Out in the Cold
Air date: January 10, 2000
Summary/Review by Dana Bonistalli

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

Ally is walking to work on a cold morning and passes a homeless man panhandling. As she walks right past him, he lets her know that he noticed her, even if she is pretending not to notice him. She goes back to him and is surprised when he tells her several things about herself that strangers would have no way of knowing.

Once Ally gets to work, she stands in her office, staring into her coffee. She hasn't even taken her coat or mittens off. Elaine asks if everything is okay. Ally tells her that she walked by a homeless man and with one look, he knew her whole pathetic existence. "Is it that obvious?" Ally asks. Elaine answers, "Yes." Ally leaves to go and talk to the homeless man again.

As she is about to get on to the elevator, two policemen exit it and ask for Ling Woo. Ling approaches them with Richard not far behind her. They have a warrant for Ling's arrest for running an escort service for underage boys.

Ling is thrown into jail and is forced to wear the standard orange jumpsuit. Richard and John come to visit her. Richard says that the District Attorney's office has 21 high school boys who are willing to testify that they bought dates from her escort service. Ling admits they bought dates but she didn't sell them sex. She only sold cute girls. "You know how many high school boys can't get a decent date? There's a market. These boys are actually complaining?" she asks. Richard says the complaint is coming from one of the parents, who discovered her son having sex with one of Ling's employees. Ling says sex is not part of the service. Richard asks how much money Ling makes from this escort service. She says it's 80 or 90 thousand a year, tops.

Ally returns to the corner where she had the run-in with the homeless man and, just as she expected, he is still there. He tells her more about herself. "You love your dad. You've always been distant from your mother. You probably went to law school to half become your dad but you're still turning out more like your cold mother." She stares at him in disbelief but he tells her that she's not that complicated. Ally has a proposition. "How about instead of giving you money for coffee you let me buy you a cup?"

Ling is brought before a judge. John begins talking about the charges but is quickly interrupted by Richard, who rises from his seat, walks toward the bench, and starts giving a speech about oppression of beautiful women in the workplace. The judge interrupts him. "I don't even want to see your lips move," the judge says. The ADA on the case, Warren Tisbury, tells the judge that Ling has been running a prostitution ring for underage clients. John asks for a probable cause hearing. The judge calls for it to begin at 2:00. Ling is released on her own personal recognizance.

Ally and the homeless man (his name is Louis) are inside a restaurant having coffee. He asks if this is her New Year's resolution. She tells him that he dared her to recognize him and asks if this is too much recognition for him to handle. She wants to know how he saw so much inside of her. "Most professionals, when they walk by, they have this cold, hard, driven look on their faces. It's like they're meant to be lawyers, stockbrokers, whatever. You had this deadened look. This 'My life was supposed to be different. How did I get here? How did I let myself just blend in with the beige of the rest of the world? How did I turn out how I promised myself I wouldn't turn out?'" he says. "That kind of look."

Ling, John, Richard and Nelle are meeting in the conference room with Renee. Renee thinks that Ling should testify. She says it's the only way to avoid trial. Richard wants to shut this down fast. "We can't have this hanging over our heads," he says. "An associate running a brothel. Everything this firm stands for will be compromised." Renee laughs. "Please," she says, then points at John, "He used to have sex with call girls." Nelle is surprised. "You were with a call girl?" she asks. John says it was before he knew his character.

Ally asks Louis if he chooses to be homeless. He says that he became bankrupt after a series of bad financial decisions. He admits he's too proud to go to a shelter. She says he doesn't strike her as a wacko, but he says she's wrong. He says he has had some manic-depressive problems that have made it difficult for him to hold down a job. He adds that he was once haunted by the Pips. Ally, who has also been haunted by the Pips, is even more interested now. She tells him she was once haunted by Al Green and that she almost took Prozac but she was able to shake him without medication. She tells Louis that he probably does really know that he's better off than the cold, corporate drones that walk past him all day because they don't have music in their lives. "There is in yours," she says, "and there is in mine." Louis says Ally is so sad because she doesn't have time to let the music live.

In the unisex, Billy asks Ling how many girls work for her as escorts. She says she has 40 or 50 and they are all independent contractors, not on salary. He wants to get six of them. He wants them only for appearance, to impress a big, potential client.

In the library, John tries to explain what happened to Nelle. He says when a man goes into a bar, he's looking for sex. John was too busy to deal with the singles scene. He says it was easier for him to move the mouse and click on 'escort services.' He admits he regrets it and would never do it again because he's a different person now. "Leave it to you to admit something was wrong, but then nevertheless, refuse to take any responsibility for it," Nelle says. John tries to explain that this happened in the past, but Nelle says "So what." She says people are made up of what they do in the past. "Oh, bite me!" John says. He starts to leave to go to court. Nelle says Ling wants her there too. John tells her not to sit next to him. "Not a problem," Nelle says, "Pokip, pokip, pokip, peckerhead!"

As the elevator Ally is on empties on one floor, a man gets on. She glances in his direction and notices it is Louis, but he is clean and dressed in a suit. She looks at him for a moment, then says his name. He is surprised to see her and asks her why she is there. She tells him she works in the building. Now she wants to know why he's there and why he is in those clothes. They retreat to her office, where Louis explains that he's doing research for a book. He says he's actually an insurance agent and he is in the building because he has a client on the sixth floor. The book he's working on is on homeless subculture in urban America. He apologizes for deceiving her and reminds her that she was the one who invited him for coffee. "So, your barking those things at me – that was all part of a script?" she asks. Louis says that those were things he really saw in her. "So, you were never haunted by the Pips?" she asks. "Wish I was," Louis says. He asks if she really thought she saw Al Green. She says yes. "Well, I'm jealous," Louis says, "At least there's still hope for you." He starts to leave and Ally asks if he would like one more cup of coffee. He says yes.

In court, a young boy named Marcus says he couldn't get any dates, so some friends of his suggested this escort service. He was able to go to a web site and choose which girl he wanted as his date. He says the date was $175. The girl he chose was Leslie and he points her out in the courtroom. He explains that she picked him up and they drove to a high school party. He ordered her again the next weekend, and the weekend after that, which was homecoming. Marcus says it was after that party that they made love. He says it happened in his bedroom and his mother walked in on them. The assistant district attorney asks Marcus if he paid to have sex with Leslie. He says he can't be sure. "I only paid the $175," he says, "but it was the third time, and I thought, maybe I was getting an upgrade or something – like frequent flyer miles."

Billy exits the elevator into the offices of Cage/Fish & Associates with six beautiful women in tow. They are all dressed identical in slinky, black dresses. He and the women confidently strut into the conference room where the potential client is waiting. Billy removes an unlit cigar from his mouth and begins his pitch. "Mr. Hallen, Billy Thomas. Thanks for seeing me. I won't take much of your time. The median age of the lawyers currently representing you is dead. You're the CEO of a hip advertising agency, you need to switch to a younger, hipper law firm." Mr. Hallen asks who the women are. "They're my assistants," Billy says. Hallen asks what they do. "You're seeing what they do. We all have our ways. I do my best work operating on a heightened sense of acuity. Mine is best derived from sexual energy. Pretty women make me a better lawyer. It's a fact – I won't apologize for it. I like the way they look, the way they smell – the testosterone they generate makes me a bigger ass and I've discovered the more of an ass I am, the better I litigate. Putting modesty aside, you won't find a more gigantic ass than me!"

In court, John asks Marcus if Leslie ever quoted him a price for sex. He says no. John asks him if, in fact, Leslie told him that she liked him. He says she did, but he wasn't sure if 'they' are trained to say that. John asks who 'they' are. Marcus says hookers. He says that he thought she was a hooker because she slept with him and he couldn't imagine that any girl would actually want to do that. John asks him why he hired Leslie to be his date. He says if you go to parties with a beautiful girl, that makes you popular with both the guys and girls. He says it can get you real dates. John asks if Marcus told all of that to Leslie. He says yes, and adds that Leslie thought it was sweet. "In fact, didn't she tell you that YOU were sweet?" John asks. Marcus admits she did. John asks if Leslie told him he was attractive. Marcus says she did. "When you were making love to her, didn't you believe it was possible that she really wanted to?" John asks. Marcus says yes.

At the bar downstairs, Ally and Louis have a drink. She asks him how he knew she was a lawyer. He says he can read people. She wants to know what else he can tell about her. "You have a lot of friends," he says. "Of all the people in your office, who you're dating or seeing probably most fascinates them. In fact, they'd probably be riveted just to see you here sitting with me." Ally says that is pretty accurate and wonders how he knew it. He looks towards a table and Ally looks, too. She finds her colleagues sitting together and watching her. Ally and Louis decide to go somewhere else. "Looks like Ally finally met somebody," says Richard. Nelle says, "He's cute." "Bitch," says John, pauses, then adds, "Supposedly that's the line he used to pick her up."

At their apartment the next morning, Ally is discussing Louis with Renee. "I might have found a decent guy who's cute even," Ally says. "I'm sure that he's an escaped criminal or he used to be a girl or worse, he'll ultimately display signs of being a REAL insurance agent, but one night, one lone night, I got to look at a guy and go, 'Maybe.' Do you know how long it's been since I have met a genuine, legitimate 'maybe'?" Renee asks when Ally will see him again. "Any second. He's in there showering," she says. "What?" says Renee. Ally tells her she is kidding, but that she is meeting him for lunch.

In court, Leslie says that she and Marcus never discussed sex for money. She says she liked him. The assistant district attorney asks her why she had sex with Marcus for free, but then went on another date with him after that and charged him for the date. She says she had to charge him for the dates. He asks her if she has ever dated 16-year-old boys for money. She says yes, adding that 16 is as low as they go.

In a side room, Ling tells John he was terrible. "Why didn't you establish that as office policy, they are not allowed to socially see the clients?" she asks. John says he was leaving that for Ling's testimony. Nelle says he should have gotten it in sooner. She and John begin to bicker until Richard stops them. "At least I was an adult," John says, "she peddles her little trollops to teenagers." He tells Ling that she is taking the stand next and it's important that she come off likeable, "unlike the company you keep." As John is about to walk out the door, Nelle says, "I hated your stupid frog, too." John leaves.

Ally sadly walks into the office. Elaine asks about her lunch date and Ally says she was stood up. Elaine is sure there is an explanation. "Maybe he's dead?" Elaine says. Billy and his entourage walk up to Ally. "It's a look," Billy says. "Like it?" Ally says no and wonders what the point is since he's already landed the client. "It becomes me," he says. They strut off. The elevator dings and Louis walks up to Ally and Elaine. He says he was almost killed. He says someone almost ran over him and he had to fill out a bunch of paperwork. He says he called the restaurant to let her know. He asks if they still have time to have lunch. Elaine offers to go and get sandwiches so that they can eat in her office.

On the stand, Ling testifies that girls are stupid, especially high school girls. She says they want what other girls have, whether it's clothes or shoes. "They don't choose on the basis of their own taste so much as they like what their friends like," Ling says. John asks if this is the idea behind her escort service. "Yes," Ling says, "Girl sees the boy with a beautiful woman and then they want him." Ling says she has a strict rule against her employees having sex with the clients. She says it is strictly a dating service. "No implied offer of sex?" the assistant D.A. asks Ling. "Mr. Tisbury, there's the implied offer of sex on any date," Ling says, "That's how we get you to buy dinner. I said girls are stupid. Men are more so." Tisbury asks if the boys are paying $175 and getting nothing in return. "They get company. Conversation. Typical for a man to consider that nothing. With you it's all fruits of the erogenous tree." She turns to the judge. "It's one thing for him to think with his dumb stick, I shouldn't have to be prosecuted with it." The judge tells her to just answer the questions. "Look, men don't get it," Ling says. "If you walk into a party with a date, the women in the room are going to check her out before they do you. It's not that they're lesbians - it's just women are vain, appearance-driven animals ruled by envy. And if a girl more beautiful comes through the door, we want to be her. We want what she has. Including her date, even if he's funny looking like Marcus. That's the service, period. We don't offer sex. We don't provide it." Tisbury says, "But you do sell dates to boys, some underage?" Ling says, "Is this the part where we backtrack and repeat ourselves?" She turns to the judge. "Get me a real D.A," she says, "I'm bored."

Ally and Louis are standing in front of her desk, facing each other. She's encouraging him to hear music in his head and dance with her. Ally closes her eyes and begins to hear music. She starts to dance but Louis stops her with "So you're hearing the music in your head now?" Ally tells him to concentrate. They look into each other's eyes and begin to dance, moving their bodies closer and closer but never touching. Elaine comes in with lunch and slides in behind Louis. She stands with her back to his back and begins to move along with him. He finally notices she is there and they all stop dancing. "Lunch is served," Elaine says, then, looking at Louis, "and might I say…" Ally interrupts with a stern "No." "Appish-snay," says Elaine.

Nelle, Ling, Richard and John return to the office. John takes off his shoes. "What's that funny little man doing now?" Ling asks. "I have to prepare my final statement, you ungrateful, little pimp," John says. He walks away and storms into his office. Nelle is right behind him. "Obviously, this hostility is about me," she says. John asks her if he judges her on her past. "Well, I don't have a criminal record," Nelle says. John says he doesn't either, but Nelle says that's only because he wasn't convicted – he still committed a crime. "It was a victimless crime," he says. She asks if he knows how some of these women got to be call girls. "How much did they charge you to let you spank them?" she asks. "You did spank them, didn't you?" John says, "I didn't spank them! Her. There was only one. The only woman I ever spanked ended up calling me a peckerhead. I don't know what's going on. I do know that you're smart enough to realize that everybody has a past. I also know for a fact you're even open to legalizing prostitution. We've had that argument before with me taking the other side. So what is going on? Why are you so angry?" Nelle says she's not so much angry as she is hurt. "As open-minded as I am about everybody doing their own thing, the man I marry, the father of my children, it hurts to think he's been with a prostitute," Nelle says. "I don't mean to get ahead of this, John, marriage is far away….but whether it's me or not, one day you will be married, you will have children, and you don't think they'd be devastated to learn their daddy once….yeah, I guess I feel you have a duty to them even though they don't exist yet. And as for duty to your future wife," she pauses, "I don't know."

Elaine asks Ally what happened after her dinner with Louis. She says he took her home and kissed her good night like a perfect gentleman. "He must have a wife and a child in another state or something. I am not this lucky," Ally says.

John gives his closing. "Life is about image. You're not who you are so much as what people think you are. Having a beautiful woman on your arm – it attracts other women. It primes the dating pump. That's all Ling Woo's service was designed to do. Yes, some of the girls ended up having sex, but that was not my client's intent nor her doing." The judge reminds John that Ling was running an escort service. "And there's nothing illegal about it," John says, before being interrupted by Richard, who takes over. "Almost every woman is bought. It's good that these kids learn that at a young age. Tell me women don't become interested in men because of the size of their wallets. We see beautiful young girls walking around with 80-year-old men on welfare all the time, don't we? People in this country are seduced by success. Fancy car, big house, beautiful woman. It's the American way. It's become increasingly difficult for me to just sit back and see this nation trashed by a district attorney who probably married ugly when if he'd entered private practice could have afforded something prettier." The judge stops him from going any further. John continues his closing. "Your honor, there was no sex-for-hire here. End of story. Now we may not like the idea of high school kids buying dates, but it's not against the law."

The assistant D.A. says that they know for a fact that three beautiful women escorts had sex with three not-so-handsome boys. He says that a crime has been committed. John is given another opportunity to speak. "It is not a crime. Is it something Ms. Woo or these boys should be embarrassed about? Perhaps. Is it something that one day they will wish they can undo? Probably. It will comment on them forever. Might even hurt their loved ones, and I'm sure that they will definitely regret that. But, that's for a different court. In this one, a court of law, no crime has been committed."

Ally goes to see Louis at work. The woman at the front desk says he no longer works there. Ally asks, "Since when?" The woman calls someone to come out and talk to Ally. A man approaches and tells Ally that Louis did used to work there. He asks her how well she knows Louis. She tells him they have been dating. The man tells Ally that Louis has a paranoid personality disorder. He says he worked there up until about six months ago and the last they heard, he was living on the streets.

Ally solemnly walks back to her office, where she finds Louis waiting for her. He stands and we see that he brought her flowers. "You have a paranoid personality disorder, Louis," Ally says. "I just came from the insurance office where you used to work. I also checked with the police. You've filed 73 complaints complaining somebody wanted to kill you. You live on the streets. Did you steal these clothes?" He reluctantly tells her yes. She asks him why he hasn't gotten any help. "I took the medication, I just didn't feel like myself. It made me feel slower, duller, dulled my senses. But after meeting you, I started taking it again. Now, I want to be healthy. I can be healthy. I know I can. I just wasn't going to do it for some stupid claims adjuster job. But, to be with you. I followed you back here. You're worth reentering society for. You make me want to come back. I can be well again. I know I can. Look, can we, uh, can we still see each other?" Ally tells him that she doesn't think it will work out. "I can get a handle on it," he says, "The way you sometimes hear voices, Ally. Al Green? We get each other. I know it." She asks him to let her help him get some treatment. "You're talking about treatment, which I'm happy to get," he says, "I mean you and me." "I don't think it will work out, Louis," Ally says. "How many people can look inside you the way I can?" he asks. She doesn't answer. He sits the flowers down on her desk and walks out of her office.

The judge makes his decision. "I think the idea of high school boys renting dates is disgusting. Mr. Cage, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that when you first heard of this, you took a moment. That said, there's been no evidence that sexual services were provided for a fee. The charges against Ms. Woo are dismissed. You're free to go with the moral condemnation of the court." Richard says, "Moral condemnation – business will go up." Ling now wants to sue for malicious prosecution, but Richard convinces her to wait. Richard and Ling leave. John sits. Nelle stops and asks him if he's coming. "I never meant to hurt my children," he says, "and I certainly didn't mean to hurt you." Nelle tells him she was probably being a little irrational. "No, you weren't," John says, adding, "I'm sorry." Nelle reaches out and touches his hand. He puts his other hand on top of hers.

Ally is sitting alone in her office when Elaine comes in. Elaine tells her she did the right thing. "Ally, this had no real chance," she says, "He's ill. You did the right thing." Elaine asks if she can buy her a drink at the bar. Ally says she's going to head home. "There was no other choice," Elaine says.

It's snowing in Boston as John and Nelle walk together. As Ally walks home, she comes upon a group of homeless people standing next to a fire in a barrel. Louis is there in the clothes he was wearing when Ally first saw him on the street. He is talking to other homeless people and doesn't notice her. Ally turns and walks away, stopping and looking back only once.


So, I guess the big question is: Did Ally do the right thing? Well, I certainly don't know what I would have done if in her position, but I was very surprised that someone who has had visions of Al Green wasn't willing to do more to help Louis. Could they have had a real relationship? Probably not. But at least he wanted to take his medicine and get off the streets because of her. That's more than she's gotten from most men in her life so far. The least she could have offered him was her friendship.

One thing that really caught me off guard was the fact that Nelle mentioned the possibility of her having children sometime in the future. Didn't we have an entire episode last year that dealt with her desire to NEVER have kids? When did she change her mind? I don't have a problem with women changing their minds - trust me - I do it all the time, but I have always been impressed with David E. Kelley's consistency and I expected more than for Nelle to just all-of-a-sudden change her mind on an issue that she put so much energy into defending last season.

I don't know what to say about Billy. I guess I'll take the high road and leave it at what Richard said a few episodes back. At least he's interesting.

Frankly, I'm ready for Whipper to take a case. What was the reason for bringing her over to Renee's firm if she wasn't going to do anything (or even be seen)?

LOVED Ling's shoes. Hated most outfits on Nelle and Ally.

Favorite Lines:

John, regarding his evening with a prostitute: "It was before I knew my character."

Billy, to a potential client: "You won't find a more gigantic ass than me!"

Elaine: "Appish-snay."

Copyright © 2000 Dana Bonistalli. All rights reserved.