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Frasier Online Episode Guide -> Season 9 -> Episode 9.17

War Of The Words
Episode Details

Written by: Saladin K. Patterson

Directed by: Sheldon Epps

Original US airdate: 12th March 2002

Original UK airdate: 26th April 2002

Cast Information
Main Cast
Frasier Crane .... Kelsey Grammer
Niles Crane .... David Hyde Pierce
Martin Crane .... John Mahoney
Daphne Moon .... Jane Leeves
Roz Doyle .... Peri Gilpin
Recurring Cast
Frederick Crane .... Trevor Einhorn
Guest Cast
Mr Clayton .... Jeff Perry
Warren Clayton .... Josh Wise
Dr Bernard Gaston .... Philip Casnoff
Amanda .... Morgan Davis
Guest Callers

Episode Synopsis

Frasier is preparing Frederick for his appearance in the National Spelling Bee Championships, which includes a mock contest with Martin and Eddie. This includes learning about Niles' experience at the Spelling Bee championships when he choked on the last word - something that Niles hasn't talked about since. At the Bee itself, Frederick makes it through to the last three which soon becomes a two hander between Frederick and a previous winner, Warren Clayton. Finally,. Warren spells a word wrong and with Frederick spelling his word right, Frederick is the winner!

Later that day, back in Frasier's apartment, everyone is waiting for the ESPN programme to come on that features an interview with Frederick when Dr Bernard Gaston, who is in charge of the Spelling Bee, arrives at the apartment with some bad news - Frederick has been accused of cheating because Frasier was saying the letters along with Frederick. This leaves everyone shell-shocked, but Dr Gaston says the board has awarded the title to Warren Clayton, but he is still invited to the competitors dinner that night. At first Frederick doesn't want to go, but a talk with Niles about his experience changes his mind. At the dinner, everyone ignores Frederick but the Clayton's calling Frasier and Frederick cheaters sparks off a spelling brawl in the streets for the trophy......

Episode Title Cards
  • 41 Words Later
  • Actually, The Letter "Y" Isn't That Friendly

Episode Highlights

- Roz wants Frasier to give Frederick her lucky penny:
Roz: As soon as I picked it up, I started getting lucky.
Frasier: Oh, so that's where it all started (!)

- Martin is concerned Frasier is working his son too hard:
Martin: He should be having some fun.
Frasier: I told him he could bring his clarinet.

- Frasier is worried Frederick is being distracted by the female contestants:
Frasier: There'll be plenty of girls after you win this thing!

- Frasier's reaction to being told Frederick has been accused of cheating

- Frasier is concerned about his son after being accused of cheating:
Frederick: I talked to Mom today
Frasier: You're a bigger man than I am
Frederick: That's what she said!

Frasier Online Episode Review

I dont know what I was thinking when I wrote my original review of this episode, but having re-watched this episode again recently, I can't believe that I gave this episode a far more positive rating than it deserved. For a start, it's written by Saladin K Patterson - a writer whose track record with 'Frasier' episodes thus far has been pitiful at best, so I had been given adequate warning of what was to follow. Roz's lucky penny 'plotline' was utterly cringeworthy, while Martin wanting to understand rules of political correctness was equally as dreadful and completely out-of-character. Perhaps worst of all is the attempt to equate spelling with boxing, which makes sections of this episode quite painful to watch. Frasier's reaction to being told Frederick's been accused of cheating is great, but I'm sorry to say that it doesn't even begin to make up for putting the viewer through an episode that ranks as the worst one that the series ever produced.


45 %

Latest Viewer Episode Review

Avg. Viewer Review: 68.9%
Total Number of Reviews: 15

The glitz and glamour of the bee, May 21, 2013

Reviewer: Sammy J from Melbourne, Australia

"War of the Words" has a checkered critical history among some fans, but honestly, I can't see why. Sure, it's written by someone who wrote "The Wizard and Roz", for me the utter nadir of the first eight (maybe even nine) seasons. And it starts out with some more-than-usually-awkward exposition about Lilith and Freddie, which fails to be funny. Freddie Crane has certainly rebounded somewhat from the kid he was becoming in last season's "Cranes Unplugged", but I guess that was just a phase. However, that's really the only thing I can complain about in this delightful high-concept episode that continues the recent spree of inserting some real pep into these characters.

The idea of Niles as a spelling bee champion, and that the family spun it out of control, is completely fitting. I appreciate the wonderful boxing analogy - for two boys who never played sport but who always had a competitive streak, this makes perfect sense. (And anyone who has watched the documentary "Spellbound" will recognise just how high-stakes these competitions can be.) John Mahoney has fun with the slightly absurdist tale of how Niles "choked" ("sure, he'd spell now and again, but only to help you out"), and David Hyde Pierce's monologue to Freddie in the kitchen, in which he sympathetically assures the boy there is more to life than spelling, is really beautiful. It comes from the place of someone who has seen great ambition and pride, and begun to vault over the other side of that. It's a touching moment that also speaks to the development of Niles over the last nine years particularly now that he has Daphne by his side. Frasier also gets thrown into the mix; amazingly he's not overly competitive about the spelling situation with Niles, but he's a typical pageant dad with Freddie. "So long, home school", indeed! The atmosphere of the bee is captured well, with particular kudos to the actor playing pageant dad John. He's got that nattery, PTA-dad vibe downpat. And the emotional consequences - that Frasier's natural enthusiasm actually ruined things for his son - follow through to a logical climax.

The rest of the cast don't get as much to do, true, but they do it in style. Daphne's overly revealing tale about her father's drinking is just great, and Martin's confusion about when to use racial stereotypes is played very well by Mahoney. Look, I'll concede that both these characters have developed (for better or worse) than who they used to be, and you could argue that this script treats them as an earlier incarnation of their characters, but it still makes me laugh. There are enough delicious character moments (Frasier not knowing where ESPN is, Freddie's "Dad, I wanna spell") to make it worthwhile. Peri Gilpin doesn't get much to do given that her "lucky penny" doesn't end up going anywhere, but she has a cracker line reading in "I found it at the railroad tracks, not in some enchanted wood(!)".

If I had to quibble, I'd say that a child making it to round 11 of the National Spelling Bee wouldn't get "milieu" wrong, but I suppose these kind of pageants reveal many surprises. All in all, this is an episode that takes a more typical, high-concept, sitcommy idea (something the writer, Saladin K Paterson, does often)but this times transforms it into a story that suits the "Frasier" characters and their past. It's not on my Top 10 list, don't get me wrong, but "War of the Words" is consistently entertaining, able to surprise at times, gives some gifts for the lead actors, and has one of the sharpest constructions of any season 9 episode. These last few episodes have been a very welcome return to form.

This is a season 9 highlight for me, maybe THE highlight.

Rating: 85%


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