The Good Wife: Anatomy of a Joke

E: This week, we get to analyze a joke.  Okay, a few of them, breaking them down into their component pieces.  What makes something offensive?  What makes something funny?  What makes it true?  What makes something acceptable for television audiences, and why one thing over another?  I imagine this topic lives close to our writers’ hearts.  We also get quite a few jokes about anatomy.  It’s all clever and thought-provoking, even if none of the jokes are particularly funny.  Perhaps in celebration of the past week’s presidential election, we head to Washington.  Alicia gains a very unexpected drinking partner.  We get to the bottom of one conspiracy, and reach into the past for some rather heartbreaking back story.  High profile guest stars appear as guests or cameo as themselves; our team is meeting the FCC, fighting the powers that be, experiencing and exposing dastardly betrayals, and having some really wonderful conversations.

So all in all, lots of food for thought.  I can’t get over how many twists and layers and undercurrents this show packs into 43 minutes, I genuinely can’t.

A baby pink title card fills the screen, covered with curly cursive words proclaiming “A Word About Breast Cancer.”  Music twinkles in the background, an SNL style spoof of a public service message.  “Hi,” a round cheeked woman wearing a dark teal button down tells us in a patronizing tone, “my name is Theresa Dodd. And these are my breasts.”  Um, okay. She pronounces it “Ter-AY-sa,” not Ter-EE-sa, which struck me as oddly formal.  Or maybe I’m focusing on that because she annoys me, which the actress who plays her, Christina Ricci, often does.  She’s on the set of a super-fake looking talk show (no way the host’s hair really looks like that) and natters on in a vacuous way about how early detection can save lives.  So, lucky us; she’s going to demonstrate a self exam!  Charming.

The smug host (a skinny Jay Leno type with preternaturally gray hair) mugs a fake thoughtful face, as if he’s considering this idea.  She starts to unbutton her shirt, and when the band plays stripper music, tells them to back off (though she’s clearly not offended).  “You have a bra under that, right?” the host frowns, tapping his face with a pencil.  “Yeah, so, we’re live, so it’s probably best – okay, there they are,” he says, tossing his pencil into the air as Theresa, now standing perpendicular to the host’s desk, whips open her shirt.  A black box overs the offending portion of her anatomy.

“Did you hear the host say that?” asks the dulcet tones of Soliere (er, F. Murray Abraham).  That we were live?  Uh, yeah, Dodd squeaks, her eyes extra wide.  She’s decided to wear a green leather jacket to the witness stand, and she’s very very twitchy, none of the ease of her moments on camera.  “But I thought it was a 7 second delay or something.”  She looks out and smiles flirtatiously at Will, sitting at the defense table.  Did you just smile at your lawyer because he asked you say that, F. Murray guesses. “No,” Theresa snarks, “I smiled at my lawyer because he’s cute.”  Alicia and Will both pretend – badly – that they’re not discomfited by this.

F. Murray (know in the Good Wife universe as Burl Preston, L.A. lawyer extraordinaire) chastises Ms Dodd for not taking a two million dollar lawsuit more seriously.  Then maybe you shouldn’t have worn an orange pocket square if you wanted to be threatening, buddy.  He plays more of the Tonight Show-esque video clip; skinny Jay Leno throws up his hands in horror.  When Theresa insists the camera focus on her, host Joey attempts to cover her up with a post it, which might have been effective if he’d put it on one side rather than in the middle of her chest.  She bats his hands away, and goes into this Jenny McCarthy like, lobotomize Barbie doll bit where she starts massaging herself.  She also lets slip a word the censors bleep out.  It’s apparently evil enough that they have to cover her mouth with a black box, too.  Seriously?  The word bitch plays on TV constantly, but “tits” we’re not allowed to hear?

Preston thunders about Theresa and her indifference to the 8 million people forced to look at her boobs.  “Well, I cared about women being informed about breast cancer,” she replies, directing her response to Alicia this time; Alicia nods her approval.  Preston sneers his disbelief.  “My mother died of breast cancer last year,” Theresa explains with some contempt, “why else?”  Outside, a horn blows.  He implies she was creating controversy just to sell a book she’s got coming out in a few months.  (Fair enough!)  That was vulgar language, he admonishes her.  What’s vulgar, she asks,which word?  I think you know, madam, he answers, and the horn beeps again.  No, she insists, coming alive, which word. Honestly – which one. It rhymes with bits, Preston proclaims, giving a significant look to the judge. “It rhymes with bits?  Are we 8 years old?” she wags her head condescendingly.  “You mean [tits]?”  The horn blares loudly enough to drown out the offending word.

Okay, that was exceedingly silly.  Really?  I’m not sure I like them attempting slapstick; it’s just off tonally.

As the doddering old judge asks the bailiff to close a window on the traffic,  Preston continues to patronize Theresa.  You enjoy shocking people by using vulgar language, don’t you? Yes I do, she declares smugly.  That’s enough for him.

To begin her cross, Alicia wonders whether Theresa intended to take off her top (“oh, no!”) and whether the Tonight Show-lite pushed comics to be more and more outrageous with their bits, as it were.  Absolutely; that’s why they go to Theresa, for envelope pushing.  Further, she was told that due to a football game running late (gee, something The Good Wife has absolutely no experience with) the show would also run late.  So you thought the show would appear during the “Safe Harbor” period, Alicia presses.  Say what, Theresa asks.  How lucky for us she’s totally unfamiliar with her own defense!  Clunky exposition, friends, clunky.

Be as that may, Alicia explains that the safe harbor period is time made safe for grown ups and television shows catering to them; the time from 10pm to 6am when the networks can show nudity (really?) and use words like honkhonkhonkhonkhonkhonkettyhonk!  Wow.  She went on for much longer than I was expecting.  That must have been the George Carlin list.  Haw haw for the beeping; the judge wonders what’s up with the window.  I feel like there ought to be a laugh track and Goldie Hawn in overalls; so corny!  Yes, I thought it was going to be on at ten, Theresa confirms; so the only thing you did wrong, Alicia adds, was violate the networks self-imposed practice, not an actual federal law (or rule).

Not relevant, claims Burl Preston: the show was taped lived in Chicago but broadcast at 8 on the West Coast.   Not her choice, the network’s choice, Will asserts.  Well, was it normal for this show to be on that early on the West Coast?  Because speaking as a rational human being, if it was normally broadcast at 8 on the West Coast it’s probably something she should be aware of.  Of course the only shows I know about that are taped in Chicago are on National Public Radio.  And after Jay Leno’s senseless 10pm talk show debacle back in 2009, I can’t think of a reason any of this would be on a network on a Sunday night in prime time.  So you’ve already lost me on plausibility.  Anyhow.  Preston presses the idea that Dodd violated her contract (to be decent?) with the network, which has nothing to do with the FCC.

Theresa Dodd can’t let that rest.  “Let me get this straight,” she asks “The FCC says I can strip down and talk dirty like a cable show, and the network says I can’t?”  It’s odd, that’s very true.  The judge admonishes Theresa; her lawyer should be asking the question.  “I’m just surprised.  Aren’t you?”  Yes, I am. “The network can show these things, but it chooses not to?”  Instead of asking a question, however, Will pontificates.  Mr. Preston and the network might be suing for 2 million for an infraction that shouldn’t even offend the FCC, but they know they can’t actually get that much money.  They’re just posturing for the advertises.

Tremulous Judge Old-Timer agrees that it makes no sense to make Miss Dodd liable for the network’s choices.  (Really?  Then what was the bit about her contract?)  Unless Preston can prove that Theresa planned to “perform indecent materials” – which is to say, pre-meditation – she’s off the hook.  Really? The offending window slams down, just in case we needed the emphasis.

So obediently, Alicia watches video upon video of Theresa’s stand up routines in case she’s done the boob-baring bit before. “I don’t understand breasts,” the comic claims, wearing a button down dress. “They’re made of fat, they sag, they drool, and guys still go for them.  It’s like being turned on by Jabba the Hutt.”  Her audience finds this funny.  (I think pretty much every woman has said or thought this at least once in her life, minus the drooling; it’s just not particularly clever.)  Alicia closes her laptop before we find out what Theresa’s named her other breast (the first one is Margie), sparing Cary the details.  Anything yet, he asks. No, Alicia shrugs – it was yet another breast routine.  A different breast routine.

Do you think she’s funny, Cary questions his office mate.  Sometimes, Alicia smiles – you don’t?  It seems like an easy laugh, all this breast humor, Cary frowns.  “Guys make penis jokes,” Alicia shrugs, and that – or maybe the fact that she said the word penis – actually makes Cary laugh. “Those are easy too,” he nods, smiling.

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Clarke,” she observes.  Is everything okay?  Sure, sure, Cary smiles – he just likes to talk.  Like Burl Preston, Cary’s wearing a splendid paisley tie, this one in blue and peach and gold.  But while I’m mesmerizes by the colors, trying to figure out what exactly they are, Captain Laura Hellinger walks by.  Alicia rushes out to greet her by first name.  “You’re out of uniform!” Alicia notes. “Permanently,” Laura confesses, throwing up her hands. Alicia’s horrified.  Why?  “My choice,” Laura explains. “I was losing my bearings. Things soured.  I’m on the market now. Wheeee!”  It looks a like she could be miming riding a rollercoaster.  Or just celebrating, I don’t know. Either way, ha!  The little attempt at a joke goes right over Alicia’s head – she’s too distressed to notice.

In quick succession, Laura establishes that she’s not interviewing here at Lockhart/Gardner, though she’s wearing a snazzy new interview suit and is generally interviewing.  Her hair’s down, which makes her look more like Amanda Peet and less like Laura Hellinger, but she’s still endearing.  She wants to pay her bill, which makes Alicia wince in shame; there would have been no bill if they’d won.  Don’t be silly, it was about doing our best, not winning, Laura waves her off.  Turns out people pay Clarke directly – does that seem strange to anyone else?  I’d have thought they’d have a billing department.  Maybe he fired them all?  “And, Laura, if you need anything – I started over pretty late, so if you want to talk…”  I’ll call you, Laura says.  Yes!  Don’t get me wrong, I was as thrilled as any other die hard fan to see Alicia drinking with Kalinda again last week, but I’m generally all about friendships for her.  And Laura (unlike Maddie, grr) seems like a really worthy person.

Have I mentioned that the royal blue suit she’s wearing not only fits Alicia so exquisitely it brings tears to my eyes, but it also makes her skin glow?  Crazy.  I love that it looks black in some lights, and then when she moves – as now, bending down to pick up her cell phone – you get this flash of brilliant color.  Hello, says a voice I initially assumed was Eli.  It’s very smug, so that might be why. “What do you think of Brazilian food?”  What do I – what?  She’s confused, and the caller hangs up.  Lamest and most confusing prank call ever.

Speak of the smug devil – there’s Eli, sitting at the end of a table at campaign headquarters.  It’s always such a fierce bustle there, which seems a little funny considering how very far away this election must be.  So many volunteers, so much to do.  Right now, Eli’s on speaker phone, surrounded by his team as by a family, assuring someone named Gus that while they take Maddie Hayward very seriously indeed, their focus is really on Kresteva the Republican contender.  Seeing him sitting that way – so very head of family – makes me miss Marissa.  Are there any plans to bring her back this season?  Because she was a lot of fun.

Another reporter jumps in with Maddie’s net worth (100 mil)  and a dollop of disbelief that Eli’s not worried she’ll outspend them.  Of course he is!  He’s never going to admit it, though.  Well, unless he sees value in being the underdog, and right now he doesn’t. “These millionaires always burn themselves out after a while,” he claims, “because money only gets you so far.”  Just ask Linda McMahon!  “Now, does anyone have a question about, you know, the issues?”  No, but a third guy has one about Peter and Indira.  Sigh.  Are these people all in a room someplace?  What’s up with that?  Is there a press pit in the basement?  Eli gives a lengthy, indignant response which boils down to one thing: lies.  Proven lies.  Anything else?

Yeah, there’s something, from one Wexler Turner from MW News.  Eli has no idea who he (and possibly his employer) is, but okay.  Or at least that’s what he said before hearing the question.  “Can you respond to the rumor that this campaign worker has identified a distinguishing mark on Peter Florrick’s anatomy?” You’re kidding, Eli sighs.  This is never going to just go away, Eli, no matter what you do.  Keep campaigning for Peter, the opposition and the press will keep throwing sex stories at him in the hopes that one sticks.  Not kidding, Wexler says.  She says he’s got a birthday shaped like Brazil on his penis.

Eli’s eyebrows fly back as if someone’s hit them.  “Can you confirm or deny that Florrick has such a birthmark?”

Now what the hell do you say to that?  Even Eli doesn’t know.  “How dare you, sir,” he finally spits out.  “At long last, how dare you,” one of the reporters mocks, and the others laugh. “Do you guys listen to yourselves any more?  Okay, that’s the morning call for today.”  He shuts off the phone, one of those robot spider looking things making camp in the middle of the wooden table.  “Get the candidate on the phone,” he barks. “Where is he?  And someone call Alicia!”  Well, that explains her prank call, anyway.

Alicia, however, is in court, and not thinking about Brazilian anything.  Unless it’s waxing, I suppose – Burl’s big witness is a make up artist, Rebecca Stokes, who got Theresa ready for the show that night.  And it takes a while to get there, but the point is this: Theresa Dodd asked her to put make up on her breasts, which proves that Theresa planned to have them on camera.  Ooops.

Okay, Will sighs in the conference room, what do you want?  Two meeeellion dollars, Burl Preston insists – and while Dodd’s not worth it now, she will be once her book comes out.  If it sells, which is a big if, Burl.  Is that going to make you look good, Will wonders, bankrupting an orphaned comedian?  Clarke lets himself in and sits at the far end of the table. “It’ll look like we take decency on our airwaves seriously,” Preston declares.  She can apologize, Diane offers, or do a PSA.  Thanks but no thanks, Preston replies. Today’s loud paisley tie is pink.

Clarke clears his throat; everyone looks at him, but no, he declares, I don’t want anything – I was just clearly my throat.  Are you trying to be Dolores Umbridge or not, Clarke?  Make up your mind!  I guess we don’t have anything to negotiate, Will shrugs, standing. In response, Burl holds up a thick manila folder, then drops it on the table.  Will drops himself back down.

It turns out that Parents Against Indecency has “bombarded” the FCC with complaints about Theresa’s stunt. “And our expectation is that the FCC will fine us the maximum – three million dollars.”  Oh, please, that’s got to be pocket change for a network. Alicia gets a text from Eli telling her not to talk to reporters – ha. Like she would?  Burl offers this compromise; if Theresa can help him sway the three swing votes on the FCC, then he’ll drop the suit. “Tell them the saintly story of her mom dying  of cancer, and her over-exuberance at wanting to do something about it.”  And you’ll quash the lawsuit if she apologizes, Diane repeats.   No, Burl declares with some outrage, we’ll drop the suit if she’s successful!  She’s got to convince 2 out of 3, and if they don’t impose the fine, he won’t hold her responsible.

“We don’t have a choice,” Diane tells Will as they head back to her office.  Um, are those new chairs?  Those look different, anyway, which seems unlikely given their financial straights.  Will gets it, but he’s not confident about Theresa. She won’t do it, Diane replies in surprise.  “No, she will, she just – she needs a babysitter,” Will frowns.  Maybe you shouldn’t have followed them into the room, Alicia.  Guess who’s drafted?  “Ah, Cary will go with you,” Diane adds. Will doesn’t see the need for two people, so Alicia offers to back out.  Instead Diane asks her to step out for a moment.

“You don’t think Alicia can do it?” Will narrows his eyes. “No, I think we need to use Cary more,” Diane explains.  It’s not about Alicia or her competence at all. “He’s taking a back seat on too many cases.”  He complained, Will starts to nod, starting to look sharky.  “He didn’t have to,” Diane stops the train of thought. “I noticed.”  Do you think I’m holding him back, Will asks, cautious. “I think you’re the head of litigation, and we need to use Cary more,” Diane reiterates diplomatically. “That’s all.”  And then they both notice Clarke hanging back to talk to Preston.

Uh oh.

Anyone unnerved by this not so accidental meeting is on the right track. “Lockhart/Gardner is a good firm,” Clarke begins, and Preston stops packing his things to look at the question.  “It has the feel of a family run business, but the client base of a Portman & Michaels.”  Um, okay. “I don’t think I,” Preston begins, then starts again. “You know we’re on opposite sides of this suit,” he tries.  Clarke smiles happily, nodding.  He does. “I also know you’re looking to expand from L.A. to the Midwest.”  NO!  Traitor!  I wouldn’t have expected that of you, Clarke Hayden!  Damn, that’s disappointing. “We’re looking to build, not purchase,” Preston shakes his head.  Clarke runs with the metaphor.  “Yes, but isn’t it easier to remodel an existing home than build a new one?”  Preston doesn’t agree.  “Not if the foundation is compromised.”  Why don’t you test the foundation and see, Clarke offers.

Why, you little worm.  I wouldn’t have thought it.

Burl looks over at Will and Diane, who’re watching them without embarrassment. “Does the firm… want to be acquired?”  It’s not up to the firm, Clarke notes.  “It’s up to the courts.  With my input.”  A smile unfurls on Preston’s face. “Then I’ll consider it,” he says, extending his hand.  The two men shake.

That glare of Peter’s could cut glass. “You wanna know what?” Ah, I can’t help but snicker, even if it’s all incredibly immature.  Of course not, icky, Eli says (okay, I’m paraphrasing). “I do!” interjects Jim Moody.  Ha!  “How is it even possible to have a birthmark shaped like…”  And really, do we think that Indira is that good a student of geography?  Who looks at anything and says hey, that looks like Brazil?  I don’t, Peter cuts him off.  You don’t, Jim asks, sort of surprised. “I don’t.  Would you like to check?”  Jim makes a face and holds up his hands.  No, of course he wouldn’t.

“Okay, here’s the problem,” Eli brings the conversation back in line.  There’s only one problem with this? “We buried the affair story, but this is different.  This is late night fodder.”  Ah yes – making jokes about anatomy; it’s so easy.  “It’s also the perfect political trap.”  It turns out that Peter can’t deny having the birthmark himself (why not?  because he shouldn’t say penis in public? after the “stiffer the better” debacle I suppose I could see that), and who could deny it for him, because how did they see it?  “We could have the wife,” Jim suggests, but Peter cuts him off again with a no.  Plus, the people who’re going to think she’s lying about the affair are going to think she’s lying now, right?  So would it even matter?

No, Eli opines, we change the subject.  I want to sneer at the feasibility of that, but really, what else can they do?  It’s an unwinnable connundrum.  Do you ever wonder about this country, Peter muses. All the time, Jim Moody answers fervently.  Okay, that calf-eyed look is so hypocritical it’s hilarious, considering how much muck Jim’s responsible for throwing.  “Here’s the real worry,” Peter grimaces. “If this is the perfect political trap, I don’t think Indira Star was smart enough to think it up.”  Nothing we’ve seen has indicated it, that’s for sure.  Peter and Eli think the ugly maneuvering smacks of Mike Kresteva.  I’m on it, Eli tells Peter – but the second his boss leaves, he’s down in the dirt with Moody, the master of sleaze, one of the great reasons to be worried about American politics.  “What’ve you got?”

What he’s got is a rumor about Maddie sleeping with an aid.  Not enough, she’s single, Eli muses.  “The aid is a girl,” Jim adds.  Eli’s head comes up slowly, excited.  It’s funny, though – we’ve never seen her with a female aid.  Her flunkies are always men.  She told Alicia she was straight, but since she was lying to get into Alicia’s confidence, there’s no reason to trust that statement more than any other, I suppose.   Okay, Eli says, as long as our fingerprints aren’t anywhere on it.  He gives Jimmy a furtive look. “And get some pictures if you can,” he adds.

Okay.  After all the penis jokes, was I the only one who laughed at the long, cylindrical airplane and the stock shot of the Washington Monument that the team choose to let us know Cary, Alicia and Theresa have headed over to D.C.?  There were less phallic ways to get that across, right?

There’s nothing particularly phallic about the outside of the Federal Communication Commission building, though; it’s stone gray and neoclassical scroll work and old fashioned, very old world order.  Well, maybe the columns up top are phallic.  First we hear Theresa Dodd’s voice confirming what she’s got to accomplish here; cry to three FCC commissioners about her mom’s death.  What, she only wants to be a performing seal if she can pick her own material?  “I believe in you,” Cary tells her, and his tone has that sardonic edge where you know he knows it’s too earnest a thing to say.  She rolls her eyes.  “Do you like Coldplay?” she asks.  He’s puzzled, shrugs. Well enough, he guesses. “I hate them,” she replies decisively. Um, okay, he says. “When I get to the part about my mom’s hair falling out, I want you to hum “Fix You“,” she snarks, and he laughs out loud.

In the striped shadows beneath a window, Burl presses Alicia for her take on Theresa’s ability to apologize with grace.  “She only needs 2 of the three swing votes; can she do it?”  Alicia – resplendent in red with a gauzy white blouse – thinks she can.  “She’s motivated.”  Good, Preston nods, looking out at Cary and Theresa chatting.  Then he turns back to Alicia, his expression canny.  “It must be difficult, this bankruptcy,” he sighs.  Oh, well done.  No, of course not, she replies, not wanting the pity of her enemy. “You’ve lost 40% of your attorneys,” Preston notes – but we’ve kept our major clients, Alicia replies.  (Well, not all of them.) “Even family law?  They have their major clients?”  Now she’s spooked, and wonders what the sudden interest means. Why does he want to know? He knows better than to push further, and gives her an avuncular smile. “Rank, unfettered curiosity,” he smiles, patting her hand.

“You don’t have to tell me,” the Commissioner beams.  Clearly we’ve skipped ahead. “I’m on your side.”  Good to know?  Theresa exhales in relief.  “Wow, that was easy.  They made me think I had to take you in the next room and give you a…”  Burl cuts her off just in time. “So we can depend on your vote, sir?”  The commissioner, who looks young at first but is probably at least in his forties, nods. “But I’ve always thought you networks were too terrified of us at the FCC anyway.”  Um, okay.  Someone has an agenda here, and it’s not us.  Interesting.  “We’re not the ones infantalizing entertainment.”  That’s what I said, Theresa smiles.  Drum roll, please!

It’s so hypocritical, the Commissioner continues.  “You allow yourself to show naked bodies as long as they’re bruised and covered in blood.”  Yep, there it is.  Why is violence to the human body so much more acceptable than sex?  Yes, tell us, Theresa starts, but Alicia cuts off this unhelpful excess by rising to shake the Commissioner’s hand. But I haven’t talked about my mom yet, she worries aloud.  It’s like she’s this filterless child.  Cary shushes her, so she shakes the Commissioner’s hand, and as she does, she notices a twisted lumps of stamped metal on his desk. “Nice paperweight,” she laughs brightly, even though there’s no paper under it. “First effort in metal shop or something?”  Wow, it’s like she turned the Commissioner to stone with that one sentence. “It’s from 911,” he informs her sternly.

Alicia closes her eyes in horror.

Theresa tries to recover. “Damn those terrorists and their paperweights,” she nods.  Wow.  Her gift is her curse, clearly.  The Commissioner stares at the lawyers in disbelief.

In the hall, Theresa covers her face with her hand. “I know,” she says, trying to clear her head by shaking it.  “I know, I know. Comedy killer.”  Was that the problem?  Seems to me that you just can’t talk like a normal human being, Theresa – that your compulsion to make these dubious jokes overpowers you.  He’ll still vote with us, Preston tells Alicia, “but you can’t keep going off script!”  Indeed, I’m not sure how that particular Commissioner could be a swing vote; his thinking seemed pretty set before they got there, no?

“Cary?” a man calls out in surprise, a tall, thin man with curly brown hair and thin features.  “Sir,” Cary says, shocked, and the two shake hands quite vigorously.  I hadn’t been spoiled for this, but I knew immediately who he must be.  “I didn’t know you were in town,” the man smiles, and Cary explains. “And you’re still with…” he waves his hand.  Lockhart/Gardner, Cary supplies.  Yes, them.   He turns back to look at the group behind him, excuses them for a moment, and calls Alicia over. “This is my colleague, Alicia Florrick; my father, Jeffrey Agos.”

Yep.  Thought so.  I don’t like the fact that there’s no pleasure or pride in Cary’s face, though.

Alicia’s surprised and very pleased. “How’s Mom?” Cary asks. “Good,” his father smiles, “last I heard.”  Martha, Cary asks, or at least, that’s what I think he says. “Overseas in China, back in a month.”  Ah.  Is that his sister?  Stepmother?  I’m lost.  Perhaps I’m supposed to be. And how’s your girl, Mr. Agos stumbles, the pretty one, the last one?  “You mean from law school?”  He does. “I haven’t seen her in five years, Dad,” Cary replies, quietly reproachful.  Mr. Agos senior may not have picked up on the tone, but Alicia does, and immediately excuses herself.  “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Agos; Cary’s quite the lawyer.” I love that she calls him Mr; it’s correct, of course, since she hasn’t been invited to call him Jeffrey, but even as an adult, there’s something in meeting your friends’ parents that always makes you feel like a kid again.

“So who’re you here to see,” Jeffrey asks his son.  Commissioner Bix today, Martinez tomorrow.  “Do you want me to put in a good word for you?” his father beams. “I had lunch with them both!”  Huh.  Usually quick to use every advantage, Cary laughs instead. “No, we’re fine,” he blazes.  Alicia notes his bravado unhappily.

“How long you been doin’ this?,” Jim Moody asks Kalinda as they sit in her car on a busy street. “Watching Maddie’s house?” Kalinda deadpans, her eyes on the door, camera in her hands. No, the business, Jim presses.  Why does he make it sound like they’re in the mob together?  A while, she says, and he snorts: “me too.”  Then they both go on alert.  “That her?” Jim asks as a woman in a bad blond wig and sunglasses walks out the door of Maddie’s tasteful looking townhouse.  “The aid?  No,” Kalinda assesses, flipping through something as the blond walks past Maddie’s car and driver. Then who?  She passes over the red bikini photo in answer. “Indira Star.  That explains who’s behind the birthmark rumor.”

Wow.  Just wow.  If Maddie’s been behind Indira the whole time – staging that meeting at the straw poll – then she’s ten times the bitch I thought she was.  It means she had the whole thing in place before she ever met Alicia or Diane.

Stone.  Cold.

“First of all, no 911 jokes,” Preston preps Theresa before their next meeting.  “Are we agreed?”  Yes, but it’s no longer enough to make him happy, because our Preston has glimpsed a figure skulking in the hall.  Turns out that the Commissioner is also meeting with Punch Sutton, the chairman of Parents Against Indecency. Punch?  Really?

Happily for her, Alicia gets a call from Laura Hellinger, tripping across a street in an interview pantsuit. It turns out her more recent interview went really, really well, and she’s hoping Alicia knows the interviewer – one Eddie Kolakowski of Armstrong, Hays & Leguard?  She does, or at least by name.  “Do you think you could call him and… say nice things about me?”  Laura’s awkwardness is very reminiscent of old Alicia, and it’s nice.  “Certainly,” new, confident Alicia smiles like it’s Christmas. “So it went well?”  “I don’t want to jinx it by saying so, but he said it was down to me and one other person.”  Excellent!  “In this economy?” Alicia’s impressed. “I know!” Laura can’t believe her good luck.  “Well, I will call,” Alicia finishes, “and congratulations.”  Laura actually stops in the street, horrified. “Don’t say that!  Take it back!” she laughs.

Aw!  So cute.

The next Commissioner – this would be Bix, I guess – is a mildly pretty red head with long hair and pale skin, who listens with sympathy as Punch (for real?) describes his three thousand complaints about the full frontal nudity.  Uh oh – she seems as predisposed as the last guy, but not in our favor.  (And being topless surely isn’t the same thing as full frontal nudity?)  Yes, but you asked people to write the complaints, Alicia points out.  Indeed.  Anyone else think it’s curious that Theresa and party are sitting across from Bix and her team, while Punch is on the right side end of the table?  Bix’s right side? “We have children, just like you,” Punch says, pitching his comments straight to the very welcoming Bix and ignoring Alicia altogether. “We’re worried about the vulgarization of our culture.” His point is a general coarsening, and not merely an individual swear word.  “This is about the floodgates.” Okay, I’m with you to a certain extent – but then you ought to be asking the networks not to schedule shows like this at 8pm, shouldn’t you?  I mean, that’s why talk shows aren’t on this early. A point could be made about the 8pm “family hour” being taken up by shows like (fantastic, but hardly child-friendly) Friends and Glee. 

“But the floodgates are open, sir,” Preston interjects grandly.  With all the myriad screens out there (phones, tablets), there’s no controlling it when content gets viewed. Punch, who looks a bit like a younger James Spader, grumbles. “Then you should be happy that there are avenues for this kind of content.”  So, wait, you’re saying that adults should have to furtively watch TV on their iphones so that no child sees their programming?  Like a kid can’t figure out how to call up a video?!  I’ve seen 1 year olds do it.  No exaggeration.  “But why is it wrong to insist on one place that parents don’t always have to be on the defensive?”  Well, fine, even though that’s part of parenting.  But what “place” are you trying to coopt, here?  Just the 8pm hour, or all of TV?

Inexorably, Theresa’s eye is drawn to the identical 911 paperweight on Bix’s conference table.  Oh, girl,  don’t do it!  Don’t do it!  “No,” Cary says quietly, raising a single, discrete finger.   “But you allowed exactly this kind of nudity and profanity on network television, Commissioner,” Alicia insists, quite unwisely.  “I did not!”  Bix declares passionately.  Well, you let Schindler’s List air, and that had profanity and full frontal nudity, Alicia cries in triumph.

Um, really?  That’s our best argument?  Schindler’s List?  You might be overstating it a little when you say that it’s exactly the same, Alicia.  You have to make an argument, of course (and clearly you’re restricted from blaming the network) but you have to make a rational one or you utterly undercut yourself.  Punch Sutton’s mouth actually hangs open. “Do you really want to suggest that Miss Dodd’s little strip tease had the same merit as Schindler’s List?”  Um, yeah.  Overreaching just a tiny bit, love. “If you’re a woman with breast cancer, it does,” Alicia insists piously, but the disbelief on Bix’s face makes it clear she’s gone much too far.

So Preston explores a different side of the comparison.  It’s not fair to make an exception for Spielberg and not for other film makers.  What, so the talk show producer is now a film maker?  So annoying.  I want to be in the room hashing this out with them!  They don’t make the exception for an individual, they make it for the work, Sutton rightly notes.  You’re so losing, guys.  And that’s when Bix asks to hear from Theresa.  Oh, dear.  I don’t see how this could possibly end well.

“Well, I don’t think I’m any less decent than Spielberg,” she scoffs. “I mean, have you seen him eat?”  Was that supposed to be funny?  Does he get food stuck in his beard or something?  Halting, Alicia tries to get Theresa to explain herself (dead mom, nudge nudge); Bix waits, looking saintly and concerned.  “Yeah, well, um, my mom died.  She was funny, and she got breast cancer,” Theresa tries, inarticulately.  Funny how some people need to be on stage to tell a coherent story, isn’t it?  She looks at Cary, who gives her a reassuring smile.  Bix furrows her brows in queenly sympathy. And that’s when Theresa launches into a death bed gas story.  Her mom.  On her dying day.  Cracking jokes about having made a huge fart.

I know, I know, she declares out in the hall, but I can’t do it. “I know what you want, me holding her hands, me staring into her deep, sad eyes, but… anything else!” She slumps forward, at a loss. “I’ll kitsch up anything you want, anything else, but just not this.”  They don’t want you to kitsch it up at all, Theresa – just be honest about it. It’s interesting, seeing this point where a performer can’t perform anymore.  It’s too personal.  It’s hers and she won’t put it out there for us to look at.  Of course most people could explain even something that significant in a different way but I guess that’s part of why the breast exam thing happened the way it did; she doesn’t know how to talk about serious things without trying to be funny.

Well, get ready to pay two million dollars, Burl shrugs.  No, Cary says, she has Gill (presumably the first Commissioner); all we need is Martinez.  Further down the hall, Alicia’s saying the same thing to Will and Diane over the phone (although she seems to be downplaying what a disaster this was).  “Oh, and one other thing,” she stops Will from hanging up, looking around the hall to make sure no one’s listening. “This may be nothing, but Burl’s been asking about our firm.”   This doesn’t strike Will and Diane as odd until Alicia explains he asked about the bankruptcy.   “What did you say,” Diane wonders, so Alicia repeats herself.  “Was that the wrong thing?”  I don’t know, says Will – did he ask about anything else?  Yes, Family Law.  Diane politely puts Alicia on hold.

Our resident smarty pants have figured out what the little tet a tet with Clarke was all about.  Will buzzes back to Alicia, with the quite surprising instructions to let the news about Patric Edelstein slip if she can. “You want me to emphasize that we’re not doing well?”    Yes, please, Diane adds.  Wow, I wish I’d seen Alicia’s face when she heard that, but we’re watching Will and Diane gaze steadily into each others eyes, reading each others’ minds, so that’s good too. “Our trustee is looking for a buyer,” Will realizes.  And since Preston’s all about divorce cases, that’s why he was nosing around Family Law.  And since they’ve only managed to put together 12 of the 60 million dollars they need to get out of their bankruptcy, both name partners are convinced any judge would let Clarke sell them.  They look at each other, stressed.

Gosh, it’s so disappointing.  I understand the temptation, but I guess I thought that he’d understand that Will and Diane are the firm.  That you can’t put them in service to someone else and actually save the company he seemed to be so invested in.

Alicia’s not having anymore luck on the phone with chubby Eddie Kolakowski.  Turns out he was just humoring Laura; there isn’t any job, his firm just likes to know who’s out there looking in case there is.  Gross!  You can’t just look at resumes?  Bah.  “So, are you going to tell her there’s no job,” Alicia asks darkly.  Eddie, traveling in a taxi or towncar,  can’t hide his confusion. “What do you mean?” he asks.  Oh, you turkey.   That’s when Jeffrey Agos inadvertently dials the wrong room number looking for his son, so Alicia has to tell him Cary’s one room over before she finds out Eddie’s hung up on her.  Yuck.  She can hear through the wall that the conversation between Cary and his father isn’t going well, so Alicia takes her goblet and her mini-bar bottle of wine, and goes to find her office mate.

Cary’s watching a movie with a car chase.  I haven’t seen him in years, Cary says, his arm balanced on one raised knee as he lounges on his bed, drinking something that looks like scotch.  “We’re not very close.” It’s a nice hotel room – there’s a dark paneled wall behind the twins beds; Cary sits on one, Alicia on the other.   “He’s a lobbyist?” Alicia asks.  Yes, and Cary’s mom, too.  Funny, I just assumed he was another lawyer, and a crusading lawyer at that.  “My new mom,” Cary qualifies, and drinks.

“You should have breakfast with him,” Alicia says, turning to look at her colleague.  “Why,” Cary asks, surly.  He purposely does not meet her eyes. “Because he asked you,” she answers. “I said we’re busy, maybe another time,” Cary answers firmly.  It’s clearly an upsetting prospect.  “Cary, we’re not busy.  He’s probably trying to make amends,” she suggests, not turning away.  He sneaks a look over at her. “Why?” he asks again. “Because.  You only get so much family in life,” she tells him, shaking her head, very sincere.

“This seems to matter more to me than it does to you,” he answers.  She startles as he laughs and corrects himself. “No.  More to you.”   She laughs, not as tipsy as he is, her tongue merely loosened a little.  “No, it was nice to see you with family,” she smiles, leaning back against the crisp white pillows. “My Dad kicked me out the door when I was 18,” Cary explains, surprising me, “cause his dad kicked him out the door when he was 18. He never gave me a cent, he never wanted to know what I was doing, when I got the deputy-ship at the State’s Attorney’s Office, he never said a thing.”  What the hell is that?  Wow, that totally revolutionizes my view of Cary.  Does that mean his parents didn’t help pay for college or law school at all?  That’s cold.  So for Cary to spend his time at the Innocence Project and in the Peace Corps – here I was thinking of him as this Buick driving child of privilege and expectation, and there he was, working his tail off to pay down what must be a staggering mountain of student loans.

“That might be why he’s calling now,” Alicia persists. “To make up for it. People change on you.”  She looks at him in complete seriousness.  Maybe she is a little drunk after all. “You changed on me,” he says, looking over at her. “Me?  No,” she scoffs, drinking. “Oh, you don’t notice it,” he comments, surprised she doesn’t know. “You’re tougher now.  You’re smarter about things.”  So very true, Cary.  “Is that good or bad?” she wonders.  “Probably neither, just necessary,” he smiles.

“And you,” she says, shaking her head, “you’re nothing like four years ago.  I thought you were a jerk.”  He laughs through his nose, and she laughs because he finds it funny and not offensive, because they can say these things to each other now.  Cary looks at the gunfight on the large flatscreen TV, and remembers something; Theresa’s on Bill Maher tonight.  Huh.  Wait, he doesn’t do a live show, does he?  “You two seem to be hitting it off,” Alicia giggles, ” all that breast humor, I guess.”

“It sounds like pure pleasure,” you can hear Bill Maher say.  Oh yes, Theresa says in front of a green screen with a photo of the Capitol Dome.  Going from office to office, lobbying the FCC.  “I personally stripped for each and every one of them.”  I’m surprised Alicia didn’t drop her wineglass in her lap.  “Commissioner Gill took pictures – but he said it was for educational purposes.”  Oh God.  She’s naming them.  Seriously?  What purpose does that serve?  I mean, only the insideriest of Washington insiders would ever know the Commissioners names, right?  But this makes it a personal humiliation and likely to actively piss them off. “No, no, don’t,” Cary futilely begs. “And Commissioner Bix – oh, I don’t know.  She slipped me her number, but that can mean anything.”  The audience laughs.  I think it’s really hard to write fake comedy for TV (witness Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).  Or maybe it’s just her fakey fakey delivery I don’t think, because the words seem plausible enough as I copy them down.

So did you settle anything, the host asks?  Cool that they got him to show up; I wonder if he’s a fan of the show?  Yes, we actually did, Theresa tells Bill. She’s got this odd, smirky, smug quality when she’s performing that’s just too stagey and self-conscious for me..  “No more censorship anymore, anywhere.  These breasts can do anything if they set their minds to it.”  Cary and Alicia just don’t believe it; he squints at the screen as if expecting someone could take it back.  Alicia just looks away.  Wow did I love that conversation before Theresa’s breasts coopted it!

And, oooh.  Those are two pretty breakfast plates – luscious red and black berries, with two swirly buns on the side.  Not hearty, and not healthy, but pleasing none the less.  Are the buns boob substitutes?  Now I’m seeing anatomy everywhere.  Cary looks over at his father, tense and confused.  Is his father really trying to make amends?  He waits patiently.  First, Jeffrey starts with some small talk about Peter and his tricky governor’s race.  So at least there’s that, he remembers that Cary used to work for Peter. “You like him?” Yes, Cary thinks Peter’s a good guy.  “Not easy being a good guy in that town,” Mr. Agos observes.  Good guy doesn’t mean saint, but sure.  Your mother sent me something you wrote, Jeffrey continues.  It was a piece about negotiating techniques, and it was smart. “I didn’t understand all of it,” Mr. Agos declares with a flattering smile, face tilted to the side, “but what I did understand was … smart.”

Cary manages a thank you; he doesn’t know how to deal with his father being complimentary.  Mr. Agos gives up on eating, folds his hands and leans forward, forcing his son to make eye contact.  How are you?  How are you really?  Uh, fine, how’re you, an utterly bewildered Cary responds.  Oh, I’m okay, Mr. Agos replies.  That sounds dark.  “I don’t know how long any of us have, but I’m good.”  What a thing to say!  Whadda ya mean, Cary wonders.  “Nothing,” Mr. Agos says, considering his words. “I wanna say something before it’s too late.”  Cary’s got to be completely terrified now that his father has cancer and really is trying to make amends. “I’m proud of you,” the father says. “I’m proud of you, and I’m sorry that we haven’t been in touch.”

Wow.  Aren’t those the words Alicia was hoping Cary would get to hear?  But at what price? What’s prompting this, Cary asks, alarmed.  Nothing, nothing, his father waves off the concern.  “I think that we should… talk at some point,” he finishes. “Dad, what is going on?” Cary asks again. Alicia rushes in – this must be the hotel dining room – with the unfortunate news that Commissioner Martinez no longer wants to meet with Theresa.  Oops.  Why did they let her go on Bill Maher again?  They couldn’t have asked her to wait f a few days?  The partners want them to come home.  “You should go, and we’ll talk soon,” Mr. Agos nods.  The two stand, and shake hands warily. “Dad, call me,” Cary says, unnerved.  “Don’t worry.  I will.”

“So Maddie Hayward’s not the campaign innocent she pretends to be,” Eli grandstands to Kalinda and Jim Moody.  Oh, it gets worse than that – according to the neighborhood watch (ha!) Indira’s been coming to visit Maddie for a solid month, before the former took her story to Synth.  That is so dastardly!  So much for “I didn’t know I was going to do this,” Ms. Hypocrite.  What a cold hearted snake.  Eli wants to marshal his troops, but despite his cries of “it’s for Alicia!” Kalinda’s done.  Ah well.  If only she could stand up to He Who Must Not Be Named so easily.

Clarke Hayden’s eating a peanut butter sandwich wrapped in tinfoil on his desk.  Tinfoil?  This strikes me as terribly pathetic and lonely, somehow, even if it’s environmentally friendly.  Diane walks in and just stares, standing before him.  “Yes?” he asks.  “You’re selling us to Preston,” she accuses him.   I’m… considering your options, he says.  That’s an option for you, not us, she says. “You had six years of options,” he counters, which I suppose is fair.  She thinks he’s punishing them; he thinks he’s saving them.  She doesn’t see it as saving if they’re to be sliced up and sold off in chunks.  Amen to that, sister. “This is not a subtle business, Miss Lockhart.  Their is either money in the wallet or there isn’t, and when there isn’t, wishing there is won’t make it so.”

Oh, Clarke.  I had such hopes for you.  Diane leaves without a word.

“How was D.C.?” Laura Hellinger asks Alicia.  “Good!” Alicia enthuses, and then – rather remarkably, especially considering her recent betrayal by Maddie  – changes her social lie for the truth.  “Actually, it wasn’t,” she says.  It’s okay, Alicia replies to Laura’s compassion, it’s just work.  She wouldn’t have said that a few years ago, either.  Wow.  She pats the chair for Laura to sit; when she does, she brings up the call Alicia made for her to callow Eddie.

Alicia grimaces. ‘I don’t think there’s a job there,” she admits. Laura rears back. “What did they say?”  “There’s no job there,” Alicia rephrases, and I must have a really oblique sense of humor, because as sad as that is, I find it funnier than anything Theresa Dodd has said.  But they said there was, Laura puzzles.  They lied, Alicia’s forced to explain, because you’re pretty and they didn’t want to say no to you.  Military Laura can’t understand that at all; she scrunches up her face, utterly confused.  ‘People aren’t mean,” Alicia continues, “they’re just polite liars.”

How did you get back into the job market, Laura wonders, after how many years away? Thirteen, Alicia remembers, but that was in a far better job market.  She had five interviews before Lockhart/Gardner, and anyway, she really got this job because she knew someone.  “Do you know anyone, Laura, anyone who could help you, connections?”  Probably, Laura guesses.  “It’s just the way things are.  People hire people they know.  It’s not wrong…” not exactly wrong, the look on her face proclaims, but kind of wrong. “It just is.”  Brings you back to the Marthas and Caitlins, doesn’t it?

And that snooty laughter belongs on David Lee, which is just about perfect as a mental transition for me. “So you need my help,” he chuckles.  It’s in your best interest, Will offers: you hate Burl Preston as much as Diane and I do.”  Is there anyone David Lee likes?  Other than niece Caitlin, that is, and she’s not practicing anymore. He’s not so bad, David lies badly. “David,” Diane cuts to meat of argument. “Burl Preston is trying to buy this firm to control you.” David’s eyes widen; I didn’t think it was possible for them to bulge more.  “Do you want him to control you?” No more than he wants to be controlled by Will and Diane.  So let’s talk about us not controlling you, Will suggests.  David Lee is fine with that, as long as they discuss his pay, too.

Cary calls his dad from Chicago, pressing for a more complete conversation than the one they had at breakfast.  Clearly the whole thing has been torturing him; is Jeffrey Agos dying? “Dad, whatever it is, I can handle it.”  “It’s very hard to talk about it, son,” Jeffrey stammers from another elegant table.  Oh, yikes, that can’t be good.  “Your mother thinks that I should wait.”  But Cary begs for it, begs so hard. “Dad, I’m here, and I’m listening.”

Okay, here it is. “Do you know Senator Byers of Illinois?”  Cary’s mouth literally hangs open.  Er, not personally. It turns out that the Senator needs a press secretary, and Jeffrey Agos would like it to be him, but he feels his candidacy needs something to help it along.  Like, I don’t know, the recommendation of Senator Byers’ best friend, Diane Lockhart.  So was he just feigning indifference when he couldn’t come up with the name of Cary’s firm?  Weird tactic. Cary’s jaw drops further and further down, and his eyebrows furrow closer together until at last they meet.  “And I was hoping that you might ask her to put in that good word.”  That’s what you wanted to talk about, Cary snaps, his fury building.  Yes. “That’s it?”  Yes.  I know it’s a lot, he says.  Oh, you have no idea.  Cary turns the phone handset away from his ear and leans on it.  “And I could talk to Martinez for you, if that would be helpful.”

Good luck with that, Mr. Agos.

Cary pretends he has to get off the phone.  So you’ll do it, son, the father asks.  It would be very helpful.  Clearly too flustered and angry to answer straight, Cary claims he’ll think about it and hangs up.  Oh, Cary.  Oh, my poor Cary.

“Come again?” Alicia asks at the back of the office.  “They’re saying I have a mark on my penis,” Peter tells his wife, whispering the last words.  Ha!  That’s too funny, listening to him relay this tale.  Is she going to remember the Brazilian food hang up call, I wonder?  (Why did it take so long to reach her?) Alicia’s mouth opens and closes several times, attempting to formulate a response, before she bursts into peals of laughter.  The pairs laughs together about just what it is Eli wants her to say to the press given the situation.   No’s the obvious answer, but could she mix it with some outrage?  “Yeah, I don’t do outrage well these days,” she replies.  Ha.  That’s awesome.  (Sad, because it means she’s seen too much, but also really great and refreshing.  After all, Eli gives us fake outrage all the live long day.  We even see Alicia do it in court.)  “How about laughter,” Peter offers.  That would be easier, she concurs, snickering.  Thank you, he says.

And then, looking out at the back of Cary’s head, she has a thought.  Maybe Peter’s a little understaffed, since he hasn’t hired a replacement for Cary.  Maybe Laura Hellinger should go see him. “You’d like her,” Alicia thinks.  “Do you mind considering her?”  I don’t, he says; do you mind talking to the press?  “Nope,” she smiles, popping the p sound at the end of the word.  The Florricks put down their phones, thoroughly pleased with each other.  The smile on her face and the soft way she tells him goodbye; it’s all quite adorable.  Sadly, her pleasure disappears when she looks at Cary, who turns a shattered face in her direction.

Kalinda walks in on their combined glumness and calls them on it.  We’ve been frozen out, Alicia explains.  The last Commissioner doesn’t want to see us.  Well , he’s still going to meet Punch Sutton tomorrow at 6, darn it.  Happily, Cary has a thought.  What if they crashed that meeting?  Pretend they never got the “disinvitation”?  Kalinda, lovely in a black dress with a lace inset top, loves the idea.  All we need is another phallic air plane, and we’re off!

Alicia, Burl, Cary and Theresa explode out of an elevator like clowns from a circus car. Well, okay, maybe not quite that dramatically. “No, this is the new me,” Theresa tells Cary. “Smell my perfume; it’s called Accommodation.”  Hee.  Okay, now that was kind of funny. “Oh, it’s nice,” he says, leaning in toward her neck.  And then he says he’ll catch up with her.  Because he sees his father in the fall.

“So you’re not going to call.  You’re going to ignore your own father,” Jeffrey declares in a fit of self-righteousness.  Oh, wow.  That’s just – wow.   Buddy, it’s worse than that, because he knows Diane really well.  He just has to walk across the hall, but all you’ve done is given him reasons not to help you. “Yup,” Cary sneers.  I only need this one little call, Jeffrey barks.   “And I only needed one call on my birthday,” Cary answers, “one call when I was out of work.  Did you know I was the youngest deputy State’s Attorney ever, did you know that?”

“We don’t do that, Cary,”  Jeffrey pontificates. “Other families gush.” That word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.  Surely ‘acknowledge’ and ‘gush’ are not synonyms.  “You know how I pay a compliment to you now?  By needing something from you!”  Jeffrey’s right in Cary’s face, practically thumping on him for emphasis; Cary couldn’t be less impressed.  He’s done.  A few years ago this would have worked, he says, but no more.  “I won’t be calling you again,” Jeffrey declares.  Cary just stares at him. “My loss,” he shrugs, and leaves.

Good for you, Cary!

Alicia and the gang do a beautiful job of pretending they never got uninvited.   This was a smart play, Cary, even if it would have been thriftier for your bankrupt firm if you’d come up with it before you all flew home; Commissioner Martinez is too polite to kick them out once they’re actually seated in his office.  “All I wanted to do was make women aware of breast cancer.”  (Um, I think we’re aware, but thanks, Theresa.)  And disrobing was the best way to do it?  I wouldn’t do it that way again, she says, but I thought it needed to be memorable and provocative to make a difference.  Martinez compliments her zeal, but he’s not done – he brings out a really unfortunate, unfunny joke from one of her old stand up routines: “rape is never funny, unless you’re raped by a clown.”  She’s ashamed.

Attempting to head him off, a very uncomfortable Alicia points out that the joke isn’t part of her current repertoire.  Sure, but Martinez generally finds himself “confused” by Miss Dodd’s sense of humor.  Is his point that she shouldn’t be on television at all, because these two gaffs show a compromised judgment?  That’s an interesting thing about the public record, isn’t it?   It’s an alarming thing that a person’s mistakes make us unable to reconcile their good intentions in any other context, but this is definitely a part of living in the digital information age, no less for entertainers than politicians.

Anyway.  Someone is sexually assaulted in America every 45 seconds, Martinez lectures them; how is that funny?  The joke isn’t about rape, Cary tries.  No go.  Shall the Commissioner read it again?  “I think, sir, you’re trying to make a point by putting Miss Dodd on the spot,” Cary replies, starting to get a little hot under the collar.  Burl and his pink paisley tie and matching pink pocket square tries to intervene, but under the pressure Theresa suddenly finds her grown up voice.

“No, you’re right, Commissioner, it’s not funny,” she admits.  Cary tries to hush her, but she’s not going to stop now that she finally knows what to say. “What?  He’s right.  Rape is never funny.  And the association of clowns and rape is just offensive.  And I feel terrible that I wrote it.”  Good – but that’s not enough.  “But then I find myself asking, why do you tell these jokes?”  “Because I have a potty mouth,” she sighs, which serves only to piss Martinez off.  That’s why we have standards, he says.  Preston points out that the ratings for the show has increased since Theresa’s appearance.  Because the audience is presumably hoping to see more naked boobies?

Okay, Martinez says (although I’m just not sure how the ratings argument was persuasive) as long as you sign a pledge promising not to pull this kind of stunt again, you’ll be okay.  She thinks about it, looks around, plants a big tender kiss right on Cary’s mouth, gathers up her purse, and walks out.

“I think that’s a yes,” Burl Preston proclaims.

And that was my biggest laugh of this episode.

At the conference table in Peter’s office, Geneva Pine interviews Laura Hellinger!  Yay!  Geneva, as always, sounds testy.  We find out that Laura went to Stanford Law before her 12 years in the JAG corps, and that the military wasn’t a family tradition (her dad’s a professor of neurobiology).  “Why did you enlist, then?” Geneva can’t wrap her head around it. “I don’t know, they needed lawyers?” Laura offers, laughing awkwardly.  Smiling, Geneva says that they’ll keep her in mind if they have an opening – but meanwhile, she should check the always understaffed public defenders office.

And that’s when Peter waltzes in.  He takes the resume from Geneva’s hand and shakes with Captain Hellinger.  I find that sort of cute;  had Alicia been talking about Laura before, that Peter knew her rank?  He glances over the resume. You’re looking for a job, he begins. And you know how little we pay?  “I’ve heard rumors,” she jokes.  How much money could she have been making in the Army?  Money can’t be her primary motivation.  “I tend to be frugal,” she adds.  When can you begin, he wonders, and Geneva’s eyes pop.  “Now,” she declares. “I mean, if you want.”  And with that, he hands over a case file from his desk.  Breaking and entering.  Geneva stares in utter disbelief.  As Peter heads back out, Laura starts flipping through the file, her jaw dropped. “Thank you for your help,” she tells Geneva, who smiles tightly.  I hope you didn’t just end up with an enemy there, girl.

Will and Preston are back in court, arguing before the ancient and Honorable Judge Mel Fendler.  Even though we haven’t heard back from the FCC, Will hopes to head off the expected negative ruling by arguing that the network suit should be dropped because Theresa’s actions caused no damages.  Well, we’ll only know that once we know if they’re going to get that 3 million dollar fine, right?  Nope, it turns out it’s about affiliates dropping the show.  Really?  But Will explains that Preston told the FCC that the ratings were up, and that the increased viewership should more than compensate for the loss of those affiliates.  It’s clear from her posture and stare that Alicia was the source of this new line of argument. “That was an argument in another venue,” Preston rather desperately tries to argue.  This is all just an attempt to punish Theresa, Will sums up, and if there are no actual damages, then the suit should be dismissed.

A very annoyed Burl Preston bursts into the Lockhart/Gardner conference room and slaps an offer on the table in front of Clarke Hayden.  “Would you like some water?” Clarke asks in a small voice.  “No,” Preston thunders, clearly stinging from his loss, and I must have a weird, Cary-like sense of humor because that made me laugh too.  Or maybe F. Murray Abraham is just funny.  Anyway, he’s ready to absorb all the L&G debt, and pay out capital contributions, too.  The existing partners, however, will have to pay severance packages.  Clarke’s good with that.  Preston will honor existing partner contracts for one year; Clarke, astoundingly, thinks that’s just fine too.  I’ll say it again; there is no firm if he does this.  Who would he be helping? The name is gone, job security for the employees – what is there left?  I can’t even express how disappointed I am in him.  I would have expected this from Clarke at the beginning, perhaps, but I thought he was invested emotionally now!

“Hello, Burl,” David Lee swaggers into the room, and sits himself down at the end of the table.  At the head of the table, actually. He wants to watch, he says.  Clarke tries to throw him out: “This is a private matter.”  How so?  “It’s far from private,” Lee snaps, and for once I agree with him.  “I’m just waiting for my emancipation.  Go ahead.”  What?  “Yes, this firm has a strangle hold on me.  But as soon as you purchase it, I’m done. Halleluiah!”  He waves some spirit fingers at them; excellent.  It turns out that Will and Diane just rewrote his contract so that he can leave if the firm is sold or absorbed.  Nice!  Clarke’s horrified, but it’s outside of his control, and he loses his big fish. “Good luck with this place,” Burl Preston smiles. “Unfortunately they enjoy intrigue more than making money.”  It’s fair to say that we viewers are far more interested in intrigue than we are in the firm making money, anyway.   Even if we’re actively sick of them talking about the lack of it.  David Lee swans out of the room, a satisfied smile on his face.

“You told your husband to hire me?” Laura squeaks, fluttering around Alicia’s office.  Alicia denies it, but clearly is flattered by her ability to affect events. “You didn’t say anything to him?” Laura just can’t believe. “Well, I said you were a good lawyer,” Alicia smiles.  Aw!  Laura’s pleased but disbelieving. “This is all new to me,” she flaps. “What, friends didn’t help friends in the military?” Yes, Laura agrees, but never me. You know, even with Colonel Kuhn (who clearly appreciated and supported Laura) I can sort of see that – she would never do anything that could be construed as a favor because of gender, because Laura had to be seen as earning what she got.  Baptism by fire, Alicia shrugs; the two women beam at each other.

Diane’s glass doors clang so loudly as Clarke throws them open I’m afraid for a minute they’ll shatter.  He’s livid at Will and Diane’s inference, livid, but he ought to be more sensible than this.  They want to keep their firm.  How is that hard to understand?  He paces, fist to his mouth. “You’re cutting your own throats!  Do you know how hard it is to find a suitor like that?”  Yes, Diane says evenly, that’s why we did it.  “You are losing this firm,” he fumes, and stomps out.

“Mr. Hayden,” Will calls out. “You should take a step back.  You’ve obviously become too invested in our firm.”  Clarke can’t believe it.  Will, don’t provoke him, it isn’t nice.  Or smart.  “You don’t know me.  I don’t step back,” Clarke declares. “We don’t either,” Diane replies, cool.  “Then get ready to crash,” he promises.  Will and Diane look at each other in silence.

Improbable as it sounds, Theresa tells Cary that the FCC isn’t fining the network.  Crazy.  They make flirty eyes at each other, celebrating her being off the hook, and she heads off to L.A.  Hopefully not to get herself into more trouble.  Cary turns to watch her walk out.  “What’d she say,” Alicia sidles up and whispers. “Goodbye,” he says, a bit puzzled by it all. “That’s it?” Alicia whispers, disappointed.   You’re such a cute mother hen, Alicia. “She didn’t say anything else?”  No, why?  “Well why did she kiss you yesterday?”  Hee.  “She’s a comedian,” Cary shrugs.  Hee.  So stinking cute.

“I’ve spent the last week with my lawyer,” Theresa tells a comedy club audience, “trying desperately not to say anything about Brazil and penises.”  I can see how that would be difficult for her.  Actually I’m astounded she was able to control herself.  Alicia’s watching online – shades of the Chelsea Handler moment from season 1.  “I suppose there are worse birthmarks to have.  Like Greece.  I mean, who wants a penis that’s always in recession?”  In direct contrast to the Chelsea Handler experience, Alicia smiles. “My lawyer says, it really only looks like Brazil when it’s erect.  Otherwise, it’s more like New Jersey.”  Alicia closes her laptop, and laughs.  Her laughter floats over the end credits.

Truth number one: it’s hard to write good stand up.  For me, this wasn’t particularly it, although I do wonder if the material would have been funnier with an actual comedian performing it.  Or I like my jokes a little less easy.  I did like the little flirtation between Theresa and Cary, though, and I definitely liked the layers in Christina Ricci’s performance; theater people are always on. It can be hard for them to turn off the mouthiness; I’ve seen it.  So watching this sometimes articulate women struggle with the right way to express herself was fun.  By the way, when I talk about the Schindler’s List comparison, I’m not saying the breast cancer isn’t serious, just that a snide breast exam wasn’t a serious treatment of the subject.  Of course comedy can get points across as well as serious work (like, say, Life is Beautiful), but she didn’t achieve that level, either.

And then there’s all the jokes.  What makes something funny?  Is anatomy always funny?  Is it prissy of me not to think most of the jokes were funny?  Sigh.  Well, like I said, I think it was more that I didn’t find Christina Ricci funny; though the jokes could be more clever, they weren’t terrible.  Whether or not I find myself laughing out loud, I’m pleased that our sometimes naughty show – so good at pushing the line – didn’t just provoke a debate about standards and practices, they staged one.  I hated the business with the courtroom window, but otherwise, interesting.

What else?  I like Laura, and I like her for the State’s Attorney’s office. It’ll be great to see her duking it out with us in court and to find out how quickly she can shake off her military perfectionism for the looser style of the civilian courts. It’s fascinating, and very real, how much more at ease Alicia is being the one dispensing favors rather than the one receiving them (as with Maddie).  I won’t exactly call that “new Alicia” because I’m sure she always liked being nice, but knowing that she has the power to pull strings and using it naturally?  That feels very new.  I’m so glad Cary pointed some of the changes out to her.

I LOVE Cary.  I loved his conversation about his family with Alicia, I loved the way he stood up to his dad, I loved it all. I still can’t quite reconcile his upbringing with what I thought it was, though.  H-bomb entitled boy had to put himself through college and law school?  Law school is pretty much all loans, right, but college isn’t, and it’s not like you can make that much money with a summer job.  I mean, I get some of it, I really do, and it adds weight to his tremendous grudge against Alicia for pulling strings to keep her job during the bake off.  Maybe I’m just stuck on the price of his education…

Maddie Hayward wasn’t in the episode, but her shadow looms large.  I cannot even believe she was so completely calculating and evil; I’m just aghast.  I hope Peter buries her.  I’m really furious!

Speaking of being furious, why ever did Clarke think Will and Diane were going to take their firm being sold out from under them as a good thing?  Take their names off the door and dispose of their job security, and you think they’re going to like it?  He knew they wouldn’t, or he wouldn’t have hidden his negotiations from them.  I’m disappointed that Clarke’s going to war with Will and Diane.  I liked having him around and I hoped he was going to help them find an actual solution to the firm’s tedious financial woes.  I don’t know.  Maybe what needs to happen is that Will and Diane need to save themselves.  I have to admit, I don’t see where they’re going to get the 42 million dollars they need, and I’m so done with this anxiety.

Okay.  You tell me.  What did you think?

16 comments on “The Good Wife: Anatomy of a Joke

  1. Kiki says:

    Hey E!!!!!!

    I liked the episode, not sure Ricci did much for me. Or that the writers did comedy very well.

    But I loveeeeed Cary/Alicia, loved seeing them hanging out, working together. It so refreshing seeing them together and so glad Cary got some good screentime this episode. Cary’s father was a real douche, I felt so bad for Cary, just wanted to give the kid a hug. He wanted so bad to believe his father had changed, but he hadn’t. So sad. Someone give Cary a hug lol.

    The birthmark story was quite entertaining and yes I doubt Indira Starr even knows where Brazil is haha. I cannot believe Maddie was behind this the whole time, mostly becacuse I really believed she wanted to be Alicia friend. So I am just disappointed in that. I hope Alicia does something that leads to Maddie’s demise. Loved the A/P phone conversation, they haven’t gotten a scene together in a few episodes, but they are so much more at ease on the phone now, very different that how awkward it was before. They seem to be much friendlier. I love it ❤

    Clarke needs to come down a bit, he is going to have a heart attack LOL
    And YAY that he who should not be named was not there this week!!

    (Also 9 more days until the Stockard Channing episode *thud*….. CANNOT WAIT)

    • E says:

      Kiki! I wanted to hug Cary in the worst way. No wonder Alicia got all maternal with him; it was awful to see him like that. His father’s selfishness blows me away. And yet it was also a fantastic glimpse into Cary’s character, and the forces that made him who he is.

      I’m so with you about Maddie, I can’t even believe how vile and calculating that is, I really can’t. It would definitely be outstanding if Alicia somehow manages to be the one to destroy her candidacy. And, woah, talk about friendly! I can’t even get over the cute way Alicia said goodbye to Peter. Do you think they’re together? Because she sounded pretty besotted to me.

      And Stockard Channing – if there was a more perfect actress out there for that role I cannot imagine how. SO excited.

      • Kiki says:

        NOPE no more perfect casting than Stockard, I am so excited it hurts. Her coming to TGW will be the greatest thing ever, because it brings my two loves together TGW and The West Wing *thud* soooooo happy! Is going to be EPIC!

        As for A/P, I am really not sure if they are together. There are definitely in a MUCH better place, but to honest I don’t think they know themselves where they stand really.
        Check out this article, the Kings give us something, but I have more questions/doubts/hope LOL for them. I am never to sure with the Kings. I would just really love to see them really try for once.

        Also TGW time tomorrow!!

        • E says:

          It probably won’t surprise you at all that I LOVED The West Wing, too (especially the first 3-4 seasons) – super excited for those worlds to collide.

          And, I don’t know, but the way Alicia said good bye on the phone… it’s kind of like they’re newly dating, that super cute early phase.

          Ugh. WHY must those football games run over??????

  2. E.L. says:

    *Raises hand* Another person caught off guard by the Maddie-in-cahoots-with-Indira revelation here. So the whole thing was manufactured from beginning to end? From the drinks to the outrage over Peter’s attitude towards women. Yikes. All this so she could sabotage Peter’s campaign from the inside? Scope out the competition? Well, I’d never pegged her as being that Machiavellian. I had thought that it was just a matter of putting one’s career ahead one’s friendships. I mean, since the real OTP on this show is Alicia/Kalinda, I knew they would never let anyone usurp Kalinda’s place as Alicia’s friend, but this is so evil that I think Maddie has surpassed Wendy Scott-Carr, Glenn Childs, Blake, … just about anyone else who has ever appeared on the show. Even the wiser and more wary Alicia is going to be really thrown by this.

    Laura being hired by the SA’s office is nice. But there are also people who have pointed out that this could potentially become a problem for Peter and Alicia down the line with regards to Peter’s image. I have no idea if the show is going to go there, but it’s an interesting thought.

    I’m really liking the Clarke Hayden character, so as long as we get to see more of him, I don’t really mind in what capacity – be it as the firm’s advocate or Will and Diane’s adversary. Actually, I’m pretty excited to see how he is going to try to outmaneuver all the major players at the firm. And what his friendship with Cary will become.

    re:the standup. I’m not sure the writers were necessarily trying to get laughs as much as they were trying to spoof a specific kind of comedic act? It felt a bit more like social commentary to me? But then I don’t know much about standup comedians.

    • E says:

      HI, E.L.! It’s fantastic to hear from you! I’m amazed that Maddie was that calculating the entire time. When Peter called her a hypocrite, I really didn’t expect that she was duplicitous at that level – that every single word she uttered was a lie. It’s hard to imagine how someone could be that cold. I suppose it’s an interesting lesson to Alicia not to trust someone just because they have money or can do something for you – or because they just ask. Not that she needed any more lessons on who not to trust, poor woman.

      And, hmmm. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they got flak over hiring Laura; this show is great about that kind of thing. No good deed goes unpunished! Of course, I’m a total pessimist that way.

      And the stand up – I bet you’re right, it’s probably a send up of a particular kind of humor. That idea makes me feel better about not laughing, anyway. 🙂

  3. Kim L says:

    hey all, my thought about Cary/$ is that maybe his (divorced, and probably well to do herself anyway) mother provided some support to him at least.
    I’m feeling smug because I called the Maddie/Indira thing right away. And my honey is feeling smug too, because she called Maddie as a bean (‘Alright you lez-beans, don’t you know smackin’ pussy is against the law’ – thank you John Waters!) on her first appearance as well.

    • E says:

      Oh, his Mom, great thought.

      Good for you guys for calling Maddie on her secrets (nefarious and normal). Although, actually, I think I will be a little sad if she’s really a closeted lesbian just because that’s sad in and of itself, that even someone with all the money she has can’t just be honest about her personal life.

  4. […] sorry about that press secretary job.”  Oh, that was nothing, Mr. Agos dismisses his former outrage with a shake of his head.   “No, no, no, look.  It was inappropriate of me to even ask for […]

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