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Ally McBeal
Season One

1.17 "Theme of Life"
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  • Episode Number: 17
  • Original Air Date: March 09, 1998
  • Written by: David E. Kelley
  • Directed by: Dennie Gordon
  • Guest Cast:
    • Jesse L. Martin (Dr. Greg Butters)
    • Liz Torres (Hannah Goldstein)
    • Dawn Stern (Jeannette)
    • John Fink (President of Brigham Health Management)
    • Paul Guilfoyle (Attorney Henry Lane)
    • Tracey Ullman (Dr. Tracy Clark)
    • Dyan Cannon (Judge Jennifer 'Whipper' Cone)
    • Linda Gehringer (Attorney General Janet Reno)
    • Don Perry (Foreman)
    • Sally Wingert (Tour Guide)
    • Bonnie Cheeseman (Dancing Pedestrian)
    • Marilyn Child (Dancing Pedestrian)
    • John Duerler (Dancing Pedestrian)
    • Geoffrey B. Nimmer (Dancing Pedestrian)
    • JoAnn Fregalette Jansen (Dancing Pedestrian)
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Detailed summary
Along with Renee and Georgia, Ally takes up kickboxing to deal with the stress of preparing for a trial in which she is defending Dr. Greg Butters, an attractive young surgeon accused of transplanting a pig's liver into a woman without her permission. Noticing Ally's limp after a workout, Cage recommends she see his therapist (instead of kickboxing), but Ally declines.
In court, Hanna Goldstein testifies that Dr. Butters could have saved her life in several ways that didn't involve a "big fat hog." Later, when Ally walks Dr. Butters to his car, he is clearly attracted to her, but she is distracted by the trial and by another appearance of the annoying dancing baby. Ally walks home alone. Then, along the way, she sees Fish and Janet Reno giggling together as they dash into a nearby apartment building.
The next morning, Ally tells Georgia and Billy about Fish and Reno, and wonders whether she should tell Whipper. Before she can decide, Cage whisks her back to court to prep Dr. Butters for his testimony. Later, at a lunchtime kickboxing workout, the trainer assigns Ally and Georgia to fight each other. They are both skeptical, but agree to a match the next day. Meanwhile, Whipper confronts Fish about Reno and tells him to leave. Fish commiserates with his colleagues, and Billy suggests that Fish may be fooling around with Reno because he's running from his true feelings for Whipper.
Back in court, Dr. Butters testifies that the hog liver was the best option for Hanna. Under cross-examination, however, the opposing counsel gets him to admit he would have lost a major grant had he not put a pig liver into someone by the end of the year. Ally is furious Dr. Butters never told her about this little detail.
Later, after being dogged by the dancing baby and, more recently, sensations that she is swimming through an underwater version of her world, Ally finally goes to see Cage's therapist, Dr. Clark, who tells Ally all she needs is a good theme song. Back in court, Ally tells Dr. Butters they might be able to settle Hanna's complaint. But Dr. Butters isn't interested. Whipper confronts Janet Reno, who is touring the courthouse. Reno denies that Fish ever came on to her and calls Whipper a "bitch" for interfering.
Ally goes back to Dr. Clark with a theme song choice, but Dr. Clark says she needs something peppier, like her song (The Cufflinks' "Tracy"). Ally then suggests, "Tell Him," which Dr. Clark approves.
That night, everyone gathers at the kickboxing gym. Ally and Georgia square off tentatively at first, but gradually become more aggressive, with each of them landing major blows to the other as their friends, especially Billy, watch uncomfortably. The match ends in a mutual knockdown.
The next morning, Fish pleads with Whipper to forgive him and take him back. Whipper lets him touch her one last time, but then tells him good-bye for good.
On her way to court, Ally hums her theme song, and finds herself dancing a bit to it too. It's so catchy, in fact, that the whole crowd on a street corner begins to dance with her. At the trial, Cage closes by telling the jury that Dr. Butters saved Hanna's life with the transplant, which is all that counts. Later, waiting for the verdict to come in, Elaine comforts Fish on his breakup and offers him physical comfort if he wants it. Georgia and Ally congratulate each other on the good kickboxing fight. When the jury returns, the verdict is for Dr. Butters. He thanks Ally and proposes dinner. She accepts, still very attracted to him. Whipper watches wistfully as Dr. Butters gives Ally a small kiss. Then Ally and Georgia, still stiff and bruised, hobble off together to get a beer.

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