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The Inmates is the 20th episode of Season One of Ally McBeal.


The firm joins forces with Bobby Donnell and his staff when a client is accused of killing her husband, Renee is arrested for assault, a waiter alleges he was fired because he isn't gay.


Ally, Billy and Georgia receive word that a wealthy client, Marie Hanson, has been arrested for murdering her husband with an axe. The trio drive to the scene, where Ally faints after viewing the victim's body. Later, Billy and a horrified Ally meet with Mrs. Hanson. She explains how she experiences periodic black-outs. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Peters, had prescribed her medication. Hanson tells the pair it is obvious she is the killer but she does not remember performing the act although she does recollect swinging the hatchet.

Meanwhile, Fish and Georgia meet with Attorney Joel Hurt who represents a waiter who claims he was fired from a French bistro because he is heterosexual. When Fish makes the argument that it is perfectly acceptable to fire someone based on their sexual orientation, insisting'"you need somebody fey to move the creme brulee,' Hurt is dumbstruck. Georgia cannot believe the argument will be made before a judge.

While standing in a court corridor with Georgia, Renee senses that a good-looking stranger is about to make a pass at her. When Renee deliberately drops her briefcase, the stranger, Attorney Michael Rivers, looks in her direction. Renee beckons him forward and inquires if he would like to ask her out on a date. Though a bit thrown, Rivers admits he would like to go out on a date with her and Renee responds by handing him her business card.

During a meeting with Billy and Cage, Fish decides the Hanson murder case is too high profile for the firm to handle on its own. He also worries that the firm's image might be tarnished by involving itself in such unpleasantness. The decision is made to seek out the help of Donnell and Associates. During a meeting between the two firms, Bobby stares at them and isn't that receptive. Ally and Bobby meet with Hanson's psychiatrist, Dr. Peters. He believes Hanson may suffer from some form of neurological disorder, and may have committed the murder during one of her black-out periods, which likens to sleepwalking.

In court, Georgia argues that there exists no special protection for heterosexuals. But Hurt counters that his client was fired because of his sexual identity. Fish interrupts the discussion. He argues his client was terminated because he could not 'perform a function of the job.' Fish explains further, noting that patrons of the French bistro expect good gay waiters to make them feel sophisticated. Afterwards, in the elevator, Georgia hits Fish and insists she will no longer be associated with his bigotry. When Georgia returns to court, she does so alone. Judge Swan encourages Hurt to work out a deal, noting that relying on a jury's decision is problematic, as there are 'a lot of people like Richard Fish out there.'

As Renee dances with Rivers at the bar, she suddenly grabs his left buttocks. The pair retire to Renee and Ally's apartment, where Rivers begins groping Renee in an aggressive manner. Renee cautions him to slow down, and when he fails to do so, she slaps him. Rivers slaps Renee in return prompting Renee to knock him unconscious in a kickboxing move. Ally chastises Renee for arousing a stranger and then admitting him into the apartment. Later, Renee is placed under arrest after Rivers decides to press assault charges.

Dr. Peters grows increasingly resistant to the idea of testifying before the jury, fearing it could harm his practice. Eventually, Peters reveals the reason for his reluctance: while under hypnosis, Marie Hanson assumed the identity of Lizzie Borden. Meanwhile, relations between the two law firms begin to strain when Fish takes it upon himself to contaminate the jury pool by making an appearance in front of reporters. Bobby and Eugene are outraged, and conclude that most of the attorneys on Fish's staff are crazy. They approach Hanson in private, and urge her to drop Cage and Fish from her defense team. When word reaches the others, a heated argument erupts between the two firms.

After Renee is released on bail, Ally warns her friend that although Rivers was 'out of line' for making unwanted sexual advances, some of the responsibility for what happened lies on her shoulders.

In the conference room, Dr. Peters elaborates further on what Hanson told him while under hypnosis. Peters telephoned the Lizzie Borden Historical Society and confirmed that some of the obscure facts described by Hanson were in fact, true. Peters again worries about his professional reputation if he should present the 'past life' as a defense before a jury. Later, Bobby apologizes for insulting Fish's team and complements their lawyering. Georgia tells him the firm is a good place because its employees like working-and playing-together. Finally, Bobby enters the bar and watches as Ally and the others have fun on the dance floor.


Full transcript can be found here.


This a crossover episode with The Practice with the plot concluded in The Practice Season 2 Episode 26 Axe Murderer.


List of music in the episode can be found here.



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
with Peter MacNicol as John Cage
and Gil Bellows as Billy Thomas

Special Appearances By

Dylan McDermott as Bobby Donnell
Lisa Gay Hamilton as Rebecca Washington
Steve Harris as Eugene Young
Camryn Manheim as Ellenor Frutt
Kelli Williams as Lindsay Dole

Guest starring

Kelly Connell as Dr. Peters
Isaiah Washington as Michael Rivers
Alaina Reed Hall as Judge Elizabeth Witt
Michael Brandon as D. A. Adam Dawson
David Burke as Harry
Vonda Shepard as Herself
Tony Amendola as Judge Walter Swan
Al Pugliese as Joel Hurt
Daniel Dae Kim as Police Officer
George Cedar as Judge Jonathan Harker
Donna Murphy as Marie Hanson



TELEVISION REVIEW; Ally McBeal Teams Up With Less Flitty Lawyers (NEW YORK TIMES • APRIL 1998)
Disorder in Court When ‘Practice,’ ‘Ally’ Mix (LA TIMES • APRIL 1998)