Previously: Butters came back, Cage and Nelle’s nonsense continued, Richard and Ling had a complicated thing, Ally liked her lips
VONDA sings over some establishing shots of Boston, then we see Ally and Butters walking down the street. He says he didn’t date anyone in Chicago and asks if Ally did, but she says she can’t remember. They arrive at her place, and she says she’d invite him in but he’d probably sing a duet with Renee. They stare dreamily at each other and their tongues get whimsically long. Ally tells him to call her.
Apparently at some point Portia and Lucy made the opening credits! If I can’t get one without the other, I guess I’ll keep them both. Post-credits, Ally fills Renee in on her date with Butters, and is whimsically floating because he’s cool with taking things slow. She floats all the way in to work, where Richard calls her and Billy into the conference room for a new client. Ling approaches, crashing Ally back to earth. Billy tells Ally that Ling is suing the environment…
And we cut to the conference room, where Georgia asks Nelle how that’s possible. Nelle says that activists have argued that trees have rights, so if the tree can sue you, why not vice versa? Georgia asks why they have to be the lawyers to do this, and Nelle makes a joke about distracting her so she can go after Billy. Richard announces the new client (and we hear nothing more about the tree suit, so I guess that was supposed to be a funny one-off?): a woman named Kimberly Goodman is in a dispute with her husband, who wants to annul their marriage due to his mental incompetence. See, he’s a sex addict, and was thinking with his other head when they got married. Georgia thinks Richard is making this up, but he goes ahead and declares himself first chair, roping Ally in to help.
Out in the main office, Elaine asks Ally if she’s dating Butters, because she’s afraid of Ally getting “squished” by him again, and also he’s here. Ally is stunned as Butters tells her he wanted to stop by in person and asks her out. Ally floats again until Elaine gets in a dig about her social life. She accepts, they kiss, and he leaves, and Elaine runs off to find someone to tell. Ally is left hunched over, and Cage wanders over to ask her what’s up. She says she’s happy and needs mental help, as she’s not equipped for this, and Cage offers to share the appointment he’s scheduled with Tracy today. Ally is amenable to this.
Ally and Richard are doing client consult with Kimberly, who says she’s been married for nine years, so she didn’t think it could be annulled at this point. She’s looking for an expert on divorce law, which Richard claims to be. Ally corrects him, but he says they’ll still take the case. Kimberly explains it’s not just about the money, because she’s been a housewife and mother for the whole marriage, so she’s afraid the court could nullify everything. She doesn’t want them to rule that her children’s father married her in an “act of insanity”.
A bit later, Ally and Cage discuss the case in Tracy’s office. Ally’s pissed that the husband wants to wipe out the marriage entirely, which Cage says is getting more common, and she’s especially upset that just when she started to believe in love again, she’s witness to something like this. She’s glad she has a career and is in control of her world, she declares, until Cage points out that she’s seeking treatment for happiness.
There’s yelling out in the hall, and…. Bruce Willis… with a combover… enters the room. The guest star roster never ceases to surprise me. He introduces himself as Dr. Nickle, filling in for Tracy, who’s in California. He seems to know who Cage is and asks if he’s brought a date, leading Cage to stutter that they’re both Tracy’s patients, and since their issues are based on fear of relationships, they doubled up. Nickle accepts this and tells Ally to sing her theme song, but she doesn’t want to sing it to a stranger. He tells Cage to do it then, but he also refuses, so Nickle calls them “wacky little people” and rants that he’s not a miracle worker. He asks Ally if she talks back to the screen at the movies and she gets up to leave, but he wants her to sign a liability form first. He then makes fun of Cage’s stutter and they both depart, Cage with a final word of “Poop!”. Nickle gives them a rictus grin. Well that was weird.
In Richard’s office, Ling whines to him that the firm doesn’t take her seriously, and growls at his protests about her suing a plant. He says he doesn’t know what they are since they haven’t slept together, and she repeats that sex is messy, so he tells her he’s good at cleaning up after himself, or else they could try counseling. She asks why it’s so important, and what happened to intimacy, emotion and tenderness. Richard points out that they’ve been dating for four months (dang), and when Ling brings up Cage and Nelle, he says he doesn’t know what’s going on there either. Ling tells him she likes foreplay, because there’s more to it than intercourse and a wattle, but he insists he needs to know if they’re going anywhere. Ling takes his finger, noting that most people don’t know the digit is erogenous, then licks up and down it to sexy background music. Richard is entranced, but she breaks the spell by yelling that there’s a lot beyond intercourse but “men can’t see beyond their dumbsticks”. She storms out, leaving Richard shellshocked.
Ally and Richard are getting ready to leave for court when Cage approaches to tell Ally that maybe they don’t need Tracy, because they’re comfortable enough that they could bounce their problems off each other. Ally hesitantly agrees. Nelle, apparently feeling territorial, comes up and asks Ally if she’s late for court, then invites Cage to dinner. He stammers, and (knowing Georgia is behind her) Nelle tells him not to play hard to get because she might have to go after Billy. She’s all “j/k!” and splits, and when Georgia asks Cage what he sees in her, he can’t answer.
Mr. Goodman is on the stand in court, being examined by Opposing Counsel. Gird your loins, rational people, this one is a doozy. Goodman says he married Kimberly because she’s beautiful, but in an extreme way, because he has “sexual obsessive compulsive behavior” which affected his mental competence, so he was crazy. Richard stands up to say that any man is crazy to get married and Ally pulls him back down. OC clarifies that Goodman married his wife out of “a mental infirmity caused by a raging libido” and he agrees: he got married to “make love” regularly and cure him from lusting after other women, but it didn’t work.
On Richard’s turn, Goodman agrees that he still wants to have sex with Kimberly, just with other women too, so Richard asks why he wouldn’t just cheat. Goodman says it’s she who wants the divorce, and Richard finds the crux; in a divorce, Kimberly would have a financial gain, but in the case of an annulment she wouldn’t get anything. Richard accuses Goodman of wanting out for cheap (objection from OC), and scolds that he took a vow til death, but he doesn’t see any dead people (objection). Goodman insists he needs the nullification because he wasn’t of sound mind, so the contract wasn’t valid as a competent meeting of the minds. Richard compliments him on the legal buzzwords, and Goodman sums it up by saying he’s not well, nor is he proud of this. Richard asks if he would be proud of avoiding alimony (objection), and Goodman apologizes to Kimberly directly. Richard reminds him that he’s the victim, here.
Ling and Nelle eat lunch outside somewhere, and Ling asks her if she wants to sleep with Cage. She wonders if it’s strange for her not to “be wanting… it”– she won’t say the actual word because it drives men crazy. Nelle can’t believe this, so tells her to say “sex”, and she complies. It’s admittedly a good delivery, so Nelle has her repeat it, looking thoughtful and slightly turned on.
Ally’s in the courthouse hallway, where she’s cornered by a Laura Dipson from “Women for Progress”, telling her she’s been nominated for 1999 Role Model for Working Professionals. Ally tries to decline, but Laura won’t take no for an answer, announcing that they’ll have to fatten her up and get her to lose the “emotional void without a man” attitude. When Ally demurs again, Laura tells her to stop with the “skinny, whiny emotional slut thing, and be exactly what we want you to be”. I was like, damn, this one-off character is nasty, until Ally bites off her nose and spits it away.
So apparently that whole last scene was a weird weird dream, because we cut to Cage asking Ally what it has to do with Butters. Ally thinks she wants someone she can be weak with, who can make her feel held, and Cage asks if she can have that without biting off a woman’s nose. I mean, it’s tough being a woman these days. Ally muses that craving dependency makes her feel like a failure as a woman. She tells him she also dreamed that she was on the cover of TIME (lolllllll) as “the face of feminism”, and notices that he takes A Moment at this. He asks if she’s really that afraid of becoming dependent, and she references Kimberly, who proves the point that you have to take a chance of emotional freefall to be with someone. She says she has the same “fear of splat” as he does.
“Splat?” Butters repeats in a jump cut to Ally’s apartment, and Ally says she’s telling him all this in case she goes rigid, so he doesn’t give up on her. He comments that she must have gotten hurt with Billy, and she admits that she hasn’t loved anyone since, and so is afraid of it. She tells him that she picked a new theme song, “Ooh Ooh Child”, and she sings a bit of it. Butters sings the next line, then Renee joins in from behind them. Ally chides her and she leaves for her own date. Once the door closes, they start singing again, and we fade to VONDA singing it while the two of them dance at The Bar. Richard is looking on, and comments that at least someone is making progress, speaking of which how is Cage doing with Nelle? Cage thinks there’s an impending breakthrough. Richard, as we know, isn’t sure about him and Ling, but Cage thinks he’s really falling for her. He suggests that Richard try his Barry White routine with him sometime to bolster his confidence.
Back in court, an expert witness (Dr. Hubbel) is explaining that sex becomes the center of an addict’s life, and the judge wants to know what establishes sex addiction as a legit disorder. Hubbel says it’s when sex is used to cope with relational pain. Similarly to drugs, people use it to get a high, then need bigger doses. Mr. Goodman was abused in childhood and so has bouts of powerlessness, and he confirms that this issue could extend to his lack of power in the decision to marry. On Ally’s turn, she asks whether they should nullify all marriages borne from lust. She wants to know whether Goodman didn’t know what he was doing, or didn’t realize marriage was legally binding at the time. Hubbel says it was both. She says that he seemed to know the “nature and quality” of the act of marriage, but Hubbel compares it to an alcoholic, as addicts can’t control their behavior. Ally has no further questions.
Cage jams to Barry White in the Unisex, and Richard mirrors his dance moves alongside him. They go through the choreographed routine, and Ling comes in and settles in to watch. The toilet flushes and Elaine emerges, then joins in the dancing (without washing her hands, ick). Ling finally decides if you can’t beat ‘em, and jumps in, and we get the classic record scratch only when Nelle enters, causing them to collapse into each other.
Kimberly is on the stand now, saying that she didn’t know about her husband’s affairs until recently, and tried to work things out for the kids. Ally asks if they tried counseling, and they did, until Goodman tried to sleep with the counselor. That’s when Kimberly could see it was pathological and filed for divorce. Ally asks if he had this mental incompetence theory before he met with his lawyer, and OC objects. Richard interrupts to add his question about when he got the idea of getting out of paying alimony “as the law, morality and decency would require him to do”. OC objects again, and Richard overrules him, smiling adorably. He gets scolded by the judge, and Ally asks Kimberly what she would say to her husband right now. She goes with “no matter what his problems are, they shouldn’t nullify the fact that we have been married for nine years”, because the marriage was real to her.
Ally and Richard rehash at C&F later. She’s frustrated that Kimberly admitted to Goodman’s addiction, if not his insanity. Richard tries the “all men are crazy to get married” argument again, and Ally doesn’t like it any better this time. Ling pops in to ask if they’re going out, since “it’s that time of the month” (um…okay?) and she wants some fun. She asks Ally if she should be out somewhere being in love, and Richard suggests they all head down to The Bar.
Cage is still in the office, and on her way out Ally asks what happened to his date with Nelle. He says he cancelled, because he thinks Nelle has a spontaneity fetish, and (Nelle enters at this point) he told her he has to work late so he can go to her later. He does some finger dancing and says he’ll “Don Juan” her. Nelle interrupts to say that she’s excited and she’ll go get herself ready. Cage pales, because now there’s pressure.
Renee and Ally are at home, and Ally informs her that she switched her dinner date to lunch so she could work on her closing. She asks if it’s significant that just when she’s with somebody, she gets a case that says don’t trust passion or trust, and that love is temporary. She thought she had “It” with Billy, and Renee agrees that she did, but Ally says it must not been as much as she thought, since he met someone else. “As soon as you’ve found love, you’ve had It”, she muses miserably.
At C&F, Cage enters Nelle’s office. Her hair is down, and as he closes the door, Barry White starts playing. Nelle takes off what I guess is her coat, revealing that she’s only in her underwear. Cage loosens his tie and touches her face and she takes off her bra. At this point I assumed it was a fantasy, but he says “I can’t” and runs out. Nelle covers her chest and looks sad, while Cage goes into his office and sinks down onto the floor.
Cut to an inner-fridge shot of Ally and Cage at her apartment. She tells him to calm down, because he’s not the first person to panic over sex. Renee asks if it was performance anxiety, but he says no, things were physically working, it just felt wrong. Ally tells him that he did the noble thing not going through with it then, but he has to talk to Nelle.
The next morning Ally and Richard are outside the courthouse, where she’s telling him about Cage’s encounter. He says that when sex is wrong it’s still right (ick), and Kimberly catches up with him. Richard tells Ally to keep it simple in court, because common sense is on their side. OC closes first, asserting that there was a defect in the inception of the marriage, and addiction means mental capacity means annulment is legit. He argues that Kimberly acknowledged the addiction when she filed for divorce, and any decision for Goodman to live with his wife was not in sound mind.
Then it’s Ally’s turn, and she argues that alimony comes down to fairness, since Kimberly endured her husband’s problems and raised his kids for nine years. The judge says that the fairness issue presupposes a valid union, and Ally says that’s dumb. She continues that it’s dangerous to subject marriage ceremonies to sanity rulings (Butters enters at this point), seeing as people get married in Vegas or off the predictions of astrologers, and their decisions of passion are still enforced.
Goodman knew what he was doing, she says, “even if he was led by Little Mr. Helmet Head”, and love is crazy by definition. She cites some “crazy in love” cliches, but says that people excuse it because love doesn’t make sense, so nobody legislates it. Then she goes in for the kill: once people take vows and have the legal paperwork, we take love seriously, so for Goodman to go around cheating, to skirt the law (Richard looks impressed here) because he found a “scuzzy lawyer and a scuzzier shrink”, to nullify Kimberly’s life, to parade his penis? “How dare you subject this woman and your kids to this embarrassment, how dare you live, you giant ass.” She goes a little overboard at the end here, but this speech was pretty badass, and all her insecurity evaporated, so I enjoyed it… at least until the slow clap started. You ruined it, show.
Nelle is working in her office when Cage enters, saying he can’t express how sorry he is. He thought he was afraid of falling in love with her, but his real fear is that he’d never fall in love with her. He tells her that she represents the girl he could never get in high school, and when he’s with her he’s living his fantasy, but that’s all he’s doing. They don’t get each other. Nelle thinks he’s met somebody, but he denies it. She admits that she doesn’t get his inner world, and asks who does, who he runs to when he needs to talk. “There is somebody,” she tells him, “but judging by the look I see on her face lately, you may have waited too long”. So we’re going to start this again, even though we determined the Ally/Cage ship wouldn’t leave the port? Nelle exits, leaving Cage speechless. She washes her hands over in the Unisex, looking teary, and when Billy comes in she asks after “Georgette”. She lies to him that everything is fine.
Back to court and the judge’s ruling: she gives Goodman points for making a viable case for annulment, and she’s horrified to admit that it’s a winning argument. The law can go either way on this, but she shares Ally’s disgust, and will order Goodman to pay Kimberly’s legal fees. Petition for annulment: DENIED. The C&F team celebrates, and everyone hugs, giving Richard the chance to touch Kimberly’s wattle and smell his finger.
Richard/Ling and Ally/Butters dance at VONDA Bar, then we fade to Ally and Butters sitting on a stoop. He asks her if all her closings are that passionate, and notes that she takes marriage seriously. He admits he only plans to do it once. Ally tells him that her favorite song in high school was “Can I Have This Dance?” by Anne Murray, since it’s about happily ever after. She sings a bit of it and VONDA picks it up, singing it to Georgia/Billy and Richard/Ling dancing. Montage time, as Nelle walks home alone, Cage looks out a window, and Ally and Butters dance in the snow. These three images are layered onto a split screen, then we fade back and out on Ally and Butters, content with their snow love.