The Attitude
Air date: October 26, 1999
Summary/Review by Josh Bermont

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

Ally has been begging Renee to introduce her to her latest crush, the young, handsome District Attorney Jason Roberts, and it looks like she might finally get the opportunity. In the courthouse elevator, the roommates are waiting for the doors to close when Renee points out that Roberts is heading for the elevator as well...Ally immediately throws herself between the doors to keep them from closing, managing to ricochet between them like a pinball before being knocked to the floor. She collects herself, embarrassed, and as the elevator starts its descent Renee introduces them. As it turns out, Roberts has seen Ally's performance in court and made it a point to find out her name. Renee plays matchmaker with all the subtlety of a Scud missile, and when the elevator reaches the ground floor, Roberts asks Ally out and she accepts. (Upon leaving the elevator, she manages to get tossed around and thrown to the floor again by the closing doors.)

Meanwhile, at the office, Ally has a case waiting for her, a client named Karen Horowitz. She is bringing a lawsuit against her rabbi, and the case is complicated...in involves Jewish tradition, something Ally is completely unfamiliar with. Ms. Horowitz is getting married in three weeks, and she is very much in love. However, her ex-husband Ira is in a coma because he was hit by a bus during the divorce proceedings, and thus, was unable to give her a "get." This means that, under Jewish law, she is still married to him and her rabbi will not let her marry her new fiancÚ.

Rabbi Stern agrees to meet with Ally. She asks if he can make an exception in Ms. Horowitz's case, and when he tells her that he cannot change tradition just to make it more popular, she becomes flustered and upset, saying that it's not fair to keep two people from getting married just because of a "silly rule" and calling the traditions he's trying to preserve "a bunch of Jewish hoopla." She insults him personally and storms out.

Back at the office, Renee is helping Ally hide a large pimple in preparation for her big date that night when Elaine tells her that Karen Horowitz has returned, and seems to be in a volcanic mood. The woman stalks in, telling Ally that she has ruined everything. "One of the reasons I came to you is because I regard Jewish custom seriously," she says. She goes on to say that she has been told to leave the synagogue altogether. "He said it was one thing to sic a lawyer on him, yet another to send somebody who didn't like men, and still yet another to hire a Jew-hater, and to wrap all three of them up in one waify little package!" Ally balks, promising to straighten things out with the rabbi and get her back into her temple...Karen tells her that getting the marriage now won't be a problem, because Ira died in his sleep last night.

Later, Ally meets Jason for their dinner date. He listens to her talk about the Horowitz case, reassuring her than everything will be fine, and things are going perfectly...until he happens to get a large gob of creamy salad dressing on his chin. As he continues to talk, oblivious, Ally grows visibly uncomfortable.

The next day, Ally visits the rabbi again, furiously reminding him about the things he said about her. He calmly reminds HER that she made his religion seem trivial and called it "hoopla." She cringes, remembering her words and saying that she has a knack for saying the wrong thing - - she apologizes for her insensitive remarks, asking him not to punish Karen Horowitz for them. He says that, because Ms. Horowitz hired Ally, she needs to be held accountable for the actions of her agent. Ally does a complete and immediate one-eighty, sneering, "Where do you come up with these jingles?" They fight, and Ally asks him if common sense was pinched off by "that thing on his head" (the yarmulke). He pauses...then begins to laugh, agreeing to do the ceremony for Ms. Horowitz and leaving Ally pissed and confused.

But Ally's in for a few more surprises courtesy of Rabbi Stern when he shows up at her office the next day to let her know that the wedding is on. He apologizes for laughing, telling that ever since he became a rabbi everyone's always tiptoed around him - - constantly afraid of saying the wrong thing - - and he found it refreshing that she could be so freely obnoxious with him. He then proceeds to ask her if she'd like to come to the wedding with him...as his date. She gets a mental flash of being carried aloft by four excited old rabbis (complete with the long beards and singing "Hava Nagila") and recoils, refusing his offer. "I mean, what would God think, you showing up with a Methodist? It's just that three weeks is a long way off, and I might be in a relationship, God willing. MY God," she adds quickly. He leaves, disappointed.

In the courthouse, Renee sees Jason Roberts in an elevator and quickly shoves Ally into it with him. He tells her that he had a wonderful evening with her, and she agrees without enthusiasm. When he says she looks great, she says he does too, picturing his face covered with salad dressing. Jason asks if she'd like to go out again sometime, and she hesitates...then grabs him and kisses him full on the lips, explaining it by saying that she's interested in him but that she needed to do something pre-emptive to purge the salad dressing image from her mind. She tells him to call her and steps off the elevator, then pauses to turn around and tell him that it was a great kiss, leaving a thoroughly bewildered District Attorney standing in the elevator trying to figure out what just happened.

Ally shows up at Rabbi Stern's synagogue the next day...to ask him out. She tells him that even though they probably don't mix well, she's decided to adjust her romantic life and focus on the men who DON'T seem likely, "juggling" the men she dates. Ally says that she would like him to be one of the balls she has in the air.

That evening, Ally meets Renee in the bar. Her roommate is astounded by her actions, reminding Ally that the rabbi is conservative and isn't allowed to inter-marry. "This is exactly my point!" she says. "I'm not looking for a lifetime, I'm looking for a fun Tuesday night!" Renee says that would be a good plan, if Ally were capable of just "fun." Ally says she is, and hits the dance floor with the twins, enjoying her new attitude towards relationships while it lasts.


BITS AND PIECES:

* I feel I should warn you all of something before you read this: I've commented in the past about my disapproval to certain aspects of Ally's behavior, and while most of you applauded my candor (or at least, suffered my insolence and blasphemy in silence), some readers took offense to it. This is easy to understand...as fans, we all identify with this complex character very personally to a certain degree (myself included), we love her and we feel a certain emotional loyalty to her. We defend her and excuse her behavior, just like we would for a real friend who screws up. But this episode disappointed me greatly, and it was mostly because I found many of the things Ally said and did to be wholly offensive. So as a result, my impressions below are largely going to be negative criticism of her. If you think it may offend or upset you, my advice is simply to stop reading now and content yourself with holding your own opinion of her, which is just as valid as mine. Otherwise...

* It struck me this time that, out of all the people at Cage/Fish & Associates, Ally is the only one who is a really BAD lawyer. No matter how outlandish or bizarre the other attorneys may behave, they are all brilliant legal strategists and have an uncanny ability to prove their points with razor-sharp efficiency (by any means necessary). Ally is a poor lawyer, not only because she is blindly Pollyannish (and I'm not saying anything against idealism, but hers is without any regard for reality or logic) and has little or no respect for the legal process, but also because she bitches and snaps at people instead than acting professionally. This was perfectly shown in her first meeting with the rabbi. Here was an intelligent, polite, soft-spoken young man who heard her request with an open mind, listened to it carefully and said no, as was his right. Rather than trying to persuade him with reason or debating the issue, or even quoting the legal reasons and precedents for her client's point of view, she insulted his religion and attacked him personally. Why? Because he disagreed with her! She consistently acts, not like a lawyer, but like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

* I happen to be (ethnically) Jewish, and even though I found Ally's attitude toward the religion horrible, it wasn't at all surprising. Growing up, I found that there's an amazing number of people out there just like her...tell them you're Jewish, and they'll get a look in their eyes like you've just told them you worship Satan. Everything they know of Judaism is from caricatures they've seen on television and in the movies. (Her brief mental image of the rabbis carrying her and singing was shudder-inducing, let me tell you.) Now, I hate pretentious groups and religions who take themselves too seriously, or object to every little joke at their expense. But it's one thing to poke light fun at religions - - even if they're not yours, I feel - - and it's another thing to engage in severely irreverent humor based on stereotypes. (The show's unrelenting and consistently hilarious jabs at the Catholic church is a perfect example. Sure, it's sacrilegious, but it's based on blatant exaggeration and besides, in the words of Kevin Smith, "I'm a big fan of clergy molestation humor.") But the things she was saying were just mean-spirited and ignorant, and that made her seem fairly gruesome and WASPish.

* And another thing. They call Nelle "Sub-Zero"...but it seems to me like, for someone who's supposedly so hungry to find a relationship, Ally constantly sends out all the wrong signals to the men she's "interested" in. No matter how attracted she is to them or how much she wants them to show interest in her, her body language is always closed-off and unapproachable, she practically refuses to say more than two words to them, her facial expression becomes bored and disgruntled, and she won't even look him in the eyes. Her idea of flirting is going out of her way to make it seem like she ISN'T interested in him. While her interior monologue is telling us how much she wants a guy she's with, everything about her practically screams, "Don't even think of asking me out, I'm not remotely attracted to you and even being around you makes me uncomfortable. Spending an entire evening with you is the last thing on my mind, and if you touch me, I think I may be physically sick." She has all the flirting ability of a telephone pole. I know most of my readers are female, so this is probably going to be the only time I will ever in my life presume to speak for my gender, in submitting a hint for you to either seriously consider or disregard, as you like. Many men worth attracting need to be really shown that you're interested in them. That means eye contact, eager conversation, casual touch whenever possible (you'll find a little goes a long way), even a playful little wink. They need to be encouraged, and contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that you are throwing yourself at them or that you're giving them "the upper hand." You're just acknowledging that you're attracted to them, and putting the ball in their court in a way that is subtle yet impossible to misinterpret. These tips may not be helpful for women who have low self-esteem, but for those who - - like Ally - - have faith in themselves, it's something to remember. And speaking of dealings with the opposite sex...

* The way she treated men in this episode was absolutely appalling. For starters, she goes to a date with a pimple the size of a quarter on her face - - about which she's extremely insecure - - and she almost dumps a guy because he got some salad dressing on his chin? Which, when told about it, he wiped off immediately? Admittedly, his table manners could have been a bit tidier, but how dare SHE be so judgmental? If he had reacted that way to her, she would have thrown a fit and ranted about how shallow, superficial and horrible he was (probably right in his face). Good thing the men she meets and obsesses over don't place much weight on "first impressions." However, she admitted that all of this made the problem hers and not his, so okay, that's forgiven. But did you notice how attentive he was to her at dinner...and how, as soon as HE started talking, the music (which represented her perception) just tuned him right out? And what about when the rabbi asked her out, and she proceeded to give him a complete stream-of-consciousness monologue full of self-pity to "explain why" she couldn't go out with him? And rather than just kiss the District Attorney in the elevator and let it go, she HAD to give him every ridiculous detail about why? And how about the horrible way in which she asked out the rabbi at the end, saying she wants to juggle a lot of men and could he be one of them? (As a man, I find her behavior in that scene so offensive on so many levels...it's amazing that he didn't tell her to get the hell out of his sight, let alone agree to date her.) Could she possibly be more self-centered? She consistently has to make every problem HER problem, she has to shove every tiny hassle in her life into everyone's face to remind them that the world revolves around her and that her problems are always bigger and more important than everyone else's because they're HERS. To her, other people just don't seem to exist except in how they relate to HER.

* I honestly think that, if these are the things that they cut out of the hour-long, then it was definitely justified. Ally was a lovable character on "Ally McBeal," quirky even though she was occasionally immature and self-absorbed. But here, we're seeing a really ugly side of her, and it's making the character almost too excruciatingly obnoxious to watch. I didn't know at first what the fans were talking about when they said that this might ruin it for the hour-long series, but now I see what they meant...it's become so much harder now to watch her on the Monday night show, now that this hideous side of her has been pointed out with a big red arrow and accentuated. Even though I still think Kelley is brilliant, it was an extremely bad decision for him not to go with his first instincts and just leave these originally-cut scenes out.

* I can't help but wonder...when this show premiered, all the original "Ally McBeal" fans said how much they hated it with a passion. Are any of you still watching it, though? Personally, I predict that this spinoff won't last much longer. The only way to save it would be for the network to put it on in the half-hour before the real "Ally McBeal" on Monday nights, giving fans a reason to tune in. But will FOX do this? I doubt it.

All "Ally" summaries are by Josh Bermont. You can email him at poiznpen@shore.intercom.net.


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