By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14: “Retirement Is Murder” and “Fool Me Once, Shame On You…”
Original airdates: Jan. 10, 1995, Feb. 7, 1995
Andrew: So first thing’s first: Frasier’s Clarence Darrow joke was hilarious.
“Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Twice…” made me think a lot about what Frasier‘s worldview is. After Frasier’s briefcase is stolen, he and Martin engage in a debate about the fundamental nature of people. Martin takes the cynical approach and argues that “people stink,” while Frasier is the idealist, stating that he believes in the fundamental goodness of people. The idealism vs. cynical debate is quite fascinating to me, and although I rank The Wire, one of the most cynical shows ever made, as my favorite series of all time, I tend to fall on the idealist side of the spectrum. So what is Frasier trying to say? That people are fundamentally bad, and Frasier is a sucker? (I know a later season episode is all about the theme “no good deed goes unpunished.) Niles’ behavior contributes to that theme because he does good things for the purpose of being verbally rewarded, and he grouses when people don’t acknowledge his good deeds.
“Fool Me Once…” was certainly funny, but I was very focused on the thematic aspects of the episode. “Retirement Is Murder” is a much more relaxed episode, and is much more “pleasant,” despite revolving around a grisly murder. When Martin obsesses over a 20-year-old case, Frasier and Niles try to get his mind off his obsession by taking him to a Supersonics basketball game. The fun part is that Frasier is genuinely excited for the game. He’s more interested in the symbolism of father and sons going to a game, but he and Martin get along at a sporting event with minimal snark.
Ashley: It appears that while you are more of an idealist, I’m more like Martin and more cynical. I grew up with stories from my dad, the retired cop, and having lived in my share of big American cities, I’m more mistrusting of people. Daphne’s story, which was hilarious, hit the Big City Cynicism on the nose. I could give my own Los Angeles examples of Daphne’s story, but my point is I don’t think people are inherently good. Call me a cynic, but it’s helps me from becoming a sucker. Frasier’s continuous issues with this criminal are laudable, but I kept laughing at him. How can someone so smart, so in tune with the idiosyncrasies and neuroses of human behavior be so easily duped? He may be an idealist but I think Frasier is in more denial than anything else.
He can’t seem to “fix” his thief by confronting him. It’s not about people in this scene, it’s about Frasier trying to prove his worldview and also his psychological prowess: “You’re flawed, but you were given a bad hand and I can fix it.” His logic is sound and it makes sense to me. For a while he makes sense to Phil, but only for the sake of the con. Phil is a sociopath, plain and simple, and he played Frasier like a Stradivarius.
I really enjoyed watching the Crane men at a basketball game. You’re right about Frasier being excited. He did his research and was trying to get his dad’s mind off the case, and through all this have a bonding experience. Niles was just as distracted. He went to the game but immediately put his headphones in to listen to West Side Story.
What did you think of Frasier’s theory about Coco the monkey? He found so many pieces of evidence to support his ridiculous theory. I found his line of thinking similar in absurdity, much like when he tried to reason with Phil.
Andrew: Ah, but much like Martin and Frasier’s confusion about whose point Daphne’s story proved, I could just as easily say that a little weirdness and discomfort is a small price to pay for experiencing the world. Daphne’s tone indicated that her choice of constantly looking down and avoiding others was the wrong one. She focused so much on avoiding discomfort that she missed the world.
To me, Frasier’s misfortune stemmed from his pomposity and pride rather than him being overly idealistic. He wants everyone to know how smart he is, how sharp his analytical skills are, and that his world view is correct. He should have let Roz call the police, but he wanted to catch his impersonator. When he actually confronted Phil, he wanted to show just how great a psychiatrist he is by “fixing” him. Frasier was convinced he could find the goodness in Phil, despite all the evidence to the contrary that he was an opportunistic bastard without a Freudian excuse for being a con man. Being an idealist doesn’t mean that you blindly think all people are good, and Frasier should have realized that Phil was not someone who would make the right choices. But he didn’t, because he wanted to be right. He wanted to prove his “people are fundamentally good” point, but went too far. People may be fundamentally good, but not every person is, and Phil is one such person.
I love Frasier’s theory of whodunnit. But even moreso, I love that “Retirement Is Murder” is fully aware of Occam’s Razor. Frasier’s theory has evidentiary support, but it’s so far-fetched that even the most ardent soap opera fan would roll their eyes if it were true. The case was actually quite simple, it just needed to be viewed properly to see it. While Frasier would look for a solution that could only happen in a story (like Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” for example), the truth is quite mundane. It’s such a great way of examining Frasier’s character while keeping the show grounded.
Ashley: I can get Daphne’s need to look up and take in the world. I don’t skulk around Los Angeles looking down and avoiding the faces of others. It’s quite in the contrary. I’m always looking around. But it’s for two purposes. And I’m certainly not saying being an idealist is a bad thing so long as you have your guard up. Frasier didn’t and he was taken advantage of via his pomposity and quasi-denial of all humans having a “good bone” in their body. I’m just not one of those idealists. But, watching Frasier yell at the cops not to trust the bastard at the end was kind of amazing.
What about Phil pretending to be Frasier? To me that seemed highly far-fetched. His voice is very distinctive even if they’ve never seen his face. How was Phil able to pass himself as Frasier if Frasier is such a well-known Seattle celebrity?
Similarly, Frasier telling a room full of cops that a monkey pumped a woman full of lead was hilarious. His entire explanation about his love for the lowland gorilla, the Vegas monkeys, everything was like watching him dig his own intellectual grave. Sure, he used Occam’s Razor to close the case but he ain’t Sherlock Holmes.
Andrew: I think the show certainly strained credulity in allowing Phil to impersonate Frasier in person. Kelsey Grammer’s voice is much different from Nathan Lane’s, and Frasier has billboards around the city. But I’d be more upset if someone’s characterization were violated in service of a joke than I am by dumbing down the Seattle populace. It actually kind of works in the context of the show (remember the uproar over Frasier’s “leave Seattle” comment) and in service of the cynical message.
Actually, Frasier didn’t use Occam’s razor. Martin did. Once you have removed all impossibilities, the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one. One human being killing another is a much simpler explanation than a human training a chimp to use a gun, shoot the correct person, and then escape undetected. And while Frasier’s theory had some evidentiary support, I loved how, when he tried to explain it to the cops, it got more blustery and grandiose. Instead of explaining that the chimp was trained by a suspect in the case, he launched into an academic seminar about gorillas and postulated about the chimp running around Seattle in Revolutionary War regalia. When put at the center of attention for positive reasons, Frasier can’t help but milk the situation for everything it’s worth. Such is usually his downfall.
Frasier loves doing The Wave
The one thing better than an exquisite meal: an exquisite meal with one tiny flaw to pick at all night
How does the same suit fit both Kelsey Grammer and Nathan Lane? Homemade tailoring using staples.