Study Guide

Kramer vs. Kramer Summary

Kramer vs. Kramer Summary

  

Workaholic ad man Ted Kramer just got assigned to a big account at work, and he's stoked to tell his wife, Joanna, all about it. When he gets home, Ted finds out that Joanna has news of her own.

She's leaving him.

Ted doesn't believe Joanna at first, but when she makes it clear she's leaving behind their seven-year-old son, Billy, too, the situation pops into focus. Still, Ted thinks Joanna will be back soon. Surely, a mother can't leave her son.

Not so much.

Joanna's friend, Margaret, tells Ted that Joanna had been miserable in their marriage for years. That girl's gone for good.

Ted's not the domestic type, and he and Billy don't exactly have a natural rapport. Ted may be on 24/7 dad duty now, but he's still more wrapped up in work than anything—or anyone—else. And, horrors, he can't even make French toast.

Eight months pass. Ted and Billy have gotten their act together and solidly bonded. Everything's coming up Kramer—except at work. Ted shows up late for a client meeting. Then he misses a closing. Boss is not happy that Ted's priorities have shifted towards his son.

One day, we see Joanna watching Ted and Billy. We wonder if she's back from California for keeps—and if that means she has plans for Billy.

Joanna calls Ted, and they agree to meet at a restaurant. She says she's doing awesome since she moved to California. She's been seeing a therapist, and she doesn't feel like she's reduced to just being somebody's wife or mother anymore. Now, she's living in New York again. Also, she wants to take Billy back. Ted swats his wine glass at the wall and storms out of the restaurant. Then he lawyers up.

Shortly thereafter, Jim takes Ted out to lunch and fires him because he's done the unthinkable: put his son ahead of his work. Ted's lawyer, Shaunessy, tells Ted that if he's unemployed, he has zero chance of winning in court, and the hearing can't be delayed. Ted finds a lower-paying job.

In court, Ted's lawyers try to portray Joanna as neglectful and unstable, and her lawyers return the favor by painting Ted as a career loser who let his son fall of the climbing bars at the playground. Joanna and Ted, both decent folks at heart, aren't comfortable with their respective attorneys demonizing the other parent. Joanna's moved by all the testimony to Ted's newfound devotion to Billy, and Ted silently mouths "no" when his attorney asks Joanna if she's been a failure at her marriage.

A few days later, Ted meets with Shaunessy at a bar. They keep it quick: Ted lost. He can see Billy one night a week and every other weekend. Ted explains the new arrangement to Billy as best as he can. When Billy realizes that Ted won't be able to kiss him goodnight anymore, he gets really upset.

Joanna comes to pick up Billy and all his stuff. When the apartment's buzzer rings Joanna says she wants Ted to meet her in the lobby, alone.

Say what?

Ted meets Joanna, and it's clear she's been crying. She tells Ted that she's had a change of heart and realizes that Billy's home is with Ted now. Then she asks if she can go up and see Billy.

Before the elevator doors close on Joanna, she asks Ted how she looks. "Terrific," he says. Looks like co-parenting may work out, after all.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • Vivaldi's "Mandolin Concerto in C Major" plays over the opening credits. We're not saying that when a movie opens with classical music there's always going to be drama, but… We've never seen an Adam Sandler movie open with some Bach, have we?
    • We open on a tight close-up of Joanna gazing at something. We can't tell what, but it's probably not a photo of '70s heartthrob Donny Osmond.
    • Hey, it's her son, Billy. He's in bed. Joanna tells him she loves him. He says he'll see her in the morning. Then we cut to Joanna taking her suitcase out of her bedroom closet. She looks grim.
    • Cut to Ted at work. He's in Jim's office, telling a story about buying a Burberry coat. Yawn.
    • One of their co-workers drops in to say adios. Ted realizes it's late and he should probably head home. He and Jim hit the streets of Manhattan; Jim tries to coax Ted out, but Ted says he has to get home.
    • Back at home, Joanna's throwing clothes in that suitcase—including one of Billy's dirty shirts. We're pretty sure she's not packing for a family vacation.
    • Ted and Jim walk down the street. Uh-oh, here comes the Vivaldi again.
    • Jim tells Ted that if this account goes well, he'll be offered a partnership with the firm. Then they pass a pair of buskers playing the Vivaldi. Wait, what?
    • Joanna sits on the couch, smoking. When Ted knocks at their apartment door, it startles her. He forgot his keys.
    • Ted bursts in, explaining he just has to call the office really quickly, and that she's going to be proud of him.
    • Joanna tells him she's leaving him, but he either isn't paying attention or doesn't believe her. He starts dialing the phone; Joanna watches, looking like she's going to puke hedgehogs.
    • Once Joanna lays out her keys, credit cards, checkbook, and the receipt for the dry cleaning Ted can pick up on Saturday, he realizes she's being serious.
    • Ted follows Joanna out into the hallway. Joanna says it's not him, it's her. Ah, the old "It's not you, it's me" defense. Classic.
    • Joanna gets in the elevator. BTW, she's not taking Billy with; she thinks she's terrible with him. Oh, and she doesn't love Ted anymore, either.
    • As the elevator door closes, Ted asks Joanna where she's going. She doesn't know. And then she's gone.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Ted shoves the suitcase Joanna forgot back in the closet without unpacking it.
    • Ted calls Joanna's friend Margaret to see if Joanna's there. She's not. He explains that they had a fight a couple hours ago, but Joanna left her suitcase, so she's not going to get very far (because the clothes she packed are the only clothes in the entire world that fit her, apparently).
    • The doorbell rings. Ted thinks its Joanna. "It's about time," he grouses.
    • Nope, it's Margaret, who lives in their building.
    • Ted's ticked. He tells Margaret that he knows Joanna complains about him to her. Also? He's got a ton of work to do on that important account Jim mentioned. Today was going to be one of the five best days of his life until Joanna ruined it for him.
    • Margaret sarcastically says she's sorry that Joanna messed up one of the five best days of his life.
    • Then she says Joanna was super-unhappy. Ted tries to blame Joanna's decision on Margaret and her husband, Charley, splitting up. Then he blames it on "the sisterhood." We're going to assume he means the women's movement and not some secret, Skulls-like society.
    • Margaret says it took guts for Joanna to leave Ted. Ted asks her how much guts it takes to leave her kid.
    • Touché.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Garbage trucks are doing their thing in the street below the Kramers' apartment. Loudly.
    • Billy wakes up and finds Ted in his and Joanna's room, asleep on top of the sheets, surrounded by papers and photo proofs from work.
    • Billy wants to know where his mom is. She always takes him to school. Ted says they had a little fight, so she wanted to be by herself for a little bit, but she'll be back soon, and he'll take Billy to school, but first—breakfast. Billy wants French toast.
    • After casually informing Billy that all the best chefs are men (Stephanie Izard, Alice Waters, and Ina Garten beg to differ, y'all), Ted makes Billy some of the worst French toast known to man. He gets shells in the egg mixture, and has to break the bread into pieces because he's decided to beat the eggs and milk in a coffee mug that says "Ted" on it for some reason.
    • He has to ask Billy where Mommy keeps the pan, so we're going to guess that he's dunking shell-covered bread in his "Ted" coffee mug because homeboy doesn't know where the bowls are, either.
    • The entire time that Ted makes breakfast he keeps telling Billy that they're having fun, right? Right? Ted looks about as at home in the kitchen as we're guessing Jason Statham does.
    • Ted seems frazzled as he tries to make French toast, make himself coffee, plan what he needs to get done before he takes Billy to school, and get Billy some orange juice.
    • He neglects the World's Grossest French Toast, and it starts to burn. When Billy brings it to his attention, Ted grabs the pan directly and burns his hand. "Damn her!" he yells. Pretty sure he's not talking about the toast.
    • Ted tries to calm down, talking to himself and telling himself everything's going to be okay while Billy looks at him with a face that reads "OMG I hope Mom comes back real soon."
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • Ted walks Billy to school. When they get there, he has to ask Billy what grade he's in. (It's first grade, BTW.)
    • He walks up to a young woman at the school and leaves Billy with her, literally running off to get a taxi. Um, we hope she works there. Billy looks sad and angry at the same time.
    • Ted arrives at work. His secretary briefs him on the day. He calls home; nobody answers.
    • In Jim's office, Ted tells Jim that Joanna left, and that he thinks it was her way of saying, "Hey, I'm just as important as your work."
    • Jim asks if there's another guy. Ted says that he doesn't think so, adding that there is a Margaret, and maybe Joanna and Margaret cooked this scheme up together because of "you know, women's lib." So 1979.
    • Then Ted and Jim share a hearty laugh because this scheme sure worked; Ted's going crazy without his wife to show him where the bowls are and know what grade their son is in.
    • Jim assures Ted that Joanna will be back, and then tells Ted that Ted does have a problem: Billy. Jim suggests that Ted send Billy away to stay with relatives for a while. Because Joanna may never come back.
    • Hey, what happened to the whole "Oh, she'll be back. Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle," part?
    • Ted's taken aback by Jim's suggestion. Jim explains that, with this big account, he needs Ted to be able to work 24/7. Ted assures Jim that he'll be able to work 25/8.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • That night at the apartment, Billy plays with toy trucks and helicopters while Ted works. Ted largely ignores Billy—until Billy accidentally knocks over his juice on Ted's work papers.
    • Ted gets angry, asking Billy, amongst other things, who bought him ice cream earlier in the day (yeah, it was Ted), and then sends Billy to bed.
    • Ted's point? I spend all this time and money on you, and you repay me by knocking your drink over?
    • Cut to the grocery store. Ted and Billy are shopping. Billy demands that Ted buy the same brands that his mom does.
    • Back at the Kramers' apartment. Billy's watching cartoons in Ted's bed. Ted has the mail; there's a letter from Joanna. Ted reads it to Billy.
    • Joanna explains that she had to go find herself, but she'll always be Billy's mom. She'll just be his mom in his heart, not in his house. Before Ted can finish reading it, Billy turns the TV back on.
    • Ted says they'll finish the letter another time. Billy says he doesn't care, and Ted leaves the room.
    • Ted goes through the apartment and boxes up Joanna's stuff: her books, photos of her, her toiletries, everything. Peace out, Jo.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • Ted's at work. It's quittin' time, and they're having a party for some dude who's been there for five years. Jim tries to get Ted to stop by, but Ted says he's already late to pick up Billy.
    • Ted shows up 20 minutes late to pick up Billy from a birthday party. Billy's steamed. All the other mothers were there before Ted, he says.
    • Back at home, Ted and Billy eat TV dinners—at the dinner table, not in front of the TV, which makes them extra-sad. Billy's still mad.
    • Ted reads the paper while they eat. Ted's happy the Knicks finally won a game. Billy says he prefers Boston because Mommy's from Boston, then he asks to be excused so he can go to bed.
    • Ted tidies up. It's quiet. He goes into Billy's room to put his toys and clothes away. Billy's asleep. He finds a framed photo of Joanna hidden away in the top drawer of Billy's dresser. He takes it out and puts it on top of the dresser, then tucks Billy in like an adorable blonde burrito.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • We're in Billy's room. Cards from his mom are taped up in a collage on his wall, along with some photos of her. There are Christmas and Halloween cards in there, so we're thinking some time has passed.
    • Billy gets up, uses the bathroom, and heads for the kitchen.
    • Ted gets up, uses the bathroom, gets the newspaper, and heads for the kitchen.
    • Billy gets out plates and chocolate doughnuts. Ted brings over milk, juice, and two glasses. Ted reads the paper. Billy reads a comic book. The whole scene is silent. Not an angry or awkward silent, but more of a "We just got up, and we need doughnuts, pronto" silent.
    • Clearly, this duo has come a long way and settled into a comfy life together.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Ted arrives at work with arms full of groceries. He hands them off to his secretary who tells him he's fifteen minutes late. Gee, thanks.
    • Ted enters his business meeting as his secretary reminds him about an upcoming PTA meeting. Jim's face reads "Uh… okay?" and the client looks angry.
    • Did we mention that Ted works at an advertising agency? It's never explicitly said, but we're calling it.
    • Cut to Billy playing on the jungle gym at park. It's an all-metal jungle gym because it's 1979.
    • Ted and Margaret sit on a nearby bench, gossiping about Margaret's ex-husband, Charley, and watching their kids. Ted asks Margaret if she'll ever remarry. She says no. It would be too weird. Charley's still the father of their kids.
    • Ted asks Margaret if she ever thinks about Charley. She says she does, all the time. Margaret asks Ted if he ever thinks of Joanna. He jokingly says "never." They yuk it up; he kisses her on the forehead.
    • Well, look at that: Ted and Margaret are totally BFFs now. Wonder if he's going to join the sisterhood.
    • Cut to Ted's office. Jim's livid because Ted missed the closing. Whoops. He says Ted's performance at work has been getting worse and worse ever since Joanna left eight months ago.
    • The phone rings. It's for Ted. It's Billy. They argue about how much TV he's allowed to watch, and Ted says he doesn't care what all the other mothers do.
    • He also confirms that he's supposed to get double chocolate chip. We can see Ted's priorities shifting before our eyes.
    • Ted hangs up, and Jim tells him he's really nervous about Ted's ability to do his job well. Ruh roh.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • Ted and Billy have dinner at home. Salisbury steak. Billy calls it crap, and says he hates it. Ted reminds him that he had it last week and loved it. Billy claims he's allergic to onions. Ted says he's not.
    • Billy abruptly changes his tone, and asks Ted if he remembered to pick up the ice cream, really playing up the whole sweet and innocent kid thing. Ted says he did, and you can practically see the light bulb go off over Billy's head.
    • Ted tells Billy he can't have any ice cream until after he finishes his dinner. Seems reasonable.
    • Billy pulls his chair into the kitchen so he can reach the freezer. Ted tells him he better stop, or he'll be in big trouble. Billy gets the ice cream out of the freezer, and brings it back to the dinner table.
    • Ted protests the entire time, and tells Billy that if he takes a bite, he's in huge trouble. Billy takes the lid off the ice cream. Ted threatens punishment. Billy grabs a spoon. Ted makes more threats. Billy holds a giant bite of ice cream up to his mouth. Ted tells him to not to eat it. Billy eats it.
    • Ted grabs Billy and carries him, kicking and screaming, down the hallway to his room and literally throws him into his bed.
    • Billy tells Ted he hates him, and Ted tells Billy he hates him right back. Billy screams that he wants his mommy, and Ted tells Billy he's all he's got.
    • Billy keeps screaming that he wants his mommy while Ted has a stiff drink in the other room.
    • Later that night, Ted checks on Billy. He's asleep, but then wakes up and apologizes to Ted. Ted apologizes to Billy, too.
    • Billy asks Ted if he's going to go away. Ted says he isn't.
    • Billy asks if his mom went away because of him. Ted says she didn't. Then he explains that Joanna was sad, and that he, Ted, should've been paying better attention to her, but he was too wrapped up in himself.
    • She didn't leave because of Billy, Ted says; in fact, she stayed longer than she wanted to because she loves Billy so much. She left because she couldn't stand Ted.
    • Ted tells Billy goodnight. Billy tells Ted he loves him. Aw.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • It's the Halloween pageant at Billy's school. Billy's dressed as what appears to be a vampire pilgrim, and it's his job to welcome everybody to the show. He flubs his lines, and Ted helps him from the audience.
    • The other parents in attendance giggle. It's all thoroughly adorable (if not a wee bit clichéd).
    • At work, Ted takes a stack of papers into his co-worker Phyllis' office and asks her to look over them. She says they look good, and—totally unprompted—yes, she'll go to dinner with him. Ted smiles. How do you like the sisterhood now, Kramer?
    • Cut to Ted and Phyllis waking up in Ted's bed. So dinner went well then.
    • Phyllis gets out of bed and heads down the hall to the bathroom. She's got to get going; she has a meeting at 8:00.
    • In the hallway, she runs into Billy. Did we mention that Phyllis is completely naked? Because she is.
    • Billy asks her if she likes fried chicken. She says she does. Then he heads into the bathroom, while Phyllis heads back to Ted's room, presumably to die from embarrassment.
    • Cut to the park. Ted's teaching Billy how to ride a bike. He lets go. Billy keeps riding. Ted's ecstatic.
    • Cut to Ted and Billy walking to Billy's school. This time when they arrive, Ted doesn't just shove Billy at some random lady; he ties Billy's shoes, gives him a kiss, and even says "hi" to some kid named Tommy.
    • As he walks, not runs, away, he looks lack after Billy. Ted's got this dad thing down.
    • Ted jumps in a cab and pulls away as Joanna furtively and wistfully watches from a coffee shop across the street.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Ted and Margaret are hanging out at the playground again, watching their kids. Margaret went on a date with her French professor. Turns out he's married. Womp womp.
    • As they talk, Billy climbs to the top of the jungle gym. He holds on with one hand, and flies a toy plane with the other. Ted's nervous. He tells Billy to put down the plane. Margaret says she'll go get it. Before she can, Billy falls off and hits the ground. His head's bleeding. Whoa.
    • Ted runs through traffic with Billy in his arms. He races down the street until they reach the emergency room. Ted Kramer: One Man Ambulance.
    • A doctor patches Billy up. He asks to speak with Ted in the other room. Margaret watches Billy as he protests; he wants his dad.
    • Good news. Billy's not going to lose an eye or anything. Bad news: he has to get about ten stitches. The doc asks Ted to wait in the other room while he does it; Ted's not trying to hear that. If something's going to happen to his son, Ted's going to be there, Doc.
    • Ted talks Billy through the pain as he gets stitched up. Billy writhes and cries in pain. Poor kid.
    • Billy's finally at home in his bed, bandaged and asleep, as Ted rubs his back. Ted leaves. Margaret's in the kitchen. She says she feel responsible for Billy falling and starts to cry. Ted tells her it's okay, then asks her if she'd be willing to take care of Billy if anything were ever to happen to him.
    • She doesn't say yes, but it's implied that she's in. He says he knows she'd be up for the job since she's such a good mother, even if she's a terrible dishwasher.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Ted's at the office, eating while he works. We don't know what meal it is, but since he appears to be eating a sandwich, a carton of ricotta cheese, and a huge glass of red wine, we sure hope it isn't breakfast.
    • The phone rings. It's Joanna.
    • Joanna sits in a restaurant, waiting. Ted arrives. They seem legitimately happy to see each other.
    • Joanna casually mentions that sometimes she sits in the window of the coffee shop across from Billy's school and watches him. Because she's been back in New York for two months.
    • Say what?
    • Then Joanna launches into a big speech about how she's changed since moving to California. She got a job. She got a really good therapist. She's feeling the best she's ever felt, and she's learned a ton about herself. Oh, and BTW, she wants Billy back.
    • Double say what??
    • Ted says no (obviously), gets mad, and leaves the restaurant, but not before chucking his full wine glass at the wall.
    • Fact: Dustin Hoffman (Ted) surprised Meryl Streep (Joanna) by breaking his wine glass at the end of the scene. Her reaction is real. "Next time you do that, I'd appreciate you letting me know," Streep told Hoffman coolly, shards of glass in her hair (Source).
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • Ted meets with a lawyer named Shaunessy. He seems like a no-nonsense dude; he has a no-nonsense mustache. Shaunessy lays thing out for Ted. In short, this custody battle's probably going to get nasty, and the odds aren't in their favor.
    • Also, it's going to be expensive. He suggests that Ted go home and make a list of pros and cons before he commits to fighting Joanna in court.
    • Ted sits at the dining room table working on his list. It looks late; the dirty dinner dishes are still on the table. The wall behind him is filled with Billy's artwork. His list is filled with cons.
    • Cut to Ted holding Billy while he sleeps. He tells him he loves him. Pro.
    • At lunch with Jim, Ted tells a long story about how Billy noticed that he lost weight. Jim looks bored out of his mind.
    • Jim tells Ted that one of their big clients is inviting other ad agencies to pitch them for one of Ted's accounts. Look, our experience in the ad business is limited to watching all seven seasons of Mad Men, but we're pretty sure that can't be good.
    • Jim says Ted's not cutting it. Then he fires him. Harsh.
    • Ted begs Jim not to fire him, explaining that he's fighting for custody of his kid, so this is pretty much the worst time ever to get fired. Jim offers him some cash. Ouch.
    • Ted leaves Jim, the money, and the restaurant, but not before issuing a curt "Shame on you" to his now former boss.
    • Here's a sweet scene: Ted and Billy at the kitchen table, stringing popcorn, making construction paper garland, and humming "Jingle Bells."
    • Shaunessy calls. Ted tells him that he lost his job, and Shaunessy says they have zero chance of winning if Ted's out of work.
    • Ted wants to delay their court date. Nope. It's too late. Ted tells Shaunessy he'll have a job in 24 hours. Shaunessy's all, "Uh, how on Earth are you going to make that happen?" and, frankly, so are we.
    • Cut to Ted circling jobs in the want ads at a coffee shop.
    • Ted goes to a headhunter. There's a job available in the art department at another ad agency. It's a step-down for Ted, both in position and pay. Ted doesn't care.
    • It's the Friday before Christmas, not exactly the best time to interview, but Ted insists that the headhunter calls the agency and makes him an appointment.
    • Ted shows his portfolio to an exec at the agency, Mr. Ackerman, while their office Christmas party rages in the next room. Everybody's feeling that disco beat. Because it's 1979.
    • Ackerman tells Ted he's got some good stuff there, and that he'd like to think things over. Ted asks who Ackerman needs to talk to before he makes his decision. Ackerman says it's Mr. Spencer, their creative director, but Spencer's about to leave for a two-week vacation, what with it being December 22nd and all. He'll have Spencer get in touch with Ted when he gets back.
    • Ted insists that Ackerman go get Spencer right now, explaining that he really wants this job. Ted is all sorts of pushy.
    • Ackerman disappears into the Christmas party and comes back with Spencer, drink in hand. Spencer reiterates that there's a pay-cut involved and asks why Ted wants a job he's clearly over-qualified for.
    • Ted repeats that he needs it. He doesn't explain why.
    • Spencer says he'll think about it. Ted tells Spencer and Ackerman that this is a one-day offer. They've seen his work. They know he's the bomb. If they want him, they have to decide today.
    • Spencer says he needs a moment to talk to Ackerman.
    • While they talk, Ted takes a seat in the other room. The office party continues all around him. Spencer calls Ted back in. He's got the job.
    • Ted's happy. On the way out of the office, he grabs a random blonde woman and kisses her on the mouth. "Merry Christmas," he says. Surprisingly, she doesn't slap him.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • Ted takes Billy to see his new office on a Saturday. Billy's impressed.
    • Billy asks Ted if he's ever going to get remarried in general, remarried to Phyllis (LOL), and remarried to his mom. Ted says he doesn't know, they're just good friends, and never, respectively.
    • Billy says that if Joanna saw Ted's new office, he bets she'd want to remarry him.
    • On their walk to school, Ted and Billy argue about how often Billy's supposed to take a bath and wash his hair. Ted spots Joanna watching from the coffee shop window. He looks shocked. To be fair, she looks like a major creep. He kisses Billy and sends him into school.
    • While Ted's reading to Billy in Billy's bed, the phone rings. It's Shaunessy. Joanna wants to see Billy; it's within her legal rights.
    • Desperately trying to find a way out of it, Ted suggests Joanna might try to kidnap Billy. Then he says he's concerned about Joanna's mental state since she's seeing a therapist. Shaunessy shoots him down both times, and tells him he needs to have Billy at the Central Park boat pond at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Ted reluctantly agrees and goes back to Billy and their book.
    • On Saturday morning, Joanna stands in the middle of the pedestrian path, waiting for Ted and Billy. Ted starts to say goodbye to Billy, but before he can finish, Joanna calls out to Billy, and he takes off running toward her.
    • Joanna scoops her son up and covers him in kisses. She calls to Ted that she'll have him back by 6:00 as they walk away. Billy looks elated. Ted looks heartbroken.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Ted and Joanna enter the courtroom. Shaunessy gives Ted some last-minute tips that boil down to this: Keep your answers short and to the point. Tell the truth. Don't get emotional.
    • Judge Atkins shows up, and they're off and running. Joanna's attorney, Gressen, calls Joanna to the stand as his first witness. "Motherhood," Shaunessy whispers to Ted. "They're going right for the throat."
    • Gressen questions Joanna. The highlights: She quit working after she had Billy, even though she wanted to keep working. Ted told her that she probably couldn't find a job that would pay enough to make putting Billy in daycare worth it anyway.
    • Now she has a job as a sportswear designer here in New York. She makes $31,000 a year. (That would be roughly $110,000 in 2017 money.) At the mention of her salary, Ted looks up from the notes he's been scribbling as she talks. You can practically see his ears perk up. We're guessing it's more than he's making.
    • Gressen asks Joanna if she loves her son. She says she does, and explains that she left because she was extremely unhappy living with Ted. She felt stifled. Ted didn't care or listen to her because he was too wrapped up in work.
    • Her self-esteem was reduced to zero. At that time, she thought the only choice she had was to leave, and that she was incapable of taking care of Billy.
    • She continues: Once she started seeing a therapist, she learned that she wasn't broken, and that she had worth as a person. She could be Billy's mom, but also be more than just Billy's mom. Ted listens intently. Gressen submits a report from Joanna's therapist into evidence.
    • Joanna gives a long speech from the stand. Her argument goes like this: Billy needs her. She's his mother. She was his mommy for five-and-a-half years; Ted stepped into the role for 18 months.
    • (BTW, Streep composed that speech herself. Screenwriter Benton melted when she used the "mommy" line.)
    • Then it's Shaunessy's turn to cross-examine Joanna. He establishes that Ted never hit Joanna or Billy, wasn't an alcoholic, never cheated on her, and always provided for her. Then he asks her how long she plans to live in New York and digs into Joanna's love life while Gressen repeatedly objects. We can't help but wonder if he'd question a man the same way.
    • Shaunessy's point is this: According to him, Joanna's never done anything stable in her life. She says she's going to living New York, but why should that be believed? She has a boyfriend right now, for example, but she can't say that they're going to be together permanently. How does the court know she's going to stay in New York permanently or want to be in Billy's life permanently? Gressen objects on the grounds that Shaunessy's harassing Joanna.
    • Shaunessy then asks Joanna what the longest relationship in her life was (outside of those with her parents and girlfriends). Of course, it was her eight-year marriage to Ted. Shaunessy says she failed at that. Joanna disagrees; she feels more of the blame lays with Ted. Shaunessy keeps laying the responsibility on her and generally being really vicious while Joanna protests.
    • Finally, Shaunessy straight-up yells at Joanna, demanding to know if she was a failure at the one most important relationship in her life.
    • Joanna, face covered in tears, smiles feebly and silently mouths back "Yes."
    • We see Ted's reaction shot to the question: he looks at Joanna and shakes his head no.
    • No further questions.
    • Ted asks Shaunessy if he had to be so rough on Joanna. "Do you want the kid or don't you?" Shaunessy replies.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Ted and Billy hang out at home. Billy colors while Ted reads. Billy asks Ted what he liked to do when he was little—like, did he watch The Brady Bunch? Ted says they didn't have a TV.
    • Billy's shocked, and asks what else they didn't have. Billy hops into Ted's lap, and Ted starts rattling off things from the good ol' days, like egg creams and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
    • Day Two at the courthouse. Margaret's on the witness stand, talking about what a great dad Ted has become.
    • When Shaunessy's done, Gressen starts questioning Margaret and gets her to confirm that Margret encouraged Joanna to leave because she was so miserable with Ted.
    • Gressen wraps up his questioning, but Margaret isn't done. She makes an appeal from the witness stand directly to Joanna as the judge bangs his gavel and orders her to be quiet. Margaret tells Joanna that things are different now. Ted and Billy are beautiful together. If she could just see that, maybe she wouldn't be doing what she's doing. Margaret's a pretty rad friend.
    • Ted takes the witness stand and is questioned by Shaunessy. He says Joanna's complaints about him were probably valid, and that there's a lot of stuff he wishes he could change about how their marriage went down.
    • Then it's Ted's turn for a meaty monologue. He admits he was a terrible husband, but he doesn't think that a kid's mother is necessarily the best parent for a kid just because of her gender. He and Billy have built a life together, and they love each other. Ted thinks destroying that would be harmful to Billy. He pleads with Joanna directly not to do that to Billy.
    • "Don't do it twice to him," he adds. Oof.
    • Gressen cross-examines Ted, and mocks him for taking a job with a lower salary and moving down the corporate ladder. He also asks Ted about missing deadlines and meetings at work because of Billy—once for a meeting at school because some kid next to Billy was biting him, once because Billy had a 104º temperature. Ted blows up on Gressen.
    • TBH, it's a weird line of questioning. It seems like Gressen's trying to make Ted look unreliable or unable to balance parenting with his job, when, in actuality, he's just making him sound like a good dad who puts his kid before his job.
    • Joanna seems to agree. She looks at Ted like, "Ted 2.0 blew off work to take care of our kid? Wowzers."
    • Finally, Gressen ends his questioning by asking Ted about Billy falling off the jungle gym and needing stitches. Gressen dramatizes Billy's injury, big-time, insisting that Billy almost lost an eye and is "permanently disfigured." Sheesh! The kid has a little scar on his face.
    • Gressen reads back a verbal statement Ted made to Joanna about feeling super-guilty over Billy's injury. Ted looks at Joanna like "Man, that's a low blow." No further questions.
    • Ted and Shaunessy leave the courthouse together. They're talking, but we can't hear what they're saying; it's a wide shot. They shake hands and part ways, and Ted heads for the elevator.
    • Joanna calls to Ted from a bench. This woman is constantly just "there."
    • She apologizes for Gressen bringing up the accident, and it seems sincere. Ted doesn't speak. He gets on the elevator in silence and leaves, as Joanna keeps the apology train rolling and the rest of the people in the elevator pretend like they're minding their own business.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • Ted trudges through the snow with some dry-cleaning. Margaret catches up with him, carrying groceries. No, he hasn't heard anything from the court yet.
    • BTW, Margaret and Charley are thinking about getting back together. Ted thinks that's a much better idea than we do.
    • Ted meets Shaunessy who's downing some brown liquid and smoking a cigarette. "I lost," Ted says before he even sits down. Yup. He lost.
    • Shaunessy reads the judge's decision to Ted. Joanna gets primary custody. Ted gets Billy every other weekend and for one night during the week, plus half of his vacation time. Ted says he wants to fight it, appeal. Shaunessy says that'll get really expensive. Ted says he doesn't care.
    • Shaunessy levels with Ted. If Ted appeals, Shaunessy will have to put Billy on the stand to testify. Ted won't do that. He thanks Shaunessy and leaves.
    • Margaret rings Ted's doorbell. She must've heard the news. Ted's inside. He asks her to go away. He just wants to be by himself.
    • Cut to Ted and Billy walking through the park. Billy says he doesn't understand this whole new custody thing. Ted explains it to him. He and Joanna both want to live with Billy, so they let a judge decide what to do because he's wise. Or something.
    • Ted tries to put positive spin on the whole thing, like by saying he's lucky because he gets to have dinner with Billy one night a week.
    • Ted's acting like a real grownup here.
    • Billy's more concerned with the practical stuff, like where his bed and his toys are going to be. Ted assures him that his mom's got that all figured out.
    • Billy realizes that Ted's not going to be able to kiss him goodnight anymore and he starts crying. "If I don't like it, can I come home?" he asks. Oh, man. We're not crying; that's just a speck of stray popcorn in our eye. Yeah, that's it. Stray popcorn.
    • Billy keeps crying; Ted tells him everything's going to be okay. Then they leave to go get ice cream.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Ted and Billy make French toast. Callback: It goes much more smoothly this time. These guys are seasoned pros.
    • Billy pauses and gives Ted a long look. Ted holds his gaze. Ted picks up Billy, and Billy starts crying. Ted suggests they go set the table.
    • After breakfast, Ted and Billy sit in the living room. All of Billy's stuff is piled up and he's wearing a giant sweater. They must be waiting for Joanna to come get him.
    • The door buzzes. Ted picks up. Joanna wants him to meet her downstairs in the lobby, alone.
    • Ted meets Joanna; she's clearly been crying. Ted asks her what's wrong. She explains that she came there to take Billy home, but she realizes he already is home—with Ted. She's not going to take him.
    • Joanna wants to go up and see Billy. Ted says sure; he'll wait in the lobby. Joanna gets in the elevator.
    • Just before the elevator door closes, Joanna fixes her hair and asks Ted how she looks. Ted says she looks terrific. We'd say she looks all red and puffy because she's been crying and making huge, last minute, life-altering decisions, but that's just us.
    • Joanna looks pleasantly surprised by Ted's compliment. The door closes, and that's it. Cue the classical jamz.