Season 5, Episode 15: Spellbound


spellbound

Original Air Date: January 22, 1987.

Written By:  Kimberly Hill

Plot: Nick cheats on Loretta, and Diane and Carla support her in her decision to leave him, despite his considerable charms.  Nick then turns his romantic attentions to Diane.

Thoughts: Tortelli episode ahead, and happily, it's a real winner.  Nick Tortelli and his lovely wife Loretta always make an episode fun, but throw in a generous amount of Diane Chambers interacting with them, and you have superfun.  It's all in the contrasts, and Diane's reactions to these goofballs never fail to make me laugh out loud.  I don't know if they return to the show in later years, but they surely are never as hilarious as they are when Diane's around.  Sam's more of a passive observer in this episode, but he does have some nice moments as well.

So anyway, surprise surprise, Nick's an irretrievable lowlife again, cheating on big dummy Loretta, but this time, Carla takes up for her at Diane's insistence because sisterhood is powerful.  Their drinks and gab session is wonderful, with Carla and Loretta bonding over Nick's animal magnetism as Diane looks on in bewildered horror.  "This is the part I don't get" is the understatement of the year, delivered perfectly by Shelley Long.  Diane is at her wry and dry best in this juxtaposition and her Nick insults are rapier sharp.  These three together could have spun off into their own thoroughly awesome show and I would have been their number one fan.

Nick finally turns up, and his interactions with all three of these women pay off big time.  When Sam sweetly stands up for Loretta, Nick vows to take Diane from him, and holy cow, Diane's wordless reaction to that proclamation is everything.  Even Shelley looks like she's about to crack up at how ridiculous the very idea is.  Then she speaks, and delivers another dead-on zinger that leaves the audience roaring.  Diane is on fire in this episode, I swear!  The icing on this delicious cake is her shared looks with Sam in reaction to Nick's nonsense.

The episode climaxes with Nick's string-accompanied seduction attempts of all three, each failing miserably and more hilariously than the last.  Nick is relentlessly oily, but it's why he's also so terrific to watch. 

Diane finally sends him on his way, and Sam returns to the bar for a romantic and bittersweet ending.  When Diane says she hopes he doesn't let her get away and he says he won't, my heart hurts knowing what is to come.  It's almost as if they know what's coming too, and are powerless to stop it, despite their best intentions spelled out in bold type.  Ugggghhhhh, I don't like where all this is going.

The Frasier and Woody chess b-story is also really strong.  These two are another fun study in contrasts in this episode, and Kelsey Grammer does a fantastic slow burn to nuclear explosion.  Woody seems to enjoy it as much as I do.

Ultimately, I have to say this episode is more than an unexpected treat-- it is a new favorite of mine, delivering the most laughs of the series to date as well as a heartfelt moment between Sam and Diane at the very end that will be quite significant in the coming season finale.  I also love love love this other side of Diane that we get to see in full view here.  Her wit has a real edge that is refreshing and exciting, and Shelley does a fabulous job playing it.  Kimberly Hill, I salute you!

Random: Is it just me or does Diane seem more down than usual at Carla's jibes?  There are no smiles, no eye rolls… just sadness.  It bums me out, mostly because I worry about behind the scenes stuff, I guess.

 "I'm moved beyond recognition." "To come home and find out that a loved one has been unfaithful is a terrible blow. The best therapy is to tell how you feel about it." "I'm against it!" "We'll miss that kind of poignancy, Sam." "From the moment I first saw him, I knew I'd follow him to the ends of the Earth." "Where he's obviously spent a lot of time." "Can you waitress?" "No, but I can do a salute to waitresses in my act!" "Say the word, Blondie, and we can happen." "I'd rather be the love toy of a Greek army battalion." "Okay." "Be strong!" "I mean... nooooo." "These people look up to us. We're role models." "Me? You're taking me? The only thing you should be taking is penicillin." "Oh yeah, and bring a six pack." "Nick and Diane, they don't even belong on the same planet." "The only thing you instill in me is the desire to flee. And then to be de-flead." "I'm sensing that we're not gonna hit the sheets together." "A good woman can make all the difference in the world and yet men are constantly letting them slip away. I hope you don't let that happen to you and certain flaxen-haired beauty in your life." "Don't worry. I won't."