This episode is credited writer Michael B. Kaplan’s first; I may not be keeping good track of the writers on the show, but I’m at least staying familiar with the names and his wasn’t familiar. He does a fine job with it, getting to some good character work in both comedy and drama. Kaplan’s also good at delaying the actual A plot while deliberately laying the groundwork for it.
Art opens with Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney arguing about the latest Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, which they went to go see as a bonding outing; it was Mahoney’s pick and not only did Grammer hate it, he didn’t let Mahoney pay, which aggravates Mahoney. Niles is hanging out at the apartment because… well, Niles is hanging out at the apartment and he’s introducing his B plot about he and separated wife Maris throwing a party for the same day and having to fight for guests.
When Jane Leeves gets home, threatening to cook a sheepshead stew for dinner, the boys run out to a restaurant. A snooty restaurant, where Mahoney wants to pay and Grammer doesn’t want to let him, leading to some conflict and priming the A plot.
So maybe nine or ten minutes in, we get to the full A plot, which has Mahoney getting Grammer a present Grammer really wishes he wouldn’t have gotten him and Grammer’s consternation over how to broach the subject. Simultaneously, Hyde Pierce is fighting to keep his guest list up. Leeves has a little subplot going, which eventually gets replaced by Peri Gilpin’s own nightmare gift situation. Gilpin only gets one real scene—at the station, providing emotional support for a sick-of-home Grammer, but it’s a very good one for the actors.
Where the episode really scores is in the resolution, which starts with Grammer, Hyde Pierce, and Mahoney before segueing into one of those great “Frasier” father and son scenes for Grammer and Mahoney. Grammer missed out on the last one (that episode where Hyde Pierce took over his plot and the corresponding bonding with Mahoney), but this episode’s even better for it. Hyde Pierce doesn’t get shortchanged, however; he’s got a fine resolve to his B plot too, playing into the A plot perfectly.
It’s another outstanding “Frasier,” with a “just right” end credit sequence for Gilpin and her C plot; Kaplan’s got a very good script, Melman’s direction is good, and Mahoney and Grammer get a nice character development arc.