Season 2, episodes 3 and 4, ‘The Matchmaker’ and ‘Flour Child’
Original air dates: Oct. 4, 1994, and Oct. 11, 1994
Kriti: Dating can be a real challenge, sometimes even unbearable. Unsurprisingly, many people eventually give up and take a break from it.
Similarly, making the decision to start a family and have children can be incredibly complex.
The two episodes we’re discussing this week, ‘The Matchmaker’ and ‘Flour Child,’ touch on two of life’s most demanding aspects: finding the right partner and parenthood.
‘The Matchmaker’ and ‘Flour Child’ both hold positions in my list of the top ten Frasier episodes.
The dialogue is cleverly written and filled with wit.
Interestingly, these episodes don’t revolve entirely around Frasier; instead, they explore other characters’ storylines.
Daphne grapples with loneliness during a dry spell in her dating life, while Niles attempts a feeble experiment in parental role-playing with a sack of flour strapped to his chest in a Baby Bjorn.
These episodes epitomize the essence of Frasier: they are theatrical and humorously driven by misunderstandings.
I can certainly relate to Daphne, especially when she mentions that she’s only dating a man when she closes her eyes and concentrates.
The initial scene where she and Frasier discuss their love lives is fantastic, with Daphne’s reaction of lighting a cigarette capturing the essence of the conversation’s dreariness perfectly.
Frasier, in his well-meaning but somewhat clueless manner, invites Tom to his apartment for dinner with his family, thinking Tom’s recent return from London makes him a suitable match for Daphne.
Throughout the episode, Frasier’s dialogue is subtly two-faced, and he remains oblivious to how he inadvertently fuels Tom’s attraction to him (although Roz and Niles play a role in this).
What are your thoughts on Niles’ behavior in this episode? Personally, I found him to be relatively restrained, although his uninvited appearance was noteworthy.
Now, shifting to ‘Flour Child,’ we see Niles trying his hand at fatherhood after witnessing a birth in a taxicab.
Experiencing a surge of paternal instincts, Frasier suggests an experiment where students care for a bag of flour as if it were a real child.
Despite some mishaps like stabbing it with Maris’ hair sticks, dropping it from his car, and accidentally setting it on fire, Frasier manages reasonably well.
Moreover, Niles carrying a sack of flour in a Baby Bjorn while wearing an elegant suit is undeniably adorable.
Sidant: ‘The Matchmaker’ happens to be one of my top three favorite Frasier episodes, alongside ‘The Innkeepers’ and ‘The Ski Lodge.’
What ties them all together? They showcase Frasier at its comedic zenith. In ‘The Matchmaker,’ a series of miscommunications, double meanings, and exaggerated expectations pile up, delivering one punchline after another.
The episode reaches its peak when a frustrated Daphne expresses her feelings in a single, decisive act: she abruptly removes her uncomfortable bra.
In ‘The Matchmaker,’ the show takes the existing character traits of the Crane men – the fey tendencies of Frasier and Niles and Martin’s fondness for male bonding – and amplifies them to create a scenario where they could all be plausibly mistaken for gay.
To the episode’s credit, Frasier’s new boss, Tom, could just as easily come across as heterosexual, adding to the farce by making it entirely believable that Frasier and Daphne would think Tom is interested in her.
Notably, in a time when many films and TV shows often resorted to gay panic for humor, this episode doesn’t make Tom or his sexuality the punchline.
It’s worth remembering that this episode aired in 1994 when societal attitudes were quite different. Here, Tom is portrayed like any other character.
His being gay adds to the frustration of Frasier and Daphne’s plans, but no one treats him as less of a person because of his sexuality.
Niles and Martin both contribute memorable moments in each episode, but they also each have a cringe-worthy moment.
In ‘The Matchmaker,’ it’s Niles mistreating Tom, which teeters on the edge between humorous reaction to competition for Daphne and bitterness.
In ‘Flour Child,’ it’s the fact that, after Daphne asked the Cranes to turn around so she could put on a robe, Niles tried to continue looking, prompting Frasier to physically turn him around.
However, Niles delivers priceless facial expressions in ‘The Matchmaker’ upon learning about Tom’s orientation, particularly his wide, self-satisfied smile in the elevator after revealing the truth to Frasier.
His escapades with the flour sack provide the best comedic moments in ‘Flour Child.’
(Although it was Daphne who excelled in displaying the best facial expressions in that episode.
Her reaction to Niles appearing with the flour sack in the Bjorn makes you wonder how she could ever fall in love with him.
On the other hand, her smile after hearing about Niles’ kidnapping dream suggests some affection for him after all.)
Interestingly, in ‘Flour Child,’ Frasier and Niles seem to reverse their usual ability to relate to others.
While Frasier is undoubtedly a snob, he’s typically portrayed as more personable than Niles, who often comes across as aloof and struggles to understand why his insults would upset Roz.
He also tends to prioritize material possessions over people, as evident when his initial concern after the cab driver’s water breaks is the condition of his calf-skin shoes.
However, as the episode unfolds, Niles demonstrates a great deal of affection for his flour sack and later for the real babies in the nursery.
Frasier, on the other hand, initially acts condescending when asked to sign a get-well card. He doesn’t even know who it’s for and mistakes it for a birthday card.
Later, after realizing his mistake, he becomes more worried about appearing rude (which he has been) than about hurting a coworker’s feelings.
Kriti: Unfortunately, Roz faces frequent slut-shaming within the series.
When she brings out her little black book to help Frasier set up Daphne, Frasier is initially on board until he starts making comparisons between Roz and Daphne.
Frasier assumes that Daphne is more “innocent,” but this assumption may not hold true. Daphne could simply be reserved about discussing her past sexual experiences, whereas Roz is often open about it with Frasier.
Moreover, Frasier encourages Daphne to dress provocatively in a strapless dress to capture Tom’s affection.
This certainly has an effect on Niles (no surprise there) when he offers to assist in the kitchen, commenting on how hard Daphne has worked and how she must be “absolutely strapless.”
If that isn’t a Freudian slip, I don’t know what is.
Niles’ presence at the dinner table, on the other hand, isn’t peculiar.
He’s uninvited, of course, but Frasier had informed Tom that it would be a family dinner at his home.
Niles is blatantly rude to Tom, primarily due to his feelings for Daphne.
He picks apart Tom’s stories, condescends to him, and even physically pushes Tom aside to assist Daphne in the kitchen.
In ‘The Matchmaker,’ he behaves terribly. He takes immense pleasure in revealing Tom’s true intentions to Frasier (after winning the coin toss) and continues to mock Frasier because he mistakenly believes that Tom is interested in Daphne when, in reality, Tom’s preferences lie elsewhere.
This misunderstanding isn’t due to Tom being gay but rather Frasier’s misconception.
However, in ‘Flour Child,’ aside from his initial complaint about calf-skin shoes, Niles is consistently sweet throughout the episode (excluding the towel incident).
He means well and is eager to explore what it would be like to be a father. Despite his clumsiness, he’s dealing with a sack of flour.
I’d like to believe that someone like me, who is terrified of holding an infant (seriously, I have to be seated, the parent can’t stray too far, and if it starts crying, it’s a disaster), would do just fine because it’s a human being, not a sack of flour.
Sidant: Absolutely, Frasier’s assumptions in both episodes lead to significant predicaments.
In ‘The Matchmaker,’ he presumes that Daphne requires protection and is more innocent than Roz, while also unfairly judging the men Roz dates as unattractive and uncouth, solely because he perceives Roz as having too much sexual activity.
In ‘Flour Child,’ he mistakenly believes he’s signing a birthday card solely based on its appearance.
This underscores how he often relies too heavily on stereotypes and preconceived notions instead of genuinely getting to know people.
He assumes that because he’s an expert in psychiatry, he comprehends how people think and function.
However, the reality is that his expertise lies in categories and stereotypes, and he neglects to account for the unique nuances that define individuals.
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