E: My favorite new show starts 2010 with a bang. Come on, how fantastic was that? The episode begins with one of those nasty pseudo-news blowhards stating on his program (Gimme Some Truth) that pretty young Cheryl Willens – shown pleading for her missing baby’s return – actually murdered her child. Turns out that the mother killed herself, and her grieving husband is suing the blowhard (one Duke Roscoe, played by Craig Bierko) for driving her to it. Alicia, of course, comforts the husband; Will flirts on the phone with the sultry young opposing council. When council arrives at the firm for a settlement conference, Alicia is frustrated to find that S, G &L divorce lawyer David Lee (Peter Lore look-alike Zach Grenier, wearing a bluetooth and bearing kettle corn) drafts her for a little client hand-holding instead. Seething with fury at being taken off a case she’s worked on for two months (“but you’re good at [the hand-holding]” Kalinda says unsympathetically), Alicia can barely pay attention to Lee’s client (Friend‘s lesbian life partner Jessica Hecht) until it turns out the client is divorcing Glenn Childs, the new State’s Attorney who put Peter in jail. Bam! Seems it’s not just about Alicia’s highly developed sense of empathy after all.
What was so riveting in the settlement conference, you ask, that kept Alicia peering through the glass conference room walls? Chiefly the fact that Mr Duke Roscoe shows up, throws his weight around, and says he’ll quit before settling the lawsuit. Yowza! Looks like we’re heading for a First Amendment Showdown!
Alicia visits Peter in jail, and they talk about his future. Why won’t they end up repeating old patterns, she wants to know? It’s a little unclear whether she’s talking about the perils of politics, or his cheating, or both. We’ll be fine, Peter says with characteristic confidence, because we know what the pitfalls are and how to avoid them. He’s so sincere, and speaks with such force, you really want to believe him – but what, he didn’t know he shouldn’t be hiring call girls before? Alicia’s not sure how to respond or what to feel, so she leaves. The prison. Not Peter.
We’ve seen liberal Judge Abernathy before, and we know that he bends over backwards to be fair the right (in this case, a conservative tv personality), something he does here. We also know he’s unlikely to look kindly on any infringement of Duke’s First Amendment rights. In order to gain a guilty verdict, our team has to prove that Roscoe knowingly lied – not merely that he was negligent and failed to check his facts, but that he intentionally spouted falsehoods. Otherwise, no play.
Childs’ fur wearing wife Carla (known to the imdb as Maria, for whatever reason) is dead set on playing hardball. She’s been down this road before, it seems, and he’s always been able to convince her to come back, but when she caught him saying strange things to their kids (I’d love to know what!), that was it. And she’s seized on Alicia as the perfect way to beat her husband. We see how hard she plays when the husband doesn’t show up for arbitration and she threatens to tell Alicia how Peter ended up in jail. She’s a cool customer, this one. There’s a fantastic conversation at the elevator where Alicia expresses her surprise at being used as leverage. “Does that make you feel used?” Carla queries. “It makes me mistrustful,” Alicia responds diplomatically. “Then use me back” Carla offers. Close elevator doors. Nice. As Alicia is now essential to the success of the divorce, Cary is reassigned to hand hold poor Tim Willens, which is a hilariously unqualified disaster.
Carla’s antics prompt Childs to show up in Alicia’s office, accuse her of talking Carla into the divorce (which, huh?), grab her arm, threaten her, and blather about the photos and videos he’s left on her doorstep. She thinks he’s raving (and generally, he is), and calls security. Seriously, they’ve been playing this guy as petty and high strung before, but this is a whole other world of crazy they’ve opened up. And when Carla goads him (once he does show up for arbitration) by asking Alicia if she’s ever heard of Triton Fields or if she knows how Glenn found out about call girl Amber Madison, he caves to her every demand. And then Glenn has Peter put into the general population at prison, assuming that it’s all some sort of Peter-orchestrated plot. “The gloves are off!” Childs barks; “I didn’t know they were on,” returns Peter with a delighted smile. Now that’s a man invigorated by the game of hardball.
Meanwhile, the Willens/Roscoe trial has started. Diane and Will attempt to compel Roscoe to reveal the information that lead him to call Cheryl a murder (he never made a case on tv?); Abernathy expresses his shock at S, G &L taking a page from the Bush/Cheney playbook. What I really don’t get about this, by the way, is why Willens isn’t also suing the network. I feel like they could get more play that way as well as more money – we never get into whether the public has a right to assume that shows on a news network do research – and that in real life, we’d definitely see the top execs being sued. And you’d think they’d care more about the bad press from having hounded a woman to her death. Of course if that were the case, then Roscoe wouldn’t be able to call the shots like he did. Anyway. We see a lot of sexy banter between Will and opposing council Emily, which culminates in a visit to her hotel room, reminiscences about their past liasons, speculation about his recent absence from some sort of sexual scene, a view of her very cool back tattoo, and then – as a dash of cold, cold water – a photo of Will and Alicia on Roscoe’s show. Up to that point, the vibe has been very George Clooney/Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight, though not as ridiculously hot. So, sorry, that rape case from earlier in the season? Will and Alicia had talked to a hotel desk clerk, remember? That’s where the photo came from. Roscoe insists that means that they booked a room (with all that implies) at the hotel. Duke promises more scandal on Stern, Gardener and Lockhart to come. It looks like Will must have had open relationships with more than two women from his old firm (including Emily). He must be quite the player. I guess that’s why everyone always assumes he’s sleeping with Alicia. That, and their own little vibe, of course.
Back at the Florrick apartment Google- alerted Grace questions her mom about the photo and the gossip, and about the divorce papers on her desk. That was for work, those are for work, and yes, Zach’s right, she did see a divorce lawyer right after she found out about the cheating, but she was mad then, and she’s not anymore. Really? Wow. I mean, seriously. Is she putting on a brave face for Grace, or does she mean that? That’s incredibly hard to imagine. You have to admire the woman’s cool, sympathetic parenting style though. She’s calm and collected, she doesn’t share too much but she is honest. Like Julia Childs in Julie and Julia, what impresses you about Alicia Florrick is that she’s a grown up, the way you imagine grown ups ought to be when you were a kid. She doesn’t complain. She’s wise. She’s in control.
Oh, she asks Grace, I forgot. Have any packages come for me that I haven’t seen? No, says Grace, lying badly. Alicia doesn’t call her on it, and you wonder if she suspects, or if she still thinks Childs was raving. She doesn’t mention that to Peter when she visits him, though they seem strongly in Team Florrick mode; she does pass on the info about Triton Fields, which turns out to be a real estate development owned by some guy who bribed staff at the State’s Attorney’s Office. Glenn prosecuted the case. Peter’s fascinated, and you know his legal team will be on it. We’re definitely going to hear more about that one.
Kalinda alternately throws around the sexy and the sympathetic, depending on whether she’s trying to pull information out of men or women. Her first score is the 911 tape, which opposing council neutralizes by insisting the court reporter read the transcript (rendering it far less emotional), and her second, a girl who did work at the clinic where Cheryl Willens was briefly treated for third trimester spotting (which she inflated, in hopes of getting Roscoe’s attention, into the would be abortion). That testimony is devastating, especially when she confesses that she emailed a retraction when he repeated her lie on the air.
Ultimately Childs gives in to everything his wife wanted (overturn the prenup, a fair share of his money, the house and full custody of the kids). Before she signs the new agreement – which binds her to complete confidentiality about all of Glenn’s work, Carla tells Alicia that Glenn had been tapping the Florrick’s phones. Ah ha.
Diane, Will and a continually inept Cary wait with Tim the husband for the verdict. Tim hopes that Roscoe failing to call any witnesses means they’ve given up; Diane explains it just means they’re so confident in the First Amendment defense they aren’t bothering. Will gets a call, and shoots Diane such a serious look she excuses herself from Tim. It turns out baby Jessica has been found in Scranton, with a couple who snatched her from the supermarket parking lot. Diane is speechless. Will puts his hand on Tim’s shoulder. “Are you ready for some good news?” I can’t imagine that moment, and how many emotions must have flowed through those tears.
I had a feeling that the verdict was going to go against our the after that, didn’t you? Interestingly, the judge sets aside the jury’s verdict in defense of the Roscoe’s right to free speech. His main justification is that Roscoe can’t be expected to read his thousands of emails, and so isn’t responsible for missing the smoking gun retraction. Honestly, I know the judge held them to a strict standard of proof, but the part that seems wrong to ME is that he aired an email tip as truth without bothering to verify its authenticity. Seriously, have you ever seen the sort of crap people post on political blogs? Though the show attempts to set up a liberal/conservative political disagreement here, it has me wondering about free speech, and whether journalists have legal responsibilities. If Roscoe is a self-confessed commentator (rather than journalist), and if he ‘reports’ tips from email without checking them at all, is it really reasonable that he can say whatever he pleases without regard for the consequences? Seriously, he calls a woman a murderer with no proof, unapologetically drives her to suicide, and there’s nothing that can be done about it? (At least he’ll have to pay out the 100K; I wonder if that’d teach him any caution. If he wasn’t, you know, fictional.) Is the size of his audience the question? Or the types of issues he talks about? Should he fall under a blanket because it’s just too hard to draw lines, or does he have some sort of responsibility not to slander? This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had a team of lawyers on call to discuss it with. Actually, I can think of a few lawyers friends off hand I could ask, but I can’t see getting a consensus out of them!
The episode ends with Kalinda and Alicia snacking on kettle corn and watching coverage of Tim’s reunion with a weeping,devastated – and also four year old – Jamie. I have to say, it took me totally out of the moment. Wasn’t she supposed to have had this baby 2 years ago? (I rechecked, and yes, born in 2009.) What, the casting director couldn’t find a two year old who would cry on camera? Or maybe I’m just prejudiced because none of my daughters had much waist-length hair at that age. Alicia switches over to see Roscoe’s promised vengeance. First, we see that Stern is in rehab. Yawn. Wouldn’t you love the real story on that one, Duke! The tax evader is (reasonably) some dude we don’t know. Alicia and Kalinda are waiting with baited breath for the last revelation; is either one of them his target? And the closeted lesbian is – Diane Lockhart! The episode ends with her hearty, raucous laughter trailing over the credits. Looks like she’s not too broken up about that rumor, is she?
I can’t decide how much I’m bothered by the fact that we never get the smallest clue why Roscoe decided that Cheryl killed her baby. Was it really because of Reganrules misinformation? Isn’t that awfully flimsy? We’re told that the police never considered her a suspect. Are we supposed to draw from this a lesson about opinion driven cable journalism and how suspicious of it we should be? I’m also bothered by the jumping to conclusions about Jamie; seriously, someone saw all the publicity and waited until there was a reward to turn their neighbors in? And she was reunited with her father that very day? I get that, for the sake of narrative compression, but there’s just no way. Oh well. It made for a nice ending, anyway.