E: Want to get Alicia Florrick mad? Tell her how to live her life. Go ahead, I dare you. Word of warning: if you do, you’re not going to enjoy the results.
Of course, somebody really smart would use reverse psychology on her. But Alicia’s Mom? Not that smart. Or maybe what I really mean is, she doesn’t have that much self-control.
Just in case you’d forgotten, we’re treated to a lovely review of Cary being brutally beaten in the rain (oh, delightful), before transitioning quickly to a stunning beach scene, a palm tree blowing in a gentle breeze over white sand and an azure sea. Then that picture freezes into a postcard (Greetings from St. Barths!), in the hand of mathematician Owen Cavanaugh; his other hand is on his cell phone, through which he’s trying to placate his mother. “I love you Mom!” he finishes, hanging up and shouldering open a heavy courtroom door.
“You didn’t know you were committing fraud?” some asks the witness on the stand. Actually, witness box is probably the better term – the thin silver-haired man looks strangely vulnerable with wooden railings behind him and to the side but not in front of him. The witness explains he’s done a full inventory and resolved to give investigators all his emails and paperwork. (Oh, well, if you’ve resolved to do it, what more could you possibly have to do?) Ha – the questioning lawyer sneers at that just as I did. “Look, I run a software company, that’s all,” the witness says. Oh, is that all? “I’m involved in the big picture, not all these… details.” That’s a totally reasonable excuse for not knowing something, depending on the size of the company and the fraud, and yet the smarmy, smug way he says it makes me hate him. Well done. Bucky Stabler – Bucky? – give him a dour look. “Like the defrauding the IRS for $430 million dollars?”
“Objection!,” Diane and another man leap to their feet. “Yes. Thank you. In stereo,” replies wry, dry Judge Claudia Friend. Lilith! Excellent! We get Bucky and Lilith in the same scene? Cool. “Sustained, AUSA Stabler.” AUSA? Huh? Has someone changed career paths in the few weeks since we first met? He works for the feds? “Bucky,” he corrects, and while Judge Friend clearly thinks he’s nuts, she obliges. “You are the CEO of TaxLaunch.com, the company that allows taxpayers to file online returns and receive online refunds,” Stabler backs up for those of us joining the trial already in progress. “Two years ago you began to file fraudulent claims from criminals using stolen social security numbers.” We didn’t know they were stolen, the CEO asserts. “Really,” replies Stabler, his tone perfect in its derision. It seems they sent 84 returns totaling over 3 million dollars to the same address. “I’m the CEO of the company, sir. I didn’t have time to check every single envelope.” Hmmm. “I trusted the people under me. People like Dale,” he continues, gesturing toward the defense table.
“Objection!” Diane and Alicia cry, leaping to their feet. Only one at a time, Judge Friend cautions. “Mr. Stabler is again attempting to use our co-defendent against us, and we again ask Your Honor to sever our two defenses.” Owen watches, fascinated. “As long as they are combined, the new AUSA will us against each other.” “Is that what you’re doing, Mr…. Bucky?” Judge Friend asks. Ha. Never, he swears, so their motion is acknowledged but denied.
Diane leans toward her co-counsel. “You come after us like that again, we’ll come after you,” she threatens. The spare grey haired man looks at her with irritation. Meanwhile, Bucky stabs a stubby finger onto an old fashioned tape deck, and asks the CEO to identify his own voice on the recording.
The balding co-counsel shuts the deck off. “Your Honor, this is a recording of my client speaking to his wife,” he explains, and so subject to spousal privilege. Bucky’s contention is that Mrs. Foster was a co-conspirator, and therefor not protected by the spousal shield. “Mr. Stabler can assert conspiracy as often as he wants,” Alicia sneers, “but there’s been no evidence.” We’re gathering the evidence, Bucky replies; so gather it and submit it, Diane snaps. Judge Friend calls an end to the bickering. “It’s gratifying that you all feel so comfortable to talk over each other in my court,” she reasserts her control. Nice. She sustains the objection; “bring me evidence of a conspiracy, and I’ll reconsider.”
Right. Down comes the gavel, and with that the session ends.
“You trying to blame me?” Alicia’s client Dale confronts Foster directly. “No,” Foster replies, “I’m just stating a fact. I was the CEO, you were the CFO.” Who would have so little to do that he’d also personally look into every transaction the company made? “I’m not going to jail for you,” Dale hisses, getting right into Foster’s face; Diane has to intervene before it comes to blows. “We’re on the same side here,” she reminds them.
“You seem to be everywhere these days, Bucky,” Alicia smiles at her adversary. So true. “Aaaaah,” he growls. “I got rich, I got old, I got bored, I thought I’d help out my Uncle Sam at the Department of Justice, nail some bad guys… Like yours.” Ah. She smirks. “So we’re 0:1,” he says. She doesn’t understand, so he has to literally spell it out. “Zero,” he points to her, “One,” back to himself. Yes, and one can’t help but wonder if that one didn’t have something to do with his desire to leave private practice. He made it fairly clear his sympathies were with Laura Hellinger and not his attempted rapist client. “Ah, well,” she says, “we’ll have to change that, won’t we?” He gives this really interesting look; though saying so belies their words, I can’t help feeling that they like each other.
But you know who really likes Alicia? Her little brother. Her face lights when Bucky walks off and he gets her attention. What’s he doing here? “I came to see you, kicking ass,” he replies, clearly impressed. “Wow, you were great out there, sis, really.” I haven’t done anything yet, she laughs, breaking their hug. Aw, that face, it’s so sweet. “Take the compliment. Seriously.” Apparently you’re going to need it, Alicia. (Smart Owen.) “Look what came.” He passes over the postcard. Since Alicia can’t read (or, sorry, just doesn’t know where St. Barths is) she asks Owen for details. It’s from the Caribbean. “She’s getting closer,” Alicia shudders. ‘She’s coming in – tonight,” Owen says. Coming in, Alicia wonders, where?
Oh, poor sweetie. Here. Why, Alicia wonders – does Malcolm want to see his family? “No,” guesses Owen, “the last time I talked to her, she had met someone. Henry? From Alaska? An oilman? On the last cruise?” Alicia shakes her head. Do they even have oilmen anymore? (Why wouldn’t they? What a weird question, Alicia.) “Apparently. In Alaska,” Owen deadpans, and then speculates that perhaps Mom has come to Chicago looking for some legal help with divorcing Malcolm. Oh dear lord, Alicia sighs. “So what’s next. More objections?” Owen wonders, opening the gate to usher his sister back out into the gallery and out of the room. “I love the objections.” A few, she smiles. “There should be some fireworks after lunch. Don’t you have school today?” Furlough day, he shrugs; it’s one of the benefits of a bad economy.
How charming; it’s Nick at work, supervising the towing of a vehicle, a fleet of trucks behind him. Just lovely. Where did he come from, anyway, and why is he still here with so many trucks once he’s lost the bid? Ba. “Mr. Savarese? Nick?” It’s Cary Agos, walking through the tow yard. Nick makes an innocent-sounding comment about the state of Cary’s face, one which fools no one. “Basketball injury,” Cary claims. (Men. Bah.) “Sorry to interrupt your work here, Nick, but we have a problem with this potential suit against Streckler Automotive,” he says. We do? Yeah.
“I used to work for the State’s Attorney’s Office. Don’t know if you knew that,” Cary begins. Nick didn’t. Anyway, his old colleagues brought a red flag to his attention; Bill. “What about him?” Nick wonders, walking around a truck so he can challenge Cary a little closer to his bruised face. Turns out Bill has the same drug record as Nick. Shocking! “And that’s why I’m here, as your lawyer,” Cary emphasizes the word heavily, “to warn you.” He stares into Nick’s stony face. “They’ll probably use that to rebut your lawsuit.” Cause that’s what we’re talking about, right? The lawsuit? “Now, to prepare myself for these upcoming depositions I looked into other legal issues with your tow trucks,” Cary starts up. “There were none. Thank God.” Thank God, Nick echoes with a false reverence.
Cary smiles, just smiles, the crinkles around his eyes highlighting the vivid red bruise above his cheekbone. He moves in, pleasant and threatening. It seems there were 80 grams of cocaine found in a car that one of Nick’s trucks towed, which is a common method of transporting drugs. Ah. So we know what Nick’s actual business is now for sure; excellent. That’s going to look bad if you keep going with the suit, Cary adds. What am I supposed to do about this, Nick wonders.
“Nothing,” Cary smiles widely. “That’s why I’m here! I’m your lawyer. I’ve looked into everything there is about your business.” Oh, snap. He leans forward. “So in case of any trouble, I know what you know.” Nick squirms.
Let me take a moment to bask in that, thinking about Nick finally looking unsettled. Aaaaaaah.
“I hope I haven’t disturbed you unduly, it’s all been taken care of,” Cary smiles. Oh, not at all, Nick blows it off. “It’s good to know. And just so you know, Cary, as your client,” he counter threatens, trying to reassert his authority, “I take this stuff very seriously. It’s life and death to me.” Cary returns his gaze, blinking. I’m ready for it to be death to Nick any day now.
“So you speak very carefully on the phone with your work mates, Mr. Foster,” Bucky Stabler begins again. Man, it’s so dark in here; Foster’s silver locks shine like a beacon. “By careful, do you mean I had no knowledge of scheme to defraud the government and therefor never mentioned it on the phone? Yes.” HA! What an awesome answer. Even though I don’t like Foster at all, I have to appreciate the way he spit out that mouthful. Owen watches at the back of Judge Friend’s inky black courtroom. Bucky starts up another wiretap, which begins “Hey, Warren, how ya doin? What time ya headin’ out?” and Alicia and Diane’s jaws drop. Diane shuts off the tape recorder. Why is the prosecution sharing a table with the defense? Did they sell Bucky’s table to save us from dropping off the fiscal cliff? Sigh. Maybe it’s off having a party with the lights.
You’ve already ruled on spousal shield, Diane objects. “This is a completely different wiretap,” Bucky snaps, “on Mr. Lanborne and Mr. Lanborne’s live-in boyfriend.” OH. Wow, we’re going there? With Owen in the audience? Excellent. “Mr. Nemeck is not Mr. Lanborne’s live-in boyfriend, he is a legally married spouse, wed in the state of…” “Vermont,” supplies a shocked looking Lanborne. “Vermont,” Diane continues. Since the marriage is legal in Vermont, then spousal shield should apply. Tricky since we’re in federal court, though. We get a close up of Owen’s face as Bucky brings up DOMA. “There can only be one true marriage, that between a man and a woman.” Ah, here we go. First it was the former Mrs. Cavanaugh potentially dumping her spouse, then spousal privilege, and now DOMA? That’s impressive topical layering for 7 minutes in.
Diane’s golden hair and gold necklace and the golden stripes on her plaid suit are rare bright spots in the darkened courtroom. “It’s a reactionary law,” she fumes. Nevertheless, it is a law, dating from all the way back to 1996, Bucky points out. Terrified, Dale Lanborne (who – hmm – was love interest/painter Richard in Caroline and the City back in 1996) looks over at Judge Friend, whose pale hands knot together. “Well,” she grimaces, “this is a tricky one.” You said it, lady. The court explodes with opinions. “No no no,” she declares, raising her hands. “This one doesn’t go to the loudest arguer.” Indeed! “I will review precedent on this. Prepare your briefs and witnesses for tomorrow.” Bang goes the gavel.
And, wow. That’s way more interesting than tax fraud.
Which means it’s also more upsetting and emotional for our characters. “They can’t use the straight couple’s wiretap, but they can use the gay couple’s?” Owen asks Alicia, his brow even more furrowed that usual. He’s upset. “Unless we fight it,” she offers. “Good,” he says, reaching out. “I’m glad you’re doing this, sis.”
And check it out, there’s a bearded man sitting in the reception area with his eyes closed; a young assistant asks him about various commitments, ranging in seriousness from returning a call from a Justice and rescheduling a dentist appointment, and the bearded oracle shifts them decisively. “Excuse me, Mr. Breslow?” Cary interrupts. Bruce McGill of Rizzoli & Isles, Delta House and MacGyver opens his eyes slowly; yes, he says quietly. “Excuse me,” Cary smiles, “I heard you speak at Harvard. It was the highlight of my time there.” Breslow turns his head away with something that looks an awful lot like false modesty.
“I’m Cary Agos,” the younger man finishes. “Jeremy,” Breslow invites, waving rather than extending his hand, “this is my assistant Hal.” After greeting the assistant, Cary turns back to Breslow. “I’m sorry to – I’m just so in awe,” he gushes, and once again Breslow turns his face, as if the compliment were a wonderful-feeling slap in the face. What’s a great man like you doing in our waiting room, Cary asks. Can I do something for you? “Yes, in fact,” Breslow nods.
“He’s innocent,” Alicia tells Will and Diane at the table in Diane’s brightly lit office, ” but he speaks honestly on the phone to his spouse, and it doesn’t look good.” Sigh. In fact, says Diane, it looks especially bad given that we don’t hear the Fosters’ tape “because we don’t hear the orders the CEO gives him.” We need to keep it out, Will nods. And that’s when Cary walks in with the most blitzed smile on his face; when his bosses look up at him, all they see is the horrific bruise surrounding his left eye, even more prominent in the sunlight. Oh, this, he says – I took an elbow to the eye socket during a basketball game. Uh huh.
But Cary couldn’t care a whit about his deadly game of psychopathic chicken right now. “Someone is out in reception to see you,” he announces, a huge grin on his face. He makes them ask for the name, and he delivers it like a present: Jeremy Breslow. They’re silent. “Yes, him, the Supreme Court superlawyer, he’s just sitting out there.” Still, they’re stunned almost to immobility. “Why?” Diane finally asks. He wants to talk about the TaxLaunch.com case. “This case? Why?” Will asks, incredulous.
“DOMA,” the great man says. Aaaaah. Of course. It’s all about the defense of marriage today. Alicia, Will and Diane sit in the middle of the big conference room table; Breslow stands across from them, and his voice rings out. “This case could set precedent for years to come, maybe decades to come.” Cary grins to himself in the background, soaking in the soaring oratory. It’s not a simple matter of Dale’s guilt or innocence. “It’s a doorway to overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s why I’m here.” He paces, waves at them. “And that’s why I intend to help you in court tomorrow.”
Ah. And he’s so confident that they’ll accept that he cleared his schedule. Diane eyes him suspiciously.
“This is my right hand,” he says, swinging the hand out to them, his southern accent becoming more prominent as his rhetoric builds. “I want you to look at it.” As one, Alicia and Diane look in at Will instead, who sneaks a sly shrug-like glance over at his partner. Why is he giving them a closing statement? “It is with this hand that I promised my brother dying of AIDS that I would defend the rights of gays to my very last breath.” Oh, I like that it’s his brother – good parallel. “That I would use all my strengths, my talents, my treasure, to advance the cause of Stonewall, Harvey Milk, Lawrence vs. Texas, and now Will Gardner.” You’re buttering up the wrong partner, dear – although Will probably looks the most obviously suspicious at this point.
“Diane Lockhart!” he adds. Okay, better. “Names that will mean as much in two decades as those do!” The partners consider this exaggerated appeal to their vanity and ambition. “For we, right here, right now,” Breslow pitches, hands resting on two chairs, “we are making decisions that’ll impact the future of gay rights. And all you have to do is say yes.” No work for all that glory? Hmmmm. Breslow pauses to demand a breath mint of Hal, letting his words sink in.
“He’s full of it,” Will jeers, shutting Diane’s office door. “He’s Barnum and Bailey.” Diane’s shocked that Will could question such a liberal lion. “He’s a giant,” she hisses. “Who will swallow this case whole,” Will retorts. “It’ll all be about him, not the client.” Probably true – but is it right to care? Is that Will wanting to stay a big fish in his small pond? Diane wanting a footnote in history? Alicia points out that Breslow won’t be charging them, a weighty incentive indeed. Here’s another reason we want him, Diane says, scrolling through her phone. They dropped the charges against Foster. Yup, just like she predicted; especially since the wiretap was thrown out, Bucky’s using Foster against Lanborne. So, the giant lion it is!
Oh, how I’ve missed you, gorgeous blue door with the brass 903! Alicia’s home. And she’s not the only Mom in the house; Owen greets his sister with a warning “guess who?” to which she answers with a rather hilarious “here?” (Where else, Alicia? Seriously.)
And, my goodness. There’s a 7 foot tall toy giraffe in the hall with several huge red bows around its neck.
Alicia glares at Owen over her shoulder. “It’s a gift for Grace,” he explains, and Alicia does this very funny exaggerated collapse, like she just can’t believe the ridiculousness of it all. Obviously someone has been away long enough that she still thinks Grace is five. Also, how the hell did they get that in Owen’s car?
Okay. I’ll say it. It’s an awfully cute giraffe, and the way it tilts it’s head? Very cute. To give to a five year old.
In the dining room, Stockard Channing is directing “Gracie” and Zach to move the table to the back corner of the room. Is she planning a dance off, perhaps? “Oh, Alicia,” she cries, throwing her arms around her eldest child. “What’re you doing to your hair?” she asks, sparing over whether it’s better longer or shorter (I’m with Alicia; definitely shorter!). Alicia looks queenly and cold, but you can see she’s trying to restrain herself when she asks what happened to her table. Oh, it would be better over here, Momma formerly-Cavanaugh declares with a wave of her hand. Right. Because that’s what a good house guest does, just picks up other people’s furniture because they’ll like it better your way.
Grandma brought presents, Grace intervenes. They’ve gotten so big, Mom smiles, “Zach’s taller than I am.” I never thought of Stockard Channing as short, or Julianna Margulies as particularly tall, but Alicia towers over her. “That’s what happens after two years,” Alicia replies. Ooooh, the guilt, it burns. Not Stockard, though. No, no, it hasn’t been two years, she scoffs. “Oh! And I brought you this,” she remembers, gesturing at an enormous fresh turkey sitting on the table. “It won’t fit in the fridge,” Zach deadpans.
“Owen tells me that you met someone, Mom,” Alicia snipes, which prompts Mrs. (ex)C to bend over as ask Grace for support. Turns out that cuckolded husband Malcolm had a massive stroke on their cruise and died. She’s brought him back to bury. Somehow, that makes me feel really creepy about that turkey. Immediately contrite, Alicia asks after her mother’s emotional state. “Malcolm was always such a beautiful man – so full of life,” she says, a grandchild under each arm. And then she hands Alicia Malcolm’s will, because she’s run into some legal issues. “Malcolm left everything to me, but his son never liked me,” she shrugs.
Turns out it’s not a will at all, but a subpoena. “Oh?” Mom says, looking lost. Yes. For yesterday. Ooops! Mom’s more concerned about a book she wants Alicia to read. “Malcolm’s son says the will is invalid, they amended it,” Alicia renders the subpoena into English. “Vagina. A New Biography,” Mrs. (ex)C holds up the book. “It’s very powerful.” Grace’s jaw drops open. “Mom, this says Malcolm left you nothing!” Oh, says Mrs. (ex)C, leaning back on her grandchildren,”Then I’ll really need you. Owey says you’re such a good lawyer now!” Alicia turns and glares at her brother, who looks at his feet rather than meet her eyes.
Chilly Lilith is honored to have Jeremy Breslow grace her courtroom, even a touch flustered. “Thank you, Judge Friend,” Breslow begins, “but I am the one honored, to be representing such a fine young man as Mr. Lanborne.” Dale beams up at his savior, and the judge solicitously makes sure they’ve got enough room, and has another table brought in. Now that they’re down one defendant and there are actually fewer of them. Does the government mind the addition? Of course not, Bucky rises graciously to his feet, so long as our underdog status is formally acknowledged. “The United States as underdog,” Breslow chuckles his folksy chuckle. “I think that’s the first time since the Revolutionary War.” The whole room of sycophants chuckles. Friend asks for his first witness. “And by extension, I mean Miss Lockhart, and Ms… uh…”
That’s right. He’s the giant, swallowing them all. His first witness is a former Attorney General – presumably of the United States – Arthur Shipton. Bucky nearly rolls his eyes.
This is how the testimony goes down. Breslow elicits from Shipton that the policy of the current administration is not to enforce DOMA. Bucky objects to Breslow calling Shipton Attorney General, which prompts Judge Friend to sigh “Bucky, please,” and Breslow to shoot her a droll look, as if already they’re in each others confidence. You can see how much work his reputation does for him. It’s discriminatory and unconstitutional, Shipton hisses, and it would be the position of the government that Mr. Lanborne and his husband are married and shielded by spousal privilege. “Thanks for rushing over here on such short notice,” Breslow finishes his questioning. No problem, Jer, Shipton says. And then he winks at his pal.
Bucky shuffles around the room, hands in his pockets, his back turned on the witness half the time. So the government thinks DOMA is discriminatory and unconstitutional? Fine. So the government awards social security benefits to same sex spouses? Federal estate tax deductions? Spousal medical benefits for federal employees? Medical and dental insurance for military spouses? Discounted housing? Surviving spousal benefits? Anything?
No. Nothing. Damn, that’s a pretty searing indictment of the Obama administration and their inability to put their money where their mouths are. “So let me get this straight,” Bucky concludes (ha), ” the current administration considers the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and it should not be enforced – except when it comes to money.” Alicia objects (“counsel is testifying”) but since Mr. Breslow questioned the witness, only he can object, and he doesn’t want to because it’s all too “entertaining.” “Don’t do that again,” he turns a furious red face on Alicia, “I determine the pace and rhythm of questioning.” Ouch.
To sum up, Bucky brings up the “Biblical imperative about ‘where you treasure is, there your heart will be?'” “Matthew 6:21,” Shipton gives chapter and verse. As Owen squirms in the gallery, Bucky opines that the government’s inaction on so many fronts shows where their heart really is. “Okay, I’ll interrupt there,” Judge Friend calls out. “You can sit down now, Bucky.”
“It seems to me,” she declares, as serious music begins to play in the background, “there are mixed signals on the Constitutionality of DOMA, and it is left up to the individual courts to decide on the veracity of a marriage. So, please present me with evidence on the veracity of Mr. Lanborne’s marriage.” Alicia looks furious and horrified.
“Mrs. Loy?” Yes, Alicia’s mother startles, looking up at the very red hand of everyone’s favorite divorce attorney. “I’m David Lee of Family Law. Alicia asked that I help with your probate issues.” He offers her some M&M’s, which she finds adorable, particularly when he sets down an acrylic container of the candy treat in front of each of them. So you’re Alicia’s mother, he observes. “Yes, and your Alicia’s boss,” she smiles, sorting through the M&Ms. Well, one of them, he sighs, then commiserates over her widowhood. Will this will be a problem, she wonders. Well, did you cheat on your husband, he asks. Just a convincing lie, she claims – but don’t fear. All is not lost. “Why not?” she asks. “I’m good,” David Lee tells her, deadpan.
They both guffaw. “Will your finances be devastated if you lose this probate, Ms. Loy?” It’s Veronica – and yes. Does it matter? “It can. Destitution plays well to a court,” Lee notes. He asks if it’s her second marriage; it’s her third. “I never found anyone to satisfy me, I guess,” she muses. “They either bore me or die.” Oh, David Lee really enjoyed that. That laugh came straight out of an old horror movie. “David Lee,” she ponders, “that doesn’t sound Jewish, that sounds Chinese.” Woah, hello. Do we know that he’s Jewish? Can she tell that just from looking at him? Surely Alicia wouldn’t have introduced the man by his religion. “Ellis Island,” Lee explains, popping more M&Ms. “Lee for Leibenbaum.” Oh, Veronica replies, “I’ve always liked Jewish men. I never thought a penis looked quite right unless it was circumcised.”
Holy crap, she did not just say that.
They snicker at each other for a moment – I’m not sure even he knew how to take that – until Veronica sees Owen chatting with Will. “So when are you gonna make my sister a partner?” Owen petitions. “Unfortunately it all comes down to who you know,” Will says, “And Alicia knows so few people.” Ha ha ha. That’s when Veronica joins in, prattling on about how she thought she lost her baby boy. “Hello, Mrs….” “Loy,” she repeats. “And you’re a friend of Owen’s?” You can tell from her happy face just what kind of friend she thinks Will is. No, he works here, and went to school with Alicia. “Lovely,” she says. “My son always talks so loudly when he patronizes me.” HA!
Anyway, she saw them laughing together and thought they knew each other. (Or should I have written that “knew” each other?) We go back a long way, Will jokes. “It’s best not to joke with her, she doesn’t understand,” Owen shakes his head, as loud as promised. “Will and I met the last time I was here.” Nice try, Owey, but Mrs. Loy smells a romance and is not to be dissuaded.
And so when Alicia steps off the elevator, she finds her mother holding court with Owen, Will and David Lee, regaling them with stories of Alicia’s childhood. “Yes! She still swam the entire race!” Oh, dear God.
“What a lovely mother you have, Alicia,” David Lee offers. You can see Alicia remembering she needs to plaster on that polite smile. She was just telling us about third grade swimming class, Will adds. “You got here early, Mom,” Alicia fake-smiles, her grin so wide her face looks painful. Oh yes – she wanted to see where her lovely girl works! “And Owen let you talk!” Alicia adds through gritted teeth. Heh. “I was late as well,” he excuses himself and implicates Alicia. “Nice work in court, by the way.” That’s when Malcolm’s son shows up. “He didn’t skimp on the lawyer,” David observes. “Let me do all the talking.”
And look how well that’s going! I can’t hear David over Veronica. Alicia sits silent at the end of the table, watching the two sides howl about how the other needs to be reigned in. I loved Malcolm, I spent five years with him, Veronica insists. Five cheating years, the son snaps, you were divorcing him…. “Is that what you told your father?” Lee interrupts. Yes, that she was cheating on him and divorcing him. “And that’s when he wrote up an amendment, leaving everything to you?” The opposing lawyer sees where David Lee’s going and tries to stop his client, but Brian – veins standing out on his neck – can’t contain himself. “He was so angry, he wrote it right then.”
Excellent, says David Lee, then we’re suing you for making him do that. “You told your father a lie to get him to change his will.” It’s not a lie, Brian insists. What, you have photos? At that point the lawyer drags Brian away. “We’ll be sending over our subpoena!” David Lee giggles wickedly, then turns to his client. “You are gonna get everything. Every cent, Veronica.” Alicia chews on her tongue. “He told his father you were cheating on him, he has no proof.” That’s when Alicia asks David to step outside with her.
“My mother cheated on him,” Alicia says, wringing her hands in her office. “How do you know that?” David Lee frowns, disbelieving. “She told my brother.” Alicia hasn’t told anyone but David Lee, which he thinks makes them fine. “But she’ll be deposed, and she’ll lie!” Alicia worries. “She’ll be deposed and she’ll tell the truth as she remembers it, where she’ll remember she did not cheat,” Lee wags an admonishing finger at her. Which is okay? Not that there’s anything he can do about it, I guess. “My mother remembers things creatively,” Alicia cries. “Just don’t tell anyone else and we’ll be fine,” he orders. Alicia realizes she has to be back in court, so she runs out, apologetically letting Cary back in their office.
“I love Warren,” Dale tells us from the stand. “How do I know? If he died, I would die.” Aw. Not literally, I hope, but aw. “And that’s why you married him. Not for any tax or health benefit, but because you loved him.” Do heterosexuals marry each other for tax breaks? A much younger man smiles from the gallery. “Shakespeare said, ‘a man in hue all hues controlling;’ Warren is that to me.” He stares fondly at his husband as if he’s said something obvious. (Generally the intent seems to be that his manly perfection compels the spirit and senses; the line comes from one of Shakespeare’s famous gay sonnets, and as you can see from the link, is subject to a lot of intense examination in the hope of revealing the name of Shakespeare’s male lover.) That’s all Breslow’s got.
As Alicia rushes in, Bucky meanders about how moving the poetry was and how committed the two must be. Uh oh. And yeah, it’s even worse than I’d imagine. Turns out Warren and Dale have something they referred to on the wiretaps as “free Fridays.” Can you possibly guess what that means? Yep. Of course you can. I’m sure every person in the audience twigs to this way before Diane and Alicia do. Free Fridays are date nights, where the two men are “free” from their marriage and can be with anyone they want. Everyone involved looks pretty humiliated, especially when Bucky makes Dale say it; Free Fridays are when he and his husband have permission to have sex with other men. “And if Warren were to die on one of these dates, would you die too?”
Okay, Bucky, that was just uncalled for.
After Breslow makes Bucky withdraw the comment, the judge asks for a redirect. No questions, Breslow says, despite Alicia pushing a paper at him. You really want to look at this, she insists; we had our investigator look into the CEO. Breslow frowns fiercely at the paper, thinking fast; we can see that today it’s standing room only in the gallery, and Owen’s one of the many leaning against the wall.
“Mr. Foster, how long have you been married?” Breslow asks. Twenty years. “And how many affairs have you had in that time?” Bucky may have had his eyes closed, but he was awake enough to object to that. “Relevance?” Breslow waves at Alicia and asks her to explain the relevance of the question. Initially flustered, surprised to be included, she stands. “Mr. Stabler has questioned Dale and Warren’s marriage based on their affairs. We are intending to show their equivalence.” With a small smile, Judge Friend turns to Mr. Foster and asks him to excuse their impertinence. And answer the question.
Foster sighs and purses his lips, clearly loathe to do so. “Mr. Foster, it is now an issue of fact. Please do so.” Five, he grumbles. Breslow bursts into derisive laughter; we have a record of twelve, he . Remind him that he’s under oath! Well, that’s still not as many as there are Fridays in a year, but okay. It couldn’t possibly be every Friday, right? “Okay, enough, thank you. I’m ready to rule,” Judge Friend announces.
The gallery hangs on her words; Owen looks particularly pained. She clasps her hands together, wringing them over and over, her paleness glowing against the dark paneled wood and the federal seal. “It is true that individual courts have been granted leeway to discern whether individual marriages are legitimate. But I find the facts here to suggest nothing more than equivalence.” So far so good? She bites down on her lips. “Some heterosexual marriages are … messy,” she goes on, and Dale’s nervous face lights with hope. “Some homosexuals marriages are equally so. That proves nothing.” Bucky nods in what looks like agreement. Every word feels momentous.
“DOMA is the law of the land,” she announces, throwing her hands open wide. Alicia closes her eyes in defeat; Judge Friend doesn’t look pleased by it either. “That is all I can depend on.” Dale stares, his eyes wide and terrified. “For that reason I must rule the wiretap is admissible.”
Damn. Owen winces in the gallery. “So now what?” Dale asks Diane. It’s a cliche, but a good one: “We lost the battle, not the war,” she reminds him, rubbing his shoulder.
“Mom, you cheated,” Alicia declares, sitting on her sofa with a glass of red in her hand. “You can’t say you didn’t cheat when you cheated.” Oh boy. She went from court to this? What fun. I didn’t cheat, Veronica declares indignantly, waving her own glass of red, you know me. “I talked, I flirted; Malcolm knows I flirt.” What did you tell Owen, then? Veronica puts a hand on her daughter’s knee; Alicia gulps her wine and nods, uncomfortable. Momentarily distracted from Brian’s perceived vendetta against her, Mrs. Loy takes the time to tell her daughter she’s put the TV in the wrong place. Sigh. “I like it over there,” Alicia answers.
Veronica gives her daughter a shrewd smile. “Is this about my being away?” Is what about your being away, Alicia replies, stiffening. For what it’s worth, Veronica, I don’t think she’s forgiven you for leaving her father; I’m sure spending your days on cruises during her time of desperate need is only the latest in a long line of resentments. “All this parental talking to?” You were away for two years, Alicia replies quietly. “Malcolm wanted to,” Veronica excuses herself. “He had the soul of a vagabond.” Alicia gives a quick little jerk of her head, and it breaks my heart. You can see it in her face – Malcolm’s wanderlust was more important than her need?
“I called,” Veronica says. I know, Alicia replies, pained. “I’m sorry,” Veronica cries, her face serious. “I love you.” Alicia nods bravely. “You know that, don’t you?” Yes, but she doesn’t want you to tell her. She wants to know it, to feel it from your actions. Oh, you’re breaking my heart, stoic, silent little girl peering out of Alicia’s eyes. Alicia looks at her mother’s hand on her leg,
But Mom just can’t be serious for that long. “You really have to read that book,” she switches up the conversation, and Alicia flinches, exasperated. The book talks about the brain/vagina connection; “it really explains a lot,” Veronica laughs. Nothing to do with your relationship with your daughter, though. “Sounds great, Mom,” Alicia replies quietly. “You know, you’ve gotten a lot more ironical lately, did you know that?” Probably; years of abject humiliation can do that to you. “Is it about Will?”
What, Alicia gasps, and Owen – who had just walked into the room with a plate of snacks – turns around to walk back out. “Will? Is that what this is about?” Oh God, Alicia cries, scrambling off the couch and scurrying after her brother. “Don’t get in a fight,” Veronica calls after her daughter, probably pleased at how beautifully she’s succeeded in distracting Alicia from Veronica’s sins and impending perjury.
“I had to tell her something,” Owen hisses, sitting down on Alicia’s bed. “She thought Will was gay and into me!” “So you told her we slept together?” No no no, I would never, he promises, and she cocks her head, waiting, till he confesses he told Mom Alicia had a crush on Will. She winces. I feel like I’m using that word way more often this week. “She thought we were gay!” Owen repeats. Then they bicker about whether telling Mom to mind her own business will ever work.
“It’s not his fault, Alicia,” Veronica intones piously, stepping into the bedroom. “We’re family. We don’t hide things from each other.”
Right. Alicia swaggers off, and Veronica smirks her satisfaction.
“Well, that’s the thing,” the voice on the wiretap tells us, “I don’t know if I didn’t do anything wrong.” It’s Warren in the witness box now, and Bucky leaning on the rails around it. “And that was your boyfriend, Mr. Lanborne, admitting he committed fraud?” Unsurprisingly, Breslow objects and is sustained. So Bucky’s finished, and Breslow doesn’t have any more questions. Diane and Alicia look at each other in consternation; Diane asks for a minute to importune the Liberal Lion. You can’t let that stand, she whispers – it sounds like an admission of guilt. Breslow disagrees; the judge is smart enough to see Dale was just being conscientious, trying to make sure he wasn’t at fault. Let us underline that for her, Alicia begs. No. We underline in closing. “Dale, you brought me on for my experience; my experience says we wait.” Gee, what’s Dale going to do?
Diane shuts her office door with an angry click. “You want him to lose,” she snaps. “I want him to lose,” Breslow repeats. “What are we talking about here?” Diane’s happy to spell it out; he wants Dale to lose here so Jeremy can take the DOMA issue to the Supreme Court. “You can’t appeal a win!” she spits out, enraged. “This is my right hand,” he begins his pitch. “Oh don’t give me that crap,” she barks, whipping off her glasses.
Okay. He won’t. “I’m here to win,” he says. “How many times have you argued in front of the Supreme Court?” She twitches. “How many times have you gone toe to toe with Justice Scalia? I don’t need to justify my defense to you.” Yeah, I’m not sure you needed to be that scornful, either. “I am here to win,” he repeats, stepping up to her desk, his face burning red, shaking with passion. “I am here to win it all. Everything. For all of us.” As she waits in the hall, Alicia smiles ruefully to see David Lee running circles around Brian Loy’s lawyer.
Things aren’t going to smoothly back in court; CEO Foster is declaring on stand that the fraud scheme was Dale’s idea. And you believe him, Bucky? I thought you were better than that. “A CEO has to rely on his CFO, and I guess I just couldn’t rely on Dale. I’m sorry that makes you angry, Dale, but you know it’s true.” That’s all Bucky’s got.
And incredibly, Breslow doesn’t want to ask any questions this time either. Boy, he really does want to lose.
“I have a few questions, Your Honor,” Alicia rises, straightening her suit jacket. “M’am, no,” Breslow admonishes, but Alicia’s not going to be bade sit like a good girl. “I’m leading the defense and I said no questions!” He just lied about you, Dale, Alicia leans over, taking her argument to the client just as Breslow had. He was your friend and he just lied about you to your face. That’s why we answer it in summation, Breslow asserts. “No, we answer a lie now, or it sticks.” The judge asks them to begin, and now everyone’s bending Dale’s ear. We don’t want to seem unorganized, Jeremy offers. Really, is that the best you can do? Unorganized? “Dale, he wants you to lose,” Diane confesses. “To him it’s not about you. It’s about the issue.” Again the judge calls for them, and after a tense moment Dale nods to Alicia. This is a mistake, Breslow warns.
So the fraud was Dale’s fault, Alicia begins. “Yes,” declares Foster, his arms crossed and legs spread apart in the open witness box. “I trusted him.” Riiiight. In answer, Alicia puts on a piece of the wiretap. “Well that’s not your fault,” a woman’s voice declares. Mrs. Foster? “It is my fault,” Mr. Foster moans. “If it’s discovered…” Bucky rises to object; the wiretap has already been excluded. Ah, Alicia says, but that’s only when Foster was the defendant. Spousal privilege doesn’t apply to witnesses. “That seems to be eminently clear, doesn’t it, Bucky?” the judge nods. Oh yes. Even Breslow smiles in appreciation. We can why Alicia wanted this cross, and why he fought to stop her; she’s knocked it out of the park. “If it’s discovered, the extent of this fraud,” Foster continues on the tape, “I could find myself facing a grand jury.”
“I’ve been authorized to offer you four months,” Bucky tells Dale in Diane’s office; this goes along with a half a million dollar fine and an admission of complicity. Diane and Alicia exchange glances, trying to contain their glee. “I think we can all agree that this is a difficult plea bargain for the Justice Department to make,” Bucky admits, hands in his pockets, They’ve got ten hours to consider it. “Thank you,” Breslow nods. “We’ll give it its due consideration.” Bucky shuffles out, and Dale turns a stunned face to the women. “Wait till he turns the corner,” Diane advises. They do.
“Congratulations, Dale!” Alicia beams. Dale explodes out of his seat, grabs Diane’s hands. “I thought he was going to say four years!” he crows. Hal lurks in the background, giving away nothing.
Ding goes the elevator button when Owen lopes into the waiting area. He sees Warren, the man in hue, sitting on one of the couches, staring into space. “Thank you, Mr. Nemeck,” Owen declares fervently, advancing on Dale’s spouse. Ah, do I know you, Warren replies, startled. No, but now he knows way too much about your personal life. “I saw you in court. What you and your husband are doing, as a gay man, I thank you.”
They shake hands. Aw! Why do I get the feeling that might be working against Alicia, though? Warren looks unsettled as Hal arrives to bring him into the discussion.
His husband is still laughing with relief and joy in Diane’s office. Breslow stares out at the city, seeing instead of skyscrapers his test case slip through his fingers. “I still can’t believe this is happening! Look at me, I’m still shaking,” Dale enthuses. “Come on, Mr. Breslow, we won,” Alicia cajoles the lamenting Lion. “No m’am, we didn’t,” he grumbles, then turns to face the room. “I wouldn’t take it, Dale – you’re innocent!” But they’re coming after me for 12 years, Dale gasps. And they have the evidence!
“Mr. Breslow,” Diane cautions, “you have an agenda here.” Dale looks shocked by this, though since they’ve already explained it, he shouldn’t be. “You have a reason to reject this. Tell him.” That’s when Hal walks in with Warren; Jeremy gestures for him to sit, which he does. “Your husband has been offered 4 months and a $500,000 fine. I can’t do better. In fact, my guess is, if Dale doesn’t take this plea, he’ll be found guilty.” Well, okay. That was stating it plain. “I take no solace in that. I just think you’ve been treated unjustly.” Diane and Alicia exchange a look as Breslow starts to pace. “You have been treated unjustly for one reason. You are gay men.” (To my mind, the problem is more the prosecution’s presumption of guilt where none exists, something which an inequality in the law is exploiting, not causing.) Now it’s Dale and Warren exchanging emotionally fraught glances. “Now, with clever maneuvers, we can limit you sentence. Alicia and Diane, they’re clever.” Why does that suddenly sound like an insult? “They can manipulate the law, and they will succeed because they’re good.” Again, it feels like a belittling.
“But the law would not change.” Ah, there it is. “And same sex couples would still struggle under DOMA.” Warren considers this for a moment. “You’re asking us to loose,” he realizes. Duh. “Yes,” Breslow admits. “I’m asking you to ask the court to face its hypocrisy. We want to take this to the Supreme Court.” Who is this we of whom you speak? Richard – er, I mean Dale – looks aghast. You’re picturesque and upper middle class, Breslow goes on – the perfect face for the issue. Even with the whole Free Friday thing? Because I predict Scalia would not gloss over that one. “You are exactly what we need to pull Justice Kennedy to our side.” Dale’s eyes grow wider and wider.
“It’s not just about you anymore.” Warren look over at his husband. “It’s about the entire gay community. It’s about the two of you sacrificing so that we can overturn DOMA.” Dale reaches out for his husband’s hand. What do you think, he asks. “I don’t think you’re going to like what I think,” the younger man declares.
Woah, that was some soaring rhetoric there. “I can’t believe it,” Alicia huffs out in the hall. “He’s a good salesman,” Diane shakes her head. “Okay. It’s not over yet. If they’re not taking the plea, we have one option left.” Diane starts walking purposefully down the hall. Alicia knows what it is. “Winning?” Yup.
Owen sits on Alicia’s couch, looking like someone kicked his puppy. What are you doing here, Alicia wonders. “I’ve been subpoenaed,” he sighs, waving another folded blue document. Sweetly, Cary takes his bruised face for a walk in the hall. It turns out that Brian and Owen had had a conversation about Henry the Oilman. All Owen said was that he’d never met the guy, but it’s a sufficient opening for Brian’s lawyer to pull out everything Owen does know. And Veronica has confessed the affair to him. Well, there’s a bind. If he tells the truth, then it’s clear Veronica’s perjured herself, and she loses the inheritance. If he lies, then he’s perjured himself, and that’s worth 2-5 years in jail. Great. Now he’s even more horrified than when he came in.
Diane knocks on the glass wall, and Alicia’s forced to head back to court. But what should I do? What would you do, Owen begs. “What would I do? The same thing you’re going to do. Tell the truth,” the straight arrow declares. Sad puppy Owen doesn’t look so sure.
“So you’re saying,Mr. Collegio, it is a fact that Mr. Lanborne is innocent?” Yes, the next witness is definitely saying that. He’s a young man with sharp features and dark brown curly hair, and he’s also the head of IT at TaxLaunch.com. It seems that the servers were down during the time in question (there was a time in question?) so Mr. Lanborne couldn’t have seen or impacted anything. Diane ends her questioning, and Breslow – much to Diane’s chagrin – adds a question of his own. Is Dale Lanborne an honest man? Oh yes, Collegio babbles, I’ve know him for 10 years and he’s very honest. I’d trust him with my life. Why so gloomy, Diane?
Because with that question, Breslow has made Collegio a character witness, and that means that Bucky can sneak in and make Collegio sound unreliable because, guess what? He and Dale have had sex. Dude. “You are really screwing us,” Alicia whispers. “Just playing long ball, m’am,” Jeremy Breslow shrugs.
And, woohoo! A bartender’s pouring a shot for a very distracted Alicia. (Is it weird that I get so excited about fictional characters drinking?) “Did you hear me?” Kalinda asks. Nope. She totally didn’t. “The tap. It has an overhear.” This time she heard you, but she’s not any closer to understanding: Kalinda patiently explains that a pattern of hang ups reveal that more than one source was wiretapping CEO Foster.
“You talking about the two wiretaps?” Cary leans in. Cary! Huzzah! The gang’s all here! I love it so much I won’t harp on why he knows about it at all when it’s not his case. So who else would be investigating tax fraud? “My guess is State,” Cary offers. We need to subpoena those taps, Kalinda insists – and because there’s an on-going trial, they’ll be able. Okay, good idea, but will it work by tomorrow? We’re running out of time.
And tomorrow, guess who’s at the office? Veronica Loy, laughing in the hallway with Will and – dear God Almighty – recommending he read Vagina. Obviously she’s aiming for the title of most embarrassing mother ever. Call the Guinness World Book of Records stat, because this woman is working hard! Alicia, in a maroon velvet suit, arrives just in time to hear her mother inform her boss and former lover that our obsession with the clitoris is unhealthy. In public. In their workplace. I can’t even – and clearly, neither can Alicia. “Oh, hi,” says her mother, with a mischievous look, “I was just telling Will about the vagina book we’re reading.” Alicia wants it known that she’s not reading the book, but Will proclaims it sounds interesting with a totally straight face. “I’ll get you a copy,” Veronica flutters at him, “so you’re really not seeing anyone?” Hard to imagine, I know, but yes. Alicia hustles Mrs. (Ex) C off to the deposition, but she can’t help calling out “I’ll get you that book” to Will, who looks just about ready for a giggle fit.
And here we are, putting Owen on the rack. Er, which is to say, he’s about to be deposed. I know this episode is ostensibly about marriage, but this is an interesting ancillary dilemma; we can’t be forced to testify against a spouse, but there’s no qualm about asking a son to turn on his mother? Surely that relationship is as significant, and (in an age of divorce) potentially longer lasting. Without debating exactly which is more important, I think we can all agree being forced to testify like this against a parent (or sibling) would feel like a terrible and intimate betrayal.
Brian’s lawyer lays it out: my clients says you two talked about an affair between your mother and another man. “Isn’t that true?” Owen looks into his sister’s eyes, and then turns to face the lawyer. “No, it’s not,” he asserts, hands folded calmly. “You liar!” Brian howls, and his tone is frankly a little alarming even before he tries to stand up. David Lee replies that Brian is the liar, and needs to restrain himself. Owen looks back to Alicia. Are we okay? She smiles ruefully. She doesn’t condone, but she understands. “He’s the one who got the will amended so he could cheat a poor widow out of her property. He is the one who is not telling the truth.” Brian’s lawyer asks for less histrionics (good luck!) but it’s already done. Short of hiring an investigator, I’m not sure what Brian can do, and for our purposes, that was the ballgame. It’s so over, Alicia sneaks out because she’s noticed Bucky lumbering into Diane’s office.
“There were two wiretaps, Bucky,” Diane is saying when Alicia arrives. “And that should impress me why?” he wonders. Hee. I like Bucky. Jeremy Breslow arrives in time to hear that why: Vance Foster’s being investigated by the State Department for fraud. “Are you involved in this?” Bucky grumbles, flipping through the transcripts. “Involved in what?” Breslow answers, nearly spitting, looking at another set Diane’s kindly provided for him. “Keeping things from you co-counsel, Miss Lockhart?” Our ladies give this bit of hypocrisy all the attention it deserves (which is to say, none). The State wiretaps gives a clearer picture, Alicia begins. “He bought a yacht,” Diane expands, “he admits it in a call with his mistress.” Foolish feds, sticking with the wife and not tapping the mistress too! “The yacht came from a kickback on the fraudulent tax returns.”
Bucky trudges toward the door, mumbling that he’ll be in touch. “We’re not taking a plea bargain!” Breslow calls out. “On that we agree, Bucky,” Diane grumbles, leaning on her desk chair. “Drop these charges, or we will present them in court. And you’ll lose – and expose some embarrassing inter-agency confusion.” Bucky grins. “Like I said, I’ll get back to you,” he replies mildly, and shuffles out. “Congratulations,” Breslow tells Diane, dropping the transcript on her desk. “Thank you,” she replies. “You’ve just stuck us with DOMA for another decade,” he snaps, takes his ball, and goes home. Diane looks a little less pleased, chewing on that idea.
I get it, I do, but Dale was really, honest to goodness innocent, and I can’t be sorry that the insufferable traitorous Vance is now properly headed for the big house.
“Not a bad oven for such a small kitchen,” Veronica shrugs as rain sizzles outside. Does that mean they fit the turkey inside? “You still grumpy?” she asks Alicia, who’s holding her wine glass up to the light and watching it shimmer. “Nope,” says her daughter. Owen arrives from the liquor store as they start to talk turkey. “I got three whites and two reds, do you think that’ll be enough?” He looks at the two women, red wine glasses in hand (why did he even bother with white?); Veronica raises a very sardonic eyebrow. “Apparently not,” he mumbles. “Have you two been talking here?” Mom won her probate fight, Alicia begins, and Owen congratulates her. “Your sister thinks we’re liars.” Oh. Well. Why ever would she think that? It’s not because you are, is it?
The doorbell rings, and Alicia asks Grace to get it; she stops setting the table immediately and does. After the years I put in with Malcolm, I deserve that money, Veronica hisses. (Again I keep thinking of hookers when people merge sex and money this way. Ugh.) “Fine, I didn’t say anything,” Alicia defends herself. “You didn’t need to say anything with that look of yours.” Ugh. Poor Owen. “Mom, it’s Grandma,” Grace calls out. “The other one!”
Oh God, sighs Owen. Really, you need to go out for more wine. Or, maybe not. “I didn’t know she was coming,” Veronica cries, horrified. Clearly she is, Captain Obvious. “And Peter too?” You couldn’t imagine they’d have Jackie without Peter! Alicia grabs her wine and slaps the giraffe on its rump on her way to greet her mother-in-law.
“What is this called again, Christian?” Jackie asks as her home care companion relieves her of her coat. “Sah-OO-co,” he sounds out, and she repeats it to Grace, rather thrilled. ‘It’s a Cuban drink. It just needs ice,” Christian adds. “It’s perfect for this weather,” Jackie coos; Grace looks a bit befuddled. She’s getting quite the education all around these days, huh? “I love these Cuban names, they’re so tropical.” I love Grace’s teal sweater with its cowl neck – very pretty.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” Alicia greets Jackie with the most plastic smile ever seen. Jackie introduces Christian. “You have a lovely home,” he greets his hostess. As she’s promising to bring some glasses for what Jackie’s now calling “saco” (like the river in Maine), Zach calls out to tell her that her case is on TV. “Mom’s in the kitchen. I’m sure she’d like to talk to you, Jackie,” Alicia finishes, bringing back the super-fake smile. Thunder rumbles outside, and Christian looks more than a little horrified. He warns Jackie that she’s not to drink, and that she can have only one pill (!); silent, she crosses over her heart like a girl scout.
“So I looked at this case, and when I saw it, all I saw was that you were taking it to the Supreme Court,” a Charlie Rose-like interviewer tells Jeremy Breslow across a round table. Breslow does his modest downward look and laugh trick (do you think he’s been watching this video?). “Not every case is built for the Supreme Court,” he shrugs, hands up. “Sometimes you just have to win it.” Riiiiight. “And that’s what I decided here.” Alicia shakes her head, incredulous; Veronica, even at this stage she’s not entirely cynical and ironical. “We discussed the possibility of a test case, but in the final analysis, Mr. Lanborne’s freedom was key.”
In her office, Diane snickers at his ringing tone. Hopefully someday Alicia will move through being appalled and learn to laugh at as much as Diane does. The woman has one of the best laughs I know.
“Hi,” says Alicia when she opens her door for Peter. He’s got a bottle of wine in his hand, and wears what I think is barnstormer style leather jacket over a blue button down; she’s wearing a red silk blouse, and her hair is wavy and gorgeous. “Having a good time?” he asks, noting the wine. Got anything stronger, she wonders. Only if I raid the evidence locker, he jokes. Don’t tempt me, she half-jokes. That’s when she swings the door wide open so he can see Jackie and Veronica puttering about the kitchen together, framed by the giant giraffe.
I’m so glad you’re here, Jackie coos in her girlish way, “Zach and Grace were wondering about their other grandmother!” You know, it’s not her business, and she annoys me, but that’s actually fair. I hear you almost died, Jackie, Veronica tries to change the subject (clearly her m.o.). “A stroke, from helping out with the kids. By myself.” HA! If misdirection if Veronica’s m.o., heavy doses of guilt is Jackie’s.
“Oh,” replies Veronica, “at least you got a young companion out of it.” Jackie’s eyes flicker up for a moment, though I’m not sure this bothers her because it’s talking about money or because she already doesn’t want to think of darling Christian as an employee. “Forty dollars an hour,” she recovers nicely, spooning something into a dish. “You should consider it. You won’t have to go begging for male attention!” Oh no she didn’t! “Yes,” Veronica observes, “paying for it seems to run in your family.”
Oh, ouch. I am so glad I’m at home watching this and not there listening to it. Jackie freezes, and that’s when Peter – who of course has heard at least this last salvo – greets her. He receives a friendly pat on the chest from his mother-in-law when he says hello. “How’re you two doing?” he turns back to his mom.
We don’t get to hear Jackie’s assessment, however; next we find out that Christian thinks Jackie’s doing better. The background music is jazz. “She’s a funny lady,” he says. “What do you mean by that?” Peter asked, confused about whether he means funny odd, or funny humorous. “She’s funny,” Christian sort of clarifies, snorting. “She makes me laugh.” Ah, nods Peter. He’s curious about the amount of time they’ve been spending together. “She has extended my hours,” Christian observes. Is that really necessary, Peter wonders. “No,” Christian admits, and Peter just has no idea how to take that.
The music has switched to classical by the time Veronica and Alicia clean up the table after the meal. “So he’s over here a lot?” Maybe. “And you go over to his place?” Alicia shrugs. Veronica gives her a long, close stare. “Is this because of me?” Go ahead, claim credit for some of her surprisingly congenial relationship with her husband. “Of course, Mother,” Alicia replies, sarcastic and theatrical. “Everything is because of you.” You know what I mean, scoffs Veronica, and you know what? We all do. “I mean, you can’t let go. Even as a little kid, you couldn’t let go of friends or old school books – even your Dad. You never wanted to let go of his hand.” See, first you say it’s about you and your bad personal example, but now you’re sneering at her personality. Not cool. “And now, there’s this person at work, Will. And you want him, but you won’t let yourself have him because then you’ll be like me.”
It’s more complicated than that (does Alicia even think of Will like that anymore? it doesn’t seem so), but yes.
Alicia forces out a mirthless laugh. “I look at you sometimes, Mom, and I am just amazed…” “I’m happy, Alicia,” Veronica interrupts, “I never do anything I don’t want to do.” Isn’t that nice for you! She sounds like a three year old, seriously. “Are you happy? Can you say that you are?” I can say that I’m living the life I want, Alicia replies, and then her voice gets thick with tears. “And I can say that there are a lot bigger things…” No there aren’t, Veronica cuts in, implacable. “The older you get, the more you realize, it’s only one thing.” Being a cheating, stealing, selfish, kid-abandoning bitch? (Sorry, did I say that?) “Happiness.” Alicia stalks off, and Veronica looks more than a little pleased with herself.
So Veronica heads into the kitchen with the dirty dishes, where she finds Peter, partaking of pie and coffee on his own. She drags him off into a corner. Hey, she’s already pissed off the rest of the adults; why not? “She’s never gonna divorce you, you know?” He sighs. “Hi Veronica, it’s nice to see you too.” His mother-in-law blazes on ahead. “She’s a good person. You’re exploiting her.” Wow, that’s an unexpected way of looking at the situation, one he doesn’t understand at all. “How, by not divorcing her?” Yes.
“You’re leading her on,” Veronica continues, and that’s one I really don’t get. Is he leading her anywhere he doesn’t want to go? “What if I don’t want to let her go?” Peter asks. “Well then you’re just being selfish,” she finishes. Is selfishness somehow against her “personal happiness at all costs” credo, or is it just something she gets to lecture other people about? Rich.
Behind them, Alicia clears her throat.
“Do you need any help?” Peter asks. Please, Alicia says, slipping off her apron. “Excuse me, Veronica,” he says, walking around her.
Not looking back, Alicia walks into her bedroom, throwing her apron on the bed. “What do you need?” Peter asks, following her into the door, but she’s moved on into the bathroom, undoing her skirt. “Don’t tell me it’s the bathroom window again.” Oh, you stupid stupid man. She shuts the bathroom door behind him, and drops her skirt. “What’re you doing?” he wonders. Men. I ask you. “Getting undressed,” she explains, grabbing his hands and leading him into the middle of the room. She wraps a hand around his neck, and puts his on her waist. “Are you serious?” he asks. “I’ve never been more serious in my life,” she declares, and then she kisses him.
She backs away from the kiss, and pushes him down; he lands with a clang of porcelain. She leans over, kissing him and unfastening his pants. Sirens blare outside. “The door’s unlocked,” he whispers. “I don’t give a ….” she tells him, the sirens (again?) drowning out her last word. She climbs on top of him, adjusts herself, and it’s begun. “This is about your mother?” Peter wonders as she starts to move. “Yes,” she growls, kissing him again as the rain pours down.
Wow, what is it with the two of them and bathrooms? Holy cow, what an episode. What an ending.
So – a defense of marriage, both individual marriages and also the institution. Who and what are we defending it from, anyway? Infidelity? Government incursion? Outside interference? Seriously, you could teach a class or write a research paper on the layers in this episode and still not cover them all. I am constantly amazed by the number of ideas this show discusses with such nuance and delicacy and density, packing far more into their 43 minutes than any other show on the networks and probably cable as well. And that doesn’t even cover the supporting characters: Jeremy Breslow and his puffy red lips and preening false modesty and bombastic oratory; ethical Bucky Stabler, whose craggy face and lumbering form seem carved from living rock; flirty Veronica Loy who puts everyone else on the defensive so she doesn’t have to closely examine her life choices; hang-dog Owen, the saddest looking man on earth; spiteful Jackie, dressing up her malice in girlish ribbons and bows; and ferret-y Nick Savarese with his compulsion for self-destructive dominance.
Speaking of Nick – and yes, I apologize for spoiling an almost Nick-free episode by talking about him – I will be really annoyed if Cary is the one who takes him out. I can see that Kalinda has incredible trouble kicking him to the curb on her own, but I do not want a man to ride in and rescue her, even if it is Cary whom I love and who has a bit of a savior complex. I know, I said I was okay with Lana taking Nick out, and I might still be – but what I’d probably most wish to see is Kalinda forced to choose between her old life and new, Kalinda forced to protect Cary or Lana or Alicia by removing the threat Nick represents. The threat she placed in their midst. And actually, if there’s anything I was missing in this episode it was Kalinda not twigging to the source of Cary’s black eye. I know she was barely in the episode, but they shared her single scene. Please tell me she’s not losing her Spidey senses in her desperate clinging to Nick…
Okay! Back to the Nick Free Zone. Obviously we want to talk about Veronica, but let’s take a moment first with marriage, shall we? Marriage, family, the ties that bind. Who gets to judge the worth of an individual marriage? A judge? A lawyer? A parent? A child? Can an outsider ever really know? When we think of Kalinda and her marriage, I think we all consider we know better than the participants – in other cases, we might exclaim over that presumption. When do we set the fidelity to the institution over the fate of individuals? Surely that’s what Congress tried to do (from a certain – and in my view, warped) point of view when they enacted DOMA. Traditional marriage matters more than a gay person’s civil rights or expectations. In another way, that’s what Jeremy Breslow tried to do in his willingness to let the innocent Dale Lanborne go to jail. And isn’t it what Alicia does when she stays married to Peter? Her faithfulness belongs more to the institution (or to herself) than it does to Peter.
Stockard Channing was everything I hoped and expected she could be as the outrageous, manipulative Veronica Loy. It’s such a Golden Age of Hollywood movie star name, don’t you think? Veronica Lake, Myrna Loy? I don’t know that the Kings would have gone here, but another layer jumps to my mind: St. Veronica, the woman who wiped Christ’s face as he carried the cross to his execution (a lovely part of the Roman crucifixion ritual) thereby producing the famous Shroud of Turin, an image of Christ’s face on cloth. I know, I know, it’s a very Catholic story and very academic feeling, but to me the relevance is this. For all her posturing and acting, Veronica delights in presenting those around them with tweaked images of themselves. That’s what she does when she flirts; she changes a man’s image of himself, of what’s possible. Her first actions in her daughter’s home consist of moving the furniture; she’s altering the design, re-making it. In her brilliant altercation with Jackie, Veronica constantly redefines her opponent’s words, twisting their meaning into a less flattering interpretation. She’s always been the image against which Alicia has defined herself; if Mom is this, then I will be that. And it’s her relentless taunting of Good Wife Alicia that forces her daughter into the extreme and strangely subversive act of having sex with her own husband.
So once again, Alicia’s using Peter for sex; once again she comes to him when she’s thinking about someone else. That cracks me up in the biggest way, especially since this time she wasn’t jonesing for another guy but wanting to piss off her mother. And wow, huh? She suppresses that part of herself so thoroughly that when it does come out, she almost knocks you over with her power and confidence. I had been wondering after the kiss they shared a few episodes ago, and the flirting and googley eyes, whether Peter and Alicia had started to move back together. It seems obvious to me now that that they hadn’t entered into a physical relationship, or he wouldn’t have been so slow on the uptake. I am beyond fascinated to see whether this was a one time deal, or whether – if they do come together – she’s able to move forward not just with her body but (much more challenging) with her emotions. And with words! It intrigues me how subterranean her motivations are, how a woman so skilled with words in her profession and so brilliant in her observations of others can fail to even ask herself what she wants.
I don’t say that to sound like Veronica, because I don’t believe that personal happiness is the only thing. But Alicia has swung so far to the opposite extreme that she won’t even let herself ask the important questions.
Speaking of questions, what do you think about Veronica’s assertion that Peter is using Alicia? Veronica’s clearly right to say that Alicia won’t divorce Peter; he’d have to step way the hell over the line for her to go through with it. But Peter doesn’t want her to leave, does he? Obviously she’s an asset politically, but even when he seemed to give up hope, I still got the feeling he’d rather be with Alicia than not. If it’s selfish of him not to let her go, does it then follow that it’s an exploitation of her loyalty?
So much to talk about! Don’t make me do it alone. What do you think?