Paul and Jamie exchange Valentine's day gifts. But instead of skating at Rockefeller Plaza (as they did in the 2nd season), which defines their past, this year they decide to simply exchange gifts. Jamie puts much thought into the presentation of Paul's present, a necktie, and Paul puts little thought into Jamie's present, a house in the suburbs. Paul has actually gone to the trouble of finding and putting an escrow on a house in "Westchester; Irvington, actually", but though Jamie is thankful for the thought, sort of, she's also not so sure she wants to leave the city. Her doubts/fears are emphasized when Paul arranges to have them spend a night in the house before the sale closes, just to settle any Jamie's doubts/fears. The place appears haunted, but the real problem is that Paul's dream of moving to the quiet suburbs is not necessarily Jamie's. Paul, understandably, wants Jamie to agree, but even after she does, it still isn't right. So to nix the sale, Paul insists on including a certain piece of furniture. The original owner can't let go, so it's no sale.
This was one of those episodes which was neither great nor terrible. It was distinctive because of its plot - the Buchman's buying a house in the suburbs - but other than that it was simply a nice mid-season filler which was fun to watch. Two main things, the bad first; where was Mabel? They were buying a house and trying it out for a night and neither Mabel nor Murray was there? Are you kidding me? This couple has more free time from their daughter than they should. And think of the humorous aspects they could have added with Mabel and Murray. And, again, the bad part was not that Mabel wasn't there, it's that there was no mention of her.
Do the writers and producers really think the material they're presenting us is so great that we forget the Buchman's have a daughter and a dog? And a sister, and a cousin, and a mother and a father? After a season and a half of these omissions, this has gotten old. I still love this show, because there are moments of tenderness and inspiration - like Paul saying that if it wasn't Jamie's dream to move to the suburbs, then it wasn't really Paul's - but lately there are way too many times of "where is....".
But this episode really was fine. The second thing I found to be really outstanding, in a good way, was the appearance of both Richard Benjamin and Rhea Perlman. They both put in solid performances, though I thought the writing for Richard Benjamin's part was a bit over the top. I just didn't think he did near as well as Rhea Perlman did. Rhea was semi-great. I've seen her in too many great performances in "Cheer's" to consider this performance "great", but it was solid.
All-in all this was a very enjoyable episode, thought there was nothing to make it either outstanding or great. It simply hummed along with predictable and timely laughs. It's the kind of Mad About You episode which gives me hope that the writers aren't completely tanking this season, but also the kind of episode which worries me that the writers will go on insulting fan's/veiwer's intelligence with such obvious character omissions. Ira or Lisa not being in an episode is one thing, but Mabel being absent is terrible without at least an explaination.
Taking the episode at face value (which is how all sitcoms should be taken) it rates a 7. Solid, enjoyable entertainment, but it's highlights are offset by its deficiencies.