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Something's Got To Give

In the current season of Frasier these romantic near misses have brought Niles to a fever pitch of frustration. His brash new divorce attorney Donny Douglas has finally succeeded in extracting Niles from Maris's clutches and forcing a settlement. But while the divorce is now all but final, Daphne has recently started dating Donny and the situation is beginning to look serious. The possibility of marriage is looming on the horizon and Niles is close to suicidal. He hasn't quite run out of tricks, the latest being a scheme to reunite Donny with his old girlfriend, Frasier's producer Roz Doyle, but even that attempt flopped in a recent episode.

Niles's life today is remarkably different from the placid existence he led six years ago when his brother came home from Boston. That Niles was secure in his marriage and his place in the world. His life was orderly and contained few surprises. Niles today is a survivor of divorce, betrayal and the vengeance of a woman scorned, and he is considerably more cynical for the experience. The treachery of his once-beloved Maris is a wound that even his passion for Daphne will not soon heal.

Six years ago his luxurious life with Maris had also nearly erased whatever basic living skills he had acquired as a student and a medical resident. Today he is a veteran of months of hatchback driving, bologna and fruit cocktail lunches and nights on a Murphy bed. He has, however briefly and unwillingly, rejoined the world of middle class America, and it has brought him a new perspective on his own prosperity. How it will affect him in the future -- and his relationship with the working class Daphne -- remains to be seen.

His outward life is not all that has changed. His sense of himself has also undergone a thorough overhaul, and he is no longer in danger of evolving into the "dusty little psychiatrist" he always dreaded becoming. The love of performing he first showed in composing the brothers' prep school musicale resurfaced during his lively substitute appearances on Frasier's radio show, his participation in KACL's revival of an old radio drama, and most recently with his acting in Daphne's musical Christmas pageant. He is readier to poke fun at his own foibles, to the point where he could agree with Roz's assessment of him as a loser for not telling Daphne how he feels about her.

For all his changes, however, Niles still has some ground to cover in his quest for love. If asked, Niles would surely say that he is completely in love with Daphne; in fact he has said so many times to Frasier, to Martin, and now to Roz. But if those closest to him have trouble picturing him with Daphne, perhaps it is because he has yet to show any convincing evidence of love. For all his talk about her beauty, Niles rarely acts unselfishly toward Daphne or puts her interests ahead of his own. He continues to try to break up her romance with his lawyer Donny even though they seem to be in love. And most difficult of all, we have yet to hear Daphne's point of view on Niles as a possible suitor.

Nevertheless, a huge part of Niles's popularity with Frasier fans is the unfeigned sincerity of his passion for Daphne and his hilariously misguided attempts to win her heart by trickery rather than risk a potentially humiliating confession. He's not really convinced that she could ever love a man like him, and Frasier's writers have refused to commit Daphne to viewing Niles as anything more than a trusted friend. As of this writing many Frasier fans are as impatient as Niles for the day when he can, as he once said, "tell her everything and let the chips fall where they may."

The end of Season Six is drawing near, and with it tantalizing hints of possible developments in this excruciatingly slow romance. So for Niles and Daphne fans the burning question still remains -- will they or won't they?

We hope to find out soon.

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