Oh no, Frasier. We’re talking about much more than just a chair.
Frasier is notable for vocally taking up space and thanking himself for it, and yet some of the most memorable declamatory moments in this season have come from his father, Martin. It’s a clever motif, as well: every time Martin has had to monologue wearily at his son it’s been driven by a response to their fundamental differences at every level, yet also it shows us that it’s probably from his father that Frasier got his public speaking abilities. It’s just that Frasier’s talents manifest as abundant self-indulgence whereas his father’s way with words is reluctant, sparing, deployed only when he absolutely has to.
This episode gives us an excellent example of Martin Crane doing just that, and as I said back when I was writing about Episode Three, Martin is so good at undercutting Frasier just when he thinks he’s above everything and smarter than everyone. In this case, Frasier feels he is extremely above his father’s beloved armchair, ancient and ugly, an abomination to Frasier’s excruciatingly curated interior design, and forcing him to have a foot stuck in a world he doesn’t want to be a part of. So he gets his father a new one, and explodes at Martin when he’s not happy with this turn of events. Martin’s all, the chair is the only thing that feels like me around here, and Frasier is all, what do you even want, and Martin’s all – deep breath –
“Really? Okay, I’ll tell you what chair I want. I want the chair I was sitting in when I watched Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon. And when the U.S. hockey team beat the Russians in the ’80 Olympics. I want the chair I was sitting in the night you called me to tell me I had a grandson. I want the chair I was in all those nights, when your mother used to wake me up with a kiss after I’d fallen asleep in front
of the television. You know, I still fall asleep in it. And every once in a while, when I wake up, I still expect your mother to be there, ready to lead me off to bed… Oh, never mind. It’s only a chair.”
Frasier’s effeteness can’t compete with that level of blisteringly sentimental stand-for-the-anthem Americana and he knows it. So he goes to find the chair, which got swiped, and eventually finds it being used at a high school production of Agatha Christie’s play And Then There Were None (I’m choosing to employ the non-racist version of its title because otherwise, yiiiikes) where he ends up getting roped into playing one of the parts by the immensely harried director who is as much in need of an understudy as Frasier is in need of getting that chair back. The show ends without any making-up scene between Frasier and his father but we know that (a) it’s a sitcom, they’ll be fine, the status quo is bigger than all of us, and (b) simply knowing Frasier is undergoing trials of suffering for the sake of his father’s happiness is its own resolution.
To counteract any darkness that inevitably comes from an episode centred around Martin and Frasier’s uneasy relationship, I’d like to draw attention to a fun running gag about everyone trying out Martin’s new chair – with an electric massage function – and finding it to be highly fulfilling.
Frasier: “Oh, MOMMY” (oh, Freud?)
Niles: I never knew a chair could be this satisfying…I never knew that anything could. (Somewhere, perhaps in a Neiman Marcus, Maris’ eyelid twitches involuntarily.)
Daphne: This is enough to make me give up my search for a meaningful relationship. (You could do worse, Daphne.)
Martin’s verdict on the chair’s prowess is also true to form: that’s disgusting! he says, recoiling in horror. (Back in his day men were men and chairs were chairs and everyone knew where they stood. And where they sat.)
The recipe to go with this episode is a homemade version of the American candy bar, the Butterfinger: this is in reference to a scene earlier in the episode, where Niles comes over with an emerald necklace he’s going to give to Maris that he wants to hide at Frasier’s. Daphne tries it on, it falls nimbly down her shirt, Frasier walks in and yells NILES in that voice and Niles refers to himself as a butterfingers. That was enough of a reference for me to go on with, although I don’t know a lot about the source material of that which I’m making – I have a vague recollection of trying a Butterfingers once, while in transit at LAX, eight years ago? So whether or not this recipe bears any resemblance to the real thing will depend on how much of the real thing you yourself have consumed: whatever though, this is really delicious. Crunchy with cornflakes and granules of sugar, salty-sweet, caramelly and nutty, and particularly good straight from the freezer.
adapted pretty directly from this recipe at Chocolate Covered Katie.
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1 and a half cups cornflakes, roughly crushed (I just used my hands)
- a pinch of sea salt
- 100g dark chocolate
Line a tray or baking tin with baking paper. The size doesn’t really matter too much.
Place the sugar and syrup in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a metal or silicon spoon. After it’s been bubbling away for a minute, remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and salt, till it forms a thick sticky paste. Tip the cornflakes in and stir carefully through the peanut butter mixture so every bit of cornflake looks coated, then transfer all this onto your baking tray. Press it out with the back of the spoon to a thin, even layer (it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fill up your whole tin or tray – just press it out till it’s uniformly thick and whatever shape it ends up being.)
Allow to cool slightly then freeze for about an hour, or until it’s completely chilled and solidified. Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave or over a very low heat, and pour it over the top of the chilled peanut butter-cornflake mix, spreading it out evenly. If you just want to drizzle it over the top, or if you want to break the butterfingers into small pieces and individually dip them in chocolate – this is also a good choice. Return to the freezer, then once the chocolate has completely set, break it all into small pieces and keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
Em-Maris-ment of Riches: “Maris is the soul of generosity. Just last week she donated all her old cocktail dresses to a homeless shelter.” Oh, Maris!
Favoured Quote: I love the candid way Daphne says “it’s down me blouse” when Frasier asks her and Niles where exactly Maris’ emerald necklace is. But my favourite moment this episode is just a classic slice of Niles, when he and Frasier are looking for chairs and he asks the shop assistant for something with “the presence of a Mies van der Rohe and the playful insouciance of an early Le Corbusier.” It’s just so lip-smackingly Niles-y! (The shop assistant, demonstrably unmoved by his entreaty: “this one vibrates.“)