In terms of "Frasier"'s concept, To Tell the Truth is the most significant episode they've ever done. They've irrevocably changed something about one of the characters. When you watch the show in reruns, there's before and after this episode, six and a half years into the show's run, and resolving a story arc starting in the third season. The divorce of Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Maris (Maris Crane) is finally resolved, something the show's been boiling on a back burner this entire season and brewing the last two. Started in season three, decides in season six. It's a three-year episode arc.
And they do it in one episode. It's a great episode—I'm guessing director David Lee's best; he's done plenty of the larger scale episodes, but I never think of him as a particularly successful director. The first scene with Kelsey Grammer talking to Hyde Pierce about getting new lawyers leads to Peri Gilpin recommending an ex-boyfriend, they meet the lawyer (a perfect Saul Rubinek, I really hope he and Gilpin get to interact going forward), there's a crisis for Grammer because it's his show still, they wrap it all up, and they give it an epilogue. It's an awesome twenty-two minutes. In a season of strong episodes—and one really shitty one, not ready to forget that one yet—it's far and away the best. It just gets better and better as it goes, ending on a bittersweet and beautifully acted moment from Hyde Pierce.
Everyone gets a lengthy showcase, except Gilpin, who's only in the first scene. She's good, but it's a Hyde Pierce episode, and they're still in a reasonably distant orbit. Hyde Pierce gets a whole range of things to do, comedy and drama, as Rubinek's effective lawyering appears to be rushing the inevitable—Jane Leeves is going to find out about Hyde Pierce's crush on her. Maris's lawyers watched Moon Dance back in season three and are… wait a second; Moon Dance is episode thirteen of season three, Hyde Pierce leaves Maris in episode eight.
Even though Leeves doesn't know about the crush, Grammer does, and they've already established he can't lie. His ethics, you see, which Hyde Pierce accepts but John Mahoney doesn't. So then there's a great father and son scene for Grammer and Mahoney before Mahoney gets a great bit on his own stemming from it too. It's a fantastic family episode, lots of frustrated Crane boys.
But then there's also Rubinek, whose first scene is a comedy goldmine, mixing dialogue and physical comedy. It might be Lee's best-directed scene in the episode, and all of them are well-directed. It's a great introduction to the character, with Rubinek ably putting it all out there.
Rob Hanning gets the credit on the script, which is obviously phenomenal.
To Tell the Truth's one hell of a sitcom episode. Not just a "Frasier," but it's one of the great twenty-two minutes of television.