Previously: Butters was around and Ally was besotted, Nelle and Cage dated (KILL THIS PLOTLINE PLEASE?), Cage had weird habits, Butters left and Ally got neurotic about it
Ally is quiet for once as she sleeps peacefully with a new inflatable man, but she’s woken by the phone ringing. Someone on the other end asks about “Bria Tolson”, and she says she’ll be right there. Renee is up too, and Ally tells her that her former teacher is in the hospital. Renee asks if she can borrow the inflatable guy while Ally’s gone, and they banter about spinster survival tools.
Ally arrives at the hospital and greets Bria, and I think 12 seconds in is the shortest we’ve ever had to wait for a new character name. Bria thanks her for coming and mentions how beautiful she is, then introduces her to the priest (Robert) near her bed, who’s the one who actually made the call. We find out Bria was Ally’s high school teacher, and she asks what happened to “that sweetheart of yours”. Unlike the rest of us, she’s sorry to hear that Ally is no longer with Billy, and tells Robert that they once smelled each others’ butts, per the pilot. Ally turns Whimsy Red (Pantone Color of the Year 1999).
Bria says she needs to rest and falls asleep, giving Robert the chance to pull Ally aside and tell her the doctors don’t give Bria much time. Bria has started sleep-talking about “Henry” bringing her flowers, and Ally tunes in to the situation. She tells Robert that Bria used to have a dream about someone named Henry Lane, and they were in love. He only existed in her dreams, and she would cry when she woke up. Oh man, the romantic insanity is going to be off the charts this ep. Bria wakes up and tells Ally not to let “them” keep her alive, and to promise to let her go when it’s time. (They don’t say it until later, but she has ALS– the fact that her illness is incurable will become relevant.)
Meanwhile at C&F, Nelle is primping in the Unisex when Cage auto-flushes and enters. Apparently it’s midnight, and Cage stiffly wishes her a happy new year. She asks if he’ll ever relax: “After our mistletoe kiss I thought that…” that what? That he was too quirky for a legit relationship? Yeah, I agree. She tells him he needs to be shocked, and that public places get her going and nobody will come in this late. In response, Cage triggers his toilet seat raiser and retreats into a stall. Nelle leaves and he peeks over the stall door after her.
Ally is still at the hospital talking and laughing with Bria when Billy arrives. Bria asks him why they didn’t get married, so that’s great for reinforcing Ally’s delusions. Ally admits to her that she hasn’t found love yet, at which Robert comments that “there’s nothing like that first behind”. Billy and Ally look offended, but Bria says Robert makes her laugh. Ally finds out that Bria’s sister died three years ago, and she tells Ally, “Promise me you won’t grow old alone, it’s not a good thing.” It sounds like you guys have been talking about lost romance and all for a good while now, I think Ally’s on the same wavelength, Bria. You’re just making it worse at this point.
Ally asks Billy and Robert if they can have a minute, so she can ask Bria if she still sees Henry. The answer is yes, she’s even been having the dreams more often. They’re married with three kids, because apparently this woman can not only sustain interrupted continuity in her dream state, but can build on past events without a giant snake showing up or something. Bria asks if Ally still has fantasies, and thinks it’s wonderful when Ally admits she does. Just then the monitor flatlines, and the medical staff call for a crash cart. Before they can apply the electric charge to Bria, she starts up, and everyone proclaims it a miracle. Not really, as the cord to the monitor just came unplugged. Bria is irritated that she almost got shocked for no reason, and points out that she has her lawyer here. The doctor, whose back has been to us thus far, turns around, and as everyone knows, it’s Butters! He and Ally exchange pat greetings, and Billy tells Robert they dated. “What a surprise,” says Robert, who seems a little quick to judge. Butters assures Bria this was a false alarm, and she surreptitiously watches as he chats with Ally.
After the commercial break pause, we haven’t left the hospital. Butters is telling Ally that Bria could have a week or a few months, but they’re interrupted by Bria having a Henry sex dream. She wakes with a start and says she’s not ready to go, she wants to sleep more. In fact, she wants to stay asleep: instead of being awake and crippled, she wants to be with Henry and her family all the time. Butters says they’ll talk about that later. Out in the hall, Ally asks if he could induce a coma for Bria, but he’s not big on that. She changes the subject and asks when he got back, and he says just after Christmas. He ignores her barb about whether he ran away from someone in Chicago too, and says he was planning to call her. Bria calls for Ally again, and tells her “It’s so beautiful there, where I sleep.” She asks Ally (again) whether she’s a lawyer.
Cut to the conference room where Ally is catching Richard and the gang up on the request for a court order to keep Bria in a coma. Ally imagines everyone doing Cage’s “focus riff” at her. She admits it’s nuts, but so is the law, and if people can claim the right to die why wouldn’t this be valid? She wants to take it to court before Whipper, since she ruled thumbs up on the unicorn thing (nice precedent you set, Whipper). Ally wants Cage to be second chair, since it would be “better if I went in there with a native”. He does not seem offended by this.
Next thing you know, Ally and Opposing Counsel are arguing in front of Whipper. OC says the hospital opposes “this kind of voodoo”, and Ally counters that while Bria can’t walk or read when she’s awake, in sleep she has a family. OC insists that they don’t willingly put people to sleep, and Ally suggests that maybe it’s not better to be awake, clarifying that Bria doesn’t have any family. She says that Whipper can ask Bria herself.
The “wicked witch” theme plays at C&F as Ling exits the elevator. Georgia stops her and randomly wishes her a nice day, but she beelines for Richard and says they have to talk about Cage. Ling is concerned for Nelle and thinks Cage may be gay, because otherwise why hasn’t he slept with Nelle? Richard points out that they haven’t slept together either, but she claims it’s different because she doesn’t want to– he’s not over Whipper and thinks with his penis, so she has to keep him alert. Plus sex is messy. Richard clarifies that if a woman doesn’t want sex it’s okay, but if a man doesn’t he’s gay. Ling calls it a medical fact. Hey, you guys? I think I found what kept toxic masculinity going in the 90s.
Ally, Whipper and OC are visiting Bria, who describes her dream life, where she’s a mother and only 40 years old. She explains that she didn’t get invited to prom in high school, so she stayed home and made up Henry, then started fantasizing about him, had conversations with him, and gave him a full identity. She started dreaming about him around 30 and couldn’t wait to go to sleep. She finishes: “You think I’m crazy to want to go into that world, but wouldn’t I be crazy not to?” The show has used this phrasing several times as a clincher, and it’s too simplistic. I guess technically Bria is in her right mind, since she can distinguish what’s real, but this is a really worrisome coping mechanism.
Back at work, Ally says that Whipper thinks Bria is competent, but the hospital won’t “put her to sleep”. Richard says that they should take her to the vet and everyone glares at him, and those clunk bells that they used to use for failed courage sound. The humor is so weak the show has created its own form of a laugh track. Billy asks Ally what’s next, and she says she wants a court order to force the coma. He asks if she still has her fantasies, since he thinks an inner life is healthy, but to choose to live in it isn’t. Ally says it could be in Bria’s circumstances. Billy asks if it was nice to see Butters again, to which she replies that he’s just a friend.
Richard has filled Cage in on Nelle-via-Ling’s concerns, and tells him, “you’re not who you are, you’re only what people think of you”. I don’t like it, but coming from Richard it makes sense. He tells Cage he has to sleep with Nelle, who has snuck up behind them, and they both scream. Richard whispers to Cage to kiss her and leaves, and Cage asks her if she told Ling that she was frustrated with his “lack of sexual aggressiveness”. She admits she did, and he’s irritated that he didn’t hear it directly. Nelle thinks she’s been honest with him but not blunt, since if she’s too direct he does one of his quirky stunts (singing, nose whistling, toilet raising, etc). She’s even given him the benefit of the doubt for the frog stuff, but “whatever world you live in, I’m not sure I get it”. Cage looks sad, which is definitely the opposite of the reaction I’m having.
At the hospital, Butters checks Bria’s heart, and she asks why he’s single. Ally imagines her tongue really long, making its way up to Butters, then snapping back when he turns around. Since his examination is done, she says she’ll stay a while, and he says he’ll check back in. Ally asks if Bria wants to play cards, but she wants to sleep, since she misses her family.
VONDA sings at The Bar, where Georgia is sporting a new slicked back hairstyle as the gang watches on. We get a mid-episode montage to the music, as Ally holds sleeping Bria’s hand, fading to a fantasy of Bria and an older guy (but I thought she was 40 in Dreamland?) dancing against a green screen background of, like, clouds? And a train station frame? Then Ally and Butters walk in the snow holding hands and stop to kiss, but I guess that’s a fantasy too, since the next second he’s standing behind Ally in the hospital room.
Witness time! The dude on the stand (Bernard from LOST!) seems to be some kind of hospital rep, as he says that to keep a person in a deep sleep is immoral. Doctors cure, not help to encourage dreaming, and there’s no scientific evidence that Bria would keep experiencing the same dream patterns. Ally’s turn to examine, and she argues that there’s no scientific evidence that she wouldn’t, either. Bernard says that the coma would be drug-induced and thus affect her brain, and asks what if a 20-year-old post breakup wanted the same thing. Ally says that it’s not relevant to this case. She asks Bernard if there’s ever been euthanasia at the hospital, and he replies that while it’s not policy, it has happened. He says it’s different because Bria isn’t in pain, but Ally points out that he hasn’t even met her.
In Nelle’s office, she’s ranting at Ling that she never asked her to go to Richard. Ling says she could tell Nelle was bothered and it made her unfun, and “there’s no reason I should be a victim”. Cage hovers in the doorway and Ling exits, muttering that there must be someone to sue.
Cage has apparently come to explain himself: he’s afraid of “accelerating the relationship towards extinction”, because if they get serious they’d find they aren’t right for each other, and he’d miss her. “By not going down the road, it remains the road ahead”, he says, and that thought brings him joy. I feel like they’ve had seven different conversations about this, and it’s just a new excuse every time. Nelle follows him out of her office and says she’s stumped by his brainteaser. He asks if she’s ever been “truly alone”, like there might never be anybody again, and scoffs when she says she was at 13. He tells her that the idea of going to The Bar after work, holding her hand, just being with her, is like a dream, and he’s afraid that’s what it would end up as. They have have no common interests, and his inner world is bigger than his outer world. Nelle asks if they shouldn’t discuss this, but he reiterates that if they go slow they won’t have to hit the end. Nelle concedes that she’ll try this inner world thing once, then has the same dumping sequence fantasy as Ally. She tells him that she sees the end, and they’re done. THANK GOD, this plotline has been ten episodes too many.
Ally, Cage and Richard are lying on the floor in Cage’s office, looking up through the skylight. Richard and Ally don’t blame Nelle for booting him. Richard especially, since his theory is that God put women on Earth as sexual objects for men, and when you withhold that primal force of sex, you shred their esteem. Nice. He then lays out some convoluted bullshit about how couples don’t have sex after they’re married, so this courting stage is the only time he can go for it with Nelle. Ally disagrees with that statement, but he’s convinced that sex is about conquest, so it’s not enjoyable within marriage. Ally tells the guys that they do have feelings, and that’s why they’re messed up about relationships. Cage asks why he can’t live in his inner world like Bria, but, um, hers only involves herself. You can live in yours all you want, Cage, you just can’t drag other people in with you. Ally gets up and leaves, and Richard notes that women think they have all the answers.
Ally’s in Bria’s room while she sleeps some more, and Robert enters. Ally says the last priest she knew got a show on FOX, and Robert jokes that it would be a pay cut. Biting the hand that feeds them hard this season. Ally says that people tell her she should take Prozac, and that Renee jokes that if it comes in jelly form she’ll put it on her crackers. Robert suggests that she was about to make a point when she got lost, earning him points in my book. She says that people take all kinds of “drug therapies”, and dreams are a more natural method to happiness. Plus, they could qualify under “mysterious ways”, and I have no idea what she means by that. She says if she and Robert both agree a better world is waiting, maybe some of it is locked up in Bria’s dreams.
Later, Butters eases Bria into a wheelchair, so that she can come to court with Ally. Ally tells Butters “I want you”, which is “amusingly” ambiguous, as she actually wants him in court, to answer medical questions. She asks Robert to come too, but he says he doesn’t support her position.
Nelle and Ling are chilling in a sauna, where Ling is complaining that sex is overrated, and mostly for female affirmation. She says that Nelle is emotionally inept, so sex convinces her she has a heart. Nelle snaps at her and Ling tries to leave, but Nelle pulls her back to argue that she’s not a cold person. Ling disagrees, arguing that they like Cage and Richard because they know they’ll never get to their emotional cores. Ling calls Cage a “trinket”, which Nelle argues isn’t true, and insists that Ling really likes Richard, too.
Back in court, OC repeats the dumped 20-year-old hypothetical, and Whipper tells him to stick to this case. He insists he is, and that patients can’t ask doctors to transport them to a mental state where the world is prettier. When it’s Ally’s turn, she reminds the court that Bria is alone and dying of “an insidious disease” that will rob her of her dignity. Whipper says that Ally is asking her to force the hospital’s hand, but Ally tells her they need to force it, since Bria’s sleep patterns are already disrupted and it will only get worse. Whipper is still concerned about the precedent this might set, but Ally argues that you can’t apply precedents to medicine, since technology changes so fast. She points out that Whipper said “let people have their unicorns”, so why can’t they have their dreams?
Whipper turns to Bria, asking her what all she does in the dreams, and Bria tells her that she raises her kids; mornings are kind of crazy, and her pretend family isn’t wealthy… She trails off and admits that she has bad dreams within the dream, and I assume she means that her fantasy life is as complex as the real one, but she means that she “dreams” that she’s old and dying with no family. Sometimes she thinks this is the dream, and her family is the real world. Whipper says she’s done some research, and an induced coma can be dangerous with infections and complications, but Bria says she’s willing to take those risks. Whipper notes that it would be reversible, so she’ll order it for a week and see what happens. “Are you crazy?” OC shouts at Whipper, and she replies, “Maybe I am,” which, barf. She advises Bria to go over the medical consequences and wishes her sweet dreams. Bria, Ally, and Butters all look teary.
The rest of the gang is at C&F, where Billy fills Elaine and Georgia in on the win so they can pick up their paychecks for the week. Georgia asks Richard what’s with Whipper’s whimsical decisions lately. He suggest she’s still in love with him and Ling growls.
Nelle is doing work at her desk when she hears Barry White and looks up to see Cage (I think that was Head Music, but I really don’t know anymore). He says he’s willing to go for it, and she tells him about Ling’s theory that she likes him because he’ll never find her “defrost button”. “I’d like to go in search of it,” he tells her, and she stands up and says that would be nice. NOOOOOOO ugh your earlier instinct was right! This is exhausting, he’s had like eight chances, drop him!
Ally is with Bria in the hospital, and the latter asks Robert if God will forgive her. “She will,” Ally replies, which is a weird little touch for this show. Bria tells Butters to take Ally to dinner, and Ally says “I don’t eat,” which I can’t tell if that’s a deflection or an anorexia meta-joke. Bria falls asleep and Robert bids goodbye to Ally. She thanks Butters, who invites her to dinner, saying he’s trying to make Bria happy. Ally looks at her smiling in her sleep and says she already is, then turns around and leaves. I don’t get this at all. When Ally is single, she either whines about it constantly or rejects and reconsiders men she’s not attracted to. But when she has chances with John Ritter and Butters, where there’s a mutual attraction, she keeps turning them down. My sympathy for her is pretty much drained at this point.
Everyone dances at VONDA Bar, including Renee with the inflatable man, and Ally dances with Butters even though they’re just friends or what-the-fuck-ever. There’s also some line dancing, which is unfortunate. The last shot is Bria’s feet somehow tapping in her sleep, as Whipper watches from the doorway.