Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of Mediation
by Manh Tuong Lewis Nguyen
edited by Elizabeth Eccher
It is a rainy, miserable morning, as Rick Sammler and Lily Manning drop their children off to school. Eli Sammler is informing his father of a tutoring session he will attend after school. Eli must complete an essay, and his coach suggested that he get a tutor to help him, thus keeping his basketball eligibility status. However, Rick is not paying attention to his son, as he stares at a woman who is out in the rain, and looks very familiar. But when her face is revealed, alas, it it not Lily.
Meanwhile, Lily's daughter, Grace Manning, is trying to tell her mother that she will be staying at school for a while and will receive a ride from her friend, Carter. But like Rick, Lily does not hear a word, as she looks through her rearview mirror at an image of Rick's face.
[In an interview, Grace and Zoe admit knowing that their mother is no longer with "the Dad." Despite Lily not actually providing them with this news, it was obvious by Lily's suddenly atrocious fashion sense and her emotional responses to whenever the phone rang, thinking it may be Rick. It never is.]
Giving up, Grace leaves the car and leaves Zoe to tell Lily about Grace not needing a ride home. Lily lied that she heard every word.
Lily is now sitting beside Jake Manning, Lily's soon-to-be ex-husband, at the mediator's office, attempting to find an agreement in regard to financial affairs for the divorce. The very-pregnant mediator is describing the process of mediation to them. Jake asks how much it will cost, and she replies it will be cheaper than bringing in lawyers. The mediator asks if they own assets. Jake and Lily list the restaurant -- ownership split 60%/40% between them and Lily's father, Lily's bookstore, and the house. However, they have no idea what each of these properties is worth. Once the mediator provides them with a list of possible appraisers, she has to go pee. Before the mediator leaves the office, Lily inquires the probability of losing the house. She informs Lily that such an event occurs 90% of the time, since there is rarely enough cash for each party to have equal value and still keep the house. Lily is not pleased.
Grace arrives at the tutoring session. As an Advanced Placement English student, she is volunteering her time as a tutor. Once there, she sees Jennifer, Eli's girlfriend. Jennifer grabs Grace's arm, drags her to the board, and erases a name beside Eli and replaces it with Grace's. As a result, Grace is now Eli's tutor. This way, Jennifer can prevent Eli from interacting with some "backstabbing" girl who might prove to be competition for Eli. With Grace, Jennifer knows that it will be all business. Once Jennifer realizes how tactless she sounded, she apologizes and Grace quickly accepts, since Grace is a freshman while Jennifer is a popular and pretty junior. Then Eli walks in and before he can hear them, Grace accepts Jennifer's plea to tutor him.
At work in his architectural firm, Rick goes to David's (his business partner) desk to inquire about a change in a design. David informs Rick that the client believed that design was not epic enough, lacking "dread and awe." Rick declares that he will go see the client with David the following day.
Back at the tutoring session, Grace is helping Eli with a paper on Camus' The Stranger, and why the main character is an anti-hero. Grace asks Eli if this situation is making him feel awkward. Eli is oblivious to why she would ask that, but comes to his senses when Grace informs him of the split between her mother and his father. Apparently, this is the first time Eli heard of this, but realizes that it must be true: "It explains (my dad's behaviour) so much."
Getting ready for Dinner, Rick's daughter, Jessie Sammler, is foraging through the refrigerator. Eli mentions that Grace Manning is his tutor. Rick is now in the refrigerator, hiding his absolutely stunned face from his kids. He says that he has not seen much of "the Mom" due to work. Rick leaves the kitchen without closing the refrigerator door. Jessie looks confused, but Eli looks worried. Jessie then closes the refrigerator door, leaving the audience with a black screen.
Suddenly, a cabinet door opens. Grace is looking for some food, and she is talking to Lily about the tutoring session. Lily too is stunned, and asks how this can happen. Grace snappishly replies that things happen, and closes the cabinet door.
At dinner, Zoe is sitting on Lily's lap. But there is a sadness seeping into the room. Lily informs her daughters that they need to clean -- really clean -- the house tonight because an appraiser will be arriving tomorrow to calculate the house's worth. The children are less than pleased, saying that she told them that they were not moving. Lily maintains that that it is true -- she hopes. Angry, the girls leave Lily alone at the dinner table.
Early in the morning, Lily opens a knocking door and the supposed appraiser barges right in. His name is Ed Cale, and he has no trouble identifying the problems of the home--too cluttered, too many pictures on the wall, etc. Lily follows Ed around the house, with Zoe in tow. Lily then realizes that Ed is not an appraiser, but a real estate agent! Jake soon comes into the house -- without knocking -- and quickly asks Ed how much the house could sell for. The agent estimates $345,000. Jake is not impressed with that figure, arguing that it should be at least $400,000. Ed Cale walks away from the family, which allows Lily to demand why Jake did not hire an appraiser. Jake scoffs at the $500 fee, and proudly states that a real estate will take a first look at the house for free. Zoe becomes upset, so Jake takes her away and Lily stands alone, exasperated.
At the mediation, Jake and Lily go at it. Jake, not happy with the initial estimate, wants another two real estate agents to come to the house, which makes Lily livid. Mediator says that this agent is not part of the deal, but Jake again brings up his financial concerns. Lily finally agrees, but she has to make the appointment, in fear of some day finding a FOR SALE sign on the front yard. The mediator then asks Jake if he met with an accountant, but Jake has yet to make an appointment because of the retainer fee of $3500. Mediator forces him to schedule a date, and Jake resigns himself to the task.
In the meantime, David and Rick (who is not wearing a security tag) arrive to meet with the new client. Evidently, this new client is in the business of shaping the images of corporations. The temporary office is immense and powerful. In walks the infamous Miles Drentell (from the show, thirtysomething), who shakes Rick's, then David's, hand. Miles then goes on a tangent about an expensive 12th C. sword, but realizes that Rick is knowledgeable of the artifact as well. David, who is all business, interrupts this exchange by questioning Miles' desires for an "epic" building. But Miles wants an imposing building and here is why: not just to stroke him huge ego -- which Rick believes but expresses in nicer tones -- but also to instill in his own clients feelings of worthlessness and shame. Rick suggests that they build the Reichstag. Miles responds that it should be a bit more user friendly -- or that maybe another firm can accomplish this. Rick assures him that won't be necessary. A meeting of the minds has occurred.
At Rick's place, Eli is looking for Grace's phone number. Rick, when aware of what Eli is doing, can no longer read his book and watches Eli call the Manning residence. Lily picks up the ringing phone, and Eli identifies himself. Lily hands Grace the phone, but doesn't leave her side. Both children run upstairs to talk, giving their phones to their respective parents to hang up. Rick and Lily each hold a phones, pressing it to their ear. They can hear each other's presence. The breathing becomes heavier. Their hands are dangling the phone cord. But the kids yell at them to hang up, and they hastily do so.
On the phone in private, Eli confirms through Grace that Camus's anti-hero, Merceau, did not kill his mother, then asks why so many people believed he did. Grace comments that Camus' atypical response to the death of his own mother caused people to believe the worst in him. Eli, understanding Grace, likens this to the process of divorce, in which people would question why he didn't express more sadness over it than he did. Grace agrees, stating that it does not feel real. She asks when it feels real. Eli's response: "Never." As the children talk, the parents sit forlornly on the stairs of their respective residences, lost in thought.
The next morning, Grace is finishing her cereal, while Lily asks her if she will have another tutoring session today. Grace annoyingly says yes. Lily then asks if they ever talk about her and Rick. Grace maintains that all they do is study -- of course! In Rick's house, Rick asks Eli if Grace ever mentions Lily, and Eli--for the third time--asserts that all they do is study. Rick asks again.
Back to Lily's, Grace admits to her mother that Eli was not aware of the breakup until Grace told him, saying that "it explained a lot." Lily attacks, demanding WHAT explains a lot. Grace quickly leaves for school. Once she opens the door, she almost smacks into a couple and another real estate agent. The agent is taking Dan and Sue on a tour. Grace, furious, leaves, while Lily helplessly trails after this intruding group.
As that drama ensues, Miles calls Rick at work. Miles requests that Rick come to the office later in the day, ALONE.
In their next meeting with the mediator, Lily and Jake are yelling at each other. Jake complains that an accountant showed up unannounced at the restaurant; Lily counters with the morning's surprise house-showing episode. Jake again objects to how much everything is costing, but Lily informs him that she borrowed money for the accountant from the bookstore. The mediator evenly states that they need to know about the financial state of the restaurant. Jake finally confesses that it is worthless. Due to the mortgage and the lien on the restaurant by the construction company, there is no money from the restaurant. Therefore, Jake reasons, the house must be sold off. Lily is furious that Jake would make his own children leave their home for the restaurant, but Jake maintains that Lily is living in a dream world, and that the restaurant is the only way for them to survive. The mediator tries to calm them down and ushers herself to the bathroom--again.
After school, Grace is again tutoring Eli on the finer points of high school essay writing. Eli wonders aloud who broke up with whom. Grace states that her mother had to be the dumpee because of the depressing clothes and mad reactions to ringing phones. Eli counters that his father had to have been dumped since he too mopes about in his own "Rick Sammler way."
Back at Miles' office, the inscrutable client greets Rick, by saying: "I first saw you and I thought here's a man who's too robust and handsome to have much of a brain. How prejudiced of me" -- all without so much as a glance away from his flower-arranging. Rick deduces that Miles would prefer to work with him rather than David. Rick says that he will do so as long as David has no problems with the arrangement. Miles mocks Rick's "misguided" sense of loyalty and demands an answer the next day.
Eli and Grace are playing around in the classroom when Rick comes in to pick up his son. He greets Grace and thanks her for tutoring Eli. Rick asks if she has a ride, and she says she does and...then Lily comes into the class as well. An awkward silence ensues. The kids lie that the forgot something in their lockers and leave Rick and Lily alone in the room.
Lily finally breaks the silence by talking about the book, The Stranger, offering a sketchy and confused synopsis. Grace overhears in the hallway and comments on the weirdness of it all. Eli then asks whether Grace planned this all along. Noticing Grace's confusion, he tells her that some girl told him about the tutoring switch. Grace can do nothing but tell him that Jennifer constructed this situation. Eli does not know understand why Jennifer would do this. [In a short interview, Gracie states, "Boys are so naive. I mean sometimes you have to wonder, like, how they even live."] Eli eventually reasons that it had to do with the fact that Grace is a good tutor. The compliment pleases the Freshman.
Back in the classroom, Lily continues to ramble on about the book, when she finally admits to not understand it at all. Rick leaves, and Lily follows suit. They take their kids back to their separate homes.
At Rick's apartment, Eli expresses doubt over Jennifer, but Jesse tries to defend Jennifer's actions. Rick, meanwhile, is in a daze and quickly leaves the kitchen. Eli tells his sister that their dad met Lily today. Jesse in response: "Duh. No wonder." Rick goes up to his bedroom, sits on the bed, and sheds many tears. He's still not over Lily.
In the morning at the Manning household, the kids ask Lily whether their dad wants to sell the house. Lily explains that neither one of them want to do such a thing, and tries to describe the process of mediation. But as the kids' worries escalate, Lily does a minor explosion, insisting they not worry and instead eat their breakfast.
At the firm, David cryptically asks about Rick's meeting with Miles that Rick never told him about. Rick tries to defend himself, arguing that whoever works with Miles is irrelevant, that the end result would remain the same. But David says that this has nothing to do with jealousy--but with disclosure. As his business partner, David expects the truth from Rick. David pushes Rick's button by likening this dilemma with Lily's indiscretion with her ex-husband. Although it would not have affected the course of Rick and Lily's relationship, David maintains that it was not up to Lily decide whether Rick should be aware of the affair, just as it was not up to Rick to keep David in the dark. Rick, shocked at the analogy, calls David an ass. But it sinks in.
Lily is with the mediator, waiting for a late Jake. Alone, Lily asks her for advice to keep her home. Although obligated not to discuss such matters without both parties present, she suggests that Lily try to ignore the hurt and accusations between her and Jake. Lily is about to say that it will be impossible to do so when Jake walks in. Although he notices that something occurred between the two women, he doesn't seem to care with his good mood. He announces that the contractor took off the lien and is allowing Jake to open the restaurant. Although he will pay the mortgage late this month, he is confident that once the restaurant is open, it will be smooth sailing.
But before she questions Jake, Lily's phone rings. Assuming it is one of the children, she is surprised to hear Rick's voice. Rick wants to see her tonight to talk things out. Lily tries to keep it brief and they agree to call in an hour to make arrangements. Rick continues to talk, nonetheless, oblivious to Lily's situation. But they eventually hang up. Once off the phone, Lily has her worries whether it will work, and whether Jake is even telling her the truth. Jake, meanwhile, sits on his chair eating an apple, happy as can be. The mediator carefully advises Lily to trust Jake for the moment. Lily reluctantly agrees, as long as Jake is telling the truth and is committed to the process. Jake promises that he is. He then takes another bite out of apple.
Later that night, Lily is in a coffee shop, waiting for Rick to arrive. He soon appears, and they finally sit together. Rick announces that he just read Eli's paper, and proclaims it the best paper his son has ever produced. Lily shows her pride for her daughter, but is nervous doing so. But Rick tries to relieve some of that tension by telling her he does not hate her. Lily is relieved at hearing that statement--she describes her torment at the thought of Rick hating her. Rick admits that he tried to despise, but it did not work.
They then recall the last time they were in this coffee shop--the time when Lily broke up with Rick soon after they were first going out, saying that the time was wrong. But Rick messes things up when, looking back, he agrees with that sentiment--that the love was right, but the timing was miserable. Lily tries to hide her shock. Rick is officially breaking up with her: "We tried. You have to give us that."
The reason Rick is so urgent in wanting to see her is to express the fact that he holds no bitterness towards Lily. Lily attempts to be stoic, but fails. The waitress comes to their table to take their order. She leaves without taking it.
Rick walks Lily to her security-alarmed car, as he did on their first date. Rick wishes her luck, both with the mediation and in life. Lily does the same. He expresses satisfaction in breaking it off as they did--clearing the air, no acrimony, adultlike. Lily agrees halfheartedly. They say their good-byes.
Rick and Lily share a brief kiss... Lily is now crying.
They kiss again... longer.
Rick grasps Lily's hand. They embrace.
Rick cries. "I can't let you go."
Lily smiles. "Thank God."
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