Boy Next Door
Air date: March 27, 2000
Summary/Review by Josh Bermont

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

"A brain tumor?" Ally asks, frowning. Billy has just told her the shocking news; when she asks if they're going to remove it, he says that they're going to run some more tests. He tells her that the doctors think it's benign, but that since everyone at the firm seems to know already through rumors and gossip, he wanted her to hear it directly from him. When she asks - - her voice trembling - - if he's going to die, he starts to speak, stops...and, after a pause, forces a smile and assures her that he's going to be fine.

Ally walks into the meeting room, where all of the lawyers at Cage/Fish are waiting for John to arrive. Richard decides to start without him, and abruptly opens the meeting with the subject of Billy's Brain Tumor. As Billy sits next to him uncomfortably, Richard says that what Billy would really like is for it not to be treated like a big deal, and that he feels there's no reason for everyone to walk around depressed or anxious..."Listen to me," Richard says, chuckling uneasily as the rest of the lawyers fidget in their seats, "talking about him like he's already dead!" Richard turns, asking Billy to tell them in his own words how he'd like them to handle it, listing the options of ignoring it, or treating it like it's psychosomatic. As he starts to tell a story about a relative of his who thought he had a brain tumor, we can hear in his trademark staccato rambling that he's incredibly nervous and doesn't really know what to say. Billy tells him to calm down, saying that it could be nothing and that the doctors will be running some more tests. Suddenly, his voice trails he sees Nelle's breasts swell impossibly through her sweater. As his eyes widen, she growls sensually, and her tongue lashes out to wrap around his neck and pull him across the table, his face inches away from her newly-expanded cleavage.

He looks around self-consciously. Nelle is sitting in her chair as though nothing has happened, and everyone at the table is looking at him curiously. "Excuse me," he says, running from the room. Richard brings up the next case, Prune vs. Prune, an anullment which was originally being handled by Billy and Ally. Concerned, Richard asks Ally if it's wise to keep Billy on the case when he has a brain tumor affecting his judgment...Ally twitches uncomfortably, saying she'll talk with him about it. Elaine walks in, and - - barely containing her excitement - - proclaims, "We have a problem with the Biscuit."

Out in the lobby, a pair of legs in brown suit pants thrashes from a gap between the floor of the stuck elevator...and the top of the elevator shaft. Ally gasps, and Richard reassures John (or at least, John's rear end) that he's calling the fire department. Ling asks sourly if this means she'll have to take the stairs. John hears this, his legs twitching pitifully like the antennae of a trapped cockroach.

In his office, Billy watches as Sandy nervously gathers his papers together for the Prune case. She asks if there's anything more she can do. He looks her in the eyes and, calmly, tells her she can take a hike...he says that he doesn't know who the man for her is, but that the chances it's an older man coming out of a divorce - - with a brain tumor - - are pretty slim. When she insists that she's not going to run away, he insists that he's PUSHING her away, and that when they're wheeling him down the hospital corridor for this operation, she isn't the one whose hand he wants to be holding. Unconvinced, she asks if he's just saying this because he's trying to spare her the pain of being with him through this.

He blinks...and she's standing in front of him, totally naked.

His eyes widen as she looks at him, fully clothed, and asks him again if he's only pushing her away because he's trying to protect her. He shakes his head and focuses again, saying - - without much conviction in his voice - - that he's only thinking of himself. Sandy leaves, and Ally walks in, reminding him that the Prune case is a fairly simple proceeding and that she can handle it alone if he doesn't feel up to it. "No! Nobody's going to be doing that around here!" he says, upset. "Nobody's going to be treating me like a damn patient! You can forget that!" Ally reminds him that he says he hallucinates, and he counters by saying she hallucinates, too. She says that at least she knows when what she's seeing isn't really there..."I'm starting to realize that myself," he assures her. He pleads with her, saying that work is the best thing for him and that he knows he can do this. She agrees, and he sinks into his chair, saying that he's always heard about this happening to other people, but he never thought it would happen to him. He says once again - - sounding like he's trying to convince himself more than her - - that the specialists truly believe that the tumor is benign. Ally asks if he wants her to go to the specialist with him, but he says that Georgia's coming. She stands to leave...and pauses, turning back to look at him. "Love you," she says softly.

"I love you too," he says.

Ally starts to leave again, and he stops her, saying he'd actually love it if she'd come with him to the doctor's office. She agrees

In court, Mr. Prune is on the stand, telling why he wants an anullment. He says that he and his wife had never been intimate prior to their wedding night, because neither of them believed in premarital sex. It was one of the reasons they were so compatible, their personal values. They often discussed how difficult it was to get ahead in an insincere, superficial, artificial world. Billy and Ally sit with Mrs. Prune as her estranged husband tells how he was in bed with his new wife, and went to make love to her...when he touched her breasts and discovered that they were false. "They felt like pertified whoopie cushions!" he sobs. "What kind of a Lutheran would do that?" He subsequently learned that she'd had cosmetic surgery done on her nose, cheeks and stomach as well. He feels that she was pretending to be something she wasn't, that it wasn't ever a real marriage, and that's why he wants an anullment instead of just a divorce. Ally steps up and comes out swinging, accusing him of only marrying her for her looks. Prune denies this, saying that her cosmetic work speaks of her character, and she's not the woman he thought she was marrying; the lawyer jumps on this, asking if taking his wife "for better or worse" discounts vanity. He points out that the values he wants to teach his children include accepting yourself for who you are. In setting an example, he says, how can you tell them that they should be happy with the bodies God gave them, but that "Mommy's had work done"? Prune pauses uncomfortably, then says to Ally quietly, "Look, I can see you've had some work done yourself..." Ally nearly has a heart attack, insisting that the judge strike that from the record and that the record show she has most certainly NOT had plastic surgery.

Later, in the specialist's office with Billy and Georgia, Ally continues to grouse about Mr. Prune's assumption when two doctors enter, a pleasant Japanese fellow whose speaks broken English with a heavy accent, and his assistant, an attractive blonde woman. They tell Billy that the growth in his head is indeed benign, but that the tumor is in the speech portion of the brain and it's very difficult to operate on. "We'd like to bring you in for MRIs over the next month to monitor how fast it's growing," the woman says to Billy in a calm, professional voice, and then adds, "And also, while I have you here, I'd like to give you a little oral sex." Billy stares at her suspiciously, knowing that what he's heard is a hallucination.

Fish is talking on his cell phone to John's obscured upper half, trying to calm him down. Nelle swoops in, grabbing the phone from Richard and tersely telling John, "I know this isn't the best of times, but I don't think this is working out for us, I think we should start seeing other people." A faint nose whistle emanates from the cell phone. Fish and Ling stare at her in disbelief. When John asks if they shouldn't discuss this first, she says there's nothing to discuss and that she wouldn't want to "leave him dangling...pardon the pun," she chuckles. John starts stammering. She assures him that there's just no way their relationship could ever work out in the long run. Nonchalantly, she says they'll talk more about it later - - as though casually scheduling a meeting with a client after lunch - - and hands the phone back to Richard before walking away briskly. John's legs redouble their frustrated thrashing.

"I never misrepresented who I am," Mrs. Prune insists on the stand. "Cosmetic work does not change the person." As Billy questions her, she insists that everyone takes steps to make themselves more attractive, and that her plastic surgery is no different than using moisturizer or lipstick to attract men. "You marry people for what they are, you don't sue them for what they're not," she says. The opposing counsel steps up, wondering aloud whether her misrepresentation stopped at physical appearance..."What about the herbal mood enhancers?" he asks, naming a long list of organic supplements she takes. "Physically, you're not what you held yourself out to be! Mentally, you're different without the chemicals!" he challenges. "Who is the real Angela Prune?" Billy leaps up, objecting to the witness being badgered. "It's about time you sprang into action...big boy," a female voice purrs at him. He turns, and sees Angela naked on the stand. His jaw drops.

Richard follows Nelle into the copy room, furiously saying he has an absolute mind to fire her for what she just did. "Well, you'd be out of your absolute mind legally," she points out coolly. "Associate dates senior parter, associate breaks up with senior partner, associate gets fired. How many zeroes go with that one?" She admits that perhaps she should have waited to break up with John, but the fact is, he doesn't even really like her. He likes how she looks, and he likes how it feels to be seen with her in public, but when it comes right down to it he thinks she's a rich bitch and an elitist snob. "And...and I think he's WEIRD!" she says, pointing out all of his annoying quirks, ridiculous fixations, nagging insecurities and irritating mannerisms. "It's one thing after another with him, Richard!" she explodes hotly. "IT'S JUST...ONE DAMN THING AFTER ANOTHER!" She and Richard look around, and see that the entire office is watching her tantrum.

As she storms away, Richard stops Billy to ask how the case is going and stare - - without the slightest hint of subtlety - - at Billy's head. Billy starts to answer...and suddenly, the entire office is dark and empty. He begins to panic, and Richard reappears in front of him, a confused and worried expression on his face. "Billy, listen," Richard says uneasily, "uh...I'm not good at, know, when things aren't good, I like to go into, uh, surf mode, you know, I, uh..." "You want to grab the remote and fast forward to the ending," Billy says, understanding. Suddenly, he hears a sound like someone clearing his throat. He looks around, startled, and hears it again...a throaty growl, coupled with the thrum of an electric guitar and bass, a sound that could only be...


He turns, and sees the women of the law office dancing and grooving in perfect precision on their desks to the song "Love Machine." Billy's eyes widen to the size of dinner plates. He asks Richard if there's actually anything there, and the dancing women disappear. Visibly shaken, he says he should talk to his doctor and retreats quickly.

"They were dancing?" the Japanese doctor asks, shining a flashlight into Billy's eyes as Ally and Georgia watch. Ally points out that Billy's hallucinations seem to be coming more frequently. The doctor nods, and politely asks the women to leave...he tells Billy that he thinks they'll have to remove the tumor after all. They can have the operation that weekend, and he'll be home recovering by Tuesday. Billy is stunned at the idea of going for brain surgery. "Some...times in our lives...we all have pain, we all have sorrow," the doctor sings sincerely, to Billy's astonishment. He blinks, and the doctor is giving him instructions in preparation for the surgery. Billy shakes his head to clear the cobwebs, and hears a piano's rich chords... "Lean on me!" the doctor sings. "If you're not strong! I'll be your friend...Billy? You okay?" The music is gone, and he is looking at Billy curiously. He suggests that Billy go home to get some rest. "Well, actually," Billy admits, "I have a big case coming up, and I have to write my closing..."

"Please! Swallow your pride!" the doctor croons.

"...then I'll go home," Billy finishes uneasily, getting up to leave.

John sits in a hospital bed in traction, a grumpy expression on his face. The door opens and Nelle walks in, shifting uncomfortably and asking how he's doing. He says they're keeping him there because he has lower back pain and there's swelling around some of the verterbrae. There is a stony pause. "You could have told me face to face, Nelle," he says. "Instead, you ended it to my buttocks." She admits that she's never been good at breaking up. "Also, whenever I do something where I might be unlikable," she says, "I don't know, I embrace being a total bitch. There's more power in it." He asks her to leave so he can get some rest. She starts to go, stops, and tells him that either she was going to leave him or he was going to leave her...but either way, they both knew it was coming. "Onward and upward, then," John says quietly. She nods and smiles gently, liking the sound of that.

"My client is a religious man," the opposing cousel says, making his closing statement before the judge. "He considers the body God's work. It's supposed to be a temple, and she completely rebuilt her temple!" The lawyer argues that this speaks of her values, and that's why his client should have not just a divorce - - which would give him baggage - - but a complete anullment.

"No one turns out to be exactly what you thought you were marrying," Bill says. "And people continue to evolve after marriage. The point is, you take your partner for better or worse. For what you know, or what you don't know. It's the sanctity of this institution. It's SUPPOSED to be an sanctity. Now, we have people trotting in for anullments at the snap of a finger. A Catholic can't remarry after a divorce? Boom!" he says, snapping, "get an anullment. Fall out of love with your wife because she has implants? Boom!" he snaps again, "get an anullment. Where's the sanctity, your honor? A month ago, I turn on the television and there was a show...Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire. Two people who'd never met got married right there on the broadcast!" Suddenly, he freezes, and goes over to ask Ally whether that actually happened or if he hallucinated it. She assures him that it did and, relieved, he continues. "Where the hell is the sanctity? People get married for green cards, tax's supposed to MEAN something! It's supposed to be about a love so strong that it can survive the discovery of cheek implants or a laser peel! It's supposed..." Billy stops, and turns toward Ally. "You see that woman?" he asks, smiling. "I've been married to her for twelve years." Ally's mouth opens in surprise. "And every day, when I go home to her...and our kids," he continues sincerely, happiness radiating from his soft eyes, "it's everything." He turns to her again, smiling warmly. "It'" The judge warns him that he may be getting a little off-track, and he returns to his argument, still beaming. "What I'm trying to say," he continues softly, "is that the only thing that counts. I've loved her since I was eight years old, we've never been apart. Not a single day. And I will love her for all my days. That's all that counts. That's all that will ever count," he finishes, as though delivering wedding vows on the most wonderful day of his life. "All of my heart, forever." She smiles, almost in spite of herself, at these words she's always wanted so much to hear.

His eyes glaze over and lose their focus. "I, uh...need to rest," he says quietly. Without warning, he stumbles backward, sitting down hard and collapsing on the floor of the courtroom.

Ally rushes over to him, shrieking hysterically that he's not breathing and trying desperately to revive him as their most precious moments - - playing together as children, working together as adults, celebrating together as friends - - come back to her in a rush of beautiful memories. The judge calls for a paramedic, but it's too late...his last breath has escaped his lips and his face is serene, lifeless.

He is gone.

At the office, Ally steps off the elevator in shock, her face stained with tears. She clears her throat, asking for everyone's attention. "About forty minutes ago," she says, her voice cracking, "Billy Thomas passed away." Everyone reacts, their faces filled with sadness or disbelief. ", he went quietly, and, um...peacefully..." But she cannot finish this last word and, overcome with grief, she runs from the room. Ling's normally impassive face softens almost imperceptibly. Elaine's face trembles. Sandy's large eyes fill with tears. Richard sits down hard on a desk. The silence is filled with heartache and loss.

Richard steps into John's hospital room. John greets him, saying that the doctors think he'll be out soon. His voice barely above a whisper, Richard says he has some bad news. "Billy...Billy, while in court today, suffered a cereberal hemorrage...and he died..." He pauses, collecting himself for the next difficult sentence. "It was likely connected to the's one of those things, they say, you know...?" John's jaw slowly goes slack as tears well up in Richard's eyes and his face begins to crumple and turn red. "I wish there was something I could say," Richard says, his voice straining and cracking as he falls apart, weeping uncontrollably. John watches, as though unsure of which surprises and unsettles him more...the news, or seeing the gleefully-insensitive Richard overcome by emotion.

Ally sits in her office alone. "It's gone now," Billy says, standing behind her and smiling peacefully, his hair brown again. "The tumor's gone." Without looking at him, she points out that he's gone, too; he left her all over again. Her voice dead, she asks - - her voice heavy with bitterness - - if he's going to haunt her now...he haunted her when he was alive, he may as well now that he's dead. "We had something, didn't we?" he asks. "We may have screwed it up, but...have you ever know any two people to have what we had?" She shakes her head, fighting tears. He walks over and crouches next to her, looking into her eyes. "All of my heart," he says. "Forever." She kisses him gently on the lips and bursts into tears, clutching him desperately and pleading with him not to leave her. He promises, holding her close and whispering to her, "It's stronger than death."

"Ally?" Georgia is standing in the doorway. Ally composes herself, and they plan the memorial service. Georgia suggests that Billy would have liked it if people were able to laugh at his service, to remember the good times and celebrate his life rather than dwell on his's cliche, but then, Ally points out, he was a big fan of cliche. Georgia asks if he really went peacefully, and Ally assures her that he did. She says that he just said he was tired and sat down, and when she rushed over to him, his last words were: "Tell Georgia that I love her." Georgia smiles, asking if that's true, and - - seeing how much it means to her - - Ally insists that it's exactly what happened. "He would want people to smile," Georgia says. "Let's give him that," Ally agrees.

At the service, the minister's words give Ally no comfort. She stands to deliver the eulogy...and gasps as Billy appears in front of her, smiling encouragingly. She takes a deep breath and walks through him, up to the podium. "I've heard it said," she begins, "that as you're about to pass into the next world, the final truth of this world...hits you. And the last thing Billy spoke about, right before he sat down in the courthouse, was love. How it was all that mattered. He seemed so lost in these last few months, but looking at him in the courthouse right before he died, he suddenly seemed so...found. He said to me, recently, he said, 'It's stronger than death.' And I wasn't sure what he meant. Now I am. When we were little, we would talk about this day...actually," she remembers, smiling, "we would sing about it. He would sing this song." She says the words slowly, reverentially, turning them over in her mouth like sugar cubes. "'And when I die...and when I'm gone...there'll be one child the world, to carry on.' That...that child has big shoes to fill." The people smile through their tears, nodding. "Billy Thomas," Ally whispers solemnly, like a little girl praying in the silence of her room. "All of my heart...forever." Then she returns to addressing the rest of the mourners, smiling.

"And as for Heaven," she begins...and slams her fist into the palm of her hand, the brassy opening of "New Man in Town" exploding in the church as the choir rises to sing and the mourners begin to dance and clap, celebrating the life of Billy Thomas.

That night, a dark and solitary figure walks through the cemetary, stopping in front of Billy's simple tombstone. Ally stands, remembering, and is joined by Georgia. They share this moment for several seconds before putting their arms around each other for comfort and support.


* I'll be brief this time, largely because I've just typed six full pages of summary in capturing every important detail - - including large segments of directly-quoted dialogue - - and while summarizing the events of such a powerful and moving episode may seem an intimidating prospect, it's nowhere near as intimidating a thought as summarizing how I FEEL about such an episode. This was a perfectly- crafted episode in which to bring the curtain down on Billy's life, by virtue of how perfectly it captured the essence of Ally McBeal...a brilliant, beautiful, and stirring blend of equal parts outrageous comedy about all-too-real issues, heart-wrenching drama and thought-provoking debate. These wholly unrealistic cartoon characters capture more fully what it means to be human than do the most meticulously-crafted dramatic characters, and that is what this show is all about. I can think of no more perfect way to say farewell to one such character.

* As I've said before, I mourn the death of a character I've come to genuinely care about and identify with so much. And while I am unable to feel real sadness at this event...I am deeply moved by it, and I believe I may even find myself missing Billy Thomas.

* To me, the upside of this unfortunate circumstance is that now, perhaps we will be able to see more of Gil Bellows' talent in movies. He truly is a gifted actor, and I'd like to see him get more recognition and substantial roles.

* But my favorite scene? To me, the most moving scene in the episode was when Richard went to see John and tell him the news. I can't explain, I can't put it into words the emotion and genuine intensity of this scene...if you saw it, you know why it affected me so deeply.

* Small things now...I was somewhat taken aback by the cheap humor of using a thick, stereotypical Japanese accent to get laughs. It's wholly unoriginal, and I would have expected better from David E. Kelley. But on the other hand, he WAS a nice character, and his singing bit was very entertaining (especially since he had a pleasant voice, and I have to grudgingly admit that yeah, hearing "Lean on Me" sung in an accent was a little funny, as politically incorrect as that may be).

* What fascinated me was that, when Billy came back, he was wearing - - rather than the usual slick suit with matching shirt and tie - - a simple suit with a a plaid shirt and tie that gave him kind of an innocent, homespun essence, making a very subtle statement about how, in his heart, he was really always the boy from back home no matter how jaded or professional (or later, macho and urbane) he seemed.

* In short, it was an episode that touched me, as I know it touched many of you, and it was an honor for me to summarize it.

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