Making Spirits Bright
Air date: December 14, 1998
Summary/Review by Dana Hagerty

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It's snowing in Boston as people everywhere prepare for Christmas. As holiday shoppers walk the streets, Ally stares into a store window. John is in his office staring out the window, watching the snow when Nelle comes in dressed in a very nice formal dress. She tells John that she hasn't finished some work and asks if it can wait until the next day. He jokingly asks if she's going bowling, and she laughs and says she has a client Christmas party to attend. She leaves and goes into the inner office to look over some papers. John follows her out and notices that she's standing under the mistletoe. He starts to tiptoe over to her, and when she senses him and turns, he pretends that he was spraying plants. She turns back to her papers, and he takes a few more steps, only to have her turn again. This time, he is pretending that he's on the phone. Again she looks at her papers, he tiptoes closer and just as he is about to come up on her, she turns again and says his name. She asks if there is any particular reason that he is sneaking up on her. Before he answers, she tells him that she knows he was going to kiss her and she thinks that's sweet. She leans towards him to kiss him, and Richard interrupts to let them know that the party the next day will start at five instead of six. Billy joins them to say that Sheldon Maxwell has just been fired. Sheldon is the lead bond trader for a brokerage firm. He's on his way over, and Richard wants everyone to meet in the conference room immediately.

Ally arrives at the office just as Elaine is hanging lights outside the elevator. She asks what is going on and is told by Elaine that Sheldon Maxwell, Richard's biggest client and the man who basically enabled him to start this firm, has been fired. Ally starts walking toward the conference room but she gets her foot hooked on the light cords. She is almost to the conference room when the cords finally lose slack and she is pulled to the ground. She gets up and Richard has everyone sit at the table. Sheldon is asked to tell them exactly why he was fired. He says that his employers think he's lost his mind. John asks Sheldon if he has lost his mind, then he gets nervous, begins stuttering, tries to say 'Poughkeepsie' and settles for "poop." Sheldon says that two days earlier, he saw a unicorn in his office. Ally is suddenly much more interested in this case as she stares wide-eyed at Sheldon. He tells the group that he made the mistake of telling people that he works with what he saw. He goes on to say that he saw the unicorn about the same time last year, but that time it was in his house. Billy jumps at the opportunity to take the case and says he wants Ally to work on it with him. Georgia and Ally give him a surprised look. Billy says he wants to look into that Pinocchio kid case that John handled a few years back that it might apply in this case. Richard says that the incident was a long time ago and that the child was John. John looks embarrassed as he explains that he was ten and he had a reaction to soybeans. He says he is a very honest person. Nelle snickers then apologizes.

Ally is in the elevator at the courthouse. The doors open, and Helen Gamble is standing there waiting to get on the elevator. (For those of you who don't watch "The Practice," Helen is an A.D.A. on that show.) Ally gets off the elevator as Helen gets on, and they exchange hellos. Helen stares at Ally, and when she asks Helen if there is a problem, Helen answers "No. Just admiring your outfit. Maybe you could eat a cookie." "Maybe we could share it," Ally responds. The doors close. Ally turns and sees Renee. She tells her that she will have to miss her party because there is a crisis at work. Ally leaves, and as Renee is getting a drink of water from the fountain, Matt calls her name. (Matt is an old boyfriend of Renee's the one she calls her 'Billy.' He was in an earlier episode this season. He is married, but has told Renee that they aren't happy.) Renee asks him what he's doing there. After all, she reminds him, she told him she didn't want him to call. He says that there are a million reasons to walk away, but there is one that won't let him.

John is still on a mission. He is tiptoeing towards Nelle, who is again under the mistletoe. When she turns this time, he crouches down behind some books. Nelle moves the books out of the way, asks John if he is there to kiss her again, and leans down to kiss him. This time the elevator dings. It's Ling and she is there to go with Nelle to the client Christmas party. She is full of Christmas cheer, smiling and telling everyone 'Merry Christmas.' When she and Nelle turn to leave, John sort of bumps into Ling. She freaks. "He touched me," she says. "He just sexually assaulted my left breast. It's gone numb." Nelle says that maybe he was trying to kiss her since the mistletoe is right above her. Ling smiles then and tells John 'Merry Christmas' as she kisses him on the cheek.

Ally and Billy are discussing Sheldon's case. Billy thinks Sheldon should retract his statement, but Ally says too many people heard him say it. She believes that the case has to be that what happened isn't relevant. Richard comes in and reminds them that Sheldon counts him among his friends and he wants him taken care of.

Later that night, Ally walks into her apartment and finds the television on, but Renee isn't watching it. (The show on the television is "The Practice," and it's a recent episode where a doctor finds a head in his medical bag and brings it to the firm.) Ally goes into Renee's room and screams. She has walked in on Renee and Matt in bed together.

The next morning, as Ally makes toast, she and Renee discuss the predicament that Renee has gotten herself into. Ally asks Renee, "What about his wife?" Renee says that he has told her it is "basically over."

At the office, Richard finds Elaine supervising the construction of a stage. She says they have to have a stage so that they can sing at the party. She adds that there is an office pool going as to whether Richard will actually hit a note.

Sheldon's case is being heard in Judge Whipper Cone's court. Billy is arguing that the fact that Sheldon saw a unicorn hasn't affected his job, but the attorney for the brokerage house says that Sheldon runs accounts totaling almost $300 million and the risk is too large to allow him to keep working there. Ally stands up and asks to speak. She says that when she was nine, she was elected president of her third grade class. Whipper says that isn't the same thing, but Ally says that wasn't her point. She goes on to say that she was a great president, but at the time, she still believed in Santa Claus. She says that didn't affect her ability to function as a president. Nixon (the attorney for the other side) says "what a delightful little analogy," and in Ally's imagination she grows a really long arm and punches him, knocking him down. Whipper says she will have a short evidentiary hearing on the matter and then she will rule.

Matt comes to the courthouse to talk to Renee. She pulls him into an office. He says he bet she thought that she wasn't going to see him again that he had gotten what he wanted and wouldn't be calling her for a while. (I guess he thinks that the fact that he's standing there now proves her wrong.) They kiss.

In John's office, he and Richard are discussing what has been happening with the mistletoe. Richard thinks that John is afraid to kiss Nelle, but he insists that isn't the case because they have already kissed. John says he thinks the problem is that it's always been Nelle's move. "John, your move is in the Yellow Pages under 'escort service'," Richard says. John is offended and asks him to leave. Richard has another idea. He thinks it must be Nelle's porcelain skin. He picks up the piece of John's toilet that John saved when it was busted and says Nelle probably reminds John of his toilet. John again asks Richard to leave. He turns to go, taking the piece of the toilet with him, but John calls him back and motions for him to give it back.

Sheldon is on the stand explaining what he saw, and that he asked several other people in the room if they saw it. He says they didn't, but that only means that they couldn't see it. The attorney for the firm asks Sheldon if he gets distracted when unicorns appear in his office. Sheldon says he would never rely on a unicorn for investment advice. The attorney asks Sheldon if he has ever suffered from depression. He admits he has in the past, and he also admits that he briefly saw a doctor for it. The attorney asks if Sheldon told the doctor that he saw unicorns. Sheldon says yes, and that the doctor diagnosed him as lucky.

Ally and Billy are walking into her office. Billy closes the door behind them. Ally asks why he did that and he says, "it was open." Billy asks her if she knows why he wanted Ally on this case. "Because you're leaving Georgia?" she asks. She imagines her head blowing up like a balloon as she sticks it with a pen and lets it deflate back and forth across the room. Billy says he remembers that when Ally was seven, she told him she saw a unicorn in her living room. Ally says it was probably just one of her fantasies. Billy says he remembers asking her if it was pretend and she said it was real. "Do you still think it was?" he asks. "How could it be real?" Ally says, adding, "I've learned to know that's impossible." Billy thinks they should put Ally on the stand as evidence of a person who has seen one. Ally reminds him that Whipper already thinks she's crazy. Ally can't believe that Billy remembers that day. He tells her that he remembers everything, and asks her "Was it real?" She doesn't answer.

Renee and Matt are having lunch. Matt says that he and his wife basically live apart in the same house. Renee doesn't understand why he doesn't just leave, and Matt says he will, but he's afraid of destroying her during the holidays. Renee says that their future isn't even going to begin to happen as long as Matt is living with his wife. He wants time, and she asks how much. He pauses and tells Renee that his wife is four months pregnant. Renee stares at him, then gets up and leaves. Outside the restaurant, she runs into Ally. Ally senses something is wrong, but Renee just smiles and says she has to get back to work.

Ally finds Renee sitting alone in a courtroom. Renee tells her that Matt's wife is pregnant. Ally asks her to tell her what she needs, be it advice or support. Renee says she knows Ally's advice. Ally tells Renee that she's weak right now and Renee says that Matt is the only one that knows that. Ally reminds her that she knows. "I'm not attracted to you," Renee says. Ally tells her that she's afraid she's going to get hurt. Renee admits she is also afraid.

The man who fired Sheldon is on the stand explaining why they decided to let him go. Billy asks him if he is Catholic and if he believes what the Bible says about the Second Coming of Christ. "Suppose instead of a white horse, he told you he saw Jesus," Billy says, "Would you have a problem with that, too?" The man says he probably would. Billy asks him if he knew that, according to legend and the history of the unicorn, it is a common symbol of Christ. The man just says that Sheldon is in some kind of crisis. Billy asks him if he diagnosed this. The man says he didn't have to.

Ally asks Sheldon if he would accept a lesser role at the company, like doing research. He says no. She says the only other alternative they have would be for him to admit that it was a hallucination. "You need to say that it probably wasn't real," she says. Sheldon says, "I need to believe it was." Sheldon then asks her, "When did you see one?" She wants to know if Billy told him that and he says no. She admits that she did when she was very little and she wonders how he knew. He says the people who see them share some of the same traits. "They're lonely, with virtuous hearts," he says. Ally tells him that she petted it. We see her thinking back to that day, walking up to the unicorn and petting it. Sheldon says that according to legend, unicorns can only be approached by a person of pure spirit. Ally says it's a good thing she was only seven. He asks if she touched his horn. He says the horn has power, that it protects against everything and it can lead you to love. She didn't touch his horn, but Sheldon wasn't able to get close to the unicorn he saw. "Well, maybe you'll have another chance someday," Ally says. "Not if I stop believing," Sheldon says.

Ling is at the firm again, this time handing out candy canes to everyone. She hands gifts to Elaine and Georgia. They tell her that it isn't that they don't appreciate her good will, they just don't believe it. She walks away. Nelle tells them they should give her a break. "She's just trying to reach out to the less fortunate," she says. Elaine thinks her gift is ticking, so they immediately put them down and walk away.

Renee and Ally are walking outside, trying to enjoy the day. Ally stops when she sees a pair of flannel pajamas in a store window. Renee says that happiness is just a pair of flannel pajamas to Ally, and Ally says, "Happiness is getting into bed with anything that makes you feel warm and snuggled." Renee's beeper goes off. She looks at it and says that her secretary says Matt has called six times in the last two hours.

The attorney for the brokerage firm is giving his closing. He says that if a surgeon's hands start to shake, his employers can't wait until he kills a patient to let him go. He says this company deals with millions of dollars and that they had a duty to remove him.

Billy argues in his closing that Sheldon wasn't fired because of something he did, but because of something he believes in. He says that in a few weeks, we will all wake up and celebrate a virgin birth. Billy says that personally, he thinks Sheldon hallucinated. "It was Christmas time," he says. "The unicorn is a lonely, solitary creature that symbolizes hope. Who are we to say what he is allowed to see?" Billy goes on to say that we all want to be happy, and different people get there different ways. He turns to Sheldon's employer. "So, you could never see a unicorn," he says. "Good for you. Or, maybe not."

Back at the office, Elaine is making John practice for the party. "I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas," he sings. He only sings a few bars, then decides that the song isn't organic and tells Elaine that she will have to find someone else.

At home, Renee is standing in the living room, near the Christmas tree, hearing Ally's theme song in her head. She starts dancing to it. Ally comes in and watches for a minute until Renee sees her. Renee explains that she's trying out Ally's theme song and tells her to join her. They both dance until the theme song slows down and stops. "Who am I kidding?" says Renee as she plops down on the couch. "I just need you to keep telling me not to go near him," she says. Ally says the fact that Matt knows when Renee is weak means something. She reminds Renee that she doesn't open up to people, even to her, and that if Matt gets in there, she should be with him.

Nelle is under the mistletoe again, and that only means one thing. Yes, here comes John. This time he grabs a rolling chair, kneels on the seat, and slides over to where Nelle is standing. Unfortunately, Georgia is standing there too, and they sort of switch places before John lands next to Georgia and kisses her. He is embarrassed that he missed Nelle and stutters, again trying to say "Poughkeepsie" but settling this time for "podiatrist." As he walks away, Georgia looks at Nelle to try and figure out what just happened. Nelle points up to the mistletoe.

Ally is getting ready to leave the house for the office party. Renee tells her that she and Matt may show up later. Ally jokingly says she doesn't think they will even make it out the door, but Renee says they may just go to dinner. Ally's beeper goes off. Whipper is back with a decision.

In court, Whipper says that there are a lot of lonely people out there who need hope and who might need to look for it in strange places. She decides that she is going to let them keep their unicorns and she rules in Sheldon's favor.

At the Christmas party, Ally tells Billy that she thought the whimsy inside of him had gone dead. She also tells him that she misses him more at Christmas. She tells him not to say anything back to her because it will hurt either her or Georgia, and she (Ally) will get angry either way.

Meanwhile, Elaine is doing her number on stage, with Richard and John dressed as reindeer.

Ally has gone to her office. She's sitting on her desk, watching the snow. Billy comes in, sits down next to her, and tells her that she was the one who made him believe in things he couldn't see. He leans over towards her and kisses her softly. She just barely kisses him back. He explains the kiss by telling her he has mistletoe, then he tells her Merry Christmas and leaves.

It's getting very late, and Renee is still waiting for Matt to come over. Finally, there is a knock at the door. It's Matt. He tells her he had some trouble getting away. She asks him if he and his wife are basically separated or not. He answers that it's going to take a while. Renee grabs her coat and says she is ready to go out. Matt, however, has other ideas. He says he thought they might hang around there instead of going to the party. "Does your wife know where you are right now?" Renee asks him. When he again says it isn't an easy thing, Renee stops him and says, "I think I'm going to get off right now." She tells him she might be making a big mistake, but it's the only one she is willing to make. "You don't want to destroy her," Renee says, "I admire that. But I'm not going to let you destroy me." Before leaving, he hands her a present, and she hands him one. He leans down to kiss her, and she turns so that he kisses her on the side of her forehead.

Richard and Ling are standing by the elevator getting ready to leave. He hugs her, but she pushes him away. She has a thing about sweat (even her own). Georgia asks if they can give Ally a ride home, but she says she will walk. Several people get in the elevator, leaving only Ally behind. Nelle comes up to the elevator and Ally walks away, leaving Nelle there alone. John comes into the main office and sees Nelle. He starts to run, then stops and takes off his shoes. He gets close to her and his nose whistles. Nelle again turns to him just as he is about to get there. "You were coming to kiss me," she says. "Thought it would be your move," she adds. "It won't be your move, John, it will be my move." Nelle kisses him. John looks around the corner and tells Ally that he and Nelle will be leaving now.

Ally tells them "Merry Christmas," then as she enters the main office, she sees a unicorn surrounded by a bright light. She approaches it slowly and pets it. "You have a Merry Christmas," she says, then she leans down and hugs it. "And, don't be a stranger," she adds. She kisses the unicorn on the back of its neck. Ally turns, gets into the elevator, and rides down alone, deep in thought.

The night ends with Whipper reading a book on unicorns, Richard and Ling walking in the snow, Renee hanging up stockings, Billy and Georgia walking, laughing and kissing, Elaine listening to carolers, and Ally walking up to a snowman and touching it's carrot nose.


BITS AND PIECES:

The scene with Ally and Helen Gamble was really cute, and considering how many times "Ally" has been mentioned in one way or another on "The Practice," it was nice to see Kelley do the same with this show. I think many fans, myself included, would love to see more of this kind of thing.

I feel completely different about the scene where Ally walked into the apartment and we hear an episode of "The Practice" on the television. That was a little too "The Truman Show" for me. Someone on the Internet said that Renee actually had the evening news on. I wish that had been the case. I think it would have made much more sense. Also, I think I would have been able to appreciate this scene more if the first one with Helen hadn't happened.

It was nice to see that Portia and Lucy have finally been added to the opening credits. Portia has been a regular cast member since the beginning of this season, and Lucy was added shortly after that, but people still didn't believe me when I told them they were regular cast members.

I'm always happy when Lisa Nicole Carson is given a good story line on this show. I was actually surprised by Matt's revelation, but I wasn't surprised by how Renee handled everything in the end. In fact, after everything that happened, I would have been disappointed if she had done anything else.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Jane Krakowski has a great voice! Jane is the one actor on this show who, no matter what she is doing, always looks like she's having the time of her life.

The unicorn story was very cute, but I was expecting Ally to touch the unicorn's horn. Maybe the snowman's carrot nose that she touched will lead her to love!

Mark Linn-Baker sure does look different. I think he was a good choice for this role, but I was not happy with the small role John de Lancie had. I remember him best as Eugene on "Days of Our Lives," and because of that it would have been nice to have seen him in an eccentric role.

Ling being happy, priceless. John trying to kiss Nelle, also priceless. Was Georgia in this episode? (Kidding.)

A popular magazine recently had an article on shows that have become too overpopulated. They mentioned "Ally McBeal," and while I do sometimes think that there are too many people on this show (like tonight, when we barely see Georgia), I think Nelle and Ling have been wonderful additions.

Calista looked really good in tonight's show. And I loved her red suit and longer skirt. It made her look taller.

Copyright © 1998 Dana Hagerty. All rights reserved.