Halloween buries the lede. The episode opens with David Hyde Pierce arriving at the apartment and talking with John Mahoney about costume problems. Hyde Pierce is throwing a costume party and isn’t having any luck finding Mahoney a Sherlock Holmes outfit. From background to foreground come Kelsey Grammer and Jane Leeves, who are giggling as Grammer does a Chaucer impression (preparing for the party). Hyde Pierce dislikes the convivial mood between Grammer and Leeves, especially when it turns out they’ve been on a microbrewery tour together.
Most of these elements will be important later.
Suzanne Martin’s script—outside multiple racist Native American jokes for Edward Hibbert (but we’re supposed to be laughing at him not with him)—is really well-constructed. It’s a subplots on four burners simultaneously type episode, with them all boiling over in precise unison.
The main plot comes in when Grammer gets to work to discover Peri Gilpin’s having a very off day. After very unprofessionally screaming at her to accuse her of being unprofessional (even the late nineties remain a trip), Gilpin breaks down and tells Grammer she’s having a pregnancy scare. She’s just waiting to hear back from the doctor.
What better way to take her mind of it than going to Hyde Pierce’s party—and now all subplots are in place on the stovetop—plus Dan Butler popping in to announce he’s also going to the party.
The party is going to be Hyde Pierce getting drunker and drunker—Maris has called and said she won’t be able to attend (he’s still in his apartment, complete with Baby the bird, their reconciliation seemingly stalled compared to its trajectory at the end of last season)—and getting very confused about who’s pregnant and who’s the father. He speaks with such authority, he gets Mahoney worked up (and confused), all while Gilpin’s waiting on a call from the doctor, Grammer’s hitting on a fetching fellow party-goer (then wife Camille Grammer, which is cute even if Grammer plays it too horndog), and Leeves is bouncing between the subplots.
Before it’s all over, there will be a marriage proposal, trick-or-treaters, those racist jokes from Hibbert—oh, then just a generally ableist joke regarding another guest because even though Martin’s got a bunch of solid one-liners, she’s got some big whiffs too.
The episode, which ostensibly is about Gilpin waiting for her possibly momentous news, instead of becomes a showcase for madcap Hyde Pierce and it is glorious. There’s a “To Be Continued” tag too, so it’s not like they’re abdicating the narrative responsibility on that arc, it’s just a lot more fun to have Hyde Pierce act a major fool in a fantastic situation.
Hype Pierce, Gilpin, and Leeves are the standouts. Grammer’s good and funny but he’s pretty thin when he’s ignoring everyone’s actual problems. Mahoney’s really funny but all support.
Only the end credits tag—and the shitty jokes, and then a stinker of a recurring joke where the joke is it’s a stinker of a recurring jokes—drag it down.
Excellent Pamela Fryman direction too.