Boston Legal reviews and comments
“Live Big” — “Shock and Oww!” — “Stick It”
Originally published in the April 2006 ORACLE newsletter
During February and March , René’s character on Boston Legal, Paul Lewiston, was prominently featured in a three-episode story arc. The storyline was wonderful in several ways.
First, in most of the first season and a half of Boston Legal, Paul has been used as a background character. He is shown as a practical, dependable member of the staff of Crane, Poole, & Schmidt, helping to run the place and often providing a voice of reason to counter the flamboyant, risk-taking behaviors of Alan Shore and Denny Crane. Up until this story arc, Paul usually appeared in only one or two short scenes per episode, and usually all he did was criticize the actions of the other lawyers. But this three-story arc was about Paul and his adult daughter, Rachel, so we got to see a whole new side of Paul, and he appeared in many scenes per episode.
Second, all three stories were strongly written and wonderfully acted by René and Jayne Brook as Rachel. It was fascinating to see new aspects of Paul’s character revealed, and to watch René’s masterful performances, especially in some very emotionally intense scenes.
Third, the storyline provided an intriguing exploration of a complex social issue—drug abuse and the effect it has on the lives of the abuser and her family.
Finally, the story of Paul and Rachel, and particularly the third episode in the arc, prompted a lot of passionate, intelligent discussion in our online discussion forum for René’s fans, RAFL (The René Auberjonois Fanfic List), which has been highly entertaining and thought-provoking for everyone involved.
On the following pages, I’ve collected articles and reviews of this series of Boston Legal episodes. Also, with the permission of the participating members, I’ll share some of the comments and discussion posted on RAFL.
Enjoy! — Marguerite
“Live Big” (episode 16)
Air date: Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Promotional blurb from official Boston Legal website:
While trying to woo her back, Shirley Schmidt’s ex-husband, Ivan Tiggs (Tom Selleck), wants her to be his ‘best man’ at his upcoming wedding with an annoyingly perky woman. Meanwhile, Paul Lewiston’s estranged daughter, Rachel, who he claims blindly stole from him to feed her drug and alcohol habits, comes back into his life after seven years. And Alan Shore defends a man who said he was only complying with his wife’s wishes when he assisted in ending her life.
Entertainment Weekly • Issue #856 • February 24, 2006
Television “What to Watch” section
Tuesday, February 21 • Boston Legal
Tom. Selleck. Sings. Is a melody from Magnum reason enough to tune in to the series currently known as “the show bumped from its time slot by Grey’s Anatomy”? Hell, yes. But this episode also offers a stirring performance by René Auberjonois, as a father who reconnects with his daughter after seven years. Still, the highlight is watching guest Selleck as Candice Bergen’s ex-hubby, who banters brilliantly (and sings not so brilliantly) while trying to woo the former missus. If only Higgins were here for a little soft-shoe.
synopsis of the Paul-Rachel subplot — by Marguerite
Paul and Shirley are at a nightclub, enjoying a drink and listening to a singer on stage. The young woman sings sweetly about being thankful to her parents for watching over her when she was growing up, with specific lyrics that say “Thank you, Daddy,” for waiting up for her when she was out on a date, helping with her homework, and so on. As she sings, we clearly see Paul react to the song: he seems surprised, then shaken, then almost grief-stricken. When it ends, Shirley notices Paul’s distress, but he brushes aside her concern, saying only that he is a sucker for sentimental songs.
The next day, Paul is still brooding, and Shirley pushes him for an explanation. He says that the song felt like it was aimed right at him, because it reminded him so strongly of the relationship he once enjoyed with his daughter, Rachel. He hasn’t spoken to Rachel for seven years, because she kept stealing money from him to support her drug addiction. He got her into the best drug treatment program he could find, but she wouldn’t stick with it, so he cut off all contact with her. Shirley gently suggests that a lot can change in seven years, and perhaps Paul should try to contact his daughter.
Paul goes to Rachel’s home and knocks on the door. When she answers, she looks at his serious expression and says, coolly, “Who died?” He says no one has died, he just wanted to see her, and then he notices a little girl peeking out from behind Rachel.
Paul asks, “And who is this?”
Rachel replies, “Your granddaughter.”
Inside Rachel’s small, somewhat cluttered apartment, Rachel tells her father a few details about her current situation; that she never had a serious relationship with the father of her daughter, Fiona, but he does pay child support for the three-year-old. It quickly becomes clear that Rachel harbors deep resentment over the way she feels Paul abandoned her seven years before, and Paul seems equally hurt and angry that Rachel would have hidden the existence of his granddaughter from him. They part, both furious.
The next day, Rachel shows up at Paul’s office. She says it doesn’t matter to her if he wants to appear and disappear from her life with no warning, but it is important to Fiona, who has asked when Grandpa is going to visit again. They break into a full-blown, shouting, fingers-pounding-desk argument, throwing accusations and blame at each other, neither acknowledging the other’s pain, until Rachel finally storms out again.
Later, at the nightclub, Shirley listens to Paul’s story with sympathy, and expresses her opinion that he really had no choice, seven years ago; his financial and emotional support was enabling Rachel to continue her drug use. By cutting her off the way he did, he most likely contributed to her hitting bottom and finally getting off drugs, which means he quite possibly saved her life. Paul wonders if Rachel will ever forgive him.
A day or two later, we see Paul walking in a sunlit park. Throughout this scene, we hear no dialogue, just the show’s background music. Paul comes to the top of a hill and looks down at a playground, where Rachel is pushing Fiona on a swing. The camera’s point of view remains on the hilltop as Paul walks down to the playground. Fiona sees him first, and her reaction causes Rachel to turn around. She and her father exchange a few words; then, tentatively, Paul takes a step toward her, one hand outstretched. Rachel steps toward him, and then they are hugging tightly, Paul patting her back, as the scene ends.
RAFL members write:
Boston Legal—wow! And not just René: the whole episode was good!
(But especially René!)
Wow, Wow, Wow —
I have had people coming in all day telling me how good it was. Most of them starting out with the usual, “Boy that René—how do you say his last name?—Wow!”
He made me cry. The scene at the end in the park…he acts with his whole body, no question.
I sure hope they keep giving him things to do. I am certainly wanting more….
What a superbly devastating story!
The whole episode was excellent, as I’m coming to expect from Boston Legal, though with far less “silly quotient” than some of the shows have. Even Shirley’s mostly humorous storyline took some serious turns, and the Alzheimer case was mostly serious (appropriately so), too.
But Paul and Rachel—what a pair they are! Like father, like daughter…proud, stubborn, self-righteous, passionate…. The face-off in Paul’s office, when they’re pounding the desk at each other and stabbing accusations at each other: fantastic! And before that, in Rachel’s apartment, the fury shaking in Paul’s voice as he comments on how angry Rachel must be, to have denied him knowledge of Fiona’s birth: absolutely perfect. It’s so completely obvious how much these two people love each other—and how deeply each has wounded the other, and how heart-breakingly difficult it is to overcome that level of mutual pain and disappointment and regret and loss. You get the impression that they’re constantly, consciously aware of having wasted seven years that they can never retrieve…and neither knows how to get past the anger and resentment. But they want to.
Devastating. And brilliant!
As for the opening scene, Paul and Shirley at the nightclub, with the young singer and her “Thank you, Daddy,” song….this is where words fail me. It’s just a sappy song…. but we, the audience, can see the instant one of the lyrics grabs Paul’s attention, and see how each following word and phrase stabs a knife into his heart, then twists the blade… and not only do we see it, but somehow we’re sucked into it with him, so that the knife is twisting in our gut, too.
And the thing is, up until this episode, there has been little if any indication that Paul even had a heart! And certainly no hint that he might have a child (other than the brief allusions to his once having a wife, from which one might infer possible offspring) or what kind of relationship they might or might not have. So there’s really been no set up for us to care about Paul on any personal level.
Yet in the course of, what? 45 seconds? 30 seconds? of watching René’s marvelously subtle expression shift as Paul reacts to a few lines of song, we’re totally engaged, caught in the moment with this character, helplessly sharing Paul’s heartbreak—over we don’t even know what!
I am amazed and impressed by the way this story tears out the audience’s heart, throws it on the ground, and stomps on it a few times. Powerful stuff!
“Shock and Oww!” (episode 18)
Air date: Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Promotional blurb from official Boston Legal website:
Denny Crane finds just the right thing to cure his depression after his one-day-old marriage falls apart: The case of a man arrested for electrocuting and paralyzing a burglar. Meanwhile Shirley Schmidt seeks Alan Shore’s help when nude photos of her taken by a famous photographer are put up for auction. And a suspicious Paul Lewiston asks Brad Chase to befriend his daughter to find out if she’s still using drugs.
“Shock and Oww!”
synopsis of the Paul-Rachel subplot — by Marguerite
Paul meets with Rachel and Fiona at a coffee shop. Paul greets them warmly, explaining that he’s already ordered coffee for Rachel and hot chocolate for Fiona. Rachel thanks him but says they can only stay a minute; talking very quickly, she says they’re running late because it took a while to find the boots Fiona wanted to wear, and she has to drop Fiona off at her new day care before going to work. Paul suggests he could drop Fiona off, if that would help, but Rachel assures him she can manage. She also shows him the list of questions she used in choosing the day care center, and Paul compliments her on her thoroughness. Both of them seem to be making a sincere effort to be on their best behavior with one another, and Paul seems quite besotted with Fiona, who is a giggling charmer and calls him “Pawpaw.” Rachel declares that they have to run, but then can’t find her keys, until Fiona reminds her they’re in her pocket. Rachel then mentions that, in the rush to leave the house, she seems to have misplaced her ATM card, and asks Paul if he can loan her $40. Paul says “Of course,” digs out his wallet, hands over the cash, and waves goodbye to Fiona as her mother hurries her out the door. After they’re gone, we see the smile fade from Paul’s place, to be replaced by a look of grim concern.
Paul goes to Shirley’s office and announces that he thinks Rachel is using drugs again. Shirley warns him that this is a serious accusation, especially considering he and his daughter just embarked on a new relationship that is still very fragile, and asks him what proof he has. Paul describes how Rachel arrived 20 minutes late for their planned meeting at the coffee shop, and how disorganized and rushed she was; Shirley points out that he’s just described every single working mother in the country. Then Paul describes Rachel’s request for $40, and explains that crystal meth users live their lives in $40 increments—cash. But Shirley is still concerned that Paul’s past history with his daughter is coloring his current perceptions of her, and recommends that he needs more evidence; otherwise, if he’s wrong, he could ruin any hope of building a healthy relationship with his daughter and granddaughter.
Paul calls Brad into his office, and says that if he has learned anything in the past year, it’s that Brad is a man who will get the job done, whatever it takes. He asks that Brad, somehow, find out whether or not Rachel is still using drugs.
Brad goes to the bookshop where Rachel works, dressed casually in old military fatigues, and asks her for help finding books about beating addiction. Rachel reacts with cautious friendliness, helps him choose some books and then, when he compliments her on her knowledge, mentions that she’s been clean for over five years. He asks if they can talk more later, and she agrees to meet him after work.
Rachel takes Brad to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Brad pretends to be just starting to think about maybe getting clean; Rachel appears calm, confident, and contented, a woman who knows what it is to be an addict, but also knows that it’s possible to get clean, if you’re willing to open up and be honest. Brad says it’s not easy to open up; Rachel says you can if you try, and that she knows she doesn’t want to live all closed up, like her father. Brad listens sympathetically as she talks about how her dad is cold and distant, always keeping his emotions tightly contained, “in his pocket with his watch,” and that, even on the rare occasion he did open up to her, he only wanted her to say the things he wanted to hear. Rachel thinks that’s a terrible way to live.
The next day, Brad reports to Paul that he is absolutely sure his daughter is not taking drugs. He enthusiastically talks about how great Rachel is, smart and funny and completely in control of her life, admirable in every way. Paul, cautiously relieved, thanks Brad for his help. Brad starts to leave, then pauses and suggests that Paul might want to try opening up to Rachel, showing her some trust and support, but Paul sternly informs him that he doesn’t need Brad’s advice on how to be a father. Brad backs off and says a few other complimentary things about Rachel and how she is so calm and collected, and even kept her head when she realized she just lost her ATM card. Paul, instantly suspicious again, asks Brad what he’s talking about. Brad, obviously unaware that his story might have any significance, says, “She lost her ATM card, so I loaned her $40.”
Paul shows up on Rachel’s doorstep, explaining that he just finished a lunch meeting in the neighborhood and decided to drop by. She’s surprised by his impromptu visit; he says, “People change,” to which she replies, “Yeah, they do.” He offers to take Fiona to visit the aquarium, and Rachel says that would be fine, and they can leave in a few minutes to pick her up from day care. Paul asks to use the bathroom; once inside, he swiftly searches the whole room, looking in the medicine cabinet, bath tub, trash can, inside of the toilet tank, and under all the towels piled on shelves on one wall. He finds a small bundle and unwraps it, revealing a quick glimpse of what might be glass or metal instruments; whatever it is, it’s significant to Paul. Face contorted with fury, he storms back into the kitchen and shouts at Rachel, “You have a child!” and displays the bundle to her. She tries to snatch it back from him, swearing at him for setting her up. He fights off her attempt to grab the bundle and storms out the door as she pounds on his back, then flings a laundry basket after him as he leaves. Rachel is left standing alone in her kitchen, running her hands through her hair.
RAFL members write:
I love the complexity of this story! I think this episode did a fantastic job of keeping us uncertain about what is really going on. Is Paul being a manipulative control freak, paranoid about Rachel’s history of drug use and therefore seeing problems where they no longer exist? Or is Paul right, and Rachel is the lying, manipulative one, putting on a false face of pleasant normalcy for her co-workers at the bookstore and her friends at Narcotics Anonymous to hide the fact that she’s still hooked on meth?
As I watched the episode, my perceptions kept swinging back and forth. Shouldn’t we trust Paul, he’s intelligent and reasonable and he knows his daughter and is painfully familiar with all the signs and symptoms of drug addiction…? But no, he can’t be right, Rachel looks so normal, and she obviously loves Fiona and wouldn’t endanger her… Yet that excuse about losing her ATM card is so transparent, she must be scamming Paul and Brad for drug money… But wait, $40 is a standard “fast cash” amount at many ATMs, maybe that’s why she asked for that particular amount, it probably has nothing to do with drugs….
Arggghh! What’s going on? What’s the truth here?
Paul certainly has his flaws, which we saw in full force in “Live Big”—his quick temper, his tendency to be self-righteous and judgmental, and his poor listening skills, at least where his daughter is concerned. Part of the problem, too, may be that he and Rachel have similar temperments: when they start to argue, they just “blow up” and throw accusations back and forth, rather than actually listening to the other person’s viewpoint.
Anyway, at this point I feel like I’d better keep a completely open mind. Paul could turn out to be the villain, mistrusting his daughter for a bunch of wrong reasons, and Rachel turn out to be a noble, innocent victim.
But—addicts of all kinds—people dependent on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, or whatever—develop amazing ways of justifying and maintaining their addiction. They delude themselves, and they lie to everyone around them. When Rachel said her dad was emotionally distant…was he, really? Or has she just conveniently chosen to forget the love he has showed over the years, in order to win the sympathy of people like Brad? And because it’s easier to scream “I hate you!” at him than to recognize and accept responsibility for the obvious, intense pain she has caused him with all her years of addiction?
René’s acting never ceases to amaze me. In this episode, the expressiveness of his face was so wonderful! In the scene in a coffee shop with his daughter and granddaughter, when he’s speaking directly to the little girl, Fiona, he’s warm and bright-eyed and smiling…then, when he’s speaking to Rachel, the smile is still there but he’s more reserved, more cautious…and as soon as Rachel and Fiona leave, his expression goes instantly serious because he’s wondering if Rachel is really clean, or using again. And every time, the shifts in his expression are both seamless and subtle, yet also crystal clear in conveying the character’s complex emotions.
Later, in the scene when Brad assures Paul that Rachel is clean, there are similarly quick and complex shifts in Paul’s expression that clearly communicate his shifting thoughts and emotions. He’s grateful to Brad, then annoyed with him, then politely pleased to hear Brad praise Rachel, then alarmed at new evidence that Rachel may be using drugs… and it all goes by very fast, yet is all written right there on René’s face. You could turn off the sound on the TV, and still know exactly what’s going on in the scene, on an emotional level, just by reading Paul’s expression.
Agreed about all of René’s work in this episode. Excellent stuff. It’s nice to see BL building into a real ensemble show at last. I think Mark Valley had even less to do last season than René did, but now Brad is becoming the go-to guy any time somebody needs an “action hero,” just like Alan is the go-to guy for weird ways of gaming the system. Nice.
Rachel, in her conversations with Brad, does claim that her father was emotionally distant. Rachel is not an unlikeable character. She doesn’t seem to be overtly irresponsible with her child (at least, not yet). The audience already knows that Paul keeps a lid on his emotions, sometimes until he snaps—so the scenario you propose is a believable one. There are certainly two sides (at least) to this situation.
I think we should not lose sight of the fact that just because Paul is being played by René doesn’t make Paul a fair person or a good person or an emotionally “aware” person. Knowing the producer, I’d bet that he’s going to be in shades of gray, like everybody else on board. Rachel might be manipulative, but Paul certainly is, he’s been that several times already…like the good lawyer and firm partner that he is.
In fact we might all come to hate Paul, or love him totally, or more probably feel ambiguous about him. In any case it’s good to see at long last René’s talent put to good use on this great show.
I realize that there is a fine line that Paul must walk here. Having said that, there is no right in heaven or earth that justifies endangering a child.
If Rachel is using drugs and it impairs her judgment, then she might not be up to the task of caring for her child. And there is yet another facet of addiction when children are involved. The addicted do not have families. The addicted take hostages.
“Feed my child because my irresponsible behavior has left me without the money to buy food.”
Even as you are trying to save them from drowning, they are taking you down with them.
So, which is easier to do? Intervene before something tragic happens? Or wait until something tragic does happen and live your life regretting not having done something about it?
In the long run, if Rachel truly does love her child, then she will see that her father’s actions are the actions of a parent who is truly concerned and who is acting from love.
I read Paul’s face and I knew that he suspected the moment his daughter asked for money. And I applaud Paul’s actions so far. He has not gone off the deep end and openly accused his daughter of going back on drugs, even though, in his own mind, the clues are there.
Instead, he has opted to investigate and make sure before he proceeds any further. If he does find out that she is on drugs again, then he will have to consider whatever options he has available to him.
And if he does decide to intervene, then Paul will be my hero.
“Stick It” (episode 19)
Air date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Promotional blurb from official Boston Legal website:
When Alan Shore’s secretary, Melissa (Marisa Coughlan), is arrested for tax evasion, he takes on the case of this outspoken girl who says her late, patriotic grandfather would be proud of her for challenging the government. Meanwhile, after a blind date with Shirley Schmidt’s nephew goes badly, Denise Bauer hopes her love life will improve when she meets a cute policeman. And Paul Lewiston decides to stage an intervention for his crystal-meth-using daughter, insisting that a reluctant Brad Chase help him.
synopsis of the Paul-Rachel subplot — by Marguerite
In his office, Paul informs Shirley that he is convinced that Rachel is still using drugs, and that he has decided to stage an intervention. He has hired professionals who are experienced at getting people into rehab who don’t want to go, and he will take custody of Fiona himself. Shirley asks him if he is absolutely sure he wants to do this, and Paul says, “There’s a child involved. What other choice do I have?”
Later, Paul briefs the two rough-looking, burly men who will help him ensure that Rachel goes to the rehab facility, with Shirley and Brad looking on. He explains to the men that they’ll get Rachel the next day, while Fiona is at school, and that they should not expect his daughter to go quietly. Paul tells Brad that, if the police raise any questions, he expects Brad’s full support for his decision. Brad, however, refuses to cooperate, saying that he never saw Rachel use drugs or give any indication that she was an unfit mother, and he doesn’t agree with what Paul plans to do.
Paul goes to Rachel’s apartment. He tells her he feels terrible about how they left things on his last visit, but Rachel is unimpressed. Paul says he understands that Rachel thinks she can manage her drug use, but he wants her to check herself into a rehab facility. Rachel says, “Yeah, I’ll think about it.” Paul tries to raise the issue of her responsibility toward Fiona, but Rachel says it’s more important for a parent to be there than to be sober. Paul, having no reply to that, simply turns and leaves. A few seconds later, he returns, his two hired helpers right behind him. Rachel says, “What is this? Dad, what’s going on?” One of the men says, “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” and Rachel swears at him. The men close in, grabbing her by the shoulders and legs, lifting her between them, and carrying her toward the door. Rachel struggles, kicks, and grabs at Paul as she’s carried past him, screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Make them let go of me!” Paul frees his hand from her grip and is left alone in the kitchen, shoulders hunched, as the men take Rachel away.
When we next see Rachel, she is seated in a nondescript, sparsely furnished, sunlit room, calm once more, but her expression is haunted. Paul enters, and Rachel’s first question is “Where’s Fiona?” Paul replies that she is with him, safe and doing well. Rachel wants to know who Brad really was, and declares that she’s going to sue him; her lawyer says she has several grounds for action. Then she shoves a piece of paper at her father, covered with neat lines of handwriting—obviously something she spent a lot of time preparing—and starts giving him detailed instructions about how to care for Fiona, and that he is to tell Fiona she is in the hospital but not why she’s there, and that he is to bring Fiona to visit. Paul accepts the paper and the instructions without protest and, when Rachel tells him to leave, he does.
Back at the office, Paul warns Brad that Rachel plans to sue him and asks, whatever happens, that Brad do what he can to protect Paul’s relationship with Rachel. Brad wonders about protecting his own relationship with Rachel, to which Paul, startled, asks, “Do you have a relationship?” Brad replies, no, he’s just not comfortable being the bad guy. Paul suggests that hopefully they can resolve the whole situation to everyone’s satisfaction.
Brad visits Rachel, and informs her that she’s not going to sue anyone, because she doesn’t want to draw the attention of children’s services to her situation. Rachel admits that she has stayed at the rehab facility because, “This is where I belong. I’m an addict.” She wants to get clean so she can get out and get her daughter back. Brad points out that he never betrayed her; when he first agreed to help Paul, she was a stranger to him, but once he got to know her, he defended her and didn’t support Paul’s decision about the intervention. Brad and Rachel seem to reach a truce, and Rachel’s last request before Brad leaves is that he tell Paul to bring Fiona.
Finally, we see Fiona arrive at her mother’s room, escorted by Paul and Brad. She lets go of her grandfather’s hand and races into Rachel’s outstretched arms. Fiona happily tells her mother about what her grandfather has been feeding her, with Paul interjecting explanations: “I had ice cream,” “Organic,” “And a grilled cheese sandwich,” “Whole grain!” Fiona also reports that Brad “played monkey” with her; Rachel flashes a smile at Brad and says, “Yeah, he’s a big ape.” Rachel asks the men if she and Fiona can have some quiet time together, and Paul obediently withdraws. As Brad leaves, Rachel tells her daughter, “Say goodbye to the big ape,” which Fiona does.
RAFL members write:
Holy cow! If he keeps up like this maybe the Emmys will finally recognize him for the magnificent actor he is. He elevates every scene he is in to great theatre.
In any event, to echo everyone else, I am so happy they have finally remembered they have this porsche sitting in the garage and have taken him out on the road!
At the beginning of the episode, I still wasn’t sure whether or not Paul was over-reacting, and his whole determination to stage an intervention was going to turn out to be a huge mistake. But in the scene when he visits Rachel at her home, and tells her he wants her to go into rehab, and she says, “I’ll think about it”—well, at that moment I thought, “Ah ha! Paul’s instinct was right. She is still using!” And a few seconds later, when she says, in reference to being a parent, something like, “It’s better to be around than to be sober,” well, that erased any doubt for me about her current drug use.
For some people, this still may leave a question about whether Paul had the right to have Rachel dragged, literally kicking and screaming, from her home, or whether, instead, he should have spent more time trying to persuade her to voluntarily enter a rehab program. But his complete focus is on Fiona’s safety, which I, personally, think is exactly right. Rachel has obviously been “managing” her drug use just fine for some time—her house is cluttered but doesn’t seem to be an actually dangerous environment, she’s holding down a job, taking her daughter to preschool, etc. The trouble is, though, there’s no predicting when she might stop being able to cope…when she might forget that the stove is on, for instance, and end up with the house filled with gas, or on fire, or be careless in her driving when Fiona is in the car with her, or any number of other things that can happen to a drug addict—and a drug addict’s child.
Earlier, we discussed whether Paul was such a “poor parent” that his neglect might be the direct cause of Rachel’s drug use. Personally, I don’t find much evidence for that. From everything we’re seeing, Rachel might be justified in complaining that her dad is stingy with his praise, or not as emotionally demonstrative as she would prefer…but she would have to be purposefully deluding herself (and maybe she is, so as to have an excuse for her behavior) to say that there is any doubt at all that he cares deeply about her. The depth of his feelings comes out every time he’s in a room with her!
And I couldn’t help noticing how she completely takes for granted that he is fit to take care of Fiona. All she has to do is hand him a list of her favorite foods and usual routines, and she trusts him to take it from there. I can’t help thinking that if she really, deep down, believed he was a bad parent, she would insist on getting in touch with the child welfare department or, in some other way, find someone else to take primary care of her daughter. But she doesn’t do any of that. For all of her complaints and protests about how terrible Paul is, when it comes to the most important thing in her life—her child—she trusts her dad.
A really good point to mention is that it does not appear that Rachel is going to simply dump her child with Paul on a permanent basis.
And sometimes, it’s like scuba diving underwater. Perception and judgment become impaired. So, a diving buddy is essential, someone who is outside who can see the possible dangers as they approach.
Some people want to do something to intervene but they just do not know how to broach the subject. Plus, there is the possibility that it might lead to confrontational behavior that escalates.
My favorite character has always been Odo up to this point, but I’m finding more and more that Paul is my hero now.
There’s no question at all in my mind: privately hiring a couple of thugs (and they quite obviously were just that) to forcibly abduct someone—anyone—from her home, drug-use or no, is absolutely a violation of her rights, and—last time I checked—against the law. You can’t just go into someone’s home and remove them unless you are the police and have enough proof of a crime that you can make an arrest. Rachel chooses not to retaliate legally against her father because she doesn’t want to be on the radar of child social services, and this is the only reason Paul gets away with this stunt. Concern for Fiona explains Paul’s actions—but it doesn’t absolve him of anything as far as I’m concerned. There were plenty of other options he might have tried.
I might add that there was no evidence whatsoever that Fiona was being abused or even endangered. If her mother had been, say, an alcoholic rather than a drug-user, it would not be so easy to jump to those sorts of conclusions about her parenting.
Basically, Paul used
his financial resources to have Rachel “privately” arrested and committed,
rather than turning to government authorities such as the police and social
services, which is what most of us average-income folks would have to do in a
similar situation. I suspect that Paul didn’t want to deal with a messy (and
potentially embarrassing) legal bureaucracy. He might, for example, have
reported Rachel to the police or to Social Services, but he chose instead an
option that gave him total control of the situation (and kept his family’s name
out of the media). That may say any number of things about his character, not
all of them positive. Paul’s a
complex character and there are many things about him that I like, but he’s far from being anyone’s white knight here.
The situation may indeed resolve itself for the better. It certainly appears that Rachel is coming to terms with both her drug use and her father. And romance with Brad is clearly being projected on the horizon (Fiona already seems to adore “the big ape”)—but sorry, I have a real knee-jerk reaction against the idea of anyone being taken from their home without a little thing a called “due process.” Paul Lewiston isn’t any more above the law than is the Department of Homeland Security.
But, yes, absolutely, another complex and fascinating performance from our guy!
The general point here is kind of a gray area for me. Was Paul justified in taking action? Absolutely, in my opinion. Whether the particular action he took was justified and/or “right” is a little murkier for me.
I don’t have a problem with your position, Chris, I just have a harder time viewing the situation in terms of absolutes, I guess.
Rachel is, by her own admission, a drug addict—not just a casual drug user—which means, to me at least, that getting/taking the drug takes some degree of precedence over other things in her life. Now, she might have been able to compartmentalize her drug use somewhat for the time being in order to protect her daughter from direct exposure to her drug use and resulting impairment, but that doesn’t necessarily validate her parenting skills.
You’re right in that there didn’t seem to be any signs of overt abuse of the kid, but I’m considerably less sure about the possibility that she was endangering Fiona.
To me, her scattered, slightly manic behavior in the coffee shop scene could mean that she was either a) already high or b) jonesing for a fix. Either way, her behavior (and parenting skills) were already impaired to some degree, as far as I’m concernedif she was on her way to place her child in someone else’s care for a few hours—because her focus was on the drug.
Even if she never used drugs while she was around her daughter, there’s no guarantee she could or would continue to do so indefinitely, in my opinion. From what little I know on the subject, an addict who resumes using (as opposed to temporarily backsliding and then going cold turkey again) is almost sure to escalate at some point, due to the effects of physical dependency (i.e., that it becomes necessary to use more of the drug to get the same effect). So it’s just not clear to me that she isn’t endangering her daughter, or that she might be able to keep from endangering her in the future.
Her relative willingness to give up and stay in the program might represent some small crack(s) in the wall of her denial, in that she might realize that her drug use was, or might be, affecting her daughter. Then again, her surrender might be just a part of her denial—giving in long enough to get through the program, get out, and get her daughter back, so she could go right back to doing drugs again that much sooner. After all, her ability to attend NA meetings with no apparent sense of guilt while still using shows a level of denial/hypocrisy that doesn’t really bode well for her “recovery” from addiction.
For me, the fact that she can admit to being an addict and yet still continue to use drugs shows a certain lack of regard for her own health and well-being, and, by extension, that of her daughter. So, I guess I really just don’t get how her using/abusing drugs might be considered different from her using/abusing alcohol in terms of its effects on her parenting skills.
It might have been murky for me five years ago, but in this age of NSA wiretaps and indefinite detentions, I’ve lost my sense of gray in a lot of these areas. I’m disturbed by the idea that anyone could abduct a person from her own home and forcibly confine her, without warrant, without trial, without anything resembling a fair hearing. That, to me, is not okay just because the person being abducted and confined is a drug addict—especially given that we have no clear evidence that this person is a danger to anyone.
There’s a reason, I think, that this episode kicks off with a couple of trenchcoated government goons bringing their guns and handcuffs into the CP&S offices to arrest Alan’s manifestly non-threatening secretary. The massive government over-reaction to one citizen’s tax evasion is comic—but also terrifying. What chance does one person have against that kind of force? The seizure of Rachel by the thugs her father hires for his drug “intervention” is an unfunny and far more terrifying presentation of the same theme. The whole episode is riddled with suspect authority figures, from the fake cop who pulls Denise over to Mr. Paul Lewiston, who, when push comes to shove, does not operate by the procedures that he lectures others about, but does an end-run around the letter of the law.
Crystal meth and other such drugs are, of course, different from alcohol in the sense that it’s illegal to use or possess them, but what we saw of Rachel did not look that different, to me, from anything one might expect from an alcoholic parent. Is she more likely to commit abuse or neglect than some other parent? That’s possible, but the last time I checked, legal custody of children isn’t based on the likelihood that you might do something, it’s based on actual behavior. Any parent can have an unsafe house, fall asleep with a lighted cigarette, forget to turn the stove off, leave a child unattended in a bathtub, keep an aggressive dog, etc. One need not be a drug user (or addict) to momentarily (or regularly) neglect the welfare of a child. Plenty of perfectly sober people are also abusive parents. This is why it would have been important to contact Social Services, so that Rachel’s case could have been investigated by people who are trained to recognize environments that are dangerous to children.
As a parent myself, I can only too well imagine the panic that a grandparent might experience upon learning that a grandchild is in the custody of a drug-using parent. But there are many, many unfit parents in this world, and certainly they do not all have their children taken from them. Rachel deserved some benefit of the doubt and certainly did not deserve to be dragged forcibly out of her own home. I suppose an arrest by the police would probably have been just as traumatic in some ways, but the fact that Paul set himself up as the sole arbiter of the law in this case did not sit well with me, and I can’t overlook it.
I guess I’m also a bit suspicious about the supposed purity of Paul’s motives here. His reluctance to go to the police or to social services (“I can’t allow for that”) suggest a desire to keep the family honor unsullied and potential scandal swept under the carpet. His insistence that Brad lie to the police (“I need your cooperation…and I will have it”) suggests a man with serious control issues. I actually have to say bravo to Brad—a character I often find annoying—for refusing to play along.
This storyline put me in mind of the “cult deprogrammings” of the 1970s and 80s, when parents sometimes hired “agents” to take their kids out of fringe religious groups and “un-brainwash” them. Or of young adults who are sent into “scared straight” discipline/rehab camps nowadays. Whatever the motives of the parents in these cases, I have a strong visceral reaction to simply stripping people of all their rights and freedom of movement in this way, without even a hearing. In the bad old days, people used to be committed to mental institutions in a similar fashion, without any say in it themselves. We have laws and procedures in place to investigate child abuse and other criminal behaviors. I don’t see the need to brutalize people and treat them like animals based only on suspicions.
Paul is a private citizen, not the government, so the NSA, wiretaps, and all these other things really don’t have anything to do with this action of his. He can’t violate her rights in that sense. You could try to arrest him but that is probably not going to work.
Paul is presented as a reasonably savvy lawyer who certainly has familiarity with the government systems. If you expect social services and the police to intervene in an ambiguous situation like this, that is a sad misconception. Their process is so bogged down that the result is the carnage of children who encounter the social service system that we read about frequently on the front pages—or on the Net. There are procedures for involuntary commitment, but Paul’s daughter would has not been committed under any of them.
The more interesting question for me now is, how does the managing partner of a law firm care for his granddaughter on a day to day parental basis while his daughter is in rehab? This should present some interesting issues and challenges. Hire a nanny, bring her to the office, take “family leave??” Can’t wait to see how they deal with that. Could be rather humorous—a sort of de-sourpussing of Paul.
Funny, I see people here saying: Rachel seems an okay mother, but there is no telling how long it is before she endangers her daughter. Is that ground for thug action? It reminds me of a certain government’s policy of doing preemptive strikes before they are attacked.
My next door neighbour bought a shot-gun yesterday, perhaps I should go and kill him—there is no telling what he’ll do with it, especially since we don’t agree on the color of the flowers around the building.
Rachel seems to be a good mother, with a very responsible attitude. And guys…the fact that she is going to a support group but still taking the stuff means she is fighting, only so far she hasn’t won her war, but she’s fighting. It does not mean that she is careless. You don’t quit the stuff in a day.
As for Paul, I think he is the one who needs help: he made a mistake in letting his daughter down and she did hit bottom alone. Then he comes back into her life out of the blue, when he decides to, and is angry that she did not tell him he had a granddaughter. Well, this is her life, it’s her daughter, and her father did let her down.
And suddenly Paul thinks she might be taking the stuff. He does not open a dialogue, but he acts in a way that is violent, brutal, illegal, and of course he thinks of protecting his reputation (shocking: a lawyer with a drug addict daughter!). He made a mistake once, now he’s taking things into his own hands, even if no one asked him to, even if his daughter is already trying to get off the stuff, even if he is not sure of anything, and doesn’t know why she took drugs in the first place which, in my opinion, should be the first question on his mind.
Paul is protecting his reputation, trying to protect his self respect—he made a mistake once, it also seems he has issues with his wife’s death. What he does is despicable. he could have taken Rachel to see a specialist, he could have talked to her: is she making progress thanks to that support group? How can he help? Does she need a vacation? Does she take a lot of meth?
As for the little girl, I’m sorry, but it seems Paul jumps at the opportunity to have her for himself—perhaps that’s the key to the whole thing. He is smitten with the kid, like any grandparent is, but every grandparent does not push away the mother of the child. He is only the grandparent. He has no rights over her (not that legality seems to bother him when it’s about his own problems). But I doubt he’d be given custody in reality (and in legality): he is single, at the age of retirement, and he is a man with big emotional problems, a lot of bitterness, and a lot of work.
He just reappeared in Rachel’s life to violate her private life, her freedom, commit kidnapping…sorry, Rachel did not need him, he failed her once and she is already fighting her war against drugs.
As for his “You stole from me!” in front of little Fiona—gosh, that man is indeed very much aware of how kids react: you don’t say that in front of a 3-year-old! Everybody knows that, yet Rachel had to tell him. Who is qualified to take care of the kid?
Rachel might need more help, but she’s certainly open to the idea and could very probably be talked into doing something more than going to her support group.
If this behaviour is typical of Paul, then he is a cold-blooded and delusional person (he thinks he’s doing what’s best for her—he is not, but he is doing what’s best for himself: protecting his reputation, getting his self-confidence back, correcting his errors by decreeing he’s in charge this time, and getting his hands on his grandchild). No wonder Rachel took drugs.
What if Rachel suddenly did this or that to Fiona? Hey…what if Paul suddenly has his daughter kidnapped by thugs? I think it’s he who should be seeing doctors. And it’s he who should be banned from seeing his daughter and granddaughter.
Very interesting to see René play a bad guy in shades of gray. Great acting, once more!
Actually, it is grounds for doing something in real life because real life tragedies result from hand-wringing and no action in lots of cases just like this, I am afraid.
Tough love…sometimes in real life it is all one can do.
As for René, he continues to astound.
Who knows where they take the storyline from here?
I don’t exactly have a problem with Rachel’s using, per se, because anyone can slip up and make a mistake. But, her hypocrisy in using while not being up-front about it with her N.A. group is what bothers me. She feels superior enough to lambaste Brad for not being “real” while sharing with the group, yet she herself either didn’t share, or didn’t tell the truth with the others if she did. The fact that she can attend N.A. meetings while still continuing to use and not be truthful about her backsliding (or be willing to go cold turkey all over again) means that she’s not fighting hard enough, in my opinion.
When private citizens have other private citizens dragged out of their homes, I think it’s usually called kidnapping. The reason that arresting Paul probably wouldn’t work (and I agree that it wouldn’t) is that a) he’s a smart, wealthy, and well-connected attorney and b) once the cops find out Rachel is using illegal drugs, she would be under arrest herself, so the point might be moot.
Of course Paul is not the NSA—any more than the private citizen who pulls Denise over is a real cop—that doesn’t make the comparison invalid in my mind. I think that the creators of the show are most certainly drawing a parallel, as in the aforementioned scene with the armed tax goons arresting Alan’s secretary, Melissa. Being forcibly taken from your home (or work) is a big, scary deal, and the fact that we would tolerate the idea of private citizens or our government doing this without demonstrably just cause is deeply disturbing, to me anyway.
Now, I admit to complete ignorance of any statistics on how well social services do or do not do their job (I suspect that it varies from state to state). I’m aware that, in most states, social services is an underfunded and overburdened department. I also have met social workers who are clearly dedicated and competent professionals who care deeply about the people they are trying to help. And yes, there have been any number of highly publicized cases where social services fails and children are injured or killed.
However, the idea that government agencies are always and irredeemably ineffectual is at least in part a narrative that is created, whether deliberately or incidentally, by our media. Just as the steady diet of shootings and stabbings covered by the local news make it possible for us to fear street crime even when the actual crime rate is down, so too the media may well be presenting social services as more “broken” than it really is. (And this isn’t even getting into the way our media demonizes “drug users,” a topic which could fill books.) There certainly are various interests in this country, some of which own large media companies, who would like us to believe that government is good for nothing and that the more “privatized” everything is, the better. The trouble with private agencies is that they are generally accountable to no one—as with private contractors working in a war zone in Iraq, and as with the thugs abducting Rachel in this fictional narrative.
Government agencies may not always be efficient, but social workers and police officers are expected to a) follow established procedure and b) leave a paper trail. This, in theory anyway, is supposed to keep the process transparent and prevent abuses. The private agency that Paul hires for his intervention is not obligated to follow procedure or leave a paper trail, which allows the entire incident to take place “under the radar.” One has to ask whether a desire to keep everything hushed up is the real reason—or part of the reason—that Paul acts as he does.
I’m sorry to have expended so many words on this topic, but that scene where Paul orchestrates the abduction of his own daughter and then stands there allowing it to take place completely gave me the creeps. Maybe there is no perfect solution here, but there were alternatives. Paul is not an unambiguous “good guy” here, certainly his demand that Brad should actively lie to the police on his behalf underscores that point.
Of course, this does make him a more interesting character, and I am only too happy to see René get the additional screen time (as I think I predicted would happen, way back at the beginning of this series). But gone are the days when Paul can scold Alan or Denny for their quasi-legal antics—without being a complete hypocrite, that is. Sorry guys, I just can’t give him a pass here.
But I agree that it should be fun watching him cope with a child on a regular basis.
Of course, it is a big deal. But I think the show is presenting a real life choice which a number of grandparents have had to make concerning their children on drugs and saving their grandchildren from an awful, dangerous situation. Children “learn” all sorts of things from their parents—some of them not so great—and they think that because their parents do this and this is the way of things in their house, then this is the way of things, period. My mother smoked. So did I. If she had free-based cocaine or some other drug thing and I saw it all the time, I would have thought this was acceptable, too. After all, it is a societal choice that some drugs are bad and others are good, right?
I think the writers have the Paul character making a miserable and terrible choice which none of us should ever have to make. But it doesn’t make him a fascist or a bad man. He is a man who has a choice of many bad alternatives. He chooses the one which makes sense to him and provides protection for his granddaughter. People are faced with these choices all the time. If pleading, cajoling, and convincing gets nowhere, people tend to do what they feel they have to do, uncomfortable or not.
And this is not to dump on social service and the police. They are overworked and underpaid and none of this comes with a rule book on what to do. And they don’t always make the right choice. And the law (although perceived to be the source of wisdom and rectitude to solve all problems) doesn’t always get it right, either. Courts are often stuck with bad choices, too, and they pick the best of the worst. It usually involves a catch phrase called the “best interests of the child” and might have involved taking the child form the mother and putting the child in foster care. THAT is not a better choice than Paul taking matters into his own hands and doing what he thought he had to do.
Government is wonderful for a great many things. And when the bureaucracy doesn’t kill the mission of the agency, it is a wonderful thing to behold. Nothing but the government could have put together the Peace Corps in the sixties, VISTA (the U.S. version), and a number of other things. Unfortunately, since I spend most of my time fighting with the government over a variety of subjects, including the lunatic rules they have over the delivery of social services, I have a somewhat more unhappy view of their potential. And by the way, private bureaucracies are not any better. bureaucracy is the problem, I think—not public versus private. An insurance company that denies someone’s perfectly valid claim because they can is no different from Medicare or Medicaid, which does the same thing—just because they can. And they do. Because, in the long run, it saves them money…. But that is another story.
So, yes, my dim view of the government comes not from the media but from dealing with the government. Call the Post Office some day or spend some time talking to the IRS or, God help all of us, the Immigration Service. Tried to get an expedited passport lately? The government’s idea of expedited passport is two weeks (if you send it by a private overnight service!). The government is set up to act slowly. It is actually one of the greatest protections we have from the government. If the IRS could act quickly and efficiently everyone would be in jail!
Better to do what Paul did and worry about what happens later later.
But it does spark an interesting controversy—hopefully they won’t go for some Hollywood conclusion….
You know, all of this ties in with one of the recurring themes of Boston Legal as a whole—the question of whether or not the ends justify the means. We’ve seen it again and again in the various legal cases shown, especially those involving Alan or Denny; they pull all sorts of stunts to help their client and win a case. For instance, there was that episode with the kidnapped child, in which Brad pretended to be an FBI agent and ended up chopping off the fingers of a priest…our “heroes” did lots of illegal and just plain wrong stuff, but the end result was that they saved a little boy from a murdering child molester, leaving us stuck to ponder the dilemma: can positive ends ever justify nasty means?
I agree that Paul isn’t above the law. But I believe that he gave careful thought to what he was doing before he did it, and was prepared to deal with the consequences. If Rachel had sued him or otherwise challenged him, he would have fought with all his ability to convince the legal system that he had acted in the best interests of his daughter and his granddaughter. And I believe he weighed the possibility of a long-term legal battle, and the trauma that might have caused for Fiona, and still decided that was better for her than staying in the care of her mom.
Was he right to think that way? If he had done nothing, or tried the slow, legal method of trying to convince Rachel to act responsibly, it might have worked out—or he might have received a phone call from the hospital one night, reporting the sad news of the death of Rachel and Fiona. Or, things might have gone on relatively stable for years…until Fiona, at the age of 11 or 14 or whatever, followed her mom’s example and got hooked on drugs herself.
Bottom line—Paul is a wonderfully complex character, sometimes admirable, sometimes not.
I want to note that the “safety of children” argument is often used as a broad justification in attempts to curtail all our civil liberties—right down to attempting to regulate what we read on the Internet. I certainly consider myself an advocate for the rights of children. I have an autistic four-year-old and I am sometimes downright paranoid about his safety. Having a child does change a lot of things. It does not, however, change the fact that every person in this country owns his or her own body and has certain rights that are supposed to be guaranteed. The fifth amendment (no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process) doesn’t exclude parents, even bad ones.
Of course, Rachel is a drug user. Crystal meth is a controlled substance. If drug users are such obviously dangerous people, then Paul should report Rachel to the police so that she can be arrested and incarcerated for her drug use, rather than using his own illegal activity to cover up hers. If Rachel is a constant danger to her child, is she not also a danger to her friends and co-workers, and all the rest of us?
The fact is, our prisons are already full of non-violent drug offenders, and meanwhile their children are indeed left to the mercy of social services, which we seem to have decided here is a bad thing. So Rachel is obviously a danger to her daughter, bad enough to deserve forcible detention in a rehab center, but not bad enough to be actually arrested by the police and charged with a drug offense. I’m sorry, but for me, this doesn’t compute. If someone is enough of threat to be treated as a de-facto child abuser, they are enough of a threat to do jail-time—and anyone who tries to keep them out of jail is thereby endangering the rest of us.
The bigger—much bigger—issue here is not about children and parents at all, but whether we want to live in a society where people are held accountable for their actual behavior or are punished merely because others suspect they might possibly someday be dangerous.
I don’t think I ever called Paul a fascist; I said he had control issues. Obviously, he is looking at his own individual case as doing what he thinks is best for those involved—and, as I noted in my first post, things may indeed all work out for the best, perhaps even because of his actions.
My “disturbance factor” here had to do with more than just this particular case and Paul’s particular actions. Boston Legal is a show that uses specific instances to illuminate bigger ideas and, here, I think the bigger ideas are stated up front (as usual) in Alan’s closing arguments. What happens when we, as a society, get comfortable with the idea the “some people” shouldn’t be as free as the rest of us? What happens when we start to launch “pre-emptive strikes” to lock “those” people up before they can do us or our (or their) children harm? Then aren’t we, all of us, actually less safe in our own homes—and our children too?