Car Wash
Air date: October 25, 1999
Summary/Review by Dana Bonistalli

Paul M. Lewis (Production Mixer), Nello Torri and Peter E. Kelsey (Re-Recording Mixers) won an Emmy for this episode in the category of Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special

Skip summary and go straight to Dana's "Bits and Pieces"

It's a beautiful day in Boston as Ally walks to the office. The only difference in this walk and others she has taken is this time, she's soaking wet. As she enters the office, John Cage sees her and asks why she is so wet. No one else is there (it's the weekend) and Ally didn't think anyone would be there (John was supposed to be at a game with Nelle). Ally tells John that, "It's the new look." She walks to her office and sits, but John follows her. He wants to know what's wrong. She says "nothing," but of course, he doesn't buy it. She pauses, but only for a moment, then proceeds to tell him that she just met a guy at a drive-through car wash. (As she tells John the story, we see it happening.) She thinks he worked there, and as she was pulling into the car wash, they made eye contact. "It was a look like maybe we'd known each other in a prior life or something, or maybe we were waiting to meet each other in this life," Ally says. Once inside the car wash, her passenger door opens, and the guy gets into the car. "We're soaking wet, and we start reading each other's minds, or I should say, fantasies," Ally says. Without speaking, they begin to kiss. He opens the door again, takes her hand, and pulls her out into the car wash. They start taking each other's clothes off and then they make love in the rinse section. "I know that I should feel shame or guilt, but all I feel – I just want to drive back there and," Ally pauses, "and I know that I used the term 'make love,' but it wasn't that, John. No, It was that other word. That vulgar verb we use to describe what two people….that's what we were doing, and that's what I want to do to him again. That vulgar verb." John's nose whistles.

Later that week, at the office, Richard Fish asks Ally to help him out. A major client's daughter is having a crisis and he wants Ally to meet with her. He introduces Ally to Risa, then leaves Ally to handle it. Risa tells Ally that she is scheduled to be married on Saturday, 300 people are coming, and suddenly, the minister says he won't marry them. When Ally asks if the minister told her why he wouldn't marry them, Risa says he didn't really have to tell her. The day before, he had come over to her parent's house (he's a family friend), but the parents weren't at home. Instead, he found Risa there, having sex with someone who isn't her fiancé. Risa says it was a one-nighter, bachelorette kind of thing. She is afraid that if it gets out why the minister won't perform the ceremony, then her fiancé will leave her. Ally doesn't think there is anything they can do, but she agrees to talk it over with her partners.

Ally brings this to the attention of John, Richard, Billy and Georgia. Georgia doesn't think any judge will order a minister to perform a wedding. She says "If they did that," and Richard finishes it with "Elaine would be married." Elaine tells Richard that she heard him. Billy suggests making it a contract case, but Ally says that doesn't solve it because they would get the church but not the minister, and Risa wants him to marry her. Richard asks John what his thoughts are about all this. "I'm troubled," he says, "there seems to be a rash of over-sexed women." "JOHN," says Ally, teeth clenched. "Is Ally having sex?" Richard asks. Ally says she isn't, then turns and imagines shooting daggers into John with her eyes.

Renee is unpacking boxes and placing law books into a bookcase. She's in a room that we haven't seen before, so until she moves a box and we see Whipper standing there, we really don't know what she's doing. Actually, we still don't know until Whipper asks Renee if she knows how hard it is to launch a law practice. Renee thinks Whipper came there to tell her that she can't succeed at this, but Whipper says she is there to ask if Renee wants a partner. Whipper wants to practice again, but not full-time. "I don't want to be here every day," she says, "but, I'd like to be here."

John comes into the unisex and finds Nelle there. He points his finger at her (like a gun) and gives her a little "click, click" of the tongue. He proceeds to walk to a stall, but Nelle stops him. "What is this 'click, click'," she says. She thinks that is something you would say to a horse instead of 'giddy-up.' John tells her he was just saying hello. Nelle reminds him they are a couple, and he doesn't need to say 'hi' to her like they were sophomores at junior prom. He goes into the stall, then comes right back out. "I don't even have to go any more," he says.

In court, the judge does as expected and tells Ally that he can't order a minister to perform a wedding. Ally says money was paid to reserve the church. The judge tells her the bride can get a refund. Ally tries to argue emotional distress since the wedding is in two days. The judge doesn't think she should be arguing emotional distress because he says what Risa did was immoral. Richard thinks he can help and asks if he can be heard. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to that," the judge says. Richard says it is unreasonable for this minister or any member of the clergy to demand morality from a parishioner. "The church makes it's money off the threat of hell," Richard says, "if people weren't out there committing sins, they wouldn't be running to church, seeking forgiveness and throwing money in the coffers." He also points out that no one frowns on a man when he slips at a bachelor party. "This is the highest form of gender discrimination and I won't stand for it," he continues. "Women love sex. They love to think it, dream and talk about it, so long as they retain the right to sue you after." The judge tells Richard that he is not going to order a minister to perform a wedding ceremony. "You're a gender bigot, judge," Richard says. "I'd like you to walk a mile in her diaphragm," he concludes, looking down at Risa.

The three leave the courtroom. Richard thinks he was "in the zone." Ally says the only appeal they have left is to the minister.

Later that day, at the office, John approaches Ally. He tells her that the week before when he was in Detroit on business, he called Nelle from the hotel room and she wanted to have phone sex. He says that disturbed him and ever since then, he's been unable to access Barry White. "I can't become one with him any longer," he says. He's also "a little fraught" over Ally's encounter in the car wash. He says he always thought that the key to a relationship for women was the emotional connection. "Am I correct in assuming that a woman, even if she's not in love with the man, that the sex can still be good?" he asks. Ally flashes back to her car-wash romp before answering "It can be okay."

At their new office, Renee and Whipper are interviewing a man for a position at their firm. The interview appears to be about over, but before the man leaves, Renee asks him if he would mind taking off his shirt so they can get a look at his chest and stomach. He is surprised and asks them whether that is legal. Whipper says it is illegal to require it and they aren't doing that. She tells the interviewee that the business of law is all about getting clients. She and Renee plan to use their sensuality to do that. Whipper says that she and Renee will provide the eye candy for the men, and Renee finishes by telling the man that "it would be rude not to have something for the women."

Ally, John and Risa go to see Risa's minister (marvelously played by Ray Walston). The minister is still very upset about the situation, and tells Risa that the woman he saw in her parent's house wasn't the Risa he knows. She explains to him that she loves Joel, her fiancé, but that he is a terrible lover. She says he doesn't know how to touch a woman. She reiterates the fact that what happened was a one-night thing, and that there is no man on earth that she would or could love more than Joel. The minister finally gives in. Risa, in her joy, turns to Ally and says she has to ask her something, adding, "you cannot, cannot, cannot say no."

The next thing we know, Ally's in a bridesmaid dress, walking up the aisle of the church. Richard and Ling are there, too, and Ling wants to know exactly why they are there. Richard says they are sucking up to their biggest client. Ally and the rest of the bridesmaids finally make it to the front of the church, the wedding march begins, and Risa starts coming up the aisle with her father. Ally casually looks over at the groom and his groomsmen, only to find that the groom is the man she had sex with in the car wash! He notices her, too, and she immediately screams. The music stops and the congregation looks towards Ally. She apologizes and says she had a tickle in her throat. The music starts again and Risa continues walking to the altar. Ally sighs. The groom glances at her then turns to watch his fiancée.

The wedding ceremony begins, and Joel looks over at Ally and winks. She imagines growling back at him.

Meanwhile, in a montage, we see the men Renee and Whipper are interviewing, taking off their shirts, showing them a few moves. One older man, obviously not eye candy, does take off his shirt but is waved away by Whipper.

Back at the church, Ally's heart beats harder and harder as Joel repeats his vows to Risa. The minister finally gets to the part about "does anyone here have any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now." Ally watches in amazement as her hand slowly rises. She screams out "Noooooooo!" Of course the audience is shocked, but none more than Ling, who exclaims, "Oh. My. God." Ally whispers to the minister that she has a reason. He tells her that it is traditional to share the reason with the congregation. "We won't be honoring that tradition," she says. Joel keeps looking around Risa to Ally, and Risa can't believe that Ally would have any reason why she shouldn't be getting married. The minister tells Ally to whisper the reason to him. She says okay, and starts, "A week ago," then she leans in really close and, not knowing that the minister's lapel microphone would catch everything she was about to say, says "I had sex with the groom." The entire congregation, of course, hears and is shocked. Ally quickly puts her hand over the microphone, even though it's too late. She turns to Risa and tells her that she didn't know who he was at the time. Ling says to Richard, "This is the best wedding I've ever been to," just as the minister announces that they will be taking a short break.

Everyone goes into a back room at the church. The minister wants Ally to explain what happened. She apologizes, then tells Risa that it happened at a car wash. Risa wants to know from Joel if this is true. He says he needs to talk to her in private. Joel and Risa start walking away and Ally apologizes to her again.

Back at the firm, in Nelle's office, John is telling Nelle that his problem started with "that damn study." She doesn't know what he's talking about and he says he read a study that women are attracted to different kinds of men when they are ovulating. "They are drawn to nice, stable providers three weeks of the month," he says, "then when they start to ovulate during mating season it's the virile, masculine that…we all know what category I fit into and I don't like being dismissed every time a woman's eggs warm up." He continues talking about the phone sex, Risa and her one-night stand, Ally and the car wash. Nelle wants to know exactly what John's problem is. He says he knows that women have sexual fantasies, but he's disturbed by the fact that they actually act out on them. He says it's different when men do it because it's only physical, but with women, it's partly emotional. "You're saying women can't have a purely physical sexual fantasy?" Nelle asks. John says it goes against nature. We hear a loud "Ha, ha, ha," and John walks to the door, opens it, and, no surprise, finds Elaine there. She leaves and he closes the door again. He tells Nelle that he doesn't want her thinking of any other men. "You want to regulate my thoughts," she says. "No," he says, "I want YOU to regulate them." In frustration, Nelle tells John to go away.

John, Ling and Ally are left alone in the back room at the church. Richard can't believe Ally did this to the daughter of their biggest client. She says she had to. He wants to know why it's okay for Risa to have one last fling, but not Joel. Ally tells him to stop giving her the double-standards speech. Richard turns to Ling and asks her to make sense of it. Ling thinks Ally felt upstaged by the bride and this was a way to make it about her. Ally jumps to her own defense. "Do you think it was easy for me to do what I did in front of a whole church-full of people?" she asks, "Do you think there's one person sitting out there right now who doesn't think I'm some cheap slut?" Ling answers, "No." Richard still doesn't get it. Ally says Joel is marrying Risa for her money. He wants to know how she knows that and Ally says she just does. He still doesn't understand how she can support Risa for having sex with someone else but she can't support Joel. "Are you sticking up for Risa, or are you punishing him?" Richard asks. Ally admits she doesn't know for sure.

As they continue to wait for word on what's going on, Ling tells Ally that she thinks there is something brave about a woman who identifies a fantasy and pursues it. "In ancient China," Ling says, "your head would be cut off." Richard comes in and tells them that they have been fired. The minister arrives and announces that the wedding is back on. Risa feels that Joel is no more guilty than she is. While the wedding is back on, Ally's presence as bridesmaid is no longer required. The minister tells her to go and sit with the rest of the guests.

Richard, Ling and Ally come back into the church to sit. The congregation boos her.

Back at the firm, John is in the unisex trying to connect with Barry White but it just isn't working. Elaine comes in and tells him that she couldn't help overhearing what he and Nelle were talking about. She tells him that it is true that women have their little fantasies, but that he should know that he was wrong thinking that he couldn't be in them. She gets very close to him and says, "Sexy, is all inside. Look at me. I may not be the most beautiful woman on earth, but do I ooze sex?" John says, "Yes. In buckets." He tells her that Barry won't come to him anymore. "On some level, maybe Barry's a little J-E-L," she says. He doesn't understand. "Do you ever wonder why an exotic beauty like Nelle wants to be with you? We all do," she says. "You all wonder?" John asks. Elaine says no, that the women all want to be with him because he's the hottest guy in the office. "Maybe it's lucky for us that you don't know it," she says, "because if you ever became a predator, you'd ruin lives." He looks at the mirror again, trying to connect with Barry. The music starts, and Elaine stands behind him, running her hand over his chest and down his body. When the hand reaches lower (we can't actually see where the hand is), the music speeds up. Elaine says, "He's coming. I can feel him coming." They start to dance together and John connects with Barry. Elaine tells him, "Now, you take yourself to Nelle, and if she says to go away, you bring yourself back to me, you hot little biscuit."

Risa is repeating her vows to Joel as Ally continues to flash back to the car wash. Before Risa can even finish the vows, Ally jumps up from her seat and says, "Excuse me." The congregation looks towards her. She asks to speak to Risa for a moment. The congregation in unison says "no." Ally goes up and grabs Risa anyway. They go into a hallway. Ally asks Risa to remember what she said to the minister about Joel being a terrible lover. Risa says she can deal with that because a marriage is much more than sex. Ally tells her that Joel is an incredible lover, the most amazing she's ever been with, and that he definitely knows how to touch a woman. Risa says that sex is subjective. Ally agrees, but adds, "Trust me, speaking objectively, that man, well if he's not touching you, then there's something wrong. Either he doesn't have any passion for you or he's not being truthful." Ally thinks Risa has an experienced womanizer marrying her for her money and, "as your lawyer, as your bridesmaid, I just couldn't sit there and watch you get hurt." Risa gets up, walks back into the church, looks at the minister, then the congregation, and announces that the wedding is off. She runs from the church. Richard and Ling both reach for their cell phones. Joel walks over to Ally. "Who do you think you are?" he asks. "I don't know," she says, "and I don't know who you are but I certainly know that you're capable of fooling women." He tells her that he didn't owe her any honesty. "I guess you didn't," Ally says, "but as for the woman wearing the white dress, you haven't really been honest with her, have you Joel?"

Richard, Ling and Ally leave the church as guests say all kinds of things to her. Richard opens the passenger door and as Ally leans down to get in, Ling steps in front her of and sits in the passenger seat.

They join Georgia at the bar. Whipper comes up and sits with them. Richard asks if it is true that she quit the bench and she says yes, she's in private practice. They all applaud her. "Look at me," Richard says, "surrounded by all this wattle. Dance floor?" Ally, Georgia and Whipper take him up on it. As Richard gets up to dance, Ling tries to pull him back down. "You're too old for this bar," she says. "Is that so, Ling?" Whipper says, with a hard "L." Out of earshot of Ling, Richard says, "Fight over me. I love it."

At Nelle's place, John emerges from the bathroom and enters Nelle's bedroom, where she waits in bed reading a book. He walks to the nightstand, turns off the light and lights a candle. By this time, Nelle has put the book down and taken her glasses off. John takes off his robe, and reaches back to remove his undershirt, then rethinks it and just rips it off. Nelle's eyes widen. He sits on the bed and when he turns to Nelle, he finds Barry White singing to him instead. The music stops when Nelle calls his name. She asks him if he's all right. He says he thinks so, but that she looked a little different for a second. John again sees Barry White, but this time he isn't singing. He's talking, and he sounds just like Nelle. Nelle/Barry says "Different how?" John tells her that she doesn't want to know. Nelle tells him that she is glad he's there. He is, too. They kiss.

Renee paints her name on the door of her new office. Ally walks home alone (she's still in her bridesmaid dress), but she appears to almost be happy, while, on another street, a lonely, sad woman in a wedding dress also walks alone.


First of all, a big thanks to my sister-in-law, Karen, who let me come over and tape the show when my cable went out an hour before tonight's premiere.

Well, we've all been waiting quite a while for tonight's show. Was it worth the wait?

I believe so. While I can always find something to be critical about (I know not many agree with me, but I did not like Elaine and John's scene in the bathroom), all in all I thought tonight's show had many of the elements that I enjoy in a David E. Kelley show.

If you read what I have to say regularly, you know I was really disappointed in the direction Kelley took Ally's character in the season finale. It was nice to see she has come out of her depression, and it appears she might even be having a good time enjoying life.

Ally's hair in the credits. Love the curls.

Renee and Whipper interviewing hunky men. I was a little surprised that they would ask them to remove their shirt, but I enjoyed watching it nonetheless! If we are going to have to watch Elaine ooze sex, then we should get to watch men doing the same.

Speaking of men oozing sex – I mentioned to my sister-in-law while watching the show that no one would really do what Ally did in that car wash, but she made a very good point. She did it with Jason Gedrick. What woman wouldn't? Point taken.

I liked the whole "equal opportunity" theme that this episode highlighted. He can have sex with another woman before the wedding, but she can't have sex with another man? Male office workers as eye-candy. Females having sex with complete strangers. It was a very nice, subtle mix.

Even though I knew what was going to happen in the church, I still was surprised enough to laugh out loud when Ally screamed. Calista has a way of turning scenes like that into something both shocking ("I can't believe she just did that!") and extremely entertaining ("I'm so glad she just did that!).

While I think taking Renee out of the District Attorney's office and putting her into private practice will make for many more interesting story lines, I was a bit disturbed by the abrupt move. I would have liked a small conversation dealing with the fact that she was going to leave the DA's office.

Favorite Line:

Ally: "Ally McBeal, Homewrecker. Here's my card."
Georgia: "Oh, I have it. Thank you."

Copyright © 1999 Dana Bonistalli. All rights reserved.