'Eli Stone': New Eli vs. Old Eli
This week's Eli Stone raised several questions for me. First, will Eli ever dress appropriately when he finds himself in unexpected locales? That said, "my arm hair just singed off" and "my internal organs are boiling in their own juices" are excellent lines.
Second, is Maggie (Julie Gonzalo) just a little too perky? Is it unreasonable for me, a fan of the perk in general, to kinda want to slug her? Or at the very least, get a little disillusioned?
After starting off in Hawaii, we flash back a few hours to Eli and Patti in the office, where she tells him that an SUV liability case that he won five years ago has been overturned, and he'll have to re-try it. At the staff meeting, partner Martin Posner (Tom Amandes) tells Eli he's second chair on the SUV case, and overrides Eli's counter that "old Eli" was the lawyer on the original case, and he's "new Eli" now.
Meanwhile, two new hires for the firm are introduced: Keith Bennett (Jason George), the discrimination plaintiff from last week, and Taylor Wethersby, the boss' daughter and Eli's ex-fiancee. Did I mention that the title of this week's episode is "One More Try"?
And Matt Dowd (Sam Jaeger) gets a storyline! Although I admit at first it seemed like kind of a gigantic one, given that up until now he's been Eli's ambitious, wise-cracking foil. Dowd's ex-girlfriend shows up, in tears and needing his help, because her ex-girlfriend, who's pregnant with a baby conceived with her egg, has experienced a spiritual conversion, found religion, is now heterosexual, and is seeking sole custody of the baby.
At the settlement conference for the SUV case, Eli and the plaintiff's attorney duke it out and Maggie, who's busy fawning over the other attorney, finds out that one of the reasons Eli won the case five years ago was that he convinced the judge that the jury would be prejudiced by the plaintiff's injuries if he testified in court, so the transcript of his deposition was read instead. Oh and a key witness -- Stanley Lime, an engineer who could discuss the SUV's propensity for rolling over -- disappeared. Following Eli out of the conference, Maggie argues with him about his tactics and declares this a "yucky case" -- prompting a very nice Legally Blonde crack from Eli.
Meanwhile, in conference with his ex's ex-girlfriend and her lawyer, Dowd suggests co-parenting. "You ask us to concede everything we believe and then you call it compromise," says the lawyer (Alana Ubach) -- who, coincidentally, played Serena, one of Elle Woods' sorority sisters, in both Legally Blonde and its sequel. Thought Eli's comment was just clever? Ha! It was foreshadowing. Then Dowd asks Taylor for her help on the case -- because she's an expert in family law, and because he needs a woman on the case because he's literally surrounded by chicks (the judge is a woman too).
In the midst of his opening statement on the SUV case -- here comes an a-ha! moment -- Eli has a vision: a choir singing "One More Try." He tries valiantly to talk through it, but ends up dancing and clapping to the music. And oh, Eli -- jazz hands?
Seeking solace, Eli visits Dr. Chen, who takes note of the song and tells Eli that maybe God wants him to do things differently this time -- not only in court, but with Taylor as well.
On the stand, Adam the SUV plaintiff describes the accident. Eli gets him to admit that he had been drinking at the time of the accident, and was upset because of a fight he'd had with his fiancee. There were mitigating factors, and yes, the car rolled over, Eli says -- but that doesn't make the car defective. Later, he also gets Adam's wife to admit that he had been drinking that night -- and that she'd urgently tried to reach him on his cell phone several times right before the crash.
Back at the office, Eli has a vision of a Hawaiian beach in the men's room -- his second one -- and passes out. Concerned, Taylor goes to call his brother, Nate, and ends up admitting that she joined the firm to be near Eli. Geez, Eli -- give the girl a break. He asks her to have dinner and talk things out.
Maggie does some digging on Stanley Lime, and basically drags the truth out of Eli: Lime disappeared after meeting with Posner. He has a bout of self-loathing while explaining the hardball of what happened and dishes some much-needed disillusionment Maggie's way. "Has it ever occurred to you that you might be a better lawyer if you saw things how they are instead of how you wish they were?" he asks, disgustedly.
Now Patti turns up, rocking a sparkly red dress and singing with the choir in Eli's next vision, prompting him to ask her if she's a member of a gospel choir. "Why, yes I am," she says. "All black people are. Especially black women -- we love to raise our hands and praise Jesus." Seriously, someone give this woman a raise -- and for more reasons than one: she knows where Stanley Lime is (Hawaii), which sends Eli to rustling up Maggie and getting on a plane. More or less in front of Taylor, whom Eli has to blow off to go aloha-ing. For the record, if Eli ends up hooking up with Maggie, I am totally on Team Taylor.
Meanwhile, Taylor, working with Dowd, turns up some information that might be able to counteract the waiver that Dowd's ex signed, giving up all rights to the baby. He videotaped the baby shower, which shows a happy couple eager to raise their baby together and contradicts the ex's ex's claim that she renounced her homosexuality when she saw the first ultrasound. Jaeger's clearly loving his turn in the spotlight, because his scenes with Taylor and with his ex are lovely to watch. He's an admitted pig, but he's like your favorite sexist: pretty much harmless, entertaining, and so thoroughly charming in his delivery that it's easy to really like the bad-boy-who's-not-really-so-bad. And Jaeger doesn't overplay it, so kudos to him.
Ultimately, the judge rules that the waiver is valid, but the spirit of the relationship was clearly violated by the pregnant partner's actions, and orders both joint custody and that the expectant mother must stay in the area. Dowd's ex ends up with full custody, as her ex decides that she'll go home to her family in Ohio after the baby's born and leave the baby in San Francisco.
Eli and Maggie head to Hawaii to talk to Stanley Lime, who says he wrote a study of the SUV's likelihood of rolling over, and was paid $2 million by the car company -- the check delivered by Martin Posner -- to disappear. And he doesn't want to bring his new life crashing down by coming to testify. He won't have to. Eli's taped the conversation, and plays the tape for Posner and the client, and suggests -- with a little fancy lawyerin' and chest poundin' (in a lawyerly way) that the client settle so what he and Posner did doesn't end up coming to light. It's a great scene -- both well-written and well played, showing how "new Eli" is coming into his own by using his old shark techniques for a new outcome. It develops Eli's storyline effectively, and sheds a little of that disjointedness and confusion that's overwhelmed Eli's actions since he started seeing the visions. It's a logical progression, sure, but it's nice to see that next stretch of his arc, and it feels like we're moving forward with him -- the pieces are snapping together.
And so it's a settlement -- for $5 million. Afterward, Posner confronts Patti, saying he knows she was the one who gave up Stanley Lime, and he doesn't understand why she continues to punish him, since she's barely acknowledged his existence in five years -- since they broke up. Ultimately, in an episode all about second chances and new beginnings, Patti refuses to consider giving their relationship one more try. I don't know about you, but I didn't see that one coming. It's another really nice scene. At first I didn't quite buy their chemistry, but by the last part of their exchange, I totally got it.
And now, for the punch line: Eli's summoned to Wetherby and Posner's office, where they inform him that the car company has filed a grievance against him based on his song-and-dance performance in court. A prosecutor has been appointed, and disbarment proceedings have been recommended.
What did you think? Will Eli be able to continue practicing law? Does no good deed go unpunished? And are you finding that the twists and turns of the cases are keeping things interesting, or do they seem unbelieveable?