Happy Birthday, Baby
Air date: April 6, 1998
Summary/Review by Dana Hagerty

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Ally's birthday is just days away, and Elaine has decided to surprise her. She ushers everyone into Ally's office, tells them to act natural, and then sits (not very conspicuously) on the edge of a desk outside the office. Ally arrives, everyone yells "surprise" when she enters her office, and when they try to sing she stops them. (We learn later that Ally is upset about turning 28 because it is only two years from 30.) Before you know it, a cop is there telling Ally he has a summons for her, and then he begins to strip (to the tune of "It's Not Unusual" – it's an unusual choice, but for some reason, it works). One by one, people leave the office, until only Elaine is left, scooping icing off the cake with her index finger and sucking it off.

The next day, Ally arrives for the morning meeting in the conference room with a huge curler still in her hair. Both Georgia and Billy attempt to let her know it's there without embarrassing her, and she finally responds to Billy's prompting. She explains it away as a "fashion thing."

The firm's latest client is Mark Henderson. He's been charged with battery and breaking and entering after coming into the apartment of a woman and tickling her feet while she slept.

Renee is the District Attorney on this case, and when the trial begins, she questions Cheryl (the plaintiff) about the night in question. It was the middle of the night when she was awakened by a draft on her foot, then a tickle. She saw a figure in the darkness and screamed. He ran out -- she called 911.

But when Ally begins to question Cheryl, we discover that Henderson is no stranger. In fact, they had been on three dates. Cheryl had even left her door unlocked that evening, so there really was no "breaking and entering." She also apparently told Henderson at one point that she liked foot massages.

Cheryl is played by Harriet Sansom Harris, who is normally so good at being Frasier's neurotic agent, but was even better in this episode as a shy, lonely woman. She wore a minimal amount of makeup, almost never smiled, and always appeared as if she had just finished a really long cry in the next room.

Well, I guess Elaine took the "fashion thing" seriously, because it isn't long before we see her with a tiny roller in her hair. Greg is at the office signing some papers regarding his case (I'm assuming this was the car accident case), when Elaine asks him if he will sing at Ally's surprise party. She tells him that Ally gets depressed around her birthday, and adds "your not wanting to sleep with her has made it worse." As the elevator doors close on Greg, I'm sure he was wondering "why does Ally tell everyone everything?" I also wondered that for a split second, then remembered that Elaine knows all.

Back in court, Henderson explains that Cheryl not only told him she likes foot massages, but that she also enjoys surprises. He took that as a hint, and decided that if it was a hint, she would have left her door open.

When Greg brings Ally home from a date later that night, she begins to wonder if he is gay since she keeps asking him to come in and he doesn't. But when he kisses her goodnight, she admits to herself that he definitely isn't gay. She tries again to get him to come upstairs and he takes a raincheck. In one swift move, she walks into the apartment, tells Renee that the date went fine, picks up David the blow-up doll, and takes him with her to her bedroom.

After a run-in with Greg in her office, we find Ally in the unisex, filling her hands with water, then getting them close to her face before letting the water go into the sink and repeating the process. When Georgia asks Ally what she is doing, she says she is splashing cold water on her face, but she can't really do it because then she would have to reapply all her makeup. She blames this on a male-dominated world. She starts unloading on Georgia, listing all of her problems, then turns to walk away and says thanks. But before she leaves, Georgia asks her "What makes your problems bigger than everybody else's?" Ally's response: "They're mine."

Henderson arrives in Ally's office later to try and get her to understand that he truly loves Cheryl. She clears it with Renee, and decides to get Henderson and Cheryl together to talk about it. She invites them both to the downstairs bar.

Ally is in the bar with her co-workers when a spotlight shines on her and Vonda says "Ally McBeal. This one's for you." Vonda begins to sing "I'm a Woman" and after a few bars, Elaine joins her, followed by Renee. (More comments on this included in 'bits and pieces' at the end of the summary.)

When Cheryl arrives at the bar and realizes why she is there, she is angry. Ally concedes that it was wrong for Henderson to go into Cheryl's apartment like that, but that doesn't make him a criminal. Cheryl says he lied to her by pretending to be normal, and when it appears she is about to cry, Ally takes her upstairs to her office to talk. Cheryl says every guy she meets is a loser, and she was so excited when she met Mark because they are both tipsters (people who call radio stations with tips on traffic tie-ups). She thought she might have just found her man, but now she realizes he is sick. Mark walks into the room and tells Cheryl that he realizes he is no bargain. He says he did it because he reads Cosmopolitan, and saw all the stories about women's erogenous zones, but Cheryl doesn't buy that explanation.

Ally goes back down to the bar, only to be surprised yet again by Greg singing "Love Me." But just when Ally starts to smile a bit and enjoy it, Renee gets up and starts singing a duet with Greg. (More comments on this below in 'bits and pieces.') In the middle of the song, Ally leaves the bar and walks home.

Once Renee gets home, Ally gives her a piece of her mind. "You did everything but hump his leg," she says. Renee says she isn't interested in Greg, and adds that even if she was, she would never betray Ally. Greg arrives at the apartment and Ally motions for him to come in. Once it appears as if they may actually make up, Greg announces that he has taken a new job in Chicago. He also thinks he has fallen in love with Ally. She says she knows he has. "This is a sure sign. Men who fall in love with me leave town to promote their careers," she says. He still wants to take Ally out for her birthday the next night, but she says no.

The next morning, Ally is standing in front of the bathroom mirror, hearing her theme song in her mind, and moving to the rhythm. She dances through the living room into her bedroom and sees David the blow-up doll in her bed. She picks him up and starts hitting his head on the bed, then throws him on the floor, and finally jumps up and sits down on his head, popping him. Renee comes to her doorway, and Ally says she isn't freaking out because she is still mad at Renee. She goes off on a tangent about how Greg is an emergency room doctor and lots of people get shot in Chicago and how she can't compete with that. When she walks away, Renee looks sadly at David's flat head.

Elaine comes to the office wearing these ridiculous looking things on her face. She calls them ice goggles, but they were basically a pair of really old glass frames, with tiny ice packs attached to the bottom. Of course, she invented them and she is working on getting a patent.

In court, Ally's main point in her closing argument is that Henderson got assertive instead of letting things take their course as he should have. She adds that sometimes the things you regret the most are the things you don't do. Henderson is found not guilty on both counts and when Ally tells him that she really thinks he could use some counseling, Cage attempts to hand him Dr. Clark's card, but Ally grabs it from him before he can. Henderson talks Cheryl into going for coffee.

As Ally and Cage walk through the hall of the courthouse, Greg calls Ally's name. He is there to tell her goodbye, and says that this job had been in the works long before he met her. She tells him he will love Chicago because the people are great and they have the best ribs and the best cupboards. Greg tells her she probably means "Cubs." (Boy, she really is clueless when it comes to sports.) Greg leans down and kisses her on the cheek. She turns away on the verge of tears, gets into an elevator, and stands in the very back.

Ally goes back to her office and Elaine is there straightening up. She's still got those stupid goggles on, and when she notices Ally staring at her, she takes them off. Ally asks Elaine if she got her anything tangible, like a card, for her birthday. "Are we forgetting about last night?" Elaine asks. "Did the Lord Jesus Christ ask the little drummer boy if he got him anything?" But Ally says that the night before was the same as every night. "It's about you wanting to be noticed," she says. "How long are you planning on keeping this all up?" Elaine says "Till I'm noticed." She tells Ally about how when she was in the fourth grade, her best friend got a brand new bike. Everyone admired it, and they admired her. Elaine's family couldn't afford to buy her a bike, so she tried selling herself to the boys at recess for a nickel. She saved up enough for a bell. She never got that bike, but she said she made a lot of noise with that bell. "I'm as entitled to my happiness as you are to your misery," Elaine says. Ally is obviously touched that Elaine would open up to her, and she invites her to come to dinner with her and Renee. Elaine says maybe next time.

On their way home, Renee buys balloons from a street vendor for Ally. As they cross the street, Ally lets them float away.


It's about time they changed the opening, and I have to say "Bravo!" I know the show is called "Ally McBeal," but this ensemble is what really makes it work. (Entertainment Weekly even says so.) The new shots of Calista along with the addition of pictures of the rest of the cast make this opening much classier than the original.

Vonda, Elaine, and Renee singing "I'm a Woman." You know, if Elaine didn't already walk around every moment of the day wearing her sexuality like a tight dress, then I might have thought that she was pretty sexy. After all, she does have a very good voice. (Jane Krakowski has quite a bit of Broadway experience.) But, when Renee took to the stage, no one else could have compared! I know we've heard Renee sing before, and she is always very good, but tonight, she was SMOKIN'! This woman knows how to work it. And if I haven't already said this, then now is definitely the time. Message to David Kelley: Do not let Lisa Nicole Carson slip away from you! I have never seen her act badly in anything she's done, but when she works with you, she shines!

Now, I've got to rag on Renee a little. She may have a fabulous voice and a body that knows who to work a song, but I thought I was going to reach through the screen and strangle her when she started singing that duet with Greg. I'm surprised Ally stayed and watched as long as she did.

When Ally and the nude model didn't work out, I didn't really feel that she was upset. But tonight, I think almost for the first time, I got angry when Ally got angry and I was sad when she was sad. When she was walking home from the bar while Renee and Greg kept singing, I could see myself doing the exact same thing. And, getting madder and madder with each step. When Greg showed up at their apartment later, her comments where perfect. She had been hurt, the normal reaction is to hurt back. Of course, she wasn't expecting to be hurt again, and when Greg told her about the job in Chicago, she tried so hard to not let him see her pain. She did a pretty good job of it, until he told her goodbye at the courthouse, and for a split second, you could see that if she didn't walk away right then, she would lose it.

So David the blow-up doll is a substitute for a warm body to sleep next to? Actually, I wish I had had something like that when I got upset at my boyfriends. If I had been able to take out my frustrations on a blow-up doll, like Ally did when she beat it against her bed then threw it on the floor then jumped up and sat down on it's head, I probably would have gotten over my breakups a lot quicker. I wonder if Renee will fix David? She seemed pretty upset over his demise.

I loved the little throw-in comment about working in an ER in Chicago. And the fact that she said it to Renee (who plays Carla on "ER") was even better!

So Ally is upset because Greg hasn't slept with her? I know we live in a different world, but what is wrong with getting to know someone? Some people even still believe in waiting until after they get married. She didn't explore any of this with him. She obviously tells him way too much (about her inner thoughts) but she really should have been talking to him about her inner "feelings."

When are these people going to lose a case? Come on, do law firms really have this kind of success rate?

Renee has flirted a bit with Cage in the past, and I always thought he was just flattered but in this episode, he admits he is drawn to her. While she is singing "I am Woman" he mouths the words along with her, and when she gives her closing argument ("Truth be told, I like to get my toes sucked."), I thought Cage was going to have to throw water on his face!

If you have read my comments in the past, you already know that I have never really liked Elaine. If she had been the same Elaine we saw at the end of this episode from the very beginning of the series, I would have felt differently. But, then again, I wouldn't have been able to have this chance to see her in a whole new light. I have a good friend who tells me that I cry at everything, but up until tonight, only one other episode of "Ally McBeal" made me cry, and that was "Boy to the World." When Elaine opened up to Ally about why she tries to get noticed, she was so sincere. When she told the story of being a fourth grader and trying to sell herself for a nickel to the little boys during recess, just so she could buy a bicycle, I finally saw the sad and lonely person that Elaine really is. And I cried when she said that she never got that bike, but she did get a bell, and she made a lot of noise with that bell. All of a sudden, Elaine was no longer a snoop who wanted to be involved in everything, but a real person with hopes and dreams…not only to me, but to Ally. I was very pleased to see Ally ask her to go out to dinner with her and Renee, especially on her birthday, and pleased even more that Elaine declined. The Elaine we saw in the last few minutes of this episode is the real Elaine, and I sincerely hope she shows up more often in the future.

By the way, for the Jesse L. Martin fans (Greg), the rumor is he is expected to be back next season. Even during the summer, I will constantly be on the lookout for new information, so if I learn anything more, I will post it on this site.

Favorite Lines:

Richard: "If you like feet, you'll love wattles."

Ally: "This isn't pain I'm feeling, it's nostalgia."

Final note: When I started writing this summary/review, my original plan was to make it more of a review than a summary. I've been told I haven't included enough of my own thoughts. While I totally agree with that, I have also been reminded that a lot of the people who read my summaries do so because they either missed the end of the show, forgot to tape it, or live in a country where the show doesn't air yet. I decided to stick with the general format that I have been using, although I did add a few more of my own comments into the summary. I will continue to use the "Bits and Pieces" section for my own opinions, and I will work on including even more of my own thoughts on future episodes.

Copyright © 1998 Dana Hagerty. All rights reserved.