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Episode reviews for Episode 9.17 - War Of The Words

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

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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%


45% really?, Jan 19, 2012

Reviewer: enevada from UK

I think the review on here is harsh and it is by far not the worst episode in the collection. The Dog That Rocks The Cradle from season 7 was just boring, but got a higher review on this site. I believe the review is more about punishing the script writer for previous crimes.

Rating: 85%


I loved this episode, Apr 01, 2011

Reviewer: Fido from Cambridgeshire, England

I watched this episode again recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last scene before the credits was hysterical. I don't understand why the episode gets a bad reception. It's not up at the top with episodes like 'Author, Author' or 'The Doctor Is Out', but it's a fun, humorous episode.

Rating: 84%


A fine mockery of bees, Oct 20, 2010

Reviewer: Drew from Washington, DC USA

I was shocked at the poor reception of this episode from many reviewers here. Perhaps this is because the phenomenon of the spelling bee is less familiar to viewers in the U.K., whereas in the U.S. it is a staple event in most school districts, and the final is nationally televised.

As someone with vivid memories of the spelling bees of my youth (I once made it as far as the regional finals), I thought this episode struck a lot of funny notes, even though it went over the top at times in its attempts at farce. The real National Spelling Bee final is held in Washington, D.C., and not Seattle, Washington, but the show reproduced the atmosphere of the bee about right (nervous, brainy kids with their proud and even more nervous parents hanging on every word -- nay, every letter), while mocking the self-importance of the event and its participants. I'll admit that most of the laugh lines were of the throwaway variety, and the plot was unconvincing at times (I would not have been as quick to forgive as Freddy was, but I guess he's a bigger man than I am). Nevertheless there were some memorable moments, such as Niles's Zenlike story about becoming one with the higher truth that is spelling (come on, Niles, you choked!) and the Cranes' furious reaction to the contention that Freddy probably would end up at a state school. This is not a must-see episode, but if you're a recovering ex-bee contestant like I am, it hits close to home in a humorous way.

Rating: 80%


Wonderful Episode!, Dec 24, 2007

Reviewer: Peter from Ohio

This was a great episode! One of my favorites.

It includes such great lines as "Oh, don't worry, son, he'll probably end up at a state school"



Niles:"It was then that I became one with the higher truth that is spelling"

Rating: 93%


Underserving criticism, Dec 07, 2007

Reviewer: Frasiergurl from NC

I have to agree with some of the other viewers. This episode is not at ll. It was a pleasant 'filler'. NIles comment "spell his ass off" was certainly not far fetched. This has got to be the most unfairly rated episode of the entire sesaon...

A nice episode IMO

Rating: 85%


AdmiralXizor, Dec 05, 2007

Reviewer: Quite Underrated from Seattle

I don't make a habit of pre-judging an episode by who wrote it. Generally, I try to figure out what they were trying to do, and whether Frasier & Co. actually pull it off. Even if it's a low-level farcical episode that succeeds in bringing simple laughs (Tales From the Crypt) I'll give it a good rating.

In this case, I have to say that I REALLY liked this episode. It immerses us in a situation that Frasier & Niles take so seriously, but not in opposition to Roz's or Martin's more down-to-earth sensibilities.
In this episode, Martin is just as invested in his grandson's situation and is swept along for the ride without muttering his trademark "Oh Geez..." and limping off into the kitchen. Even Roz tries to keep up without bieng sarcastic.
The comparison of spelling to fighting (not necessarily boxing) is apt, just because everyone involved sells it so well. Everyone is invested in the outcome, to the point that Niles' indignant "then SPELL HIS ASS OFF!!" ties everything up nicely.

It's not often that you see everyone taking something just as seriously (and too far) as Frasier and Niles do. In this case, I do the same thing, and at the end, I'm satisfied.

Not bad... Not bad at all.

Rating: 90%


Just Awful, Jun 07, 2007

Reviewer: Bosun from Kent, England

I just hope anyone who's watching Frasier for the first time doesn't pick this dire episode.
This really is the pits. Don't bother.

Rating: 23%


An underrated episode, May 29, 2007

Reviewer: Jaybee from Wales, UK

Having watched this I'm suprised so many people so strongly dislike it. While I accept it's not neccessarily a classic episode I think it is by no mean a bad one. Some of the negative comments seem hugely overblown about this episode particularly Roz's lucky penny which seems completely in character to me and my only criticism is that it is so brief as to be almost pointless (which again leads me to wonder why so much criticism of such an inconsequential scene).

Part of me is suspicious that there is a level of snobbery about this episode worthy of Frasier and Niles themselves. I wonder how many people would have been so negative about this episode if they didn't know it was written by Saladin K Patterson. The site reviewer for this episode practically admits as much when they say they thought more highly of this episode but later realised who wrote it.

Rating: 85%


Not great - but nothing like as bad as it's painted, May 18, 2007

Reviewer: Streetworker from Manchester, UK

I doubt many people would regard this as a classic. But it has an undeserved reputation as the worst-ever episode of the series. It's no Ham Radio to be sure, but there are worse eps - Season 11's Freudian Sleep springs to mind.

Rating: 75%



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