What’s most impressive about Rivals is how “Frasier” can keep doing these episodes. The title refers to brothers Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, who this time think they’re both interested in the same woman, only they’re both interested in different women and are confused. They won’t just talk to each other about it—though Hyde Pierce’s situation is much different than Grammer’s—so they’re able to remain obtuse for long enough the episode can run its course.
Jane Leeves’s only scenes involve her telling Grammer if he’d just talk to Hyde Pierce about it, they’d get it all sorted out, and Grammer waves her off. While it’s a waste of Leeves—the episode also wastes Peri Gilpin for the most part—it’s a very appropriate behavior from Grammer; seven seasons in, the show knows its characters and how to play them off each other, even if the sibling rivalry thing is one of the sitcom’s trope plots by now.
Hyde Pierce is convinced Grammer’s got a crush on station owner’s daughter Katie Finneran, returning from earlier this season, while Grammer’s convinced Hyde Pierce likes Gigi Rice. Rice is Grammer’s new neighbor, who gets locked out of her apartment in just her towel, so John Mahoney takes her in. It gives Mahoney a chance to be a safe but gross old dude and allows him and Grammer to do a fun bit with Mahoney trying too hard to set Grammer up with her.
Very experienced “Frasier” writer Christopher Lloyd’s got the script credit. It knows how to get the laughs; it just has to wiggle a lot to set them up after a while.
Rice is one of Hyde Pierce’s patients, which they aren’t sharing with Grammer, so he’s convinced Hyde Pierce is after her. Grammer can’t stand Finneran, who acts differently around Hyde Pierce, so Hyde Pierce doesn’t believe Grammer’s denials. Rice gets the big introduction scene with Mahoney and Grammer, but Finneran’s basically just in the opening bit, so it’s uneven. Also, the show makes fun of Finneran a lot, so she can’t be too likable. And then Rice is the bigger guest star.
They all end up at a charity ball together, leading to Grammer and Hyde Pierce scowling at each other across the dance floor to good effect. It’s a funny episode, ably directed by Katy Garretson. It’s a successful episode… it’s just… not very ambitious.
The end credits sequence is Gilpin’s sad love life? It’s an out-of-nowhere tag since she had nothing going about it in the main episode; it’s just her character now, unlucky in love. Odd.