After a peculiar opening—Peri Gilpin then David Hyde Pierce interrupt Kelsey Grammer on a date with Grace Phillips at the cafe–Secret Admirer soon becomes a spirited mix of a “Grammer the jackass” episode and a Crane Boys outing. Lori Kirkland Baker gets the script credit, Pamela Fryman directs. Both do some fine work, though Fryman’s got a couple bizarre composition choices. There’s this one close-up of Grammer in particular where the shot just doesn’t work, though maybe it’s Ron Volk’s cutting or Ken Lamkin lighted it wrong; Fryman keeps relying on it, and it hurts the scene (and Grammer’s performance).
Phillips’s backstory as the love interest stands out; she used to work at the radio station with Grammer and Gilpin (only never appeared on an episode, she apparently was some kind of executive, but it’s barely implied), so she knows them. I think she also knows Hyde Pierce. It makes her seem very familiar in the opening scene without actually being familiar. Gilpin’s interruption is just for a joke, but Hyde Pierce is setting up the B plot. He’s overjoyed—the financial settlement of his divorce is finally done.
The elation continues long enough for Hyde Pierce (offscreen) to beat Grammer at squash, which leads to the A-plot complications. Someone has slipped an expensive gift into Grammer’s squash bag, and it’s an ex-girlfriend. And he’s just got to know who, even if it messes up things with Phillips. Even though Phillips isn’t around for most of the episode, she’s never out of mind because the supporting cast repeatedly reminds the increasingly boorish Grammer he’s already got a girlfriend. He just wants one who buys him diamonds (despite the plot not involving any previously introduced characters, it’s very on point for the Frasier character, leading to an outstanding performance from him here).
There’s some excellent material for Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney as they interfere (and don’t), but then there’s also the B plot where Hyde Pierce has to get the soon-to-be ex-wife to sign the final agreement. Obviously, that task will not be going as planned for him. Mahoney, who initially doesn’t get too much to do (not more than Gilpin or Jane Leeves), ends up running the last third or so of the episode, including a hilarious physical comedy bit.
So kind of shaky opening, but it all works out in the end. The credits scene is fantastic. All the acting is real good—Phillips is a great guest love interest, too bad she hasn’t been around more—with everyone getting some fine showcases.
Not quite an exemplar episode, but very, very close.