E: I love me some good comedy. I know, I know, I have this thing about sitcoms, but most of the shows I really enjoy – Castle, Bones, Glee, Grey’s Anatomy – have humor packed into their dna. You could even argue that Chuck and Ugly Betty are hour-long sitcoms. I wouldn’t, but somebody else might. At any rate, I realized while watching “Fixed” – this week’s excellent installment in my favorite new show, The Good Wife, that there is very little funny to be found in Alicia Florrick’s world, which makes spending time with her a little different from my usual TV viewing.
It might be hard to snark about, but maybe different is part of why I like it so much.
The episode opens with a lovely shot of Chicago’s shoreline, and then a close up of Alicia’s tense face as she’s deposed by her husband’s legal team. When did she first learn of his infidelity? Who told her? CNBC, she says, while she was in line at the dry cleaners. The lawyer (who I’m pretty sure is played by Terminator 2‘s Joe Morton) clearly doesn’t know how to approach Alicia; he needs very specific things from her, but he can’t tell her what they are or why, and while not overtly smarmy, he offers sympathy that feels less than authentic. Peter’s entire defense is predicated on the fact that Peter looks guilty because he was guilty – of hiding affairs from his wife. He compromised appearances at work, but not reality, as he tried to protect Alicia. The lawyer’s looking for the fastest and easiest way to her cooperation, and hopes to gloss over the emotional complexities of the situation – namely that her humiliation and pain are his prime story.
Alicia has other things to concentrate on, however. The case of the week was the opening salvo in a protracted war with a pharmaceutical giant; if Diane can get the jury to see that a former Iron Man triathlete is now wheelchair-bound because he was prescribed a drug “off use” (which is to say, that was only approved by the FDA for something else, but is routinely prescribed for – in this case – migraines) and it gave him a stroke. (C: Many drugs are routinely prescribed that way, btw.) “I feel the worst for my wife,” the handsome young man says on the witness stand. “This isn’t what she signed up for.” Alicia’s empathy kicks into high gear, especially when the wife, Carol, shows her a shoebox of letters from the 138 other victims who will be part of a class action suit if the husband wins, the burden of their pain added to her own. (Perhaps because there’s so much going on during the rest of the episode, no one here recognizes Alicia from Peter’s scandal; it’s a profound relief when Carol says she remembers Alicia from the case, not a headline.)
So it’s with even greater horror that Alicia finds a paper indicating that a juror has been targeted for a $ 35,000 bribe – either juror 2 or juror 11, depending on which way you flip the torn piece of paper. The paper turns out to be a place mat from a pub called The Hungry Kitten, which is frequented by the (extremely irritating) defense attorney. Alicia brings the information to Will and Diane, who – instead of risking a mistrial – have Alicia and Kalinda investigate the matter rather than bring it immediately to the judge. As usual we get some nice information about the inside of legal practice; Kalinda squirms through a meeting with the firm’s jury consultant, who admits that her entire profession is based on racial profiling. We get lots of tutoring in the letter of the law; what are they obliged to admit without proof? Which one took the bribe – juror 2, who rated highly in sympathy for plaintiff Roy (but has just bought a new car and who failed to report the fact that her husband works security in the defense’s building) or juror 11, the foreman, a grad student with hidden debts? We spend a lot of the episode thinking about what looks bad on the outside, and what’s fair to judge about other people’s private lives. “I don’t like to pry,” Alicia says, “because it makes everyone look bad.” “Then let me,” says Kalinda. In the end, despite Kalinda’s tricksy Veronica Marsing, the team fails at attaining enough evidence to pin down the miscreant, and the judge declares he doesn’t care. They steel themselves for a loss that doesn’t come. When Roy wins, we’re so grateful, so relieved, so surprised to see justice served. Which makes it that much more unsettling when we found out that wholesome Roy and Carol were the ones who bribed juror 11.
The episode ends, as it began, with Alicia and Peter’s lawyer. The lawyer had asked Alicia if she could account for Peter’s whereabouts on certain dates, in hopes of proving he had nothing to do with a certain sleazy businessman. Alicia finds what we (and she) initially assume is another sex tape, but turns out instead to be a heartbreakingly sweet video of Peter and the kids baking a cake for Alicia’s birthday, and we see again the vibrant, colorful life she lost. As she leaves to deliver the tape to the lawyer, she finds her mother-in-law slicing up an enormous ham; the lawyer, in an ill-advised attempt to butter her up, has sent over a basket full of iPods, games, fruit and the aforementioned meat. She brings the tape along with a garbage bag full of the gift basket treats. It may be the way the world works (you don’t look for saints in the State’s Attorney’s Office, Kalinda advises), but anything that smacks of a bribe turns her stomach. So she’s even more distraught to learn that the diamond Cartier bracelet Peter gave her for that birthday turns out to have been paid for by Sleazy Businessman.
In the last moments of the episode, Peter and the lawyer admit to Alicia it’s now become necessary to ask her to do something they didn’t expect – to testify for him. They need her in the witness stand to explain how blindsided she was by his infidelity. The episode ends without her answer, but we know what it will have to be, don’t we? Writers live for the most dramatic and painful possibility, right? There’s nothing unexpected about it.
What I love about this show – or one thing, anyway – is that Alicia is a grown up. She thinks before she speaks. She doesn’t broadcast her distress. She’s self-controlled and deliberate. So it can’t be any surprise that the show is going to seek to do to Alicia just what Peter did – to break her down in front of the biggest possible audience. She has to testify, because it’s the worst thing she could do to herself for a man who may no longer merit her loyalty. (“How’s your job?” Peter asks, with characteristically blind insensitivity. “Having fun is the most important thing.” “Fun is Disneyland,” replies a stunned Alicia.) And I, for one, really want to see her triumph when she does it. How that’s possible, I don’t know, and I guess the suspense of that will be enough for now.