Prime Suspect
Air date: March 20, 2000
Summary/Review by Dana Bonistalli

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John Cage is alone in his office late at night, working on a closing. He paces back and forth, barefoot, going over and over what he wants to say. Meanwhile, Matthew Vault, one of the plaintiffs in the last episode "The Oddball Parade," exits the elevator and comes into the office. (Matthew is the one who wears a dress.) John goes to his door and opens it just as Matthew is about to knock. They both scream. Once they calm down, Matthew tells John that Mr. Schoefield, the defendant from the last episode who fired the "oddballs," has been murdered. He was stabbed in his bedroom and the police think Paul Potts, the clapping oddball, is responsible. John and Matthew go to see Paul in jail. In between his clapping and hitting himself on the head, Paul tells them that he was with Benny at the movies and that he is innocent of this crime.

The next morning, as John, Richard and Matthew enter the office, John tells Richard that the arraignment is at ten that day. John begs to be second chair on the case. Ally joins them and also pleads to work on the case. John agrees to let Richard be second chair and Ally can sit third chair. They all argue about who should actually be second chair. Billy exits his own office and stares at Matthew. Instead of seeing a man in a dress, he sees a beautiful, tall, thin woman. He approaches Matthew and tells him that he just had to introduce himself. "Has anyone ever told you, you are the most beautiful woman in the world?" Billy asks, still thinking that he's talking to a gorgeous woman. But a woman's voice doesn't come from this vision. Instead, Billy hears Matthew say that he gets that every now and then. Not really understanding what's going on, Billy backs away and goes back into his office, but instead of finding it empty, Nelle is sitting at the desk. She asks him what he's doing and only then does Billy realize that he has accidentally gone into Nelle's office.

Paul is arraigned and John asks for a probable cause hearing. The judge agrees to one later that day.

The other two "oddballs" (Mindy and Benny) show up at the office. Matthew tells them what's going on. Billy comes around the corner and again sees Matthew as a beautiful woman and he approaches him again. He tells the woman that he knows she must get hit on ten times a day, then before he can finish, Matthew tells him that he's about to break his face. Sandy interrupts and pulls Billy to the side. Billy thinks he just hallucinated because the woman turned into a transvestite. Sandy explains that Matthew is a transvestite, adding that it doesn't matter what sex he is, she wonders why Billy was hitting on him or her anyway.

As the group prepares to go the court, Mindy tells John that maybe Mrs. Schoefield murdered her husband. "It's always the wife," she says. John says he normally doesn't call witnesses at PC hearings, but he wants to call Benny to testify that he and Paul were at the movies the night before. "Is that what Paul said?" Benny asks. John is surprised and asks Benny if he was at the movies with Paul. "Sure," Benny says. John continues to push him until Benny finally admits that he was not with Paul the night before.

In a room off the courtroom, Paul tells John that he was afraid and that's why he lied about his alibi. He says he was at home, alone, but he reiterates that he did not kill Mr. Schoefield.

Sandy comes into Billy's office and asks him what is going on. He says nothing. She says he's probably just nervous about the Hallen meeting at four that day. Hallen is the big client Billy won when he brought in his "Billy Girls" and proclaimed that Hallen would not find a more gigantic ass than him. He asks Sandy to wish him luck, then kisses her. "Are you nuts?" Nelle says, pushing him away. Billy realizes that he has hallucinated again. He turns away from Nelle and sees two claymation characters standing on his desk, about the size of Barbie dolls. One is Ally, who keeps yelling, "Marry me" and the other is Georgia, who yells over and over "Divorce me." The Georgia one jumps onto his face and bites his nose. He yells, then turns to Nelle when the hallucination is over and says he thinks he should go see a doctor.

Later, Nelle returns but Sandy stops her at the door and tells her Billy doesn't want any visitors. "Sandy, isn't it?" Nelle says. "I'm not sure what the proper protocol is for secretaries. I've never been one. But I doubt it calls for referring to lawyers who actually work in the firm as visitors. Or hadn't you noticed I work here." Nelle goes into Billy's office and Sandy turns, muttering to herself, "I've noticed." Nelle tells Billy that she has a friend who is a neurologist and she's made him an appointment for four that day to see her. He says he can't because he has to meet with Hallen. Nelle says she'll cover the meeting for him, adding that if he takes the meeting in his current state, he won't be able to keep the client.

The victim's wife, Debra, is on the stand recounting the events of the night before. She says that she and her husband were getting ready for bed at about nine-thirty. She decided to take a shower. She started to wash, then heard a sound like the bathroom door closing. She says that suddenly, she felt like she wasn't alone. She called out, "Is anybody there?" No one replied. She says she started to get scared. Ally is listening intensely, and as Debra explains what happened, Ally sees herself as Debra, in the shower, getting more and more frightened by the moment. Debra says she looked out, but the room was full of steam and she wasn't able to see anything. She continued with her shower, then heard something hit the floor. She says she called out to Joel and turned off the water, but still, she heard nothing. She began to think it was only her imagination, so she turned the water back on and started rinsing her hair. She says that suddenly, someone pulled back the shower curtain. Ally, who is still seeing herself in the shower, screams. Once she stops and apologizes, Debra continues with her story. She says someone was in the bathroom, in a hood, and he had a knife. She says he reared back as if he was going to stab her, then just as quickly, he stopped and ran away. She threw her robe on and called 9-1-1. After that, she found Joel in the bedroom. She says before she got out of the shower, she heard somebody running down the stairs, along with four crisp claps. She claps four times to demonstrate what she heard. Paul also claps four times. "Exactly like that," she says.

Benny and Paul are in a room off the courtroom. Paul asks how long before there is a verdict. Benny reminds him this is just a probable cause hearing. Paul sadly says he forgot.

Later, Benny tells John that if they don't win this hearing, Paul will disintegrate in jail. Mindy again tries to tell John that Debra is the murderer, adding that she may have had motive. Now John is interested in hearing more. Mindy says there was talk that Mr. Schoefield was having an affair with a co-worker named Nancy Raleigh Sicklen. There were even rumors that he was going to leave his wife for her. John and Richard go to talk with Nancy. They ask her if Mrs. Schoefield knew about the affair. All she says is, "Oh God." Richard asks, "Is that what you say while sleeping with him?" Nancy is afraid she's going to be sullied.

Nelle arrives for the meeting with Hallen. He wants to know where Billy is. She says they have taken Billy off the case. She says Billy is a gifted litigator, but this is a corporate account and she is the top corporate attorney at the firm. She goes on to say that the nonsense with the Billy Girls is beneath Hallen's integrity and doesn't serve him. Hallen again asks where Billy is. Nelle says he's at an appointment with his neurologist. "He suffers some occasional imbalance, but I assure you, it's nothing that would ever affect his work," she says.

The neurologist asks Billy if he's had any erratic behavior. He says that he seems to have a quick temper, and that he gets funny tastes in his mouth. "Like the taste of your own foot," says the person sitting at the doctor's desk, who, in Billy's mind, is Georgia. Repeating the question, the doctor asks him what kind of funny tastes he gets but he says it's nothing he can identify. She wants to run a few tests.

Nelle passes by Sandy's desk and tells her to send the Hallen file to her office.

John asks Paul what he knows about Schoefield and Nancy. Paul says he doesn't want to get Nancy in trouble. John finally convinces him to tell him something. Paul says that Nancy only said there was a problem she didn't tell him what the problem was.

Cage questions Debra and asks if she knows of any reason to suspect Paul Potts as the person who killed her husband. She mentions the fact that Paul and his friends were fired as one reason. John asks if Debra knows of any one else who might want to harm her husband. She says no. John points towards a woman in the courtroom and asks Debra who she is. Debra says it is Wanda Mitt, her housekeeper. John points to the woman sitting behind Wanda and asks Debra if she knows her. Debra says her name is Nancy Raleigh Sicklen. John says that Wanda Mitt heard Debra use Nancy's name two days ago when she was fighting with her husband. John starts recounting what he thinks happened. He says that Joel was going to leave Debra for Nancy. He says Debra was angry, and perhaps she picked up a knife and slowly approached him from behind. Ally is picturing all of this happening, and when John describes how Debra raised the knife over her shoulder, Ally screams again. After apologizing, again, John continues, saying that Debra probably jumped in the shower and washed away the evidence. He turns to the judge and says that there simply isn't enough evidence to prove his client committed this crime. The assistant district attorney says they just haven't introduced all of their evidence yet. She says they have a pen, found at the scene, with Paul's fingerprints. The judge says he finds that probable cause does exist, and Paul is bound over for trial.

In the room off the courtroom, Ally asks Paul if he can tell her how the pen got in the Schoefield's house. He says no. She reminds him that he's on trial for his life and that she needs him to tell her the truth. She asks if he killed Mr. Schoefield. He says no. She asks him why he thinks he's being accused. "Cause I'm a freak," he says, "and people think freaks are capable of doing awful things." Ally quietly assures him that he is not a freak. She asks if there is any way he could have left a pen of his at Mr. Schoefield's house. He says no, adding that he was never invited to the house. With tears on his cheeks, he asks Ally, "Am I going to stay in jail forever?"

Back at the firm, Ally, Richard and John try to figure out what to do next. "This is why we don't do murder trials," Richard says, "We stink at them." They toss around the idea that it could have been suicide, but John wonders how a dead man could get rid of the knife. Then Ally comes up with a theory that they think could be possible. She wonders if the murderer could have been Nancy Raleigh Sicklen. She couldn't have the man of her dreams, and she could have lifted Paul's pen from his desk at the office. Ally reminds them that Paul said he talked to Nancy on the day of the murder that she called him and Ally thinks maybe she called him to see if he was going to be at home that night without an alibi. Another idea pops into Ally's head. She thinks she can get Nancy to admit to the crime. "I'm good at getting people to talk about their broken hearts," she says. She says she'll wear a wire.

Matthew, Mindy and Benny come to the office to find out what's going to happen with Paul's case. Elaine tells them that Richard, John and Ally are working on it right now, and she sits them down to wait.

Ally walks down the street, testing the wire she is wearing. She's also got a tiny speaker in her ear so that she can hear what John and Richard are telling her. They are driving just a short distance behind Ally. She tells them they should probably be a little less conspicuous, as she looks over to find they are holding up traffic. They decide that they should probably find a parking space. Ally goes up to Nancy's townhouse and rings the bell. When Nancy answers the door, Ally asks if she can talk to her for a second. Nancy says this isn't a good time. Ally asks again, saying that she knows Nancy cares about Paul and she won't take up much of her time. Nancy asks her to give her a second, then closes the door. Richard says she's probably ditching the knife. Nancy comes back and leads Ally into her living room. She asks Ally what exactly it is she wants to talk to her about. Ally says she wants to talk about Joel. John tells Ally to be sure and look around. Richard says that's why she went in there. John shushes him, and when he does, the speaker in Ally's ear screeches. Nancy asks Ally what is wrong and she answers, "Mi, mi, migraine." "In your ear?" asks Nancy. Ally goes on to say that she doesn't know if Nancy loved Joel, but something tells her that she did. "What business is this of yours?" Nancy asks. Ally says, "There was a man I once loved."

Meanwhile, Billy is getting strapped in for a CAT scan. He tells the doctor that he gets a little claustrophobic in tunnels. In Billy's mind, the doctor turns into Georgia, who tells him just to let her know if he gets uncomfortable.

Back at Nancy's house, Ally is continuing her story about Billy and how they were soul mates. Outside in the car, Richard and John make "blah, blah, blah" gestures with their hands. Nancy asks Ally why she is telling her all this. Ally says she doesn't believe that Paul Potts killed Joel, and if he didn't, then maybe Debra did. "Maybe the thought of losing Joel was just too much," Ally says. Nancy tells her that Debra wasn't losing Joel. "Were you losing him?" Ally asks. She says she knows Nancy called Paul the day of the murder, and she wonders if she did that to assure herself that he would be alone that night. She says Nancy also knew how Paul clapped. Ally tells her she has enough to at least get the police to investigate the possibility. Nancy says she is through listening to what Ally has to say and she tells her to leave. Ally asks if she can use Nancy's bathroom. Nancy says no. Ally says she is just trying to help Paul. "Then let me be sure to confess," Nancy says. Ally hears something from the direction of the closet. She tells Nancy that she left her purse on the sofa. As Nancy goes to the sofa to get the purse, Ally walks to the closet and pulls open the door. She is surprised to find Debra hiding there. Richard and John quickly call 9-1-1. Debra tells Ally that she just came by to collect her husband's things and when Ally showed up, she was afraid of how it would look so she hid. Ally starts to put two and two together. "That fight the housekeeper heard it wasn't you angry at Joel for an affair that he was having. He was angry at you for having an affair with her." Ally says. "Let's sit down and have some coffee," Debra says. Ally says she thinks she will be leaving. "I don't think you will," Debra says. Ally tells them she knows karate. Debra asks, "What are you going to do? Hit me?" Ally does just that. Ally runs to the door and just is she is opening it, the police kick it in. Richard and John are right behind them. Richard calls out, "FBI." John questions why he said that. "What? I should have yelled lawyer?" Richard says.

Ling goes to see Nelle. She sees Nelle has the Hallen file on her desk. "You also poached the Skinner file from Richard," Ling says. "Does he know that?" asks Nelle. Ling says no and asks her what she's up to. "This place just needs a few changes, and I need power to make them," Nelle says.

Ally, Paul, Benny and the assistant district attorney meet with the judge in his chambers. He asks where Mr. Cage is right now. Ally explains that he and Richard inadvertently represented themselves as FBI agents and they are still answering questions. The assistant district attorney tells the judge it does appear that Nancy and Debra did have a relationship. The D.A.'s office is still trying to piece together exactly what happened. Ally says that at this time, they don't have enough to satisfy probable cause. The assistant district attorney says her office recommends that the charges be dropped. The judge asks Paul to stand up and tells him that the murder charges against him are dismissed without prejudice. "I'm free?" he asks Ally. Ally tells him that he is free. The assistant district attorney apologizes for the hardship he was caused and Paul thanks her. He then turns to Ally and thanks her with a hug.

Billy goes to see Georgia at her office. She asks what he is doing there. He says he was just walking by and saw the lights on. Then he tells her that he has a brain tumor.


I can't believe that even though I knew what was going to happen with Billy, David E. Kelley can still write this show in a way that can bring me to tears. I was touched by the fact that he went to see Georgia and not Ally. And the straight-forward words used to end this episode, and the straight-forward way Billy said them, again, even though I knew they were coming, hit me like a ton of bricks.

As a legal secretary, I find the way Nelle treated Sandy despicable. I admit I don't know how things work in all firms, but if my boss told me he didn't want to be disturbed, that means everyone, and part of my job is to make sure he is not disturbed. And the way she took Billy's client, I'm pretty sure that would be frowned upon in most firms, too. Okay, I know this is not "most" firms, and there were hints that this wouldn't be the end of Nelle's actions, so I do have to admit I'm a bit intrigued to at least see how it turns out. Especially if, in the end, Nelle gets what's coming to her.

Ally has certainly come a long way from three years ago when she was afraid of murderers.

I wonder what happened to the case that Cage was working on at the beginning? If he was working late on a closing, chances are he was supposed to give that closing the next day.

Since I don't have many more of these to write, I wanted to make sure I got something in. While watching the opening montage to the show, I was struck by how really talented Calista is. I know that there are times when I don't like the character Ally, but just watching her different facial expressions made me realize that Calista is a damn fine actress. She can convey so many different emotions and thoughts without even speaking. I hope to someday be lucky enough to see Calista on stage, where I hear that she really shines.

Favorite Line:

Judge: "You say you found killer lesbians?"
Ally: "One was in the closet."

Copyright © 2000 Dana Bonistalli. All rights reserved.