I Will Survive
Air date: April 17, 2000
Summary/Review by Josh Bermont

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

Ally wakes up, her bed a mass of tangled sheets, a frown on her face as a gospel wail cuts through the morning air. She rises quickly, and Gloria Gaynor is standing in the doorway to her bedroom, singing "I Will Survive." Trying to escape, Ally runs into the bathroom, only to see Gloria singing in front of her. She swings at the singing apparition, but of course her hands simply swish through...behind her, Gloria gleefully sings in the shower. Sourly, Ally proceeds to get dressed, as Gloria sits on her bed and continues to seranade her. Panicking, Ally runs across the street, desperately trying to get away as cars screech to a halt and honk their horns angrily. She runs into Ling and stops, the music slurring to a halt as she stands, looking confused and upset. "I...I was being chased," Ally stammers, glancing around to make sure Gloria isn't still behind her. "Pygmies?" Ling guesses. "Worse," Ally answers, grimacing. "Disco."

At the Cage/Fish offices, Ally is speaking with a pleasant red-haired woman, a therapist. Ally tells her that, in order to keep her client - - a woman named Nora Mills - - from being convicted of first-degree murder, the therapist will have to testify that Nora was insane. Elaine comes in abruptly, saying that Fish wants her in the staff meeting..."You don't want to miss this one," the secretary says eagerly. "He's hired someone!"

"When I was a boy, my dog got hit by a car," Richard announces to the other lawyers, "and my parents rushed right out, bought me a new puppy...best, uh, therapy in the world. This is Mark Albert, excellent litigator, starts today, let's all give him a warm welcome." Mark smiles expectantly, looking around the room. The lawyers stare back at him silently, and we hear crickets chirping. "Billy dies, and you run out and get a new puppy?" Ally asks quietly. Richard says he's putting Mark on the Mills case with Ally and Ling since Billy was originally first chair. Ally says they'll do just fine without him, but Richard insists, telling her that there will be a lot of publicity around this case and it's important that the firm look good. Richard leaves, and Ally runs after him as Mark watches them both go, confused. "First days are always rough," Nelle informs him.

Ally follows Richard into the unisex angrily, demanding to know why he hired Mark. He tries to brush her off, saying that they need the help now that Billy's gone. "Plus he specializes in criminal law, he's got a stable of high-paying, reprehensible people," Richard says. Ally looks at the floor sullenly, saying she doesn't like him. Richard asks if she knows him, and she tells him she doesn't HAVE to know him, she just has a bad feeling about him. "How long have you worked here?" Richard asks. Ally asks suspiciously what that has to do with anything. "Well, you've been here long enough to know that, when you say something negative about a person in this room..." The toilet flushes, and Mark steps out of the stall. "...he's here," Richard finishes, leaving the two of them alone. Mark holds out his hand to the bewildered Ally, introducing himself as though nothing has happened. She antagonizes him quite deliberately, shooting down his attempts at being friendly. Gently, he tells her that he's sorry about what happened to Billy - - he knows they were close - - and that he'll try not to step on her toes in the upcoming trial.

Ling is crying hard into a handkerchief, as Ally, Mark and Nora Mills watch. "I saw him, I...I don't know what happened, I really...I just...can't believe it!" Ling sobs pitifully. Suddenly, she straightens, her tears gone. "Just like that," she tells an astonished Nora. "Can you cry like that?" Mark looks at her curiously; it's obvious that these tactics are unfamiliar to him, and he accuses her of coaching a client to lie on the stand. She glares at him, saying that she's not telling Nora to lie, just to embellish so she looks more sympathetic. Suddenly, Ally shuts her eyes and puts her hands to her head in pain as she starts to hear a disco beat...she leaves the room quickly.

In court, the opposing counsel questions a woman named Ms. Holt about her relationship with the victim. She says that she was his physical therapist - - he had lost a leg due to poor blood circulation and was forced to use a prosthesis - - and while working with him, they became sexually involved with each other. On December 14th of last year, they had been making love at his house when Nora came in, grabbed his graphite leg, and, swinging wildly, began to club him over the head with it repeatedly. He went hopping down the hall, bleeding, still being whacked with his own leg...when Nora tripped him and he fell down the stairs, effectively putting him out of his misery. She then dropped the leg and ran off.

Ally stands, pointing out that Holt had described Nora's swinging as "wild" and asking if this meant that her reaction could be qualified as wild. "Well, it certainly wasn't subtle," Holt sneers. Ally asks if Nora seemed very upset. "Quite," the woman replies. Unable to think of anything further, Ally sits down...and Mark jumps up. "You must have been scared yourself by all this, weren't you ma'am?" he asks. "Terrified, shocked even?" She says that yes, she was, and he sits back down again as Ally grimaces.

As they leave the courtroom, Ally asks coldly why he stood up and crossed the witness after she was finished, undermining her in front of the jury. Trying to maintain a sense of humor rather than fuel an already-hostile situation, he points out that, since Holt was the lead and only prosecutorial witness, he felt it would be good to establish that shock might have clouded her thinking. When Ally points out that she is the first chair on this case, he gently says he's just trying to take Billy's place. Ally loses control, erupting at him that he will NEVER "take Billy's place." Mark looks down, realizing that he worded that his sentiment - - while valid - - was improperly worded.

Richard enters Ally's office, asking how Mark's doing. "I still don't know why you hired him," Ally grumbles. He says he hired Mark because the firm needs him, it needs to keep moving forward. "I know how to run a law firm, we can't get behind on our work..." He stumbles for an instant, then immediately regains his composure. "Trust me on that, okay?" he finishes.

Back in court, Nora is on the witness stand, testifying angrily how she walked in and saw her husband making love to another woman. Ling asks how it made her feel, and Nora picks up on the cue; "I lost all ability to distinguish right from wrong," she answers, sounding as though she's reading from a script. When Ling asks why she reached for her husband's prosthetic leg - - pointing at her eye in a not-so-subtle gesture - - Nora takes the hint and spontaneously bursts into tears. Mark hides his face, ashamed to be sitting at the same table with these lawyers. Ling asks, her own voice breaking, if Nora loved her husband. "More than life!" she answers immediately. Ling sniffles, then bursts into crocodile tears of her own, sobbing into a handkerchief that, in her culture, "infidelity is worse than death...to discover that your spouse was..." She buries her face in the handkerchief, unable to finish.

"What the hell was that?" Mark snarls when they leave the courtroom. "It's a murder trial! You sound like a game show contestant!" Ally starts to yell at him, and their shouting escalates until, at the end of his rope, Mark starts to shout, "Look, I know you had somebody DIE on you...!" Ally starts to scream and breaks down, crying. Mark backs away, gently apologizing and saying that there is obviously a reason Richard put him on the case to back them up. Ally starts to hear the disco music again and snaps at it to be quiet. Ling and Mark look at her, concerned, and she exits quickly, leaving the two lawyers staring at each other. "Nobody likes you yet," Ling says stonily.

Nelle steps off the elevator into the office, and is approached by Elaine, who asks why she has a meeting scheduled with Cindy Snell. Nelle thinks for a moment, then says she's covering for John while he's away. Frowning, Elaine says that Snell is Ally's client, not John's...Nelle shifts gears immediately, feigning ignorance and nonchalantly asking Elaine to cancel the appointment. Elaine says that it's too late, she's waiting in Nelle's office. With a glance at her watch and an exaggerated sigh that's less than convincing, Nelle says she "may as well get rid of her" and leaves Elaine trying to figure out what's going on.

The opposing counsel questions Nora, clarifying that it was "a big, big shock" for her to see her husband with another woman. She says yes, asking if the lawyer had ever been cheated on by a spouse. "No," he says, "but now that you bring it up, had YOU ever been cheated on before?" Nora falters, feeling like a mouse that's just realized she's standing in the middle of a trap. The lawyer points out that Nora's husband had cheated on her before, and that Nora had known about his relationship with Marianne Holt. "I thought it was over," she said lamely. As Ally watches this, the music starts again in her head. The lawyer begins to hammer the point home, that she knew all about the affair with Ms. Holt. She insists that it didn't make it any less devastating to see him with another woman. "Well, why didn't you just leave him?" the lawyer asks. Nora says she doesn't know, she just couldn't leave him...and begins to sing with the music, a rhythm and blues song about not being able to say goodbye no matter how she's treated. Ally watches, stunned, unsure about whether this is really happening and looking around to see the reactions of the other court members. They appear to be listening just as before. Suddenly, the audience gets up and starts dancing and clapping, and the jury members sing the chorus. A chorus line of nurses and paramedics dance in, wheeling a gurney and medical emergency equipment with them and pulling Ally out of her chair to join them in the dance routine. They lower her onto the rolling bed, singing, and she waves goodbye to the courtroom and Nora and the judge and the jury as everyone dances and sings just for her...

...as the doors to the court slam open and the medics urgently wheel her out, unconscious, an oxygen mask over her mouth as Ling describes to them how Ally just passed out in the middle of the courtroom.

At the hospital, the doctor tells Ling, Elaine and Mark that it's nothing to be concerned about, she just fainted, probably because she's been under a lot of stress lately. They talk to Ally, asking if she's okay; Ally says she's just not been getting enough sleep lately. Ling points out that Nora's therapist will be taking the stand, they should get back to court. Ally says that, since she prepared the testimony, she should be the one to question her. Mark says he can do it, and Ally immediately snaps that she doesn't WANT him to do it. Mark pauses, forces a smile, and asks if he can have a sec with Ally alone. Ling and Elaine leave, and he sits on the bed. "Look, I don't know how to say this without saying like a complete ass, but...a person you loved just died. It destroyed you. You fear love, you may even loathe it. But for some reason, I detected some chemistry between us. Which, I'm sure, is the last thing you must want to feel. Is it possible that you see me as a person you might actually be interested in, and therefore you loathe me?" She smiles slyly, saying - - a little embarrassed - - that actually, she does have a little secret she want to tell him, if he'll just lean in closer. He leans forward, and her face hardens. She takes a swing at him, her fist lashing out at his face...and he catches it effortlessly in the palm of his hand, without flinching or breaking eye contact with her for a second. "I'm glad to see you're getting your strength back," he says, rising to leave. He kisses her hand and heads for the door. Scowling, she tosses the remote control at his head...without turning, he catches it over his shoulder, stops only to click the television on, and leaves.

"Rage can be such a compounding force, it can totally sublimate all sense of reason," the therapist testifies. Mark asks her if rage can cause a person to lose her control, and she says that, in extreme cases, it can. She says that, in this instance, Nora's self-esteem was entirely dependent upon the love of a person who ridiculed, humiliated and psychologically abused her. The opposing lawyer sneers that the witness appears to have used all the right buzzwords to imply a loss of self-control, asking if it's her testimony that Nora didn't realize she was hitting her husband. "Are you saying that rage excuses murder?" he asks incredulously. The woman says that Nora lost control, and the lawyer points out that Nora's AIM was certainly "in control."

Back at the office, Ally is telling Richard that he should fire Mark, that it's insensitive to bring in someone new this way. Richard says that he loved Billy as much as Ally did, but that it's time to move on. "Well, why does everyone have to move on so damn fast?" Ally shrieks. "What's wrong with just standing still and crying? Who made up that stupid rule anyway, that life just goes on? BILLY IS DEAD!" Richard stops pacing the office, his back to her as he listens, his face twitching almost imperceptibly as her words hammer against his forcefield of Fishisms. "And we loved him," she continues, "and he is going to be dead forever, and you just hire somebody to fill up his office before we..." Her voice cracks and she sits down. "We're all trying to survive this, Ally," Richard says quietly. "Maybe you can walk by his empty office all day long...I can't. You're not the only one who needs to survive." She starts to reach out, to comfort him. "Mark's a good lawyer, and he'll bring in money, and that's...that's the bottom line," Richard says quickly. They stand, muttering quick "Are you okays" and "Fines" as Richard rubs his hands together briskly, saying, "Well...back to work." Ally starts to leave, stops...and they run into each other's arms, crying hard.

Nora is considering the plea of murder two that the prosecution is offering. "There's no point in taking it, it's a life sentence," Ling says. "I'm assuming you have plans." Ally enters, and Ling tells her that all the evidence is in and Mark's doing the summation. When Ally balks at this, Ling says that Mark's nickname is the Closer. "Yes, but that may have nothing to do with the way he practices law!" Ally points out, asking where he is. "He's in B...his office," Ling says. Ally says she's going to go in with an olive branch, to try to make peace with him since Richard wants this to work.

Ally knocks on the door of the office; a piece of masking tape with "M. Albert" scrawled on it is meticulously placed over Billy's name. She enters...and her jaw drops as she sees Mark reclining in a dentist chair under a bright light, having his teeth checked by an oral hygienist. "I get my teeth cleaned three times a week," he explains. "The chair saves time, I let the dentist make house calls. It's the little things that win trials, Ally. Fresh breath, clean teeth..." Ally calls him a nut, asking what planet he's from. "I thought I'd be allowed some space in my own office," he says. She goes on the offensive immediately, saying it's not his office and a little piece of tape doesn't MAKE it his office. He starts to go, pausing in the doorway before he leaves to quietly thank her for making him "feel so damn welcome." She closes the door behind him. "You've got to give him a chance," Billy says, sitting at his desk and fingering the dental instruments casually. "He's just a lawyer, Ally." She says he was brought in to make them forget. "Nobody's asking you to forget anything," Billy says. "You hate him, you hate God...anyone else?" "Yeah," she answers, trembling. "You. For dying. I can't even wear black, y'know? Because you weren't mine. And maybe that's why I feel so alone...you know, nobody really understands how much I...and what I..." He gently puts his hands on her shoulders. She says that it just seems like such an insult to him, the idea of moving on. "Just remember me every now and again," he says simply. "That'll be enough." She smiles, nodding and asking if there's anything he can do for her. "I'll make sure it never rains when you're outside," he answers. They look at each other for a long moment. "Billy," Ally says, "I have to say goodbye to you." Billy says that he knows, and she starts to cry...he holds her, comforting her.

Nelle stalks Richard through the office, asking why Mark is there when he had his own little practice where he made all the profits. She asks if he's getting equity, and Richard starts to stammer. "When I joined this firm, you promised that I would be the first associate to be made partner," she reminds him. Richard says that his promises are irrelevent, because he never keeps them. "Well, it would behoove you to keep this one," she says flatly, a threat hovering beneath her tone. Ally bolts out of the elevator, Gloria Gaynor's voice still following her. Richard suggests that she fix Gloria up with Al Green, since it would certainly be more interesting for them than haunting her. Suddenly, a new beat cuts through the disco, a thumping, clapping rhythm. Richard and Nelle frown, and it's clear that Ally isn't the only one who hears it...it's coming from Mark's office, and it's Queen singing "We Will Rock You."

They burst into Mark's office, and see him posing in front of a full-length mirror as the music blares. Ally says that this proves what an absolute kook the new lawyer is. He calmly turns, shutting off the music with a remote control and facing them. "Pretrial anthem," he says. "I like to fill myself with music. Sort of a theme song." "You're going in with a theme song?" Ally asks incredulously. "And fresh breath," he says.

In the courtroom, the opposing lawyer makes his closing statement, saying that the facts of the case are quite clear...Nora picked up a heavy object and used it to bludgeon her husband to death. Whether she was angry was irrelevent. "Anger doesn't excuse a homicide, ladies and gentlemen," he says. "We live in a society of law and order. Law and order means you don't kill someone because they make you angry. Law and order means you don't resort to violence because you feel pangs of jealousy." As he continues to argue, Mark closes his eyes, retreating into his head where his theme song echoes like the blood pulsing through his veins. Suddenly, he snaps out of it, realizing that the lawyer's summation is over and everyone's staring at him. He rises, buttoning his jacket slowly. "Law and order," he muses. "Law & Order is a television show, albeit a good one." He pauses. "The nucleus of Nora Fields, believe it or not, was her love for her husband. You heard the therapist testify as to the power of that love. It was also, in Nora's mind, immortal. But see, that's the thing about great loves..."

"...we think they're immortal," Billy's voice finishes inside Ally's head as she watches Mark. They can live forever, even if the people involved don't."

"When Nora walked into that room and saw what she saw," Mark continues, "it was as if her own center had been destroyed, and nothing else mattered. The psychiatrist said that she was lost, those were her words. She was lost. And she remains lost. The love that she had for her husband turned out to be false, or at least finite..."

"...and now she doesn't even feel entitled to cling to it after he's gone," Billy echoes. "And she sits there...empty."

"A love that she cherished more than life itself was taken from her," Mark says, "suddenly gone..."

"...and in part," says Billy, "SHE felt gone..."

"...then she snapped," Mark finishes.

Ling tells Nora that the prosecution has just offered a plea of manslaughter. She asks Mark - - who sits calmly, eating an apple and reading the newspaper - - whether they should take it, and he says that there's no reason to. Ling advises that they turn the offer down, and Nora agrees, saying she can't just sit and wait. She leaves, Ling going with her and leaving Ally alone with Mark. Ally asks him how much he knows about the relationship she had with Billy, and tells him that some of the things he said in his summation hit close to home...that as much as she mourns Billy's death, there's a part of her that feels like she isn't even entitled to her grief because they had broken up, probably because that part of her always held out the hope of getting him back. "That may be why the...hole...feels so big," she says weakly. "Your love with him, it was real at one point?" Mark asks. She nods. "Well, then you own it," he says. "You're entitled to cling to it. Your last memory of him shouldn't be where you left off, Ally. Remember him the way you want to. You survive that way, and so does he." She looks at him, surprised at his sudden wisdom and tenderness. The door opens, and Ling enters, saying the verdict has come back.

The foreman of the jury reads the verdict...Nora Mills has been found not guilty on all charges, by reason of temporary insanity. She breathes a sigh of relief, hugging Ling and Ally happily and shaking Mark's hand as she dances out of the courtroom a free woman.

At the bar, Gloria Gaynor - - the REAL Gloria Gaynor, confirmed by the other patrons - - sings "I Will Survive." Ally sits, having a drink with Richard and Elaine as Mark invites Ally to join him in a victory dance. She declines, saying she's tired and wants to head home. But before he takes Elaine out for a spin, Ally extends her hand to him, saying, "Welcome." He shakes it, smiling. Before she goes, Richard takes her aside, apologizing for being insensitive earlier. She forgives him, kissing him gently on the lips before walking out into the street. It's raining hard, and she looks up, smiling. "Very funny," she says to Billy before walking home alone once again, her thoughts filled with fond memories of him.


* First, my impressions of Mark Albert. I'm not positive, but...I think I really like him. Yeah, he's something of a dork. Yeah, he's slightly full of himself. Yeah, at times he appears to be kind of an ass. But not only does he seem to be an exceptional lawyer - - with his mind and heart in all the right places when it comes to practicing law - - but I like his overall attitude, his confidence, the way he takes himself and what he does seriously, the way he's entirely unapologetic about his quirks and completely beyond any self-consciousness or humiliation. Not only that, but he seems to be a really decent guy...most people would have taken Ally's behavior personally, but he went out of his way not to, and sincerely made every effort to have a good relationship with her. Indeed, he only really became defensive when her nonsense began to affect the case (but more on that later). Also, I really enjoy his interaction with Ally; they're these polar opposites, and when I saw them clash - - particularly in the hospital room - - it reminded me a lot of Scarlett O'Hara's verbal (and physical) duels with Rhett Butler, or Katherine's sparring with Petruchio in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew." I think that's exactly the sort of person Ally needs to have around, this smooth, infuriating man who refuses to take any sort of guff, will stare her down without blinking, and, at the same time, won't start blowing his top or becoming offensive. I like his eccentricities - - his whole obsession with oral hygiene, his Queen theme song, his (ridiculous-looking) posing in front of the mirror to build confidence before a trial - - and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.

* The trial was interesting, but I thought the verdict was an absolutely horrific miscarriage of justice. I agreed entirely with everything the prosecutor said...that woman wasn't temporarily insane, she was just upset and pissed so she killed someone. Granted, her husband was a bastard, but that didn't give her permission or justification to commit murder. Excuse her for that, and you're saying that self-control is no longer necessary, that we aren't responsible for our actions - - that laws and rules no longer apply - - and we all have a license to kill and maim people just because they upset us. I won't get into it too much, but I'm of a philosophy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and the outcome irritated me.

* Prepare to hate me. I know, I know, Ally's hallucinations are interesting and funny and we all love to see them...but she really should be getting some serious help, and she shouldn't be practicing law while she's having them, certainly not when it affects her work the way it does. As a lawyer, she's got a lot of responsibility. In this episode, she had a woman's LIFE in her hands, and because of this her behavior - - refusing to take herself off the case when she knew she wasn't fit to proceed, putting her personal problems ahead of her client's well-being and generally acting foolish - - was wholly inexcusable. I won't go overboard with the reality too much, since she's a fictional character and we all understand that, but if she WERE real she would belong in a mental institution, so she could heal properly and she'd be unable to hurt herself or others. Daily life's obviously just too much for her to handle, and some people really are like that, and there's help for them. And were it not for the intervention of Mark, Nora Mills would have been strapped into a chair and zapped with enough juice to light up Vegas, all because her fate was in Ally's hands and she was too screwed-up to be a good lawyer for her. (Yes, I know she was overly distraught because of Billy's death, but this is how she ALWAYS acts.)

* Ling was CLASSIC in this episode! I liked how she started to antagonize Ally in the hospital, but even though it was delivered with the same Ling razor-edge we're used to, we knew that she was just doing it to get a rise out of Ally and to show that she cared without being obvious. And her crying routine in court, and having the absolute gall to use her "culture" as a psychological weapon...priceless!

* I'm utterly intrigued by Nelle's behind-the-scenes puppeteering. First she started surreptitiously hustling away Billy's clients, and now, while Ally's vulnerable, she swoops in to carry away some of hers too...what's her angle? What's she up to? Whatever it is, you can bet we're going to start seeing her live up to her old nickname of "Sub Zero"...

* So why didn't we get to see the videotape John sent Ally? I mean, if it was a letter or postcard or something, it could be left unsaid...but a videotape? They got my hopes up!

* The scene between Ally and Richard, when they both let themselves collapse for those few, poignant moments...absolutely beautiful.

* Well, I reckon that's it for this week. As always, feel free to write me at poiznpen@shore.intercom.net with any thoughts, ideas, etc.!

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