stars’ fame, most Frasier fans would probably consider Wilfork a distant second behind Bebe Neuwirth, but it’s still impressive that the show got him.

Are There Other Applications for the Freddy Quiz?

After Lilith’s ex-NFL pal shows up Frasier’s gift — a pen formerly owned by J.D. Salinger, believed by Frasier to be the author of Freddy’s favorite book, The Catcher in the Rye — Lilith and Frasier bicker over which of them knows Freddy better. Alas, there’s no way for either of them to prove their superior Freddy knowledge — until “Birthday Coordinator” David (Anders Keith) announces that it’s time for the Freddy Quiz! And no, Freddy can’t stop David from running it even though it will definitely embarrass Freddy in front of the cute girl Freddy’s trying to pick up. 

Anyway, the quiz advances the story by revealing that Freddy hasn’t told Lilith that he moved in with Frasier (sorry, Lilith, but Freddy’s current favorite breakfast is Frasier’s Eggs Benedict, not Cap’n Crunch). But given the sloppiness of this season so far, I would love to see this show’s current writers take a Freddy and Frasier Quiz. I’m not sure any of them would beat even an average fan of the original series.

Kevin Daniels Doesn’t Have ANYTHING Better to Do?

As Frasier beefs the Freddy Quiz, Freddy’s fellow firefighter Tiny (Kevin Daniels) leans over to Frasier and whispers, “You’re doing very poorly.” Frasier knows. Daniels does what he can to make this sound like a joke even though it certainly isn’t one, because he’s a pro, but please go watch Sirens to see what it’s like when Daniels gets to play a first responder who’s actually funny.

Did the Production Designer Know Lilith’s Wallpaper Joke Was Coming?

After Freddy kicks his bickering parents out of his birthday party, Lilith comes over to Frasier’s place to admit that she was trying to mark her territory with Freddy by giving him an over-the-top birthday gift… and then to make out with Frasier on Freddy’s bed so that Freddy and the cute bowling alley girl can catch them and Freddy can tell them they ruined his birthday twice.

But before that, Lilith has to walk through Frasier’s ink blot wallpaper to get up to Freddy’s room. When she confirms that it is Rorschach-inspired, Frasier asks what she sees. “I see someone’s trying too hard.” Hey: ME TOO.

We Don’t Get to See David Bowl?

Instead of bowling at the bowling party, we see David assign himself the aforementioned job of Birthday Coordinator, allude to a treasure hunt no one actually attempts and run the Freddy Quiz. When other characters have gathered near the actual bowling lanes, David hangs back in a corner, reading. This aligns with what we know about him — bowling is not a very physical game, but it still doesn’t seem like it would be David’s bag — but it still feels like a ripoff that we don’t see him try. 

Admittedly, this is probably because the extremely cheap-looking production couldn’t afford to build even one functional bowling lane. But surely there could have been a way to indicate that Freddy’s fellow firefighters convince David to try, and then all watch as something disastrous happens when he does. No one would have to build an actual bowling lane if the camera just stayed on David and the firefighters, reacting to a catastrophic roll taking place offscreen. Once again, this show is forcing me to pitch alternate closing-credits tags that someone should be pitching in the room.

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