Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of "My Brilliant Career"

written by Michael Devalon
edited by Angela Stockton

With life slowly returning to normal after her father's death and burial, Lily is getting ready for her first day of work at pagesAlive.com. To her daughters, she admits that for her, this is like the first day of school. Zoe, recalling that she threw up on her first day of school, helpfully recommends the perfect accessory for Lily: a vomit bag.

Lily reminds the girls of what after-school snacks are available, prompting Grace to suggest that she and Zoe make dinner for Lily. As she speaks, she emerges from the bathroom wearing so much purple eyeshadow that she resembles a raccoon. Lily sternly orders her to wash it off, brushing aside Grace's protests with a sardonic reminder that she can talk about this conversation in therapy someday. Zoe confounds Lily by encouraging her to mention her father's death at the office "because they'll be nice to you. They'll know you're fragile."

Jake arrives to pick up the girls and is advised by Zoe that she needs help with her Earth Day project. He dutifully waits outside Zoe's bedroom, but when she emerges, holding an enormous globe, she bonks him in the face with it. She explains that when the polar ice caps melt, they'll all be underwater, and when Jake insists that this won't happen, she chants, "You're in de-ni-al."

When Jake checks up on Grace, he finds her in the bathroom, re-applying her makeup. [In a black and white interview, Jake, speaking about Grace's birth, recalls, "She was so tiny and so bald." He says in wonderment that he stopped breathing when she was handed to him.] He says she is beautiful and looks sophisticated, which delights her. With a silent "lock it" gesture, Grace warns Zoe not to mention her liberal use of makeup.

Lily arrives at the office and unwittingly walks into two employees' Nerfball war, receiving a critical "injury." New boss Christie, in the midst of multiple crises, is flitting in several directions at once. Most urgently, some writer's article is late, he's in rehab, and she may have to ghostwrite it herself. The piece is supposed to be a critique of "Rehab Boy's" mother, blaming her for his neuroses, and Christie fears that if she rewrites it, the mother in question may resemble her own more than "Rehab Boy's." On the other hand, she notes, her mother never recognizes herself in Christie's writings.

Lily makes a weak attempt to stand up for mothers everywhere, suggesting that blaming them is "a little bit retro." Meanwhile, talking of all the editorial chores "we" will have to tackle right away, Christie gives Lily a big task: packaging T-shirts and addressing them for mailing--that is, if her handwriting is good enough. With a tight smile, Lily insists that it is.

At school, Grace and Jared encounter each other by the lockers. He makes no attempt to hide his admiration and asks if she has done something different with her hair. "Maybe in an alternate universe," she replies wryly. He invites her to accompany him to hear his father play jazz piano that night. She accepts eagerly but conditionally, knowing that she needs Lily's permission.

Seated at pagesAlive's switchboard, Lily desperately tries to juggle Christie's impatient demands and the ringing phone lines, and accidentally disconnects some calls, including a much-anticipated call to Christie from digital pioneer Esther Dyson. Before Lily has time to offer Christie more than a quick apology, a florist's courier delivers a beautiful arrangement of cymbidium orchids, a good-luck gift from Rick. Christie tries to be happy for her, but she's envious and peeved by the distraction, and is further annoyed when Lily unthinkingly leaves the switchboard to take her flowers to the kitchen for water. Lily also forgets that she's still wearing her headset and is abruptly yanked off-stride as she pulls the headset cord taut. At that moment Grace calls to ask about her invitation from Jared. Fearful of Christie's reaction, Lily tells Grace she's busy.

Rather than call her mother back, Grace calls Jake instead. [In black and white, Grace smugly explains, "This is going to sound horrible, but I think I'm my father's favorite. I can pretty much get him to do the things I want him to do, which I should not even be saying out loud."] Once she gives him the phone number of Jared's dad, Jake tells Grace she can go that night "if everything checks out." Overwhelmed with gratitude, Grace calls him the perfect dad. ["I know how to do it," Grace continues.] Jake turns to Tiffany and proudly repeats Grace's compliment, which Tiffany seconds.

At the office, Lily isn't measuring up to Christie's standards. Christie examines the mailing labels which Lily has addressed and questions whether her handwriting is adequate for the T-shirt assignment; then, when she discovers that Lily seems to have lost data on the hand-held computer, groans, "You've erased about half a month of my life." Testily, Christie explains that she's somewhat claustrophobic, and that incoming calls from Lily's kids, husband and boyfriend are invading her metaphorical space. Dealing with unfamiliar office equipment and procedures, Lily makes her share of mistakes, and Christie's intrusive management style erodes her morale.

Late that afternoon Christie leaves for a kickboxing class after instructing Lily how she can be reached should she receive any vital calls. Grace, now home from school, calls her mother to again plead that she should be allowed to go with Jared. At that moment Esther Dyson calls back. Lily, trying to forward the call to the absent Christie, accidentally cuts off Ms. Dyson again.

That night Lily arrives home, where Grace, true to her word, has cooked dinner. While Lily gratefully eats, Grace proposes that she and Zoe spend the week with Jake, shrewdly explaining that this way, Lily can settle into her office routine without having to worry about them. When Lily calls him, Jake says the girls will be welcome, that he will put them to work in the restaurant. Lily reminisces that when her father made her work at the restaurant, she hated it. But since Jake and the girls are all amenable to the idea, she consents.

Next day, Lily arrives in the office early to get a fresh start. After putting things in some sort of order and downloading an online biography of Esther Dyson, she is on the telephone with Rick, thanking him for the orchids and telling him she loves him, when Christie arrives with Charlotte Bronte, her dog. Lily's face lights up when Christie says there will be a staff meeting at noon, only to fall when Christie adds that this will be a good time for Lily to walk Charlotte. As she takes the leash that Christie thrusts at her, Lily is a study in deflated pride.

Riding with Jake to school, Grace flatters him into such a good mood that he decides now is the time to start nudging her toward a future in the restaurant. As in other things, Jake carries on Phil's tradition: maybe another daughter would like to help out another father in the family business? Hesitantly Grace agrees to consider it, but reminds him that he had once said she should be a lawyer. Jake corrects her: "I said if I never needed a lawyer, I would hire you, because you can talk anybody into anything." As if on cue, Grace asks again for permission to go out with Jared, promising to let Jake meet him first. "I rest my case," Jake answers affectionately.

At noon Lily wrestles Charlotte into a dog-sized hooded raincoat and walks her to Rick's office, where he administers a neck massage and tells her how much better she deserves to be treated at pagesAlive, going so far as to jokingly offer to beat up Christie for her. When she wonders how she can convince Christie to give her some meaningful work, he replies that in his experience, the people who manage to impress while doing lesser jobs are those who see something that needs doing and figure out a way to get it done. Too soon, her break is over and she must return to pagesAlive.

After school, while Grace and Zoe are hanging out at the restaurant, Grace informs Jake that Jared is black. "Well, that's interesting," Jake replies, a reaction which Grace hadn't expected. She explains that she didn't want him to show surprise when he meets Jared. Jake hopes she has warned Jared about him, "because I'm gonna be white."

Zoe asks the bartender to show her how to make a cosmopolitan, prompting Jake to lament that his girls are growing up too fast. Grace is surprised when Tiffany arrives, and Zoe explains that she asked Jake to have her there for Zoe to hang out with while Grace is gone.

As their day draws to a close, Christie complains to Lily that she doesn't have time to edit some submissions. Lily immediately offers to take them home and try editing them herself, explaining that since her kids are not at home, she can easily take a shot at it. "As long as you can easily give it a shot," Christie replies, but she appears skeptical that Lily can be much help. Lily, already out the door, doesn't notice.

At the restaurant, Tiffany dances with Zoe as Grace does homework and looks on with muted disapproval. Noticing Grace's eye makeup, Tiffany says she looks nice and offers to give her some tips, since she used to "do it professional - well, semi-professional." Jake brings in the just-arrived Jared and introduces him around. Jake puts on sunglasses to dance with Zoe to "Land of 1,000 Dances," as a mortified Grace asks Jared, "Don't we need to leave--like now?" Jared insists he's enjoying himself, and at Jake's invitation he joins in, although he's not the dancer Jake is. Tiffany watches in amusement, and Grace finally unbends and permits herself to smile.

Later, on the way to see his father play, Jared tells Grace that Jake is cool for trying to impress him. He figures it must be because of Grace's relationship with him, which makes Jake a good dad in his estimation. Grace and Jared walk off holding hands.

Working at home, Lily finds that the editing isn't quite as easy as she had thought. She calls the restaurant and tells Zoe the girls can come home if they want. Having too good a time to leave, Zoe spills the beans about where Grace has gone. Upset that Grace has done an end run around her, Lily asks to speak to Jake, to which Zoe replies that "he's in the middle of something" and asks if it's important enough to interrupt him. She refrains from telling her mother that the "something" is Jake sharing a round of drinks with a table full of patrons. Lily asks Zoe to tell Jake to call when he can.

Jared and Grace, walking back to Jake's apartment after their date, compare notes about being children of divorce. They share a kiss, which is interrupted by Zoe and Tiffany. "O my God!" is Zoe's startled reaction to the kiss, before Tiffany hustles her inside and sends her off to bed.

After Jared has left, Tiffany promises Grace that she won't tell Jake about the kiss, but she implies that Jake would not be shocked anyway. She suggests that Grace talk to Jake and get some insight into the way men think. Grace asks if Tiffany believes guys are really all that different, the Mars/Venus theory. Tiffany replies, "Oh no, I definitely don't believe that, but I have found it to be true." Rather than try to make sense out of Tiffany's thought patterns, Grace changes the subject and says she'd like to accept Tiffany's offer of makeup tips. They arrange to meet at the restaurant after school the next day.

Rick comes to visit Lily and does his best to distract her from her editing. She wants to take him upstairs, but because she needs to finish her work, she can't. She asks if he wants to go home or watch television, but he declines. Instead, lured by her offer of two-day-old macaroni and cheese, he heads for the kitchen.

The next day, Christie arrives at pagesAlive, announcing that she is "so PMS'd." Having come from her acupuncture session, she hands Lily a package and asks her to make a special tea: "The directions are right there. They have to be followed exactly." Lily is confident she can make tea, and she asks if Christie wants to look at the work she took home. However, Christie is already preoccupied with the first of her day's messages.

At the restaurant, Jake is showing Grace some cooking tips. He asks what she likes about Jared, and she explains that he's smart, school smart as well as perceptive about people. Jake says perceptive is good, and he points out that it's his job to be sure all potential boyfriends show a proper appreciation for her. She's afraid that he might say so to Jared, but Jake assures her that he won't do anything to embarrass her--just before he lunges at her with carrot-stick "fangs." Tiffany interrupts this bonding moment, and then Lily calls. Grace tells Lily what a great cook Jake is, and Lily reminds her that Jake has cooked for the family twice in the last ten years. Meanwhile, Lily is demonstrating her own skills at making Christie's tea, which gives off a funky aroma that offends everyone in the office. Grace ends the conversation by saying that Tiffany is ready for her. The sound of Tiffany's name makes Lily grimace.

Christie comes for her tea but after one sip she spews it everywhere, including on Lily. She pronounces it "vile" and orders Lily to throw it all out. Lily asks Christie if they can now discuss the work she did. Christie tells her she looked at it, and it falls short of her standards: "It isn't in the ballpark," she says bluntly. When Lily tries to say something, Christie irritably answers that she doesn't have time and walks away, leaving Lily near tears.

Not wanting to look as if she's made up for Halloween, Grace tells Tiffany she's not sure about glitter on her face. This spurs Tiffany into a recollection about the night she met Jake, at a Halloween party where he was dressed as Bill Clinton. Grace recalls that he was a Klingon last Halloween and Bill Clinton the Halloween before that and, quickly running the math, she realizes that he met and began to see Tiffany while living with Lily. Tiffany hastily insists that Jake did not leave Lily to be with her, but the damage has been done. Grace walks away and wanders into the dining room, where Jake is talking to some repairmen. Unable to look at him, Grace picks up her coat and stalks out the door. Tiffany alerts Jake that they should start looking for Grace, but can't bring herself to explain to Jake why his daughter left.

Jake calls Lily at pagesAlive, but while they're trying to discuss Grace, Christie is demanding Lily's attention. When Christie yells one too many times, Lily barges into her office, forcefully outlines for her the family crisis of the moment and, daring Christie to fire her if she wants, walks out. She goes to the bathroom and Christie follows her.

In the bathroom they air their differences and begin to develop a little respect for one another. Lily admits she underestimated the difficulty of Christie's job, and Christie declares that Lily brings a "fresh element to the office culture," by which she means that Lily is the only one there who has a life. She asks Lily not to quit, then enters a stall--and, as Lily is leaving, stops her by asking for a tampon. At first Lily isn't sure she has one but, incapable of coldly leaving Christie to her plight, she searches her purse, finds one, and passes it to Christie under the stall door. As Lily again heads for the exit, Christie says, "I'm probably not as young as you think I am--I'm twenty-eight." She wishes Lily good luck with Grace.

Lily goes directly home, where Grace is in her room, writing in her diary. Grace announces that she knows the truth at last. "What truth do you think you know?" Lily asks. Grace replies that she knows Jake cheated with Tiffany. Lily reacts with a look of chagrin which Grace misinterprets, fearing that she has inadvertently told her mother something she did not know until that moment. Lily assures her that she already knew.

Jake telephones from the restaurant and asks to speak to his daughter. When Grace refuses to talk to him, Lily assures him that Grace is okay but not interested in talking right now. She says she will speak to Grace, but admits she isn't sure what to say.

Mournfully, Jake tells Tiffany that he expects to lose Grace's love, but Tiffany assures him that this won't happen. He's irritated that Tiffany revealed the extent of their affair to Grace, to which she replies that she's not accustomed to keeping secrets, and "It just fell out of my mouth." Jake says if only Grace were older, she'd have a better chance of understanding. Tiffany insists that she made it clear to Grace that he didn't leave Lily for her, and she points out the irony that Jake's family was disrupted by something "meant to be nothing." Jake moves as if to offer comfort, but he stops short, pitying himself too much to really understand Tiffany's anguish. He does manage to say that their affair does not amount to nothing. Tiffany wishes him good luck in figuring out what to say to Grace, then leaves.

[Smiling wistfully, Jake reminisces about the times years ago when "after a crappy day at work, I'd be driving home to not have sex with my wife," and little "toothless angel" Grace would be so happy to see her daddy that she would fling herself into his arms. "I couldn't believe that I was the guy, you know, that made her that happy."]

Grace and Lily have a heartfelt, long-overdue conversation. For being so mean to Lily since the separation, Grace apologizes. Lily admits the cheating happened, but calls it a tiny part of the story. She says Jake is a good person, and Grace's relationship with him is her own, not the same as Lily's.

Grace says there should be consequences for people who betray other people, but in the wake of Phil's passing, Lily reminds Grace how much she would give to have him back for another day, for even an hour. She advises her that adults make mistakes, for reasons Grace may only now be ready to begin to understand. Forgiving them can even lead to greater love and a recognition of their humanity. Grace wonders why Lily couldn't forgive Jake; Lily replies that she can, and she is, but she can no longer be in love with him. Bursting into tears, Grace blurts, "I hate him!" and wants to know what happens if she too can't love him any more. "How could he do this to us?" she weeps.

The phone rings. As Jake's voice is heard on the answering machine asking for Grace, she and Lily hold and comfort each other.

While Jake is anguishing over the apparent loss of his older daughter's love, little pajama-clad Zoe comes to ask if anything's wrong, and if they can go to Bear Lake on Sunday. Jake rocks her in a tight embrace and is comforted that he still has the love of his "Noodle."

The End