Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of Won't Someone Please Help George Bailey Tonight?

by Angela Stockton
edited by Larramie Kertis

While eating breakfast in the Manning kitchen, Zoe tells Lily that a friend's mother was arrested once for shoplifting, but didn't have to go to jail. Finding Zoe suddenly wise beyond her years thanks to a crash course from Grace about the criminal justice system, Lily is annoyed that her daughters seem to be assuming the worst about Rick's legal problems. "Rick has not been indicted," Lily reminds them firmly.

"What's 'indicted'?" Zoe asks. Lily doesn't answer because at that moment, Rick enters the kitchen, saying "Good morning" with forced cheerfulness. He mentions that the caterer will be faxing menus to his office that afternoon. Snowed under with wedding plans, Lily jokes, "It's still not too late to elope." "Yeah, you, me, and the district attorney's office," Rick replies sourly. Without waiting for breakfast, he starts to leave for work. Lily follows him, concerned about his state of mind. "I love you," she assures him. "I'm counting on that," he replies.

[His recent strain shows on Rick's face as he tells the interviewer, "I drive a fourteen-year-old car, I rent my apartment, I have twenty-three thousand dollars in the bank out of which I'm supposed to somehow send two kids to college, I pay alimony and child support, and half the mortgage on the house my ex-wife lives in."]

When Karen arrives at her office, she's upset to learn that DA Bob Domanjik wants to see her, and that her assistant, Carolyn, has made an appointment for her to meet with him that afternoon. Karen calls Bob unscrupulous and points out that he used her to try to incriminate Rick. "He's cute," Carolyn replies.

At Sammler & Associates, an Atlantor-related design session is interrupted by a telephone call from a Tribune reporter. While Rick is on the phone, his employees discuss their future, about which they're becoming very nervous. Amanda, who's helping to conduct the meeting, scolds them for their doubts, which she reports to Rick once he hangs up.

"Atlantor is not going to pull the plug," Rick declares confidently. "They have too much invested, and not just money. They just have to hang in there, and so do you."

"Do I look like I'm going anywhere?" Amanda purrs.

When Karen arrives at the DA's office, Bob is all charm and friendliness, but Karen doesn't thaw. Angrily, she reminds him that he tricked her into disclosing information about Rick, and that marshals tore up Rick's apartment while her children were there. When he finally tells her that the indictments will be unsealed that afternoon and Rick will not be charged, she is overwhelmed with relief. However, she's curious about why he's sharing confidential information with her, and isn't satisfied with his quip, "Well, everybody else leaks around here, why shouldn't I?" She suspects that he's motivated by attraction to her.

While his employees go out for lunch, Rick stays in his office. [Rick recalls that after his father died, his family had to sell the house and move into an apartment. He worked throughout college and spent years paying off student loans. "I can't think of a time when money hasn't been this constant dread," he sighs.] Karen walks in, and Rick's greeting is coldly inhospitable. "What can I get for you, maybe something else you can use against me?" he snarls. "Maybe something from my computer? Oh, no, wait, they took my computer. Maybe the computer at home--oh, no, wait, they took that too."

"I've just come from the DA's office," she begins.

"Where you've apparently been spending a lot of time," he interrupts.

"You're not going to be indicted," she continues.

Hardly able to believe his good fortune, Rick exhales with relief. But he tells Karen, "I still hate you for what you did to me." Taken aback by his bitterness, she says lamely, "I'm sorry you feel that way," and leaves.

That evening, Rick arrives at Lily's house as a local television news program begins its report on the Atlantor indictments. Lily runs to the door to greet him, and they share a brief moment of unalloyed happiness when he tells her that he was not indicted. They sit down to watch the news and see taped footage of Miles Drentell, leaning painfully on two canes, leaving the Cook County Courthouse while the voice-over reports his indictment.

The image of Miles is replaced by that of an Atlantor public-relations officer who announces that construction on the headquarters project has been indefinitely suspended. "They're gonna bail," Rick says in disbelief.

"It's over, you're free," Lily reminds him, but for Rick the implications are only beginning to sink in: Atlantor is behind in its payments, he has lost his partner, he let David take all his other clients, he never considered his future beyond the possibility that he might go to prison, and now his firm has no work. Shaken, and saying he needs to lie down, he runs upstairs.

Next day, he calls his staff together and announces that he has learned from the CEO of Atlantor that work on the office complex is being suspended. Like the coach of the losing team after a championship game, he delivers as brave a valedictory speech as he can. He tells his somber employees that just because their work will never be seen by anyone else, that doesn't mean it was wasted, that they should be proud of themselves, and that he will always remember and be grateful to them.

As the meeting is breaking up, TV talk show host Mason Gould calls. He commiserates with Rick and invites him to appear that evening on his program, "The Conscience of Chicago," presenting it as an opportunity for Rick to clear his name and tell the other side of the story. Rick is interested but asks for time to think it over.

Bob "runs into" Karen in the upscale coffee store in the building which houses her firm. He claims to have just attended a meeting on the third floor, and asks her if she is attending the Upton Sinclair Award dinner the following night. She answers that she's not certain of her plans. He says he will be there to introduce the keynote speaker, and predicts that she'll win the award next year.

Having agreed to appear on "The Conscience of Chicago," Rick settles in across from Gould on the set. Out of camera range, Lily beams and waves at him. Gould introduces Rick as "the architect of the Atlantor project, and one of its chief apologists." When he asks Rick what testifying before the grand jury was like, Rick admits that it wasn't much fun. He compares it to being stopped by a police officer, an unnerving experience even if one hasn't done anything wrong. "And if you have been doing eighty-five in a forty mile an hour zone, that's really scary," Gould insinuates. When Rick tries to object, Gould interrupts, talks over him, and badgers him about bribes, kickbacks, speeded-up permits, favorable legal decisions and destruction of old neighborhoods. "What I wonder is how you guys can sleep at night," he sneers.

Enraged, Rick rips off his lapel microphone and stalks off the set. Smugly, Gould signs off, "You can run, but you can't hide from 'The Conscience of Chicago.'" An aide further upsets Rick when she exults, "This is great TV!" and says that they're going to promote it heavily.

"Nobody watches this show, do they?" Rick asks Lily outside the studio. "Nobody I know," she replies.

At Booklovers, Karen describes for Judy her encounter with Bob at the coffee store and notes that there appears to be no third-floor office in her building that he could have been visiting. Judy agrees that his motive must have been to run into Karen, who now worries that if she goes to the Sinclair Award dinner, it will look as if she's going because of him. Judy doesn't think that this a good enough reason for her to miss the dinner, but Karen argues that she needs to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Lily walks in unexpectedly, sending Karen scurrying for cover behind a bookcase. To distract Lily, Judy quickly proposes that they take a walk, but Lily rages on about Mason Gould's mistreatment of Rick, what her kids and Rick's must be hearing about him, "and who knows what his ex-wife is saying to them about all of this?"

Karen immediately stands and reveals her presence, surprising and embarrassing Lily, who glares accusingly at Judy. In the chilly atmosphere, Lily and Karen make stilted conversation about Mason Gould and Karen soon leaves, mumbling a transparently false request that Judy call her when the order comes in. Closing the door behind Karen, Judy insists, "We never talk about you, I swear to God," which Lily doesn't appear to believe.

That night, Eli and Jessie watch the Mason Gould show and, while Karen eavesdrops, they speculate about their father's current state of mind. Rick watches on his office TV, which Lily hears in the background when she calls to ask him when he's coming home. "We're not even married, and I'm already hounding you to come home," she says ruefully. Rick says he'll probably go to his own place so that he won't wake anyone when he comes in. [Rick recalls that when his father died, it was so unexpected that he left his affairs a mess and left his survivors with nothing. "He was forty-four years old. I'm forty-three," he says worriedly.] He hangs up the phone and picks up the Tibetan good-luck turtle bestowed on him by Miles.

Next day, in a florist shop, Lily and Rick shop for their wedding flowers, although Rick is so rattled by the stares of other customers that he can't concentrate on his errand. He begs off Lily's lunch invitation, saying he needs to return to the office, and adds that he won't be able to have dinner with her that night because he's meeting with Arnold, his accountant, "so he can tell me I have no money."

That night at the Sinclair dinner, Karen encounters Bob in front of the bar. He is clearly pleased to see her, and when he excuses himself to take his place at the head table, he promises he'll see her again later. Meanwhile, Rick and his accountant, having dinner in a restaurant, are interrupted when Amanda approaches to invite him to join a few of his now ex-employees at the restaurant bar, where they're drowning their sorrows.

Introducing the Sinclair honoree, Bob says, "He's the kind of guy who simply does the right thing. Simply doing the right thing can sometimes be a heroic accomplishment. I wish that I had that kind of courage." While speaking, he looks directly at Karen. Later, he follows Karen out of the banquet room when she's taking a break and they talk, Karen unable to conceal her nervousness. "I have to go back," she says shakily. Bob kisses her, leaving her breathless, but she still insists, "I have to go back."

Rick's colleagues leave the bar one by one until only Amanda remains. She tells him that he looked cute on TV, and that she has an offer from another firm, for which he congratulates her. "You're still getting married, right?" she asks him. "Right," he replies. "So what are you still doing here with me?" she wonders.

The bartender announces last call, and when Rick asks for another, she replies sternly, "As long as you're not driving." He assures her that he doesn't have his car and will take a taxi.

"Which way you headed?" Amanda asks, an invitation in her eyes. Rick understands her offer and considers it but finally replies, "Home." Amanda nods resignedly.

When Rick arrives at his apartment, reeking of alcohol and stumbling over packing boxes, he finds Lily there. She complains that he didn't answer when she called; he blames his phone battery. Appalled at his drunken condition, she reminds him that they're in this predicament together and accuses him of avoiding her when she wants to help him.

Patronizing and abusive at the same time, he replies that she can't help him, and that he needs to be alone. "Just do whatever you want," he mutters.

Though she's willing to leave, she points out, "It's not what I want to do. I want us to face this together like two people who supposedly love each other do."

"I can't do that right now," he says, weaving unsteadily.

"That's painfully obvious!" she sputters.

"Oh, don't start that crap! This is what you always do! Why does everything have to be talked and talked to death? What do you want from me?" he shouts.

"I want to love you. That's what I want, and I'm sorry that's so particularly painful," she answers sadly.

Jessie is awakened by the shouting and comes downstairs. Lily excuses herself and leaves. Rick slumps over his kitchen counter, tired and ill.

In the morning, Rick is so hung over that when he finally comes downstairs, Jessie is dressed and shouldering her book bag. She informs him that she has asked Eli to drive her to school, and doesn't change her mind even when Rick insists that he can drive her because he has to go out anyway for an interview with the DA. "Rough night, huh?" Eli snickers.

Judy goes to Lily's house, having learned that she called in sick at work. Lily explains that she's OK but that she has a problem, which she can't talk about with Judy because the problem is Rick. She concedes that Judy was right when she said that Rick doesn't talk about his feelings. "Rick talks!" Judy protests. "He talks about his feelings," Lily sighs. "He just doesn't let anyone inside his feelings."

"Even you?" Judy asks. Showing uncharacteristic sympathy for Rick, she reminds Lily that his whole life has imploded in one day. But she wonders if this is a good thing, suggesting, "If you can survive this, you might even be able to survive marriage."

"You sound like you're saying I should just hang in there with him," Lily says. "I guess I am," Judy agrees.

In response to a request by Karen, Bob meets her outside the courthouse. Karen wants him to understand that in different circumstances, something different might have come of their relationship, but that they have to keep it professional. She stammers through her short speech, which Bob interrupts to say, "You are the most beautiful, smartest, most intense, sexiest woman I've ever encountered in my entire life." He kisses her, starts to walk away, then returns, pulls her toward him and kisses her again. Unknown to either of them, Rick is on the courthouse steps and sees everything.

Rick goes to the presidential suite of a hotel, which has been converted to a hospital ward for Miles. [Rick reminisces about the death of his father, which occurred so suddenly that he was unable to get home in time to say a final good-bye. But, he says, his father was never much for hugging anyway.]

"I wondered if you'd come," Miles greets Rick from his bed, pain and drugs making speech difficult.

Barely able to contain his fury, Rick berates him, "You ruined my reputation, you ruined my business--"

"I urged greatness upon you," Miles defends himself.

"--while you were sabotaging the project right under my nose. You destroyed me, Miles."

"And you wish for restitution?" Miles asks.

"I want you to go to jail," Rick replies coldly.

"Not likely now," Miles rasps. When Rick adds, "I want to smash your face in," Miles taunts him, "That would give you some satisfaction, wouldn't it, for a moment? But you'd still be left with yourself. Were you blind, were you greedy, was your ambition greater than your good sense? Were you still a boy sent to do a man's work?" Rick has no answer.

"You, of course, will have years to answer those questions. As for me, I am tired now, and I choose not to spend another moment in contemplation of the past," Miles wheezes. Rick pulls the Tibetan turtle from his pocket and, without another word, places it on top of the control panel for Miles' bed and walks out. Seeing the turtle, Miles manages a smile that looks ghastly on his emaciated face.

Alone in his office, Rick looks at his Atlantor scale models with loathing and knocks them all over, then goes back to Lily's house. In the darkened living room, where Lily sits across from him, he sits hunched over on the ottoman, staring not at Lily but at his bleak future: he has no money, no business, no reputation, he's convinced that he's not respected by her children or his own, he's been shown publicly to be either a fool or a criminal. "I don't know if I can marry you because I don't know what I have that would be of any value to you," he says hopelessly. "I don't know why you would want to marry someone like me who is just basically ready to run away before I screw anything else up. I screwed things up with my marriage, my family, my children -- you should just go away."

Tears streaking her face, Lily can't listen to him any more. "Stop it, stop it, look at me!" she screams, kneeling before him. "I am not going to go away! I don't care about your business, your reputation, I don't care about any of that, it doesn't matter to me, it doesn't matter."

"I want to go home, I want to go home and sleep," he mumbles, and starts to rise, but the lioness in Lily awakens. She reaches up, grabs his sweater, and forces him back onto the ottoman. "No, you sit down, because I'm not finished!" she orders him. "Rick, I love you, can you see that? I love what's weak about you and what's strong about you, it's all the same to me because it's you! Can you understand that nothing you ever do or say will change that? Can you?"

Overcome, he collapses into her arms. "Can you believe that? Can you let me love you like that? Oh, God, let me love you like that," she pleads.

Having lost everything but her love, Rick can only cry and repeat, "Oh, Lily," over and over, while Lily rocks him in her consoling embrace.

The end.

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