Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of The Pilot/Boy Meets Girl
by Manh Tuong Lewis Nguyen
edited by Elizabeth Eccher
"All I ever wanted, I think, is to be safe," remarks Lily Manning, wide awake and lying still in her bed. Now up, she matter-of-factly wakes her 14-year old daughter, Grace, and then her 9-year-old daughter, Zoe, the latter in a more playful manner. In her thoughts [as represented by black-and-white interviews: Lily comments on the fractured state of her marriage with Jake Manning. They have been separated for eight months. A living room photograph sparks a brief flashback of the entire family playing touch football -- a moment of lost familial bliss.] Reality returns. Lily, alone in her bathroom, looks at herself, no longer knowing who she is.
A loud alarm clock sounds, rousing a still sleepy Rick Sammler, father of two and a divorcee of three years. [In his own thoughts, he too is in a midst of an identity crisis: "Am I happy? I don't know. Ask me in another three years."] Eli Sammler, sixteen and Rick's only son, stands in the doorway of his father's bedroom to inform Rick that he needs to stop by his mother's house before going to school. Back to his thoughts, Rick admits he's always had some type of map for his life, but has now taken a drastic turn away from that map -- completely lost and unable to return. Rick drives Eli (or E, as his father likes to refer to him) and Jessie (his twelve-year-old daughter) to his ex-wife's home. Karen Sammler is out on the porch, hugging and kissing the two children, while Rick stands at a distance beside his jeep.
Both the Mannings and Sammlers are in the car pool lane of the school that Grace and Eli attend. Rick, out of his momentary slump for now, remarks on how he should move on with his life, at least for his children's sakes. Lily, on the other hand, observes the other mothers around her and wishes she felt that same sense of satisfaction and security that she perceives them possessing.
In their midst of their self-analyses, Rick and Lily make contact. They eye each other for a significant moment. But Rick must move on, as other drivers are impatient. Lily watches him leave, assuming she will never see him again.
It's now the afternoon, after school. Lily, her two kids and Lily's sister, Judy, are in the kitchen. Grace mentions a party involving guests making out with each that will take place later in the week. Grace sullenly remarks that no one wants to make out with her. Lily protests, but is aghast when Grace reports that Jake, Grace's own father, advised her to go on a diet if that's what she wants.
With the kids out of the kitchen, Lily calls Jake to admonish him about the "diet" advice, but is soon further frustrated when she learns that Jake completely forgot about Grace's next soccer game which he promised to attend. When the call ends abruptly, Judy speculates that Jake is in the middle of an orgy.
The following day after school, Rick parks his jeep in the school lot and notices the soccer game in which Grace is playing. He also recognizes Lily, who is cheering her daughter on from the sidelines. Rick moves on. But during a nasty spill on the field, Grace hurts her ankle. Lily helps her daughter limp towards the administrative offices, where Rick and his son, Eli, are seated in the waiting area. Lily is unable to calm down her distraught child, so Rick provides some assistance by massaging Grace's ankle. Grace smiles shyly at his attention, while Lily is clearly grateful. Grace goes in to see the nurse, waving off her mother's aid. Eli, meanwhile, is tired of waiting and says he will leave momentarily to play basketball. Rick and Lily, alone, talk about stoicism, a virtue (or is it?) that Lily's children lack and Rick's children have in abundance. Rick discloses to Lily that his son, Eli, is failing two subjects. Lily shows her concern by saying that Rick's wife must be "thrilled." Rick quickly corrects her by saying "ex-wife." Then Jake comes charging in, demanding to see Grace. Grace, hearing her father's voice, cries for a hug from Jake. Lily appears put off by the dichotomy between Grace's distant attitude toward her and the girl's close relationship with Jake. When Rick remarks on the resemblance between Gracie and Lily's husband, Lily quickly establishes that Jake is her "ex-husband, sort of."
Rick and Karen Sammler are now sitting with Eli and a school counselor to discuss their son's weak academic performance. Rick states that he supports his son's efforts to improve and is always there for him, but Karen notes slyly that this is not always the case. Eli, on the other hand, is worried about whether his academic failings will mean he has to give up sports. Rick assures hat Eli that should not worry out that, but Karen argues that it might just occur and Eli must deal with it. As he watches his ex-wife disagree with him on yet another point, Rick recalls a time when they were on the same page -- when they were sleeping with each other.
That evening, Rick is preparing dinner with his daughter, Jessie, at Rick's apartment (not all his stuff has been unpacked yet). Jesse reports that Eli is in his bedroom with his new girlfriend, Jennifer. Eli and Jennifer -- obviously smitten with each other -- come down to the kitchen to help out. Eli and Jessie have a small argument over a missing Pearl Jam CD, demonstrating their playful sibling relationship. They're having Chinese tonight.
Rick takes a moment to look through the sports team phone directory, in search for Grace's mother's phone number. Eli figures out what Rick is doing and teases him about how "hot" Lily is. Rick protests that all he is doing is inquiring about the condition of Gracie's ankle.
At the Manning residence, Jake is still around as Lily makes dinner. Lily is agitated with his presence, and Jake knows it. The phone rings, and Lily picks it up. It's Rick, who asks her about Grace's ankle. Pleased but scared, Lily says Grace is fine. Hearing her name, Grace assumes it's the school calling. She then bombards her mother with questions as Jake threatens that he is going to sue the school. And just to be part of the fun, Zoe wants the phone too. Rick, in the meantime, is trying to get the courage to ask her out. Unfortunately, Lily, to escape the crowding, quickly hangs up on Rick.
[In a black and white interview, Rick admits to not going out much in high school as he was "too afraid of rejection."] As Rick comes back for dinner, Jennifer notes that he isn't eating. The phone rings. It is Lily, calling to apologize about hanging up early and accepting his offer for them to meet. Happily, Rick asserts that his schedule is free.
The next day at work, Rick tells his business partner and best friend, David, that he has a date. After learning that Lily is a 40-year-old mother of two, David warns Rick about dating mothers: "Why would I go out with a mother? It took me 20 years to get away from my own."
Lily, at work too, is asked abruptly by her sister, Judy, when she'll sleep with Rick.
At school, Grace and her two friends are walking down the hall to class. One of her friends is relating her mom's dating experience: "They're all fat and gross." While expressing their disgust, they notice Eli Sammler -- the good-looking, athletic junior -- walking down the hallway in the other direction. Amazingly enough, he seems to notice them -- specifically, Grace. Grace is unsure why he looked at her, but her friends are impressed. Apparently, Lily's daughters do not know the identity of Lily's date.
That night, Grace and Zoe are on the Lily's bed, observing Lily preparing for the date. Lily continues to change outfits, while Grace whines about having to baby-sit her sister. She confesses that she gets anxiety attacks when left alone. Although worried about Grace's statement, Lily pleads with her kids to support her. The children hug Lily, but Grace then asks that Lily not have sex with her date tonight. In response, Lily screams!
The date commences, with Rick and Lily meeting at a restaurant. At their table, they each take out a cell phone, a symbol of the fact that they both have children. Rick, nervous, lets slip the fact that his children asked him whether Lily was older than 25. Slightly awkward first-date chitchat follows as they order their food. Lily is particularly picky about what she wants, a trait she feels guilty about. As this date goes on, thoughts from both participants pop up in interview form. Rick complains about knowing the rules of dating so well that it becomes automatic. He also admits to fighting his impulse to kiss Lily throughout dinner. Lily talks about being a nice girl as a child, always the peacemaker between her folks and her sister, Judy. She pointedly admits that she does not know where she fits in her life. The date conversation then moves on to Rick's divorce. Rick describes how he told his children of the separation, and likens that experience to hitting them over the head with a baseball bat. Lily, moved, cheers him up.
They exit the restaurant and stroll towards their security-alarmed family vehicles. They both agreed they had a good time. They share a kiss...and another...and another. Lily: "I swore I wouldn't do this." Rick: "Why are you so soft?" They leave in their separate cars, with Lily leaving before Rick gets into his Jeep. Rick, in a happy state, is rocking back on the balls of his feet.
But Lily's happy mood collapses once she enters the Manning household. In the kitchen are a frightened Grace and Zoe. Grace accuses Lily of not turning on her cell phone, but Lily argues that she had it on the entire night. The children ask about the date, but Lily is evasive, attempting not to express too much enthusiasm.
In school the following day, Grace -- with her pals -- runs into Eli and this time they speak to each other. Eli encourages Grace to come to a party this weekend, the same make-out party that she had mentioned to her mother and Judy earlier. Grace and her friends are extremely excited over this turn of events, since just before they ran into Eli, Grace was stating that she was not interested in going.
At work, Judy and Naomi, Lily's close friend, interrogate Lily about the date. Lily complains about the scheduling difficulties since "he has his kids on the nights I don't have mine." Judy and Naomi question why Grace can't be left alone, but Lily mentions the anxiety attacks and her own guilt over the separation -- at which they roll their eyes and look at Lily incredulously. They then advise Lily to ask Jake to take care of the kids for the night. Lily calls Jake, and Jake surprisingly agrees to do so without requiring a reason from Lily.
At the apartment, Rick is trying to help Eli study. However, talk of girls -- Eli talks about Jennifer's tight body and her liking him despite his learning disability -- and a football game on TV interfere with this task.
The second date takes place in a bowling alley. Lily is terrible at the game, but Rick seems to be an expert, pulling off a perfect strike. Although Lily admits in her interview to wanting to blow the date after hearing where they were going, she enjoys herself immensely.
In a sudden move, Rick and Lily are making out in Rick's jeep. In a moment of recuperation, Rick states that he does not want her to leave yet. Lily protests that she cannot have sex so soon, and Rick understands. However, when he hears that Lily's house is empty, Rick proposes that they go there to do "other things."
And that they do. In the kitchen, they sip some wine and start some chit chat. But enough with that ... they start making out on Lily's couch.
But just as Rick is unbuttoning Lily's blouse, Jake and the kids walk in. Grace is horrified to realize that the new boyfriend is Eli Sammler's dad, Jake is amused by the meeting, and Zoey is confused why her mother's shirt is unbuttoned. Rick leaves quickly. When the kids go to their bedrooms, Jake and Lily go at it. Jake says that he brought the kids back to Lily's because Grace had to get some homework and he had a "meeting." Then Lily brings up Jake's infidelity, while Jake blames Lily for any emotional problems Grace may have. Lily kicks Jake out.
Upstairs, Lily then talks to Grace who describes the times Eli has acknowledged her existence the past week. She had thought he might like her, but now knows the true reason for his attentions: "He could be my stepbrother." Lily is guilt-ridden, and says that Grace doesn't have to worry about Eli and his father for too long. Although Lily says this sadly, Grace is somehow cheerful when hearing this news.
The next morning, Lily and Rick meet at a coffeeshop. Lily says that they can no longer see each other -- it's too hard, she's too high-strung, it's too soon after the separation, and it's bad timing. Rick is stunned: "Do you understand what happened to us doesn't happen that often? And you would walk away from it?" Lily does, driving off while Rick stands outside the coffeeshop.
Back at the architectural firm, Rick is ignoring David's retelling of his many conquests for the week. Karen comes to the firm, to Rick's surprise. Karen reports that Eli failed that the test that he was supposed to study for the night he was at Rick's. Karen accuses Rick -- correctly -- about not making Eli do his work. Rick is defensive, but after Karen initially rails at him for not acknowledging that their son has a problem, she also assures him that she thinks Rick is a wonderful father. Rick grows quiet.
During dinner at Rick's apartment, Rick asks Jennifer and Jessie to leave the table while he has a talk with Eli. Rick firmly declares that Eli must ask Jennifer to go. Eli argues for a bit, but relents.
Meanwhile, at Lily's, Grace tells her mother that she is not goingto the make-out party. Lily can't understand. Grace blurts out, "I'm not pretty, Mom!" Lily cannot bear to hear these things about her own daughter, but Grace lashes out at her and weeps on the stairs. Lily consoles her, saying "I'm not going to let your fear dominate you or this house anymore." Lily expounds on the benefits of fear, saying that fear allows humans to need, to want, to reach for our potential. In addition to comforting her daughter, the speech becomes a wake-up call for Lily herself.
[In an extended black-and-white sequence, Rick talks about the death of his father at the age of 14, and how he then began to live a very closed life. It was only when he met Karen that he began to open up. When he "messed up" the marriage, he didn't know what to do. He assumed that he would be with someone by now, but that is not the case. He is very alone.]
The song "Absence of Fear," by Jewel, is played.
Lily puts Zoe into bed. Rick kisses Jessie goodnight. Lily takes a stroll around the neighborhood, considering what she must do. Rick, in the middle of work, picks up a ringing telephone. The scene shifts to Rick standing outside the same coffeeshop as he watches Lily approaching. They stand facing each other, silent. The girl smiles. The boy smiles back.
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