As it so often does, baseball brings people together this week on Eli Stone. Though while Ken Burns, Crash Davis and many Americans would argue in favor of baseball’s magic, I think it’s rarely a sign of destiny. Thank goodness for television.
Magical moments of spoilers ahead…
Eli and Nate are jogging along, talking about a baseball game that Nate’s desperate for them to attend, when Eli has a vision. It’s Katie Holmes, slinking about on a dance floor in a black velvet catsuit while singing Duke Ellington’s "Hit Me with a Hot Note." I hated Chicago (though, oddly, one of the characters this week is played by an actress named Roxanne Hart), and the number doesn’t really appeal to me, but I will say that Holmes seems a much more capable dancer than Catherine Zeta Jones, and she looks great. It is, however, a long long way from Joey Potter belting out Cheap Trick’s "I Want You to Want Me" on an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
After consulting with Dr. Chen, who suggests that the vision may be meant to bring him joy, Eli decides to follow the signs and look for a connection to the woman or Duke Ellington. And in walks a client (Ken Howard), whose son died in Iraq and who wants to prevent the Army from giving him a military burial. His son wouldn’t want it, he says, even though his wife is insisting. The son, Daniel, died as the result of a heart condition.
Nate and Eli make it to the baseball game, and Eli spots a woman (Katie Holmes) in the process of angering a lot of people by spilling her drinks and food all over them. A sympathetic Eli creates a diversion, ends up covered in slushy and various fluids, and then they meet cute. Her name is Grace, and she’s a lawyer for an organization called Lawyers Without Limits. Later we find out other pertinent information: someone anonymously mailed her the ticket to the baseball game, she used to be a bankruptcy lawyer before she changed careers, and she’s leaving for Kenya in two days. But Eli’s good with deadlines, and with making the impossible happen. It’s not really a surprise that he talks her into a date
Meanwhile, a recovered Jordan has some pretty drastic ideas about the direction of the firm. He wants to decrease the client load and focus on a "more noble clientele" — including a kind of hippocratic oath regarding their clients — representing only those who do no harm. Essentially, he wants the whole firm to operate in the spirit of a pro bono department — which, predictably, does not go over well with partners Martin and Marcy. They aren’t moved by Jordan’s argument that they started the firm to promote ideals that they haven’t lived up to, and they file suit to freeze Jordan’s authority and prevent him from pitching his idea to all of the partners, pending a full psychological workup.
As the case of the soldier’s arguing parents unfolds, we learn that the father is a former military man who finally told his son, whose ambition was to become a surgeon, that he was proud of him when he joined the ROTC. The father swears that a military funeral is not what his son wanted — despite a video of a handsome, smiling young soldier who talked about his C.O., Sgt. Ellington, putting him in for a medal, and about building a swimming pool for a community center. The video arrived the week before he was due home. Eli senses something, and questions the father about his connection to Sgt. Ellington. It turns out that the father had served with Sgt. Ellington, who helped Danny through his enlistment process, finding a sympathetic doctor who didn’t mention the heart condition.
Pressed by Eli to talk about how he knows that a military funeral wasn’t what Danny wanted, the father produces a letter that Danny sent him a couple of days before he died. Danny described a patrol in which he and his fellow soldiers were separating families and dragging parents away from their children at gunpoint. In watching a father who fought not to be separated from his son, Danny wrote, he envied that boy, whose father would never have pulled strings to put his son in harm’s way. "You said I’d learn about myself if I went to war," he wrote, "And what I’ve learned is that I’m not you. I’m not a soldier. Every time I put this uniform on I feel a little sicker. And I wanted you to know that."
Heartbreaking. And powerful enough to cause the judge to rule in favor of the father.
On the Grace front, she and Eli go to dinner — which of course turns out to be the same restaurant from Eli’s vision. They end up dancing to "Hit Me With a Hot Note." And she demurs from telling Eli why she changed her career path and her life two years ago. Let’s not complicate things, she says.
Eli has a hunch, and follows up on it at Nate’s — and we’re rewarded with another really lovely scene between Jonny Lee Miller and Matt Letscher, who are just a pleasure to watch together. Their chemistry really feels like a fraternal bond, and in this scene it’s quite touching. Eli figures out that it was Nate who bought the ticket for Grace and sent it to her, knowing that she and Eli should meet. Nate found their father’s journal, which among many other things on "a crazy person’s to do list" included the date of the game and the name and address of the person to send the ticket to. His father was writing years ago about Eli now — including the bargain he made to get the aneurysm back. Through his journal, their father was trying to let Eli know that he’s not alone, and that he can still be happy.
It turns out that Grace has a heart condition — the same condition that Danny had — which is rare, hereditary, and can lead to sudden death. She and Eli have a lot in common — and he’s inspired to go to the airport to catch Grace before she gets on her plane for Kenya. He knows her secret, he tells her, and maybe he’s supposed to convince her to stay. "The guy with the defective brain and the girl with the defective heart," she says. "When are we off to see the Wizard?" But their meeting wasn’t for nothing, even though they’re not going to be together now, she says. It’s a reminder for both of them that there’s someone else like them. And with this last exchange he gave her what she only gets to see other people have — a magical moment in the airport with someone she cares about.
A side note: It would be so easy to write a whole treatise about Katie Holmes and what her promising career could be without the circus of the last couple of years surrounding her. As one who’s seen virtually every episode of Dawson, I think it’s easy to see how much she’s matured. She was more interesting in this episode than I was prepared to give her credit for, and I look forward to getting the chance to see her again, stunt casting or no.
What did you think? Do you find that the plot devices of this show tie together just a little bit too neatly, or does the fanciful element still appeal to you? Any early bets on what will happen to Jordan and the firm?