Just Friends
Air date: January 17, 2000
Summary/Review by Josh Bermont

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

Ally is working late at the office. She finishes up, and is waiting for the elevator when she is joined by John - - as they talk casually, she starts to hear haunting lyrics from the rock opera "Tommy" about isolation and despair. John's voice breaks through the melody, quietly asking how they can both spend each day standing right in front of each other's noses and not see that they belong together. The music swells, and they grab each other, kissing wildly...

...as Ally wakes up with a start.

Shaken by the dream, she crawls into bed with Renee, waking her and saying she's had an epiphany... John Cage is the One. Renee stares at her for a moment, then rolls over without a word. Ally frowns, her nose whistling.

The next morning, Elaine tells Ally that the Biscuit wants to speak with her. Ally immediately - - and rather frantically - - asks what he wanted, how he sounded, and what he was wearing. Elaine is about to respond, when Billy swaggers by with his troop of fashion model "assistants" marching perfectly in step around him. When Ally heckles him about his distinctly Robert Palmer-esque backup girls, he snidely informs her that he has an important meeting scheduled with a client who makes $500 million a year, and that his "new look" will help him impress the mogul so they can get his business. Ally leaves, disgusted, and finds John Cage; she approaches him, trying to act casual and failing miserably. He instantly senses that something is wrong, and tries to get her to tell him what it is, asking if she's sick or dying. She insists that she's merely taking an interest in a friend, and proceeds to beat a hasty retreat to regroup in her office...where she finds Elaine, pulling on a pair of remarkably tight pants while innocently asking Ally what's wrong. It seems the secretary has a very important date, a friend- of-a-friend who sounded dreamy on the phone, and she's wearing pants that have been marinated in pheromones for the occasion. Elaine displays her form sensually, asking Ally how she looks - - Ally swallows the more obvious adjectives that come to mind, telling her she looks "fine."

Ally leaves her office...and runs headlong into John. She laughs nervously, trying once again to act normal and coming across as fidgety and overly perky. He asks her again to tell him what's wrong, and she shrugs it off, blaming it on the new millennium.

Meanwhile, Elaine meets Bob, her charming date. She's obviously smitten and, oozing sex from every pore, she slinks up to him, saying she hates lunch dates and would rather meet him for dinner that night. Ally listens to this exchange from around the corner, frowning. When Bob leaves, Ally compliments Elaine sourly on her "deft" maneuver. Elaine tells her matter-of-factly that, if she wants to meet Mr. Right, she has to MAKE it happen. Suddenly, Ally hears Barry White and retreats once again to the safety of her office, fearing she may be cracking up. John follows her in, reminding her that they usually tell each other when there's something wrong. She takes a deep breath, constructing a careful hypothetical scenario to ask him what he'd do if he thought someone might be The One for him, but that person was involved with someone else. John says that such a thing happened to him, telling her that he knew a woman who, he was convinced, was The One for him. She wasn't still with her old boyfriend, but there were issues there, and the boyfriend was a friend of John's...in short, it was a complicated situation. "I'd never met anybody like her," he says, remembering. When she asks what he did, he tells her that he asked her out; he had to, he never would have forgiven himself otherwise and afterwards - - even though their initial date was a disaster - - he felt better for having at least known that he went ahead with it and had no regrets. But he says that he still remains friends with the woman...indeed, they are the best of friends. When Ally asks if she knows the woman, John states the obvious: The woman was her.

Later, Ling finds Ally staring into the unisex mirror pensively and asks what's wrong. Ally presents her problem without naming the object of her affection, telling Ling that he has a girlfriend - - Ling curtly observes that there's always a girlfriend, that the best men are always taken and that the only way to get them is to steal them. "Are we talking about someone who'd be a fun date," Ling asks, "or is this more about your life's content?" When Ally admits that it is the latter, Ling reminds her that most women don't even MEET the man who is The One, let alone get a chance to be with him, and that letting it pass her by just to keep from hurting the feelings of some woman who isn't even her friend is silly. But what if it doesn't work out? What if she just ends up ruining what was a perfect relationship for the man? Ling enters a stall, saying that if Ally's really concerned about her true love's happiness, she'll stay as far away from him as possible.

John is in his office, tinkering with a pair of elegant black pumps and a remote control at his desk when Nelle walks in. He immediately hides the shoes, but not before she sees them and overreacts, exasperated at the idea of him having a "shoe fetish." He quietly denies this, telling her that the shoes are for her...she melts, putting them on and telling him how lovely they are. "Watch," he says proudly, pushing the button on the remote control. The heels on the shoes retract, bringing her down to his level so that he can kiss her on the lips. "That's what they're for," he tells her. She frowns at his eccentricity.

Meanwhile, Sandy is telling Billy that she cannot work for him anymore - - while she appreciates the opportunities that he's given her, the sleek bevy of trained women he pays to follow him for image is silly, and she feels people will not take her seriously if she works for a man who acts so ridiculous. He apologizes, and says he doesn't want her to leave...he'll get rid of the girls.

In the unisex, John Cage finds Ling holding Elaine's breasts into a position that will make her more attractive on her date. As he processes this, Ally enters, nervously reacting to John's presence and bolting. The Biscuit pauses, as though trying to determine whether he should look for hidden cameras, before following Ally to see once and for all what's wrong with her. She tells him about the dream she had last night, saying that the way they can see into their imaginary lives - - the way they bring each other out, how comfortable they are together - - makes them really perfect for each other. John looks at her for a moment, and leaves.

That night, as the date between Elaine and Bob draws to a close, it is clear they've both had a wonderful time. Bob wants to come up to her apartment, but she refuses...coyly at first, but becomes more and more insistent as he becomes increasingly aggressive. She points out that it's only the first date, and he reminds her that she went all the way with Danny O'Connell on the first date. That's when Elaine realizes that Bob only wanted to go out with her because he thought sex was a sure thing. Disgusted with him - - but with herself more - - she says goodnight quietly and goes up to her apartment, heartbroken.

The next day, Elaine comes to the office dressed in black, her hair done up in a conservative fashion, her tone and manner clipped and professional. Ally asks how the date went. "It went swimmingly," Elaine replies. "He was like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn." She asks Ally if she comes across as promiscuous, and Ally admits that it's how she bills herself. Elaine tells Ally about the ruined date, trying to dismiss it by saying that Bob was a creep and leaving it at that.

Georgia returns to the offices of Cage/Fish, her expression cold and detached as she marches over to Billy and hands him an envelope. She's filing for a divorce - - Renee is representing her, and she says that when he gets a lawyer he should let her know so they can get together. Billy looks as though a wrecking ball has just hit him in the chest as her words sink in. "You had to serve the papers yourself?" he asks in disbelief. "Yes," she hisses nastily, turning to leave. Billy reads the divorce papers quietly in his office, feeling utterly destroyed, his facade broken.

Ally and Renee stand in front of the elevator, talking. Renee tells her that she must take bold steps in order to get what she deserves. Ally agrees...and steps out into the elevator shaft, plummeting to her death...

...as she wakes up in her office, breathing hard.

Ling enters, scowling. She knows that Ally is contemplating stealing John from Nelle, and she won't permit it. Ally protests, yelling that she hasn't done anything and ordering Ling to leave. Ling growls...Ally stands to face her and they square off, breathing fire at each other until Ally buckles, blown away by flames.

Ally finds John in the library, pinching his head in thought. She apologizes for what she said, saying it was selfish and unfair of her and that she respects his relationship with Nelle. He assures her that it wouldn't have made a difference if it wasn't something that had gone unstated for a long time between them. There is a connection between them, something they share that cannot be denied. He now knows what he wants: Nelle for his girlfriend, Ally for his therapist. He knows that he could never risk his precious friendship with Ally. She is stunned. He gets up to leave, promising that they'll be friends forever and giving her a chaste peck on the cheek.

Ally stalks through the office angrily. Ling confronts her, warning her to stop thinking about pursuing a relationship with John - - unable to take it anymore, Ally opens her mouth wide and flames pour out, scorching Ling and forcing her to run off, squeaking, her tail between her legs. John greets Ally, and she snaps at him viciously. She asks how this suddenly clarity of thinking struck him, and he tells her that because he is so odd, he needs someone more grounded to balance him. Since Ally is stranger than he is in many ways, she would not be right for him. She balks at this, attacking him personally and making fun of his eccentricities. "Why don't you just P-P-P-P-Poughkeep yourself out of here, you funny little man!" she snarls. His lips pull away into his familiar, uncomfortable grin.

Bob comes to the office to apologize to Elaine, promising that he'll be a perfect gentleman if they try again. "You can't 'be' a perfect gentleman, Bob," she tells him. "Either you are, or you're not." She refuses to go out with him, and he says that he's not the villain...they each went out with the other because of what they thought the other person was. "And we were both wrong," she observes, telling him to get lost.

Ally finds John and sits next to him, admitting that he was right in his decision. She says that all the things she said to him were only because she was hurt; she still loves all of his eccentricities, and she still loves how odd he is. And the thought of losing him as her best friend is unthinkable. "Truce?" she asks. "Treaty," he answers.

Billy sits at the bar, drinking sadly. Sandy sees him and approaches, observing how cliché it is for a man served with divorce papers to be drowning his sorrows. He asks if he should be out on the dance floor, and she admits that this would be even more cliché, asking if there's anything she can do to help. He says he'll walk her home. "And that's ALL you'll do," she asks, suspiciously. "That's all I'm offering," he replies in a rough voice filled with grief, finishing his drink and standing.

Ally sees Elaine crying in the unisex. She asks if Elaine really does regularly sleep with men on the first date...Elaine says no. "Then he got it wrong," Ally replies simply. When Elaine says she's disgusted with the reputation she has - - and how it makes her feel about her character - - Ally observes that Elaine enjoys putting herself out there as a sexual person, and that, if some people mistake that for being a slut, then that just means that they get it wrong. Ally says that she admires Elaine. "Why do you think I sang that song at the Christmas party last year?" she asks. "I wanted to be you for a night! How many people marinate their clothes in pheromones before a date? You're an optimist! That's what I want to be when I grow up." Elaine says that she's lonely, her voice trembling with heartache. Ally says that she is too...but there are worse things.

Meanwhile, John and Nelle walk together on the snowy streets. Nelle asks why he's been so overly pensive lately. He says that it's nothing she needs to know...she presses the point, saying that couples don't keep secrets from each other. "You want to know the big secret?" he asks, clicking the remote to bring her face to face with him. She looks at him sullenly, preparing for something ridiculous. "I love you," he says quietly, kissing her on the lips. She softens, her icy demeanor cracking at his warmth.

On the streets of Boston, Ally and Elaine walk together like sisters, talking and laughing...Billy and Sandy walk alongside each other in silence...and Georgia walks alone in the cold like a ghost, her face filled with pain.


* You're going to hate me, but...I can't help but feel sorry for Billy. He honestly doesn't know who he is anymore or what he wants, and now the pain of losing Georgia has come back all over again. And really, it couldn't have come at a better time, because it seems to have snapped him back to reality a little. He was going off the deep end, and this has provided a sort of cold water shock to him, made him see how silly and over-the-top he was acting. I now find Billy's quest for self-discovery - - and ultimately, self-acceptance - - to be one of the most really intriguing ongoing aspects of the show. Yes, he's acting ridiculous. Yes, he seems to be changing personalities from one week to the next. But that's because he's desperately clawing to find himself, and through it all, we can see his frustration and discomfort with himself. (And we all know Billy...when he's doubting himself and someone criticizes him, that's when he feels backed into a corner and la shes out accordingly, becoming even MORE obnoxious out of spite.) I think the way David E. Kelley has made this character so interesting, complex and well-developed is brilliant, and the more I see of him, the more I love. Which brings me to...

* ...Georgia. Yeah, she was only in the show for a few minutes, but I still think her role was pretty vital and worth mentioning. Again, I think the way her character has been developed is wonderfully complex and interesting to watch. Finally, we get to really SEE what makes this woman tick, rather than just being part of the show's superfluous, two-dimensional "Barbie and Ken" set. Gil Bellows and Courtney Thorne-Smith are such sensational actors, and now they are able to use their talents and really shine. (My wish came true! Yay!)

* Renee is becoming a thoroughly unlikable character. What is this woman's problem? She's so judgmental and rude, she's become petty and two-faced and seems to have a bad attitude in general! I mean, she was always outspoken and occasionally she rubbed people the wrong way, and even when she was being an opinionated, close-minded obnoxiously-militant chauvinist bitch, she still managed to be in character. Admittedly, she's put up with a lot from Ally and her friends, but just becoming surly and mean certainly won't help. I think Kelley's too smart for this to be an accident, a mistake, or an oversight, so I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop so we can find out what's going on with her. Meanwhile, why have we seen almost no cases from the Renee/Whipper/Georgia firm? I'm anxious to see Georgia in action, we almost never got to see her really shine as a lawyer before and I know we'll be seeing the Three Furies locking horns against the Cage/Fish camp fairly regularly. (Which will no doubt make Renee even nastier to everyone outside the courtroom...)

* On those rare occasions when we see the real tragedy and isolation beneath the fluff of Elaine's character, am I the only one who feels the overwhelming desire to reach into the television set and hug this woman? The subtlety with which Kelley portrays her loneliness is so heart-rending, and so painfully REAL, and Jane Krakowski is brilliant in the way she makes us ache for Elaine Vassal, so that we can see the sadness behind her eyes, that hint of desperation in her cheerfully perky smile.

* I can't stand it when they make fun of poor John's stutter! First Richard...who we can dismiss because, well, it's RICHARD...then Nelle, who's supposed to love him, and now Ally? It's just so vicious and horrible! How can they pick on him like that, knowing how sensitive he is?

* I didn't like the episode before this one, because it seemed fairly contrived and not at all up to par with Kelley's usual talent. But I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. True, the show isn't as wildly funny as it was, but I think that's just because we're at a point in the story arc where Kelley doesn't want to concentrate on the humor as much in order to really bring out the interaction between the characters during this crucial time. So as a result, it comes off as something of a lull, and a lot of the humor seems either forced or relying on previous gags rather than coming up with new ones...but I believe that's just in order to better tell the story, and I'm sure that after this divorce scenario with Billy and Georgia, things will start to return to normal...

...or at least, as normal as it gets at Cage/Fish & Associates...!

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