This episode is the first entry in a two-parter, but one of those loose sitcom two-parters where it’s just so they keep them together in syndication. Whatever comes after Back Talk will be inevitably different because, after over a hundred and seventy episodes, “Frasier”’s going to deal with one of its longest-running story arcs.
Not the chair, though it gets mentioned.
No, this episode is where Daphne (Jane Leeves) finds out about Niles (David Hyde Pierce) having a crush on her. Possibly. It depends on how drowsy Kelsey Grammer’s painkillers make him, but Leeves is on a collision course with the reveal.
But it doesn’t start about the seven-year crush; it begins with Grammer’s birthday breakfast and a bad back. And some good jokes with dad John Mahoney giving him gruff. The episode’s script credit goes to Lori Kirkland; Pamela Fryman directs. It’s a near exemplar “Frasier,” from the structure to unexpectedly giving Leeves a big acting task, except it’s too functional. There’s no going back if Leeves finally finds out… you can just see the TV teasers.
When Grammer tells Peri Gilpin about his bad back, she suggests he list his current complaints about the human condition aloud. He finally gives in to the idea—with Hyde Pierce and Gilpin nicely teaming up against him—only when he confesses (to an unlikely recipient) how much he will miss Leeves when she leaves (no pun; to get married), she overhears and thinks he’s got romantic feelings.
Something Mahoney reinforces (without elaborating on). So Leeves thinks Grammer’s got the hots for her and gets really uncomfortable—another great sequence from Leeves. This episode gives her a lot more to do than usual.
Excellent performances from Grammer and Leeves, with some solid scenes for Mahoney too. Gilpin and Hyde Pierce are all support; they’re good and funny, but they’re all support.
There’s a great subplot about Grammer discovering the best salve for his bad back, which comes back in the credits scene just right.
It’s a really good episode. But it’s also a really good episode related to the show’s Achilles heel (or so we’ll soon learn). From here, however, it seems like they’ve got smooth sailing ahead.