E: Remember last week when I talked about how the writers cleverly lit on the worst possible thing to do to our erstwhile heroine, Alicia Florrick? Well, this week’s episode proves that they do indeed subscribe to the Lois McMaster Bujold school of fiction; whatever would hurt your protagonist the most, do it. Fidelity is the issue of the week, and standards. This week marks the writers first misstep, in my estimation; they’re trying to hurt Alicia so hard that they’re, well, trying too hard.
First off I’m a little annoyed that the show dropped any mention of Alicia’s testimony in Peter’s trial; it’s making me wonder, actually, if this episode might not have been shown out of sequence. Come to think of it, there’s a subplot about Alicia and Cary hiring a new assistant, and did we know something happened to their old one? Sorry. Just curious. That’s a funny subplot, as Cary plots tend to be; when Alicia disses his preferred candidate (a Bowdoin grad who gazed so steadfastly in his eyes she even directed answers about women’s clothing to him. M: What can you expect from a Bowdoin grad, though. Safety school!), he produces a dinosaur who can’t use computers and tells Alicia “what? I thought you’d have so much in common.” She doesn’t pay attention, and he doesn’t expect her to, which is weirdly cute, because neither one of them get mad about it.
That might come down to something Alicia says to Martha Plimpton’s hilarious opposing council in their case of the week. Don’t bother trying to get under my skin, she says, when Plimpton’s pregnant Patty cleverly insinuates that Will has feelings for Alicia. “After the last seven months, I’m vaccinated.”
Patty ruled last night’s episode, using her pregnancy to redirect attention away from damaging testimony and to bring her clients or the judge to heel. “Inadvertent my ass,” says the judge, but he lets her stop proceedings for the ‘pangs’ she claims to feel. Alicia’s worthy clients are three widows whose husbands heroically died stopping the train they were driving from crashing into an urban station. The commercial freight company faults the drivers for the accident (and claims one of them was on speed); the widows contend that their husbands were overworked to the point of exhaustion and then denied overtime pay – essentially, that they were worked to death. Through some sleight of hand Alicia uncovers, we find that the company has been hiding more than the unpaid overtime, which turns out to be a civil engineer who’d discovered catastrophic parts failure on the trains and wasn’t able to fix them all fast enough to prevent the crash – and the married coworker he’d been sleeping with. If she tells what she knows – which she clearly wants to do – she has to explain how she knows it. Leaving aside why she was even on the memo to begin with (did the company know of the affair and that he’d shared vital information?), this woman is faced with either becoming a whistleblower and losing her family, or sitting by and doing nothing. Hoping she’ll keep quiet, Plimpton forces the woman to give her deposition in open court, and Alicia is forced to, in the woman’s words “do to me what somebody else did to you”.
I’m not down with this. First of all, if this woman – Ms. Connelly – is anyone in that scenario, it’s Peter. Her family is just as innocent (including the infant who is likely a product of the affair), but this time it’s the mother who is the cheat and liar. The show doesn’t look at the distinction, which is too bad. Not fun to have to choose this for the Connelly family, obviously, but I think the writers structured the episode to make it all seem much more in Alicia’s power than it really could be. (I mean, convenient that the engineer – who was going to break before Patty faked labor and shut him up – won’t answer more questions, right? And if Alicia hadn’t been willing to cross examine Connelly’s testimony, Will would have done it with the same result. ) Anyway, I think the guilt trip doesn’t ring true enough.
Alicia isn’t happy about the prospect of putting this woman on the record, but the three widows are practically destitute and she can’t see another way to win. You have to do your job in the end, Grace tells her mother, giving her permission. That job is important and it has these rules for a reason. But is that the best reasoning they can find? After all, this is a woman courageously testifying at the expense of her personal life. She doesn’t want her cheating exposed, but she won’t lie, and she won’t stay silent, either. She chose to tell the truth, and that was a brave and noble thing, and I’d rather the show praised her courage. Or acknowledged that she was the villain in the whole cheating scenario – that she was the prime mover of both the whistleblowing and the ruin of her family life. Alicia didn’t do either of these things to her. I guess I’m a little mad at them for framing this story the way they did. You’re better than the anvil, people! You don’t need to use it. If nothing else, telling the story without the focus on Alicia could have put the parallel where it belonged – on Peter – which could have given Alicia a richer and more complex understanding of his position. Storyline fail, I’d say.
Anyway, in other news, Peter is jealous of all the time Alicia spends with Will; Alicia gets Peter to laugh at the irony of that. Overbearing mother in law Jackie drags Zach and Grace to the prison for Peter’s birthday, against Alicia’s expressed wishes. (“It was weird to see him like that,” says Grace. ” I like him better in a suit.” “Me, too,” laughs Alicia.) And Alicia really does spend a lot of time working late with Will. (“I won’t be home late this week,” she tells Jackie before the case goes crazy, “only around 11.”) There’s an interesting moment when they’re sitting in his office (she has her shoes off – I thought the bare feet were a fascinating mark of intimacy) and they realize that they’re alone in the office; they wait a beat for the information to sink in, and then decide they have to leave. Later Cary and Alicia hire Patty’s suddenly ex-assistant, who has left Patty’s employ disgusted by her less than noble tactics.
There’s a minor subplot about Diane using Kalinda to check out a new boyfriend. That’s a kind of gross use of company assets and time. Once Kalinda realizes what’s going on – that it’s not about the man as a potential partner for the firm – she uses Diane’s desire for secrecy to hit her up for a raise. It isn’t mean-spirited – we see Kalinda having Diane’s back and being rewarded for real loyalty – but it’s also (again) kind of gross. Here’s my big question, though. “The jury consultant makes $100,000 for three months work. I make a quarter of that.” Is Kalinda saying that she makes $25,000 in three months? Because that’s the grammatical parallel, and if that’s what she makes, I refuse to feel sorry for her.
The episode ends with Peter asking Alicia if she can give him a chance, a question she doesn’t answer. Sound familiar? I still think the show is terrific, but I’m going to be annoyed if they don’t follow up on at least one of these emotional cliffhangers next week.