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Denise Bauer (protrayed by Julie Bowen) is a senior associate attorney at Crane, Poole & Schmidt who first appeared at the start of Season 2 although she had been working at the firm for at least six years. So far, she has been thwarted in her strong desire to become a partner.
Denise's Messy Divorce
Denise and her husband, Tim Bauer, were married for ten years before their marriage ended. She admitted to Daniel Post in 2x11 [The Cancer Man Can] that she knew Tim "would never amount to much" when she married him. At the time of their divorce, he was a "golf bum" living off of her salary ($320,000 per year at the time). He filed for divorce from her in 2x01 [The Black Widow], and, in 2x02 [Schadenfreude], Tim and his legal representative, Reverend Donald Diddum, returned with a requested alimony figure of $625,000. Denise enlisted the help of first-year attorneys Garrett Wells and Sara Holt to help her in the battle. Following an unsuccessful motion by Denise to challenge the constitutionality of divorce law, Reverend Diddum increased the request to $890,000. Garrett and Sara then concocted an elaborate scheme to blackmail the reverend and ended up getting him to agree to a reduced alimony figure of $100,000.
Following her divorce, Denise was shown handling a steady workload of cases - and being successful in most of them. In 2x05 [Boys To Men], she brought Jose Pitino's wrongful-death lawsuit against a truck manufacturer to a fast and lucrative settlement with a memorable opening statement. In 2x06 [Witches Of Mass Destruction], she recruited Shirley Schmidt to help her in the Wiccans and Christians against Halloween case (they lost). In 2x07 [Truly, Madly, Deeply], Shirley assigned her to the case of Dwight Biddle, whose wife was trying to annul their marriage after he "strayed" with a cow (she won). And in 2x08 [Ass Fat Jungle], she represented Dr. Barry Glouberman in the cosmetic surgery "ass fat" injection case (settled).
In 2x09 [Gone], Tito Perez, the young son of Denise's housekeeper was abducted while the three of them were on a shopping excursion. Denise felt some personal responsibility for the incident, and she was willing to stop at nothing to save the boy. She and Brad Chase impersonated FBI agents to elicit information on the whereabouts of the kidnapper. In one scene, Denise showed off her fluency in Italian when questioning the kidnapper's brother. Later, Brad unintentionally sliced off three of Father Michael Ryan's fingers while attempting to force his way into the priest's office with an axe. Later, at the hospital, Denise used one of the severed fingers to blackmail the priest into giving up the probable location of the boy. Ultimately, Tito was rescued unharmed. Denise was fortunate to escape charges in the incident although Brad was arrested for assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. He was tried and found not guilty in 2x10 [Legal Deficits].
Denise met client Daniel Post in 2x11 [The Cancer Man Can] when Paul Lewiston asked for her help in Post's defense against a civil suit. Post was dying of lung cancer and, from their first meeting, tried to charm his way into Denise's heart. Denise, still not dating since her divorce, resisted his advances at first but eventually began to fall for him. In 2x12 [Helping Hands], Daniel second-chaired for Denise, fulfilling one of his lifelong desires to try a case. After winning, they celebrated by spending the night together. Denise, who had perhaps thought of Daniel as a convenient solution to her fear of long-term commitment, now realized she was in love with him. In 2x14 [Breast In Show], Denise attended Daniel's "funeral", meeting his family for the first time. The conflicting emotions of the oddly festive occasion proved too much for her to handle, and she left early, later telling Daniel that she could not continue in the relationship. Daniel then headed to Switzerland to pursue an experimental treatment, and Denise expected she would never see him again.
Months later, in 2x27 [BL: Los Angeles], Daniel returned without warning and asked Denise to marry him. Denise announced their engagement in 3x01 [Can't We All Get A Lung?] and then defended Daniel against charges of illegal organ-trafficking. After the trial, she confessed to him that she needed some time to be sure of her feelings for him. Daniel replied that he was going on a "vacation" for five or six weeks. In 3x07 [Trick Or Treat], Denise received a message by Mariachi band, from which she deduced that Daniel had died. She later found out that he had died during lung-transplant surgery in Brazil.
During Daniel's extended stay in Switzerland, Denise decided she should start dating again after having a frightening dream about a "three-way" with Denny and Denny in 2x19 [Stick It]. Shirley set her up on a blind date with her nephew Michael Reisz, which began and ended poorly. Denise thought the evening had ended well when she hit it off with police officer Scott Warner after he gave her a traffic ticket. Unfortunately, he was only impersonating an officer and was arrested. In 2x21 [Word Salad Days], Denise agreed to a dinner date with A.D.A. Richard Kelton after they faced each other in the polygamy case, but nothing seemed to come of that.
Brad and Denise had made an impression on each other when they worked together to recover Tito Perez, but nothing more than friendship had come out of it. In 2x22 [Ivan The Incorrigible], Brad asked Denise for advice regarding a woman he had asked out. In 2x23 [Race Ipsa], he again asked for her advice - this time about his kissing abilities. When Denise offered to demonstrate the proper technique, their "kissing practice" ended up leading to more than either had bargained for. Denise resisted Brad's interest in continuing a relationship because of her personal policy against dating anybody from the office. She eventually gave in to her desires in 2x24 [Deep End Of the Poole], labelling their relationship "friends with benefits" in the hope that it would not become "messy". This turned out to be wishful thinking, as the "friendship" ended up harming her chances to make partner (below). Later, when Denise announced her engagement to Daniel, Brad was very upset that he didn't hear the news directly from her.
Struggle to Make Partner
Denise seemed to be well-positioned to become a partner because of her close relationship with Shirley. Shirley had acted as Denise's mentor, advising and working with her on many cases, and the two had shared a victory beer after winning their case in 2x15 [Smile]. Denise had even been Shirley's "date" at Ivan and Missy's rehearsal dinner in 2x16 [Live Big]. She was also highly respected by Paul Lewiston, who hypothesized in 2x17 [...There's Fire!] that the two of them might start a new firm if Denny's problematic marriage led to the dissolution of Crane, Poole & Schmidt.
Nevertheless, Denise was still insecure about her chances, especially with the arrival of Marlene Stanger in 2x25 [Squid Pro Quo]. She complained to Shirley that Marlene had stolen her client, only to be told that she needed to "toughen up". In 2x26 [Spring Fever], she again went to Shirley to explain that Marlene had stolen her idea on a case, but Shirley brushed her off again. Later, Denise observed Shirley and Marlene sharing a beer. Angry and frustrated, Denise resorted to pettiness by dropping Marlene's misplaced personal digital assistant into a trash can. Unfortunately, her photo was recorded on the device, and when Marlene recovered the PDA, she took the incriminating evidence to Paul. Paul told Denise her chances of making partner were now "diminished". Denise then asked Brad to put in a good word for her with Paul, but Marlene overheard them discussing their relationship and immediately went to tattle again. Denise raced and got there first, but the information was too damaging - Shirley declared that Denise would not be making partner, mainly because she was sleeping with a partner.
Denise addressed the issue again in 3x02 [New Kids On The Block], when she felt threatened by the arrival of partner Jeffrey Coho. She asked Shirley when she'd be made partner and was told bluntly "When you're good enough".
Relationships With Other Characters
Besides her relationships with Brad and Daniel, Denise has attracted the attention of most of the male characters on the show at one time or another. In 2x01 [The Black Widow], Garrett declared to Sara that he thought Denise was "interested" in him although she summarily dismissed all of his advances. When Denny learned that Denise had dreamt of him in a sexual way in 2x19 [Stick It], he immediately invited her to dinner. He also greeted news of her engagement in 3x01 [Can't We All Get A Lung?] with an overly friendly kiss. And Jeffrey made a pass at Denise in 3x06 [The Verdict] which she rejected by informing him that she was engaged.
As for Alan Shore, Denise was until recently one of the few women that he had not attempted to coax into a sexual relationship. They have worked together on only two cases - when Denise requested his assistance in 2x13 [Too Much Information] and later, on the Adele Freeman/Donald Wharton case in 2x20 [Chitty Chitty Bang Bang]. Once, he visited her (perhaps speculatively) in her office while they were both working late, but after she mentioned that she was involved with Daniel Post, Alan's body language changed and, if he ever had any other intentions, he didn't pursue them. Much later, in 3x06 [The Verdict], Alan made a half-heartedly crass comment to Denise, which he later admitted to Denny was a symptom of his current sexual insecurity. In 3x07 [Trick Or Treat], Alan was present when Denise received the news about Daniel's death and accompanied her - as a supportive friend - on her first visit to the morgue. In 3x08 [Lincoln] , Alan overheard Denise tellingShirley that she felt an unusually strong interest in sex since Daniel died. Alan then approached her with some typically bold propositions, which Denise rejected (even though they perhaps intrigued her).
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