It’s a potentially great episode, done in by David Lee’s oddly inept direction during the most important scene—though Ken Lamkin’s photography doesn’t help—and the script. Jay Kogen gets the credit. I’m starting to recognize the new crop of writers on “Frasier” and it’s never for good reasons.
The episode resolves one of the show’s longer running subplots, John Mahoney dating Marsha Mason. Mason hasn’t been around much this season and she gets an okay part this episode (it’s like someone else wrote the dramatic stuff, which is great until Kelsey Grammer can’t act it). She and Mahoney get stuff to do in the second half. The first half is the rest of the cast freaking out about Mahoney proposing to Mason. Rest of the cast except Peri Gilpin. The only thing Kogen can find her to do is a mini-scene leading into another scene in the cafe. It’s a good joke and the episode ends up not having room for Gilpin, but she’s missed when it’s not focused on Mahoney and Mason.
Jane Leeves has found an engagement ring and tells Grammer and David Hyde Pierce about it. All three of them are freaking out, though Hyde Pierce most of all because he hires a private investigator to snoop on Mason’s past. Grammer’s taking the more respectful of Mahoney’s wishes route, though if the detective’s already done the work what’s the harm….
There’s some bad material with about sex jokes about Maris (at , there are a couple transphobic jokes—which is apparently Kogen’s thing, he had one the last episode he wrote too—but eventually, when the story becomes about Hyde Pierce and Grammer intruding on Mahoney’s life, it gets surprisingly good, mostly because of the acting. So it’s even more disappointing when Grammer’s got no idea how to play the dramatic scenes with Mahoney later on. The same ones Lee can’t figure out how to direct and Lamkin can’t figure out how to light. There’s this exceptional performance from Mahoney, but the show lets him down.
It ends up being better than it ought to be, but never deserving of the good work Mahoney puts into it.
I spent the entire last scene wondering how Lee could whiff it so much on the direction; he’s always been absolutely competent to this point and he just cannot make it happen. And then there’s Grammer’s bad approach to it too. Thank goodness for Mahoney, shame he had to Atlas it.