E: These days, it takes a lot to hurt Alicia Florrick. During the show’s first season, it seemed as if each week brought a fresh trauma, slicing through her fragile armor, cutting her open again and again. These days her skin is much thicker, and it takes something pretty significant to slice through.
It can still be done, however.
This week’s not all gloom and doom, however! An evil plot is foiled. Guest actors appear, but do not overwhelm the storyline. And Alicia bandages herself up in record time.
“Why’re you shaking’ your head, Mr Gross?” Will asks over a black screen. “Oh, the unusual reasons. Disbelief. Incredulity. Disappointment.” Er, that’s familiar. I know I’ve typed those irritating words before. There’s the supercilious internet billionaire Neil Gross in court on the witness stand and Chummy the Chum Hum gopher on a screen next to him. As Gross confesses to being melodramatic and tries to modulate how much responsibility he bears for his company’s search algorithm, we see a pretty young blonde in the gallery mouthing his lines silently. Ah. One of his many lawyers, helping him along with prepared testimony? She leads him, word for word, through a speech about spammers trying to game the search results, her eyes trained on him, filled with true belief. “We adapt the algorithm to avoid that,” Gross explains, his eyes flicking between Will and the girl until his speech ends, and he favors her with a tiny smile. Will takes note.
And here’s the girl, in a gray suit, sitting on one of the Lockhart/Gardner waiting room couches with an older gentleman. She’s wringing her hands red when Alicia calls her name – Dina Lampert – and she rises, the older man following behind her.
Soon they’re waiting in the main conference room, twiddling their thumbs and exchanging awkward smiles with Alicia and Kalinda. Could she be a whistle blower? “It should only take a minute more,” Alicia offers. She’s pretty as always in a light jacket which looks like heathered white but turns out to be a tiny white and grey leopard style print. “I recognize you both from the trial,” Dina smiles pleasantly, without the air of someone addressing an former enemy. Interesting. Alicia confirms that Dina works for Neil Gross’s law firm. “Yes,” she smiles. “He hates you guys.” Oh yes.
That’s when Kalinda asks the obvious question; why are they there? “Good question, Dad,” Dina leans to the man next to her, “why are we here?” He wrinkles his nose. “I’d rather wait for the lawyer,” he grumbles. “She’s a lawyer, just like me,” Dina admonishes her father patiently before turning to Alicia. “He likes male lawyers.” Well holy crap, that was offensive! Alicia’s awkward smile gets even bigger. “My daughter likes acting like I’m not in the room,” Mr. Lampert adds, not denying the charge.
And that’s when David Lee arrives, introducing himself and bringing out his little bowl of M&Ms. Not a whistle blower, then. Mr. Lampert is still an ass, and had no way of knowing this, but as Alicia’s not actually a specialist in family law waiting was probably a wise move. “Thank you, no,” Mr. Lampert waves at the candy. “Let’s see. My daughter needs a second opinion.” Looking a bit like Jedi in black, Lee sits down. “Regarding?” In answer, Mr. Lampert places a thick document on the table, roughly the size of a dissertation. “Okay,” David Lee chuckles, “what is it?” A prenup. Ah. “And who is your daughter intending on marrying?” Shall we all say it together? “Neil Gross,” grumbles Mr. Lampert.
What’s that sensation crawling up your skin? It’s a room full of lawyers scenting money.
“Neil Gross, president of Chum Hum,” David Lee nods over tented hands. Forget what I said, it’s Emperor Palpatine he looks like. “The 9th richest man in America?” The very same. David Lee leans over to snag the pre-nup. Er, Kalinda wonders, if this is your second opinion, who gave you the first? The firm she works for – Long, Crane and Church. David Lee chuckles vilely. “Mr. Gross’s law firm?” Alicia asks, very surprised. For her part, Dina is a little shocked by David Lee’s attitude. “Yes. They thought I should sign it.” Hell yeah they did. Ah, sweetie, this is exactly why your Dad is making you take this meeting, adversarial as it seems. “We’re middle class people, Mr. Lee,” Mr. Lampert begins, “and we don’t have much money. And Dina is paying off her student loans.” Right, cause that’s going to be an issue? Neil Gross could sneeze out the money for her student loans and toss it away on a tissue without missing it. You have no idea. “Dad, it’s not about that,” the daughter sighs, laying her hand on her father’s arm. “I know,” he agrees, “but I want you protected.” “Well,” says David Lee in his falsest sincere voice, “that’s why we’re here. To protect you.”
“It’s a travesty,” Lee proclaims, tossing the pre-nup down on Diane’s desk before sitting. “And if they divorce, she gets nothing, and she has to immolate herself on an altar of Chum Hum’s choosing.” Bwah! He has great lines, David Lee. Diane’s more surprised there’s no contingency. “No, but she’s marrying the 9th richest man in the country. We do right by her, she’ll bring us the business.” Will sneers at this; Gross will never bring Lockhart/Gardner his business. “No, her business,” David Lee explains as if to a moron. “We write this up correctly, and we’ll get some kind of Bill and Melinda Gates charity in her name. She’ll bring it here.” Ah. Is that what she wants, Diane wonders. “She’s 28, she doesn’t know what she wants,” David Lee sneers.
“She’s in love,” Alicia sighs. Hey, I’m as sentimental as the next girl (or, er, 40x more sentimental) but can we really oooh and ah over Neil Gross? Yes, he’s smart and rich, but he’s also mean-spirited, amoral and pretentious. Just saying. Diane gives this sweet notion all the attention it deserves (ie, none) and instead gives David Lee a calculating look over the top of glasses. “Well, not to put too fine a point on it,” man, I can never hear someone say this without hearing They Might Be Giants in my head, “time’s up in bankruptcy court and we’re only half way to the 60 million we need. If we want to argue for an extension, we need to show the court some progress.”
“Well, the fiancee of the 9th richest man is progress,” David Lee drawls. “I’m doing my job. You two do yours.” Ha. Except he only got this business because of how aggressively Will has done his job (thus making Neil Gross hate him), but when did we ever look to David Lee for a full, fair picture of events? On that smug line, he swaggers off, Alicia trailing behind him.
But lo, Will and Diane are not quite done with Alicia. They call her back, asking her to shut the door. “Why don’t you go ahead and sit,” Will waves a hand a chair closer to Diane’s desk; immediately, Alicia looks apprehensive. “If this is about the extension work, it’s ready,” she declares defensively. You can tell she was never called to the principal’s office as a kid. No, no, we’re fine, Diane says. “Sorry to be so melodramatic, but, um – do you want to?” she asks Will, who smiles secretively and declines the offer. Yeah, because that’s not melodramatic at all. Alicia’s now officially freaked out. “Jonas Stern, about a life time ago, sat me down in a room not unlike this one, and offered me a cigar.” Alicia rears back, baffled. “I said no of course,” Diane continues. “But then he said the following. Unfortunately I can’t do his voice,” she turns to Will, who smiles again. “Thank God,” he laughs. Stop beating around the bush, Diane! You’re worse than a reality show judge. Did she make the top 24 or not?
“Anyway, he said, after I tell you what I’m about to tell you, I want you to go home, take your phone off the hook, and sit for a moment.” Alicia sits as if petrified. “And feel proud of yourself. And then I want you to go out and get drunk. Or do something you would never do. Buy a sports car. Go sailing.” Alicia’s breathing again, maybe even excited. “Go to the track. I did go to the track, by the way,” she turns to Will, laughing. “I went windsurfing. Unsuccessfully,” he adds, making Diane laugh. “Anyway, this moment is your moment, Alicia. We want you to join us – as an equity partner.”
An equity partner? Holy crap! Aren’t there like a billion steps before you get to equity? Alicia inhales. “Oh my God,” she cries, starting to hyperventilate. “Yes,” Will smiles. “What you’ve done here is extraordinary.” She looks from one name partner to the other, her ironclad composure utterly gone. “You’re kidding!” she gasps. “No,” Diane replies, her smile wide (if slightly hysterical) “we want you to join the ranks of our highest echelon.” “I… I don’t know what to say!” Say you’re happy, Will grins. “I’m happy!” she answers, “I – I’m relieved!” Alicia almost collapses forward, her head falling onto her hand, still grinning. “You don’t know what a roller coaster this has been.” She practically sobs the words out. “And for the firm as well,” Diane nods. As Alicia sits back up, we can see the tears. “I thought this would take years!” she squeaks, sighing and trying to compose herself. “It’s a credit to you, Alicia,” Will tells her fervently, “you’ve been amazing here.” Aw! This is nice! She’s got good news! All her hard work has won her a real place.
“Anyways, think about it,” Diane cautions. “No need to rush into it. Take till the end of the week, and then say yes or no.” The look on Alicia’s face slays me. “Does anyone ever say no?” she asks incredulously. Ha! “I don’t know,” Will cuts in, “I can’t remember the last time we’ve sat an associate down.” Well I’m not going to say no, Alicia laughs, and Diane laughs back. Well, take till the end of the week, Diane repeats (why? what is that?) . “And good luck with this Mrs. Gross case! It sounds promising.” Oh, ew. Keep your last name, Dina. Dina Gross? Blah. “Thank you,” Alicia beams, “thank you so much!” She runs out of the office, stumbling into a chair in her haste and enthusiasm. Diane and Will grin at each other, relishing the moment.
“Alicia,” Cary calls in the hallway, “Are you heading to the bankruptcy?” She looks at him, lost. “What? Uh, I don’t think so.” Is everything alright, he wonders, confused by her behavior. Yes, she calls out, running for an open elevator. The doors close on her radiant face.
Which brings us to bankruptcy court, where Judge James Chase is slumped over on the bench, looking horribly and utterly bored as Diane pretends jubilation over the grand achievement of getting half the required money in the allotted time. “29.5 million,” Clarke Hayward corrects. “That is the trouble here, Your Honor; we have a trustee that thinks of us as a decimal point.” Oh, really? That’s the trouble, Diane? So good to know. The judge is completely uninterested and cuts to the chase; do they want another five month extension? “Not another five month extension,” Will weasel words, “a single five month extension.” “But yes,” Diane adds. Ha.
“Mr. Hayden, tell me why I shouldn’t extend this fairly arbitrary extension?” Judge Chase wonders. Well, I didn’t think it was arbitrary, Hayden sighs, before calling creditor Louis Canning to testify. Canning stands, and begins his jerky waddle toward Clarke, complimenting the judge on not running one of those courtrooms that shunt aside the voice of the handicapped. “But not here. That’s the great thing about America.” Will and Diane roll their eyes as Canning launches into his standard explanation of his condition; Judge Chase, courteous or perhaps forgetting that he didn’t know Canning was handicapped when he allowed him to speak, shoots down their unwise attempts at interruption. (Which, really; just because they’ve heard the spiel before doesn’t mean the judge has. They’re not just being rude, they’re making themselves look heartless.)
Canning informs us he has one simple objection to the extension; he wants the money for neurological research, and he doesn’t want to wait for it. There’s more eye rolling. “Every day that delays payment is another day a child wakes up without a future.” Oh, because that’s not laying it on a little thick! By that reasoning, Will points out, Canning should want them to pay off the debt so he can get more money, not a 50 cent return on the dollar he’d currently receive. But can you give me that 100% return, Canning wonders? I wonder too. The judge would like to hear arguments on their plan for doing so tomorrow. Canning and Hayden shake hands; “uh oh,” notes Will, “look who’s working together.”
An unsteady camera shows us a resolute Maddy Hayworth, chin up in a room full of suited people with their heads bowed. Someone’s muttering low in the background. “There!” Jordan Karahalios cries in triumph, pointing at the close up of Maddie’s face on a large flat screen. “What there, there’s nothing there,” Eli scoffs. She’s the only one without her head bowed, Jordan explains. “Come on,” Eli insists, “this is not the South.” Doesn’t have to be the South, Jordan replies (and he should know if this matters outside the South since he’s from California). “Voters don’t like radicals, and they don’t like rudeness. That is rudeness, and it plays downstate.” Well, I don’t know if that qualifies as rudeness, but this voter dislikes rudeness, anyway. Is he on to something?
That’s when Alicia arrives, buoyant. She’s wondering where Peter is; down state, Eli explains. Jordan tries to introduce himself without any luck; Alicia addresses herself only to Eli. “Could you have him call me when he gets in?” He can. What, does he still have flunkies holding his phone these days, so she can’t call him herself? Eli wonders if she’s okay; you can hear the joy bursting through her tone when she says she is.
Though she’s heading back out, Eli chases her down in the central office. Just a quick question. Did she and Maddie ever talk about religion when they were “friends”? The question surprised Alicia. Did we talk about what? “Belief in God?” Eli restates. They did. “What’d she say? Is she an agnostic?” Squirming, Alicia doesn’t want to answer. “I don’t know if I feel comfortable with this, Eli,” she smiles awkwardly. “Oh, she’s used stuff you told her in confidence against Peter,” he reminds her. Yes, she starts to rebut his reasoning, but – and then she stops, her head cocked. Oh. Yes. She turns back to face Eli, chin up. “She’s an atheist.” She told you that, he inhales sharply. “It’s not that weird, Eli,” she adds. He knows. “I’m not saying anything, but … she told you she was an atheist?” He’s clearly quite excited, no matter what he might have said to Jordan about this not being the South. “Why?” No reason, he lies, thumping her on the shoulder. “I’ll tell Peter you came by.” Alicia just smiles.
And look what’s waiting for her in her office? The Emperor himself, flipping through some documents. “Ah, there you are,” he says when Alicia arrives with her hands full of expensive looking shopping bags. “I wondered where you’d wandered off to.” “Just went on a lunch break, and bought a few things,” she trills, sitting down gleefully. How nice for you, David Lee deadpans before informing her that Dina’s signed with them. Okay. Gross and Dina’s coworkers will be here tomorrow to talk things over. “And another thing, I heard Will and Diane sat you down and had the talk; congratulations, good news.” Back straight, hands clasped, grinning, she’s too thrilled to notice how pleased he sounds – or to remember that he’s never going to be actually pleased for her. “Thank you. It was unexpected.” Yes, David Lee oozes, “now here’s the thing. They might not have talked to you about the capital contribution. It’s required of all equity partners. $600,000 – and, I know, that sounds like a lot of money, but we have reasonable terms.”
It sounds like a lot of money? Gee, I don’t know, maybe that sounds like a lot of money because it IS a lot of money? You know, I think he’s enjoying delivering this ugly piece of news as much as Will and Diane enjoyed delivering out the good news. Alicia leans forward, her face impassive. “Usually fifty percent upfront and another fifty deliverable upon bonuses.” Alicia struggles to produce a response. “I – I’m sorry, what?” The capital contribution, David Lee reiterates. “It’s your investment in the firm. Every equity partner has to throw into the pot. That means you’re invested in the firm, the firm’s invested in you.” Yeah, I knew that equity partner thing was off. Especially in a firm facing bankruptcy. Even if she can find that money (and I don’t know where, considering she couldn’t for the house), does she really want to lash herself to the mast of a potentially sinking ship? “Excuse me – $600,000?” she repeats. Oh, poor love. You heard partner and skipped right over the equity piece, didn’t you? I’m sure you knew what that meant even if you didn’t know the number. This is why Diane gave you a week to think about it.
David Lee laughs. “Yes, I know it sounds like a lot of money. When I was a fourth year it sounded like all the money in the word.” Okay, this firm is not old enough to be where he was a fourth year. You only have to put up half, he laughs. The rest is payable within three bonus cycles, he shrugs, maybe more depending on how we’re doing. Does that mean three years? (Damn, they get bonuses of 100k a year? Holy crap.) “So, any questions?” he asks brightly.
She stares at him, no further along than when they started. “Six. Hundred. Thousand?” Yes, he oozes, “membership has its privileges. But first you need to be a member.” He smiles, hands tented. Any other questions? It takes her three tries to say no.
“Good,” he coos. “Again, congratulations.” After he leaves, she looks over at the sleek bags sitting on her desk. Buyers remorse? In one swift movement, she gathers them up and rushes back out.
“Kalinda, just give us a month, that’s all,” Will pleads. No, she says, but thanks. If we can only get the extension, Will claims, we won’t be so cash poor. REally? Lovely, replies an unflinching Kalinda, “but in the meantime, I was promised a promotion and a five percent increase.” When was this? Last spring? The double doors to Will’s office burst open and Neil Gross staggers through them, even more livid than usual. “You really think this is going to work?” he demands. Excuse me, Will replies politely. “Look, nothing your firm does in that room,” Gross points to the conference room, “is going to convince me to hire you.” Hmm. I recall Will saying the exact same thing yesterday. If you didn’t notice, Will responses coldly, I’m in a meeting. “You’re not going to get my business,” declares Gross again, wild eyed and more shaggy looking than usual. “And if you do anything to come between me and Dina…”
“I’m in litigation, not family law,” Will explains as Kalinda looks on, eyes wide. “I didn’t solicit your wife’s business, nor am I involved in her negotiation.” He lets that sink in for a bit. “Now get the hell out of my office.” Gross does; Will watches him go with narrowed eyes. “You got your raise,” he nods to Kalinda, “now keep track of that.” Happy to, she replies.
Gross stalks into the conference room behind Alicia, who glows in a warm red. Ah, here’s the groom, can we start now, is everybody happy, David Lee wonders impatiently, thumping his candy dish on the table. “Ecstatic,” Gross’s lawyer grins as Dina and Neil embrace. “Are you okay with this? We just need to go through the motions,” Dina looks at Neil’s face. He turns away, looking at her lawyers. “Yeah, it all makes sense,” he smiles, adding that he just wants his baby to be comfortable. Alicia invites Dina to their side of the table, but she begins with a strong statement, sitting instead on her fiance’s right hand at the head of the table; the two link hands. I’d like it more if it weren’t at his suggestion, I think. David Lee sits in the middle of his side, flanked by Alicia and Cary.
David Lee begins by saying he has changed to suggest from page 2 to, oh, 68. “We’re fine with the cover sheet,” he smiles. We didn’t like this draft either, Gross’s lead lawyer Rochelle suggests; we feel Mr. Gross is being far too lenient financially. David Lee laughs out loud, and Kalinda slides unobtrusively into a seat along the wall.
Their first concern is jurisdiction; Gross’s team wants to use Texas, where Mr. Gross has a ranch and a technical support facility. But Mr. Gross himself isn’t there – he hasn’t been to Texas since a 2 hour stop over on a trip to Paris in 2009, Cary points out. Yeah, that’s lame. So what? Here’s the point, David Lee swoops in. The couple will be “domiciled” in Menlo Park California, where the Chum Hum headquarters are. (So why are we having this discussion in Chicago again?) There’s only one reason to pretend the jurisdiction would be in Texas. “California is friendly to the dependent spouse; Texas is not so friendly,” Alicia explains for Dina’s benefit.
“Actually, Mrs. Florrick,” Gross’s lawyer interrupts, “why don’t you tell her the real reason you want California law? It’s the seven day rule.” Ah – title alert! What’s the seven day rule, Gross asks helpfully. “Both parties must have the final agreement in hand for seven days before signing it,” David Lee explains. “Or it’s unenforceable,” Gross’s lawyer adds. Our wedding’s in 9 days, Dina replies, shocked. Did you not plan on getting the pre-nup finished before the wedding? And again, where are they getting married and why are they here? Did middle class Mr. Lampert really insist on flying everyone here just because Neil Gross hates Lockhart/Gardner that much? There are no lawyers that he dislikes in California? Something tells me finding some wouldn’t be that hard. Anyway, the point is they’ve got 48 hours to work this out if (as would be reasonable) they use California.
“God made plants and animals in 48 hours,” David Lee observes (ha!). They’re trying to hold a gun to our heads, Dina, Rochelle pleads. The risk is equal, Cary insists, but Rochelle doesn’t agree; as the rich one, Mr. Gross has the most to lose. Surely both parties want a smooth process and good agreement, Alicia adds before her phone buzzes and takes her out of the meeting and into the hall, the better to whisper about borrowing against her mortgage. Eek.
Meanwhile in court, Will’s arguing that Canning brought up motive when he suggested the debt was the property of afflicted children. In hopes of distracting the judge and throwing Will off his rhythm, Canning makes a lengthy show of taking a pill. Seated next to Canning, Clarke looks like he’s half expecting the smaller man to die in front of him. Judge Chase, happily for us, doesn’t lose the main plot line; if Will’s contending that Canning has a bias against the firm and the extension, then Chase wants to hear the arguments.
“So Mr. Norquist,” Will asks a gaunt, irritated looking man, “why fund the purchase of our debt?” He’s silent. “Mr. Norquist, I must compel you to answer,” Judge Chase insists. Norquist heaves a big, dramatic sigh. “Lockhart/Gardner brings costly nuisance suits against us,” he spits out. Canning screws up his lips, not liking the taste of that comment. Ah, declares Will, so this isn’t about handicapped children! ‘There is nothing either illegal or immoral in our actions,” Norquist asserts. Well, maybe except lying about it, huh? Mr. Canning would never support an extension even of a week, Will declares over Canning’ objections. Will’s confident he’s proved his point.
“What was that?” Clarke Hayden hisses to Canning outside during a break. “Mr. Norquist?” Canning jerks his thumb in the direction of the courtroom. “He’s the money that wants what we both want.” “We?” worries Clarke. “When did we become a we?” “Ah, you’re right,” Canning takes a metaphorical step back, “I’m being presumptuous. Lockhard/Gardner is a good firm with good people who are being mismanaged. And if you agree with that, then we are a we.” Yeah, I don’t think that’s it, somehow. I’m not here to destroy it, Clarke insists, which is a little funny since he didn’t seem to have any problem doing so on behalf of the creditors before. I know, agrees Canning, you’re here to get me my money – and to make sure the firm is better managed. I want that too. Oh, of course you do, love! Don’t worry, we believe you.
And to Clarke’s complete shock, Canning then begins ask about his career plans. Clarke takes the bar next week. “Illinois,” Canning observes. ‘That’s a tough exam. Struggled with that one myself.” Oh? “What do you intend to do afterwards,” Canning asks, so ham-fisted. “Practice the law, why?” Clarke replies, his defenses up so high I don’t understand why Canning doesn’t see them. “We should talk,” Canning offers, and then walks off, hands in his pockets.
“You’re kidding,” Peter grins; Alicia shakes her head, beaming. Standing up from his desk on the campaign bus, he opens his arms to wrap them around his wife. “Congratulations!” Thank you, she enthuses. “I’m stunned, I wasn’t expecting it.” I was, Peter says, although not so soon. I think that’s what she meant too, but I like your emphasis, Peter. “This is one for the history books,” he goes on, “fourth year?” She ducks her head a little, still beaming. “How much is the catch?” See, if she hadn’t been so caught off guard she would have known this too. She tells him – $600k. Wow, he says. She can borrow against the mortgage, she just needs him to cosign it.
“Why cosign, I’ll loan it to you,” he offers. She’s immediately uncomfortable. “No, Peter, I haven’t even decided if I’m going to do it,” she demurs. Why wouldn’t you, he wonders, and indeed, why not? Other than the bankruptcy. And needing the money. And where the hell is he going to get $600k anyway in the middle of a campaign and with a mortgage of his own? His salary’s not that big. It was only 2-3 years ago that she was crying over their bills, wasn’t it? How could he possibly have that much cash floating around?
“Well, the firm, it’s situation,” she explains, “I think I want to see where things fall.” Good thinking, Alicia. Okay, he frowns, that’s smart – but you decide, I’m fronting you the money. Again, why is she not asking where this money comes from? “It’s a business decision, Alicia – it’s like taking out stock. Nothing else.” Her expression as she looks up at him is fond and glowing. “Thank you,” she says. “That means a lot to me.” But where is he getting the money, Alicia? Sigh. TV magic, perhaps?
As she steps off the bus, Jordan rushes up to her. “Hi! I’m Jordan,” he gushes. “I know,” she replies coolly, still walking away; he clutches his suit jacket around his body, hugging himself for warmth. “You walk fast,” he observes, hands tucked into his armpits. “I’m in a hurry,” she explains. “Just need a minute with the God question,” he asks, and this finally gets her to turn her head. The God question? “The question of belief,” he explains, “what do you believe? I believe your father was politely Anglican, and your mother was politely nothing.” Alicia lifts her chin and looks down on him.
“Am I being too personal?” he wonders, stopping. “You’re being something,” Alicia replies heughtily. Eeek. We’re going to make an issue of Maddie Hayworth’s (lack of) religious beliefs, he explains, and we think she’s going to make an issue of yours. “And how is she going to do that?” Alicia snaps. Oh, dude. I don’t know whether to respect you for going ahead or to shake you for handling Alicia so badly. At tomorrow’s Leadership Forum, she’ll be asked about her atheism, which might lead to Alicia being asked. “So if you don’t mind, what do you believe?” Alicia smiles insincerely and walks away, laughing. So that went well, Jordan. Good work.
Back at Lockhart/Gardner, David Lee wants Cary to go ahead. “You’re the one who discovered it.” Actually Kalinda did, Cary explains. “Actually I don’t care,” Lee snaps – ha! – “tell them.” He waves his hand at Dina and her father. Cary and Kalinda explain that the pre-nup has no “non-dilution” clause. (Okay, have you seen The Social Network? Remember what Mark Zuckerberg did to Eduardo Severin, giving him stock which turned out to be worthless because the company split the stock so many times afterward? That. Gross can do that to Dina if they divorce and the pre-nup doesn’t protect her.) I don’t care, she says; Dad’s not so cavalier, but she’s had lunch with Neil, and they’re “ready to put this behind them.” David Lee starts to give his professional opinion, but she cuts him off. In the past, the less wealthy spouse to be might have refused to sign a pre-nup because the very existence of such a document presumed they were grasping, greedy; the very idea was an insult. Dina’s reasoning is diametrically opposed; you can see that she thinks signing it will prove her high minded ideals. “I’ve made my decision. I won’t let money guide me. Please shut it down, Mr. Lee.”
Ugh, this is the crappy thing about money and pre-nups, right? Because on the one hand, I think what she’s doing is great. It’s his money, that’s the ethical response, she’s not a gold digger, they won’t get divorced, she has her own career, she doesn’t care. But on the other hand, it’s just icky that his lawyers have drawn up papers that explicitly protect him from her, with this assumption that she should get nothing and is a gold digger, as if it were some sort of litmus test to prove her devotion, and that’s creepy too. I mean, if they’re not going to divorce, why not draw up a settlement that’s equitable? If all he wants is to make sure she’s taken care of? I see why she won’t pursue this – it’s a terrible bind – but why isn’t he being more generous?
Sorry, back to the show. Mr. Lampert follows his child out of the room, and David lee leans back in his chair. “We’re not shutting anything down; she just needs a good dose of reality.” Or you need a good dose of her money? She said she won’t let money guide her, Kalinda observes, so don’t go after money. Smart as always, Kalinda. Okay, agrees David Lee. “Good. We’ll make sure Gross and his lawyers give her a good dose of reality.” Gross and his lawyers, Cary wonders? How do we get them to do that? “Live and learn, young protegee, live and learn,” David sighs. Hee. You so should have called him grasshopper. Or your padawan learner.
On the stand at bankruptcy court, Diane braces herself for Canning’s questions. Does some of the 30 million dollars you raised come from the 16 settlements you’ve made during this 5 month period? (What’s the point in even asking such an obvious question, Louis?) To Diane’s consternation, Canning goes on to ask what their percentage of settling case was before the bankruptcy; over Will’s objection, we find out that it was less than thirty percent. Will upbraids Canning for testifying through his questions. “Of course I’m testifying! They’re trying to reduce their debt on the backs of their clients!” Hmmm. That’s is pretty interesting. I’m not sure I ever thought about that being wrong – they had raise the money somehow, right? On the one hand, obviously they’d have to change their policies to bring in more money; on the other, you can see his point that this could be letting down their duty to their clients. And I hate it when he has a valid point. The shouting that follows descends into chaos.
“If he wants a war, he’s got one,” Diane stomps through Will’s office, stabbing the air with her finger. Ah, love, we’ve known he wanted a war for nearly a year. You’re already at war. This is not news. There’s no way we’re going to let him get away with smearing our reputations like that! “The thing is, we might have exposure here,” Will admits grimly, staring at his desk. What? Diane is aghast. “Will! We have never sold out a client! Never! Not once!”
I agree, Will replies, but what if he can make a persuasive case otherwise. The West Nile case against Louis Canning, resolved in the wilds of Minnesota; remember that their ask was 15 mil, and they settled for 12 even after they figured out how to essentially blackmail the bank CEO? For good reason, Diane replies, indignant. You know, I have to say I had been surprised they didn’t raise the ask back and press their advantage when they found such rich dirt on the CEO, but maybe they thought that would be too much. At any rate, Will suggests that Canning might put someone on the stand who would tell an unflattering truth even if it hurt. Diane goes white. “Who?” We all know who that is.
“Alicia,” Kalinda calls out; Alicia turns. Kalinda waves a blue piece of paper. “You’ve been subpoenaed.”
(Um, how does Kalinda have Alicia’s subpoena? Isn’t the whole deal about subpoenas that they have to be handed to you personally?)
“We give up,” David Lee declares in negotiations. Rochelle stares back in shock. “That’s a first,” she spits out eventually. Now, anyone raised by my father would know to mistrust that tone, but Rochelle is clearly not a Quibbling Sibling. “Our client is amenable to Mr. Gross’s position on all financial issues.” Great, Rochelle trills. Oh, Rochelle. You foolish, foolish woman. She must have been lulled into complacency because she knows Dina. “We should do this more often with the clients out of the room! My office will prepare the paperwork and we’ll get it to you…” Actually, cuts in Cary, there is just one thing. Ah, I thought it was too easy, Rochelle shakes her head.
Cary suggests that Dina wants the document to reflect certain cohabitation restrictions and rules. Oh, wow. “Within reason, we’ll listen. What are they?” Alicia pick ups the thread. Relationship maintenance. Miss Lampert wants a weekly date night, preferably on Friday, of no less than four hours. Ha! I can’t decide whether to be appalled that they’re making this crap up, or laugh at the ridiculousness of making date night a contractual responsibility. Also, Mr. Gross is required to spend 600 minutes away from work each week exclusive of the date. (Better stipulate that he’s awake during those 10 hours, kids.) That could be problematic, Rochelle notes. ‘We’re open to negotiation,” Lee counters in his deadpan voice.
And that’s when Cary trots out the big guns. Miss Lampert insists that any children will be brought up Christian. Oh my God, really? They’re really going there without their client’s knowledge? No, deal breaker, Rochelle declares. “Oh, come on, we’ve made movement on the money!” I’ll say they have. “Can’t give on religion,” Rochelle shakes her head. I don’t think this kind of thing should be contractually obligated, but if they haven’t talked about this issue, it does not bode well for their marriage. And if they have talked about this issue, then David Lee making up claims is a dangerous move. Speaking of move, Rochelle is ready for the next demand. Sexual maintenance – number of times a week. Are they kidding? Now there’s a recipe for divorce. Alicia looks a little (sorry) grossed out. “We can horse trade on it,” Rochelle tells them as she makes notes.
“I thought we were shutting this down,” Dina asks, baffled, sitting with her three lawyers. “We were, we tried,” David Lee lies, “they asked for some additional items.” And then, as if it were so distasteful he can’t even say, David passes the news off to Cary, who sighs and furrows his brows. “Mr. Gross wants you to stipulate that your children will be raised Jewish.” Dina whips her head from one man to the other; unnoticed, Alicia looks like she’s bitten into a lemon. “What!” Yes, David grumbles, “we were surprised.” Like hell. We have sunk so low. I hate us. “We never discussed religion,” Dina cries, “Not once.” Well, and how crappy is that to find out from a lawyer? But put that on the list of things you should have talked about before you got engaged. What is wrong with people? It’s not a weekend in Cabo, it’s the rest of your life!
“He’s also insisted on a few relationship bullet points,” Cary notes. “Sexual maintenance.” Dina’s jaw drops. “Twice a week, though Mr. Gross reserves the sole discretion for more.” Cary better be making that up. No way that lawyer actually said that! Alicia’s plainly horrified and embarrassed. “He asked for that?” Dina still can’t believe it. “His lawyers did,” Alicia cuts in. “Look, when you said stand down, his lawyers pressed their advantage,” David tells Dina, who is practically panting at this point. ‘That’s the problem with standing down.” Cary presses. ‘You can push back, Dina, or you can just sign this pre-nup and hope for the best, but I would push back if I were you.” Wow, Cary’s so good lying earnestly. I would have believed him too. (Matt Czuchry is a terrific actor, so of course Cary can lie, but still.) She swallows hard, thinking about it, and then turns with decisive anger in her face. “Push back. Push back hard.”
“Nicely played, Cary,” David drags out his congratulations, for which he gets Cary’s thanks. “You’re gonna make a hell of an equity partner.” Wait, what? And no, that was clearly not an accident, Lee mentioning that in front of Alicia. “Now, you two get moving on Gross’s asset assessment.” Asset assessment? Say that five times fast.
Alicia and Cary start walking down the hall. “They offered you partnership?” she asks, unable to stop herself. He bobs his head. “Yeah, I know, it’s funny, right?” Me too, she confesses. So much for Will’s “I can’t remember when we’ve sat down with a fourth year before!” speech. “Yeah? I was wondering if they did. Congratulations.” He frowns, turning toward her. “I think they were counting my years before I left, not just the last seven months.” Ah. He’s kind of embarrassed, I see. I’m sure you’re right, Alicia answers him. They shake hands (“congratulations, partner!”) and Cary leaves Alicia looking upset.
That’s when Diane notices her in the hallway, and calls her over. Wow, Diane, that is a seriously orange jacket.
Alicia sits in front of Diane’s desk, breathing down on Diane through her nose, quietly furious. “Any idea why you were subpoenaed?” Diane asks. No clue. Will suggest that it has to do with the West Nile case; it’s a reasonable conjecture. “Maybe,” she says, and Will and Diane share one of their marvelous glances; they can see she’s upset and non-communicative. Diane pitches a story about clients needing cash because of the recession; she and Will tag team their way to the “absurd” idea that they pushed settlements because they needed the money. Never! Will finishes by saying that he hopes they’re all going to testify as one. “I think so,” Alicia shrugs, and is dismissed.
“Oh – did you go out and do something special? Celebrate?” Diane remembers to ask. “I did,” Alicia answers quickly and exits, leaving Will and Diane definitely worried about her state of mind and her testimony.
And, because Alicia’s not upset enough already, Eli steps out of the woodwork. (Or would that be the glass work? You wouldn’t think you could surprise someone in a glass hallway, but I guess she had emotional blinders on.) “Where are you on belief in God?” he asks without preamble, sending her almost reeling across the hall as her momentum shifts. She snickers. “What? It’s for the campaign.” Alicia snickers some more. “Yes, I know. Your friend Jordan already asked me.” Eli already asked, too. “He was here?” Eli snips, territorial, so Alicia explains. “I said, it’s personal.”
Right, agrees Eli, but that’s for him, not us. Right? I almost expect her to echo Clarke (there’s an us?) but instead she walks away, snickering. And he follows her into her office.
“So, that’s almost a belief in God,” he suggests, pacing, as she sits at her desk. How so, she wonders, giggling. “I have a husband who believes in God, and a daughter who might…” And what about Zach? “I don’t know, but I don’t.” Ah, but Eli’s point is, she could believe in God. Er, except she doesn’t. Seriously, where is he going with this? “If Jesus were to show up in your office right now, you’d believe in him, wouldn’t you?”
Okay, I almost choked. The look on his face, as if it were the most reasonable suggestion in the world? I love it.
“No,” she laughs. “Yes you would! If he performed a miracle!” I cannot stop laughing. Fine, she laughs, that would do it. Great, replies Eli, so that means you’re agnostic. “You’re a seeker!” She snorts, and he apologizes. “Alicia, I know this sounds stupid, but voters hate atheists. They think they spend all their time fighting mangers outside City Hall. They want people who are open minded and you are open minded.” She raises her eyebrows. Well, she’s very open-minded about some things; not so much about others. Although I’m not sure that being open minded is what voters really want – oh, whatever. “Okay,” she replies, clearly done with the conversation, “is that what you want me to say?”
“I want you to be St. Alicia,” Eli begs. “It’s a selling point for Peter, and voters don’t want to think St. Alicia’s an atheist!” I get annoyed by her intolerance of religious belief, but there’s a level to which I actually enjoy that she’s not following anyone else’s morality when she stays with Peter; it makes her a more complicated character. Although on the other hand, I don’t know how someone could be so pissed off over something she doesn’t think is real. “So Will and Diane negotiated in good faith,” she starts – which, uh oh – “Cary is as deserving as I am, and God might exist.” She chews on these ideas for a second. “I’m good.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what that was about, but good,” Eli accepts, and almost leaves. But no, he can’t resist. “Jordan,” he wonders. “What’d you think of him?” “He’s…” she thinks about it. “Awkward.” “He is, isn’t he?” Eli leaps on her comment immediately, hungry lion on a gazelle. Love it. “Not a bad thing to mention to Peter…” Right, like that’s going to happen. You need to let Jordan hang himself with Alicia, Eli – he’s already doing a better job of sabotage himself than you ever could. “Okay, just one scripted line per day, please,” she asks, patience at an end. He leaves her muttering to herself, shaking her head in disbelief. “Oh my God…”
“Well if he’s not going to do it,” David Lee shrieks, sitting at the conference table amid the full complement of lawyers and clients, “he should at least memorialize it…” There’s more yelling, more talk of memorializing and outrageous personal demands. Neil and Dina sit across from each other; she stares him down, seething, while he twitches and looks everywhere but at her. Not promising. Everyone, including Dina’s father, is livid. “O my God, this is so silly!” Neil hollers, quieting the room. “Dina, I’m not going to dilute your stock options.” Great, so why not simply write that in the document? “And when did you start worrying about stock options?” He’s horrified. David tries to intercede, but Neil’s not having it. “This is contract language, that’s all, baby, it’s about precedent. If I give you more, then every future contract will ask for more.”
Oh no he didn’t. I cannot even believe he said that. WRONG justification! “You mean every future prenup after you divorce me,” Dina realizes; David Lee starts paying attention, because he’s following the money. Without the wedding, there’s no payday for him. If that’s really what Neil genuinely thinks, though, Dina needs to run and run now. “You know what?” Neil says, standing. “That’s it. We’re done.” I suspect he means with the negotiation, but that’s not how Dina takes it. “That’s fine,” she snaps, standing and slapping something on the table which might just be her engagement ring. “You never loved me. All you wanted me to do was spread my legs twice a week and breed your children.” Oh boy. Her rage feels righteous, and she storms out.
“Okay, okay, everybody calm down,” David Lee calls out, flapping his hands. “Would you go after her?” he hisses at Cary, who does.
David pleads in Dina’s face, or as close as he can reach. “The point is you love him, don’t you love him?” Yeah, I don’t know if that’s the point right now. She huffs, crossing and uncrossing her arms. “But everything he’s done – the stock options…” But you said you didn’t care about the money, David reminds her. Ah, but you’ve done your job too well – you’ve pointed out that the money isn’t about money, but about intention and fairness. “I don’t, he does, that’s the point,” she explains. “It’s not what I care about, it’s what he cares about.” Lee turns to Cary for help. “You know what I think, Dina, you should go to him,” Cary offers slowly. “No!” she barks, decisive. “Yes. Just call him, say you wanna have dinner, no lawyers in the room.” She thinks about it, leaning on the back of a chair, and then turns her beautiful face back toward Cary. “This is all moving too fast,” he notes, which is true. “The more time he spends with you, the less he’ll care about the money, I promise you that.”
Hmm. Well, I don’t think Dina should throw away her relationship based on a lawyer’s posturing, but on the other hand, these are legitimate warning signs. She needs to talk to Neil, but she needs to really think about his behavior, too. “And we’re the ones who were pushing the money!” Cary confesses, leading David to lower his gaze, humbly admitting to culpability, and it is maybe the funniest thing I have ever seen him do. “You two – you need to pull each other past it,” Cary finishes, Dina sighs, agreeing, and David Lee looks over at him in joy.
There’s no joy in bankruptcy court, where Alicia wrings her hands on the stand; Canning takes a long drink of water, making her wait before elaborately saying hello. As expected, he brings up the West Nile virus case and its 12 million dollar settlement. He asks the expected question: was the settlement drive by your firm’s need to raise money for the bankruptcy? “It was driven by our client’s desire to avoid protracted litigation.” That would be a no, Canning reiterates. “That would be a categorical no,” Alicia replies.
“A categorical no! That’s a really big no.” Alicia smiles and nods. “The biggest.” And to the best of your knowledge, has the firm settled any other case in the past five months just for the money, he wonders? This is so tricky. Because they’re supposed to raise money, a huge amount of money, and in an absurdly short period of time. So this was always on their minds – but they can’t short change their clients to do it. How do we know if they did? Is he saying that he would have, should have given Kaley Spence more money? No, Alicia says. Then Canning wants to know if Will and Diane met with her about her testimony; I know you’ll be shocked, but Will objects to the question. When the judge allows, Alicia answers. “Yes, but only to discuss my responsibility to answer your questions truthfully.”
Next question; is she aware of any “schemes perpetrated by your firm” to reduce the debt. So it’s immoral to get money from their clients, and to get it any other way? That’s quite a bind, huh? Will objects to the vague term “scheme” but the judge allows; it’s not a confusing word, after all. “I’m aware of no such scheme,” Alicia replies gravely. You were recently offered a partnership, were you not, comes the next question. She was. “And how much will that cost you?” Diane prompts Will to object for relevance, and for the third time he’s overruled. Alicia answers. “You’re a fourth year associate, is that correct?” It is. “Does it seem odd to you that a fourth year associate would be offered a partnership?” Yes. “And isn’t it odder still that five associates at Lockhart/Gardner – all fourth year associates – should be offered partnerships?”
Her face freezes. Slowly, she blinks.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You weren’t aware?” Oh, that’s so mean. How did he find this out? Will and Diane look ashamed. I’m kind of furious at them; did they think they wouldn’t be found out? “Five associates at Lockhart/Gardner were offered partnerships.” Is that your question, Alicia asks carefully, did I know that? For a start, sure, he answers. ‘No, I did not know that.” She sits up a little straighter. “And were you aware that your firm is trying to raise millions of dollars to pay off its debt by naming five partners…” Will objects; “asked and answered.” Finally, he’s sustained. “There’s no scheme, Mr. Canning. Unless you consider the promotion of someone who has billed thousands of hours, and helped win dozens of cases, a scheme.” Louis Canning has nothing to say to that, and Will has no questions of his own. Will makes a rather foolish point of pulling out the chair next to him for Alicia to sit in, but the damage is done; she makes a stately, dignified, silent exit from the room as if Will and Diane did not exist. And now this looks bad for everyone. The name partners look at each other, embarrassed and apprehensive.
Badly done, Diane and Will, badly done.
Alicia waits for a glass of white wine, alone amidst crystal and chandeliers and chamber music. “Alicia! There you are!” cries Eli, weaving his way through the room, his smile wide. YOu look stunning, he adds, and she does, in a cream knit dress far more body conscious than something she would wear to work. He pauses in consternation as she practically inhales the wine. “Are you okay?” he wonders. Oh, fine, never better, she says. “Just let me know when you want me to say I believe in God.” Uh oh. Her tone makes it abundantly clear he’s in trouble, but she’s gone before he can finish asking her to module her phrasing.
And, ha – look who else has noticed out she’s here! “I think we should become friends,” Jordan whispers at her elbow. Wow, just keep the good ones rolling. He’s really not observant at all, is he? That is so far off I don’t even know what to say. Why, she grumbles. “Political wives tend to like me, I keep them in the loop.” Good lord, boy, all she’s been trying to do is get out of the freaking loop for the last four years. You should have paid more attention. Also, I thought his last big job was working for Barbara Boxer? Maybe he should be thinking of Alicia more in terms of lawyer Stewart Boxer than, I don’t know, Ann Romney.
“Do you believe in God?” she turns the tables, stopping to drink with her other hand on her hip. “Do I – I don’t know,” he stumbles. Why? “It seems to be the question du jour,” she replies. “I believe in rainbows and little kids’ smiles, that help?” No. No, it doesn’t. God, you are such a useless ass, Jordan. Wouldn’t you present more interesting plot complications if you weren’t such a tool? Surely annoying Alicia and Eli through stupidity can’t be your only characteristic. Rightly (though rudely), Alicia walks away.
Oh, and awesome. Who does she find but Maddie Hayworth! I don’t ever remember feeling that their was such an imbalance in their height – but I’m sure it’s not an accident that Alicia towers over her former friend now. “Hi Maddie,” she begins. “Alicia,” Maddie nods, “it’s been a long time.” Yup, Alicia agrees. “You have any new friends?” Oh, ouch. Maddie smiles painfully. “Just so you know, Alicia, I didn’t break off our friendship.” Oh no, she did not! Are you kidding me? She really is a monumental hypocrite. “And if you could let go of this victimhood pose that you’re hanging on to…” Alicia’s about to tell Maddie where she can stick the victimhood idea when Peter suavely insinuates himself into the conversation. “Hey, there you are!” he smiles at his wife. She smiles back, her teeth gleeming like a shark’s, but she refrains from biting.” Maddie and Peter shake hello.
“Looking like one debate, I see,” Maddie supplies as Alicia drains her wine glass. Looking like it, Peter agrees. Oooh, that seems so risky to me, one incredibly high stakes debate. There’s no recovering if you flop. “Everything okay here?” Peter whispers into his wife’s ear. Lovely, darling, she says, exchanging her empty glass for a sparkling full one. “You know, I would love to get you in the bathroom and…” Hello! She kills me; I can’t believe she said that to him practically in front of Maddie, it’s hilarious. No wonder she wore that sexy, sexy dress.
And, oops, there’s a reporter sticking a tiny recorder under their faces, wondering how Peter feels about sharing the stage with Maddie “at another campaign event.” Hah. Alicia looks a bit horrified that they could have been overheard. Peter and Maddie dicker a bit over whether the 20th anniversary gala even counts as a campaign event, and the reporter (uninterested in nuance) goes right for the religious issue. Ah, she must be Jordan’s “surrogate;” look, there’s Eli lurking in the background. She just wants Maddie to address the “controversy” over her actions at last week’s benediction. (Surely the event wasn’t a benediction; that’s just the blessing at the start. But whatevs, the reporter is clearly no genius.) “You mean the video on the web of me not bowing?” Yep; the interwebs are claiming she’s insensitive (or at least, our campaign is). “Well,” begins Maddie, “I, uh, apologize if it seemed insensitive. I was trying to avoid being hypocritical.” Ha. “I am an atheist.” “Really,” replies the reporter, “don’t you worry how that’ll play in a state where only 15% call themselves non-religious?” I worry about everything, Maddie responds (I’ll bet) “but I am who I am, and I don’t think you should run away from that. Let’s just let the voters decide.” Alicia fidgets, looking decidedly uncomfortable.
And what about Peter? The reporter shoves her recording device under his nose. “I respect Maddie’s point of view.” But you don’t share it, the shrewd (or rather, well prepped) woman surmises. “Well, it’s different. I was in prison. Faith means a great deal there; sometimes it was the only thing we had.” Alicia smiles. “And your wife?” the reporter pushes. Really? Couldn’t she have left well enough alone. My wife can answer for herself, Peter replies (did he know this was coming?) and so the journalist obligingly shoves the recorder into Alicia’s face. To block it, she raises her wine glass. Then she looks the reporter right in the eye, her voice clear and firm (and, yeah, maybe also a little pissed off and patronizing).
“I’m an atheist,” she declares, lifting up her glass in a toast.
Maddie smiles. Eli does not.
And wow, this is a pairing we haven’t seen in a while! Cary and Kalinda, side by side, thumbing through Neil Gross’s asset assessments. Nothing in Chum Hum’s paperwork from 2011, Kalinda grumbles. “Check the footnotes,” Cary notes with a small, nostalgic smile. “Accountants, they hide stuff in the footnotes.” Aw. Clarke, the writers may have turned you into a virago, but we remember back when you were sweet and helpful! “Footnotes,” Kalinda echoes. “I heard that you were offered partnership.” Yeah, Cary agrees, tossing a report on the table, “me, Alicia and three others.” Now I wonder how he found that last bit out – from Alicia, or because he actually talks to other people? (And did I miss something, or is he no longer sharing an office with our heroine? Because he certainly hasn’t been in there this week, and I didn’t notice his desk. When did that happen?) She congratulates him.
He looks at her over his shoulder, as if exasperated that she could be so dense. What, she asks. “They need the money,” he explains, a little offended. “They’re just handing out partnerships like popsicles.” Ha. “Popsicles?” she wonders, deadpan. He shrugs it off, laughing. “Ah, it’s late.” No, Cary, it was a good metaphor. “So, you gonna take it? The popsicle?” Kalinda asks, scanning her document. He shrugs again. “If I can get the draw together, sure.” Kalinda leans toward him. “Oh. You just feel sorry for yourself because you were offered something.” Okay, I’m not entirely sure what she means by that, but Cary seems satisfied.
And that’s when she finds it, the needle in the haystack – a miscellaneous footnote in the 2012 statement for a $112,000 payment for an off balance sheet joint venture. It’s in the 2009 statement, too. “Well there’s your dirt!” Kalinda exclaims. Cary gives her a fist bump to the shoulder, and heads off to tell David Lee.
In the lobby, he sees Clarke Hayden staring at the elevator doors. It’s odd; he’s standing as if he were waiting, coat on, and yet he doesn’t leave, and the doors close in front of him. Cary calls for his attention, wondering if he can help. “No,” says Clarke automatically, “I don’t know. No, I… I… – No.” He finishes more decisively, but clearly all is not well. “Are you sure?” Cary asks, compassion and understanding in his voice. “I don’t like mess,” Clarke confesses. “I like precision.” I know, Cary agrees gently. “This is mess,” Clarke shakes his head ruefully, “and I’m not sure how to handle it.” Which part? “This,” Clarke answers my unspoken question and Cary’s spoken one, though not very helpfully. “This … business with Louis Canning.” Ah. The two nod at each other. You know, it’s really not complicated at all. Canning wants to take out his competition. It’s just hard to know where the trustee should fall here, I guess. His face scrunched up with regret, Clarke decides he really will take the elevator.
“Hey, you take the bar this week, right?” Cary remembers. That’s right. “Good luck,” Cary laughs, and Clarke thanks him. “But I don’t know – I’ve come to not like the law. It’s not very… precise.” It can be, Cary shrugs, “it just depends on the way you practice it.” I assume the same can be said for accounting – though that’s an interesting observation from Cary given what he’s had to do today, meddling in and against and for a marriage. Maybe the precision comes in following your mandate – whatever it is – to the extent allowed by the law, the ends always justifying the means? At any rate, the idea stops Clarke and shifts his momentum. “It can be,” he agrees, and walks not to the elevator but back into the office.
Not content, Cary calls after him. “I’m sorry,” he says, “for testifying against you the way I did in that bankruptcy mediation, I just…” Why, Clarke breaks in to ask, a beautiful clarity in his face. “It was the truth.” He shrugs, almost smiling. Yes, Clarke could appreciate that.
And in the spirit of truth telling, he walks into Diane office and informs Diane and Will that he’s been subpoenaed.
And that’s interesting because it hadn’t occurred to me until now to ask how Alicia got subpoenaed. Canning being the creditor – does that give the position to subpoena witnesses at the hearing? Weird, all around weird.
So, speaking of weird, Gross and Lampert are cuddling again. Sigh. I’m both pleased and sorry. Not that I’m not thrilled by all this canoodling, David Lee observes, but why are they even bothering to show up if “he” is not going to negotiate? Rochelle thinks all will be well if David Lee eases up on some of his demands. So does that mean that some things are on the table? Cary and Kalinda show up, so David Lee asks Dina and her dad to step out so he can use whatever dirt that 112k paid for to bend Neil Gross to his will. (Don’t get lonely, Dina coos as she slowly slinks out of her seat. Wow, I guess the make up sex was really good.)
“Okay, what’ve you got?” Rochelle cuts to the chase. Cary gets out a folder and takes credit for finding the money hidden in the footnote. After expressing her distaste for the adjective “hidden,” Rochelle puts on her glasses and checks out the SEC filing where Kalinda found the note. And then she laughs at David for raising a fuss about a sum so paltry. “The joint venture is a Rhode Island LLC called J.C. Partners,” Kalinda interrupts. “And its once beneficiary is Jacob Carlisle.” Now Gross stops ogling his fiancee through the glass wall and turns a pale, angry face to Kalinda. “That’s the four year old son of Darla Carlisle, the woman that Mr. Gross had a one night stand with in Greensboro in 2008 at a shareholders meeting.” David flutters his fingers at Dina, twisting the knife. So what’s the threat, Rochelle wonders. “Cough up the money, or we’ll tell our client?” We thought we’d discuss it, David Lee replies. “Extortion? Not even you would sink that low.” Sure I would, Lee sneers, and oh do I believe him.
Leaning forward, Rochelle pitches her voice low. “I’m gonna call the State’s Attorney’s office, you’re gonna forfeit your license,” she threatens. Neil Gross, on the other hand, doesn’t want the law involved. Or the publicity, or even a public record of his transgressions, no doubt. He stands, nodding. “Give them what they want,” he declares, heading out and bending Dina back in a deep kiss in the hallway. “Ah, young love,” David Lee mocks. Oh, Neil. Do you think that telling Dina would possibly be worse than not telling her? Do you think she won’t find it easier to overlook what your life was before her, than to forgive you for shutting her out of your life this way? (On the other hand, it does suggest that he wouldn’t undercut your stock options if he’s being that generous with his accidental hidden child.)
“So, Mr. Hayden,” Louis Canning begins his questioning of the trustee, “you probably had the best available view of all the shenanigans at Lockhart/Gardner.” Diane objects “as to shenanigans” and Canning rephrases, but I don’t really care because I’m so distracted by Clarke’s wide, wide pink tie. “Well,” Clarke says, “I was the trustee.” Is he not the trustee anymore? Now that I think about it, isn’t Clarke totally culpable if there were in fact clear shenanigans going on? Canning wants to know how Clarke feels about the partnership/popsicle/pay off scheme. Mr. Hayden looks long and hard at Will and Diane before sighing and admitting that no, he didn’t think it was a worthy idea. His view is that they pay their partners too well, which has helped cause their perpetual cash flow problems. Hmm. Fascinating. “Minting new partners is not a solution.” So it was a money raising scheme, Canning guesses, but Diane objects and is sustained.
Rephrasing, Canning asks accountant Clarke to multiply 600k by 5, which of course is 3 million dollars. This would give the illusion of lowering the debt, Canning suggests, but really is a pyramid scheme; Diane almost has an apoplexy at the term. Okay, strike that. “In this context, how would you characterize the offer of employment in exchange for money?” Um, isn’t that normally defined as a job, Louis? Though he finds it a crude description, Clarke agrees that it was apt – it is a type of pyramid scheme. And is this dangling of employment an extraordinary thing to do? “No, I’m afraid not,” Hayden contradicts Canning.
“It’s not? Why is it not?” Canning’s taken aback. “Well, just the other day, you offered me employment in exchange for…” Canning tries to move on, which is just wonderful. Does he think everyone in the room is deaf? Let the witness answer, Diane cries. “The answer was irrelevant,” Canning asserts. How handy for you if it were so, Louis! But no, neither Diane nor the judge find it irrelevant. “I was saying just the other day, you offered me employment, Mr. Canning, in exchange for continued help in these proceedings.” Canning’s mouth hangs open. “Move to strike as non-responsive,” he argues, and Judge Chase practically laughs in his face.
“Under oath, sir,” Canning tries, “did I ever make an offer of employment to you contingent on your assistance in this hearing?” No, Clarke replies, “but the clear import was…” No further questions, Canning cuts him off. Good luck with that one, buster. “What exactly did Mr. Canning offer you?” Diane’s question is out of her mouth before she’s all the way on her feet; you can hear that she’s genuinely curious. “”He intimated that there would be a job at his law firm for me when these proceedings were over.” And yes, he asked for detailed information about L&G cases before he made the offer. Canning slumps in his seat, looking tiny and embarrassed, avoiding Judge Chase’s shocked eyes. That woke the judge up for sure! When Diane thanks Clarke for his testimony, we (and he) can tell she means it. “You’re welcome,” he replies, just as fervent.
It’s party time back at the office – we got the next five month extension, so champagne for everyone! Yup, yet another reason we can’t stay afloat. “And Mrs. Gross is thinking of assigning us her entire Mid-West book of business,” David Lee gloats. So hurrah! The tide is turning, Diane toasts. Nope, we haven’t heard that before. “The vultures from real estate are hoovering up all the shrimp,” David Lee snarls and wanders off in search of remaining crustaceans. Next, Cary and Clarke show up to clink their glasses with the name partners. “Mr. Hayden,” Will shakes his head, “we don’t know what to say. So thank you.”
“I confess,” Diane smiles, “I don’t understand your motivation.” That’s because you haven’t gotten Cary’s pep talk on moral clarity! “Well, I don’t agree with how you run your business, but you paid me the compliment of not assuming I was for sale,” Clarke explains. Righto. Will wishes him good luck with the bar exam, and he nods gratefully. ‘Well, it has been interesting here,” Clarke understates. “I don’t know if I’ll miss it, or…. no, I won’t miss it.” Ha! Is it wrong that I just want to hug him? He’s so cute. And squishy looking.
And, oh my goodness. There’s Alicia, martyring herself at her desk, and Louis Canning has somehow snuck into her office like the supernatural little imp he is, leaning on her doorframe making snide comments. “And they ate and drank and made merry, all save poor little Cinderella, who toiled amidst the revelry.” She favors him with an enormous false grin. “Mr. Canning, I thought you’d be off somewhere licking your wounds.” Ah, Alicia, don’t you know by now that this is his way of licking his wounds? He doesn’t feel better until he’s figured out a way to make someone else – and you should notice this, because it’s usually you – feel worse. He chuckles. “I’m a quick healer.” He sidles into her office, explaining he had to sign the extension; she scoffs at this excuse.
“You know what the best thing about Monopoly is?” he asks before rhapsodizing about the Get Out of Jail Free card, and how deeply he loved hoarding it. “Mr. Canning, I hate these stories,” she interrupts. “Whatever it is you need to say, just say it. I don’t need the story.” He tosses a business card on her desk (one of his), and then scuttles off. Another job offer? Does he really think she’s just that splendid, or at this point is it the thrill of the hunt? He’s quite tenacious.
“What did he want?” Diane wonders, breaking into Alicia’s revery. “Mr. Canning? It was a personal matter, nothing important.” Wow, that was cold and unnecessary. Alicia drops the card into her desk drawer. Well, Diane’s here on a professional matter. “Your absence from the festivities is sending quite a message to the partners.” Huh. Oh, Alicia replies, still a bit sneery and offended. “What message might that be?” “That you’re not vested in our little enterprise,” Diane replies, smiling. “You’re pouting. It’s unbecoming.” Well, I don’t know if it’s unbecoming (such a sexist phrase, no?) but she’s definitely pouting. “No,” shrugs Alicia delicately. “I’m working.”
Diane sits, champagne flute still in one hand. Ah, okay, there’s Cary’s desk. I feel better. “You know why I was made partner?” she confesses. “Because Jonas Stern was sued for sexual harassment, and he needed to show that he had a female partner. That’s all.” Ah. Alicia does not unbend, but she’s listening. “When the door that you have been knocking at finally swings open, you don’t ask why. You run through. That is the simple fact. No one is here to make it comofrtable for you. No one is here to appreciate your moping.” Yes, it’s true. This might have been a nice moment for Will to step in in years past, to comfort and affirm her, but that’s not what this is about, is it? This moment – and this series – is about Alicia claiming something for herself, warts and all. “So this is my advice to you,” Diane continues, a nice book end to her speech at the start of the hour. “Take a minute for yourself. Put on your best gracious voice, find a way to wear a smile, and come into the conference room ready to thank the equity partners for giving you this opportunity. Because what is given can quickly be taken away.” On that note, Diane leaves.
She knows she’s done her job. Before Diane’s finished pouring herself another glass of champagne, Alicia’s gadding about the room, glad handing every equity partner she can see. And the first ones up for her stiff little speech are Will and David Lee. I’m so grateful and excited, she says. I won’t disapoint you, she says. “We know you won’t,” Will smiles. “Just one thing,” David Lee calls up (he’s lounging in a chair), “it’s all about client maintenance.” Ah. Is that his version of plastics? She moves on, next to Diane. “Thank you for thinking of me for this position,” Alicia recites. It’s painful, really. (Also, I don’t like it, because this party is about something totally different. Maybe if she’d gone about it more smoothly? If there was some sort of segue into the topic? She so needs schmoozing lessons from Peter. Of course the fact that she’s trying at all blows my mind.)
“I won’t disappoint you,” she repeats. “Good,” nods Diane. “Well, you haven’t in the past, and we know you won’t in the future.” Love the use of the royal we! As Alicia continues shaking hands and making that painful effort, Diane’s smile turns thoughtful, and finally displeased.
Wow, what an episode. First off, let me say that the guest stars were deployed perfectly. This wasn’t a showcase or a bid for a guest starring Emmy (not that there’s anything wrong with that); the lesser characters were woven in so smoothly, at the service of the larger story. I can say the same for Peter, actually. In fact, in a season where fans have been frustrated by the number of celebrity guest stars, this year our writers have employed Peter in perfect doses. He shows up whenever you need him, and isn’t bogged down with weighty story lines when you don’t. Every time I think, “for this to work, we really need to see Peter,” poof! He’s there. We all know this has not been the case in the past, when he was doled out so stingily they had stand ins at his own campaign events; kudos to whoever got Chris Noth’s scheduling so right.
But as it should be, this was a story about Alicia, beautifully balanced. And it’s a story of Alicia learning to balance, thinking about what she wants in her life, doing what she needs to achieve it. She seems to really be accepting that in order to get what she wants, she has to put up with a lot that she doesn’t. Yes, finding out that her longed for promotion wasn’t the pure result of her skill and hard work was gutting. (Is it weird to suggest that we enjoy seeing her hurt? Not that we don’t love seeing her deliver a smackdown, but episodes where she’s wrecked tend to be fan favorites, too.) But the way Alicia swallows her pride and steps up afterwards, taking advantage of an opportunity no matter how it came to her – well, it’s impressive. Because yes, I totally get it. She felt like she was punched in the gut on that witness stand, and still she delivered what was needed like a good girl, a good student. But she’s working in a world too cut throat to give her the pat on the back she craved. And perhaps ultimately, it isn’t even outside validation she needs.
Surely that’s a least a part of the subtext of Diane’s anti-pouting speech; if you know how hard you worked, why do we need to tell you? Whose approval does she need? Why does she want to be a partner? Is it the status? The money? The work? The power? The control? Yes, she’s ambitious – a “good” girl should be – but for what? Yes, she wants it known that she earned it – but is that the most important thing about the promotion? Alicia’s capitulation at the end, where she takes Diane’s advice and plays office politics (something she’s long eschewed as beneath her) isn’t only shocking for its own sake. It’s also a marked contrast to her response to Maddie’s baiting, when she admits to being an atheist because it’s the “honest” thing to do, even though it might torpedo Peter’s campaign. If she can learn to accept the warts on her work life, can she do it in her personal life? Can she learn to trust again in a relationship, seeing someone for who he really is (ie, warty) and love him anyway? As with Dina and Neil Gross, it’s fascinating to see where people draw the lines between their work and private lives, where commercial or politics blur with personal relationships. There’s so much meat in that comparison, in Dina clinging to this idea of just being a girl in love, trying to be noble, trying to pretend that the contract says nothing about Neil’s attitude toward her. How do you find yourself in compromise? How do you know where the line you can’t cross rests? In the end, like Alicia, Dina sucks it up and signs.
Then there’s the episode title to unpack. It’s not the most obvious title, since California and its seven day rule become irrelevant almost immediately. But Alicia was offered seven days to think about the partnership offer, and it turns out, she really needed the time. Is that our point, then? Taking the time? Dina went into the deliberative process – the crucial seven days – thinking she knew all the answers, and came out of it realizing that she and Neil hadn’t even discussed some of the most important issues in their relationship. Though both she and Alicia sign on the dotted line, Alicia learns something from her contemplation. Dina chooses to ignore the unspoken rules, and keeps her ideological purity while being “rescued” by extortion; Alicia decides to step up and play by them.
Of course, there’s the whole 7 day Christian Creation story as well, as referenced by David Lee in negotiations. We had multiple little undercurrents of religion this week as we looked at characters’s life choices: the campaign needs to know about Alicia’s beliefs, and Neil and Dina turn out to have religious convictions that matter too little for them to mention, and yet enough to nearly derail their relationship when they come to light. Perhaps religion, like money, is something we like to think we don’t need to talk about, something we like to think we don’t need – but something entwined in our lives nonetheless.
Anyone who reads this space knows that Alicia’s snobbery about her atheism annoys me, especially in the context of her education – but on the other hand, her snobbery in general helps make her a fascinating character. Because she cares so much what her coworkers think of her, she utterly disdains to play office politics, feeling like her work should speak for her. But to prove that she’s above petty social networking, she’s rude. As her treatment of Jordan makes clear, she’s not going to pretend to be nice. No, she wants him to know that she’s not something he can use, that she exists outside of the campaign, that she’ll only enter the game on her terms – so she’s queenly and dismissive. It makes sense, but it’s definitely abrasive, and it’s fascinating to observe in someone who is not merely deeply empathetic, but also cares so very much about the opinions of others. When you think about it, it’s not really so different from the way Neil Gross treats the lawyers who’re trying to get their hands on his money.
Finally, I have to say a word about David Lee and his little tactics, looking to drive a wedge between Dina and Neil, but one not so large as to break them apart. Really, that whole thing was so loathsome even thinking about it makes me want to shower. Now, we know that no matter what they claim in court or tell themselves, the bankruptcy drives lots of decision-making at L&G; that said, I don’t think that makes any difference to David Lee’s intense pursuit of a client’s money. But when Cary talks to Clarke about practicing law, you have to wonder where his conscience stands. Cary! What a fascinating episode for him, all the back and forthing and seeming sincerity. Of course, it looks like it might be a pretty good idea to have that wedge pop Dina right out of what seems like a creepy situation, so watching Cary smooth talk her into giving Neil another shot upset me. What I wouldn’t give for a straightforward case where Alicia gets to Perry Mason her way to victory! We go to a lot of dark places to get a victory, but like Dina, I’d rather see that victory be about an ideal (justice) instead of just money. Ironically, while I was writing this recap I stumbled upon the fantastically named Viviana Zelizer, a sociologist who writes about the way economics permeates life choices and cultural structures we don’t think of as being economically driven. What is the price of intimacy? I’m not comfortable with greed, but I can’t chastise Dina for not understanding that Neil’s contractual choices have emotional meaning, while I complain about the show focusing too much on ugly financial choices. Money unveils morality. It’s all relevant.
I think I could talk about this episode forever – so stop me, please! What did you guys think? Did you love it as much as I did? And like me, did you love it because it made you think? Should we feel guilty for loving an episode where Alicia’s so deeply hurt? Should the public care if Alicia and Maddie are atheists; do they really? Did Maddie play Alicia into her matching confession, and was that whole event mismanaged by Peter’s team, or was it better to get the issue over with immediately? What do you make of the episode title, and Louis Canning’s relentless courting of Alicia, and Clarke Hayden’s return to being a good guy? Do you wish he’d come and work at Lockhart/Gardner once he passes the bar, or are you happy to see the end of him? Tell me I’m not the only one still thinking about this episode, please.