Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of The Ex Files

by Debbie Marshall
edited by Elizabeth Angela

Rick opens the door and absent-mindedly puts clothes into a duffle bag while cradling the phone. "I'm really dreading this," he says. "An entire weekend with Karen. How am I going to get through it?" Lily assures him things will work out. "It's not like you'll be sharing a room, right?" she says. Rick's slow, distracted "Of course not" seems to set her on edge.

Eli's out-of-town basketball game gives the Sammlers the opportunity to spend the weekend together as a family, while Lily, whose kids are visiting their father, Jake, will be alone for the first time in quite a while.

Karen, in a harried rush at her office, puts things in a briefcase. "I am just dreading this whole weekend. I thought we were supposed to be divorced. I see more of him now than when we were married," she tells her assistant. "Didn't you say Rick is seeing someone? That could be why you're experiencing such anxiety. It reopens the wound, doesn't it? There's got to be a sense of injustice," he says.

Back at the Manning house Lily answers the door and greets Naomi who is returning Lily's long overdue yoga tape. Lily explains that it was a Chanukah present that she never watched and details her upcoming solitary weekend. She's looking forward to a facial, a cleansing juice fast and closet reorganization. As she sifts through the clutter in her bedroom looking for a book on, coincidentally, how clutter erodes your self-worth, she tells Naomi that her recent focus on Rick had made her wonder how she would get through this weekend without him. Naomi replies, "Wow! A weekend alone."

At Jake's apartment, Grace is spiking her dad's hair with mousse when he grabs and tickles both her and her sister, Zoe. He wants to order pizza but the children groan that pizza is the only thing they eat when with him. Jake answers the door bell to find a young woman, Tiffany, standing in the doorway. She explains that her friend from the radio station has moved into a nearby unit and she wanted to stop by and pick up her book on Enneagrams. Jake is clearly flustered by her appearance and doesn't remember the book she's talking about. "Your hair is glad to see me," Tiffany says as he brushes it down with his hand. "I was going to call," Jake explains. Grace and Zoe peek around from behind the door to get a better look. Trying to get out of the awkward situation, Jake tells Tiffany that his kids are there. Pressing forward she offers that she'd love to meet his kids.

[In the first of several Black & White interviews, Jake says, "I've been trying to wind things down with Tiffany." He talks of being a kid in a candy store when he was first separated. But that didn't mean he wanted to meet Tiffany's friends -- or to have her meet his kids.]

Jake introduces Tiffany to his children. Tiffany compliments Zoe on her lip gloss, clearly aiming to make a new friend while Grace assesses the situation. Grace suggests a restaurant they have been to before where everything is miniature. "Bite Size," Tiffany chimes in.

In another part of Chicagoland, Karen and Jessie enter their motel room along with a bellman. Eli comes into the open room and explains that the motel ran out of rooms for the players and he'll be sharing a room with his father. The bellman opens the door separating Karen's room from Rick's as the former spouses exchange nervous glances.

In the corridor outside the basketball gym, a man recognizes Karen and they exchange pleasantries. She introduces him to Rick as Lloyd. On learning that Karen's son plays for the competition, Lloyd eagerly explains that his son, Warren Lloyd, is also with a team he helps with the equipment.

Inside the gym Eli is on the court playing. As he scores, his parents and sister jump to their feet in excitement. Rick asks Karen about Lloyd. Did he understand correctly that both his first and last name are Lloyd? "He likes you," Rick says to Karen. Karen attempts to brush him off as Jessie wants to know more.

At Bite Size, Tiffany prattles on about a party hosted by her radio station and always cleaning her plate because her family used to be on food stamps. Zoe is enthusiastic, but Grace warily sizes Tiffany up and makes sarcastic remarks. Tiffany realizes she may have misspoken and begins to play with Jake's hair.

At the motel restaurant, Rick, Karen, Eli and Jessie look at menus when Lloyd Lloyd enters with his son. Eli and Jessie make disparaging comments about his appearance and Karen tries to assuage the situation. Rick jokingly asks the kids to guess Lloyd's last name. When Karen says that his name is Lloyd Lloyd, Rick and the children begin laughing. Karen tries to calm the matter, "He happens to be very nice," she says, getting into the mood, "So nice they had to name him twice," as they all share a wonderful laugh.

Back at Bite Size, Tiffany and Zoe have gone to the "normal sized" bathroom when Jake asks Grace if "this was ok." As Tiffany leaves to go home, Grace gets up to go the restroom while Zoe stares at Tiffany adoringly.

Lily awakes in her cluttered bedroom and pushes aside the mess on her bed. She goes to the kitchen to search for Rick's phone number in her purse. Meanwhile at the motel, Rick is toweling off from a shower, Eli is watching a yoga program on television, and Jessie enters the room via the connecting door when the phone rings. Rick is again less than focused on Lily's conversation as he sees Karen in the adjoining room in her bra and underpants. Lily hears Karen's voice in the background while room service is being delivered and she realizes that she has called at an inopportune moment. As Rick watches Karen, Eli and Jessie eating breakfast as they have so many times before, Lily reaches for the doughnuts and half pleads, "Is it horrible? Are you surviving?" Sensing that she might not want an honest answer she bites a doughnut, hangs up the phone, and grabs a bag of chips, thus ending her cleansing juice fast before it ever begins.

Grace, Zoe and Jake clean the kitchen in Jake's apartment while a yoga program plays in the background. Discussing their opinions of Tiffany, Grace criticizes her vocabulary while Zoe is definitely enamored. Jake tells Grace to deal with it, "It's one tiny, miniature dinner out of your life." Zoe answers a phone call from Tiffany and asks her Dad if they are going to the radio party. Grace sulks. In the midst of the conversation we flash to Lily watching the apparently quite popular yoga program on t.v.

[In a B&W interview, Jake says, "This is temporary...this separation." He had planned to call Tiffany back but he was "trying to be good."]

Zoe answers the calling waiting beep and is pleased to hear her mom on the other end. "Give it!" Grace says. "Mom?" she says pleading.

At the basketball game, Rick points out that Lloyd cheers every time Eli scores. Jessie is curious about her parents' conversation but Karen quickly changes the discussion. Jessie notices Lloyd watching her mom. "He is not staring at us," Karen asserts as she looks at Lloyd staring at her. Karen backpedals and explains that Lloyd is in tight with the mayor's office and she needs him as a contact. That's all. Rick continues probing for information about Lloyd.

Lily and Judy are at Lily's wolfing down junk food. She tells Judy that when she called Jake's to talk to the girls, another woman was on hold. "Why are you checking on anybody?" Judy inquires. "YOU are jealous. He's out of town with his ex and you've got your knickers in a twist." Lily assures her that is not the case. "Whatever you do, don't call him," Judy replies. "Clean out your closet or something."

In the final seconds of the game, Eli gets the ball, shoots, and scores. Karen and Rick excitedly cheer and hug, while Jessie looks on lovingly. She turns from her parents to realize that Eli has been injured. Rick, Karen and Jessie push through the crowd to reach Eli. "We won," Eli painfully tells his father.

Back in the motel room, Karen props up pillows for Eli as he insists that he can play if he just wraps his ankle. Rick leaves to get ice.

Lily calls Rick's room only to have Karen answer. Lily quickly hangs up. Jessie tells her mother that she wishes they could stay there forever, just live here. "Because we're all together?" Karen asks. Jessie insists "I just like hotels."

Karen has a flashback to a second honeymoon hotel experience:
Karen: "We don't have to be together every minute."
Rick: "I thought that was the whole point of coming here was to be together."
Karen: "You don't love me anymore."
Rick: "What?"
Karen: "You don't love me anymore and you don't want to be married to me and you should just admit it." Karen exits and leaves Rick behind.

Jessie answers the phone. Karen speaks to Lloyd, and they agree to meet. Karen applies lipstick while Jessie looks on. She and Eli are disappointed as they understand where their mom is going.

Jake answers the door to find Tiffany standing in the doorway with tickets. Zoe is excited to see her.

[In a B&W interview, Jakes talks of needing to have a person in his life that he can't disappoint because they're not expecting anything.]

Tiffany explains Enneagrams to Zoe as a psychological system for understanding people's personalities. When Tiffany helps Zoe find a kitchen item, Grace realizes that Tiffany knows her way around Jake's kitchen rather well. Zoe follows Tiffany into the bedroom leaving Grace and Jake alone. Jake tries to talk Grace into going to the radio function.

Eli hobbles around while Rick enters with ice. "It hurts too much," Eli says to his father who tries to comfort him.

Lily's lying in bed as the phone rings. "Mom, please come get me," Grace begs. "This girl is here,." appealing to Lily.

In the motel coffee shop, Lloyd and Karen chat as he states his case, listing the things that they have in common. Karen buffers his enthusiasm by saying "Of course, people can appear to have a lot in common..." implying that appearances can be deceiving. Lloyd invites her to lunch or dinner as Karen listens without response. Karen sees Rick enter across the room. "Lloyd, do you have my number?" she asks as Rick gets within earshot. Rick informs her that Eli is going to be unable to play and he thinks Karen should come up to the room. As Lloyd leaves, Karen gives him her home phone number. "Call me," she tells Lloyd. Rick apologizes for the interruption and he and Karen argue. "It's fine for you to have somebody else but if I even dare... What do you want me to do, reorganize my closet for the rest of my life?" Karen tells him before walking away.

At Jake's, Zoe and Tiffany chat and continue bonding as Tiffany tells her that she wanted Zoe and Grace to like her. Zoe asks, "Do you think it's weird that my mom came over and she and my dad are in the other room yelling at each other?" Tiffany sees the missing Enneagram book in Jake's recycling and wants to leave abruptly. After Tiffany leaves, Zoe calls her parents out but is angry and slams the bedroom door behind her. Grace insists to her father, "I don't have a problem, I just don't want to be here anymore." Jake returns, "That's a problem." A crying Grace opens the front door to see Tiffany standing in the hall. She's returned for her book. Lily smiles and looks her over as she and the children depart.

At the basketball tournament, Eli leans on his crutches in the corridor. Rick follows him with Karen and Jessie close behind. An upset Eli tells them how hard it is to sit there and watch. Rick says, "I understand. People have been depending on you and suddenly you can't be there. And you almost hope that they won't be alright. Part of you almost hopes that they won't be able to go on without you. Of course, they do go on, somehow. But it's hard not to feel that way. Right?" His comment are now directed to Karen as she agrees.

Karen continues, "Like this whole weekend. You had a picture of what it was going to be like and it turns out different. And you have to accept it."

His girls now departed, Jake complains about Lily to Tiffany. He can't believe she just came by and took the children. Tiffany tries to defend Lily to Jake explaining that Lily probably just feels rejected or lonely. She too, she felt that way when Jake is with his kids. Jake, paying little attention to Tiffany's comments, continues, "She's the queen of the mixed message. I want sex, just not with you. You handle the money, just don't make any decisions. You can have the kids every weekend, I'll just come by and remove them at a moment's notice." Tiffany draws a parallel to P.J. Harvey how when she split from her band they probably wanted her to fall on her ass, but she didn't. The reference is lost on Jake. She continues by using her Enneagram book as an example and realizes that Jake feels that somehow the kids leaving is her fault. "When in doubt, assign blame. Don't blame me if you're scared to be alone with your own kids." She tells him that she made up the story about the friends in next unit. She just needed to hear from him. Still in disbelief, Jake asks, "Why did you have to say that? That I'm afraid to be alone with my kids." A breakthrough has definitely happened for him. Tiffany offers further insight, "Why do you act like our relationship has nothing to do with your life? I have your number." Jake ponders as the light dims.

Jake enters Lily's kitchen as she chops vegetables. He tells of the pressure to make it really fun for the kids when they visit. Lily interrupts, by telling him that she shouldn't have interfered with his time with the kids no matter who was there and then apologizing. Hearing Lily apologize is clearly something new for Jake.

[In a B&W interview, Jake describes how strange it feels, standing in his own house, recalling the sacrifices he's made, smelling dinner on the stove -- only he's not staying for dinner.]

A surprised Lily says, "I thought you were going to scream, yell..." "Assign blame," Jake continues. Jake goes upstairs and knocks on Grace's door as he tries to make amends.

[In a final B&W, Jake admits that while he wants his family back, he just don't know if he can actually live that kind of life: "Part of me wants to call Tiffany, right now."]

Jake tells Grace that she doesn't have to like anybody that she doesn't want to like, including him. But she has to stay. She can't just leave. Grace wonders why can some people leave and not other people -- confronting the larger issue. Jake assures her that she doesn't have to worry about Tiffany or any other girl as he leaves. "See you next weekend," Grace says, as he closes the door.

Karen unpacks at home as the phone rings. It's Lloyd, wondering what her intentions were in giving him her phone number. Was it for Rick's benefit or did she change her mind? She opens her completely organized closet and says, "I've changed my mind," to a stunned but happy Lloyd.

The end.

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