We segue to …
… a pretty shot of the L.A. skyline at dusk. There are the Century Plaza Towers behind the palm tree at left.
Laura is working late.
Murphy walks in, fondling his ball. He tells Laura it’s her last chance! Laura resists the impulse to tell him to put his equipment away.
“I’m sorry, I just can’t,” she tells him.
Murphy shifts into Don Juan mode: “Sure you can.” She can get in his car, stop at her place for clothes and clubs, and they can be in Palm Springs by 8:30.
“If only it were that simple,” she responds. (Take the hint, Murph.)
Murphy tells Laura she’s got it all wrong: “It’s the MEN who are supposed to work too hard and die young.” Um … reinforcing traditional gender roles may not be the best way to seduce Laura, Murphy.
“It’s the weekend,” he presses. She hems and haws.
“You know, if a guy hadn’t known you so long, and didn’t like you so much and wasn’t so sure you’d never lie to him, he could convince himself you didn’t want to go, taxes or no taxes.”
Oh, Murph. You make me sad.
Laura seeks to reassure him. “But you do know me, and you do like me, and you know I wouldn’t lie to you.” Ah, but there’s a fine line between lying and avoiding the truth, Laura.
Murphy seems satisfied with her answer. “Goodbye, Laura,” he says.
She stops him at the door. “Murphy!”
“You bet.” Murphy departs, leaving Laura looking …
Before I continue, I wanted to comment on this little exchange. There seems to be a feeling of finality about this farewell to Murphy, as though Laura were saying goodbye to more than a weekend trip to Palm Springs. Could it be that Laura is closing the door, emotionally, to any thoughts she might have had about a relationship with Murphy? Although we’ve seen nothing to suggest their relationship is other than platonic, it’s clear that Murphy wants more. I suspect that, before Steele came into her life, Laura might have had Murphy in the back of her mind as a “settle for” possibility. He’s a nice guy. He’s her friend. Why not? But having met Steele, and experienced how he affects her, I think Laura realizes there can never be anything between Murphy and her – and she wants to start gently distancing herself from him.
Mr. Steele enters the offices, finding them empty.
“No crowds of troubled clients clamoring for my services?” he inquires, checking the appointment calendar.
Murphy reminds him that it’s Friday: “People would rather bowl.”
Murphy takes his leave, warning Steele not to get lost on the freeway. Huh?
Mr. Steele proceeds to his office, where he finds the executive washroom occupied.
Steele pulls the plug on his insubordinate subordinate!
Bernice doesn’t care; her hair is dry enough, it’s almost 6:00, and the offices will soon be emptying out of people who are dying to forget what they do for a living. If they’re lucky, they can make the “magic” last until Monday.
Steele is not impressed with her mating strategy.
“I prefer the tried-and-true method. One makes a date and casts a spell of one’s own.”
Which reminds Bernice …
Excellent case in point! Steele lays out his itinerary: “Front row center for the Bolshoi, dinner at Andre’s, a leisurely drive back to my place …”
“She said she’s sorry she has to cancel. Something about the croup. Ta-ta!”
Steele proceeds to Plan B.
“Look at you!” he says to Laura.
“What?” she asks, with a self-conscious mien. I think Laura is a little insecure about her looks around the dashing Mr. Steele. (I think she looks spectacular, by the way.)
“Tell me that briefcase is just for looks,” he says. “You don’t really plan on spending your weekend cuddled up with all that paperwork, do you?”
Laura knows his intentions are good, and his motives pure, but she wants to know where he’s going with this.
“You look exhausted.”
Mr. Steele, did you go to the Murphy Michaels School of Smooth Lines? Fortunately, Mr. Steele has a suggestion for Laura.
“A night on the town, away from the pressures of work.”
“You and me … on … on … on a date?” That’s the way, Laura. Play hard to get!
“Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?” Indeed, I might even be inclined to declare it …
Laura thinks it sounds wonderful!
“It will be!” he promises. He seems as eager as Laura!
Just one thing: When can Laura expect all this wonderfulness to happen?
Laura is displeased. “You wait until 5:45 on a Friday night to ask me out?!” Her investigative mind has already solved this mystery:
“Let me guess: Sheila has the mumps. Susan got hit by a car. Mary, measles. Doris, diphtheria!”
“Gayle. The croup. What difference does it make, so long as you’re free?”
Oh, Mr. Steele.
“Just what makes you think I’m free?”
“It’s a FRIDAY NIGHT!”
Steele wants to know if she has plans, then?
“As a matter of fact, I do!” she insists, as he gallantly helps her on with her jacket.
For his information, her briefcase is only a small part of what she expects to be a very full weekend!
Oh, yeah. Steele’s buying that.
Laura flounces out, leaving Mr. Steele to call after her:
“Am I correct in assuming tonight’s off?”
I’ll stop here. In this scene we see Laura interacting with the two men in her life – in very different ways! Murphy had apparently asked her to accompany him to Palm Springs well in advance, but Laura wasn’t interested enough to even remember the invitation. She’s much too busy to spend time with Murph. But when Mr. Steele makes an offer? Hoo boy! Where’s that “keep our relationship strictly professional” rule now, Laura? I can’t say I blame Laura for feeling hurt and embarrassed to discover she was Steele’s back up choice. She surely knows she showed her hand to him – she WANTED to go on a date. Laura let her cool, dispassionate mask slip for a second … and she got burned. For his part, I think Steele really does want to spend time with Laura, but perhaps didn’t feel she’d accept his offer. Only the lateness of the hour and last-minute cancellation by Gayle spurred him to take a chance. He must be gratified by the immediate positive response … and kicking himself for blowing it so badly.