Episode #375

Previously ...
- Sarah and Mia took a trip to the mall to give Matt and Jake some bonding time. Mia reported to Sarah that she'd been approached by a very forward man; when she pointed him out, Sarah recognized the man as Julian!
At Travis's birthday party, Claire found herself caught in the midst of an argument between Tim and Ryan. Tim vowed to prove Ryan's connection to Domingo's clinic, but Ryan denied any involvement.


The disbelief is a mere flash. In an instant, it passes before Sarah Fisher's eyes, and the self-doubt--There has to be a reasonable explanation for this--gives way to a knowing sense of dread. The pieces fall into place inside her mind like some flawlessly executed game of Tetris, and her decision is made. She has to know.

"Hold this, would you?" she says, thrusting her shopping bag into Mia Davich's hand.

Confused, Mia accepts the bag, only to try to give it back as soon as she realizes where Sarah is headed.

"It's no big deal!" she implores, but Sarah doesn't waver on her path toward Julian St. John. Mia resigns herself to the imminent embarrassment and hangs back.

Sarah cuts a quick path through the throng of shoppers, and she is at Julian's side before he even sees her coming.

"Hi, Julian."

He turns swiftly, and in the split-second before his usual poise sets in, Sarah can see the man whom Mia described brazenly hitting on her in the store.

"Oh, Sarah! Hi." The cordial--calculated, she can see now--smile crawls onto his face. "How are you?"

"To tell the truth, I'm feeling a little, well, off-kilter."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

Sarah folds her arms. "See, I'm here with a friend, and she was just telling me about an uncomfortable experience she had with a very forward, very persistent man." She turns, casually enough, and waves at a nervous-looking Mia.

She monitors Julian's reaction closely, and when his gaze lands on Mia, Sarah knows that she is correct.

"This has all been a setup, hasn't it?" she says rather than asks. All pretense of politeness drops from her voice now. "That's why I never found a damn shred of conclusive evidence that your wife is having an affair: because she's not."

Julian glances around before speaking in a much lower volume than Sarah. "Please, Sarah, this is absolutely unfounded."

"You can drop the wounded-husband act. It all makes sense now. You practically walked me into every possible clue of your wife's infidelity. You wanted me to piece together enough proof to suggest she'd been unfaithful so that you could get your divorce. And all the while, you're running around propositioning women."

"You have no proof of any of this," Julian says, but his words sound more desperate now.

"That's exactly the point. This has all been a giant farce." Sarah turns to walk away, but she pauses long enough to offer a final parting shot. "I hope she takes you to the cleaner's."

With that, she strides back toward Mia, takes her bag, and leads the way out of the mall, leaving Julian to absorb what has just happened.


"Could you hand me the rest of those plates?"

Paula Fisher holds out an expectant hand, and when Ryan passes the stack of pizza-stained paper plates, she stuffs them into the bulging garbage bag at her feet.

"There shouldn't be too much of a mess to clean up once the kids leave," she comments, surveying the kitchen.

"Nah, we're ahead of the game." Ryan consolidates the remaining pizza into a single box. "How does it feel to have a grandson whose age is in the double digits?"

"I don't feel as instantly elderly as I thought I would," Paula says through a laugh.

"You've got a good year or two before that," Ryan teases.

Paula's comeback is swift. "He is your younger brother's son, don't forget that. You aren't exactly a spring chicken yourself."

Ryan falls quiet for a moment, then says, "Tim and I almost got into a nice brotherly fistfight earlier." His mother's pained grimace makes Ryan sorry that he even mentioned it, but there is no turning back now.

"I'm glad you two restrained yourselves," she says curtly.

Feeling compelled to speak in his own defense, Ryan explains, "He's insisting--especially to Claire--that he knows I had something to do with him being kept in that place for so long. He's on this crusade to blame the whole thing on me."

He marvels at the way that Paula maintains her calm and collects herself before responding.

"Tim lost four years of his life," she says. "He missed out on parts of his children's upbringing, his career was derailed, and now his marriage might be crumbling. It's only natural for him to want to blame someone for it."

"Doesn't mean that it has to be me!"

"Ryan, as long as you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about."

He mulls that over quickly. "He's trying to turn Claire against me," he blurts out.

"Dear," Paula says, catching his eye with her unwavering stare, "have you considered that there might be ... other possibilities for you out there?"

Ryan doesn't respond. He doesn't have any idea how to.

"Look at Sarah," Paula continues. "She spent so many years fighting for Brent, trying so hard to make it work, but there was something much deeper waiting for her out there, with Matt."

"This is completely different!" He sees that Paula has a counterargument ready and pre-empts it with his own. "I tried that. I got married to someone else! But that didn't work--it couldn't work--because Claire is it for me. If Tim hadn't come back--"

"He is back," Paula says firmly. "I want all of you to be happy, I really do. But in this situation, it isn't going to be possible for all of you to have exactly the kind of happiness that you're hoping for."


The party guests have clustered around the coffee table, which is buried beneath mounds of unwrapped presents and discarded wrapping paper. Travis Fisher sits in the middle of the sofa, flanked by a pair of friends who regard each newly uncovered gift with the seriousness of a pair of bodyguards.

"I need another one!" Travis calls out, and Claire hands him a gift bag stuffed to the brim with tissue paper. Travis regards it skeptically, as if puzzled as to why anyone would deny him the pleasure of tearing open a wrapped box.

Off to the side, Claire and Tim preside over the proceedings, charged with handing over presents to be opened and shouting out instructions to their son, whether or not he acknowledges them.

Tim leans in toward his wife and mutters, "Where are we going to put all this stuff?"

"I'll make him go through his things and get rid of some older stuff," Claire says, her tone flat.

Tim shrinks away from her, chafe by the cool response. He hopes that the party would calm her mood, but although she has put on a good show for everyone else, he can tell that she has not gotten over his confrontation with Ryan earlier.

"I'm sorry about before," he whispers. "It was out of line."

Claire shoots him a stern glare. "Yes, it was. Not the time or place to be picking fights--or the fight to pick."

Again he recoils. Can she really be this blinded by Ryan's supposed charms--whatever they might be?

"I wish you'd drop it," she hisses over her shoulder at him.

"Drop it? I have a right to know why four years of my life were taken away from me."

"But Ryan has nothing to do with it!" Claire snaps back around, back into happy-mother-at-birthday-party mode, and the roar of the excited kids swallows whatever remaining resolve Tim has to argue his point further.

He doesn't notice Diane Bishop, sitting at the back of the crowd with Samantha, having witnessed the entire quarrel with great interest.


Matt Gray freezes in mid-sentence as the front door flies open. Sarah bursts into the apartment, and whatever comment Matt was about to make about the Mariners game on TV vanishes at the sight of her.

"What's the matter?" he asks, swiveling around to look over the back of the couch.

"I'm an idiot, that's what."

Matt shoots a puzzled look at his brother, who is seated in a recliner a few feet away. An instant later, Mia follows Sarah's path into the apartment.

"We had a run-in with one of Sarah's clients at the mall," Mia explains.

Matt stands and crosses the room. "What happened?"

In exasperated detail, Sarah relays their encounter with Julian and her realization that he has, for months, been stringing her along. None of the other three speak a word until she concludes with a frustrated huff.

"You had no way of knowing," Matt says, his voice soft. "He hired you to investigate. You did. End of story."

"You'd think, if I were at all competent at doing my job, that I might've figured that out. I've spent months and months with this right under my nose, and I totally missed it."

"Hey, calm down." Matt clasps her hands between his and forces her to look him into the eye. Out of the corner of his vision, he sees Mia slipping away to join Jake, and Matt is grateful for the moment alone with Sarah.

"This has nothing to do with how good you are at your job," he says. "Hell, if you weren't good at it, I would've gone to jail back in New York. Right?"

He coaxes a shrug and then a reluctant nod out of her.

"There's no way you could've known that this guy was trying to set his wife up."

"I should've been able to figure it out."

"You're damn good at what you do," Matt insists. "I'm counting on you to get the truth out of Jennie. You think I'd even be able to function if I didn't believe that you'd find a way to clear me?"

He sees the fire returning to her eyes, but it is tempered by doubt.

"And what if I can't?" she asks, lowering her voice as though she is saying something forbidden. "What if I'm not able to do that, Matt?"

"You are able to, and you're gonna do it." He wraps his arms around her and pulls her tightly against him; this is how it's supposed to be.

Still, that little voice in the back of his mind whispers: You have to, Sarah. It's the only chance we've got.


Tim breathes a quiet but deliberate sigh of relief as he hauls the pile of discarded wrapping paraphernelia into the kitchen and deposits it in an already stuffed trash bag. The party has thinned out, and with only a few of Travis's friends still waiting to be picked up, the adults can finally relax.

Samantha troops into the kitchen behind him, her arms stuffed with even more crumpled wrapping paper.

"Let me get that," Tim says, swooping in to take the pile from her. He adds it to the rest of the garbage. "Thank you, young lady. Did you have fun?"

"Travis's friends are dumb." Samantha climbs onto one of the kitchen chairs, leaving her legs to dangle off the edge. "They never let me play with them."

Tim kneels in front of his daughter. "Well, they should. But you know what? You don't need to play with any stinky boys, anyway."

Her eyes scan the kitchen, and the next words out of her mouth are much more upbeat: "Can I have more cake?"

"I don't see why not." Tim reaches for the quarter of a cake that remains and dips his index finger into the frosting. He licks it off and says, "And I think I'll join you."

With a giggle, Samantha plants her knees on the chair and reaches for the cake. She swipes a small finger over the frosting and brings it to her mouth. "Yum, yum, yum."

"That's good, huh?"

Sam nods happily, and they each scoop up another fingertip full of frosting.

"Oh, that's disgusting!" comes a voice from the doorway. They turn to see Diane, shaking her head. "You guys are gross."

"I think you're just jealous," Tim says. "It's better this way. Right, Sam?"

"Yeah, Mommy!" Samantha dips her finger back into the frosting.

"Get your hands off that slobbered-on death trap!" Diane protests. But when Tim wags a frosting-covered finger at her and Sam follows suit, Diane cracks a smile.

As Sam continues eating the frosting, Diane leans in toward Tim. "Are you doing okay?" she asks quietly. "I saw that little argument before."

Tim looks back at her in surprise. "With Claire?"


"She's been staying at a hotel," Tim says, standing in order to distance the conversation from Samantha. "I think I made things even worse tonight. Things got really nasty between Ryan and me."

"Can't be easy for you." Diane tilts her head ever-so-slightly, and Tim recognizes in her a sympathy that takes him by surprise.

"I don't understand how she can trust him," Tim says under his breath.

Diane nods in a sad sort of agreement. "This is all going to work out," she says, and it sounds to Tim like a promise.


Will Tim's insistence about Ryan push Claire away?
Would Ryan be better off looking elsewhere for love?
Can Sarah erase her own doubts about her professional abilities?
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