Yearly Synopsis: 1976
As Nell prepared to die, she ran the full gamut of emotions. First she resolved to finish as much of her medical research as she could, in the hope of leaving a legacy behind. Then she embarked on a "search" for God. She had always had more trust in medical science than any sort of higher power, but the idea that she would somehow live on after death became more and more appealing to her. She consulted Maeve about Catholicism and Seneca about Native American beliefs, but she could not bring herself to fully believe in something she could not see, so she resigned herself to dying without complete faith in the existence of an afterlife. So, finally, she turned her attention to the practicality of her impending death, making it clear to her loved ones that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means under any circumstances. Seneca promised her that he would not let that happen.
However, when Nell's second aneurysm finally did give out in the winter, Seneca insisted on trying to operate - despite the improbability of any success. After the surgery, she stopped breathing before it could even be determined whether there was any brain function; in that split second, Seneca put her on a respirator. When the tests came back, however, they were conclusive: Nell was braindead. However, she would in all likelihood live on for years in a coma with life support, being that it was as yet illegal to take a patient off of a respirator once she was on it. While keeping bedside vigil, Seneca reflected on his and Nell's stormy marriage and realized that almost all of their fights had hinged on his attempts to control her life and her resistance to that. Much to his horror, Seneca came to understand that Nell's condition - being dependent on machines for the most basic of functions and him effectively calling all of the shots - was her worst nightmare realized. Seneca decided he had to keep his promise; he had to end Nell's state of limbo.
Against the advice of his and Nell's families and the entire hospital staff, Seneca disconnected Nell's respirator. Unfortunately, Roger walked in on him, and began pressing for Seneca to be prosecuted. Roger claimed he was doing it because he objected to doctors taking patients off life support on principle, but everyone believed he was doing it out of revenge. Seneca was subsequently arrested for murder. Seneca hired Jill to represent him at trial, and they immediately began butting heads as he attempted to tell her how to do her job (and she told him where he could go). Ironically, their disagreements were not unlike the many times Seneca and Nell would clash, when he would try to control her and she too would stand up to him.
Unfortunately, despite Jill's efforts, Seneca kept shooting himself in the foot at the trial, subconsciously wanting to be convicted and punished - not for taking Nell off life support, but for putting his own needs before hers for most of their marriage. He was eventually convicted of a lesser crime (second degree assault) and sentenced to prison - for a week. Jill was genuinely sorry about this, because they had formed an unmistakable bond during this time. Jill was the only person to whom Seneca had been able to open up about Nell's death, since she was his lawyer and could not be called to testify against him. And Jill had immersed herself in Seneca's cause to take her mind off of her separation from Frank.
Frank, meanwhile, was trying (though not very hard) to make his marriage work. He was openly bitter toward Delia, refused to make love to her, and was working very long hours on the city council. And, no sooner than he had been inaugurated, he undertook a campaign to run for Congress. All of this made Delia furious. She was well aware that Frank hated her and still wanted Jill, and she felt alone and ignored. Frank told her that she should have outside interests, and so she decided to take Chinese cooking lessons. However, she wanted Frank to go with her. He was too busy, so she went looking for another Ryan man - her old high school boyfriend, Patrick - to accompany her. He was in surgery when Delia came to find him at the hospital, but she happened to run into Dr. Roger Coleridge. He was all too eager to accompany her to cooking class, being even more of a pariah than she and thus not having any better offers, and so was born a match made in heaven (or hell).
Delia told Frank that she would be taking cooking lessons with a (female) friend named "Sheila," whom she had met in church. There was, however, no Sheila. Instead, Delia went to Roger's apartment. Their first few meetings actually did involve some cooking, but soon that gave way to talking and then, ultimately, lovemaking. Delia was enthralled with Roger's wealthy lifestyle, and found their time together an extravagant escape from her hard (and often unappreciated) work at home. Roger felt just as misunderstood and unappreciated, and needed something to take his mind off of his looming dismissal from the hospital. Delia did not judge Roger or vice versa; and, unlike Frank, Roger had no desire to "save" Delia or "change" her. On the contrary, he was fascinated by her just as she was - a child-like, wacky free spirit who always made him laugh. And though you might think there would have been bad blood between these two strange bedfellows, since Roger's blackmail scheme had almost destroyed Delia's marriage, to Delia's way of thinking, she did not have to be mad at Roger since Frank had not ended up leaving her after all.
Delia still did not want Frank to leave her, however much she was enjoying Roger's company, and Roger certainly did not want any more scandal to further mar his reputation. So they kept the affair a secret and the arrangement was to their mutual satisfaction - for the time being. Ironically, the more Delia grew to enjoy her time with Roger, the less insecure and needy she was with Frank, and the less strained that relationship became. As her affair with Roger progressed, her marriage only became more amicable, so it was almost as though all parties were benefiting from the affair. This all changed when another Coleridge's life - Faith's - was turned upside down.
Kenneth Castle continued to stalk Faith in 1976, and his obsession reached new proportions early in the year when he finally tricked her into coming down to the abandoned ruins of the old morgue in the hospital basement to show her his shrine to her. Terrified, she tried to run away, but fell and sprained her ankle. He decided at this point he could not let her go, convinced everyone would blame him for her injury. So he kept her down there in the morgue against her will. When she protested that she needed medical care, he pointed out that she was a doctor - she could tell him how to apply a cast. So, Kenneth treated her injury with a crude cast made from masking tape, leaving her bedridden and physically helpless. He snuck down a bed for her and brought her food, and was convinced that she would be better off down in the basement, away from Pat, who had just broken it off with Faith because he did not want to be tied down to her. Kenneth believed he was protecting Faith from Pat, who would only hurt her, as Kenneth's father hurt his mother. Faith, however, was scared for her life.
One night, the gas supply in the hospital was cut off - including in the basement, where Kenneth had candles lit to provide light for Faith. Faith almost died of oxygen deprivation. Kenneth got her out of the morgue and into a corridor just in time, but he still would not let her go. Once the air had been restored in the morgue, he even moved her back in there. More terrified than ever, she tried again to escape, this time sustaining a concussion. Kenneth's increasingly erratic behavior began to indicate that he was the one who had kidnapped Faith: He had become unhinged when he learned about the gas being turned off, and fled to the basement to save Faith, and then began desperately asking Pat and Bucky about the dangers of concussions. Finally, a very suspicious Pat followed Kenneth down to the basement and rescued Faith; but Kenneth got away. Kenneth's crush on Faith suddenly turned to hatred when he learned that she had told everyone that he had kidnapped her - he did not see it that way and felt betrayed, and became bent on revenge.
Faith meanwhile was bedridden and, as a result of the concussion, temporarily blind, leaving her a waiting target for Kenneth. Her one solace was that her father, having come so close to losing her, finally let down his barriers and became more open with his emotions toward her. Unfortunately, just as Faith and Ed were rebuilding their relationship, Kenneth attempted to break into the house to attack Faith and ended up pushing Ed from the roof to his death in a struggle. Kenneth was finally apprehended and committed, but the strain of his reign of terror and the death of her father caused Faith to lose her grip on reality. She was afraid that Kenneth would still come back to hurt her and, what's more, she refused to believe that her father was dead. She finally had a nervous breakdown at Ed's funeral, and her loved ones watched in pain as she was taken away in a straitjacket.
Faith underwent therapy and began coming to terms with all that had happened to her. She also addressed the neuroses that had plagued her all of her life, long before she knew Kenneth. Although she had initially been mad at Pat over their breakup, she decided that she wanted to remain friends with him. She told Bucky that she now realized how much she must have hurt him by continually putting him off as she had, because Pat made her feel the same way, and she apologized. She even decided to visit Kenneth, to prove to herself that he was just a sick and confused man, not the monster she had made him out to be in her mind. He was so far gone at that point, however, that he believe she was his mother during the visit. Faith emerged from therapy a new woman, literally and figuratively (she was on-screen less and less during the course of her treatment, as Faith Catlin was phased out of the role, and when Faith returned to society, the role had been recast). The new, stronger, and more stable Faith was able to mourn her father and put her disappointment over their somewhat distant relationship behind her.
Not everyone in the Coleridge family was able to make peace with Ed's death so healthily, however. For Roger, his father's death came at the worst possible time. The very night that it happened, Ed had walked in on Roger and a still-married Delia in bed together. Ed, the father Roger had always tried so hard to please, made it quite clear how disappointed he was in Roger. Ed left Roger's apartment in disgust and, within the hour, as Roger and Delia were desperately trying to figure out how to make Ed understand about their affair and get him to not tell Frank, they suddenly looked out the window and saw Ed fall to the ground. He was dead on the spot, and with him died any chance of Roger ever receiving his approval, the pursuit of which had been Roger's last remaining inhibition for wrongdoing. Roger coped with his loss by going on an extended drinking binge. Delia was about his only friend at this time, and she did her best to try to comfort him. Roger came to the conclusion that he was in love with her.
Delia, however began to realize she had to break it off with Roger if she was to make her marriage work, while Roger began to get it into his head that if Frank found out about the affair, he would leave Delia, and Roger would have her all to himself. Sensing that Roger did not want to let her go, Delia decided not to push him, and, somewhat reluctantly, continued the affair. Then one night, Jill walked in on Roger and Delia in bed together, using a spare key to Roger's apartment that he had emphatically assured Delia did not exist. Delia was able to convince Jill that she was in the process of breaking it off with Roger, but was letting him down gently. Jill was outraged, but she knew Frank would leave Delia if he found out and did not want to be responsible for costing Frank his political career. She agreed not to tell Frank, if Roger and Delia ended the affair. Roger refused to let Delia go, however, and said he would tell Frank if Delia left him. Jill, knowing her brother but also knowing Frank would never understand the situation, agreed to stay out of it and not tell Frank. Roger continued trying to get caught, however, making Frank extremely suspicious. Frank was appalled at the thought of Delia breaking their marriage vows, because he was now all of a sudden giving her the time of day again, so how dare she now do the same thing to him that he had done to her for years with Jill!
Mary, however, still remembered Frank's affair. With her big brother having been knocked off the pedestal on which she had placed him, Mary was deciding more and more (in part due to Jack's influence) that she could no longer live her life vicariously through Frank, as much as she did love him. She ultimately decided to leave Frank's staff and strike out on her own. She was presented an opportunity - of sorts - when she met Sam Crowle, the only employee of Riverside's local public access cable news station, Channel R. When he came to Ryan's to interview Frank, he was instantly impressed with Mary's hard work, and offered her a job as his assistant. Though Mary was still not quite sure what type of career she wanted, pursuing journalism at Channel R fit her basic criteria - it was political and community oriented. Little did she know, Channel R was a front for Sam's marijuana ring.
Mary received a promotion - and began doing actual reporting - in record time so that someone else could be hired as Sam's assistant: Reenie Szabo, daughter of the Ryans' nemesis, loanshark Nick Szabo. Reenie's position at Channel R was a front, while she was really making deliveries of hashish to Sam's customers. Reenie did not want to work, but she did not want to go to college either and her father had insisted she do one or the other or move out. She figured this would be an easy job to get her by until she could snare Dr. Bucky Carter - and his $30 million. Bucky was amused by Reenie's spoiled nature, and thought she actually liked him for himself.
Meanwhile, Mary's first assignment at Channel R was an expose on the poor conditions at the Gilcrest Manor Nursing Home, which she proved to be secretly owned by none other than Nick Szabo. This was a source of great embarrassment for Reenie when Bucky's mother came to New York to testify at Seneca's trial and happened to see the news broadcast. While Bucky was still reeling from his mother's snooty reaction to Reenie's family, he and Nick learned that Sam and Reenie were running a drug operation and Reenie had only been after him for his money. Sam fled New York on the run from Nick, who threatened to put him at the bottom of the Hudson River, and Nick took Reenie - whom Bucky had promptly dumped - to Las Vegas for an extremely long vacation to cheer her up. Though Sam and Reenie were not in Riverside for very long and did not have much impact on its residents, their hasty departure caused Mary to have to take the reins at Channel R, as she was its only remaining employee. Thus, Mary became a full-fledged TV journalist.
Mary also continued seeing Jack, but her family (or at least her father) kept insisting that she not be with a man who did not want to get married. Jack definitely did not like the idea of marriage, but as time wore on he became more and more afraid of losing Mary, and the issue of marriage continued to be a source of tension between them. Though this was nothing compared to the tension between Jack and Johnny, which was escalating to the point that, finally, in the middle of a heated argument, Johnny tried to punch Jack! He missed, but Jack struck back and did not miss, knocking Johnny out. Mary was furious and vowed that their relationship was over. Jack was terrified of losing Mary, but felt he could win her back with a sufficiently dramatic gesture. He finally came up with a (temporary and extremely underhanded) solution: He would propose to Mary, with no intention of actually marrying her, and then drag out the engagement for as long as possible.
Until then, Jack had always prided himself on his (often brutal) honesty, but the only thing more central to his personality than his truthfulness was his fear of being abandoned. So, keeping Mary in his life had to take priority, a compromise of ethics that would haunt Jack and spoil any happiness with Mary for quite a while. When Jack finally - after Mary at first refused to speak to him - managed to propose, she initially said no. She could not forgive what Jack had done to her father. However, he eventually managed to remind her that Johnny had swung first and, after he had convinced her that marriage would eliminate the primary conflict between Jack and Johnny, she agreed to marry him. They then went to Ryan's to break the news to the family.
No punches were thrown this time, but for Jack what did happen was much worse. Maeve and Johnny suppressed their reservations, agreeing that it was Mary's decision, and the whole family sat down to make plans. Jack sat by, barely able to get a word in edgewise, as the Ryans effectively hijacked the wedding plans. Jack's vision of a lengthy engagement went right out the window; by the end of the evening, he had been left little choice but to agree to a June wedding. (With the reception at Ryan's, of course.) Jack began to panic and, in a particularly desperate move, persuaded his editor to assign him to cover the Democratic Convention - the same week as the wedding. When Jack told Mary, however, she was so convinced that he was using the convention as an excuse to put off the wedding that Jack was finally forced to "turn down" the assignment for which he had called in a favor to receive in the first place. Jack also flirted, snuck around, and almost went to bed with Martha McKee, an up-and-coming reporter who idolized him. At the last minute he decided he could not do that to Mary and backed out, but he was still terrified of getting married.
As the wedding date drew nearer, Maeve began to fear and Johnny began to not-so-secretly hope that Jack would not go through with it. Finally, the night before the wedding, at the bachelor party, Jack met his future brother-in-law, Art, Kathleen's husband. Art tried to put Jack's mind at ease by giving him advice on life insurance, mutual funds, moving to the suburbs, and so forth, but Jack only became more terrified. He got very drunk and took off on his own, and nobody was sure he would make it back for the wedding. The next morning, Johnny and Frank and Jack's longshoreman buddy, Jumbo, went looking for him. When they finally found him, he promptly passed out. Ironically, Johnny was the one who sobered him up - by holding him under a cold shower. A hung over Jack finally made it to the church, hours after the wedding was supposed to have started. At that point, Mary was not even sure she wanted to go through with it, but decided that she loved Jack and could make it work and suppressed her doubts. Jack and Mary were married.
As Riverside gathered at the wedding, Jill spotted Delia wearing a necklace that had belonged to her stepmother. Roger had given it to her and pressured her to wear it to the wedding, expecting Jill to see it and hoping it would prompt her to tell Frank about the affair. Jill did not do that, but was so appalled that her stepmother's necklace was had fallen into the hands of the likes of Delia that she confronted Delia and demanded that she return it. Frank saw them going at it and became even more suspicious that something was being kept from him. Meanwhile, Roger continued to hang around Ryan's, always finding ways to bring up the elusive "Sheila," and dropping hints to Frank and anyone else until Delia was frightened enough to agree to another rendezvous. Finally, Frank insisted on meeting Sheila, and so Delia planned an elaborate Chinese dinner that she and "Sheila" would cook for the Ryans. At the last minute, Roger was supposed to call and claim to be Sheila with an excuse for why she could not make it. Roger, of course, did not call. As the minutes turned into hours and there was still no sign of Sheila, the Ryans kept questioning and badgering Delia to the point that she finally had to admit that Sheila was a figment of her imagination.
She claimed that she had been having a profound - and extremely private - religious experience, and that she had been in church during her "cooking lessons." No one was quite sure whether or not to believe her, but Frank distinctly remembered that Roger had claimed to have met Sheila during one of the times he had hung around Ryan's needling Delia. Frank figured out that Roger and Delia were having an affair, and set a trap for them. He announced in front of them both that he would be going on a business trip to Albany, but then never left. Roger, whose contract had finally come up for renewal at the hospital whereupon he had found himself out of a job, was more desperate for Delia than ever, and once again blackmailed her into coming over to his apartment. Frank then used Johnny's key to get into the front door of the Coleridge house, and then went into the backyard and saw Delia and Roger in bed together in Roger's apartment through the window.
Frank told Delia their marriage was over. The Ryans, who had been willing to forgive Frank and Jill's affair because Frank was their golden boy and could do no wrong - and because, as they had so often said, they loved Jill and would have rather she been their daughter-in-law than Delia anyway - had no love lost for Roger and so they lined up to point their collective fingers at Delia. But Patrick, always the champion of the underdog, saw their double standard for what it was and rushed to Delia's defense. Maeve and Johnny were only angrier now, that Delia had caused friction between Frank and Pat. Frank, however, was too busy trying to get ahold of Jill, though unfortunately for him she was not waiting by the phone.
Seneca had just been released from prison, and Jill had had to break the news to him that the medical board had decided to suspend his license because of his conviction, and Seneca was depressed, even though the hospital had at least allowed him to stay on as head of neurology by converting the position to an administrative one. Jill wanted to take his mind off of everything, so she invited him to her family's beach house. They were just going as friends, and all the way there she talked about Frank, but after they arrived they gave into their mutual loneliness and had a one night stand. It meant nothing to her, but caused Seneca to begin falling in love with Jillian.
When Frank discovered that's where they were, he was horrified to learn that Jill might have moved on with her life, and became even more beside himself. As soon as Mary, who was still on her honeymoon, learned of Frank's woes, the honeymoon was over. She insisted on cutting the trip short to go back to New York and hold her big brother's hand. Jack, who was actually having a good time, thought she was being unreasonable, and when he suggested that Delia was just doing to Frank what Frank had done to Delia for three years, Mary was livid. Once again, Mary was on her soapbox, defending Frank and his ability to walk on waters, just as when she and Jack had first met.
Before Jack and Mary could get home, Delia had decided to get back at the Ryans for being "mean" to her, so she took Little John and ran off to a hotel room. After a day, she finally phoned the Ryans and told them where they could find her, and then climbed out onto the window ledge. When they arrived, Delia threatened to jump, claiming her life would not be worth living if Frank left her. Frank agreed to take her back if she would come in off the ledge, and possibly meant it, but when Delia tried to come back in she suddenly noticed the height and froze up. She was too terrified to move. There was very little room on the ledge and, afraid that she would lose her grip and fall at any given minute, Delia tearfully admitted that she never meant to jump, only to scare Frank. Just then, Pat arrived at the hotel. Pat had always loved to "rescue" women - especially Delia - and this time was no exception. He climbed out onto the ledge and safely brought Delia back in, nearly risking his own life in the process.
Frank was even more furious with Delia now than before. While the fact that she was able to suppress such a phobia of heights to climb out onto the ledge in the first place would have indicated to any reasonable person that Delia was very desperate and not entirely in her right mind, all Frank could think about was a) Jill and b) how Delia's actions might have hurt his political career. Although Delia had checked into the hotel under an alias to keep from being found and most reporters would not have cared about the suicide threat unless they knew who Delia was, Martha McKee happened to be passing by the hotel when everything happened and noticed the ambulance and police and decided to investigate. She discovered that Delia was the wife of a Congressional candidate, and planned to write a story on her suicide attempt.
Mary convinced Jack, who was still barely speaking to her, to intervene. He called in a favor with Martha's editor and got the story killed. Although Jack did not believe Frank and Delia's marital problems were anybody's business, burying another reporter's story still went against all of his journalistic ethics. The Ryans, however, were not even all that grateful. As far as they were concerned, Ryans ought to look out for Ryans first, and Jack was now a Ryan - whether he (or they) liked it or not. In any event, Frank's career was saved for the time being, but he decided his marriage was over. However, he decided to wait until after the election to file for divorce.
When Jill returned home and learned what had happened, she denied to Frank that anything had happened between her and Seneca, rationalizing that she did not want to add to his suffering. Frank told her that now they could be together, but she remained unconvinced that they could do so without it being political suicide for him. It was not really up to them, however. After her story was killed, Martha McKee wanted revenge. Roger, in turn, wanted Delia, who was furious with him for blackmailing her and sabotaging her lies to Frank. In an argument, Delia accidentally let Martha's name slip to Roger. Roger, convinced that if Delia lost Frank for good she would have no choice but to come back to him, found Martha and told her the whole story of Frank and Jill's affair.
Martha then crashed a campaign rally for Frank at Ryan's and confronted him about his affair, and he was forced to admit everything. She then printed the story, and this time it was too big for Jack to get it killed. Frank's career was over, but he did not really care. He found Jill and they ended up spending the night together. The Ryans, however, were devastated, and as per usual they blamed Delia for everything. The next day, Frank dropped out of the Congressional race and definitively told his family of his plans to divorce Delia and marry Jill. Maeve and Johnny were horrified, as they did not believe in divorce at all and knew it would surely mean excommunication from the church for Frank, but they could not change his mind. Delia meanwhile was devastated.
She had an emotional meltdown and would not get out of bed, even to take care of Little John. In quick succession, Frank hauled up at Jill's apartment for days without contacting anyone and Maeve threw out her back and needed bedrest. With nobody to take care of Little John, Jack and Mary ended up baby-sitting him for a weekend while Jack was working on a major article. They were unable to sleep, Jack could not get any work done, and finally they had a huge argument in which Jack angrily declared that he never wanted to have children. Mary "subtly" reminded him that the Church considers that grounds for an annulment, which only made Jack angrier. After they finally got rid of Little John, Jack went to Washington to cover a story.
They were both miserable without each other. Mary of course complained to her entire family about how impossible Jack was being, who of course jumped to criticize Jack - except for Maeve who, surprisingly, gave him the benefit of the doubt and said that he probably had only said what he had in the heat of the moment and, even if he had meant it, he might change his mind in time. Finally, Jack and Mary made up over the phone, and Jack decided to work through the night, finish his story, and then rent a car and drive home the next day. However, there was a terrible storm and Jack kept falling asleep behind the wheel due to lack of sleep, and he finally crashed.
Jack was in critical condition and desperately needed surgery, but it was highly likely that he would die on the operating table. He survived, however, and woke up, but there was a complication: Jack was impotent. In time, after his other injuries had completely healed, there was a surgical procedure that could correct it, but its success was not at all a sure thing and he would have to wait many months before having the procedure, lest it cause a strain on his heart. Mary insisted that Jack not be told yet, because he was in so much pain, but instead went crying about it to every member of her family. Mary kept trying to cheer Jack up, though her hovering only caused Jack to try to hide his pain, which made him miserable, which made him lash out at her.
Jack's doctor turned out to be Alex McClean, a friend of his from Vietnam, with whom he had always been in competition for women. Confined to a bed and feeling helpless, Jack's paranoia made him openly jealous about all the time Mary and Alex spent together. This was nothing compared to Jack's reaction when Mary discovered that she was pregnant. Jack still insisted that he did not want children, announced that he hated the baby, and accused Mary of going off of her birth control pills without telling him to force the issue of children. Mary was angry, but steadfastly believed that Jack would come around in time.
To make matters worse, it was soon discovered that Jack did not have health insurance: The newspaper did not offer it to him since he wrote his column on a freelancing basis, and Mary had forgotten to add his name to her policy after they had gotten married. They discovered they were already deeply in debt for his treatment thus far, and the medical bills would just keep piling up, since he would need constant care for some time to come. Bucky and Seneca each offered to pay the bills. But Mary turned them down without even consulting Jack, proudly declaring that Ryans do not take charity.
Instead, she told Jack they would have to stay with her parents during his convalescence (since the bar was right across the street from the hospital, with someone always home, and Pat, a doctor, living right there). Jack blew a gasket, and ironically he was coming from the same sort of stubbornness as she, in that he did not want to accept charity either. Of course, it did not occur to her that, if given the choice, Jack might prefer charity from a friend/acquaintance like Bucky or Seneca than from Johnny Ryan.
But, Mary persuaded Jack to move in with his "Da-in-law," and it was not a smooth adjustment. Jack and Johnny fought constantly. Jack refused to discuss the baby with Mary. And Little John was always around, making Jack all the more convinced that he would not make a good father. In one particularly harrowing experience, Little John knocked over Jack's painkillers, and Jack - barely able to move from all of his injuries - had to crawl across the floor picking them up to keep him from swallowing any of them. Jack and Maeve built a relationship, of sorts, as she was sympathetic and patient with him. Jack and Mary were also lucky in that Bucky secretly paid all of Jack's hospital bills, which at least eliminated their debts. But Jack and Mary grew further and further apart.
They briefly reconnected on Christmas, when Jack's friends from the Gennaro Social Club brought their manger to the Ryan's, so Jack could be a part of setting it up as he had been each year for decades. Jack's friends expressed their disapproval of Jack's treatment of Mary, and managed to get through to him. Jack seemed to soften briefly towards Mary and the baby after that, but just then Little John and Art and Kathleen's visiting toddlers, once again left unattended, got into the manger and broke one of the figurines. Heartbroken, Jack once again began ranting and raving about his hatred of children as all the Ryans came to see what the problem was, and Johnny angrily declared that Jack should be grateful that Mary was carrying his baby, because it was probably the only one he would ever have!
Mary was then forced to tell Jack about his impotence, and though she tried to explain why she had kept it from him, it did no good. He felt even more helpless and powerless than he already had because of all of his other injuries, and he was horrified that the Ryans had all known for months. By year's end, their marriage was on very shaky ground and they were both miserable. Jack was more convinced than ever that he would never be the husband and son-in-law that Mary and her family wanted, and felt more and more trapped and out of place living at the Ryans'.
Aside from Johnny, Jack's biggest problem with living there was that Delia and Little John were staying there as well, as Delia had no place else to go after Frank had left her. Delia was determined to stay a Ryan at all costs, because the Ryans offered the only security and love she had ever known, and she desperately wanted to belong somewhere. Delia met with a lawyer and found out that Frank could divorce her on the grounds of adultery, even though he too had been unfaithful, because she had known about his affair and forgiven it. However, if she could catch him in a new affair, they would be "even," and she could block Frank's divorce.
Delia knew Frank was seeing Jill again, so she did some snooping and learned that Frank and Jill were going to Jill's beach house for a weekend and, after they had left, set up a plan to catch them in the act. She told Pat where Jill was (but neglected to mention that Frank was with her) and convinced him to drive her out to the Hamptons, since she could not drive, so that she could talk to Jill and beg her to give Frank up. Delia made sure they did not arrive until late at night and, when they got there, they circled the house to see if any lights were still on. They saw a light in the back and the back door wide open, and Delia promptly walked in on Frank and Jill in bed together, with Pat right behind her.
Delia feigned ignorance/innocence, and Pat actually believed that she did not know that Frank and Jill were there. He agreed to testify for her. Delia had her ammunition, and Frank and Jill's plans for a quick divorce and remarriage were derailed. Seneca was all too happy about that, because he had fallen in love with Jill and wanted her to himself and told her so every chance that he got. But Jill only wanted Frank, and they continued seeing each other, now not even hiding it. With all the Ryans hating Delia and/or pitying her, she latched onto Pat's pathological protection of her like a lifeline. She slowly began to realize that Frank was a lost cause, and she came to believe that she could ditch Frank and remain a Ryan - by marrying Pat.
At first she did not have a clear plan for how to go about getting Pat to marry her, let alone how to get the Ryans to ever approve of their marriage, which would never be recognized by the Church. However, Pat was obviously still in lust - and perhaps in love - with Delia, and she knew it and played it for all it was worth. Whenever Pat was around, she always found a way to wind up half-naked, in lingerie or in her underwear, and he was uncomfortable but mesmerized. She also decided to play on his need to protect her by resuming her friendship with Roger, who was thrilled. Delia told Roger that she could no longer deny that she was in love with him - which was perhaps true on some level - and they began making plans to reunite. Pat could not stand this, as he was sure that Roger would be a horrible influence on Delia and would only hurt her, and he constantly came running to get her away from him, which was exactly what Delia wanted.
Meanwhile, Faith was still carrying a torch for Pat, though he wanted to just be friends. Delia saw Faith as a threat, and planned many of her rescue crises with Roger just when Pat and Faith were spending time together. Faith and the Ryans were terrified of what could happen if Pat got too close to Delia, but Pat was determined to save Delia from herself, from Roger, from Frank, and from anyone else. Meanwhile, the custody hearing for Little John was approaching. Frank and Jill were determined to take him away from Delia. The day before the hearing, Delia came home to Ryan's to find Jill sitting on the couch, holding a picture of Frank and playing with Little John. Jill told Delia that Frank had left her because he was tired of her acting like a child, and then insinuated (in her prim, proper, and innocent-seeming way) that Delia had not satisfied him in bed. Delia snapped and pushed Jill away, and she subsequently tripped over Little John's tricycle and hit her head on a table.
Jill was unconscious and taken to the hospital. When Frank found out, he was furious with Delia, and got back at her by telling the family that she was the one who had (accidentally) pushed him down the stairs. They were stunned, and very mad at Delia. Even Pat initially could not defend her. He told Frank that he had obviously been right about Delia all along, and actually apologized for questioning his (Frank's) supreme judgment. Delia suddenly found herself very alone and desperate. Although, it did not take long for Pat to come to the conclusion that both falls were accidental, and once again feel sympathy for her. Maeve and Johnny forgave her, to an extent, eventually as well.
More immediate than fear of isolation from the Ryans, however, was Delia's fear that she would lose Little John because of this pattern of violence, but, as it turned out, Frank and Jill had some secret/s that threatened their chances of getting custody as well. Shortly prior to the fall, Jill had discovered she was pregnant. Although she had been suffering from morning sickness for a long time, she did not think anything of it because - being your classic uptight, slightly neurotic overachiever - she had had those same symptoms (headaches, nausea, dizziness) all of her life as a result of stress.
Because the symptoms first showed up before Frank and Jill had resumed their affair, and because Jill could not remember if she had had a period in the time (slightly under a month) between her tryst with Seneca and her reunion with Frank (due to her "irregular" cycle), her OB-GYN determined that Seneca was the father. There was no way of knowing at what point the initial symptoms went from being stress-related to being morning sickness (if they had even been stress-related to begin with) and UltraSounds did not exist at the time to pinpoint a more exact conception date, so this was basically a guess. Jill took it as a death sentence, however.
She had not told anyone that she was pregnant (except for Faith, who had diagnosed her) before she fell. At first, she was not even sure she wanted to carry the baby to term, but she ultimately decided not to have an abortion, particularly after learning that Seneca really wanted a baby because Nell had been unable to conceive, and after getting an earful about the vehement aversion that her prospective in-laws had to abortion. But she decided not to tell anyone (including Frank and Seneca) that she was pregnant until after Little John's custody hearing, fearing that the more people who found out, the more likely the judge might find out somehow. So Frank learned Jill was pregnant while she was unconscious, and immediately assumed the baby was his. Before Jill had even woken up, Frank had told all of the Ryans about the baby on the way.
Frank was not the only one who found out about Jill's pregnancy - Roger was informed as well. Delia sensed there was something about Jill's condition that no one was telling her that might somehow affect the custody hearing. So, after the first day of the trial, when it looked like Delia did not have a prayer, she went to Roger and begged him to tell her truth. He understood that Delia's pushing Jill was an accident and did not blame Delia for it and, being a true fool for love, told Delia that Jill was pregnant. Delia then marched into court the next day and told all, and the judge ultimately ended up awarding (temporary) custody of Little John to Maeve and Johnny!
Frank, never being much of a hands-on father, was not phased by this at all and obliviously planned a future with Jill and the baby, taking Maeve and Johnny's new status as round-the-clock baby-sitters for granted. Jill continued lying about the baby's paternity for a week after getting out of the hospital, wanting some time alone with Frank before telling him the truth. Just when she was about to tell him, however, she began experiencing severe pain and bleeding and the doctor gave her a 90% chance of miscarrying. If the baby did not survive, she felt that there was no need for Frank to ever know, so she kept quiet.
At the same time, Seneca found out she was pregnant and, when Jill confirmed that he was the father, he agreed that Frank did not have to know if she miscarried but announced that he would personally do everything possible to keep that from happening. He also still wanted Jill back. Jill had no choice but to give in to Seneca's micromanagement of her life, lest he should tell Frank about the baby's paternity. Frank was annoyed by Seneca's presence in their lives, but Jill assured him he was just an overly concerned friend. Jill remained bedridden and she and Frank went on planning a life with the baby and Little John - of whom Frank was sure they could get custody, once he managed to get a divorce from Delia somehow and he and Jill were married. Life was good for Frank, even if a court had effectively ruled him an unfit father.
Delia, however, was more personally offended by the custody arrangement. She took the ruling as a personal grievance that Maeve and Johnny had somehow committed against her and lashed out at them, though she continued to live with them. Once Pat got over his initial anger about her having pushed Frank, Delia resumed her plans to seduce him. She kissed him, tried to make love with him, and flat out told him that she loved him and wished she had married him instead of Frank. Pat responded with a mixture or terror and desire. Delia was meanwhile amazed by the Ryans' acceptance of Jill's and (presumably) Frank's new baby. Maeve and Johnny were suddenly willing to concede that Frank and Jill should be married so that the baby would be legitimate, even if the marriage would be a civil ceremony and the Church would never recognize it. Remarriage was suddenly the lesser evil for Maeve and Johnny. This angered Delia, but it also inspired her: She decided the way to get Pat to marry her and the Ryans to accept it was to get pregnant by Pat.
To accomplish this feat, Delia told Roger that she would go away with him to Europe, insisting that they travel by boat. She informed Pat of her plans, and he worked himself into a frenzy trying to talk her out of it, playing right into her hands. The rest of the family was sure it was all a bluff - one of Delia's "fantasies," as Maeve put it - and that Delia would never leave Little John, but Pat was terrified for her. She talked to her gynecologist and managed to estimate her ovulation cycle, so that she could plan her getaway at just the right time of the month. The night before she and Roger were scheduled to depart, she asked Pat if he would try to stop her if she ran away with Roger; he said that he would. The next morning, she took off before anyone else woke up, leaving a note behind containing just enough information for her Paddy to find her.
The whole time Roger and Delia were onboard the ship, she used a slew of excuses to keep them in their cabin, without having sex. Most of the time, she was perched at the porthole, looking for Pat. Meanwhile, Pat agreed to go to the symphony with Faith that evening. When he found the note, his family begged him not to go after Delia, but he did - standing Faith up in the process. He got onboard the ship just in the nick of time, and right after Roger had left the cabin to get champagne. Delia tearfully claimed to Pat that she could not go through with it and she was already homesick, and begged him to take her away - but not before getting him to agree to take her to a hotel (because she said she couldn't face the family that night) and to stay with her until she calmed down. They left the ship and, by the time Roger returned, the ship had already set sail and he was headed for Europe all by himself.
Once at the hotel, Delia quickly changed into lingerie and started coming onto Pat. He gave in and went to bed with her, almost as if he felt he was merely doing what he had to do to "save" Delia. The next morning, regret crept in, and he told her that this could never happen again and no one could ever know. He took her home and, completely guilt-ridden, started doing everything possible to avoid her. He moved out of Ryan's. He refused to fix anymore of Delia's problems. He went to confession with Father McShane, who told him that Delia was an "occasion for sin" that he must avoid at all cost, and that he should focus his romantic attention on someone else.
The obvious choice was Faith, who forgave Pat for blowing her off for the symphony and was all too willing to start dating him. So, like some sort of Nathaniel Hawthorne character, Pat vowed to cling to his "Faith's" skirt and follow her to heaven as penance for his night of "sin" with Delia in the "forest," obvious though it was that he really wanted to run right back to that forest. Meanwhile, Delia was devastated by Pat's rejection, but encouraged when she confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. Roger then returned from his slow boat ride to hell just in time for New Year's Eve, and crashed the Ryans' party to publicly humiliate Delia as revenge for jilting him.
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