“Frasier” has had some excellent season finales, but Shutout in Seattle might be the best so far. Definitely when taking into account it’s an hour-long and because it addresses previous plot lines. And because it has an elaborate set-piece conclusion, which director Pamela Fryman sublimely realizes.
The episode opens with David Hyde Pierce and Peri Gilpin at the coffee shop; she’s just been stood up for a date, he’s still recovering from Saul Rubinek proposing to Jane Leeves. Well, more accurately, he’s recovering from Leeves accepting said proposal. He and Gilpin chat a bit about their respective sorrows, comparing. Then, just when it seems like Hyde Pierce is in the lead, there’s a surprise to put Gilpin ahead.
Hyde Pierce is going to be the focus of the first third or so of the episode. He’s the only single person he knows (besides Gilpin), and there’s a lengthy sequence at the apartment where the happy couples can’t stop being happy in front of Hyde Pierce. Even when Kelsey Grammer can’t remember Amy Brenneman’s name, calling her “Cassandra” (her character’s name is Faye). Cassandra, of course, was the character Virginia Madsen played in the episode where Grammer was dating both women at once. In the still icky recurring subplot, John Mahoney can’t shut up about how much he preferred Madsen because she’s… more voluptuous. Pig Mahoney is gross.
Especially when he’s got his own lady friend, Alice Playten, over at the same time.
And then there’s Rubinek and Leeves, so happy in love. It all makes Hyde Pierce miserable, and he runs off.
While he’s incommunicado for a few days, there’s time for Gilpin’s subplot, which has her making a bad dating choice. The episode will play it entirely for laughs, which works—they’re good laughs—but it’s an incomplete arc. Instead, the episode ties up everything else, seemingly forgetting Gilpin’s arc doesn’t start with her specific dating woes but her general ones. It’s a missed opportunity, one of the few in the episode, instead of the icky Mahoney comments.
Yuck, I just thought of another one I’d forgotten. One the show even acknowledge is gross, with Grammer visibly reacting to Mahoney’s comment.
Otherwise, of course, Mahoney’s good. Most of his arc takes place off-screen, so it’s all about his delivery of the recounting, and he does a fine job.
Hyde Pierce’s arc gives him a bunch to do—he gets to flex more than anyone else in the episode—with Grammer getting a slight arc made funnier with repetitive. Given that slightness, it’s pretty impressive how funny it gets by the end.
Leeves and Rubinek also get a minor subplot, once with occasional sight gags, and it’s cute, but it’s not one of the standouts.
Shutout is an ambitious episode, primarily for director Fryman, who’s got to keep all the plotlines going and all the characters around each other so much, then there’s the incredible real-time finale sequence in the cafe—Ron Volk’s editing got a nomination but didn’t win; I’m curious if what did aged as well as the superb comedy here. David Isaacs gets the script credit, and it’s mostly stellar. Minus the misogyny and the truncated Gilpin arc.
It’s also impressive how well it wraps up, giving a “just right” season finale feel.
Shutout’s excellent. Save the damn icky.
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