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Theme of Life is the 17th episode of Season One of Ally McBeal.


Ally defends a doctor accused of transplanting a pig's liver into a woman without her permission; Ally and Georgia square off in a kickboxing match; and Whipper dumps Fish for toying again with Janet Reno.


Renee suggest that Georgia and Ally takes up kickboxing to deal with the stress of preparing for a trial in which Ally is defending Dr. Greg Butters, an attractive young surgeon accused of transplanting a pig's liver into a woman without her permission. Noticing Ally's limp after a workout, Cage recommends she see his therapist instead of continuing kickboxing, but Ally declines.

In court, Hanna Goldstein testifies that Dr. Butters could have saved her life in several ways that didn't involve a 'big fat hog.' Later, when Ally walks Dr. Butters to his car, he is clearly attracted to her, but she is distracted by the trial and by an appearance of the annoying dancing baby. Suddenly along the way, she sees Fish and Janet Reno giggling together as they dash into a nearby apartment building.

The next morning, Ally tells Georgia and Billy about Fish and Reno, and wonders whether she should tell Whipper. Before she can decide, Cage whisks her back to court to prep Dr. Butters for his testimony. Later, at a lunchtime kickboxing workout, the trainer assigns Ally and Georgia to fight each other at a match. They immediately are both sceptical, but agree to a match the next day. Meanwhile, Whipper confronts Fish about Reno and tells him to leave Reno. Fish commiserates with his colleagues, and Billy suggests that Fish may be fooling around with Reno because he's running from his true feelings for Whipper.

Back in court, Dr. Butters testifies that the hog liver was the best option for Hanna's condition. Under cross-examination, however, the opposing counsel gets him to admit he would have lost a major medical grant had he not put a pig liver into someone by the end of the year. Ally is furious that Dr. Butters never told her about this little detail. Later on, after being dogged by the dancing baby and sensations that she is swimming through an underwater version of her world, Ally finally goes to see Cage's therapist, Dr. Tracey Clark, who tells Ally all she needs is a good theme song. Tracey sings hers, Tracy by the Cufflinks to give Ally an example. Back in court, Ally tells Dr. Butters they might be able to settle Hanna's complaint. But Dr. Butters isn't interested. Whipper confronts Janet Reno, who is touring the courthouse. Reno denies that Fish ever came on to her and calls Whipper a bitch for interfering. Ally goes back to Dr. Clark with a theme song choice - which is the TV series song Search' My Soul, but Dr. Clark says she needs something peppier, like her own theme song. Ally then suggests, Tell Him, which Dr. Clark approves.

That night, everyone gathers at the kickboxing gym. Ally and Georgia square off tentatively at first, but gradually become more aggressive, with each of them landing major blows to the other as their friends, especially Billy, watch uncomfortably. The match ends in a mutual knockdown. The next morning, Fish pleads with Whipper to forgive him and take him back. Whipper lets him touch her one last time, but then tells him it's good-bye for good.

On her way to court, Ally hums her theme song, and finds herself dancing a bit to it too. It's so catchy, in fact, that the pedestrians on a street corner begins to dance along with her. At the trial, Cage closes by telling the jury that Dr. Butters saved Hanna's life with the transplant, and Hanna never thank him and his actions is all that counts. Later, waiting for the verdict to come in, Elaine comforts Fish on his breakup and offers him physical comfort if he wants it. Georgia and Ally congratulate each other on the good kickboxing fight. When the jury returns, the jury is for Dr. Butters. Butters thanks Ally and proposes dinner and she accepts. Whipper watches wistfully as Dr. Butters gives Ally a small kiss. Ally and Georgia, still stiff and bruised, hobble off together to get a beer.


Full transcript can be found here.


Tell Him Performed by Vonda Shepard, originally sung by The Exciters.

Tracy Performed by Vonda Shepard, lip-synced by Tracey Ullman, originally sung by The Cufflinks.

Young at Heart Performed by Vonda Shepard

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

Tracey Ullman as Dr. Tracey Clark
Dyan Cannon as Whipper Cone
Linda Gehringer as Attorney General Janet Reno

Guest starring

Jesse L. Martin as Dr. Greg Butters
Liz Torres as Hanna Goldstein
Dawn Stern as Jeanette
John Fink as President of Brigham Health Management
Paul Guilfoyle as Harold Lane