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Throwback Thursday - Frasier - Something Borrowed, Someone Blue

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Written By: Christopher Lloyd (no, not that one) and Joe Keenan
Directed By: Pamela Fryman
Original Airdate: May 18th, 2000

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

Hello, all! Welcome back to Throwback Thursday! It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these articles – looking it up, the last time the site did one was back in September of 2018. But since people are stuck inside and binging TV shows as it is, what better time for this feature’s return?

And what better way to kick things off than with a memorable episode from Frasier, a series that is considered one of the classic sitcoms of not just the ‘90s, but of all time. A spin-off from Cheers (another classic sitcom), Frasier focused on the titular character, psychiatrist Frasier Crane, as he left Boston and returned to his home city of Seattle, where he reconnected with his father, Martin, a retired cop, and his brother, Niles, also a psychiatrist. Over the course of eleven seasons, the show explored the relationship between the Cranes and the sharp differences in their worldviews and tastes (Martin was blue-collar and down-to-earth, Frasier and Niles were snobby and extravagant). There was also plenty of focus on Frasier and Niles’ own constant competition for prominence within Seattle’s elite circles.

Rounding out the ensemble were Daphne Moon, Martin’s live-in physical therapist, and Roz Doyle, the producer for Frasier’s call in radio show at KACL. They forged their own relationships with Frasier and his family as well, and it was the relationship between Niles and Daphne that created perhaps the most memorable arc of the series’ run. A prime example of the “will they/won’t they?” trope, Niles spent the first six seasons harboring a secret crush on Daphne. Combine that with the occasional flirtations and shippy interactions on both ends (hello, season three’s “Moon Dance” and season four’s “Daphne Hates Sherry”), and fans were hooked and rooting for something to happen between these two.

As the show’s seventh season opened, however, the chances of them getting together seemed slim. Daphne had become engaged to a man named Donny Douglas, while Niles forged a relationship with a woman named Mel Karnofsky. Then, halfway through the season, thanks to an incident with Frasier (long story), Daphne found out about Niles’ feelings for her. At first, she was stunned by the revelation, but as time went on, she found herself starting to fall for him in turn. Meanwhile, it became increasingly clear that Niles wasn’t truly over Daphne. Each assumed, however, that the other had moved on and/or didn’t return their feelings. You can probably guess where this is going.

All of which brings us to this, the hour-long season seven finale, which aired twenty (!) years ago this month. This was the episode that promised to bring the Niles/Daphne storyline to an official resolution once and for all. Were they successful? Let’s take a trip back in time and find out.

Taking a Risk:

The Cranes, along with Daphne and Mel, are returning from a funeral for their doorman, Morrie, who’s suddenly passed away. Since Martin was a good friend of Morrie’s, his wife gifts Martin a bottle from his wine rack. Frasier, ever the wine connoisseur, realizes it’s a rare Château Pétrus from WWII-era France. Roz points out that Morrie was likely saving the bottle for a special occasion that he never got the chance to celebrate, which leads Martin to offer it to Daphne as a wedding gift. Roz’s comment, and that bottle, will come into play later.

Daphne’s touched by Martin’s gesture, which is good, as it seems like she’s taking Morrie’s death especially hard. We soon learn, however, that that’s not the main reason she’s so distressed. Once she has a moment alone with Frasier, Daphne explains that she knows about Niles’ feelings for her. She then admits her own feelings towards him, to Frasier’s surprise. Of course, this makes things quite awkward, considering, y’know, she’s about to marry somebody else in a few days’ time.

Frasier suggests that Daphne talk to Niles about this, and she agrees. But before she can do that, Niles comes to Frasier with his own problem. While planning a brief midweek getaway with Mel to celebrate their six month anniversary, he mentions Mel’s desire for them to live together. Niles is reluctant at the thought, and Frasier thinks his hesitation is due to Daphne, but Niles insists that’s not the case. Rather, he thinks it’s just his usual cautiousness and rigidity talking. Frasier, mindful of Morrie and the importance of taking chances, suggests this could be a chance for Niles to take a risk of his own. His own personal feelings about Mel aside, he just wants Niles to be happy.

A few days later, Daphne awaits Niles’ return from his trip, ready to discuss this whole “feelings” business. Numerous interruptions from family and friends, however, only further stress her out (and it doesn’t help that her obnoxious brother Simon mistakenly believes she’s pregnant). Frasier takes her into the elevator to give her a chance to calm down and focus.

Soon after, Niles arrives, bursting with excitement. Why? Well, it seems he really took Frasier’s advice to heart...and has eloped with Mel! Oops. Martin and Frasier are shocked by the news (as is the audience, judging from their reactions), and Frasier attempts to keep Daphne from hearing about this. Niles doesn’t want to tell her or anyone else just yet, either, so as not to steal attention away from her upcoming wedding. But of course, Mel being Mel, she winds up blurting out the news. Daphne puts on a happy face for the newlyweds, but after making a hasty exit, she breaks down in tears.

End of an Era:

It’s the day before the big wedding, and everyone’s arriving at the inn where the ceremony will be held. Daphne’s wacky family all shows up, with her mom being her ever critical self and her brothers causing chaos from the get-go. Poor Roz, meanwhile, is stuck with Simon as her date, so desperate is she to try and impress an ex of hers who’s attending the wedding.

While all that’s going on, Frasier, concerned, checks in with Daphne. She reassures him she’s fine, and was just suffering some wedding jitters (Me: Uh-huh). She then insists Frasier take the bottle of wine Martin had offered her, as it’s more to his taste than hers. “I promise that when I do drink this, I’ll be thinking of you,” Frasier says. Aw.

That evening, after the rehearsal dinner, Frasier and Martin are sitting at the hotel bar. Frasier’s not the only one who’s aware of the messy situation with Niles and Daphne, as Martin reveals he’s been noticing things, too. Frasier clearly wants to get involved and say something, but Martin warns him to be careful, as there’s “two marriages on the line”.

Their discussion is interrupted as Daphne and Donny join them. As everyone shares a drink, Martin mentions that his favorite beer, Ballentine, is going out of business, which leads to talk of changes in general. The conversation weighs especially heavy as the Cranes and Daphne all reflect on her upcoming wedding, and the realization she’ll be leaving them soon.

The Last Dance:

Niles and Mel join the little gathering at this point, and eventually, all except Niles and Daphne either head out onto the dance floor or sit and enjoy the music, leaving the two together at the bar. They make a bit of small talk before joining the others on the floor and sharing a dance of their own. Niles mentions how it’s been a while since they’d danced together (the aforementioned “Moon Dance”), and they quietly recall that wonderful memory as they sway in each other’s arms. Afterward, they each share a dance with their respective partners...but they can’t help sneaking longing glances at each other all the while. I mean, just look at these expressions:

“Totally moved on”, my foot.

Frasier, having noticed the glances, calls Niles into one of the hotel rooms later on to confront him over the whole situation. He tells him that Daphne knows about his feelings for her, and what’s more, she feels the same way. Soon after, Daphne and Donny show up, and as Donny heads off to bed and Frasier excuses himself, Niles and Daphne at long last get a moment alone to talk. All this knowledge, all this tension, it’s hanging so heavy. Who will break first?

Turns out it’s Niles. He mentions his conversation with Frasier, much to Daphne’s frustration:

“I specifically asked him not to say anything, what was he thinking?!”
“No, I’m glad he told me...”
“Oh, yes, so we can have a big talk about it! That’s what you psychiatrists always do, drag everything out in the open so we can talk through it, no matter how awkward it might be! Well, I just don’t see the point!”

She’s then interrupted as Niles finally, FINALLY says the words fans waited seven long years to hear:

“Daphne, I’m glad he told me...because I love you.”

(I love how you can actually hear people in the studio audience gasp after he says that.)

Now what? Well, sitcoms being what they are, we have to go through yet another round of interruptions from Mel and Donny. Mel’s checking with Niles about their honeymoon plans, and Donny’s concerned about a blister on his foot. “Can you imagine a worse thing to have happened to me the night before my wedding?” he jokes, and honestly, I’m all for Niles and Daphne, but damn if I don’t feel bad for blissfully unaware Donny and Mel here.

Daphne and Niles eventually manage to get everyone out, however, and continue their discussion. Now that Niles has said those three little words, he’s going full steam ahead. He tells Daphne that if she really shares his feelings, he will divorce Mel so they can be together. Yeah. He ain’t playing around. Daphne is overwhelmed by all of this, and not sure what to say, but Niles assures her that whatever her answer is, he’ll accept it.

Before she can answer, though, there’s MORE INTERRUPTIONS DAMNIT DAPHNE’S FAMILY GO AWAY FOR A WHILE! As the Moons all pile into the room to continue their wild party, Niles slips away to the balcony, with Daphne following soon after. He attempts more awkward small talk, but Daphne can’t take it any longer...and pulls him in for a passionate kiss!

This isn’t the first kiss the two have shared, but it’s the most meaningful, given the circumstances. “I think you can call me ‘Niles’ now,” he tells her afterward, before they kiss once more.

So, they’ve officially confessed their love to each other. Time for the happy couple to run off together now, right? Eh, not so fast. To Niles’, and our, surprise, Daphne backs away. She does love him, yes, but she’s about to marry Donny, and Niles already is married. Besides that, they’ve never been on a date before, and don’t really know how they’d be as a couple. Is it really worth the risk? Niles makes one last plea, but Daphne stands firm, and as promised, he ultimately accepts her decision. They tearfully bid each other goodnight, and Daphne exits, leaving Niles alone and visibly heartbroken.

It’s a sitcom, they said. It’ll be funny, they said.

Runaway Bride:

The next morning, Niles is sitting in Martin’s Winnebago, still reeling from the previous night’s events. Frasier and Martin stop by to see how he’s doing, having brought along the Château Pétrus that’s journeyed throughout the episode. The men each take a glass and make a toast in honor of both Morrie and Niles, who just took perhaps the biggest risk of his life. It’s a sweet idea that quickly backfires, as it turns out the wine tastes horrible. Seems Morrie had kept his wine rack in the boiler room. Ick. The toast over, Martin and Frasier leave, and Niles is left alone once more.

Shortly after, there’s a knock at the door, and it opens to reveal...Daphne!

“I was wondering...if you might be free for a date?” she asks a stunned Niles, and he certainly doesn’t need to be asked twice. They then prepare to drive off together, sharing this exchange:

“Fasten your seatbelt, Daphne.”
“Fasten yours, Niles.”

And with that, the episode, and season seven as a whole, comes to a close.

This episode brings back a flood of memories for me. I was fifteen when “Something Borrowed, Someone Blue” originally aired, and believe me when I tell you there was hype around this finale. NBC’s ads throughout the season constantly teased viewers with the possibility that Niles and Daphne were about to confess their feelings at any point and time, and I distinctly remember reading a blurb in TV Guide where the creators talked about the upcoming finale as well (complete with a picture of Niles and Daphne embracing, no less). The ratings were HUGE, too – this was one of the most watched episodes of the 2000s, with a whopping thirty-three million viewers tuning in. Today’s network execs would look at those numbers and weep.

For my part, I didn’t have to wait nearly as long for the resolution to this storyline as those who’d been watching since the beginning did. I’d gotten into the show in 1999, thanks to my parents. A local affiliate showed reruns of the earlier seasons, so I began watching those, and that led me to begin following the then current seasons on NBC. The whole Niles/Daphne storyline drew me in right away – they’re one of my oldest and most beloved ships for a reason, people – and thus, by the time the finale aired, I was among those who eagerly plopped down in front of the TV that night to see how everything would play out. I even remember my dad saying, “Well, I wasn’t expecting that...” when Daphne initially turned Niles down on the balcony.

Rewatching this episode as an adult, it’s interesting the observations one picks up. I can’t help wondering, for instance, if the show would’ve held out so long on Niles/Daphne if it were to be made today. In the ‘90s (and even into the first decade of the 2000s), shows loved to drag out the “will they/won’t they?” element for as long as possible. Nowadays, they generally tend to move a lot quicker, with more couples hooking up within the first couple seasons or so. There’s still a few shows that like to play the long game (and for shows with LGBT characters, that can bring up extra issues all its own), but it seems viewers don’t have quite the patience for that setup as they did back in the day. The infamous “’Moonlighting’ curse” doesn’t seem to be as big a concern, either.

Part of the reason, of course, that things have changed so dramatically in that regard is because of the more direct interaction between shows and the fans nowadays, thanks to social media. There may have been people on internet boards talking about Niles and Daphne back then, the way they did about other pairings on various shows, and no doubt the creators, and perhaps the cast, likely got some fan mail on the subject, too.

But one of the nice things about this show was that while the seeds were planted for a storyline with these two pretty early on, the development and buildup felt very organic and natural. Yes, it took seven seasons for them to get to this point, but it never once felt like it dragged, or like the show was messing around just to mess around, or that they were beholden solely to fan pressure. By all accounts, the show’s decision to put these two together was more their choice than anyone else’s.

That being said, one obvious aspect that might play a little differently today than it did back then is, of course, the fact Niles and Daphne ran out on their significant others. Many people don’t take kindly to that, for good reason, and in this case, it’s especially complicated. While Mel was intended to be a manipulative, controlling woman who was eerily reminiscent of Niles’ first wife, Maris, Donny was actually a decent, good-hearted man, which makes his being jilted particularly unfortunate.

And even with Mel, she may have been unlikeable (which poses its own potential issues with the cliché “awful love interest” trope), but does that justify her being dumped? Yes, Niles’ hasty marriage indicated he wasn’t in the best headspace, but there is a valid argument to be made that they could’ve shown that without going that route, too. Many shows still have characters falling for and running off with others despite being in relationships, so it’s not like this storyline couldn’t be done today. But I imagine there’d be more think pieces and serious discussion accompanying it.

On that note, I also find it interesting that Frasier is so encouraging towards Niles and Daphne here, given his own experience with being both cheated on and left at the altar. To be fair, he does mention that he’s “not in the habit of breaking up other people’s marriages”, but still, it is strange nonetheless. Niles’ own history with that issue in regards to Maris adds a layer of irony to his actions as well, and yet, at the same time, also makes his actions not all that surprising.

All of the above being said, however, there is also the fact that there are plenty of things we enjoy and accept in fiction that we would never do or condone in real life. In the real world, it’s obviously best to break things off with somebody completely before starting up a new relationship. Aside from the obvious moral issues, it also just makes things a hell of a lot less messy.

But of course, this isn’t the real world. It’s fiction. These are characters fans came to love and care about over time. We want them to be happy, just as Frasier does. Niles’ love for Daphne was genuine, and she’d shown some brief yet equally genuine hints of interest in him in turn in prior seasons, to where her falling for him wasn’t that out of the blue. In the meantime, they’d built up a good, solid friendship, and cared about each other. It wasn’t exactly a leap to imagine them together, so it makes perfect sense that fans would root for them.

The fact that David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves act the hell out of this storyline just makes us all the more invested in the outcome as well. One of the many reasons this show is so acclaimed is due to its incredibly talented cast, and indeed, they’re in top form here. The way Pierce shows the sheer relief on Niles’ face when he finally tells Daphne he loves her, and the mix of longing and hope in his interactions with her. Leeves being so expressive in showing Daphne’s conflict and struggle over what to do. The pain, the angst, the’s all here, and I love how Pierce and Leeves capture every second of it.

Kelsey Grammer deserves mention, too. Seeing Frasier in full on protective, caring big brother mode, trying to comfort and help Niles and Daphne, is truly touching. It’s really sweet to see how much Daphne’s truly become part of the family by this point, and how much the others care about her. And John Mahoney is note perfect, as always, in making Martin the voice of reason. On a lighter note, I also love anytime Peri Gilpin gets to let Roz go off on a big ol’ rant about something, which she’s able to do with aplomb here.

It’s up to each individual viewer, of course, to decide how much real world intrusion they’re willing to ignore when watching a TV show. Personally, I’m pretty good at separating reality from fiction, and like I said, this is one of my favorite pairings of all time. There’s just too much that I love about Niles/Daphne, and this episode in general, for me to be all that critical of it. Whenever I rewatch this episode, I feel like I’m fifteen again, right back in front of that TV, hanging on every scene and word like it’s the first time. And when Daphne enters that Winnebago at the end, I’m grinning like a dork and cheering. Every. Single. Time.

Random notes:

-I love the whole bit with Mrs. Richman standing in the elevator and quietly listening in on all the drama.
-Of course Frasier would try and put the blame on Roz for blabbing about Niles’ feelings.
-Daphne stress eating cookies is a total mood.
-One thing I wish we could’ve seen: Roz having her own moment to chat with Daphne and/or Niles about their feelings for the other. Her perspective would’ve been particularly interesting, considering her own history with Donny. I also think it would’ve been more fun for her to dread coming to the wedding because of her ex, only to wind up having a good time sans Simon.

You Get the One, You Get that Other One…:

Roz: “Frasier, I can’t go with you. I mean, going to a wedding with your boss is like going to the prom with your brother.”
Frasier: “Niles and I did not go to the prom together! Our dates were sick and we went stag!”
Niles: “In retrospect, yes, we should’ve canceled the horse-drawn carriage, but hindsight is 20/20.”

What are your memories regarding this episode? How do you feel about the Niles/Daphne relationship in general, and its place in the history of shipping as it pertains to TV? Do you think they would’ve gotten together sooner if the show were around today? What are your favorite seasons, episodes, and scenes from the series as a whole? For those who aren’t familiar with this series, are there any questions you have, or other things you’d like to know about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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