By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
“Call Me Irresponsible” and “Beloved Infidel”
Original air dates October 21, 1993; November 4, 1993
Ashley: In the seventh episode of Frasier, we get to see his first romantic encounter of the series. Naturally it isn’t the last but, it’s laden with ethical dilemma. One of the many things I love about Frasier is his dedication to his ethics. He always tries to do the right thing no matter how much it can pain him personally. He needs some prodding sometimes but in the end he follows his moral compass.
Frasier’s radio show is kind of amazing to me in the sense that he gives advice to a voice. There isn’t a face involved. To me, not having an ounce of psychiatric training, giving advice to a stranger and not face to face is kind of easy. Easy in the sense that you don’t have to read the emotion in their face as you tell them what you think. Which is partially why I think Frasier’s ethical dilemma regarding the lovely leather-bedecked Catherine is a little easy to deal with at first: Marco is a caller. That’s it. To Frasier, he isn’t an actual patient with a face. But as a doctor, he’s still bound to “do no harm.”
Andrew: The thing I liked most about “Call Me Irresponsible” was that it starts to examine the legitimacy of Frasier’s radio program. Like you said, Frasier is working only with voices, so he is not presented with his patients’ body language. But beyond that, he dispenses advice based on a few minutes’ worth of interaction. Frasier also has ratings to consider; Catherine accuses Frasier of telling Marco to break up with her because it would make for good ratings. Frasier is offended that someone would accuse him of giving advice for the sole purpose of increasing ratings, but while that was not the case, the thought is not unfounded. Think of how his show would be viewed in our current age of “reality” and “self-help” programming, in which people are often emotionally abused and given questionable advice in the pursuit of ratings and juicy sound bites. And besides, even if Frasier isn’t jockeying for ratings, Roz certainly is when she forces Frasier to speak with Marco again (and we’ll soon meet Bebe Glazer, Frasier’s amoral agent, but that’s a conversation for another day). Finally, what ethics apply to Frasier’s show? There’s no doctor-patient confidentiality because people (as far as we know) provide their own names and broadcast their inner demons to the greater Seattle area. But while some psychiatric ethics may be called into question because of the format through which Frasier dispenses advice, the proscription against getting involved with patients and people related to them remains in full force.
In this episode, Frasier’s continuing battle between his intelligence and base instincts comes through his ethical dilemma, and it is wonderfully funny. His struggle to rationalize what is clearly a breach of ethics puts his brain in service of his sex drive as he comes up with unconvincing reasons why it’s ok to date the woman he counseled Marco to break up with. Once he accepts that he is violating his ethics, he is compelled to back off, even as he moans and whines about wanting to sleep with Catherine. And she is of course, no help to him. She appeals to Frasier’s id in the dirtiest, most explicit way allowed by network TV in 1993. What made me laugh hardest, though, and shows that even when teased with steamy sex, Frasier still retains some of his refined sensibilities, was when she insulted his cooking, and that was the only thing that could draw a verbal response from Frasier.
Ashley: I did like that both of the Brothers Crane have a physical response to a breach of ethics. We see Niles getting a nosebleed in the car when he picks up Frasier; Frasier meanwhile gets physically sick when interacting sexually with Catherine. I know in later episodes we get to see at least Niles’ response, usually in regards to Daphne. It makes you think if others have this same response in regards to a breach of ethics or if they pass over it like nothing happened. For me, this episode makes me think of how I’d react if I were Frasier. Would I do the same thing? Would you? He has a bit of power in the sense that he can stop the rekindling of a relationship between a caller and someone with whom he’s interested. Being the selfish human being I am, I’d probably do exactly what Frasier did.
Andrew: I thought “Call Me Irresponsible” did a pretty good job keeping the ethical question somewhat ambiguous for a while. Frasier gave Marco the right advice, both for Marco’s sake and for Catherine’s. Marco was clearly not invested in the relationship, and although Catherine came to the radio station to chastise Frasier, it was most likely in her best interest to no longer be in a relationship with someone who took her for granted. I have to wonder what would the ethical ramifications have been had Frasier met Catherine randomly and only learned about her connection to Marco after dating for a few weeks. I understand why medical ethics would prevent him from getting involved with a patient’s ex, but at first, the circumstances made me think that, in this case, an exception could be made. He didn’t take advantage of her or seek her out, knowing she would be newly single. But once Frasier gave the biased advice, even the advice itself was correct, that is when he crossed the ethical line. And that is when he started having stomach pains.
While we’re talking about ethics and dating advice, what did you think of Frasier first announcing to Seattle that Roz has “been around the block” a few times then asking for her opinion on the issue?
Ashley: It’s funny you mention the “around the block” line. Roz to me just looks annoyed, not offended. I have two thoughts in that regard: 1) maybe it’s well known to the listening public of Frasier’s show that Roz is a serial dater or 2) Frasier is just being kind of insensitive. One of the things I’ve always loved about Roz was how she was very in tune with her sexuality. We’ve seen our share of “lady killers” on television but Roz was the first female character introduced to me (at a young age) that women were just as capable of the same behavior. I don’t think Roz really cares what people think of her personal life, which is awesome, and partially why I admire her so much. So the “around the block” line to me just seems like Frasier being a little insensitive and Roz brushes it off.
Which leads us to “Beloved Infidel”…
Ashley: I like “Beloved Infidel” in that this episode delves into the Crane family history. But that’s really the extent of my enjoyment. Here we learn more about the relationship between Martin and his wife Hester (I don’t think her name is divulged yet) and the effect of the two brothers. The scene in the restaurant was great with Frasier and Niles spying on their father, Niles bemoaning the restaurant can’t be that good if their father chose to dine there, and Marion Lawlor breaking down into tears on what the boys assume is an infamous “Crane First Date”. What did you think of this episode as a whole? It wasn’t terribly humorous to me and it seems to “stir the pot” within Frasier and Martin’s relationship.
Andrew: “Beloved Infidel” is, as you said, a much less humorous episode. It certainly has its moments, such as Niles’ statement that the restaurant can’t be that good if Martin is dining there, Frasier and Daphne considering whether Frasier should grow a mustache after Daphne saw a vandalized billboard of Frasier’s face, and the joke about Niles criticizing his younger self for redundantly using both “vapid” and “vacuous” in a journal entry. But this is an episode that deals with something dramatic, and I was impressed that it presented the betrayal that Martin and Frasier felt by their wives’ infidelity in a dramatic way. The two admitted to each other that being cuckolded was extremely painful and the writers wisely chose to use this to bring father and son closer together rather than to wring laughs out of the situation. The men with whom Hester and Lilith slept with were presented comically, but that almost served to underscore the drama and pain, because Frasier and Martin were not only betrayed, they were betrayed for men they both considered beneath them for various reasons.
But I have a question for you: what are your thoughts on the lengths to which Martin went to preserve Hester’s memory? Over the course of the series, other not-so-flattering details about her will be revealed. And let’s not forget that, when she appeared on Cheers (played by Nancy Marchand, who would later play Tony Soprano’s horrific mother), she tried to kill Diane.
Ashley: As for Hester, I’m sadly not familiar with her past in Cheers (though that sounds like it would be an AMAZING episode and I don’t like Diane anyway). To me, it seemed like Martin loved his wife unconditionally. In later episodes, we learn that further. He knew that his boys were closer to her than they were to him. She was like their rock and they put her on pedestal. To Martin, it seemed only right to keep her there. To the boys, she’s the perfect woman (this is a show with a heavy influence on psychiatry so take that comment as you will) and Martin does the right thing by lying and taking the burden on himself. But it backfires and unites him and Frasier in a common bad memory.
What are your thoughts on Hester? She’s one of the characters that isn’t really personified in the show (until much later) and to me she sort of acts as an Anti-Maris.
Andrew: Most of what we know about Hester we learn via three men who idolize her. But at the same time, their efforts to put her on the pedestal betray some rather nasty details. Frasier admits to Niles that he is having trouble rationally dealing with the situation, even though his job is to provide people driven to irrationality with a rational path. Niles tries to calm Frasier down, but Frasier snaps at him, asking if it troubles him that “your dad cheated on my mother?” Frasier thinks so highly of Hester that when he believes Martin was the unfaithful one, he would mentally disown the man as his father. As you noted, Frasier will address the perils of putting people on pedestals again when Niles and Daphne begin dating, but that will be an explicit examination of Niles’ folly. As far as memory recalls, the characters never address the way they remember Hester. Whether this was intentional on the writers’ part, meant to subtly show how far we will go to preserve the memory of a lost loved one, or not is unknown. But even if it wasn’t, Frasier and Martin’s decision to gloss over Hester’s faults displays both their deep love for their lost family member as well as their own human flaws. Every one of us is flawed in some way. Being unable to see a loved one’s faults, or willfully ignoring them, will only create problems in the relationship.
Ashley: I can understand ignoring faults or weaknesses in someone you seriously care for. I think we’ve all done that kind of thing either in a romantic relationship or with family. It’s hard to realize what someone is capable of (usually in a bad way and this case Hester cheating on Martin) or finally seeing weakness in someone you think so highly of. Martin even mentions that to Frasier “me, you already had a problem with.” And he further drives the point home of asking Frasier if he’ll tell Frederick about Lilith’s behavior.
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