- Tim asked Claire to help him find out if Ryan might have been behind Lola's murder.
- Claire pried to find Ryan's alibi. Ryan provided an alibi and then made it clear that he knew exactly what she was up to.
- Jason, torn between his two brothers, advised Tim to back off and stop blaming Ryan for everything.
- Courtney accepted Jason's offer to work with him on his new arena project.
- Trevor's Christmas with his family and Alex came screeching to a halt when a mysterious DVD arrived at the house and exposed his pornographic past to all.
KING'S BAY ICE ARENA
On the second floor of the arena, in what looks and certainly smells like a forgotten space, sit the makeshift offices of Jason Fisher's new management and development operation. For the time being, the arrangement is crude: a few desks, basic office machinery, white walls and beams. But Jason is willing to look past all that, to see the space for what it will be, someday.
For now, however, it is only him. He can hear the sounds of beginning construction out in the hall--nothing major, just some rewiring work, but the activity reassures him. Progress is being made.
He hears footsteps coming closer, and he glances up from his mound of documents to sign as Courtney Chase comes in.
"Those construction workers kinda freak me out," she says, throwing a glance at the hallway behind her.
"They're always... leering at me. And this one always says he knows me--comes up to me, calls me Stacy."
"Hey, Stacy!" a man with a helmet, tool belt, and dated handlebar mustache calls out as he passes the office.
Courtney makes a face at Jason, who tries, with limited success, to suppress a snicker.
"Who else do we have coming in?" he asks, dropping his pen onto the desk. He does not want to focus on this stuff now, and signing things without reading them will only leave him open to more problems later on.
Checking her list, Courtney says, "Only one more."
"Good. Not that I've found what we're looking for."
"How hard is it to hire an administrative assistant?"
"Very, apparently, since I seem to have slipped up and put out an ad that said, 'Open door hiring policy. Hookers, murderers, white trash all welcome.'"
He drops his head and rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands.
"Have they been that bad?" Courtney asks.
He shakes his head. "No. I mean, yes, but it's just not something I can deal with right now."
She is quiet, but her body language tells him to go on. She'll listen.
"It's Tim," he says. "And Ryan, I guess. Tim is freaking out, which he has every right to do, but his solution is to put all the blame on Ryan, which is... not getting anybody anywhere."
"And you're caught in the middle."
"Yeah. Not to make it all about me, but it's weird. Tim is the brother I grew up with, and Ryan is this guy I met not that long ago and couldn't even stand 'til recently, but with the way Tim's been acting... it's hard not to take sides."
"You think he's lashing out at Ryan because of Claire?" Courtney suggests, though she makes it sound like a question.
Before Jason can answer, there is a knock on the open door. They both look over to find a woman, around their age, with her hair pulled up neatly and a simple gray suit adorning her frame. A far cry from the incompetents who have been in for interviews so far, at least from the looks of her.
"Are you here for an interview?" Courtney asks, shifting into the same mode that Jason has seen her use while working at the restaurant.
The woman nods. "Sabrina Gage. Pleased to meet you."
RYAN MORIANI'S LOFT
Claire Fisher unlocks the door and enters the loft carefully, making sure to scope out the landscape before she so much as removes her shoes. This is how it has been since Christmas day: she and Ryan, living in the same space but dancing around each other, silently doing their best to keep opposite hours.
For the most part, it has been working. Claire has tried to bide her time, to wait for this to blow over and for things to thaw between them. With each day that passes, however, her confidence in that happening grows dimmer.
The apartment is quiet, so she removes her shoes and coat. She is halfway to the kitchen when she hears footsteps.
Ryan emerges from the bedroom, pulling a sweater over his head. He regards her with nothing more than a blank look and makes his way to the door.
"Where are you going?" Claire ventures to ask. Even a simple question feels like the ultimate effort.
Now that question hangs in the air, like a rain cloud threatening to blow. She finds herself hoping that maybe it will roll on by without a storm; maybe she can endure another day or two of this silent treatment.
It turns out that Ryan's response is even worse than silence:
"I'm not on my way to kill anyone, if that's what you're wondering." He is so rarely sarcastic--he is the type to wear his emotions on his sleeve, to be upfront about them in one way or another. She finds it difficult to find the man she knows behind the sarcasm.
"I know that was stupid," she says. "I'm sorry for it. I just--I needed to know."
"Because you assumed I had killed that woman. There's a real mark of trust." He pulls on a coat and grabs his keys.
"I didn't assume it. I'm not assuming anything." She doesn't even know why she agreed to help Tim. She knew how transparent it would look to Ryan. And did she really think he was capable of murder? "I want nothing more than for this whole thing to go away."
"That's too bad, because it's taking over our lives."
"It doesn't have to."
"Really? Can you even remember the last time things just felt normal?" He yanks open the door but turns back. "It was stupid of me to think that I could solve this with a ring."
She is very conscious of the piece of jewelry on her finger. She has refused to take it off in the past few days, hoping that it would be a sign of her commitment to him. It has not seemed to make a difference to Ryan.
"Let's stop pretending," he says, engaging with her in a way that he has not done since Christmas day. "Stop pretending that this is headed anywhere good. Stop pretending that we can be normal."
"Ryan, you're scaring me."
"You know what's scary? That I ever thought this would work. Things are exactly the same as they were when I showed up here, aren't they? I'm the bad guy until I turn myself inside-out trying to prove otherwise."
He stares her down--a challenge to tell him otherwise. She can't, as much as she would like to be able to.
"I'm so sorry," she says. Nothing else seems appropriate.
"You don't have to do this if you don't want to." He zeroes in on her ring finger. "Take it off."
Her other hand instinctively goes to the ring, covers it.
"Take it off," he repeats. "Let's stop playing games. Admit this is never going to work."
But she doesn't remove the ring. She just stands there, covering it, holding onto it.
"It's up to you," Ryan says, and then he disappears. The door closes loud and heavy behind him, and it makes the stillness of the loft all the more unsettling to Claire.
Trevor Brooks waits idly in the foyer, waiting for the faint sounds of activity upstairs to turn into something greater. He does not feel right intruding on his parents' packing; he has tried to maintain as low a profile as possible since the disaster that was Christmas. But he needs one more chance to see them before they leave for their New Year's cruise. He needs to clear the air.
The Christmas decorations remain up, only instead of filling Trevor with holiday spirit, they serve as brutal reminders of the humiliation he suffered on Christmas day. When he made those videos, there was always the lingering fear that someone he knew would see them--but it was a distant, vague thing, not an immediate panic. Never did he imagine that it would be his parents who got a look at his "acting" debut.
Suddenly a clamor breaks out above. Trevor looks up to see his parents at the top of the stairs with their luggage. He rushes up to help them.
"Here, let me," he tells his mother, taking a stuffed-to-the-gills duffel bag from her. He slings it over his shoulder, and the weight nearly pulls him face-first down the stairs. Probably not the right time to criticize her on her lackluster packing, though.
They troop down the stairs in silence, the only sounds those of feet and suitcases clunking from one step to the next.
"You guys must be excited," Trevor says as they reach the bottom of the stairs.
Roz and Patrick nod their heads and smile politely. Is this how it's always going to be? Awkward silence and uncertainty?
He wonders if they are thinking about the video right now. His stomach sinks, and he has the instinctive urge to cover up.
They walk out to the curb, where a taxi waits. Trevor helps them load their luggage into the trunk. It's now or never. As much as he does not want to discuss this any further with them...
Patrick closes the trunk, and both of them look directly at him. Trevor is hopeful. Maybe they are willing to get past this.
"I'm so sorry about--about Christmas." He swallows the oversized lump that has collected in his throat. "I've done some stupid things, but that had to be the stupidest, and I should've known..."
"Everyone makes mistakes," Patrick says. He doesn't appear entirely comfortable as he says it, but at least he is making the effort.
"Can you guys please forget that you ever saw that?"
Roz and Patrick exchange a look--each searching for an answer in the other, maybe.
"Trevor, seeing your kid like that..." Roz trails off and focuses on the buttons on her coat. "I thought the last time I'd ever have to deal with that was when I walked into your room that time you were 14--"
"Well, that doesn't seem so bad now, does it?" Roz forces a smile. "We don't love you any less, Trevor. It's just hard for us to wrap our brains around, y'know?"
He tries to accept that. They are making an effort, and for that he is immensely grateful.
"And more importantly, please do like you promised," Patrick says, "and get to work with your agent on pressing blackmail charges. You have nothing to lose now."
"Except this getting out and ruining my career."
"Not if you're proactive about it," Patrick counters. Trevor tries to absorb some of his optimism, but that is easier said than done.
Roz opens one of the taxi doors. "We should hit the road."
"Okay." Trevor offers an awkward half-wave. "Have a good trip."
Patrick surprises him by pulling him into a hug. And then Roz does the same.
"Take care of yourself," Roz says.
A moment later, they are gone. Trevor watches the taxi roll down the street and round a corner, and for the first time since Christmas, he has hope that this might someday blow over.
KING'S BAY ICE ARENA
"As I said, your resume is really impressive," Jason says, scanning the crisp, white sheet of paper once again. Even if this woman did not have ample office experience, the competent and pleasant way that she has presented herself makes him want to hire her on the spot. Having a helpful assistant in place will take plenty of day-to-day odds and ends off his mind.
"I'll be in touch soon," he says. He sets down the resume and reaches across the desk to shake Sabrina's hand.
"Thanks so much," Sabrina says, and a moment later, she has left the office. Jason and Courtney wait in silence for a few seconds before they speak.
Jason looks to Courtney. "She was great, huh?"
She smirks. "I could tell you thought so."
He has no idea where that came from. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing... 'Ms. Gage, you're soooo qualified!'" Courtney laughs, but Jason cannot quite make out her tone. Is she actually... no way. She's just yanking his chain.
"You should've sat in for the others. You would've been thrilled to see someone not picking their teeth or talking about their grandmother's colitis or asking how important typing actually was to the job, too."
"Yeah, yeah." Courtney rises from her seat and picks up Sabrina's resume. "She is a good fit for it, I'll give you that."
"It'll take a huge burden off both of us to have someone else in here," Jason says, and suddenly his mind is back on everything outside the office--Tim's upcoming trial, being caught between him and Ryan...
Courtney apparently notices the shift, because she sits back down beside him.
"There's only so much you can do." She leans toward her, her elbows planted on her knees. "I know it might feel like it's up to you to save Tim or to mediate things between them, but it isn't your job."
He tries to see things that way, but the relief is only momentary. "That doesn't make it any easier."
She goes quiet, and he feels bad for thrusting this upon her. It isn't her problem.
"Because you're a good guy," she says at last, "and that's what you do. You worry about other people. Maybe that's not such a bad thing."
"I don't know about that," Jason says, but he will try to convince himself of it, anyway.
RYAN MORIANI'S LOFT
Claire sits on the sofa, staring blankly at the television. Whatever is on, she is only vaguely aware of it--as background noise, something trying to fill the space but failing. She is too busy sliding the engagement ring up and down her finger. Almost off, then back on again.
Even though she knew it was coming, the knock on the door startles her. She stands immediately and takes a moment to pull herself together. As much as she values her time with her son, she would prefer for Travis not to be here right now, not until all this tension with Ryan is resolved. If it is ever resolved.
She opens the door to find Tim and Travis waiting. She studies her son hard, looking for any hint that he knows what is going on, that he can feel the confusion and the drama that have overtaken their lives. He looks as normal as ever, though, strangely unburdened by his parents' constantly shifting lives. Claire forces a smile and kisses him hello, but on the inside, all she feels is tremendous guilt for subjecting him to all this.
"Why don't you go put that ice cream in the freezer before it melts?" Tim suggests. Travis takes off to do just that.
"He had this ice cream at our place that he wanted to finish," Tim explains, but that is all until they are alone. Then he focuses on her, hard, and Claire feels as though she is under a microscope.
"I'm sorry for putting you in the middle of this," he says.
"I was already in the middle of it."
"I shouldn't have made it worse. I shouldn't have asked you to pry for information."
All she can do is shrug. It was as much her doing as it was his.
Tim checks for signs of Travis returning, then quietly asks, "Is he still angry?"
"He isn't happy. Things are strange."
Tim absorbs that quietly before saying, "I am sorry, for whatever it's worth. But now that we know Ryan has an alibi, we can focus elsewhere--we can find who killed Nick and Lola and set me up."
The sudden excitement in his voice takes Claire by surprise. She hadn't considered...
"Tim, I can't." Her hand goes to the door, ready to close it on him. "I'm rooting for you. You know that. I hope you find what you need to get the charges thrown out."
Tim looks as though he has been punched in the stomach.
She can hardly believe what she is saying, but she has to do it. She has no choice. "We'll always be connected, because of Travis and Samantha, and because of everything we've shared. But we're divorced."
It sounds odd to hear herself say it out loud. The divorce became official only days ago, and it has not seemed real to her yet.
"And I'm with Ryan now," she adds.
Tim's only response is a slow nod. He takes a step backward.
"Good luck," Claire says, and then she hears running behind her as Travis hurries back into the room.
She looks at Tim one last time. He raises a hand in a quick wave, obviously ready to get as far away as he can.
"See you later, buddy," he says to Travis. Claire tries to catch his eye, to no avail. As he leaves, Claire remains by the open door.
"Can I watch Wedding Crashers?" Travis asks as he plants himself on the couch.
"Don't you think you're a little young for that?" Claire counters, trying to shift back into parent mode.
Travis shakes his head, and Claire has to laugh at his stubbornness. But it is only a momentary distraction, and as she joins him in front of the TV, Ryan's ring feels heavy on her finger.
END OF EPISODE #440
that Claire has made her choice, will Ryan believe her?
Will Courtney's support of Jason lead to something deeper?
Can Trevor clean up the mess that his life has become?
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