S1E8: Coffee Orgasms & Sexual Harassment

(Lead Counsel: Zeke)

s1e8 grab

Calamity has struck Cage & FIsh: the coffee maker isn’t working. Ally and Georgia stand around, stare at the tragically broken coffee maker, and complain about it until Richard walks in and starts telling them about this week’s case. It’s a divorce proceeding, their potential client is Mrs. Hatfield, the wife of a rich man who signed…oh, wait, did you want to get to the plot? Sorry, but instead Billy returns with Starbucks in hand, so Georgia and Ally brush off their boss to go slurp down that sweet caffeine nectar. Or they would, but because this show just wants to do anything other than get on with the plot, Ally stops Georgia before she can drink her coffee. She drags her to another room together, and starts talking to her about how men make love to them vs. how they wish men would make love to them (K: including a shot about how married sex = dead bedroom). Ally tells Georgia she was about to wham bam thank you ma’am her coffee, and that instead she should take some time with it, make some love, etc.

Then she starts using her best phone sex voice, the camera zooms in uncomfortably on Ally and Georgia’s mouths, and we get the softest of soft-core porn scenes as these two women drink coffee. Seriously, I was watching with subtitles and they read “moaning continues” at one point. Richard and Billy creepily watch this through an ajar door and I guess just have the hugest boners. What is even happening?  After what feels like a multi-hour session of tantric coffee drinking, but is actually 3 minutes and thirty seconds, VONDA finally starts up and the episode begins. (K: Even after all that, I’m pretty sure it was still hot enough to sear their tongues if they’re gonna gulp it down now)

Wait, wasn’t Richard saying something about a case before all of the coffee sex happened? It turns out he was. Richard and Ally walk and talk about how crazy rich the husband is, so therefore the firm can make a ton of money and…plot, what plot? It’s time to have the Hot Mailroom Girl from Episode Six walk in so that Richard and Billy can gawk again. After they get their gawk on (complete with whimsical cartoon tongues lolling out), Elaine arrives and presents a complaint. It turns out that she is suing the firm for sexual harassment on a hostile work environment theory based entirely upon how the men gawk at Hot Mailroom Girl, and she claims to have almost every female employee at the firm signed on. Richard thinks it’s dumb and insults Elaine (K: He calls her a “fathead”, which is both unwarranted and very elementary school), while Billy promises to reach “an accord.”

This clearly demands Ally’s immediate attention (as opposed to, you know, the case that her boss just told her is super important), so she corners Elaine in an office to talk about the sexual harassment complaint. Elaine explains that she just wants them to avoid sexual harassment by “legislating” how the hot girl dresses so as to not be so boner-inducing. (K: to be clear, the HMG is dressed in high-waist jeans and a plain white t-shirt, and the only thing you could really call her out on is that her nipples are visible.) Ally retorts that Elaine is a slut, what with how she wears a lot of perfume and flips her hair strategically (K: don’t forget that the phrase “uppity breasts” is used). Yay feminism.

So now that we’ve set women back a couple decades, it’s time to have the big meeting with the big client. Their client (K: played by that actress who is always the Older Woman of Means on TV) insists that her husband verbally revoked their prenup, and everyone in the room carries on as if this weak tea is a decent case. Or they would, anyway, but Cage starts making weird nose sounds, then picks his nose to try to clear things up. The camera zooms in uncomfortably on the pick, and then everyone else in the room observes it and is grossed out. So, bad meeting.

Then, because we need a third plotline, we cut to Billy in the unisex bathroom. He’s staring at his reflection in the mirror and fantasizing about waltzing with Ally (still in the bathroom) while they wear fancy and somewhat old timey clothes. Ally walks in and asks him if there’s something wrong. “Fine,” he says. Ally is unconvinced, and insists that staring into his reflection is what he does when something is bothering him. She goes into a stall (after saying the words “bashful bladder” out loud) and starts talking about how it’s probably something with Georgia, and she (his ex) is totally there for him. But uh oh, it turns out Billy left and Georgia walked in, so she heard all of that and Billy didn’t! Ally backpedals ineffectively.

In another office, Richard is mad at Cage for the nose picking. Cage is defensive and insists there “was never a corkscrew motion” before leaving huffily, so Billy can walk in to talk about Elaine’s complaint. Billy thinks they should negotiate since she’s now threatening a walkout, but then Georgia pops in, baits Richard out of the room by telling him the divorce client is back, and asks Billy what’s bothering him. He says nothing is wrong and Georgia is unconvinced.

So Mrs. Hatfield is back. Georgia and Ally discuss how the way to get more money out of her husband is to threaten to go to court; it would be ugly and expensive and put a lot of dirty laundry on the public record. And since her husband is already engaged to another woman, they figure he would be particularly sensitive to this kind of thing. Mrs. Hatfield is uncomfortable with this, since she doesn’t want to go to trial herself, but Ally and Georgia are right. Again, something like 95% of cases settle out of court, so this is incredibly reasonable of them. Cage is awkward and weird again, but they get the client anyway on the condition that she gets to work mainly with Georgia and Ally. Hooray!

But just as they leave the meeting, Elaine shows up with her attorney, Caroline Poop. First name Caroline, last name Poop. Hey, show, is everything OK? Like, you opened with two women orgasming to their morning coffee, and now you named a character Poop. We’re all here for you, we want to help. Just tell us what’s wrong. I promise it will get better, and you don’t have to do things like this. (K: They did cast Sandra Bernhard in this role though, so it’s not ALL bad.)

In the meeting with Caroline Poop, Esq., it turns out that she’s already gotten hold of security camera footage of Richard and Billy gawking at Hot Mailroom Girl. After denying Cage his “moment” of self-collection and throwing his solicitation charge at him, Poop admits that the legal case is a bit iffy, but says that it would look terrible to be sued by all their female employees, so Cage & Fish should make a deal anyway. And what do Elaine et al want? Nothing much, just bonuses for every female employee, more vacation time, and for Hot Mailroom Girl to be fired. (K: “That’s not fair to her!” Billy protests. A hero among men, truly.)

Now I’m tempted to talk about how subpoenas happen far later in the process than this and how weird it is to ambush somebody with their own security camera footage, but… what is even happening with this whole plot? It’s terrible and nothing makes sense. In the real world, there’s a legal definition of what constitutes a hostile work environment. True, it has some fuzziness around the edges, and it is possible for relatively innocuous behavior to rise to that level if is very frequent and persists over a long time. But it is a complete fantasy that the boss gawking at a woman would be enough for any court in the country to find in Elaine’s favor. If you look up caselaw for successful cases, you find things like fondling and groping, sending employees pornography or dick pics, sexual comments, suggestions, propositions, etc. The whole thing requires that a reasonable employee would consider the workplace “intimidating, hostile, or offensive.” And the fact is that there are plenty of examples of workplaces where bosses or other employees do all of these things and worse, and that’s where you’ll see a successful sexual assault case. The way the show handles this plotline implies that some minor gawking is enough to bring a sexual assault case, inviting the viewer to assume that this trivial nonsense is what sexual harassment laws prevent.

And as if that weren’t enough, Elaine’s solution is to FIRE THE HOT MAILROOM GIRL. Now I could get all lawyerly and tell you that that would be unambiguous sexual discrimination and get them sued by the mailroom girl, but you don’t need me to. Why? Because in the very last episode, that was exactly what happened to Georgia at her old job, for which she sued and won. This whole plotline is a stinking morass of nonsense, in which we pretend that sexual harassment law victimizes innocent men and employers for tame behavior and in which every female character attacks every other woman around them for being a total slut. It’s gross and stupid and insulting and I hate it.

Phew. Anyway, we head over to the bar where VONDA. Richard wonders if he should feel bad for gawking, while Cage resolves to meet with Elaine alone (K: he’ll grab her “when she goes to the unisex”, I feel the need to quote, because I can’t emphasize enough how The Unisex is a character in this show like New York is in Sex and the City) and figure out why she’s being such a crazy bitch, I guess. Richard is troubled that the secretaries and paralegals are unhappy even though the firm pays well.

Back in the bathroom, Billy is staring at the mirror again, so Ally confronts him again. He gets defensive, runs out, then returns and tells Ally he misses her. Ally, full of poise as per usual, worries that she may have wet herself. Billy proceeds to tell her that the coffee thing got him all hot and bothered, and that even though sex with Georgia is great, she doesn’t make eye contact with him when they bone down (K: Really???). Apparently Ally always looked him in the eye. With how Ally talks about sex (K:Making love,” you mean), I figure that eye contact must have been through the eyeholes in the bedsheet between them. Then we get VONDA and Billy and Ally are distraught.

Ally returns home to binge ice cream, where Renee asks her what’s wrong. They conversate about eye contact and sex (K: Ahem…“making love”) and love. Ally insists that she doesn’t make eye contact unless she really loves the guy. She also thinks oral sex…oops, oral making love, is gross, I guess? (K: I feel like there must have been a number of teenage girls/young women that got some bad relationship takeaways from this show.) Anyway Renee wants to see what Ally looks like during sex, so we get more phone sex voice and then Ally throws some ice cream at Renee. The show remains perilously close to being an awful soft-core porn.

Back at the office, Cage keeps it awkward by trying to meet with Elaine in the bathroom. It does not go well. Then it’s time to negotiate with Mr. Hatfield in the divorce case, who is unimpressed by their threats. After the bad meeting, Elaine tells Richard that all of the women will walk out of work tomorrow if he doesn’t meet their (awful) demands. Richard asks for a show of hands of who will back Elaine, and all of the women that aren’t Ally (many of whom appear to have been hired solely for this scene) back her up. Richard is unhappy with this.

But before this awful plotline can continue, Billy has to meet with Ally to apologize for his huge overshare from before. They agree that they need boundaries if they’re going to be friends successfully, and Billy asks Ally not to feign orgasms at work. (K: That’s sexual harassment!…am I doing this right?) Ally says that wasn’t orgasmic at all, and that he should know. Elaine, nosy person that she is, then shows up and wants to know what’s going on. But they talk about Elaine’s (terrible) lawsuit instead. Elaine insists that she’s just playing hardball to get paid, but Ally makes it personal. Elaine is only doing this, says Ally, because (K: although Ally admits “it takes one to know one”) she is needy and desperate and wants to be the center of attention. So yay, more validating of sexist tropes. Maybe next episode Elaine can falsely accuse someone of rape while they’re at it.

We get a quick scene in which Ally turns down Georgia’s invitation to another lesbian coffee experience, what with her whole boundaries thing, then it’s time for the climax of the divorce case plotline. Richard has gotten pictures of the husband with his mistress (distinct from his new fiancee). He wants them to threaten to bring that out at trial. Georgia and Ally balk, but still do it. They feel bad about it, but the ploy works and the firm gets a bunch of money. Fresh off of this victory, Richard walks into the center of the office, tells everyone that he wants work to be fun (what a cool boss!) but that Elaine’s complaint is too much. He rips it up and, as it turns out, calls their bluff. Nobody but Elaine is willing to walk out, and since the threat didn’t work, Poop admits that the lawsuit won’t hold up in court. Elaine backs down and is very sad.

Ally follows Richard to his office, where he talks about how sad he is that his worker drones are unhappy. They talk about their oh-so-sleazy tactics in the divorce case too, and Richard reiterates his “fun and also all the money” philosophy. (K: Ally refers to the C&F gang as both “young lawyers” and “a bunch of kids”, and you know how I feel about this weird youth lie the show has adopted, so that does not help my sympathy for either of them.)

Then it’s off to The Bar, for VONDA and everyone to reflect upon the episode’s events. Renee is there and flirts with Cage, because reasons. (“Do you think if I took you out on the dance floor you could hold your own against my bosom?”). Ally, who apparently had to reschedule a date with The Rabbi for this (K: WHAT IS HIS NAME THOUGH), leaves to find Billy still upstairs, being sad. (K: More pedantry: apparently Vonda Bar is downstairs from C&F, but in the pilot they made it seem like Ally and Renee went there all the time before she even worked there. I mean, I know, sets are expensive, but that sure is convenient.) She brings up the line-drawing thing and says their friendship isn’t a consolation prize, it’s “the greatest thing [she’s] got going”. So she doesn’t want honesty boundaries, and Billy doesn’t either. They promise to continue to overshare. What could possibly go wrong? Billy watches Ally go as VONDA plays. Cut to Ally brushing her hair pensively, fantasizing about waltzing with Billy, and that’s the episode.

 

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1 thought on “S1E8: Coffee Orgasms & Sexual Harassment”

  1. I have so many problems with this episode (that you’ve done a great job of recapping) but my number one complaint that Ally definitely passed on to many young women is that oral making love is gross. BAD ALLY. BAD BAD ALLY.

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