"The Apparent Trap" marks the first episode where Freddie is utilised as an individual character, rather than being the catalyst for a Frasier and/or Lilith plot, and the writers get good mileage out of him being the son of two clever shrinks. The episode's plot is pretty basic, with Freddie attempting to con his parents into getting back together... but there are really three things that make it work:
1) The twists and turns. Of course, there is more to this than meets the eye, and Frasier and Lilith are up to the challenge of second-guessing their son;
2) The reactions of those around them. My favourite line reading of the season must surely be David Hyde Pierce's "what's this joyous news I hear?"
3) The interesting choice to set this episode over the course of one night. While the basic plot is a standard "Frasier" farce, we'd usually expect things to get out of hand in a variety of situations. Instead, the episode restricts itself to Thanksgiving dinner, which makes it a neat little experiment in time and place. It also allows us to be more convinced by the con: over a period of time, Frasier and Lilith would easily have figured out the game. Instead, Lilith - out of her comfort zone - and Frasier, who has been questioning himself this season, are perfectly placed.
"The Apparent Trap" is consistent with laughs, although some of the supporting character dialogue leaves me unmoved. Martin's lecture on Thanksgiving dinners actually gels very much with my own philosophy, which amused me, but the scene feels like it's out of a "Martin Crane" writer's handbook. And Niles vs. the video game is a bit of a tired gag. Still, this is an enjoyable plot that focuses entirely on the main cast, to its strength.
I also appreciate how things have evolved. Freddie, obviously, is showing the first inklings of sexuality: his sly look shared with Niles is more than just a little boy crush. Niles and Lilith have a cheeky new dimension to their relationship in the aftermath of "Room Service" (again, as someone who has been in a similar non-confrontational situation with a close friend and former partner, I like how the episode gets good mileage out of the joke without forcing Frasier and Niles into contrived conflict). And both Lilith and Frasier get to interact with their son in new ways, making me very intrigued to see the remaining Freddie episodes again. (On another note, is Daphne straight-facedly saying the phrase "vortex of evil" the last remnant of the psychic element of her character?)
All in all, "The Apparent Trap" isn't gut-bustingly funny, nor is it the most psychologically probing of installments. However, it treats the main cast well, and gives us a good time. Seeing Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth in perfect comedic union after all this time really does lend weight to Frasier and Lilith's relationship. t
This is the second time a Lilith episode has been set at Thanksgiving and sees her and Frederick paying a visit to Seattle where Frasier agrees to help her write an article about divorced parents, prompting Freddie to concoct a plan of getting his parents back together again in an attempt to win himself a mini bike. The best laughs comes in the first half with Niles and Lilith's first meeting since they slept together resulting in some hilariously stilted chatter and Martin's foot in mouth moment of describing Lilith as a 'witch' proving highly amusing. The main plot does become a bit drawn out towards the end although Trevor Einhorn gives a fine performance as Freddie carries out his devious scheme. The first script from Dan O'Shannon, it's a good episode that with a few more second half laughs and a stronger ending could have been a great one.