Previously on The Practice: Mary Donovan engages Ellenor's services to try to save her son (who's been convicted of raping his girlfriend and murdering both her and her mother) from execution; Ellenor can't get the court to order necessary DNA testing; Jimmy speaks to Mr. Kearns, who's convinced Stuart Donovan is the killer; Ellenor tries to force a confession out of a lying jailhouse snitch; Eugene speaks to the eyewitness whose testimony helped convict Stuart; that witness's ex-wife insists her husband was an alcoholic who would have been too drunk to be sure about the time; and a judge refuses Ellenor's petition for a DNA test, which makes Ellenor cry.
Lucky me! I get to recap what has to be the best episode of The Practice this season. I wasn't expecting it, given the blurb ABC sent out two days prior to the show airing: "Shocking new evidence allows Ellenor to make a last argument for Stuart Donovan's innocence, but if she fails, he faces execution by lethal injection. Meanwhile, back in Boston, Bobby and Lindsay battle over wedding plans and the true meaning of marriage." Oh Lord: "The true meaning of marriage?" Those two? I rummaged around for my antacids and barf bags, and genuflected before my glow-in-the-dark St. Clare icon, before settling in. About thirty-five minutes into the show, with no sign of the unholy trinity of Bobby, Lindsay, and Helen, I thought . . . when are we going to have to suffer through them? Would they introduce that subplot so late into the episode? Could the blurb have been wrong? I decided not to get my hopes up too high. When the show was finally over, I wondered who had the good sense to edit out the Bobby-Lindsay nonsense and make this the comparatively strong episode it was. Even Professor Frink (my husband) commented after it was over how refreshing it was not to have Bobby, Lindsay, or Helen in the show at all, and he's usually a lot less irritable about them than I am.
The episode opens with Ellenor arguing with the assistant to the governor of Philadelphia. The snot-nosed, officious assistant has a red-and-white kerchief tied perkily around her nasty neck. Hate that. Ellenor is explaining how desperately she needs two minutes of the governor's time. The assistant has apparently offered Ellenor appointments in July, at which point Stuart Donovan will have been maggot snacks for about three months. So that's not a lot of help. Ms. Snotnose claims the governor has considered Ellenor's request. Ellenor says, "I don't mean to be rude, but I don't believe he did, because from everything I've read about him, he's not only intelligent, but he's extremely fair-minded, and there's no way he would have denied this reprieve had he considered the facts . . ." Ms. Snotnose interrupts to assure Ellenor otherwise. Ellenor wants to hear it from the horse's mouth and asks for thirty seconds. Ms. Snotnose gives Ellenor the old song-and-dance about how could they run things efficiently if they gave thirty seconds to every lawyer who came into the office looking to stay an execution. Ellenor rightfully points out that since it's only the second execution scheduled in four years, she doesn't think a total of one minute devoted to this cause would cripple the administration. Ellenor grabs a piece of paper and asks Ms. Snotnose if she could give the governor a note for her. Ms. Snotnose declines. Ellenor, getting testier: "Could you pass on a gesture?" Ms. Snotnose: "Your thirty seconds with me are up." Ms. Snotnose takes off and Ellenor crumples the paper irritatedly.
Jimmy's back in what I believe is the appellate court. In desperation, he's trying to argue the angle that, because there have been at least ten botched executions by lethal injection since 1985, executing Stuart Donovan by lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The court is distinctly unimpressed with Jimmy's argument, and not only denies his petition but fines him one thousand dollars for wasting the resources of the court. Jimmy's incredulous and gives the judges some grief after the banging of the gavel. One judge lectures him a bit about the costs involved in Jimmy bringing this action, and warns him that the fine is going to go up by five hundred dollars if Jimmy doesn't zip it. (Okay, he doesn't really say "zip it.") He says that defense counsel can inspect the execution equipment and that the fine is now fifteen hundred dollars. Jimmy decides now might be a good time to zip it. Credits and commercials.