The Apparent Trap is another episode “Frasier” can only do because it’s been running seven seasons, and there’s lots of back story. Plus, guest star kid Trevor Einhorn has aged enough he can more fully participate in the episode. He’s not quite full supporting, but he’s closer than he’s ever been before. It’s a Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) episode and a Thanksgiving episode (the second Neuwirth Thanksgiving episode), so there are the traditional John Mahoney can’t stand Neuwirth, and she weirds Jane Leeves out material.
But it’s the first Neuwirth appearance she and David Hyde Pierce made the beasts with two backs last season, which means there is all sorts of new material for them to work through. And Kelsey Grammer, reacting to all of it. So Apparent has a lot going on before the A-plot finally reveals itself—Einhorn’s trying to get his parents back together. The title, obviously, lends itself to that story, though it also could’ve involved a previously unknown twin.
It’s a funny episode. The main plot’s not spectacular, but they’re able to get a lot of laughs from it. While Einhorn machinates, Neuwirth and Grammer are co-authoring an article (for The New York Times Magazine!) about single parenting when you’re rich, white, and smart. While the beginning of the episode focuses on Neuwirth as the regular cast’s cause for consternation, the second half almost plays like a backdoor pilot for a “Lilith” show. We get to see her as single parent, dealing with Einhorn’s day-to-day problems while (almost always offscreen weekends) weekend dad Grammer mainly just supports her. Despite Einhorn visiting Grammer (Neuwirth’s an unexpected guest), Grammer doesn’t spend much time with him.
Instead, Einhorn’s got a good video game subplot with Hyde Pierce, then the standard boyishly lusting after Leeves (in knowing competition with Hyde Pierce).
But the episode’s mostly Neuwirth’s. She gets a couple great showcases, which just make the opening animosity stuff with Mahoney a little tired after seven seasons.
Grammer also directs the episode, showcasing how far he’s come; when he started, Grammer didn’t appear in the episodes he directed, and now he’s second lead. Though he’s the one giving Neuwirth the showcase. He’s good about sharing the show’s spotlight, especially when directing, even when he’s around.
Leeves has only got a little bit—a funny monologue about unseen fiancé Donnie’s Thanksgiving is the highlight—while Peri Gilpin is only in the first scene, setting up Grammer’s plans, so there are some balance issues. Like Mahoney being missing for the beginning of Thanksgiving dinner like they don’t have enough chairs.
The script credit goes to Dan O’Shannon, his first “Frasier” writing credit. The script does a good job of a traditional, annual, very special episode (Neuwirth or Einhorn guesting, a holiday). It’s an easy episode, but when it’s strong, it’s bending steel bars. Neuwirth’s superb.