The Inmates / Axe Murderer
Air date: April 27, 1998
Summary/Review by Dana Hagerty

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"The Inmates"

Ally, Georgia and Billy are called to the home of a wealthy client who is being arrested for allegedly killing her husband with an axe. Marie Hanson swears she doesn't remember anything, and Billy tells her not to say anything. Ally is obviously thrown by being in the same room with a murder victim. "He's even more dead than I thought," she says. She jumps and exclaims "There's the killer" when she sees Mrs. Hanson covered in blood. As the body is taken away, Ally falls and gets blood on her hand. Then she faints.

Cage is in the unisex explaining to someone he thinks is Ally that it's okay to faint at a crime scene. Ally walks in the door and it turns out Cage was talking to Elaine. He tells her that is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the rest of the firm discusses whether or not they are qualified to tackle the case, and Elaine interrupts to announce that Cage just told her he is afraid of chickens – they make him faint.

Fish and Georgia take on the case of a French Bistro being sued because they fired a straight waiter. Apparently, they only hire gay waiters. I'll just get this case over with right away and continue on with the murder case. Fish argues that there is no special protection for heterosexuals, and while he isn't saying it's right, it's the way the law is written. Personally, I think he had a good point there, but he continues on and says that people who eat in French Bistros expect to be waited on by snobby, elitist gay waiters. "People have come to expect this when ordering a fruity wine," he says. Georgia is not happy with this tactic and informs Richard that she will never go into court with him again. He asks her to give him her shoe and asks if he wanted to sell it, would he have her model it, or him. He says it's not about what is inside, it's about how it is presented. In chambers, the judge tells Georgia and the attorney for the waiter that they should probably settle the case because Richard was right – there are no existing laws protecting heterosexuals.

Billy and Ally visit their client at the jail. She says she remembers going to bed and waking up outside. She informs them that she often suffers from blackouts. Ally is hiding behind Billy, biting on his shoulder. When he notices, she stops. Mrs. Hanson says that she has been seeing a psychiatrist and he has her on medication. She then admits she remembers swinging a hatchet. Ally bites Billy's shoulder again.

Georgia and Renee are in the hallway at the courthouse when Renee says there is a guy by the elevator that wants to ask her out. She's never seen him before, so Georgia bets her ten dollars that he won't. Renee drops her briefcase, the man turns toward her, and she motions him over with one finger. He picks up her briefcase and she asks him if he wants to ask her out. He says sure and she gives him her card.

Fish decides the murder case is too big for them to handle, so he and Cage go to visit Bobby Donnell and his colleagues (from "The Practice"). While there, Cage's nose whistles, Fish touches Ellenor's wattle (twice!), and Cage takes a moment. Fish says if they take the case they will make enough money to paint and fumigate the place. Bobby says they will think about it. Fish and Cage are walking to the elevator and Cage watches Lindsay, another attorney at Bobby's firm, walk to her door. He is getting smashed by the elevator doors as Fish grabs his arm and yanks him in.

Ally is watching an old murder movie in an attempt to desensitize herself to murder when Billy comes up to her and says her name. She screams. After catching her breath again, she asks if they are sure the firm should take the case. "We'll become the kind of lawyers who can look at a dead body and instead of saying why, we will say reasonable doubt," she says.

Ally meets with Mrs. Hanson at the jail again to explain that they have gotten another firm to help with the case. She is still nervous around her client, and tells her that she thinks she committed the crime. "If we weren't separated by these bars I wouldn't be caught dead with you – or maybe I would," Ally says.

Back at the firm, Ally runs right into Bobby Donnell. He introduces himself, and Ally gets all flustered and introduces herself as "Ally Donnell" then corrects herself.

Ally has authorization to meet with Mrs. Hanson's psychiatrist, Dr. Peters, so Bobby comes with her. He confirms the seizures, and says she could have killed her husband during a blackout. He won't tell them any more than that, even though Mrs. Hanson has waived privilege, and says he has to talk to Marie first. Apparently he does, and she gives him consent to talk to them. But Dr. Peters isn't comfortable in court and says he will swear to the blackouts and seizure on paper but doesn't want to be an expert witness. Bobby says he will get him in the witness chair and if he has to, he will beat the truth out of him as a hostile witness.

At the downstairs bar, Renee is dancing with the guy she got to ask her out. His name is Michael and he's a patent attorney. She is dancing very close to him, grabbing his butt, and asking him things like "Are you easily stimulated?" She takes him back to her apartment. He asks if her roommate is home, then asks if she and Ally ever went up against each other. She responds "Would you like to be up against me?" He begins to kiss her, then he starts to grope her and when she asks him to slow down, he doesn't. He grabs her breast and she pulls away, telling him he can leave. He tries to take off her jacket and she hits him. He hits her back, then she kickboxes him to the ground and knocks him out. Ally walks in then and asks how Renee's date went.

Michael has to be taken out on a stretcher and Renee tells the paramedics that he slipped. When they are finally alone, Ally lays into Renee. "You can lead a man by the penis, but it's the wrong way to tame him," Ally says.

The next day, Dr. Peters tells the lawyers that when he used hypnotherapy on Mrs. Hanson, she began talking in a weird voice and said she was Lizzie Borden. He is afraid to get on the stand and testify to that because he feels like he will be a joke and it could damage his practice.

Eugene (a lawyer from Bobby's firm) and Bobby are in the unisex bathroom discussing how crazy the guys at Cage/Fish & Associates are when Elaine comes in, welcomes them to the unisex bathroom, and informs Bobby that she had a dream about him last night during which they had unprotected sex. She enters a stall and squeals with delight because the "seat is cozy." We hear a toilet flush and Cage enters the unisex with his remote flusher, then explains to Bobby and Eugene that he likes a fresh bowl.

In the hallway of the courthouse, Renee is being questioned by some cops. They tell her that she broke a bone in Michael's neck, and she says he deserved it.

Bobby meets privately with Mrs. Hanson and tries to encourage her to not let Cage/Fish & Associates represent her. She declines. When Billy and Ally find out, they are understandably upset. He tells them they are loose cannons and they won't free Mrs. Hanson by "taking a moment." He leaves the office and heads to the elevator. Ally stops him – she's upset that he called them "crazy" and says that he makes crazy sound like it's worse than deceitful. She ends up getting batted back and forth between the elevator doors, falls, blames it on the shoes and throws her shoe. Richard catches it.

An Assistant District Attorney who works with Renee comes to her apartment with some policemen. She is being booked on assault for breaking the guy's neck.

During one of Richard's weird tirades, Billy gets upset and says the firm is a joke and he is embarrassed to be there. He storms out and Georgia follows him to his office. He says he's upset because this case gave them a chance to play on another level and he doesn't think they should have run outside for help. Georgia says Bobby Donnell may be close to their age, but he has five years more experience.

Renee is arraigned in the judge's chambers and she gives the judge a little attitude. Ally is there with her and kicks her chair when Renee says she had probable cause to break her date's neck. The judge says this case will survive probable cause.

The lawyers ask Dr. Peters if Mrs. Hanson could be faking the Lizzie Borden incidents. He says that faking hypnosis is too hard. He is still hesitant to testify in court. Bobby and Billy decide to get mock jurors.

Ally is watching an old murder movie again when this time Bobby scares her by saying her name. She tells Bobby "You think we're all from Mars here." He says he didn't specify which planet. She tells him different firms have different ways of dealing with things, and at Cage/Fish & Associates, they go downstairs at the end of the day and dance.

At the apartment, Ally tells Renee that it's time she take some of the responsibility for the situation she is in. Renee is upset because she feels Ally is turning on her. "I'm always here for you and your problems, which go on and on," Renee says. But Ally reminds her that she also tells Ally where to go when she needs it and that's what she is doing now. Renee says she didn't mean to hurt Michael, and Ally tells her it's okay for her to say that. Ally convinces her to go grab some dinner, and maybe a twin.

At the bar, Ally and Renee dance with the twins. Georgia dances with Billy. Elaine dances with Fish (he lost to Cage when they did rock, paper, scissors to decide who would dance with Elaine). Bobby shows up and watches it all.

"Axe Murderer"

We begin "The Practice" by discovering that the mock jurors the lawyers got for this case aren't buying the Lizzie Borden defense. We also learn that Dr. Peters, while still reluctant, has decided to go ahead and testify in court.

The trial begins. A police officer is being questioned by the District Attorney about the night in question. He says he was called to the area because of a report of a prowler. He found Mrs. Hanson walking around outside in her nightgown and she seemed disoriented. She told him she was looking for her cat. They walked to her house and the front door was open so he went in and saw the bloody body. He said Mrs. Hanson then became hysterical and he had to restrain her. She told him the body was her husband and that she had killed him.

Billy questions the officer about what happened when her first saw Mrs. Hanson. He says that according to the officer's report, she didn't know where she was and she went nuts. He asks the officer if he when he was listening to her, did he actually believe that she believed she had a cat. He says yes.

The lawyers tell Dr. Peters that it is important for him to share with the jury how absurd the Lizzie Borden reincarnation idea seemed to him when he first heard it. He is still afraid that he will be the lead story on the news. They tell him that the chances that this will work aren't good, but without him, Mrs. Hanson will go away for life.

On the stand, Dr. Peters says he had been treating Mrs. Hanson for a year before he started trying hypnosis. He tried it because she would be sleepwalking and suddenly find herself at a store and not realize how she got there. When he hypnotized her, she told him she was Lizzie Borden. When he began asking her questions, she answered them all correctly and gave him information about Lizzie Borden that was in archives and rarely published. He had her sign her name and when he took it to a handwriting expert it was a perfect match.

When the D.A. questions Dr. Peters, he gets him to admit that he was having an affair with her and that he could be in love with her.

Bobby is furious. Dr. Peters says he didn't think anyone knew, but he says he didn't fill her with lies.

Ally thinks maybe they did actually do it together, but Bobby says she passed a lie detector.

The defense brings in other experts who confirm that repressed past lives are much more common that first thought. Meanwhile, the mock jury isn't buying any of it. The defense tries to get Mrs. Hanson to plead to Murder Two, but she won't. Instead, she wants to testify.

On the stand, Mrs. Hanson says she remembers looking for a cat, but that she doesn't have one. Before that, she remembered going to bed. She had been having bad anxiety attacks that day, and when Dr. Peters tried the hypnotherapy again, the attacks kept coming. Her husband was still at work, so she called him and told him she was going to bed. She says she supposes that she fell in love with her doctor because he was the only one who really seemed to understand or sympathize. They decide they have to put the doctor back on the stand. At first, he says no. He says his kids watch the news and he doesn't think they need to keep going through this. Ally convinces him he is the only one who can save Mrs. Hanson.

Back on the stand, Dr. Peters is being questioned by Eugene and says if Mrs. Hanson were faking hypnosis, he would have know it. Eugene takes a different tactic. He suggests that Dr. Peters told her all the Lizzie Borden stuff while she was under hypnosis, then asks where he was the night of the murder. He goes on to suggest that the doctor gave Mrs. Hanson medication that day knowing what it would do to her, and then he killed her husband. He again asks where the doctor was the night of the murder and when he says he was at home, Eugene asks if anyone can verify that. No one can.

Ally is furious by these tactics and asks to talk to Bobby in private. She asks him three times if he really believes that the doctor committed the murder. He finally answers no. She asks why he didn't tell her and he says she would have tipped off the doctor. All they were hoping for was reasonable doubt to use in their closing argument.

Bobby is giving the closing. He admits that maybe Mrs. Hanson killed her husband in some trance. But, maybe, he says, just maybe Dr. Peters came in while she was unconcsoius. Dr. Peters stands up in the courtroom, and the judge repeatedly tells him to sit down. Slowly, he moves his arm, and we see he is holding a gun. He raises it to his temple, and fires.

Outside the courtroom, Eugene asks Billy and Ally if they are okay. The judge has called a mistrial and the case will have to go to trial again. As Eugene walks away, Billy asks if he is okay. Without turning, he says no.

Later that night, Bobby is sitting in the very back of the dark, empty courtroom. We hear footsteps, and Ally walks in. She sits next to Bobby, and tells him that Dr. Peters really did do it. The police found traces of the husband's blood in his car, and he left a note. Ally apologizes for some of the things she said to Bobby, and he says "you didn't say anything I haven't heard before (or that I won't) continue to hear as long….." His voice fades, and Ally asks if he is alright. The camera begins to pull out and show the entire courtroom right as we glimpse the tears in Bobby's eyes.


Before "Ally McBeal" was even over tonight I was thinking 'I bet non-Ally viewers are wondering what all the hoopla is over this show.' Together, both shows were incredible. Alone, "Ally McBeal" is clearly a comedy and "The Practice" is clearly a drama. And it may be the ugly stepchild, but "The Practice" stood out tonight as the one that fit the glass slipper.

Bobby thought the guys at Cage/Fish & Associates were crazy. They may be, but that's what works for their clients. Ally thought the guys at Bobby's firm were hard and unfeeling. That's what works for their clients, but in the end, it's clear they do have feelings and it's clear they sometimes question their tactics. Ally and some of her colleagues have wondered about their own tactics in the past, but I don't get the feeling they make any effort to change those tactics. Bobby and Co. may not either, but I have a strong feeling tonight's actions will stay with them far longer than any of the cases Ally has worked on since starting at Cage/Fish & Associates.

I thought there were some standout scenes in "Ally McBeal". My favorite was when Ally asked Bobby if he wanted kids, then went on to tell him "For the sake of their innocence, you might want to cling to your own – what's left of it." In "The Practice," it was when Ally asked Bobby three times whether he really believed Dr. Peters committed the crime, and he said no. "If I close my eyes I can almost see you as a hero," says Ally. "Too bad my eyes are open." In both cases, Ally and Bobby were alone in a room, and at first I thought that was what made me like those scenes. It wasn't until later that I realized Kelley's characters are at their best when they have a chance to speak what they are feeling.

Elaine was just plain embarrassing. I don't know what Kelley is trying to do with her character, but she just went overboard tonight. "I had a dream last night that you and I had unprotected sex," she says to Bobby. What? If this girl doesn't watch it, she's going to find herself fighting off some guy like Renee was, and I'm willing to bet Elaine isn't a certified kickboxer. I'd be very surprised if she even carries pepper spray.

The case of the straight waiter who was fired because he wasn't gay: It took me half an hour to figure out who was on what side, and what the heck Richard was trying to say. It's hard enough for Ally viewers to follow what's going on at this firm. I'm sure there were many first-time viewers who quickly decided they didn't care about this case, just as I did. All it did for me was reinforce my opinion that Richard should never go into a courtroom.

Kelley has never disappointed me when it comes to consistency, and tonight was no exception. Fish and Cage tell Bobby and Co. that they could use the money to paint their office, and later, on "The Practice", someone asks, "When are you going to paint the walls?"

It seemed to me that Kelley was able to get every strange bit of "Ally McBeal" into "Ally McBeal". We saw or heard about the nose whistle, poughkeepsie, humming, bygones, wattles, shoes being thrown, the remote toilet flusher, Ally's pips, Ally's theme song and the dancing twins. I think the only thing he left out was Elaine calling someone "snappish." New viewers had to be wondering what kind of drugs these people were on. I'm sure the goal of tonight's crossover was the get more viewers for "The Practice", and I have a feeling that goal will be accomplished. But I sure hope Kelley wasn't thinking that more people would watch "Ally" after tonight. I have friends who don't watch "Ally", and I have a feeling they will be calling me tomorrow asking me why I do.

Now. Renee. If you read my summaries often, you know I love the character Renee. She's smart, she's strong, she's funny, she knows what she wants and she goes for it. I respect and admire that. I also think she sometimes is just like Ally in that she does things without thinking. Case in point: when she got up and sang with Greg in the last episode. (New viewers, see review of "Happy Birthday, Baby" for an explanation.) I think when it came to her date with Michael, she simply wasn't thinking and she went too far. From the very beginning Renee has been a flirt, but she's usually a smart flirt. In this episode, Renee was a horny flirt, and while I believe no man should ever hit a woman, I also believe that women who act the way Renee acted should not be so surprised when men react in the manner Michael did. Yes, Michael was wrong. When Renee said stop he should have stopped. But the Michael I saw at the beginning of their date would not have even considered taking advantage of Renee if she hadn't first led him on.

My bottom line opinion: Ally viewers probably loved it. After all, they got a double-dose of Ally. Non-Ally viewers probably couldn't wait for the first hour to be over. And if you liked both before tonight, you probably wondered why you haven't been paying more attention to "The Practice" all along.

Favorite Lines:

Richard: "Friendly group. They probably take homicides just to lighten up."

Bobby: "Get out of my face!"
Billy: "I'm in your face!"
Ally: "So am I, I'm just shorter!"

Elaine, referring to Bobby: "I would like to take my thighs and squeeze his head."

Helen Gamble: "I've been looking for a skirt that short but I haven't been able to find one."
Ally: "Oh, well, they're really not in yet, but they'll be coming back."
Helen: "Really? How can you be sure?"
Ally: "I'm wearing one."
Helen, to Lindsay when Ally walks away: "We don't like her."

Copyright © 1998 Dana Hagerty. All rights reserved.