By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2, “Slow Tango In South Seattle” and “The Unkindest Cut Of All”
Original air dates: Sept. 20, 1994 and Sept. 27, 1994
Andrew: And so begins Frasier‘s second season, starting with “Slow Tango in South Seattle,” a rather deep episode about our limited perspective. A new book has captivated the women of Seattle, but Frasier writes it off due to the wistful romance and purple prose. That is until he learns that the book was written by an old confidant from Cheers, and it tells the story of Frasier’s first sexual relationship. The book is told from the point of view of Clarice Warner, the woman who taught piano to a teenaged Frasier, and she recalls how much she was drawn to the sensitive young man and how, when he left without saying goodbye, the experience shattered her. Throughout the episode, Frasier stews over the guilt he feels from how he treated Clarice. His feelings aren’t helped when Daphne angrily chastises him for his cavalier attitude about the relationship. But remember, even though the story is told from Clarice’s point of view, the story was relayed to the author via Frasier, so everything the author knows about Clarice was informed by Frasier. All of Clarice-the-book-character’s longing for Frasier was the result of how Frasier imagined she’d felt after leaving him. The man certainly has a high opinion of himself. The reality is that Clarice knew exactly what was happening; she prefers younger men, and she knew that what they had was a fling. It was the young Frasier who believed himself to be such a casanova, such a sensitive soul, that losing him would be devastating.
This episode serves as a wonderfully subtle character examination, exploring how Frasier sees himself through a poorly written book. Frasier despises the book because of its long-winded nature, yet it perfectly grasps who he is: long-winded and full of himself. But while those traits are very specifically Frasier’s, the tendency to ascribe our own meaning to life events or see events from a narrow and unique point of view is universal.
Ashley: “Slow Tango in South Seattle” is such an interesting episode. One of the things about it is that an author was able to write an entire book based on a story Frasier relayed one evening at Cheers. Granted it is the story of Frasier’s first sexual experience but it teems with hyperbole and a lot of superfluous imagery (like when Frasier skips about three pages of description as he reads the book himself). Another thing is exactly what you mentioned: its point of view is from Ms. Warner. But Frasier originally told the story to Fallow, not Ms. Warner. He certainly thinks he’s pretty special.
I did a lot of eye-rolling throughout this episode sadly. It’s funny and I like it but my eyes hurt a little. I think it stems from the fact that society places a lot of value on a person’s “virginity” (especially as a woman) and this episode only accentuated it. The first time Frasier had sex was with his piano teacher. His piano teacher. This totally creeps me out. Frasier is an accomplished pianist and there isn’t a way to know Ms. Warner was his teacher all those years but it kind of makes my skin crawl that she took advantage in a way.
As for “The Unkindest Cut of All,” we have our first Eddie-centric episode. Eddie the Jack Russell (Moose in real life) is certainly a character in the show and I was always pleased when he was included. And come on, PUPPIES: six adorable little Jack Russell puppies courtesy of Eddie’s dalliances in the park. Martin has never had his little furry friend fixed which leads to an amorous union and voila, six very sweet puppies, one named Basil by Daphne.
This is another episode where “Frasier Knows Best.” He means well but when he takes Eddie to vet the get snipped, Martin gets angry because he overstepped his bounds. I agree here: Frasier went too far. Eddie is Martin’s dog. He feeds him, walks him, loves him. If someone took it upon themselves to take my dog to do something, I’d lose it, too.
Andrew: “Slow Tango In South Seattle” glosses over a lot of the uncomfortable aspects of Frasier’s deflowering. Or at least the ones that can’t easily be mined for comedy. The embarrassment of all of Seattle, including his father and brother, learning how overly romanticized he viewed his first sexual relationship? Hilarious! The fact that Ms. Warner committed statutory rape with him and was implied to have done it multiple times? Not so much. And there is certainly a double standard in play; Martin was borderline proud of Frasier for losing his virginity at such a young age, but imagine his reaction if Frasier were his daughter, taking lessons from Mr. Charlie Warner. Imagine the audience’s reaction. For as smart and funny a show as Frasier is, it can delve into unfortunate implication territory sometimes. I’ve talked at length in these reviews about how Niles’ behavior toward Daphne veered a little too close to creepy for my taste.
“The Unkindest Cut” provided a great example of how to pull of the Niles/Daphne relationship without verging into dangerous territory: make it absurd as possible. His behavior in season one was heightened for comedic effect, but him blowing up at Daphne for talking about her boyfriend can be tied to actual abusive relationships. On the other hand, when Niles put pate behind his ears to lure Eddie to him and by extension convince Daphne that he is a worthwhile guy (dogs can just tell, you know) is fun because it’s an outrageous act and is basically good-natured.
I understand why Martin is upset, but I found myself siding with Frasier in the great neutering war of ’94. Many states and cities have laws requiring that pets be neutered, and Eddie not being neutered affects Frasier in addition to Martin and Eddie. (But how come no one pointed out that their neighbor’s dog wasn’t neutered? Isn’t she just as liable?) Martin’s stubbornness prevents him from doing what he know needs to be done, and after lying to Frasier about it, he shouldn’t be surprised when Frasier takes matters into his own hands. Whether Frasier had the right to get Eddie fixed is up for debate, but Martin can’t expect to have a good relationship with his son if he’s going to lie about doing things that Frasier thinks are absolutely necessary. Either he does what he says, or they discuss the matter and take a third option.
Ashley: I also thought of the Martin-daughter scenario in regards to deflowering: it’s a horrible double standard that we’d romanticize Frasier/Ms. Warner but if the gender roles were reversed it would be considered predatory. In my mind, either way, I consider it predatory. It really creeps me out.
And yes, dogs can tell. My dog has protected me from many a creep while walking down Hollywood Boulevard, all fifteen pounds of him. I found Niles’ behavior in this scene to be silly, much like you. He’s obviously not an animal-lover, or at least awkward with them, but he’s willing to allow a sweet little puppy to lick liver from his ear to show Daphne what a good person he is. I think Niles is a good person actually so adding the liver was odd to me. I know it was done for a comedic effect of course. But he is a good person. The puppy would know.
Eddie not being fixed doesn’t strike me as strange though. It’s hard to police people neutering/spaying their pets. I adopted my dog from a shelter already fixed because, yes, it was a state requirement. But, having been to my share of Los Angeles dog parks (that state your pet MUST be spayed or neutered to be there) I know it’s hard to enforce. Martin could get away with Eddie not being fixed as long as he wanted until Frasier intervened. The same goes for the neighbor Dorothea (unless of course she had papers to breed her dog). I’d still be upset if someone took my Loki to get something done without my knowledge, no matter what it was. I don’t like that Martin didn’t fix Eddie but I also don’t like that Frasier took it upon himself to take Eddie to the vet to get the operation.
Andrew: The point I was trying to make about Frasier and Martin is that they have to communicate if they’re going to live together. Martin can’t expect a healthy, positive living environment if he lies to Frasier. Frasier can’t expect the same if he does things behind Martin’s back. Frasier’s speech at the end, about how Martin fears that he is losing his authority and that there is a difference between the lack of authority and the lack of respect, was very effective after the power struggle depicted in the episode. Martin is relatively conservative, and likely still sees his father/son relationship with Frasier through the lens of traditional parent/child roles. Because he’s the father, he makes the rules. Frasier is an adult, though, with his own ideas about how to run a household, and Martin needs to respect that. At the same time, Frasier can’t treat Martin like an extended houseguest who must acquiesce to his style of doing things. They are roommates, and the only way to build their relationship is to work together.
Thomas Fallow is played by John O’Hurley, who would later become famous for playing J. Peterman on Seinfeld.