Once and Again...Once Again
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[Karen is standing on a beach, the time as much as ten years in the past. Though wrapped in a beach towel, she shivers with cold or fear, or both. "Wanna go swimming?" Sam calls to her from off-camera. "I'm so embarrassed," Karen admits to the camera. Rick approaches her, asking solicitously, "Are you sure you're OK?" Sam, following Rick, announces, "I need somebody to kiss," and calls, "Jeannine?" Sam's wife, Jeannine, approaches Karen and asks how she is. Wrapped in Rick's arms, Karen laughingly replies that she's fine. "Next time this happens, I'm gonna kill you myself," Rick "warns" her humorously. For her companions, Karen laughs again, but when she again stares directly into the camera, her laughter fades and a haunted expression drops over her face like a mask.]
It's evening when Sam escorts Judy home to her loft. They're talking about a movie they've just seen when Sam jokingly asks if she'd mind if he tore off her clothes and threw her on the floor. She answers that she wouldn't mind, but that this would suggest that they're in a different kind of relationship than they are. Sam decides it's time for him to leave. Though Judy consents to a good-night kiss, as they pull apart she informs him, "That was just a figment of your imagination."
In the morning, at Lily and Rick's house, the four children are supposed to be getting ready for the day ahead. Instead, they're teasing each other so boisterously that when Rick answers the phone, he doesn't recognize Karen's voice on the other end. Hiding her annoyance, Karen asks to speak to Jessie. When Rick puts Jessie on the phone, Karen asks if their date to go ice skating on Thursday night is still on. "You know that I have that big history paper due the next day?" Jessie reminds her. "In that case, you need a break," Karen declares. She asks Jessie to put Eli on the phone. But while Jessie is trying to get her brother's attention, Lily is asking him to help get the girls off to school. Karen is left calling "Hello?" into the phone until the noise dies down and she realizes that everyone has left Lily's kitchen, her own children included. In frustration, she hangs up.
[At the beach, Sam, Jeannine and Rick all tease Karen about her swimming ability until she reminds them that she has swum in the ocean all her life. Rick kisses her lovingly.]
In their office, Rick reminds the tardy Sam that they have a meeting with a client in ten minutes. From Sam's empty hands and transparent disdain, Rick assumes that his partner, who was to have prepared sketches for this meeting, spent the previous night with a date instead of his sketch pad. Their conversation teeters on the edge of a full-blown argument until it's cut short by the arrival of Melissa, an aide to hotel magnate Colin Fleischer, who commissioned the hotel which Rick and Sam are designing. She announces that she's going to videotape the meeting and aims her camera at the flustered Rick, who quickly defers to Sam. Determined to impress the attractive Melissa, Sam overcomes his lack of preparation and confidently describes a set of sculptures which he claims to be creating for the hotel lobby. Melissa knows full well that he ad-libbed the whole presentation and acknowledges, "You're good."
[At the beach, the foursome loll in folding chairs, drinking beer. Sam begins, "So Karen decides she wants to go swimming by herself." Karen begs him not to tell the story. "It's humiliating enough!" she laughs.]
Tiffany and Jake bring their infant daughter to Booklovers for Judy to meet and admire. When Jake mentions that he's getting up with the baby every hour and fifteen minutes, Judy assumes that this is a step up in his and Tiffany's relationship. However, Jake insists that he's just spending time at Tiffany's to help out, and Tiffany, whose gaze is fixed on the baby, neither confirms nor denies his account.
Karen calls Booklovers to suggest that Judy have dinner with her that night. Judy declines, explaining that she's going to Lily's, but she invites Karen to come with her. Karen all but shudders at the thought, and they make a date for lunch the next day instead.
That night, while Judy and her nieces visit in Lily and Rick's bedroom, Zoe tells Grace that Judy is going out with Sam. "Oh, no I'm not!" Judy protests; "Oh, yes you are," Lily replies, entering the room. Meanwhile, Rick opens the front door to none other than Sam, who presents Rick with a portfolio filled with sketches of his proposed sculptures. Judy, Lily and the girls come downstairs, Lily and her daughters grinning and chirping, "Hi, Sam!" Judy offers him only an embarrassed smile and a shrug.
When everyone moves to the kitchen, Grace and Zoe ask Sam and Judy how long they've known each other. Their replies don't jibe and as they lapse into awkward silence, Grace studies them thoughtfully. Lily invites Sam to stay for dinner, but he declines, saying that he has to meet a client. When Lily asks why Rick doesn't have to meet the client also, Judy deduces that the client is a woman. Seeing Judy's pained expression, Rick covers for Sam, implying that the client is Colin's male assistant, Ian. As soon as possible, he shows Sam out. Alone, his face reflects disgust with Sam and with his own collusion.
Next day, Jeannine drops in on Karen at her law office and asks her to recommend a good divorce attorney, saying that Sam has cheated on her again. As Jeannine peels off her coat, Karen notices that her friend's right arm is in a cast from elbow to wrist. "I want his socks, I want his jockstrap, I want things I don't even care about!" she shrieks. In her rant, Jeannine describes the other woman as a 20-year-old bimbo although she actually has no idea who she is. Karen feels compelled to defend Judy, saying she's in her thirties, not a bimbo, and is someone Sam just met. Naturally, Jeannine wants to know how Karen knows this and Karen, cornered, is forced to explain that the woman is a friend, adding, "She's a very nice person." "Who screwed a married man!" Jeannine screams, enraged by Karen's feeble assurance, "You'd like her."
[At the beach, Sam continues, "So Karen is swimming. And somehow she misses this big yellow flag with the black dot in it, which means riptide." When Rick adds a detail, "She's an excellent swimmer," Karen playfully swats him. As she sees it, by helping Sam tell the story that so embarrasses her, Rick is taking Sam's side against her.]
At their office, Sam tells Rick that his date with Melissa the night before amounted to "basically" dinner and work. But he won't rule out the possibility of something more, "and if anything more happens, it's none of your damned business," he says bluntly. Rick reminds Sam how he had to lie to spare Judy's feelings. When Rick asks how he and Melissa got along, Sam says that she liked his sketches and he's seeing her again that night.
[Rick says that when he saw Karen beyond the breakers, he began to swim after her. "And I'm thinking which of these two is stupider, so I get Eli's inflatable raft," Sam continues.]
Over lunch with Judy at Booklovers, Karen asks about Sam. "He's my friend," Judy replies. Changing the subject, Karen complains that she barely sees her children any more. "Naked stepmothers, kids getting stoned, babies being born, how could my house compete with that? It's like I have to invent special occasions to lure them out," she says mournfully. They return to the topic of Sam, Judy saying that she likes him but that she has no claim on him and is living her own life.
On her way out, Karen tells Judy about Jeannine's visit. "So they are getting divorced," Judy remarks. Karen describes her awkward position as a friend of both women and says she told Jeannine that Judy is not a 20-year-old homewrecker, and that Sam did not cheat on Jeannine with Judy before he moved out. Judy lets this pass rather than confess that she has misled Karen about how long her affair with Sam has been going on.
That night, in their kitchen, Grace asks Lily what she doesn't want her daughters to know about Judy and Sam. Lily's discomfort and evasiveness lead Grace to assume correctly, "They started seeing each other while Sam was still living at home." Lily leaves the kitchen to end the discussion.
[At the beach, Sam recalls, "Karen introduced me to the love of my life. So I figure if I save Karen, Jeannine will really put out." Jeannine joins in the laughter over Sam's explanation of his "heroism."]
Sam has brought Melissa to his studio, which is doubling as his temporary living quarters. Meanwhile, Judy is at home. She lays down her book, picks up her phone, then sets it down again. As Sam is about to kiss Melissa, his phone rings with a call from Judy. Trying to conceal Judy from Melissa and vice versa, Sam chooses his words too carefully, alerting each woman to the existence of the other. When he hangs up, he tries to resume where he left off. Although Melissa asks about Judy, he reminds her, "I'm here with you."
"Are you?" she counters. For answer he kisses her.
Judy calls Rick and asks if he lied the night before about Sam's "business meeting." At a loss for words, he stalls by asking, "What do you mean?" Taking this as a yes, Judy bitterly thanks him and hangs up.
[The beach foursome are now reminiscing about how Sam and Jeannine met. "I was looking to get laid for the weekend, I wasn't interested in falling in love," Sam says. "You're never interested in falling in love," Jeannine reminds him.]
While trying to make love to Melissa, Sam is shocked and embarrassed that he can't function. "You love her," Melissa tells him. "Love is one of the most dangerous emotions you can feel, because God forbid you might have to act on it," she adds, before leaving his bed.
Next morning, Lily drops in at Booklovers to see Judy. At the same time, Sam informs Rick that during their "meeting," Melissa approved their design for the lobby. Judy admits that Lily is right about her being an idiot about Sam and that it was ridiculous for her to think that he'll ever change. Rick tells Sam he doesn't want to lie for him any more, mentioning Judy's call the night before. "Oh, God," Sam groans.
When Lily launches into fish-in-the-sea platitudes, Judy reminds her, "You spent a total of what--six minutes single?--and went out with exactly one man, the one man in Chicago whose baggage didn't outweigh his conscience." She admits that she's always allowed herself to be led by passion but can't afford to do that any more. Sam promises that Rick won't have to lie for him any more, but says he doesn't know what to do. "I'm just trying to live my life here," he claims. When Rick scoffs, Sam shouts, "I'm guessing there are men who are doing what I'm doing who do not get attacked for it on a daily basis!"
[At the beach, Jeannine says to Karen, "You could have warned me that living with him would be somewhat of an adventure." "I'm very independent!" Sam insists. "You're also narcissistic!" Jeannine retorts. "No relationship is perfect," Karen states. "Except for Karen and Rick!" Jeannine amends. As if to confirm her judgment, Rick and Karen nuzzle each other until Jeannine and Sam turn away in mock revulsion.]
In her van with Jessie, Karen offers to stop for ice cream. "We have ice cream at home," Jessie says, then corrects herself, "I mean at Lily's."
[At the beach, Sam recalls that Karen burst into tears when he reached her on the raft. Jessie, who appears about five or six, runs up to Rick and Karen. Karen hugs her and says, "This is why I burst into tears."]
"What do you like about being at Lily's?" Karen asks. Jessie responds that there are always people there. As they continue talking, Karen is startled by Jessie's awareness of Sam's affair with Judy, especially that it began while Sam was still living with Jeannine. "Lily told me," Jessie explains, to Karen's dismay. Meanwhile, in their living room, Grace counts up the philandering men she's known--Sam, her father, her grandfatherâ€”and asks Lily if all men cheat.
"Not all men," Lily answers firmly. Rick walks in and asks what they're talking about. Grace doesn't want to explain, but Lily is so sure of Rick's answer that she invites Grace to ask him if he's ever cheated. She's astonished and mortified when he promptly confesses that he cheated once in college. Although he emphasizes that he felt terrible afterward and never did it again, Grace throws up her hands and walks out.
Alone with Rick, Lily berates him, "Why did you have to tell her that? She's got a lot more information about men than she can handle right now."
"Then you should tell her about the time you cheated on me with Jake," Rick answers mildly .
Having dropped off Jessie, Karen visits Judy at Booklovers, seeking answers to the questions on her mind. Judy admits that she didn't know Sam was married when she met him, and by the time she felt that she should tell Karen, she didn't know how. Karen groans, "You have no idea how many of my friends have lost their husbands to younger women!"
"Is there anything I can do or say that would make this better?" Judy asks contritely.
"No, you just did what you needed to do," Karen replies, her temper barely in check. On her way out, she mutters, "Everybody just does what they need to do."
[At the beach, Sam continues, "I'm trying to get her on the raft and she's too busy crying." Jeannine explains, "Sam doesn't believe in emotion. After his parents got divorced, he became very self-contained. He'd kill himself rather than ask for help. He doesn't need anybody." Karen counsels Sam that needing people isn't a sign of weakness. He playfully protests, "Didn't I just save your life, young lady?"]
In his studio that night, Sam sketches a portrait of Judy, but not satisfied with only a drawing for company, he calls her. Brusquely, she tells him that she's been reading. "About the other night..." he begins; "It's too late," she replies, and disconnects. He calls her back. Without even a hello, she tells him, "You know why I love books, Sam? They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You're just beginnings and ends. There's never a story with you, just start and stop." She orders him, "Don't call, don't come here, don't even cross my line of vision. You know what else I like about books? When it's over, you know it. Just two little words, 'The End.'" She slams down the phone.
Next day, Sam and Karen encounter each other at a coffee shop. [At the beach, Sam says that the lifeguards had to pry Karen off him.] Karen is in no mood to be cordial as he sits across from her. Making conversation, he reminds Karen that she introduced him to Jeannine. "What was I thinking?" she replies caustically. [Sam, Jeannine, and Rick all fold their beach chairs and leave. Karen, stays behind, promising to catch up. She stares out at the water, then at the camera.]
Karen warns Sam that Jeannine is so angry about his affair with Judy, she may try to restrict his visitation with their son, Jamie. He says that he and Judy are over, and Jamie is all he has left. "So what do I do?" he wonders. "You're asking me?" she asks mockingly, but advises him, "You are what you want, that defines you. If you have any desire to change, then change the things that you want."
That night, Sam leaves a pleading message on Judy's answer machine. Judy immediately goes to Lily's, where Grace is doing homework at the kitchen table. Judy admits that she came by to get away from Sam's calls because she's stopped seeing him. Grace tells her that she knows about their relationship and doesn't want to talk about it. "People don't always see the results of their actions," Judy defends herself. "All I saw was a man I could love. I didn't see a wife who would be hurt, I didn't see a child whose life would be affected. That was my failure, but it wasn't my intention."
"And when my dad screwed around, what do you think his intentions were?" Grace asks coldly.
Grace answers the ringing phone and finds herself talking to Karen, who asks for Jessie. Grace shouts "Jessie!" but when her stepsister doesn't answer, Grace tells Karen that Jessie is probably wearing her headphones and leaves the kitchen to find her. In the interval, Judy picks up the phone to tell Karen that she's stopped seeing Sam. Karen replies that Sam has told her.
When Jessie picks up the extension, she says that she's decided not to go skating because she needs to work on her history paper. Though disappointed, Karen proposes that they have something to eat instead, but Jessie answers that she ate earlier, when everyone else was eating.
"Are you saying that you want to stay at Lily's?" Karen asks slowly, her voice faltering.
"I guess I could come over, but I'm really worried about getting all the work done," Jessie answers. Unable to see her mother's face, she doesn't realize that Karen is taking this sudden change of plans as a personal rejection, and is devastated.
Karen musters her strength, tells Jessie that she understands, and wishes her good luck with the paper. They hang up. Karen looks down at the skates slung over her shoulder and sinks to the floor, bursting into uncontrollable tears.
[Alone on the beach, Karen clutches her beach towel, a faraway look on her face. She recalls, '"There was a moment before Sam got to me when I had accepted that I was going to drown. The water had become almost peaceful. For one second, I actually enjoyed being alone. I wasn't a wife or a mother. I could let it all go. It was wonderful. It was bliss. I could just float away."] Huddled on her floor, Karen continues crying.
Having returned to her loft, Judy hears a knock at her door. "I am Sam," Sam announces. Although Judy asks him to leave, he declares that he's not going to go until he says what he's come to say. Reluctantly, Judy opens the door.
"I've been feeling--overwhelmed by feelings," he begins. Fed up, Judy almost closes the door on him at that point, but he forces it back open. He says that he thought he wanted to be alone at this part of his life, but being alone hasn't brought him peace, and now he has to forget about it because he's afraid of losing Judy.
"You've already lost me," she snaps.
"No, don't say that!" he begs, gathering her in his arms. No longer the smug swinger who postured before Rick and Melissa, Sam pours out his heart to Judy, saying that he loves her and needs her as he's never needed anyone, even Jeannine. "I want to build houses for you, I want to have kids with you. I want to know you, I want take care of you when you're sick. Just because I was stupid and scared doesn't mean you have to be stupid and scared too," he pleads.
Judy can't take her eyes off him. "How can I do this?" she asks, tears streaking her face.
"Because you have no sense?" he answers.
"I called everyone and told them we're through," Judy tells him. But under his unwavering gaze, her resistance crumbles and she adds, "Oh, God, I've got to call everyone back."
Laughing and crying at the same time, they embrace each other.
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