Synopsis of The Man With the Bag
Written by Jennifer W.
John is in his office when Nelle walks in. She tells John that her father, Henderson Porter, was let go of his job and he is determined to sue for wrongful termination. She warns that this will be a very tough case and that John is the only one she knows that could conceivably win the case. John asks why her father was fired. "He believes he is Santa Claus," Nelle replies. John is stunned for a moment but manages to ask what job he was fired from. Nelle informs him that her father was a schoolteacher but he used to be a lawyer. "He retired at age 65 and began teaching. It's his life. And if he can't teach...," her voice trails off. "Wouldn't it behoove him to just stop saying he is Santa Claus?" John asks. "The problem is," Nelle stammers, "he thinks he really is Santa Claus." Nelle asks John if he would meet with her father. John agrees. Henderson walks in wearing a Santa Claus suit and of course, he looks just like Santa. John shakes his hand and addresses him as "Mr. Claus". "Oh, please. Call me Kris," Henderson requests. John has a shocked look on his face and turns to Nelle. Nelle hangs her head in embarrassment and concern.
Everyone is in the morning meeting. Richard reminds everyone that the annual Christmas party is tonight and everyone's presence is mandatory. He asks where Nelle is. John says that she is working on a new case and Richard should move on with his agenda. Richard tells everyone that the tradition in which everyone sings something is changing this year because of what happened last year. Marks asks what happened last year. "Ally sang," mumbles Richard. He says all songs must now be cleared in advance. Ally looks surprised and says, "I was good". Elaine walks in and says that Nelle is requesting to see John urgently.
John and Nelle meet in his office with Henderson. Henderson is wearing a Santa Claus suit. "Mr. Claus, uh, Santa, uh, Kris," John stammers. "I thought we decided you weren't going to wear the Santa suit to court?" Henderson responds that he should not have to deny who he really is [Santa Claus]. "You have been discharged for being delusional. Moreover, if you show up in court wearing this suit, the judge will in fact think that you are delusional," John explains. Nelle asks her father to wait outside while she talks to John alone. When alone, John asks her if she is sure Henderson's condition is not Alzheimer's. "The doctor's say it isn't. It is some kind of schizophrenia. This also happened last year." Nelle says that he happens to be a great teacher and since her mother died, that is what he lives for. "He doesn't live for you?" John wonders. "Well yes, but the truth is he is probably closer to his little 2nd grader's than to me," Nelle sadly answers. "He really thinks he is Santa Claus?" John asks. Nelle smiles and says "apparently so".
Larry and Ally are in his overly Christmas decorated office. Larry tells Ally that she was the one who told him to decorate. "I know I did, but this is a little much", Ally says. Larry shows Ally that by the click of the remote, the shades are drawn, all the Christmas lights and figures turn on, and an annoying Christmas elf song ("We Are Santa's Elves") begins to play. Larry positions Ally under the lighted mistletoe that comes down from the ceiling and they begin to kiss. A woman walks into the office. The woman turns out to be Jamie. Jamie is his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son, Sam. Larry stammers as he introduces Ally and Jamie to each other. "Jamie is an old girlfriend," he says. "And this must be the new one," Jamie responds while looking at Ally. Larry uncomfortably hugs Jamie as Ally hangs her head down. Larry asks her what she is doing in town and she says she is there for a deposition and is flying back home tonight. "I just thought I would surprise you. I guess I accomplished that," she says. Ally says that she has heard a lot about her. Jamie says that she has heard a lot about Ally too. "You have?" Ally asks shockingly. "He loves you" Jamie says. "JAMIE!" Larry interjects. "You haven't told her?" she says. "Gee, well I was going to let you break it to her," he says. Ally is speechless. Jamie asks them out for coffee and Ally says she is unable to because she must get back to the office but, the two of them should go. Ally and Larry kiss goodbye and Ally tells Jamie it was nice to meet her. Ally kisses Larry again. "Ok bye," she repeats twice while hanging her head and obviously not wanting to leave. She starts to walk away and Larry grabs her and kisses her again. Ally looks back one more time before she leaves and half-smiles. Once Ally is gone, Jamie tells Larry that Ally is really sweet and she asks him if he is happy.
"And you left them there?" Reneé asks Ally. "What was I suppose to do?" Ally wonders. "Put that bitch back on a plane to Detroit. You don't leave ex's in the same room together, Ally. What is she doing here anyway?" Reneé asks back. Ally tells her that she is here on business. Reneé asks what Jamie looks like. Ally utters that she is really beautiful. Reneé smirks and says she is going over there (to Larry's office). Ally protests. "There is nothing hotter than making love to someone you're not supposed to be making love to: ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and especially ones from out of town, and especially during the holidays. I am going over there," Reneé says. Ally grabs Reneé's ear and says through clenched teeth, "His ex is here on business. She dropped in to say hello. You are NOT going over there." "But what if he goes there?" Reneé asks. Ally starts thinking...
John is arguing his case in court. He says that even if Mr. Porter is a bit delusional about who he is, he is harmless and can still do his job. The opposing council says, "But he thinks he is Santa Claus." John states that he thinks it would be nice if more teacher's assume the role of St. Nick, instead of say, Joan Crawford. The judge asks if Mr. Porter believes he is THE Santa Claus. "Your honor, I may believe that I am Barry White but that doesn't render me less capable as a lawyer," John submits. The opposing council argues that people entrust Mr. Porter with their children and that a school has a responsibility to keep them safe. Johns argues that since he does not act in a manner that is a detriment to the children, there should be no problem. "The one from the North Pole?" interjects the Judge Rancor. "Do you know of another one?" John asks. "Look, I am not one of those judges you can get snappish with Mr. Cage," the judge says. John argues that it would be different if he thought he was the Easter Bunny but thinking he is Santa Claus should not be a big deal. "At a minimum, I ask that you conduct an evidentiary hearing to see if he poses a risk and to see if his livelihood should be snatched away from him at the holidays," John finishes. "If he is delusional...," the judge begins. "One lousy hearing is all I ask. He will bring you a toy," John interrupts. The judge agrees to a 2:00 hearing.
John, Nelle and her father are walking down the street. (Vonda Shepard is singing "Here Comes Santa Claus".) They bump into Ally. Nelle quickly introduces Ally to her father and whisks him away to look at something in a store window. Ally asks John what that was all about. John says he will explain it later. Ally tell John she is on her way to Larry's office and tells him his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his child, is visiting. Ally asks John if she should be bothered by Jamie being down here and popping by to say hello. "She's in town for one day and they are alone?" John asks. After a pause, Ally hesitantly says yes. "Well, I am sure it is fine," John shrugs. "Obviously, you are not sure," Ally says. Johns asks if Larry and Ally are serious. Ally thinks and then answers "very". John asks if they have been "biblical". "Why is that so damn important to everyone? Can't two people be serious without the damn bible?!?!" Ally asks. "I am sure it is very innocent," John says. "Never mind," Ally says and then walks away. Carolers are singing "Should old acquaintance be forget?" (Auld Lang Syne). Ally turns and pushes one of the carolers as the singers stop.
Ling is trying to convince Richard to sing with her at the Christmas party. "I am tired of everyone performing at Christmas parties and no attention coming to us", Ling comments. "Um, coffee bean, we have no talent," Richard reminds her. "So what? Whenever you see performers on TV, they are lip-synching. We could do that," she suggests. Richard seems skeptical. "Look, you are senior partner, I am the first lady. We should hog the spotlight," concludes Ling.
Marks explains to Elaine that he is not on the rebound. He enjoys Elaine's company and would like for her to attend the Christmas party with him. She says, "How do I know that you won't be ashamed of my promiscuity?" He says he won't. She asks him if he would be ashamed if she wore her Vi-Bra and demonstrates to Mark how she made some "holiday adjustments" to it. She turns it on and the bra plays bell sounds in the tune of "Jingle Bells" and moves up and down. Mark looks shocked.
Ally is in her office when Larry comes in. He thanks Ally for being such a good sport about the whole Jamie thing. She says Jamie seems nice. He informs Ally that he has invited Jamie to the Christmas party because her flight doesn't leave until midnight. He asks Ally if it is ok. Ally imagines herself throwing him out of the office window and him splattering on the ground. In reality, she says "sure". He says if it bothers her, he can tell her "no". Ally says that she really is ok with it but "no dancing with her". "Deal," he says. "She isn't here because she heard you had a new girlfriend and she suddenly became jealous, is she?" Ally asks. "No Ally. She dumped me so I don't think she would be jealous," he responds. Ally turns her back towards him, obviously not satisfied with his answer. "Not the answer you were looking for, huh?" Larry quietly comments.
John is questioning the principal of the school Mr. Porter was fired from. "We all love him, but he is delusional. I have a responsibility to make sure all of my teachers are stable," the witness says. "What are you afraid of? That he is going to ride his sleigh through a red light?" John asks. "Has he exhibited any detrimental behavior that would suggest...," John begins. "He thinks he is Santa from the North Pole," the witness interjects. Then says, "There have been no instances yet." As John is dismissing the witness, a choo-choo train toots its horn while running between his legs.
"It is difficult enough to prevail without a choo-choo train running between my legs," John says to Mr. Porter. Nelle, John, and Henderson Porter are in a conference room alone. "Are you trying to lose this case daddy?" Nelle asks. Henderson responds that he figured if he keeps the Christmas spirit alive, it would help his case. Johns says, "It is a court of law. That is a judge. And the Christmas spirit does not live in there. We need a little sanity and for you to be reasonable. Can you do that?" he asks. Mr. Porter toots the trains horn. John tells Mr. Porter that if this is a game, he should call it off.
Back in court, the doctor says that it isn't a game and Mr. Porter's behavior resembles a condition called Schizophrena-phorm (sp?). He says that it is like schizophrenia but the duration of the disorder can be much shorter time. He states that Mr. Porter suffered some delusional symptoms about a year ago and that it possible, because of the holidays, his depression is resurfacing (his wife died two years ago). The doctor says that Mr. Porter is otherwise a normal person. John asks if the depression causes Mr. Porter to behave in a way that would be harmful to children. The doctor says no. "His symptoms are generosity, charity, and he has been more loving," he says. The opposing council cross-examines the doctor. He asks if this disorder makes a person hard to predict because there is very little information about the course of this disorder. The doctor says yes. "Objection, your honor. Council is asking a series of questions designed to derive responses that are a detriment to my client's case. It is really inappropriate," John interjects. The judge directs John to sit down. "Yes, withdrawn," says John and sits down. In response to opposing council's next question, the doctor continues by saying that last year Mr. Porter had 10-15 second waves when he would think he was Santa Claus and that one day in July he thought he was Alvin, the chipmunk. Nelle appears to be shocked and John just closes his eyes.
Lings tells Ally that she agrees with what Reneé said about Jamie and Larry being alone together. Ally tells Ling she trusts Larry. Jamie walks in. Ling growls at her and Ally forces her to leave. Jamie asks Ally if it really is ok for her to attend the party. "Sure," Ally says. "It will be fun." Ally reassures her again and says that it would be great to get to know the mother of his child. Jamie asks if Ally thinks they will get married. "No, no, no. I mean, I don't know. We just sort of started, started...," Ally stammers. "Sleeping together?" Jamie finishes. "No, no, no," Ally says, "I think it would be great if you came to the party.
"It's insane," Ally says to Larry. "Old girlfriends don't just pop up for depositions just to get invited to Christmas parties. She was asking if we were getting married. That is pretty personal." "Ally," Larry tries to interject. "Now, I think her agenda is to get you back. She has the right and it is fine. I tried to steal a few boyfriends back myself." "Ally." "I know the game and she is free to play it. But, I would be an idiot to welcome her back into my playing field." "Ally." "And she is cute, with a good figure. Now, how many women do you know that have a baby and then still have a body like that? You don't just snap back into shape unless you have a mission. Well if her mission is you, it is not going to be accomplished at my office party." "Ally." "And, she is really, really sweet. Which actually threatens me most of all because I know that I'm, I'm..." Larry puts his finger to her lips to stop her from talking. He says he is going to call Jamie and tell her no to come. "You have her number?" Ally asks. "She left me her cell," he says. She takes the phone away from him and says she feels foolish and it is ok if she comes to the party. "Just stay close to me," she requests.
John and Nelle agree that they do not mind missing the Christmas party so they can conclude the case. John asks "Mr. Claus" that since it is December 11th, has he started making all the toys? Henderson responds, "Of course not. I'm retired." John asks him who makes all the toys then. "Toys 'R Us," he replies. "They supply them now and take care of the distribution. So I was basically forced into an early retirement." He says he still counts because he is something to believe in -- the flying reindeer, the stockings hanging from the mantle, the magic and fantasy of it all. It is at this time, he is needed more than ever.
At the party, Reneé is singing "Turn Back O Man". Everyone is clapping and cheering. "That women is all sex, isn't she?" Larry asks. "And then some," Ally replies. "It's from 'Godspell'," Jamie says. She recalls when she and Larry did 'Godspell' together in college and Larry played Jesus. Jamie cracks a joke. Elaine laughs and says, "love her" while pointing at Jamie. Ally looks uncomfortable.
John is questioning Henderson on the stand. When asked to speak his name for the record, Mr. Porter replies "Santa Claus". He says he resides in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He used to be a schoolteacher until he was fired and before that he was a lawyer. John asks him when he found time to make all the presents for the children. Henderson says "in my sleep". He says it sounds fantastical but that is what it was. "I would be transported in my sleep to another world. A world with elves, and workshops, and reindeer. It was not in this reality. But one night every year, on Christmas Eve, the two worlds would meet and I would give the toys I made in that world, to the children who lived in this one," he explains. He says he doesn't go to that world much anymore because he is retired.
Opposing council cross-examines. "So you tell your 2nd graders that you are Santa Claus?" he asks. "I do," Henderson agrees. He says that most children respond by asking for toys. Council asks, "Do I have children?" Henderson replies yes. "How many?" "You have three." "Sorry, I have four," council says. "Oh yes, I forgot about the little baby. I remembered Tommy, Wayne, and Sarah, but forgot Nicholas. You'd think with a name like Nicholas, I would remember. That's why it is best that I retired," Henderson responds. Everyone looks shocked. Council asks him if he knows what his children want for Christmas. "The list is diverse and endless but what they most want is to spend more time with their father," Henderson states. The lawyer looks amazed. The judge asks "Mr. Claus" if he (the judge) has children. "You have one your honor, a teenager. He doesn't like you," Henderson says. The opposing council accuses Mr. Porter of looking up their bios or says that it could be one of John's tricks. He asks Mr. Porter what he tells children when they ask what day it is. He tells them it is Christmas. "Everyday?" the lawyer asks. "Everyday," Mr. Porter answers. Council asks if he would tell them that today, December 11, is also Christmas. "It depends," Mr. Porter responds. "On what?" Council asks. He continues, "It depends on whether you are able to consider the needs of children. Or, whether you are willing to remember the loneliness and weakness of people who are growing old, whether you are willing to stop asking yourself how much your friends love you and ask if you love them enough. Then, you may keep Christmas everyday."
Back at the Christmas party, Elaine is singing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". Mark and Jamie are happily dancing together. "She's good," Ally remarks. "Yes, she studied dance," Larry says. Ally says she was talking about Elaine. Richard tells Ling that he doesn't think it is such a good idea that they follow such talent (meaning Elaine). Lings says they are good and everything will be fine. "But it's not even us singing," Richard says. "It's our lips, and if we sync them perfectly no one will really know it's not our voices," Ling says. Richard is skeptical.
Nelle says that all this stuff with her father is about her. She tells John that her favorite character was Alvin the chipmunk. One time her father had to be away at Christmas and she was so upset that when he got home, her Mom yelled at him and they were separated by New Year's. She says that the last time her father and her had a real conversation, she was seven. John says that it may be time for her to have a relationship with him. John adds that during Henderson's testimony, he quoted a poem by Henry Van Dyke ("Keeping Christmas") but left out the last line: You can never keep it alone.
Richard and Ling are lip syncing to "Hey Paula". Everyone is speechless not knowing if they are trying to be funny or serious. Larry is at the bar when Jamie walks up. Jamie tells him how she felt much better when she was with him [when they were together]. She also admits that she lied about the deposition being the reason she was in town (actually there is no deposition). She says she hopped on a plane because she wanted her family back. She wants to try again for Sam and her sake. She admits that she still loves him and believes that he still loves her. Ally looks over and sees them deep in conversation and notices the way they are looking at each other. She gets sad. Jamie reminds him how good they were in bed. Larry reminds her that they were not good together when it came to real relationship stuff. She tells him that she was happy for him when he got married and wished him only the best. But for some reason, when he spoke about Ally on the phone and when she saw them together at his office, she realized that she could be losing him forever to Ally. Elaine casually interrupts their conversation and tells Larry that Ally left and went upstairs. Elaine then tells Jamie that she isn't "loving her" as much. Elaine's Vi-Bra plays 'Jingle Bells'.
During closing arguments, opposing council says the Mr. Porter is an ill man and should not be entrusted to the care of children. John says that Mr. Porter was fired only for the fear of what he may do, not for anything he has done. "That is illegal," he says. "Mr. Cage, we are dealing with children. Your point is well taken but do we really need to sit back and wait to see what happens?" Judge Rancor asks. John states that if a tragedy was foreseeable, he would say no. But according to the doctor, his symptoms have been kindness, charity, and love. "But he thinks he is Santa Claus!" the judge argues. "But has anyone proven he isn't?" John asks. "Who is Santa Claus?" John reads from a famous letter written to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 by an 8 year old. The letter asks if there really is a Santa Claus because all her friends think it is stupid to believe that there is. The response was, "Santa Claus exists as certainly as love, and generosity, and devotion exists. How can you not believe in Santa? How dreary. You might as well not believe in fairies." John asks, "Is faith real? Is glory? What about the magic of newborn baby. Is that real?" He reads again from the letter, "Of course Santa Claus lives and thank God he lives. May he live forever and ever to make glad the heart of childhood." John states, "Today he lives in the heart of Henderson Porter. Whose only crime has been bringing a little extra wonder to his students. Making lives a little more magical, a little more romantic. Now, he has caused them to keep Christmas every single day. How much more of a Santa Claus could anybody be?"
Nelle, Henderson and John join Ling and Richard at a table at the Christmas party. Judge Rancor is rendering his decision in about an hour so they decided to join them while they wait. John asks what they missed. "Oh, lots," Ling says. "Larry and his ex-girlfriend got chummy. We think they went home together...it's awful. Ally fled to her office and that kind of put a damper on the party." Ling then gets up and asks Richard to dance because she still has an adrenaline high from their number. Richard says he was hoping they would have sex.
Ally is in her office when Larry walks in. "Catching up on a little work?" Larry asks. "It seemed like you two were into something. It's hard for me to be selfish or possessive because you guys are co-parents. You have a little boy together. Is that what you guys were talking about? Parenting?" she asks. He admits that Jamie wants them to be a family again - partly because of Sam and partly because she still loves him. Ally asks him what he said in response to Jamie. He tells her that he agreed and that maybe they should try and work it out. Ally is of course taken aback. He walks closer to her and says that he told Jamie that he doesn't think there would be a way to work it out since...he is "completely in love with someone else". He says that he is still capable of making a lot of mistakes but walking away from Ally isn't one of them. Ally doesn't know what to say and begins to cry. Larry reminds her that she promised him he wouldn't be alone for Christmas and she better make good on it. They hug as Ally gently cries on his shoulder.
Judge Rancor says that Mr. Porter is obviously ill and that a man with a mental disorder shouldn't be teaching 2nd graders. He says that he is mindful that there is a critical shortage of teachers - especially the magical kind. And since a teacher's aide is in the room at all times, he doesn't see why a teacher should be terminated just because he is Santa Claus. Nelle, John, and Mr. Porter are shocked at the decision. "I can still teach!" Mr. Porter says. Nelle hugs her father and asks if he would like to stay go home with her and spend the night. Nelle thanks John and tells him he has an incredible heart. John tells her to let her father see her incredible heart.
Elaine and Mark, Ling and Richard, and Ally and Larry are all happily slow dancing at the party. Ally and Larry tell each other "Merry Christmas". Jamie walks into the bar and sees them dancing. She has a disappointed look on her face and turns to leave. Nelle and her father walk home happily in the snow. John is walking alone and puts money in the donation can of the bell ringing Santa. A homeless man, seeing his wad of cash, taps John on the shoulder. John also gives him some money. A homeless woman taps John on the shoulder and he gives her some money. Another woman comes up and John gives her money.
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