John's birthday is full of surprises, Ally introduces Brian to her parents. Singer/songwriter Randy Newman guests and many of his songs were sung by cast members.
Ally and Brian are in her apartment and Ally's parents are sitting on her couch. Ally introduces them to each other. Ally's father obviously isn't thrilled with Brian since his reaction is to growl. Ally nervously starts to talk and is unable to stop herself from babbling on about the restaurant and the food and her coat. She even starts to walk into her bedroom instead of out the front door.
Since this is a musical episode, what would be more apropos than a special open. This one has the entire cast singing "Searchin' My Soul" and includes scenes from this episode and musical scenes from past episodes.
John goes to see his therapist (who is no longer Dr. Tracy, sadly). The doctor tells him that he seems to go through something like this every time he has a birthday. He asks if the group will be throwing him a party and John says Elaine is putting it all together, but that she only does it so that she can do a number. John feels like he doesn't really have anything to show for his thirty-six years. He says all he does all day is walk around muttering "balls, balls, balls," and he feels like he's just a little curmudgeon toad.
Meanwhile, Nelle is telling Hope that she really didn't want to leave Cage & Fish – that her leaving and stealing the files was more about punishing the dweeb, John Cage. Hope says she could probably talk to Richard about letting Nelle come back. Nelle asks if Hope slept with Richard again. "I just let him go down on my button," she says. Nelle says she doesn't know what she did to deserve this isolation. Hope reminds her that she screwed her friends. Nelle says even so, her life hasn't been so charmed. As she tells Hope about her childhood, Renee begins to sing "The Blues" to the rest of the group listening in the bar. The camera shows Nelle and John both talking to Hope and the therapist, then Nelle and John begin to sing, separately and with Renee.
At dinner, Ally continues her nervous chatter. She asks her parents if she mentioned that Brian is a lawyer, too. "Not in the last five minutes," her father says. Ally tries to make up for her father's rudeness. "Isn't he funny?" she says. "He's a stitch," her mother says, who clearly is uncomfortable, probably with the way both her husband and Ally are acting. "That's funny, too," Ally says, "I guess I have two funny parents." Her mother tells her to relax. Brian says he thinks it could be the drugs interacting with the wine. "It's my fault," he says, "I slipped her a little something to loosen her up for later." Ally laughs so hard she spits a piece of bread out and it hits her father on his forehead. Mr. McBeal asks Brian what kind of law he practices. He says mostly litigation, but he is trying to get out of it and into corporate law because there is too much acrimony in litigation. Ally's father tells him that corporate is boring, adding, "I thought the English liked acrimony." He says you always see them screaming in Parliament. "We just do that to entertain the Americans when they can't watch wrestling," Brian says. The waiter stops to ask if they would like to hear the specials and Ally's dad rudely tells him that he is still waiting for his drink. "Were you just kidding when you took our drink orders?" he asks. The waiter goes to check on the drinks. Ally hears the beginning of "I Will Survive" and she checks under the table. "I thought there was a disco queen under the table," she explains, adding, "Even I'm funny. I guess it comes from having two funny parents." The waiter returns with the drinks and begins to sing "Relax, Enjoy Yourself." Soon, all three of the other people at the table are singing to her, too. She tries to get rid of the vision, and her mother asks her what's wrong. "I mean, aside from your father, the stitch," Mrs. McBeal says. Ally says she's just a little nervous and her father tells her to stop acting like a teenager. A young Ally appears and sings that "it must be very trying to be bad all the time." Before Ally knows it, everyone in the restaurant is singing "Relax, Enjoy Yourself" to her. She finally gets up and walks away from the table.
The next day, Ally's father visits her at work. She tells him that the lousy evening was all his fault. She reminds him that she is thirty now, and she doesn't need her father's approval in order to like a guy. He tells her that just because she is thirty doesn't mean she gets to talk to him like that. "Why weren't you at the funeral?" she asks. He reminds her he was in London. "It was really nice having dinner with you dad," she says, "but I'm going to go have lunch with the man in my life."
In John's office, Richard tells him that he is going to meet with Nelle. John is furious with Nelle and he can't believe that Richard isn't. Richard says he wouldn't think of having Nelle come back to the firm if John didn't approve. John says he hates her. Richard is a bit surprised. He says as long as he's known John, he's never heard him use that word. "She dumped me while I was wedged in an elevator," John reminds Richard. He goes on to say that he has never told anybody this, but when he was about five or six, he was fat. The other kids would tease him and at the neighborhood carnival, they convinced him to be in a booth where people would guess his weight. They would sing a song that John can still hear today. He sings "Johnny the Fat Boy" for Richard. John says he made up his mind right then and there that he would not be fat and that there would be limits as to how much ridicule he would endure. He says Nelle crossed the line. "And what about you?" says Nelle, who walks into John's office. She says he cares too much about what other people think. "What hurt me," she says," is that I cared about what you were thinking, and you so fundamentally disapprove of who I am, what I am. That's a lot more painful than being stuck in an elevator." John says, "I want you to leave. I don't want you in my office." "No, John, you don't want me in your life," Nelle says, "I get that. I got it even before you did." Nelle turns and leaves the office.
At Ally's apartment, Brian tells her he will not make love to her. "You're rejecting me?" Ally asks, shocked. "I'm not going to bed with you simply because you are angry your father," he says. Ally says he is a man and he is supposed to take it any way he can. "I don't want it this way," he says, adding, "I'll dance with you. I bet he'd hate that."
Back at John's office, John tells Richard that he can't even hear Barry White anymore. Richard says he has his own little theme song and it couldn't be more appropriate for what John is going through. He begins to sing " "Can't Keep a Good Man Down." John asks if Richard could at least hit a note. Richard just keeps on singing. The camera switches to Brian, who keeps the song going by singing to Ally. Soon, they are dancing in her apartment, John and Richard are dancing in John's office, and Elaine and backup singers are singing and dancing in the bar.
As Brian and Ally finish their dance, he tells her that now, he's ready to make love to her. "And now I don't want to," she says. "A woman who will kiss on the very first date is usually a hussy," she says. "And a woman who kisses on the second time out – anything but fussy" Brian says. Ally, wide-eyed, is surprised the Brian knows the song she is referring to with that line. He says it's from "The Music Man," which is one of his favorites. She says she and her father used to sing "Lida Rose" together. Brian begins to sing the song, but Ally tells him he's singing the girl's part. They sit down together at the piano and Brian plays as they both sing. Ally's father walks in to her apartment and sees them singing, but they can't see him. He thinks back to the day when Ally was younger and he sat with her at the piano, singing that song. Before they can see him, he turns and leaves.
John goes to Nelle's new offices to see her. "Whatever you believe my opinion of you is, I can't see it wounding you to such depths that…my disapproval of you only went to you….." John says, as Nelle finishes with "being a rich, bitch, ice queen, elitist, cold snob….in case you were in search of the words." John says she embraced that – that when he called her that, she wore it like a badge. "But in your eyes, it was an indictment," she says. John says it wasn't in her eyes, so he wonders why she cared. "Because I loved you," she says. "Okay, so you were wounded by somebody you loved, so was I," John says, "The difference is you did it maliciously." Nelle says he did, too. "You couldn't love me because you couldn't like me," she says. John tells her that she knows he loved her. "Not like you loved her," Nelle says, adding, "We both know how you love her and how you never loved me, so, don't you dare come in here trying to compare pain."
Back at work, Ally is now visited by her mother. "I don't know what you've done to your father," she starts. Ally jumps in with, "What I've done to him? He was an ass." Her mother says that isn't new, but that he was also nervous. She says that was the first time Ally invited them to come and meet someone she likes. She says that as much as Ally's father wants her to be happy, the idea of losing Ally to somebody else is hard for him. Ally says that not only makes her father selfish but it also makes him a dope. Her mother says she didn't come here to listen to that tone. Ally asks her what is in this for her. Her mother says Ally's father is her only connection to Ally. "Whatever progress we've made, he is the one you call to check in with," her mother says. Ally says that her mother doesn't need her father in order for Ally to be her daughter. Her mother decides to leave, but before she does, she asks Ally to tell Brian how much she enjoyed meeting him.
It's party time! Renee, Elaine and Georgia are on the stage at the bar and the rest of the group (minus Ally) is sitting at a table. Everyone is a bit surprised to see Georgia there (because of her voice), but Ling tells them that she is only singing chorus, adding that her mike is turned down but she doesn't know it. Brian asks if anyone has seen Ally and Richard says she'll be right down. Richard tells John that they have some big surprises planned for tonight, just as Hope and Nelle approach the table. "This isn't one of them," Richard says. Nelle tells them that she realizes she was acting out of personal pain and she also realizes that she owes apologies to Richard and John. John tells her he is sorry for the way he hurt her. Nelle finishes the drink she was carrying then takes Richard's drink from his hand and downs it. She sits and tells John that she's always been sub-zero Nelle and when she met him, she let her guard down and got hurt. She says she loves working at Cage & Fish. "What I want to say is," she starts, as the girls begin singing "Take Me Back." Nelle continues, "The practice of law is only as good as the people you work with, and I want to work with you." Richard says it is John's call. John says he's okay with it if Richard is. "Say yes for me," Hope says. "It's time you did something for me," Richard says to Hope. She asks if he wants sex. He says no, he wants her to do a little performance for John's birthday. Hope says she likes performing and Richard says, "I know you do."
Ally is in the unisex putting on lip-gloss. Her father comes in and tells her he wrote her a song. Ally says she needed him to be kind to Brian. He says he wasn't mean to him. "You certainly weren't excited to meet him and you didn't act excited for me," Ally says. "Why aren't you happy for me, dad?" she asks. She says her mother told her that he was a wonderful father - that he raised her to believe that her dreams could come true when his never did. "You do want that, right?" Ally asks. He says yes. She says she has to get to John's birthday party. Her father tells her to go. "I think I love him, Daddy," Ally says, adding "That I'm unable to share that with you….." she leaves the sentence hanging and leaves the unisex.
In the bar, Ally tells Brian that this is just the latest in a string of disappointments. Brian says his father betrayed him like she wouldn't believe. "He turned out not to be perfect," he says. Ally says that she and her father used to have something special and now they are just another father and daughter who don't communicate any more. Richard stands and toasts John for his birthday, then announces that they are re-welcoming Nelle to the firm. "I'd like a signed commitment," he tells her, "that all future back stabbing, lying, stealing, whatever, that you'll do it for us." Nelle, who is obviously very drunk, stands and says, "I just want to say that I'm just really, totally," but before she can finish, she passes out, falling to her chair and hitting her head on the table - Mark says his only line in the episode "drunk".
More music begins, and this time, Hope is on stage singing "Hanky Panky." The lyrics contain the words 'spank me,' and Richard hands John a brush and Hope tries to get him to spank her with it. He thinks this is "very unacceptable," but at the end of the song, he spanks her lightly anyway.
Ally and Brian walk out to the entrance of the bar. He apologizes for not being able to stay for the rest of the party. He also tries to encourage Ally to call her father. "He can ruin a phone call just as easy as he can destroy dinner," she says. "Has anyone ever told you how incredibly beautiful you are when you get cross?" he asks. Ally smiles and Brian asks her what she is thinking. "I have a boyfriend," she says. "You do," says Brian. "It's just that it's been a long time since I've felt this," Ally says, before they share a very tender and romantic kiss.
Back in the bar, everyone is dancing and having a great time. Richard dances with Ling, who tells him that she is feeling threatened by Hope. She says she wants them to get back together, adding that she misses that shallow thing they had. "You're not saying that so I'll do you knee?" Richard asks. Ling says she misses him and he admits he misses her, too.
Nelle is walking towards John, who tells her she was in the ladies room for a long time. She says she was just freshening up. He says he thinks they should be honest with each other and he asks if he can be totally honest with her right now. She says she wants him to be. "You have a little vomit on your nose." She thanks him, he walks away, and she wipes the vomit from her nose.
Ally comes home and turns on the light. As she enters the living room, she sees her father is there. He admits he is happy for her and says there was no excuse for him not being at Billy's funeral. "The truth is, I would have flown to London just to avoid it," he says. "The thought of seeing you hurt. Maybe if I felt I had some power to make it go away," he adds. Ally says she wants to hear the song her wrote for her. He says maybe one day he'll sing it for her. "I'd like to hear it now," she says. He sits down at the piano and sings the song. Ally sits on the couch and listens, a lone tear falling down her cheek.
- Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal
- Courtney Thorne-Smith as Georgia Thomas
- Greg Germann as Richard Fish
- Lisa Nicole Carson as Renée Raddick
- Jane Krakowski as Elaine Vassal
- Vonda Shepard as Herself
- Portia de Rossi as Nelle Porter
- Lucy Liu as Ling Woo
- with Peter MacNicol as John Cage