Do You Wanna Dance

Air date: May 8, 2000
Source: Review by Josh Bermont

Renee is moving around the apartment when she hears a strange noise. She pauses and looks around, frowning, then goes back to preparing tea in the kitchen, until she hears it again...a muffled squeal, coming from Ally's room. She opens the door and finds Ally lying in bed, trying to look inconspicuous. Renee leans in close, examining Ally's face carefully.

"You've just had sex," she says. 

As Ally protests, Renee looks around the room, inspecting the closet and peering under the bed to find the mystery guest. Blushing, Ally assures her that she was alone and Renee smiles, catching on. She pumps Ally for information regarding the object of her fantasy, and is shocked when Ally finally admits the truth. She was on the Internet, chatting with a man...and typing with one hand. They've been e-mailing back and forth for months, and this is the first time they've actually had cybersex. Ever the skeptical one, Renee observes that the man probably has two heads and a criminal record, asking why they've never met in person. Ally tells her that the anonymity of it all is part of what makes it so exciting...and also, she thinks he hasn't agreed to meet her yet because he's probably married. But he's such an amazing man, and when Billy died, he knew just what to say. "He's a priest!" Renee says. "He's just a guy!" Ally insists. Renee points out that, if he's just a normal guy and he's not married, then he shouldn't have any problem with meeting her in person. Seeing the logic of this, Ally decides to meet him. 

"Moving right along," Richard says at the next morning's meeting, "Bender versus Hanks...Mark, Ally, murder?" Mark says that it's a civil case this time. Bender is claiming emotional distress, and suing his best friend Hanks for having had an affair with his wife. Nelle cuts in impatiently, asking them to move it along because she has a busy day ahead. "Well, then let's by all means speed it up," John says, "Frosty the Snow Girl has plans." They all look at him, stunned. "You shouldn't get to talk to me that way just because you're senior pip-squeak...I mean, partner," she replies. She then makes a formal declaration that she'd like to be made partner, saying that she generates most of the business for the firm and would like to be compensated accordingly. "Over my dead body," John says, "which would still be a few degrees warmer than yours, you rich bitch elitist ice queen." She shoots a grin that's colder than ice across the table at him, and he responds with his familiar uncomfortable grimace. 

In her office, Ally tells John he can't talk to Nelle that way. She's an associate that he had sex with and she can sue him. "Oh, let her try!" John says. "You know what she is, Ally? And I've never used this word describing any woman before, but with her, it's what she is..." Ally warns him again that he could get into real trouble. He remind her that she ended it to his buttocks, that the way she treated him was abominable and cowardly. Ally says that, even though that's true, taking out his hostility against her is against the law. "Balls to the law!" John yells, leaving the office and slamming the door. 

Bender is testifying, saying that he went through high school and college with Hanks. Hanks was even best man at his wedding. "Turns out he was 'best man' with your wife, I guess, too," Mark says. The opposing counsel, a handsome British attorney named Brian Selig, objects. "All right, do we really have to get cheap and gratuitous about this?" he asks in his pleasant accent. The judge advises Mark accordingly. As Bender continues to testify - - saying that, as he'd become more involved in his career, he'd asked his best friend to look after his wife - - Ally starts to exchange flirtatious glances with the opposing counsel. Bender says that Hanks had been sleeping with his wife for two years, and continuing to present himself as a good friend. Selig stands and questions Bender, observing that he had been known to say, on several occasions, that he was at fault for the demise of the marriage. Bender says that yes, he blamed himself for placing his trust in Hanks, and that although he HAD neglected his wife on several occasions, that was the reason he had trusted his "best friend" to take care of her. The barrister quietly submits that he had ceased to be a lover to his wife, that it had been months since he had even kissed her. 

Excited, Ally tells Renee and Georgia that she believes Selig is the man who she's been e-mailing with for months. "He used my e-mail name in two of his questions!" Ally says. "He got it into the questions!" Georgia asks why Ally doesn't just ask him outright. "And what if I'm wrong?" Ally groans. "'I beg your pardon, but did you touch yourself last night with me in mind while reading my e-mails?'" She decides that the only thing to do is just insist on meeting him in person. 

Nelle stalks Richard through the offices, once again reminding him of his promise that she would be made partner in two years. He says that he DID consider it, but upon doing the analysis, decided that it wouldn't work out. When she balks at this, he produces two pie charts by way of demonstration. One shows the pie split in two parts, marked "John" and "Richard." The other shows the pie split into three smaller parts, the third marked "Nelle." He explains that, if she is made partner, it means less money for himself. "And if I did that," he continues, "then how could I look myself in the mirror, or face others? Being generous doesn't earn respect! People may smile and say 'Thank you,' but underneath, they're thinking 'sap.' Leaders don't give away money. You keep as much for yourself as you can, you try to get more even when you don't need it. Giving away money makes you a fool in other people's eyes, especially in the business world.I need to be a good leader, Nelle, not a charitable sap. I would love to see you get richer, but not at the cost of my self-respect." Nelle glares at him, promising that there will be consequences for this. 

Mark steps off the elevator, approaching John and nervously asking him how it's going. John says he's fine...and, as Nelle passes by, he adds that this is in spite of the face that he often has to work with revolting people, once of which he's even dated. She ignores him. "I'm lucky I didn't lose my penis to frostbite," he mutters. Mark clears his throat, stammering that he knows how close John is to Ally and wanted to ask if he'd have a chance at dating her. John immediately says no. When Mark asks why, John explains that, to Ally, the internals matter most, and Mark has the depth of a bottle cap. "That was cold of me," John apologizes. "It's what can happen when you hang out with a popsicle." Nelle stiffens on her way out, biting back a response. John says that, if Mark really wants to go out with Ally, he should just ask her. 

In her room, Ally is chatting online with her secret lover, Renee hanging over her shoulder eagerly and crowing at Ally's e-mail name, "Lover Lips." Still, it's slightly less ridiculous than that of her mystery fellow..."Thunder Thighs." Georgia grins, shaking her head as she works on a file. Ally starts laughing triumphantly as her chatting companion agrees to meet her that night. 

In court, Hanks testifies that he began to fall in love with Bender's wife while looking after her. He tells a story about how the three of them were out together at a bar, and Bender was called away suddenly by work, leaving Hanks with his wife. As he talks about how they started to dance, Ally begins to retreat into a fantasy in which she is dining with Selig...they dance, and he holds her tenderly, looking deep into her eyes. "It was like we had either been together our whole lives," Hanks says, "or we should have been. And then...I don't know if I went to kiss her or she went to kiss me, but suddenly there we were, kissing, right there on the dance floor. My God, it was the most tender, most magical kiss there could ever be..." 

Ally sighs happily, her eyes closed in bliss at the thought. She opens them...and sees that the entire courtroom is staring at her. The British lawyer raises an eyebrow curiously. 

"What do you mean, 'Leave?'" Ling asks. She is in Nelle's office, where Nelle has just finished inviting her to help start their OWN law firm. Nelle says that, with the clients they have, they could make more money by striking out on their own. Ling points out that she's already obscenely wealthy and only comes to work to show off her outfits...if it's just her and Nelle, then there'd be no point! Plus, she'd have to talk to clients, and she hates client. When Nelle asks if Ling actually likes working for John and Richard, she says yes. "They're fun!" Ling says. "But wouldn't you like to go to work with REAL lawyers?" Nelle asks. "No!!!" Ling blurts quickly. Nelle says that she'll leave on her own then, join one of the big firms. Ling reminds her of how long it takes to make partner in a big law firm. Nelle insists that, between her clients, her hair, and sexual harassment paranoia, she'll make partner in a month. Ling looks away, and we can almost see the gleefully amoral woman shudder at Nelle's words. 

At the courthouse, Selig approaches Ally at a drinking fountain and says, "I know this may sound like rather a Neanderthal pickup line, but have we met before?" He says that she was looking at him earlier as though she knew him. Shyly, she says that she likes to distract opposing counsel by looking at them as though she just wants to tear off their clothes and lick them from head to toe. When he says he'd hoped it was genuine, she says that her tongue is free later. He invites her to have coffee with him...and adds that he can't today, because he's got plans later, a personal meeting. Her ears perk up immediately. Is he referring to the meeting she scheduled later with her anonymous lover? She can only hope. Meanwhile, she agrees to meet him tomorrow for coffee, and they return to the courtroom. 

"Okay, so you fell in love," Ally says, cross-examining Hanks. "Why lie to him for two years? You were his best friend, Mr. Hanks, and you continued to hold yourself out as his best friend." He says that it was that friendship that he was afraid of losing. "You were afraid of losing his friendship, but you sleep with his wife?" she asks skeptically. Selig rises, saying, "Objection! Gophering!" Everyone looks at him curiously. He explains that, in England, they call it "gophering" rather than "badgering." The judge overrules, and Ally continues to grill the witness, laying out how Hanks and Bender's wife went out of their way to lie about their affair. The handsome Brit rises again, blurting out, "Pope Paul!" Again, his objection is met with confusion. "Once again I apologize, Your Honor," he explains. "In England, in objections to sarcasm, barristers would often say, 'He's Winston Churchill-ing the witness.' Over the years, it was shortened to just 'Church,' and at some point, it morphed into 'Pope Paul.'" He pauses. "I don't know why...it's...rather silly, really..." He sits back down. 

At a restaurant, Ally waits for her elusive online admirer, debating once again with Renee about whether it's Selig. As the time draws near, they work out a signal...if the fellow turns out to be revolting, Ally will put her purse up on the table and that will be the cue for Renee to join them. "And if he's wearing a wedding ring?" Renee reminds her, "put the purse on the table." 

John enters Nelle's office, asking her for the Penalaskeevitz file. She says that she has it, and when he asks why, she recalls that she had to meet with Mr. Penalaskeevitz when his lawyer happened to be wedged headfirst into an elevator shaft. John snatches the file from her and storms out furiously. 

Ally waits anxiously for her date, and finally, he arrives. "Lover Lips?" he asks. She looks up...and her face fills with horror. A handsome teenage boy slides into the seat across from her. "It's me," he whispers, "Thunder Thighs." She clears her throat nervously, saying she expected someone older and asking just how old he is. "Nineteen," he says. She reminds him that he said he was thirty-three and, smiling, he reminds HER that she said she was twenty-five. She stammers and, laughing, says this turned out to be a pretty big bust. But he doesn't see it that way. When she asks what they'd have in common, he points out that they've been writing back and forth for months about every possible subject and they have quite a bit in common indeed. Trying to squeeze out of this unpleasant situation, she says that she doesn't think they'd be very compatible, and he suggests that they have dinner to find out. Cornered, she agrees...and that's when a police officer arrives with the boy's parents, arresting her and telling her that her date is actually sixteen. 

In court, Mark questions the wife, clarifying that falling in love wasn't something she chose to do. She agrees. "But you did choose to sleep with him, didn't you?" Mark says. "THAT was a choice you made." She says yes. "And the decision to lie...that was a choice too, wasn't it?" he asks, his voice filling with contempt. "When you knew that this new, true love was real, MRS. Hanks, did you THEN tell your husband?" She says that she didn't. Ally frowns, surprised by the sudden venom in Mark's words. It's almost as though he's attacking the wife personally. "Well, then how did he find out about it?" he asks, his voice rising. She says that he walked in on them together. "Is THAT when you decided to be honest about it?!" he bellows. "When he walked in and discovered your legs spread...!" The opposing counsel objects, and the judge warns Mark...but the lawyer continues to hammer at her as though all else is second to making her squirm, making her pay. "'Til DEATH do you part, Mrs. Hanks! You took a vow with that man! Or were you lying at that ceremony too?" Judge Walsh raises his voice, saying that is enough, and the words finally seem to penetrate. Mark snaps out of it and, shooting a look hard enough to break a mountain in half at the witness, he sits down. 

Outside the courtroom, Ally asks him what's wrong, and he tells her stoically that they need to rouse the jury's anger. "Can we talk about YOUR anger?" Ally asks. "No," he replies, his voice hardening. "We cannot." As he leaves, Brian stops Ally in the hall, offering to take her out for that coffee since the judge has suspended the closing arguments until the afternoon. She starts to say yes, but stops herself, saying that she has a probable cause hearing she has to get to. Joking, he asks if it's her own, and she immediately becomes defensive, letting it slip that it IS her own...and, humiliated, admitting that she's charged with statutory rape of a sixteen-year-old boy. She tries to explain and he listens, an amused expression on his pleasant face. "I really am innocent," she finishes lamely. 

John questions Ally on the stand, clarifying that she and the child - - Chris Emerson - - had discussed their ages in their e-mails, and he had claimed to be thirty-three. The judge, a handsome woman in her late forties, listens intently. John asks what the nature of their correspondence was, and Ally insists that it was mostly everyday stuff, books and movies, that sort of thing...they didn't talk about sex often. Finally, he asks if, at any time during their correspondence, she knew Chris to be underage, and she says no. "Didn't he talk a lot about his parents?" the opposing counsel asks. Ally says yes, but that lots of people do. "And his favorite movie?" the lawyer asks. "Spy Who Shagged Me," Ally admits. "And his favorite television show?" Ally sighs..."Dawson's Creek," she says, adding, "but a lot of old men pervs like to watch nubile teens!" The trio of lawyers shrink into their seats, wincing. 

Ally enters Mark's office, and finds him staring out the window, lost in his thoughts. She carefully asks why he attacked that woman on the stand, peering into his face as though trying to find the anger that consumed him earlier. But it is gone, replaced by his usual detachment as he repeats that he's trying to tap into the jury's outrage...that it's just a strategy, nothing more. She says it looked like more than just strategy to her, and he replies coldly that her judgment might be affected, what with being on trial for statutory rape and all. Biting back her pain, she asks what the strategy behind THAT remark was. "I'm sorry," he says quietly. She asks again if everything's really okay. He frowns, thinking for a moment, as though trying to make a decision. "Would you...ever..." he begins, stammering, "want to..." He pauses, looking at her. "...closing," he finishes, saying he was just going to ask her if she wanted to deliver the closing argument, but it probably wouldn't be a good idea. "Never mind," he says quickly, sitting down at his desk to work on the summation. 

"It was my intent to lie," Chris admits on the witness stand. When John asks why, the teen says he's met girls his own age and he wanted to hook up with an older woman. The judge asks why, and Chris - - tossing her a charming grin and obviously undressing her with his eyes - - says that "The Graduate" is one of his favorite movies...and, according to her e-mails, it was one of her favorites too. She had said that society has such a ridiculous double standard when it comes to older men dating women young enough to be their daughters, and that she applauds the older woman who pursues the younger man. "I couldn't wait to meet her," he says, beaming. Ally cringes in her seat. "Did she ever KNOW that you were a younger man?" John asks point blank. Chris says no. 

"There are very few things in life as precious as friendship," Mark tells the jury in his closing argument. "The best part of marriage, even, is friendship! And if we don't associate a duty with it, a duty of loyalty...of honesty...care...then what have we got, really? Is it too much of a burden to ask that friends be honest with each other?" 

"Nobody here - - nobody - - is suggesting that we de-value friendship," Brian says. "I would agree with opposing counsel that there are very few things in life to cherish more. He likened it to marriage; I would agree. It can have the same intensity of emotion, it can be just as complex sometimes, it can be predicated on deep childhood bonds or, in this town, simply the Red Sox. And like marriage, a friendship can be very difficult to quantify. And like marriage, the courts have no business trying to assess blame when one falls apart. Now clearly, Peter and Susan Hanks feel a great deal of contrition for causing Mr. Bender pain. And everybody here, including Mr. Bender, knows that it was not their intent." As he sits back down, Ally's pager beeps, letting her know that the judge has made her decision in the statutory rape case. 

As the judge prepares to announce her decision, Ally rushes in, panting, and takes her place with the three lawyers. "Well, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Ms. McBeal knew she was communicating with a minor," the judge begins. "The charges are dismissed. But before we adjourn," she continues sternly, "let me assume the role of an older but wiser Mrs. Solomon. I imagine you'd like that," she adds, smiling at Chris wryly. "Now, I don't think Ms. McBeal is a predator, but there are plenty out there. And meeting up in person with someone you only know through e-mail, that's insane. You're lucky this is all that's happened." 

As they prepare to leave, Renee says that she hopes Ally learned her lesson...Ally shoots back that Renee was the one who wanted her to meet him. Chris approaches, telling her that he never wanted this to happen and he's sorry for the trouble he's caused her. Ally advises him to find himself a nice seventeen-year-old. "And if she has a friend..." Richard begins. Ally nudges him hard, silencing him. "One kiss?" he asks. She considers it, smiling. "ON THE CHEEK," Renee and John say in unison. She sighs and, leaning forward, kisses him lightly on the cheek. 

Back at the office, John confronts Nelle, saying that he talked to Penalaskeevitz and found out that she's been calling him, telling him it was in his best interests to let HER handle his work. "Why?!" John snaps. "Because it's the truth, you little mayor of Munchkin Land!" she shoots back. "He already has a weird name. He doesn't have to walk into court with a weird lawyer. You little imp," she snarls, storming away. "She called me the mayor of Munchkin Land," John says, grimacing. "And a little imp," Richard reminds him. We can see it burning in John's eyes...this is not over. No, this means WAR. 

In court, the jury finds in favor of Bender, ordering Hanks to pay him damages of $10,000. Mark frowns. "Ten thousand?" he says, more to himself than anyone else. "That's the price tag they put on friendship?" "That's the price tag they put on love," Ally says sourly. Brian approaches, saying that he's still up for coffee even though he realizes he may be a bit old for her. They leave together...and when Ally glances at Mark on her way out, she sees for a moment - - just a moment - - a flicker of resentment on his face as he watches them. 

At the bar, Ally asks Brian if they really do that "Pope Paul" thing in England. "No," he admits. "And the...gophering?" "Made it up," he says. He asks if, after the drink, they go back and hop on their respective computers. She smiles in spite of herself, inviting him to dance. Renee nudges the Biscuit - - still grumpy about Nelle - - and pulls him onto the dance floor. Elaine dances with Richard...and on the other side of the room, Mark sits alone, watching them. 

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JOSH'S BITS AND PIECES: 

* Well, first, it really struck me what a really handsome young man Jonathan Taylor Thomas has grown into! And to think, I remember him back when he was just a smart-assed little kid on "Home Improvement." This episode was interesting, because it dealt with so many issues at once...indeed, the statutory rape case alone tackled two big ones, online relationships and older women dating underage young men. I find online relationships to be an interesting subject. People disdain them so much, saying they're for the desperate and pathetic, and "why can't they get someone REAL?" Well, the way I see it, online relationships - - or even just online sex - - are a pretty easy trap to fall into if you get lonely enough. It can be so much easier than relating to people face-to-face, and that's an attractive prospect. But it's not generally a very good idea, not only from a psychological point, but also because there can be so many dangerous pitfalls, as this instance showed. As for older women dating underage guys...well, on the one hand, the laws are definitely there for a reason, and it would be ridiculous to say it's okay for an older woman to seduce a boy who's under eighteen but that an older MAN seducing a girl - - or boy, for that matter - - who's under eighteen is wrong. Ideally, both should be against the law. But then again, many of you know that I'm underage myself, and the only two relationships I've ever had have been with women who are older than I am. (I dated a twenty-year-old when I was sixteen, a nineteen-year-old when I was seventeen.) I was mature enough to handle it, and I certainly wasn't being victimized, exploited, corrupted or preyed upon in any way. So is it wrong in every situation? No, I suppose not. (But then again, my parents approved, so legally, you could say that made all the difference.) And in many situations, couples defy the law in such a way and things are fine because it works for THEM. After all, the law was set in place, not to protect the sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds from dating older people, necessarily, but the five- and six-year-olds. But then again, the legal age is STILL the legal age, and are we dealing with a slippery slope if, socially, we accept some underage situations but not others? Interesting issue. 

* Brian Selig...I LOVE him! He's handsome, charming, extremely intelligent, and an excellent lawyer besides. And he's just so sweet in that stumbling, uniquely Brit way! I hope he stays around for a while. 

* Mark's loss of control in the courtroom really wrenched my heart strings. That poor bastard. It's obvious that he was either married or in a comparable relationship, and that his love cheated on him. He's still haunted by this, of course, and who wouldn't be? It's so easy to let something like that destroy you from the inside out...one moment, being consumed by the most volcanic rage at having been betrayed, and the next moment loathing YOURSELF for not having been enough, for the crushing evidence of your inadequacy. Those are the kinds of scars that can never fully go away, the kind that make it so you can't ever really allow yourself to be comfortable the same way in a relationship again, no matter how much you want to. 

* I have to say it...when Hanks was on the stand, and he described how he felt when he kissed Mrs. Bender..."It was like we had either been together our whole lives," Hanks says, "or we should have been. And then...I don't know if I went to kiss her or she went to kiss me, but suddenly there we were, kissing...My God, it was the most tender, most magical kiss there could ever be..." I felt as though Kelley was seeing directly into my soul, putting to words perfectly the night I became involved with my first true love - - the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions - - and it touched me. Do we all have these memories? Do we all experience that same exact moment at some time in our lives, that one precious moment we can never forget and never have quite the same way again, that first kiss of true love where you don't know who leaned in for the kiss but it's so beautiful and so REAL...I wonder. 

* Bender versus Hanks. What are we, a nation of children? Are we on a playground? Are we so utterly weak, immature and self-obsessed that we feel we have to run to a courtroom every time someone hurts us? What happened to Bender is a gruesome tragedy, but it HAPPENS! I agree wholeheartedly with Selig's closing...the courts have absolutely no business being involved in a friendship, or a marriage! It's not the job of the court to make someone feel better because his wife left him, any more than it's the court's job to punish someone for falling in love with another person's spouse! But obviously we're so incapable of dealing with life's problems that we have to run to a lawyer and sue the person who "hurt our feelings!" Once again, the verdict was very disappointing. 

* Nelle's plot has me fascinated! I've always been the type who really appreciates a great villain...one whose schemes are brilliant, twisted and uniquely diabolical, one whose motives we can not only see but kind of grudgingly understand, someone we love to hate. And she's perfect! Not only that, but now she's got three arch-nemeses to match wits with, and they're some of our favorite characters: Elaine, whose nose for gossip and love of a good mystery - - not to mention her anger at being treated like dirt by the elitist bitch - - make her dedicated to taking the rich lawyer down; Richard, motivated by greed to prevent Nelle from realizing her scheme; and our beloved Biscuit, tenacious as a pit viper and twice as cunning, driven by the need to avenge the pain and humiliation he suffered at Nelle's manicured hands. And where will Ling's loyalty lie? This corporate chess game is gonna be spectacular to watch! 

* You know, I feel so sorry for Judge Walsh. I know that cases are assigned to judges randomly, and that guy's got to have the worst luck in the world...it seems like he's the judge in every single case the Cage/Fish firm brings to trial! They piss him off and irritate him so much, the man must be buying antacid by the truckload!!! 

* All in all? A FABULOUS episode! If this show had lost its edge before, it's definitely got it back now, and it's just as good as we remember it! 

* Favorite Line: "I'd sooner puke my intestines and SNORKEL in them than see you naked." - John, to Nelle. 

 

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