The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Since When Does Frasier Go into the Wilderness for Fun?

And more questions inspired by ‘The Fix Is In’
The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Since When Does Frasier Go into the Wilderness for Fun?

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) is, surprising no one, a crappy landlord. In the last episode, we heard about a beehive that was menacing everyone on the porch. In this one, Eve (Jess Salgueiro) insists that Frasier fix the broken buzzer. Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) thinks he knows what the problem is, so Frasier asks him to handle it, but that’s very much the only issue Frasier will allow Freddy to deal with. Also having problems: Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst), who’s just had yet another teaching assistant quit. Because Alan’s such a nightmare boss, the only person Olivia (Toks Olagundoye) can line up to assist him is wildly unqualified, though at least he’s enthusiastic! 

As usual, the episode has sparked a host of questions…

What’s the Point of Nicole’s Tiny Scarf?

After washing out with the cutie from his birthday party, thanks to his horny parents, Freddy has met someone new! Nicole (Amber Stevens West) arrives in what appears to be a silk (or viscose) dress, with a little fuzzy wrap around her neck.

It’s so small, West looks like she’s gripping it because she’s afraid it’s just going to slide off!

I know why this exists for story purposes — making a hasty exit, she leaves it behind, and comes back a couple of days later to retrieve it — but in terms of practicality, it enrages me. Next week’s season finale is set at Christmastime, so let’s guess this is sometime in the fall — in Boston. If it’s warm enough to go around without a coat, you don’t need a tiny little scarf. If it’s cold, some fuzzy frill that’s barely larger than a collar is completely useless. Even if producers or the director didn’t want West to have to mess around with a coat and a scarf, they could at least give her a shawl. But I guess realism wasn’t a concern, given that she doesn’t arrive with a purse or bag or phone holster. Women are, of course, not a monolith. But when they go out, they need somewhere to put at least one credit card!

But I digress. You need her to come in with a thing to forget chez Crane: make it make sense.

Can We All Agree We Want More Than This for Amber Stevens West?

Nicole is here to help show the audience that even though the start of “Blind Date” told but did not show us that Freddy and Frasier are getting along, Freddy is still finding it kind of a mood-killer to have to tell women he brings home that he lives with his dad. When he says he likes to think that Frasier lives with him, Nicole interprets that to mean that Frasier needs help, and Freddy decides to run with it, starting with “He’s definitely needy,” then embellishing that Frasier hardly gets out of bed anymore. This is, of course, when Frasier returns, looking as hale as ever. Freddy pulls Frasier aside and convinces him to play along; no stranger to shenanigans in dating, Frasier obliges, and Nicole departs, confused.

Anyone who watched her on the (then) ABC Family dramedy Greek still treasures the memory of (then) Amber Stevens’ charming performance as Ashleigh Howard, who got up to all sorts of hijinks but also would have seen straight through this foolishness and knew how to dress for the weather. Since Greek, West has been a series regular on Happy Together and The Carmichael Show. Nothing has stuck and, like Kevin Daniels as Tiny, she can do much more than this material is asking of her. Bring her back, by all means, but give her anything funny to do!

Since When Does Frasier Go into the Wilderness for Fun?

When Frasier returns to interrupt Freddy and Nicole’s flirting, he’s in a flannel shirt and a fleece vest and bellowing about cutting his birding trip short because after climbing all the way up a mountain, he didn’t find so much as one of the yellow-rumped warblers he was expecting.

To repeat: Frasier Crane climbed a mountain — possibly alone, since he doesn’t mention any birding companions — to look at real, live birds.

I will stipulate that Frasier probably enjoys looking at birds in, for instance, Birds of America. I think Frasier would probably be pleasantly surprised if an interesting bird happened to alight near his table when he’s enjoying coffee on a restaurant patio. The Frasier Crane we know has never seemed like someone who would build an overnight trip around making a physical effort, in nature, to see a bird. If this is a hobby that Charlotte, his most recent ex, convinced him to pursue, or one that he’s pretending to enjoy to woo his next prospect, dialogue should say so.

Alan Is Working?

When Frasier bursts into their shared office to brag about what a great dad he is for letting Freddy fix the buzzer, Alan is so busy typing that he almost can’t be bothered to zing Frasier for his self-congratulation.

It was reiterated in “The B Story” last week that Alan has tenure. Also in that episode, we saw Alan decide to blow off a class he was supposed to teach because he’d already taken his shoes off. For the purpose of a gag later in the scene (which we’ll get to), he can’t just be drinking, as usual, but what is he doing? Arguing with a troll on a message board about Margaret Thatcher’s leadership? Chatting with a suspiciously beautiful woman he met through a dating site? 

I have to throw out these perfectly good suggestions because nothing in the actual episode explains why this canonically lazy man is suddenly acting so industrious.

Does Anyone Working on This Show Know ANYTHING About College?

I promise not to spend much more time complaining about everything this show gets wrong about academia, but let’s be real: That’s just because next week is the season finale. (Maybe the series finale, since as of this writing the show still hasn’t been renewed.) That said: I was extremely dubious that even a professor as worthless and dictatorial as Alan, having run through all the grad students, would be assigned a teaching assistant — David (Anders Keith) who was an undergrad. Do some colleges assign TA duties to undergrads? It’s unusual, but sure. Is Harvard among those schools? One Google search told me it isn’t: Those personnel are called undergraduate course assistants. Is this an excessively persnickety note? Sure. And I’ll bet that when it comes to accuracy in portraying their alma mater, Harvard grads are extremely chill.

Niles Crane’s Son Threw Booze Away?

David, who has possibly never had a job before, is an extreme stickler for the rules. This is congruent with what we know about his father from Frasier: If Niles ever violated his personal ethics, he would instantly suffer a nosebleed. Alan is, naturally, horrified to learn that David is following the guidance in the T.A. handbook: He’s posted office hours, which Alan has avoided in order not to have to interact with his students; and he’s cleared all the liquor and wine out of Alan’s office. However, David says not that alcohol is prohibited on school premises, but merely discouraged. And in a situation like this, where the rule is open to interpretation, I feel like the son of Niles Crane, noted tippler, would err on the side of preserving the bar.

Frasier Doesn’t Want a Leak Fixed?!

Freddy easily fixes the buzzer: hooray! Freddy also finds evidence of a leak in the wall, which he says he can fix. Frasier: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to buy another building?” 

On the one hand: ha ha, Frasier is not handy, but he is rich enough to throw money at his problems. On the other hand: I don’t care how rich you are, any whisper of a hint of a reference to water encroaching on your property should send you into crisis mode immediately. And if Freddy can fix it, so much the better. We know from “Seat of Power” that Frasier has dark associations with plumbers.

Has Andy Daly Ever Been Bad?

When Freddy has to pause his repair job midway through, leaving a hole in the wall approximately the size of an electrical outlet cover, Frasier is tortured, and calls a plumber while Freddy’s at work.

Roland, the plumber, is played by Andy Daly, one of our greatest character comedians. Frasier makes it clear that he’s secretly having Roland figure out the source of the leak so that Frasier can advise him, and Freddy can’t take days, weeks, maybe even months to make sure he’s doing the job as thoroughly as possible — something Eve assured Frasier Freddy would do. Roland gets to point out Frasier’s condescension toward him; then, when Freddy gets home early, Roland gets to play along with Frasier’s claim that they are colleagues in the Psychology Department at Harvard. Freddy sees through this ruse and calls Frasier out for hiring a plumber and making him do improv. “Which I kind of think I knocked out of the park,” Roland interjects. 

He certainly did — most UCB-trained performers do! Anyway, Andy Daly is the best. Watch him in Review if you haven’t already.

Who Just Leaves a Hand Mirror on the Coffee Table?

Freddy goes across the hall to complain to Eve about Frasier’s unwillingness to allow Freddy to contribute to the household in ways he’s actually capable of doing (including, by this point in the episode, getting Frasier an ice pack after Frasier has tripped and hurt his knee). Eve suggests that Frasier may not want to admit that Freddy knows better than Frasier does about something, because Freddy tends to gloat when he’s right, and proves it by grabbing a hand mirror off the coffee table and showing him his obnoxious face.

Okay bit, and maybe her infant son John is still too young to be pulling himself up on furniture such that he would be at risk of grabbing and smashing it; it’s just weird for a Goody (or similar) brand hand mirror from the drugstore to be hanging out anywhere other than the bathroom. I realize Eve lives alone, but what was she doing with it in a part of the apartment where, as this scene establishes, Freddy might walk in at any time without knocking? And: She has a baby. For her to hold up a baby’s mirror toy would have made so much more sense.

Is Frasier’s Weirdness Around Freddy’s Handyman Work… Credible?!

Finally, Frasier confesses to Alan why he’s angrily refusing to let Freddy help him with small home repairs. When Frasier lived with his father, Martin, he was grateful to be able to give Martin a comfortable life and feel he was repaying some small part of the services Martin did him throughout his youth. But now, Frasier feels he’s in the same supplicant position with Freddy, having let him down so much throughout his childhood — only worse, because he’s not sure he ever can properly pay Freddy back. 

This conforms to the canon of the original show and advances the story in this one. I can’t complain! (About this.)

Daphne Babied David?

When Alan brings his new dogsbody David over and Frasier sees firsthand how much Alan is taking advantage of him, he checks in to make sure David’s okay. David says he is, explaining that he was “a little coddled” as a child: “I have yet to eat an intact grape.” I would accept this if the anxious, neurotic Niles had raised David as a single father. But we’ve been told Niles and David’s mother, Daphne, are still together, and Daphne never gave me helicopter-parent tendencies. Daphne was raised the sole daughter in a family full of rambunctious sons, headed by a malignant narcissist mother and an alcoholic father. She made her own way in a new country. She’s been able to look after herself in settings from a creepy pool hall to a high-end restaurant kitchen.

The woman who killed five eels in a single blow might have pretended to go along with her husband’s extremely attentive parenting style, but I feel sure she was at least slipping David full grapes whenever Niles wasn’t around.

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