In Dreams
Air date: January 11, 1999
Summary/Review by Dana Hagerty

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Ally is asleep and she's not alone. She's got a new companion doll next to her. As she snuggles up next to the doll, the phone wakes her from her sleep. Someone is telling her something about a person named Bria Tolson. She says she will be right there. Renee comes in to find out what's going on, and Ally tells her that a teacher she had in high school is in the hospital. As Ally goes to the bathroom, Renee asks if "he" is available. Ally says yes, but tells her to be careful. Renee reminds her that she is the one who ruined the last one. Renee asks if he came with a warranty and Ally says "Renee. You're my best friend. I'll trust you not to let the air out of my social life."

When Ally arrives at the hospital, she sees a priest standing next to Bria. Ally's former teacher introduces the priest as Robert and tells her he has been visiting her all week. Bria tells Robert that Ally was her favorite student in high school and asks Ally if she ever told her that. Ally says she suspected. Bria asks her about her sweetheart, Billy. Ally says he grew up and became a man. Bria tells Robert that Ally and Billy smelled each other's buttocks when they were eight. As Ally's face turns red, she explains that there was a context. Bria wants to rest a bit, so Ally and Robert go off to the side of the room to talk. Robert tells her that the doctors don't give Bria much time. Meanwhile, Bria is talking in her sleep to someone named Henry. He has brought her flowers, and she says she needs to put them in water. Ally tells Robert that Bria used to have this dream about a man named Henry Lane and that they were in love. She explains that Henry isn't real, except for in Bria's dreams. She says that Bria would sometimes cry when she woke up because waking up made him gone. Bria abruptly wakes up and asks Ally to make sure the doctors don't keep her alive. She asks her to promise her that, when it's time, she will make sure that the doctors let her die.

Back at the firm, Nelle is looking in the mirror when the toilet flushes. John comes in. Nelle is surprised he is there – she thought she was the only one still at work. John walks towards his stall, then turns to ask Nelle if she is having a happy New Year so far. She repeats the question. John tells her she doesn't have to answer right away. Nelle tells him that he should relax, then says that she thinks he needs to be shocked. She says that being intimate in public places excites her and walks towards him as he stands in the doorway of his stall. She tells him that she is sure they will be safe, and before anything can happen, John pushes the button on his remote and his toilet seat starts going up and down. He tells Nelle that his bowl is beckoning him and he should go. He walks into the stall, then looks out over the top of the door to watch Nelle leave.

Billy arrives at the hospital, and Bria is surprised to see him because Ally said they weren't together anymore. Ally explains that they work together. She introduces him to Robert, who asks Ally if this is 'the' Billy. Bria asks Ally if she ever found love, and Ally says she finds it everywhere. Bria isn't buying it and Ally does admit that she hasn't found it yet. The priest says, "There's just something special about that first behind." Ally tries to change the subject by asking Bria about her sister. Bria says they sort of lost touch, then asks the priest how he would describe her. "Dead," he says. Bria asks Ally to promise her that she won't grow old alone. The men leave the room, and Ally asks Bria about Henry. Bria says that they married and had three children. She says that the last few years the dreams have been coming more often. She asks Ally if she still has her fantasies and Ally admits that sometimes she does. "You've never been institutionalized?" Bria asks. "Not yet," says Ally. Bria closes her eyes, and a machine goes off. A doctor comes running into the room along with several other hospital personnel. He calls for a crash cart. Just as he is about to shock her, she wakes up and screams. "You were about to electrocute me," Bria tells the doctor. "I saw you. I have my lawyer here." The doctor turns and we see that it is Dr. Greg Butters. (Please see summaries of "Theme of Life" and "The Playing Field" if you don't know the history of Ally and Greg.) They are both surprised to see each other. Ally asks if Bria is okay and Greg says she is. (While all this is happening, Robert notices that a wire has come loose, which is what caused the machine to go off.) Billy explains to Robert why Ally and Greg are acting so strange. "She dated him." Billy says. "What a surprise," says Robert. Bria asks why the doctor was going to electrocute her, and Ally explains "they thought your heart had stopped, but it was only mine – a wire, a wire had come loose."

Later, Ally asks Greg how much time Bria has. He says she could live a week, or she could live another two or three months. Bria starts making some sounds, and Ally says she is having sex with Henry. She wakes up and yells for someone to help her. Ally tells her everything is okay. Bria says that she dreamt she was gone and she isn't ready to go. She wants to sleep, and asks to doctor if she could stay asleep. She doesn't want to be awake ever again. She just wants to sleep and be with Henry. Ally tells her to get some rest.

Ally and Greg go out into the hallway to talk. She broaches the subject of an induced coma. "She's happier when she's asleep, you heard her," Ally says. Greg says they don't induce comas for the purpose of dreaming. Ally asks when Greg got back and he tells her it was just after Christmas. "What, did you meet somebody and have to leave town?" Ally asks. He gives her a look and she tells him that was only a joke. Greg says he was planning to call her. Bria wakes up and calls for Ally. She tells her that it is so beautiful where she sleeps, then asks, "You're a lawyer, right?"

At the office, Ally and the rest of the lawyers are meeting in the conference room. She tells them she is going to get a court order to keep Bria in a coma. She hears them singing 'da, da, da, da, da, da, da' (which, thanks to Old Bro from my message board, I was able to listen to this again and determine that I'm pretty sure he is right…it sounded like the bridge in 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.') Ally asks if they just sang 'da, da, da, da, da, da, da,' and John hums the tune. She tells the group that it isn't nuts, and after pausing, admits that it is, but says that so is the law. She is going to bring it before Whipper since she allowed people to have unicorns. Georgia thinks this whole thing is from Mars, and Ally says it might be, then asks John if he will second chair. "It would help if I went in there with a native."

In court, Ally explains to Whipper that Bria can't walk and she will soon lose the ability to read. She tells her that when Bria sleeps, she goes into another world where she is married and has children. Whipper asks if she has a family in this world and Ally says no. Ally tells Whipper that Bria can explain it all herself.

Ling comes to the office to see Richard. She enters his office and says they need to talk about his funny little friend. She says that Nelle is a sister and "when she's in pain, I throb." She goes on to say that the funny little man is starting to bug Nelle. Richard asks, "How so?" Ling says "He's gay. Do you have any water? Flat. The bubbles give me gas." She starts looking around for water and Richard looks as if he's trying to catch up. "Gay?" he asks. "John?" She says that he isn't responded sexually to Nelle, "unless you count prancing around like Barry White. If there's no water, just tell me. Why make me look?" Richard says "There's no water, and he's not gay." Ling starts to ask why John won't have sex with Nelle and Richard interrupts to say that he's just shy. He reminds her that she and he haven't, and she says that's different. She says she doesn't want to. When Richard asks her why, she says that first of all, she doesn't think he's totally over "the big-haired blond naked nude buttocks thing." Second, she says he is a man who thinks with his penis, "and for me to keep your interest, I'd have to keep it alert. And third, I don't much like sex. It's messy." She finds water in the refrigerator. "There is water. You lied." Richards wants to see if he understands. "So, if a woman doesn't want sex, it's okay, but if a man doesn't want it, he's gay?" he asks. Ling says that it isn't just her, that it's medical fact. She takes a drink, realizes that the water has bubbles, hands the bottle to Richard and leaves.

Whipper and all of the lawyers are in the hospital room with Bria. She explains to Whipper that when she sleeps she is in love, she is a mother, and she is forty. Whipper asks her if she realizes that none of that is real. Bria says that when she was in high school, she didn't get invited to the prom. So, that night, she stayed home, but she imagined she was with a beautiful man named Henry. She says she gave him a complete identity. She didn't start dreaming about him in her sleep until she was in her thirties. Bria tells Whipper that she knows she thinks she is crazy to want to go into that world, then asks, "but wouldn't I be crazy not to?"

Ally arrives back at the office and is asked if Whipper has ruled. Ally says she found Bria competent, but that the hospital is refusing to put her to sleep. Richard says she should take her to a vet. Ally says she is going to try and get a court order to force the hospital to go through with it. Billy follows Ally to her office. He mentions Ally's own fantasies and she abruptly tells him that he isn't in hers anymore, except sometimes around the holidays. He says that wasn't where he was going. He tells her that he thinks her inner life is healthy and admits that he envies someone who is so in touch with their dreams, but he wonders if choosing to live with them is sane. Ally says it wouldn't be for her, but she asks him if he is sure that it isn't sane under Bria's circumstances. He admits he isn't sure. Billy asks if Ally thought it was nice to see him again. With a straight face she asks "Who?" He says Greg, and Ally just brushes it aside by saying that he's just a friend.

Richard and John are talking in John's office with their back to the door. John can't believe that Nelle actually said those things to Ling, and Richard says he only knows what Ling told him and she was "under the influence of thirst at the time." Richard asks if they really haven't had sex and John tells him it isn't any of his business. Richard reminds him that Ling thinks he's gay and that "you're not who you are, you're only what other people think of you." Richard tells John that he's got to sleep with this woman. John asks, "Ling?" Richard says "Nelle." She (Nelle) walks in behind them and startles them with "What?" then, "You were saying?" "Depends on what you heard," says Richard. He asks Nelle if she remembers how she hates it when people talk about her behind her back and she says yes. "I can't do that when you're in the room," Richard says. He leaves. John asks Nelle if she told Ling that she is frustrated with his lack of sexual aggressiveness. She admits that she did, in confidence. He is surprised that someone who is such a great believer in straight lines would depend on Ling telling Richard and Richard telling him. Nelle says she has been honest with him but explains that she hasn't been blunt because if she's too direct he either stutters, whistles with his nose or jumps into a stall. John smiles at her. "Then, there's the smile therapy," she adds. She tells John that she has given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was stuck in reverse because of his frog woes. "Whatever world you live in, John," she says, "I'm not sure I get it."

Greg is checking Bria's breathing when she asks him why he is single. He says it's because of his cold stethoscope. Ally is watching from the door and she imagines her tongue slithering out and over to Greg's ear like a snake. When she sees it touch his ear in her imagination, he quickly turns and sees her. She is startled and pulls the tongue back in, the force of which pushes her into the wall. Greg tells Bria he will check on her later, and as he passes Ally, she tells him she is going to stay a while. He begins to say something with "I'll.." and Ally finishes it with "Check back in?" in a sarcastic tone. He says yes and leaves. Ally sits next to Bria and asks if she wants to play some cards. "A little gin," she says. "You got any?" Bria asks. Ally tells her she was talking about gin rummy. Bria just wants to sleep. As she closes her eyes, we see the rest of the gang at the bar listening to Vonda sing "In Dreams." We see Bria dream about dancing with Henry. We see Ally and Greg walking in the snow, holding hands and kissing, only to find out that it is just Ally's imagination. And we see Greg watching Ally from the doorway of the hospital room.

In court the next day, Ally is questioning the representative for the hospital. He says that there is no evidence that Bria would even continue to experience a dream pattern if she is put into a coma. Ally says there is no evidence to prove that she wouldn't dream. Ally asks if his hospital has ever practiced euthanasia. He says the hospital doesn't condone it. "That wasn't my question," Ally says. She asks him if any doctor has ever upped the morphine drip with the knowledge that if would likely cause the patient to die. He says it is not hospital policy, but he doesn't deny that it has probably happened. She wonders if they will help people die, why won't they help people sleep. He tells her that her patient isn't in pain. She then asks him if he has met the patient. He avoids answering the question by talking about the medical aspects of the issue and Ally says, "My question was, 'Have you met Bria Tolson?' and though you didn't answer it, we all know by that response that you haven't."

Nelle and Ling are in Nelle's office and Nelle isn't happy. She tells Ling that she didn't ask her to go to Richard. Ling says that Nelle was bothered by the fact that John wouldn't move on her, so much so that "you became unfun and lousy company to me. There's no reason I should be a victim." John comes up behind Ling. She announces that there must be somebody to sue and leaves the room. John tells Nelle, "The reason I perhaps don't want to escalate sexually is because I am afraid of accelerating the relationship towards extinction." He says if they end up making love, they might start having a serious involvement and then discover that they aren't right for each other. "By not going down the road, it remains the road ahead," John says, "which excites me. It even brings me joy." He leaves. A short time later, Nelle finds him in the library. She says that normally when she has a chance to sit and think about things she figures them out, but his little brainteaser has her stumped. John asks her if she has ever been along – really alone. "Loneliness is the feeling that there might never be anybody, ever again," he says. He asks her when was the last time she truly felt that way. She says when she was thirteen. John says it doesn't count at thirteen. Nelle says, "Okay, here's a question for you. What are you talking about?" He explains again that the idea of dancing with her, holding her hand as they walk down the street, of just being with her – he cherishes that idea. He says it's like a dream and he's afraid it may ultimately be revealed as a dream. John reminds her that he is the kind of person who hears bells and Barry White – that his inner world is bigger than his outer one. He says part of him figures if he just moves slow enough, it will never get to the end. Nelle says she is going to try John's inner world thing just once. She closes her eyes and imagines the dump truck picking up the dumpster. John asks her if she sees anything and she says she does. "What do you see?" he asks. "I see the end," Nelle says, and imagines the dump truck dumping John into the back. "We're done," Nelle says.

Richard, John and Ally are lying on the floor of Richard's office, on their backs, the tops of their heads touching, looking out a skylight that is the size of the entire office. Richard and Ally both agree that they don't blame Nelle for dumping John. Richard says that John needs to understand that even though women may disagree, God really did put them on earth as objects of male sexual desire, and withholding that primal reinforcement from them only shreds their esteem. John says the Nelle knows he is physically attracted to her and Richard asks him what he's waiting for. "Marriage?" he asks. "Couples don't have sex after marriage," he adds. Ally asks him why he always says that because she knows that people do have sex after they get married "Yes, but it's not enjoyable," Richard says. He adds "I'm sure you'll agree, sex for men is a little about conquest. After marriage, she's legally required. If a man tells a friend he got lucky last night, you can be sure he's not talking about his wife." Ally wonders aloud how those things spew out of Richard's head and he says if he had feelings, that remark would hurt. Ally tells him that he does have feelings, and so does John, and that's why they are both afraid. "You like to surf relationships," she says to Richard, and to John, "and you only like to wade in with your toes." Richard tells her that she likes to drown. John reminds Ally that she has been going into court arguing for her client to live in her imaginary world, why can't he live in his? She asks him what his imaginary world is -- "keeping things with Nelle trapped in the bud?" He says that yes, in a manner of speaking, that is his imaginary world. Ally gets up and leaves. "Women think they have all the answers," Richard says.

As Ally and the priest sit in Bria's room, she tells him that the last priest she knew got his own show on Fox. "Maybe you could join him?" she says. He tells her it would be a pay cut. Bria is smiling in her sleep. Ally calls Robert's attention to it and says, "you can't underestimate that." She goes on to say that people have told her she should take Prozac. "My roommate says when it comes out in jelly form she's going to smear it on my crackers," she adds. "Knowing you the way I do, you were about to make a point when you got lost," Robert says. Finding her way back to her point, Ally says that people are taking all kinds of drug therapy these days. "Not that I'm a huge fan of happiness, but if you were going to insist on it, wouldn't dreams be a more natural method, and couldn't it also qualify under the category of mysterious ways." "You're a good attorney, aren't you?" Robert asks. Ally says that she just keeps thinking that if she and he both agree there's a better world waiting for everyone, maybe some of it is locked up in Bria's dreams.

The next day, Ally is helping to get Bria into a wheelchair and ready for a trip to the courthouse. She thinks they have a better chance with her in the room. Ally turns to Greg and tells him, "I want you." Greg isn't sure this is the right time, and Ally says, "In court. I want you in court in case the judge has any medical questions." She turns to Robert and asks if he's coming. He says he doesn't really support Ally's position, but she says, "Yes, you do."

Nelle and Ling are in a steam room, wearing towels on their body and on their heads. Nelle asks Ling if she really doesn't like sex. Ling says it's not that she doesn't like it, but she thinks it's overrated. She says that a lot of women don't love sex – they just find affirmation in it and it makes them feel good about themselves. "I already feel good without the mess," Ling says. Nelle tells her that she likes sex. Ling tells her she is emotionally inept and that she likes sex because she can mistake it for passion. "Convince yourself you have a heart," Ling says. "What?" asks Nelle. "I don't like to repeat myself," Ling says, "the steam hurts my larynx." Nelle says, "You know what, Ling?" "That was a hard 'L'," Ling says, "I'm leaving." Before she can get out, Nelle grabs her arm and tells her to sit. Nelle says she is not emotionally inaccessible and she is not a cold person. "Right. People call you subzero to be facetious," Ling says. "Compared to you, the Titanic struck heat." This time, Nelle gets up to leave and Ling pulls her back down. "My turn to talk," Ling says. "Let's be honest with each other. Neither of us wants a man to go spelunking to our emotional core. The echo would kill him." She continues, "I like Fish and you like Cage because we know they'll never get there. They're fun, we laugh, they pick up the check." Nelle tells her that is disgusting. "Oh, come on, John Cage," Ling says, "He's a trinket. You like him because he won't force you to up your thermostat." Nelle says that isn't true, and add that she knows Ling likes Fish. Ling admits she does a little. "No, a lot," Nelle says. "You're just afraid you'll get a wrinkle from smiling," she adds. "Sideless," says Ling.

In court, Ally explains that Bria is dying and as her disease progresses, her sleep patterns will be disrupted. She reminds Whipper that a few weeks ago she said 'let people have their unicorns.' Ally asks, "Why can't they have their dreams?" Whipper asks Bria what exactly she does in her dreams. Bria tells her that it isn't all fun – that mornings are kind of crazy, what with getting three children dressed and off to school. She says that sometimes she has bad dreams within the dream. She has a recurring nightmare that she is really old and she's dying of a terminal disease. "Sometimes I think this is the dream and the other is the real world," Bria says. "But this isn't the dream," she adds. Whipper tells her that she has been doing some research and has learned that what she wants to do is very dangerous. Bria risks infections and complications. She also knows there is nothing irreversible about this induced sleep. Whipper says she will grant the request and let them put Bria out for a week. Whipper tells Bria that she strongly advises her to go over all the medical consequences with her doctor. "Other than that," Whipper says, "I wish you sweet dreams."

Back at the office, it is announced that Ally won. Georgia asks, "What is with Whipper?" Richard says she still loves him. We hear a growl as everyone turns to see Ling standing behind them. "As a friend," Richard adds, following Ling as she walks away from the group.

Nelle is sitting at her desk, and we hear Barry White. (I still haven't been able to determine if anyone was actually 'hearing' Barry White.) She looks up and sees John standing in her office. He tells her he has been a coward and that he's willing to go for it, "at the risk of being crushed like a small bug." Nelle says that Ling thinks she is attracted to John because he will never find her defrost button. "I'd like to go in search of it," John says. "I think," Nelle begins, as she stands up, walks around her desk, and sits on the edge of it, right in front of John, "that would be nice."

At the hospital, Greg is giving Bria the medication to put her out and Ally tells Bria that she will see her in a week. Bria tells Robert that she knows the church would frown on this and asks, "Will God forgive me?" Ally says "She will." Bria turns to Greg and says, "One last thing. Take her to dinner." Ally turns to Greg and says "I don't eat." A few moments later, Bria goes to sleep. Robert tells a sleeping Bria that he will check back on her later. He turns to Ally and tells her it was nice to meet her. Ally thanks him and when he says he didn't do anything, she says "Yeah. Thanks." Robert leaves and Ally tells Greg thanks, too. She adds that she is sorry he lost his case, then asks him to keep her posted on how Bria is going. Before she can leave, Greg asks if she wants to go to dinner. "Are you asking me out?" Ally asks. "I'm trying to make Bria happy, isn't that your target?" Greg asks. "She's already happy. Look," Ally says. He does, and Bria is smiling in her sleep. Ally turns and leaves.

Later that night, Ally and Greg dance together at the bar. Ling and Richard, Nelle and John, Billy and Georgia and Renee and the companion doll join them on the dance floor. Meanwhile, Bria is sleeping, smiling, and tapping her toe while Whipper watches from the doorway.


It's been a long time since I've felt this way, but I couldn't wait for this episode to be over. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I couldn't wait to sit down and start writing! I couldn't wait to rewind my tape and find all of those wonderful lines that Richard got in! I couldn't wait to sit down and think about my own dreams.

Eileen Ryan was wonderful as Bria. (Ryan is the mother of actors Sean and Chris Penn.) I could see how Ally would become so attached to her as a teacher, and how Bria would consider Ally her favorite. When the two shared scenes together and discussed how it was for Bria when she dreamed, it was almost like it was their little secret. Their eyes lit up and their faces glowed. They made me believe.

My favorite scene on the comedy side was when Ling went on and on about water, all the while having a completely different conversation with Richard about how she hates sex.

My favorite dramatic scene was when Whipper issued her verdict, and closed with the simple words, "I wish you sweet dreams."

Cage may have a weird way of going about his relationship with Nelle, but in all honestly, his feelings and reasons aren't that unusual. I know lots of people who have kept a relationship on the slow track for the very same reasons John gave Nelle. You want to enjoy everything as immensely as possible because you know you could wake up tomorrow and it will all have been a dream.

It was nice to see the girls have replaced their companion doll. I wonder if this one has a name?

Favorite Lines:

Ally: "She found her competent. But the hospital is refusing to put her to sleep."
Richard: "Take her to a vet."

Richard: "Remember how you hate people talking behind your back?"
Nelle: "Yes."
Richard: "I can't do that when you're in the room."

Richard, to John: " The thing you have to realize, and I'm sure Ally will agree, despite all the faint protests from women, God really did put them on earth as objects of male sexual desire and when you withhold that kind of primal reinforcement, you shred their esteem."
Ally: "You were sure I would agree with that?"

Ally: "How do these things just spew out of your head like this? Can you at least use your brain as a filter?"
Richard: "That remark would hurt if I had feelings."

Ling: "Neither of us wants a man to go spelunking to our emotional core. The echo would kill him."

Ally: "People tell me all the time that I should take Prozac. My roommate says when it comes out in jelly form, she's going to smear it on my crackers."

Copyright © 1999 Dana Hagerty. All rights reserved.