Season 2, Episode 20: Happily Ever After

Synopsis of Season 2, Episode 20 from Sandy Waddell

The five Salingers are having breakfast in the kitchen; they expected Jake home this weekend but he is two days late. Bailey suggests that they may have to prepare themselves for the possibility that Jake has run out on them, as he did with their mother. Claudia rejects this explanation, saying Jake could be hurt; she dials the interstate operator, looking for the telephone numbers for all the hospitals in Phoenix.

By the time Jake does turn up the next morning, Bailey is furious, and is hardly willing to let him in the door. Bailey can't believe he'd just turn up without a word of explanation or apology. Jake does apologize and says that a business meeting ran long. This is enough to satisfy Claudia, who tells Bai goodnaturedly to shut up about it. She and Jake begin hatching plans for the garden. Later Charlie, Claudia and Jake are digging the flower beds; Bai is reluctant to join them, but Claudia convinces him. Claudia wonders when was the last time they worked on a project together; with a lopsided grin, Bai suggests Charlie's wedding. Charlie tries to pelt him with dirt, but hits Claudia instead. The dirt fight escalates and eventually Grandpa Jake (with a little help from Owen) turns the hose on all of them.

Julia and Justin have a choice for their writing class of taking an exam or writing a story in the folktale form. Julia wants to take the test and get it over with, but Justin tries to convince her that they could work on a story together. When Julia shows no interest, Justin decides to write the story on his own. The subsequent scenes between Julia and Justin carry, in voice-over, Justin's narration of the tale of Jerzy and Geraldine, an old married couple whose story bears a marked resemblance to Julia and Justin's own recent history. Julia is dissatisfied with her room, which is filled with "the same old thing". Justin helps her move old stuff, find some new things at a thrift shop, and even decorates the ceiling with a representation of the night sky, full of stars. Julia tells him it's just plastic on the ceiling.

While the others are still outside, a call for Jake is picked up on the machine. It is his daughter Lauren. Jake picks up the phone and talks with her, telling her he just staying with some friends. Bailey, listening to messages later hears the conversation, which the machine recorded. He follows Jake the next day and sees Lauren. He introduces himself and tells her they might be related. Lauren tells a story of growing up with Jake which must be the mirror image of what Diana knew. Bailey wonders if he disappointed her so often, why would she want to involve him in her life now, including telling him about her impending marriage. "You took him in," she says, "you know what he's like. Maybe we just take what we can get."

The four older Salingers later discuss what to do about Jake. Julia and Bailey are mistrustful and think they should ask Jake to move out. Claudia won't hear of it, and Charlie likes having something like a parent around again. He says, admitting it may seem selfish, that it has taken some of the pressure off of him to let Jake be the parent some of the time. Bailey asks the others if they remember the look that sometimes crossed their mother's face, that always made Bailey think that something must have hurt her terribly long ago. He says that Lauren has that same look. It's a look he doesn't want Claudia to have, years from now. He tries to catch and hold his youngest sister's gaze: "I don't want to see that look on your face, Claud."

Bailey confronts Jake about his other family and tells him he doesn't want Jake to come around any more. Jake tries to say that his other family does not affect the Salingers, but Bai wants none of that. He says "I can't let you come back here, let them love you, while I'm just waiting. Just _waiting_."

Kathleen and Charlie both have big nights coming up. Charlie has the official opening of the kitchen of Salinger's under Terrell, complete with a reviewer from the paper, and Kathleen has the awards dinner at which she is nominated to receive an award. Charlie apologizes for not being able to be there, but Kathleen says it's important for him to be at the restaurant. Charlie gets a phone call at the restaurant from Claud to say that he should turn on the broadcast of the awards dinner. Kathleen has won, and at the end of her speech, she says, "I love you, Charlie." Charlie also has a good night: the next morning Charlie, Claudia, Kathleen and Julia celebrate the glowing review of the "new" Salinger's.

Justin has had enough of Julia's coolness and distance. They never touch or talk or laugh, he says. "I am trying, Julia. I'm trying." They both went through something terrible, but they have to get past it, and she isn't even trying. He asks her to the school dance. "I know it's dorky, but I want to go with you. Don't even answer unless you're going to say yes," he tells her. "Okay," she says.

Charlie and Kathleen are having dinner. Kathleen is making plans for the two to visit her parents, who have just found out that she is in love with Charlie, thanks to her acceptance speech. Charlie tells Kathleen that he has heard from Kirsten and she wants him back. He wants to try again with Kirsten, and he apologizes to Kathleen. Kathleen laters calls Kirsten's number from Charlie's book and discovers from the machine that Kirsten is out of town.

Charlie and Owen, both kitted out with backpacks, come into the family kitchen after daycare. Charlie is explaining, as they take off their backpacks and settle at the kitchen counter, that although it was wrong to lie to Kathleen, it was the best of a bad set of choices; Owen himself might have to get out of an attachment to a young woman once day-- say that nice girl at milk-and-cookie time today; Owen might have to tell her he was lactose-intolerant, for example, just to spare her feelings. Owen looks wise and forgiving, but makes no comment.

Claudia is watering the seedlings in the garden. When Bailey comes out to talk she says she doesn't intend to talk to him any more. Bai says that eventually she will need or want to talk to him, and he assures her that unlike Jake he will be there. Claudia argues that Bailey's making her give up her grandfather is what is making her unhappy: "You did that, Bai. Not him."

Uncertain about the choice he is forcing his family to make, Bailey goes back to see Jake and asks him if he has misjudged Jake: "Just tell me I'm wrong." Jake can't do this; in fact, he tells Bailey that he is a good judge of character. While he lived with Diana and her mother, Jake often went on drives alone if he needed space. The time he left started out the same, but as much as he told himself to turn the car around, he couldn't do it. He never meant to hurt Diana or the Salingers but it's just the way he is. Jake still intends to support their education. "Just let us know if anything happens to you" is all Bailey asks. Jake guesses this means they want to know if he dies. "We just don't want to wonder all the time," says Bailey.

Claudia and Jake go to the park with Owen. While Owen rides the swings, Claudia and Jake say goodbye. Claudia realizes that Diana was ten when Jake --. She can't finish her sentence. "When I _left_" Jake finishes for her. Claudia was that age when her mother died. They make a deal: Jake will tell Claudia everything he knows about the first ten years of her mother's life, and Claudia everything she knows about the last ten. Claudia won't say goodbye, but they hug.

In Justin's story, Jerzy and Geraldine find, almost by accident, that they can still dance and laugh together. They still have a closeness that can heal their problem at its root. At the dance, Julia and Justin try to get closer but she discovers that as much as she wants to, she can't make herself feel close to him. Julia walks away, as the happier ending to Jerzy and Geraldine's tale plays itself out in Justin's head.

Charlie is packing things up that he had left at Kathleen's; he says that his decision really has nothing to do with her -- he does care about her. She tells him he doesn't have to keep apologizing, or to keep lying: she knows Kirsten won't be meeting Charlie because she's out of town. She says it's okay, she knows he was trying to spare her feelings. She tells Charlie not to worry about her investment in the restaurant; it would be difficult for him to pay it back anyway. Besides, she says, there's no reason for her not to invest simply because they're not together. She has gathered an investors' group and bought the building which houses Salinger's. It's a great location for a restaurant, she admits, adding, quite casually, "not necessarily _your_ restaurant." When Charlie stares at her in confusion, Kathleen tells him not to expect his lease to be renewed. Charlie protests in horror that she can't do this, but Kathleen, her eyes hard, counters that her decision has "nothing to do with you. Oh, and it sounded so true when _you_ said it."

Fade to credits.

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