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Episode reviews for Episode 9.18 - Deathtrap

Avg. Viewer Review: 70.4%
Number of Reviews: 5

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Top Truths for Teen Sleuths: A Crane Boys Mysteries Workbook, May 21, 2013

Reviewer: Sammy J from Melbourne, Australia

"Deathtrap" is a very peculiar little episode of the show, as others have noted, giving us an unusual structure and concept. It's one that I wanted to dislike for all the conceptual reasons, but ultimately ended up enjoying it. (Although admittedly, in spite of rather than because of those elements.)

At first, I was put off by the decision to reveal the truth to us in prologue. This really does set the brothers in a foolish light and means that the script risks replaying the same joke over and over again. However, I gradually warmed to the scenario because of how well-written and acted the interplay between Frasier and Niles is. Titles of their childhood books like "The Case of the Unhappy Landing", and the workbook title mentioned above; David Hyde Pierce playing the skull as a New England dame; both Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammer orating and pondering together... it's a truly brilliant display of the fact that the cast kept this show together even during its darkest days. Ultimately, yes, I think that the idea of revealing the truth in the episode's prologue was a choice that worked better in concept than execution. Similarly, the rational side of me suspects both that the Crane boys would instantly call the cops rather than tamper with a crime scene, and that they would fail to be quite so seduced by the idea of a complex murder. However, during the episode, the script and performances convinced me enough. After all, we've seen both brothers have been bamboozled by far-fetched conspiracies before. And presenting us with the (pre-existing) idea of the Crane Boys Mysteries creates a reasonably justifiable group madness. After all, second only to their competitive streak is the peculiar folie-a-deux that can occur when Frasier and Niles share an idea but are left unchecked. It's silly but good fun. The development of the joke means that the second act is not simply repeating the idea that the audience is one step ahead, but instead it's another typical example of knowing Frasier is bound to fall, but watching him take those final steps.

The other characters potter around in little subplots that I actually quite like, all of which retain the thematic focus of death. Roz having to replace Alice's hamster is a natural motherly moment which affords us the opportunity to see the adorable Ashley Taylor as Alice. Her easy acceptance of death is actually quite amusing, and the sweet ending with Martin and Eddie is an unexpectedly gentle end to the plot, but sits well with me. The reveal about Daphne's show rats was something that again I doubted at first, but it ends up being consistently amusing as the thread runs through the episode. (If there's one thing that's unusual here, it's the tiny little sequence with the perfect waiter. Partly because the guy will recur a few more times but I don't think we'll see that trait again. And partly because he reminds me of overly-knowledgeable Colette in a previous episode, another character seemingly set up to recur and then dropped midway through her first episode.)

I'm still confused about the structure of "Deathtrap", but as an actors' showcase, it's pure joy.

Rating: 84%


A fine example of what makes Frasier great, Aug 01, 2007

Reviewer: Chris Brown from United Kingdom

I have to disagree with the moderator's appraisal of this episode, which criticised the linear approach to the plot reveal. This is, I believe, what makes this an excellent episode - not too afraid of breaking convention and standing out from the norm, something which left a lot of the later Frasier episodes with a lot to be desired.

Explaining the true function of the skull in the opening scene is the very reason this episode both works and is funny. We know Niles and Frasier are wrong and that's the joy. If reversed, with the flashback being shown at the end of the show, ten or twenty jokes are reduced to just one. And even then a pretty weak one. What makes Frasier and Niles such a great duo is their pomposity and seeing or knowing the failings that they are blind to. The plot reveal at the start is the glue that holds this episode together. Where would the comedy be in watching them come up with murder motives and scenarios if we actually believed they might be right?

On the whole, this is a slow-burning but very satisfying episode, where all the characters are operating at their best. Suspension of disbelief is, of course, required, as it is with most comedy. No, the police would never arrest the landlord without undertaking their own investigations and no, perhaps Niles and Frasier would never dare break in. But that doesn't take away from the fun. And the moment Frasier and Niles realise their mistake, it is so understated and played so brilliantly, its worth the wait.

An enjoyable episode. One of the best in this series.

Rating: 75%


Not a great bounce back from War of the Words, Jul 05, 2006

Reviewer: Sarah from Canberra, Australia

I have to confess that I really dislike this episode. On the up side, there are some great lines here and there, and some wonderful hamming; and I always adore seeing Frasier and Niles as children. Plus, Hal Landon Jr is great, as always.

But the whole premise, to me, just did not ring true. To start with, I have trouble believing a police officer and a psychiatrist were renting a house while they sent their boys to an expensive private school and let them develop expensive tastes and habits. OK, perhaps that's *why* they had to rent. But I doubt it.

More importantly, though - it's just wildly out of character for the Crane boys. Niles breaking and entering out of sheer curiosity? Without a long scene in which Frasier persuades him to abandon his nerves and the post-Daphne Niles preens himself on his derring-do and buys a truckful of grappling hooks and skeleton keys? ... Nah. I don't buy it.

And our two psychiatrists, who we've watched struggling with their ethics and values for nine seasons, playing with what they believe to be the corpse of a murdered woman and tearing up another person's house? I don't believe it for a second. Sure, it's quite funny, because we know where the skull came from, but Frasier and Niles are supposed to believe the skull belongs to a murder victim. So, who are these guys, and what have they done with the Crane brothers?

I know it wouldn't make any sort of episode, but the real Crane brothers would have called the police and run away. Or, called the police and hung around to grandstand. But not for a New York second would they have started interfering with human remains and tearing up the floor. Niles, at least, would be fainting while he tried to stem his own nosebleed.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

What points I do give this episode are pretty much for the adorable junior Cranes, for Hal, and for Daphne's show rats. I begin to wonder if Daphne's increasingly freakish reminiscences are a substitute for the fabulously bizarre tidbits we used to get about Maris, back in the day. Love 'em, whatever the genesis. But overall, low marks from me.

Rating: 38%


'Deathtrap' review, Sep 20, 2005

Reviewer: Jocelyn from London, UK

One of the strangest episodes of 'Frasier', but none the worse for that, this is a really quite enjoyable showcase for the double act of Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce as, finding out that their old family home is up for sale, Frasier and Niles decide to return one night to dig up some childhood mementos buried underneath the floorboards, only to discover a skull which leads them to concoct a theory that it belonged to the wife of the disreputable landlord, Mr Laskoff (a highly amusing performance by Hal London Jnr). This gives the episode a nicely dark edge and, while the main plot is perhaps a bit drawn out overall, it does contain some very funny moments such as Niles' impersonation of Mrs Laskoff (reminiscent of 'Ham Radio') as well as the wonderful zoom in on Niles' face as he says 'Murder!' while the ending is a good one as Frasier and Niles realise their dreadful error when they discover that the skull comes from their childhood production of 'Hamlet' which, unusually, was revealed to the audience in the opening scene with the younger Frasier and Niles, but is no less amusing for it. Sadly, the episode is marred somewhat by the rather dull subplot concerning Alice's dead pet hamster which is little more than padding but for the most part, an agreeably unusual episode.

Rating: 75%


Review of Deathtrap, Apr 19, 2005

Reviewer: Beer Necessity from York, England

Following on from the horrendous "War Of The Words" comes this quirky episode. I really enjoyed it, especially the close up of DHP's face as he ham-ily growls "Murder!" whilst clutching the skull. I also loved his impression of the late Mrs Laskoff whilst holding the skull as a puppet! I found the whole episode lots of fun, but maybe my judgment was clouded by the horror show which preceeded it. I think DHP's performance is the reason why I enjoyed the episode so much, particularly following on from his War Of The Words performance (not his fault though, look at the material he had to work with!). It was an unusual episode of Frasier, and I think that's why it stood out for me in a weak season. I liked Hal Landon Jr's performance as Mr Laskoff, especially for his line "Do I look like I scuba? I'm lucky I don't need a tank to breathe on land!" I also loved his reaction to Frasier asking "I bet you never thought anyone would dig up your wife"! "NO!" he replies, horrified. I also think the fact that the 'mystery' is revealed at the start of the show (I'm always a sucker for flashbacks to young Frasier and Niles) gives the episode an original slant. After all, it's not Murder, She Wrote, it's a comedy show. I enjoyed seeing the Frasier/Niles double act literally digging themselves in deeper as the episode progressed, the audience being made fully aware that they were setting themselves up for a huge fall. Not a classic by any means, but a highly enjoyable one for me during a lean season of Frasier.

Rating: 80%