E: All the important elements are here – great guest stars (Veronica and Owen, how we love you!), internal drama, a twisty case of the week, political maneuvering, and an onion-like episode title (layers!) – but there are some worrisome under-layers, too. Major and minor characters make some pretty questionable decisions and cross a not- insignificant number of lines. (Curious which ones bother me? They might not be the ones you think.) The ramp up to the season-ending gubernatorial election goes epic.
(Also, confess. How many of you read the episode title and couldn’t helping singing this? Wouldn’t you love to know if the cast and crew had the same reaction?)
The title may evoke weddings (and the Constitution) but this episode begins with a wake – specifically, with Alicia and Owen standing in front of a closed coffin in an empty room, twitching uncomfortably because they have no idea who’s in the box. There is something just so marvelous about the way Dallas Roberts twitches, and not merely in itself but in contrast to his boundless conversational confidence. The siblings are making an appearance at the behest of – yes! – Veronica (“have you ever noticed that the older mom gets, the younger her friends get?”), and Owen has a theory about why they’re alone with a corpse; she’s given them the wrong time to make sure they’re not late. This theory feels true enough to make Alicia grit her teeth. “I hate it when she does that.”
“You’re missing the point,” she bites, sitting down in the still empty room as staff trundle by with the requisite massive flower arrangements. “I love him!” That’s right, because everything with them comes down to Alicia’s love life; her brother’s an excellent audience-surrogate that way. Owen, who’s seated next to her and turned to face her, snaps back that she doesn’t, presumptuous as only a sibling can be. “Stop saying that,” she hisses, “he’s … changed.” “Oh. My. God.,” her brother puffs, clearly unable to believe what he’s hearing, “you are one of those Oprah women. I am gonna take you out back and give you a spanking.” This can’t help but elicit a smile. “He slept with prostitutes, that doesn’t change.”
Alicia leans forward, still whispering. “Why do you and Mom keep pushing me toward Will?” Was he? Nice, unsubtle subject change, sweetie. Who else thought she was going with “keep bringing that up?” Maybe she feels like she doesn’t have a good counter-argument about the prostitutes, or maybe she just wants to talk about the Will-conundrum and doesn’t quite know how to broach the subject. Wiggling his eyebrows, Owen gives his sister a significant look. “You just brought him up. Hm? You’re tempted.” Well, she can’t deny that. And she doesn’t. “It’s not a good thing,” she declares, looking stuffed. “Your body is telling you something,” Owen replies, and now it’s his older sister’s turn to cry “Oh. My. God.” Hee. She’s not wrong. “Stop it. Is that what you tell your students in advanced algebra?” Let’s hope he doesn’t get quite that off topic in class. “Statistical modeling,” he corrects her. “Your body is telling you something?” she quotes him, just as appalled as she should be. That’s also so not the way to get Alicia to change her mind about something. (Although, it’s an interesting question – is what matters most her marriage vows, because you have to choose your spouse over and over throughout a marriage? Which matters more, what she does, or what she feels? Does she have an out from her vows because of what Peter did, or do they still apply?)
So instead, he leans in with a juicier question: did Will kiss her, or did she kiss him? Looks like someone is in the know about big sis’s recent indiscretion. She leans back, lasciviously reflective. “Both,” she admits, lost in the memory. “I love it when that happens,” Owen coos. Don’t we all. “It was a mistake,” she replies virtuously, lifting her chin.
“What happened last time?” Owen asks, with all the sympathy in the world. “why’d you break it off?” Her explanation intrigues me: “It didn’t seem like a long term thing,” she offers. Why would that be, I wonder? Let’s think. Could it be, I don’t know, because you insisted it could only be sex? Because whenever he tried to talk to you about feelings – not that he was very impressive in those efforts – you ruthlessly shut him down? That could certainly be a reason to break off a relationship, but that particular affair? Only if you want to posit that she refused to let it be about more than sex because she just wasn’t interested in him as a person, and we know that’s not true. More like, she wanted to be bad with someone safe and trustworthy. Moving on… Tart as ever, Owen mocks her for shortening a relationship because it didn’t seem like it would last. She’s struggling to find a flaw in his logic when she notices the approach of a tiny, troublesome dynamo. “Uh oh. Here’s Mom. Owen, don’t say a word!”
As she greets and kisses her children, Veronica teases them for hiding away from the rest of the gathering, and indeed, we can see there are people out in the hall. You’d think the body would be where the action was, so to speak. “We don’t know anyone,” Alicia puzzles. Of course you don’t, Veronica laughs, that’s why you need to come out so I can introduce you. So how do you know the deceased, Alicia wonders. “Oh I don’t, ” Veronica replies as if the question is patently absurd. “I never met him. Oh no, it’s Charlene, the wife. She’s Malcolm’s niece.” Ah, okay, dear departed Malcolm, the most recent ex-Mr. Veronica. “She’s the sweet one – and she’s got a great haircut. Come on,” she snaps her fingers, “you’ll see.” You know, I never thought of Stockard Channing as short until I watched this show (Abby Bartlet must have been shot differently), but she seems dwarfed by everyone. An overpowering personality for sure, but a surprisingly petite package.
Also what is her deal with hair? She’s always going on about it. Odd. Alicia raises her hands to Owen and mock her mom’s hair comment – but still falls into line behind her.
“Mrs. Peterson, I am so sorry for your loss,” Owen turns on the puppy dog eyes yet again, trapping Charlene’s hand between both of his. Thanks, she says – and hey, it’s Carla Buono, who played Ryan’s old love interest on Castle a month ago (and also looks so much like Anne Dudek of Covert Affairs that it freaked me out the entire episode of Castle). Then she squints, wondering aloud who he is. Oh, I’m Veronica’s son, he says, pointing to his mom. He’s the mathematician, Mom smiles helpfully, and jerks her chin at Alicia to her right, “and this one’s the lawyer.” As Alicia offers her condolences, Charlene becomes markedly more animated. “Thank you for coming – and thank you so much for agreeing to do this.” Uh oh. What has Veronica volunteered her for now? Baffled, Alicia’s eyebrows shoot for the ceiling, but she merely responds with a hesitant “you’re welcome?” At just this moment, Fran Kranz of Dollhouse peers over Charlene’s shoulder. “We didn’t know who to call – Eugene, this is the lawyer.” Fran extends his hand and his gratitude.
As they shake hands, Charlene excuses herself. “Eugene works there too,” she adds, in no way decreasing Alicia’s confusion. Thank you again, so much, for doing this, she finishes. Yikes.
Alicia nods, pretending she knows what’s going on, but as Charlene pulls back, she leans over to Veronica. “What’s going on, Mom?” she hisses. “You’re so generous with your time,” Veronica non-answers. Awesome: looks like Veronica has just been generous with Alicia’s time. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Florrick,” Eugene rejoins them. “It was just such a surprise to be given a 48 hour deadline.” Ugh. Indeed. But poor Alicia. “I… I’m sorry,” Alicia’s forced to admit. “Could you tell me what you’re talking about?” Poor Eugene looks stunned; Veronica, that’s not nice of you. Turns out that Eugene and Charlene and someone named Frank are coders for a software company called Blowtorch. “Frank?” Alicia wonders, and again, Eugene looks stunned. “The … deceased?” I’m ready to die of embarrassment on her behalf for not recognizing his name. Don’t funeral home usually have a sign up, so you know that kind of info going in? Mortified, she closes her eyes.
Anyway. They’ve been working on a new product and have been working 18 hour shifts. Which, as it happens, lead to Frank falling asleep at the wheel on his way home for Charlene’s birthday and ending up here. Dead. Wow. But don’t think wrongful death is where Alicia’s services come in, oh no. Blowtorch has handed out a new contract for the coders and given them the aforementioned 48 hours to sign. Eugene waves the document at Alicia. Oh my God, she says, shocked. “And that’s why this contract rankles so much – it doesn’t protect us on overtime, or number of hours, and it also says we can’t file suit.” Yep. Bastards. He think – and the timing is certainly suspicious – that they’re worried about Charlene suing. Gee, I wonder why? They want to know if they should sign or not, Veronica cuts to the chase. Alicia shoots her mom a dirty look. “Well,” she says, turning back to Eugene, “I can pull up some comparable contracts for you, but I really shouldn’t be advising…” No, no, he’s grateful for anything she can do. After he thanks her once again, she goes back to glaring at Veronica, who ignores her. Owen walks up, having somehow procured food. “It’s too bad nobody needs free math work,” he snarks, crunching down on his cracker.
At campaign headquarters, Peter’s got a crew at his conference table, mostly white-haired white men, stodgy establishment-looking types. “Let’s try not to kill anyone during the transition,” he chuckles, and they all laugh like the practiced sycophants they must be. Then he looks up. “Oops,” he observes, “looks like I have a meeting with a very severe looking pollster.” What? Oh my heavens, it’s Matt the hipster pollster! No way! It’s been so long! I thought we were never going to see him again; what a delightful surprise. Peter’s happy to see him, too, and wonders how D.C. is (thus explaining his absence through the campaign). “It was awful,” Matt spits out, as if unable to express just how much. Hee.
As soon as Peter’s murmured to the one woman in the room that he’d like to talk to Alicia (ugh, really, the only woman – and practically the only person of color – has to be his assistant?), he asks Matt to sit. Turning on the charm, he worries that their internal polling is a little “overly optimistic” and thanks Matt for taking a look at the numbers, just to be sure. “And I just don’t want to get caught with my pants down, you know what I mean?” Like Mitt Romney, of course. Um. Polling wise. Not the other pants issue. Matt gets it. In fact, there’s an intensity in his flat tone and glare that ought to clue Peter in to the problem, but he’s not ready to understand. “Well,” Peter chuckles, drawing back, “that was quite a freighted pause.” Matt the hipster-pollster is forced to say it outright; “your internals are overly optimistic.” Even with this bit of honesty, and even though Peter had ostensibly called Matt in for just this scenario, Peter’s optimism doesn’t slip. “Our pollsters have us up by 5%, do you think that’s wrong?” Yes, Matt replies steadily, it is. Matt’s got a whole document to prove his version of the numbers; he thinks their internals over-estimated the youth and the African American votes, putting Peter down by 2%. Damn.
Peter can’t believe it. “Can somebody, anybody, get me Eli!” he calls out loudly. “The vote is in two weeks,” he reiterates, “and I’m losing?” Yes, but. There’s still hope. If we can only increase Kresteva’s negatives with women, Peter would be there; if I go negative on him, my own negatives go up, Peter points out. “Yes, but not your wife’s,” Matt suggests, then clarifying that Peter’s public image doesn’t suffer if he uses Alicia as his attack dog. The poll told you that, did it? Frowning, Peter’s silent.
“No,” he says finally.
“It’s the only way that…” Matt leans forward, hoping to impress the gravity of the situation on his sometimes boss, but Peter cuts him off, waving his hands. He couldn’t do such a thing. He won’t make Alicia his pawn. The pretty assistant hands over his phone, and he stands, pacing. I get the efficiency, but I find it so weird that he hands over his own personal cell phone to staff – it feels weirdly intimate, somehow. “Eli, where are you?” he asks urgently.
Of course on the other end of the line is Alicia, brilliant in red and black, bending over something in her office. “In Alicia’s office,” she replies, her eyes twinkling, and he apologizes and asks after her day. He calls her honey. Aw. She’s picking out rugs for her fancy new office; there are several spread around the room beside the one she’s squatting over. When she asks after his day in return, his response comes out more like he’s choking on something. “Peter, are you okay?” Perhaps debating what to tell her, he shakes his head. “No, I’m fine. Would you have dinner with me tonight?” Sure. And then she does it again – she asks him why. (First, Alicia, there’s this thing called food which your body needs to survive. Then there’s the sociological level in which people who like each other enjoy sharing a meal.) He makes an interesting face. “Just a thank you for the Charlie Rose interview on Thursday,” he claims, clearly lying.
“You don’t have to thank me,” she blushes, all delighted school girl. He knows. “I don’t have to thank you, I want to thank you.” As Alicia notices Nancy Crozier tripping down the hall, she and Peter confirm dinner at 8 on the campaign bus. Done.
And, look at that, a perky red-head who looks a bit like Lana Del Rey (but is really Mandy Siegfried, otherwise known as Meredith Grey’s youngest half sister Molly) leads Nancy into Alicia’s office. Nancy’s hair is just barely shorter, spikier, making her look edgier and less doe-like than in days past. “Hi,” she smiles, chirpy. “I like that rug. My mom has one just like it.” Oh, Nancy, poisonously sweet as ever. After casting a rueful look at the rug (abstract lines in black white and gray – it looks a bit like a medical graph, actually), Alicia smirks a thank you. “Nancy Crozier. What can I do for you?” Actually, Nancy wants to do something for Alicia. “We’re offering a 2% increase to the top twenty,” she replies, stepping delicately into the room as if it were walking into a stable and trying to avoid chunks of manure. “But that’s it.”
Of course the audience knows exactly what she’s referencing, but it takes Alicia longer to get a clue. “Mr. Genlow is within his rights to fire them. He doesn’t want to, but he runs a business. We think 2%’s very fair.” With characteristic bluntness, Alicia demands Nancy come out and tell her what the hell she’s talking about. Blinking, Nancy over-enunciates as if Alicia’s just told her she was deaf. “Blowtorch. We’ve been told you’re the one consulting with the employees?” Oh, THAT. Yes, now you’re caught up with the audience. She smiles to herself. “We just want them to sign their contracts,” Nancy finishes. I’ll let them know, Alicia replies, trying to contain her smirk. It seems like a really aggressive response, seeking her out like this. Moving to her desk, Alicia seems to expect Nancy to just go away.
But no, Nancy needs it to be known that she’s not bluffing but in deadly earnest; Alicia doesn’t bother to hide her disinterest. “Earnest, good, got it.” Letting that snappy retort sink in, Nancy frowns. “Alicia, I like you. I don’t want to see you make a mistake.” Alicia stares. “I’m not sure what mistake I might make, but I am glad you like me.” Her delivery is so snotty and rude and unprofessional and I really kind of love it, but of course Nancy doesn’t, because she narrows her eyes and compresses her lips and nods. “I don’t like sarcasm. It’s cheap.” Alicia holds a document in front of her with both hands, as if by focusing on it she could make her nemesis disappear. “Thank you, Nancy, we will be in touch.”
I do like Mamie Gummer. She’s adorable.
I’m much less enamored of shouting, however, and what we get next is an ugly shouting matching involving – guess who – David Lee and Will Gardner, and unfortunately their subject seems to be Alicia’s not-case. We don’t get involved with labor disputes, Lee hollers. It’s a hard and fast rule. (Why? I thought we were an all service firm.) “And if we did, it wouldn’t be this piddly-squeak coder stuff.” Diane greets Alicia as she walks into the viper’s nest. After saying that partners don’t need to clear their new cases, Diane proceeds to critique Alicia’s new case. Turns out that Blowtorch has sent a cease and desist order (which makes Alicia squirm and me wince – can you really ask someone to cease talking to a lawyer?) but it also turns out that this isn’t Diane’s real problem. Oddly enough, it’s that Blowtorch is a competitor of ChumHum’s in some way. I wouldn’t have anticipated that (search engine, software company) but okay.
“Look, I’m sorry this has become a thing,” Alicia apologizes. “They are not my new clients. This is just a really simple favor for my mom.” Or so you can keep telling yourself, Alicia. “For Veronica?” David Lee asks, in a tone which is both unusually interested and almost – tender? Small wonder that Alicia’s head whips around like a dog whose chain has been yanked. “How is she?” I’m stunned. I mean, I know they get along, but I’ve always assumed he was gay. (And proving Jane Austen’s theory that a lady’s imagination moves from admiration to love to matrimony in an instant, I am immediately obsessed with the idea of David Lee becoming Veronica’s latest conquest and Alicia’s latest stepfather. I mean, come on. How preposterously hilarious would that be?) Good, Alicia replies, creeped out. He wriggles his shoulders. “Tell her … hi… from me,” he flirts. Oh my God. I can’t help giggling at the look on her face (horror, disgust) when she agrees to pass on his greeting.
Diane and Blowtorch provide a happy distraction, and Alicia provides a quick explanation of the little she’s going to do for Charlene and Eugene. “They think you’re the lawyer,” Will observes. (She knows. She’s sorry.) Management/labor cases can be a bit tricky, Diane points out. “Don’t worry, this’ll be fast,” Alicia promises. Sounds like famous last words to me.
“But the galling thing is the maternity leave,” Cary tells Alicia – which is to say, there isn’t any. Most places offer at least a month. (No wonder Cary’s so desperate to leave; look, he’s still got shrink-wrapped furniture cluttering his office.) So I should ask for a month, Alicia replies. No, Cary answers, teaching her her business; she should ask for two months so she gets the one month that she wants. (At the State’s Attorney’s office, he negotiated down from three.) His other suggestions would be overtime for work weeks exceding 60 hours, and a structure for performance-based bonuses. Alicia’s appreciative of his time. Oddly enough, the red-headed Lana Del Ray-lite assistant is taking notes on their meeting. I’m casting about, trying to think of the last time we’ve seen an assistant do that, to no avail. “Lorna, can you get me these in triplicate?” Alicia asks the red-head. Lana is really Lorna? Wonderful!
And with that, Lana-Lorna walks into what’s presumably a lunchroom full of women. “Do any of you get overtime if your workweek exceeds 60 hours?” she asks without preamble. From the looks on their faces, I’m thinking no. And I’m thinking that’s why the writers invited her along to Cary and Alicia’s meeting; so she could cause trouble. “Do you?” one of the women asks. “No. I just came from a meeting with Cary and Alicia, and they were arguing it was unfair not to.” Oh, dear. Is this why we never take labor management cases? (I’m still confused by this, since we’ve done cases dealing with unjust contracts between labor and management.) The seated assistants exchange looks of shock and annoyance.
For a tiny thing, Alicia’s got Cary and a few other people in the main conference room with Nancy, Eugene and Charlene, the latter of whom arrives late, looking awkward and self-conscious. You don’t need to be here, Alicia tells her – but it’s okay, she wants to be. Alright. “Mrs. Peterson, we’re very sorry for your loss,” Nancy interjects, winning a nasty look from Alicia. Cary forges ahead, saying that – as you can see from their comparable contracts – they need guidelines for what constitutes just termination. Seems eminently reasonable. “Yes, except none of those other contracts were for coders,” the management’s lawyer complains. Indeed – but they’re contract workers just like Blowtorch’s coders. “Eugene, Charlene,” Nancy begins with that patronizing tone she does so well, “do you consider yourself equivalent to shop workers, pipe layers, and janitorial services personnel? Aren’t you more like artists? Entrepreneurs?” So, wait, she’s denigrating pipe layers while saying that their benefits are too good for the coders? That’s quite an impressive line of reasoning. Very elastic.
Let’s just stick to the contract law, Alicia suggests. “These lawyers want to talk in dollars and cents,” Nancy turns her focus completely on Eugene and Charlene, neatly ignoring the fact that she is also a lawyer and also talking in dollars and cents. “But – that’s not what your work is about.” Yes, that’s right. Talented people hate getting compensated for their labor. Why, it hardly even counts as labor! Alicia rolls her eyes, but Cary’s clearly enjoying this. “It’s about… magic. It’s about genius.” Then why don’t you pay them like geniuses, Alicia wonders wryly, and Nancy’s head snaps toward her like a snake. “Them… who exactly is them?” Nancy asks.
And so Eugene pushes forward a piece of paper with 20 names on it – 20 coders “who’ve signed on.” Whatever that means. Signed on with Alicia? Cary smoothly picks up the ball, calling Nancy’s attention to the maternity leave question, but her attention will not be had. “Um, I don’t think we need to go any further,” she says, closing her eyes, and receives a thick stack of envelopes from the flunky to her left. “Letters of dismissal,” she says, setting down the stack between Charlene (at the head of the table) and Eugene. “Blowtorch thanks you for your many years of dedication.” Alicia’s jaw drops. I guess this was the mistake Nancy warned her not to make.
Wait, she cries, this isn’t necessary. We wish you the best in y our future endeavors, Nancy finishes. “This isn’t’ the way to handle this,” Alicia snaps. “Yes,” Nancy agrees, icy and precise, “but this is way we’re choosing to handle it. Your desks have been cleared and your belongings have been messenger-ed home.” Wow. So nothing they could have said here would have helped? “You are really amazing, you know that?” Alicia growls at Nancy, who gives her a look from one eye. “I do know that,” she agrees. (Let’s not blame Nancy for Blowtorch’s choices, okay?) “We’re looking for artists, not employees,” she raises her hands to Eugene and Charlene, losing my sympathy because what?
Wait, wait, Eugene sputters, I’ll sign it. I’ll sign right now. “Eugene, no!” Charlene cries, but Nancy replies delicately that it’s too late. “We’re worried that your attitude will infect our other artists.” Alicia’s eyes flutter closed in frustration.
And here’s Alicia looking more content but still lady-like, slice of pizza in her hand, checkered napkin in her lap, Peter grumbling on the phone about the campaign in the background. There’s a bottle of wine in front of her – of course there is. He hands off his phone to an unseen aid. “Well,” she says, her face sour, “sounds like we’re both having a bad day.” He leans against the wall, sighing. “Yeah. What’s yours about?” I got twenty people fired, she confesses, how about you? “They want me to go negative on Kresteva. Point out his sexism,” he explains, sitting next to his wife. Sexism? Well, I guess that makes sense since it’s about women voting for him, but that’s somehow not what I would have expected him to say.
Not while you’re up by 5 points, Alicia cries in surprise. Peter rests his head on his fist, looking fatigued and worried and, yeah, defeated. Everything alright, Alicia asks, concerned, and Peter shakes it off and lies that everything’s fine. Why not tell her about Matt’s verdict on the internal numbers? “How’s your pizza?” he asks instead. I hate it when the people on this show lie to each other for the sake of sparing each other’s feelings. There’s something really adorably aware in her answer; “it’s our first date pizza,” she notes. He takes the wine off the coffee table (which is covered with a red checked table cloth). “And wine out of the bottle,” he says, waving it at her before taking a swig. She chuckles, a rich, happy sound. “Well, almost like our first date,” she grins, taking the bottle. Almost, he agrees, and then reaches back into his jacket pocket to produce a small black box. He passes it back and forth between his hands before extending it to her.
She freezes. ‘What’s that, Peter?” she asks suspiciously. “That is a ring.” Still cautious, she takes the box. “But I already have one.” He nods, smiling slightly. “In two weeks I’m going to know whether I’m in office or not. Either way I have a week off.” He bites his lip. “I want you to come with me to Hawaii and renew our vows.”
Alicia closes her eyes, embarrassed. “Peter,” she shakes her head, opening the box. “Just consider it,” he asks as she opens the box to a large, square cut stone set in what’s likely a delicate platinum band studded with tiny diamonds. Pave diamonds? I don’t know jewelry that well, but whatever it is is very pretty. Her jaw drops a little, and her face gets all gooey – which I actually kind of hate, because how can the ring merit a bigger reaction than his words? The ring should never be the more exciting part of the equation. (I’ll admit that’s a pet peeve of mine, that soppy looks that women on film get about engagement rings, so maybe I’m being oversensitive.) She holds up the box, looking at him, shocked. “I don’t know,” she says seriously.
“Why?” he whispers. “Because things are good right now,” she replies (and can’t you hear Owen having a field day with that reasoning?) “but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way.” (Er, I’m glad she’s giving this thoughtful contemplation, but I hope she takes a good look at what her feelings are – as opposed to what she wants them to be – before she decides. Don’t let this be like people who get pregnant in order to save their marriage.) Doesn’t mean they won’t, he says, ignoring the more potent argument, which is, that’s exactly what marriage is, being committed when things change. Marriage: it’s not just for the good times. “No,” she shakes her head,” they never do.” I’m waiting for him to argue that he’s changed, he’s proven himself, something to allay her fears. He doesn’t. “Well, all I know is that … I love you,” he tells her. Then waits. “Come on, say it,” he prompts. She looks back down at the ring, wishing she could.
Cary looks pained. “You’re at-will employees,” he explains, “the company can terminate you for any non-discriminatory reason.” Robyn (wearing a surprisingly formal, 80s inspired black and white jacket) sits down next to him. We can see at least 9 of Blowtorch’s former coders, buzzing with distress. “No, everyone, wait, wait, listen,” Alicia calls out; she’s sitting next to Cary on his left. “There is a safe harbor here,” he points out. “You can’t be fired if you say you were trying to form a union.” Well, they did get fired the second that Eugene said there was a group and they had all “signed on” – though it was clearly set in motion before, that was the trigger Nancy seemed to be waiting for – so it seems reasonable to argue that Blowtorch feared their combined efforts. It turns out this is called PCA – “protected concerted activity.”
Still confused, Eugene asks for clarification; we’re not teamsters. What, only teamsters can unionize? “No,” Alicia leans forward, “we want you to avoid being fired by saying you were forming a union.” Can I just say I love seeing Cary work with her on this, not least because it’s probably still a pro-bono case? They have such a great working relationship. “They can’t fire you if you say that,” she finishes. “Really?” Lana-Lorna asks from the back of the room. Ha. Yes, Alicia answers, then turns back to her sort-of clients, unsettled; Cary explains that he and Alicia will file a complaint with the NLB (whatever that is) and drag out the negotiations. ‘The whole point is to delay,” he says. “They’ll eventually fire us,” Eugene protests, but Alicia thinks that the delay will give them leverage and stop Blowtorch from hiring replacements. And that’s something, at least. “I think it’s a good idea,” Charlene comments, casting what seems to be the decisive vote.
Scooting his chair back, Cary asks Robyn to “shake the trees” at OSHA, EEOC and the EBSA. She should look for complaints by Blowtorch employees; if she can find any, it’ll make it easier to explain that they were unionizing.
“Organizing? Why should we do that?” asks the other assistant from Lorna’s lunchroom conversation. “Because we’re underpaid and overworked,” Lorna replies, avid. Does that make anyone else sad, hearing that Lockhart/Gardner doesn’t take care of their own? (I used to know a girl who was an assistant at a law firm; she was paid very well for a stressful, intense job without much respect.) “And we’ll be out of work if we rock the boat,” he friend shoots the idea down. “Margie!” calls David Lee – and hmm, haven’t we heard him talk about Margie before, right, even though we’ve never met her? “I thought you were getting me lunch?” Just on my way, she stammers. “The way is this way,” he jerks his thumb over his shoulder, “not that way.” Margie looks terrified. When Lee leaves, Lorna and Margie exchange looks. Yeah, that’s what I remember – the lawyers at this girl’s firm treated the assistants as if they were from an entirely different class of people. Like that.
Of course David Lee treats the other partners that way, so maybe it’s not a good example.
“Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining as the Chicago National Labor Relations Board,” says, holy crap, John Michael Higgins! Half of my favorite pair of queens – God I love that movie. “I am administrative law judge Rodney Jesko; Rodney is fine, or even, Rod.” He sits, and Nancy Crozier stands, smiling brightly. “Rod,” she says, immediately going for the most intimate appellation, “Nancy Crozier for the respondent, Blowtorch, and I’m sorry, I’m very new to the NLRB, so if you could let me know when it’s time to say my piece…” Cary and Alicia rolls eyes at each other. “There’s no need to apologize, I’m a new judge here myself. Just appointed.” Really, Nancy asks, perky as ever. Rod stares off into space. “Happened a few years later than I thought it would, but, uh…” he shakes himself out his reveries. “That’s politics!”
Cary rises. “Your Honor,” he begins, “I mean, Rod.” The judges smiles. He’s seated at a plain desk instead of a dais, so the lawyers look down on him when they stand to speak. Cary’s come with affidavits from 18 former Blowtorch employees (wait, what happened to the other two?) swearing they were fired for “protected concerted activity” under the NLRA. “Wow, 18, wow!” Nancy laughs, causing the judge to question her. “I’m sorry,” she tells him, “Nancy. I tend to just blurt things out when I’m amazed.” I do the same thing, the judge smiles. “My friends are always trying to stop me.” Rather rudely, Alicia cuts him off (probably because she just can’t stand the way Nancy sucks up to him – overcompensation is not her friend) to ask that he issue an injunction to stop Blowtorch from hiring new coders “until such time as we can prepare a case for unionizing.” Primy, Nancy blurts out that Blowtorch really has to hire new people. “Each day that this labor dispute goes on is a day that my client gets closer to bankruptcy.” Alicia scoffs at the idea – how can 18 people trying to get their jobs back cause a company’s financial ruin?
“Sorry,” pouts Nancy, “I thought these would be more polite proceedings” and the judge – clearly in her pocket already – admonishes everyone to watch their tone. Eeek. Biting down on her lip, Alicia sits as Nancy talks about Blowtorch’s allegedly precarious financial position.
“Alright, well I see no problem with questioning these witnesses right now about their organizing efforts,” Rod agrees, waving a hand at the coders in the gallery. So much for the delaying tactics! No no no, Cary stands to explain that they’re unprepared. “Ah, but wasn’t it Oliver Wendell Holmes who said that speed is a thing …. mightily… to be wished.” (Bwah! I can’t help snickering. His delivery slays me.) He’d like their first witness.
Alicia and Cary look at each other, then lean back in perfect unison to where Charlene and Eugene sits on the other side of the rail. “What am I supposed to say?” Eugene wonders, his gaze darting around the room as if he were a small animal trapped by a predator. “I can’t lie…” We don’t want you to lie, Alicia replies carefully. “We want you to tell the helpful truth.” Cary slaps him on the shoulder, but he doesn’t look reassured.
“Les Newkirk, from the Department of Labor,” a thickset gentleman introduces himself to Robyn and Kalinda. He reads from his notes; they’re looking for complaints into Blowtorch Industries? Yes, workplace complaints, Kalinda agrees. You know, its not so much that he’s thick-set as he looks like a thicker version of Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino as an average bureaucrat. “Why don’t you ask the employees you’re representing?” he asks. Awkwardly, Kalinda explains that we don’t represent all the employees. Turns out that he’s got nothing to offer – no present complaints, and only one in the last 18 months which was recently dropped. No fruit there, then.
And apparently Quentin doesn’t think so, either, or maybe he just can’t help himself, because he wants to know how long Robyn ad Kalinda have worked at Lockhart/Gardner and whether they have any complaints to file themselves. Ha. “Because some people contact me as a cover for other issues,” he confides with a knowing glance. “Pay. Benefits.” “No,” Robyn nods, “good benefits. Health care. Everything’s good.” And you, he asks Kalinda. “Happy as a clam,” she smiles, not showing her teeth, before standing to dismiss him.
“Sometimes firms grow so fast that issues of wage and hourly compliance get overlooked.” He hands each of them a card with a significant look. “No one needs to know that you talked to me.” He leaves, and Kalinda leans against the door to the small conference room. Her mouth hangs open for a moment. “You get healthcare?” she points at Robyn.
As Thick Quentin pushes the elevator button, he finds that he’s not alone. Lorna, Margie and a tall blond assistant scurry up behind him. “Excuse me, are you from the Department of Labor?” Lorna asks. Yes indeed, he smirks. Can he help them with anything? Just some advice, Margie quavers. “Do you have someplace we can talk?,” he smirks.
Double uh oh.
“Frank’s not even dead 24 hours, and we get hit with this contract,” Eugene explains on the witness stand. “People were outraged. It felt punitive.” And did you discuss collectively taking action in response to these contract demands, Alicia asks, prompting Nancy to stand, apologize, and object; calls for legal conclusion, she says, and is sustained, which I think is crazy. It may be legal jargon, but that’s truthfully what they did, right? They talked about getting a lawyer together and finding out whether this was fair and what they should do. “Did you voice outrage to your boss,” Alicia asks. At that stage, no, Eugene admits, so Alicia rephrases. Her purple suit, by the way, is really cool; the best thing about it is that the lining on the sleeves is a bright orange that contrasts amazingly with the plummy purple.
“But you did get together to discuss making your views known to someone in a supervisory capacity, right?” She’s trying so hard, but they just haven’t had enough time to prepare and it shows: she’s not asking the right questions. “Not,” he stammers, searching for the right words. “In terms of… I mean, we were fired before we could formulate a specific plan.” Poor dude. “But you had time to get in touch with me before you were terminated, right?” Yes. Yes he did. “We collectively got in touch with you at Frank Peterson’s funeral.” Excellent! Alicia almost jumps for joy; it’s like she’s playing charades, and he’s got the trickier half of the answer right. “Yes! And what exactly did we discuss,” she beams. He looks for the right words. “How we could engage in protected concerted activity to protect our rights,” he spits out to Alicia’s pleasure.
Raining on the parade, Nancy points out that Eugene is clearly just parroting Alicia’s jargon, and Judge Rodney agrees. Damn. “When we met at the funeral, did we discuss your potentially starting a union to address your contract concerns?” Potentially, yes, he agrees. (Really? Back then?) “We discussed the potentiality.” Thank you, she smiles.
And instead of a cross examination, Nancy has a single rebuttal witness: Charlene Peterson.
Say what? Alicia and Cary – still moving as one – look back at a very self-conscious Charlene. Uh oh.
“Thanks for doing this, O,” Peter tells his brother-in-law while retying his tie. “I know we’ve never been … very close,” he admits. “Well, like I said, statistical sampling isn’t really my area of expertise,” Owen replies, leafing through a massive binder which has to contain polling results. I bet it’s different from statistical modeling (even though it doesn’t sound very different), but still, I’m loving the fact that someone does, in fact, want free math assistance. “I’m just looking for an opinion from someone I’m not paying,” Peter smiles. “The thing is, it looks pretty good,” Owen sniffs, “but I can’t really tell.” Okay. That was not helpful at all.
“I’ve a speech in a few minutes,” Peter explains, shrugging into his suit jacket; immediately Owen offers to go. Go ahead, stay, Peter asks, his hand on Owen’s shoulder; I’ve never thought of Owen as particularly small, but the comparison makes him look tiny. Peter sits down. “Do you and Alicia talk?” Peter wonders. Though he’s baffled as to were this abrupt subject shift is headed, Owen answers the question with a wary affirmative. “About me?” Owen twitches before giving a politician’s answer. “About, um, personal things,” he says. Nicely phrased, O. Peter folds his hands, sighing, looking and sounding like a politician. “I’ve asked Alicia to recommit to our marriage.” Owen nods. “I know you talk with her. I know you and I have had our differences.” Is it a difference of opinion that he expected you to be faithful to his sister? “But I am … really intent on showing you I want to forget those differences.”
It’s clear as day that Owen is very uncomfortable. “Peter,” he says, his voice and eyes full of pity, “this isn’t a campaign, this is life.” Peter laughs. “You think I’m campaigning?” he asks, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. “Well, yeah, I read somewhere that the surest way for a politician to get you to love him is to ask for something.” Peter looks down, perhaps embarrassed. “You’d think it’d be the opposite – to give you something – but nope. Voters count themselves so cheap, you just have to ask me a favor.” Owen holds up the polling report. Mayday, mayday! “I asked you here because I want things to be better between us,” Peter maintains. Owen knows what this really means, and it’s nothing to do with Owen and Peter – it’s all about getting Alicia to accept Peter. It takes Peter a moment to admit it, but it’s true. A rueful smile on his face, Owen leaves, giving Peter time to get to his speech. Peter pleads with his eyes for Owen to consider his words.
“She said if we wanted to keep our jobs, forming a union was the only way,” Charlene tells Nancy from the stand. Crap. It’s true, but why on earth is she saying it? Alicia objects that this conversation is covered attorney/client privilege; Nancy notes that Charlene can waive privilege, but Alicia points out that Charlene would be waiving it for all of the other coders, which is hardly fair. Good point, Alicia. “Interesting quandary,” muses Rod, impressed. “How to split that baby?” By not, Cary interjects dryly. “I think I shall side with more inclusiveness,” he decides. Lame. I suppose she’s already done the major damage, though. He invites Nancy and Charlene to continue exposing Alicia and Cary’s plan. Nancy gets Charlene to admit that none of the coders had thought of forming a union before Alicia brought it up.
I can’t help wondering if that technicality matters – they were intent on figuring out a solution to the contract quandary collectively – but there’s no cross-examination to explore the issue for me.
“Lorna,” Alicia says,walking off the elevators, “can you get the Department of Labor on the phone?” Diane and Will asked for you, Lana-Lorna replies instead. Uh oh. “Now?” Yes.
“Could you close the door,” David Lee asks. Oh, never a good sign. She does as she’s asked. “We have an insurrection on our hands, Alicia, because of you,” he continues. Oh, lovely. “The assistants are asking for a raise,” Will chimes in. “They’re inspired by this case that isn’t a case,” Alicia’s potential step-father snaps. “We thought you were giving it up,” Diane chastises her.
“Yes,” Alicia replies, “the difficulty is, the employer threatened to fire them.” Uh, no, the employer DID fire them. Will nods. “So we felt obligated…” You broke it, you own it, Will agrees. Yep. That. “We’re at the NLRB right now,” Alicia explains, but David’s much less interested in that and returns to his original subject with a fury. “They’re not going to get another cent. Those damned assistants, they think we need them.” This is rich coming from a man who can’t even be bothered to get his own lunch. “The assistants are asking that we listen to their proposal,” Diane tells Alicia. How many assistants, Alicia wonders; there are 8, but they need a third to take a vote on unionizing, so Alicia thinks its not that big a threat. “They know. You had a Department of Labor guy out who educated them,” David Lee grumbles dryly. Oh, yes. The uneducated masses are so much better off when they don’t question their masters. He’s reminding me of last week’s Chief Justice, sneering out his contempt for anyone who isn’t a lawyer.
“We need to talk to them,” Diane asserts. “We need to fire them!” Lee barks. “David, Alicia,” Will interrupts, even though it’s not Alicia arguing. “You meet with the assistants before they organize. You hear their demands.” And then what, Alicia wonders. You just hear them, Diane says. We don’t have the money for an across the board raise. Why do they not have mechanisms for this, a performance review schedule? Is this business really that poorly run? It’s funny. When Clarke called them a mom and pop shop, I’m starting to feel like it wasn’t a question of being a tight-knit group – it meant that they don’t know the basics of structuring and running a business and are just making it up as they go along.
“We do if we don’t take increases this quarter,” Alicia suggests, and I think Daddy Dearest is going to have a heart attack. “We do if you don’t take any salary this year,” he sneers. The problem is precedence, Diane points out. Well, if you had a regular structure for raises, you’d have precedence and could tell them hey, we’ll talk about this during your next review. Also, David Lee’s greed is making me hate him a lot right now. Why pay your support staff fairly when you can simply keep all the money for yourself? That’s ethical, right?
“Nothing from the Department of Labor?” Cary asks, incredulous, as Robyn and Kalinda deliver their report. Nope, no complaints. “Charlene really testified against you?” Robyn asks, her turn for incredulity. In Cary’s opinion, Blowtorch has put Charlene back in their pocket; it seems like a pretty fair guess, all things considered. He concurs with Robyn’s suggestion of a payoff, but he’d love to be able to prove it. “I’ll go talk to her coworkers,” Robyn offers and heads out; Kalinda watches her go.
Then she leans forward, fixes Cary with her gaze. “Cary. Did you know that Robyn has health care?” His returning stare is wonderfully confused. Of course she has health care. Why wouldn’t she? Not that he’s ever thought about it, I’m sure. No, he didn’t know that, he admits. Why? “Do you know how much she earns,” Kalinda presses. “No, how much,” he wonders. She has no idea. “You feelin’ jealous?” he asks, incredulous. “Do you want to know why the widow’s testifying for Blowtorch?” she asks seriously; he wants to know her insight for sure. “”Then ask Robyn, cause she gets health care.”
Ha! And they said she didn’t have a sense of humor.
“Kalinda,” he calls out before she goes. He closes the door – and hmm, it looks much more like his old office than the new one. “The fourth years are starting our own firm,” he finally confides. “Taking five top clients with us.” She’s curious, of course, but he won’t say which ones. “I want you to come with us,” he asks, all passionate intensity. “Sure,” she says. “Exclusively,” he rolls his eyes. Oh, that word. She hates that word. No way, she shakes her head. “They don’t value you here, we’ll value you.” Well, there’s a point. Will and Diane take for granted how many cases Kalinda wins for them, but Cary’s had to do without her, and he knows. She could have her own office, more money. The money tempts her; she wants an offer. “No,” he cries, because he’s knows her that well; all she’ll do is take the offer to Will and get him to better it. Smart boy, Cary; she doesn’t deny it. “We need three months to get our ducks in order,” he confesses. In order? Not in a row? Kalinda nods. “Okay, then come up with an offer when you get your … ducks.” He smiles sweetly. “Oh, by the way. The man from the Department of Labor said that somebody recently withdrew their complaint against Blowtorch. I would look there.”
“So, you filed a complaint about the hazardous working conditions at Blowtorch immediately following your husband’s death?” Cary asks Charlene, back on the stand (though in the same pretty dress, so clearly it’s the same day). She dd. And she withdrew the claim within 24 hours. Cary asks directly if she was paid off; Nancy, of course, objects to Cary badgering “this poor young woman.” I love that we get a shot of Alicia rolling her eyes after every single thing Nancy says. Somewhat to my surprise, Rod fails to support her this time. “They settled,” Charlene acknowledges. “I was going to sue, but they settled.”
“Rod, we believe this proves our case,” Alicia stands to say. Wait, what case? “Does not,” Nancy spits out like they’re playground adversaries. “Actually, Nancy, it does. I find that the coders at Blowtorch were attempting to engage in a protected concerted activity prior to being fired. I therefor order that they be re-instated.” Eugene and his colleagues break into smiles. Nancy points out that they still need to vote for unionization in order to retain these protections; “otherwise Blowtorch has a absolute right to fire them.” (Why on earth wouldn’t they vote for that after this?) Rod agrees that this is certainly true. “Only if the union is not certified by the court imposed deadline,” Cary points out (damn, it’s like a volleyball match, point after point after point) so Nancy asks for an expedited deadline of 24 hours. What the hey? As you’d expect, Alicia and Cary are outraged.
Calm down, Rod tells them. “Compromise is the cornerstone of any – building. So I have made a decision. The workers get their injunction, and the company gets their 24 hour deadline.” That doesn’t sound like much of a compromise, since he’d already decided the injunction is simply a matter of law and not discretion. “Listen, Alicia,” Rod Jesko puts his hand up to stop the flood of protests, “if your clients were really organizing, then they should be ready and able to get this vote together in 24 hours.” What a ridiculous, preposterous assertion. Who even knows if they could go through with the logistics of that even if were at the peak of readiness, and he KNOWS they’re just in the beginning stages of exploring the idea. Sorry to shout, but good grief.
“Jenny, I don’t understand how half this memo could be misspelled, just run it through a spellcheck,” Will says, handing off the offending memo to his assistant outside his office. Is he really that dense? Check it out – there’s Kalinda, lounging behind his desk. If you were just changing channels and happened upon this scene, if you didn’t know their relationship, this would totally look like a sex thing. “Come in,” she says. “You takin’ over?” he asks. “Couldn’t do worse,” she replies. Ouch. And yet probably true, even if I don’t see her wanting to be tied down to management. As Cary correctly predicted, she’s here to shake Will down for money. You already got a five percent raise this year, he says, we’re not going there again. “I’m being pursued,” she admits. “My God that’s awful. Did you talk to the police?” Ha. I like the soft way he said it.
“I’m considering the offer,” she says. “Yes, and every time you pursue this gambit it gets a little less effective.” Gambit. I love that he used that word. When she explains she’s being pursued by a new firm, she can’t say which one, so once again he concludes she’s bluffing. “Robyn gets health care,” she says, changing topic. Ah. I can see where that would be a sticking point; I can’t believe Kalinda doesn’t. How is that even possible. She points out that health care costs about 30k a year (holy crap, what?) and getting it brings Robyn close to her salary (or so she guesses). “She’s been here five weeks, Will; I’ve been here five years.” If you’d agree to work for us exclusively, then you’d get health care, he says, which is actually a reasonable explanation where I thought none existed. (Does that mean she couldn’t do side work for him or Diane when needed, though?) “Why is everybody talking about money suddenly? What happened to being a family? Doing things because we’re dedicated to each other?” Lovely, Mr. Let-Them-Eat-Cake. That kind of attitude only works when there’s no difference in income. She’s not mean about it, but Kalinda outright laughs in his face, as if his naivety were just too adorable for words.
Is it just me, or does he look a little hurt? Idiot.
Look, he says, if you’ll be exclusive, I can get you more money. (But not health care?) “But otherwise, your freedom costs you.” Fair enough. She’s going to go back to the other firm for their counter offer. “Yes, the imaginary other firm,” Will replies. Oh well.
Alicia’s got the gang of 8 in her office, and she demands a number; how many coders do they have willing to unionize? 29 for, 29 against. Didn’t Alicia say they needed a third before? Or is it just the third to be considered PCA? There are two swing votes, and the union needs both, because a tie goes to management. Honestly, I don’t understand in this situation how anyone could vote against unionizing, not when the company brutally fired a third of its staff like that. Go make your case for unionizing, Alicia dismisses them. Put as much pressure as you can on the two hold outs.
“I’m glad we’re taking the time to do this today,” Alicia addresses the assistants from the head of the large conference table. “We are all on the same team.” Yeah, good luck with that. “Did you realize that we get ten percent less than support staff at other Chicago firms of our size?” It’s Margie who asks the question, and it’s a damn good one, though I’m really curious about how they found that out. Alicia’s genuinely shocked. “This isn’t just about the money,” Lorna-Lana pipes up, but that’s when David Lee jaunts into the room, and I don’t know about you, but I’m preparing for the negotiation to go to hell, triple time. “Hello! Don’t mind me, carry on,” he sings. Right. At Alicia’s prompting, Lorna goes back to the non-compensatory issues. “It would be nice if we could go to our kids school plays or basketball games without it effecting our performance evals,” she suggests as Alicia takes scrupulous notes. That must feel nice – but not for long, because David Lee immediately sticks his poisoned tentacles into the conversation.
“Alicia, make a note. Any parent whose kid is playing Jean ValJean gets the afternoon off.” Ha. That reference is so David Lee (who can forget his Gilbert and Sullivan moment?), and so apt (a timely musical about class and labor disputes!) I can’t even stand it; sadly, it just makes Alicia uncomfortable. “Okay, ” Alicia cuts off Lorna’s response, gesturing like an umpire, “we are not discussing solutions today. This is just an introductory meeting to lay out everyone’s concerns.”
“Let me lay out my concerns,” David Lee stands and pontificates over Alicia’s objections, “you lay out your top three concerns and I’ll lay out mine.” Here they are. 1. A 7% pay bump (still below their market value). 2. Investing in a retirement play in three years, not five.
“Never gonna happen,” David Lee sneers. (I know it’s repetitive, but that’s what the man does.) Can’t you even hear us out, Margie asks, hoping to make it to #3. “Why don’t you go to another firm so they can hear you out?” David Lee, I hope Cary makes a note of this and takes the assistants with him. Then you’ll be even more screwed. “Are you kidding? Did you just threaten to…” “Fire Margie? Yes I did,” David Lee answers L-L. “She’s only been with me for 11 years.” The things we put up with for a pay check… “I barely recognize you. So if you wanna go first, or anybody else, step right up!” Ah, how the world loves a bully.
“If you terminate Margie, we’ll all go on strike,” Lorna threatens. Alicia rolls her eyes as the room explodes past her capacity to repair. “You can’t go on strike, you’re not unionized,” David Lee scoffs. ‘Then we’ll vote to form a union,” Margie vows. Aw, lovely! You’ve totally provoked them. Way to exacerbate the situation, David. “You can barely get my lunch order right,” he spits out, “how’re you going to organize a labor…” Yeah, that’s about it. Alicia calls out for order and calm, but it’s far too late.
Happily, she’s got a nice evening going on at home; it’s Zach’s 18th birthday! Loving Uncle Owen videos him – can he do it? yes! – blowing out the candles on a cake. “18, oh my God, they’re gonna draft you any day now.” Ha ha. Owen’s not old enough to remember a draft. Everyone else cheers and hugs the birthday boy. ‘How sad is that,” Veronica laughs, “you can get drafted at 18, but you can’t get drunk till you’re 21.” I can buy cigarettes, Zach chirps. Goody for you; that’s a sexy and healthy habit! “Oh, that’s progress,” Veronica sneers. “And porn,” Grace reminds them all. “Oh, good, a healthy conversation,” Alicia snarks. Awesome.
“Mom really hasn’t gotten a handle on this whole gift thing,” Owen observes to Alicia (who’s doing the dishes) before pulling on a massive rooster hand puppet. Seriously, this is an especially prodigious puppet. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a message here; there’s certainly a dirty joke in Zach’s grandmother buying him a giant cock for his 18th birthday. Or maybe that’s just my filthy sense of humor? “Hello, Alicia!” Owen makes the rooster say, winning a laugh from his big sis. “Mom certainly seems happy,” she smiles. 10 years I’ve been trying to get her to see them, and now all at once, she gripes; Owen explains that Veronica doesn’t like babies. “They get on her nerves.”
Then he switches tactics. “How’s Peter?” Sensing an attack, Alicia immediately stiffens. “He’s good, why?” He met with me, Owen confesses. Alicia freezes. “What? What does that mean?” He met with me about polling, Owen explains, making the rooster kiss Alicia on the nose. For some reason, Alicia doesn’t enjoy this, and she’s highly skeptical of Owen’s story as well. “Yeah, he’s worried that he’s not doing well, but he can’t go negative on Kresteva’s sexism without hurting himself with women.” Wait a minute. Owen and Peter didn’t discuss that. Did that come up earlier in the conversation than what aired? Bah. Alicia looks concerned and still deeply mistrustful, staring at her brother with her arms crossed and her head pulled back. “What?” I’m not sure, she answers. Hee. That would be funny it her instincts weren’t on target.
“I think I might be wrong about him,” Owen confesses, causing Alicia even more confusion. “He’s sweet, in his way. Especially now that he’s vulnerable.” WHAT? Clearly Owen can’t resist a sad sack story, but what the hell kind of reversal is this? I find this really really uncomfortable. Has he honestly changed his mind about Peter? And why? It’s not at all evident from his conversation with Peter (or his recent one with Alicia, for that matter) what would make him do that. And drat, but that’s the moment Veronica picks to waltz in and ask what they’re talking about. “Just these wonderful presents, mother. Cock-a-doodle-do!” Owen dances his puppet about. Veronica snorts and raises up her right hand, which is inside a – donkey puppet? “I think they’re excellent for psychological role playing,” she snickers. (Seriously, she got her grandson puppets of a cock and an ass? That can not be an accident. My mind is broken.)
“So,” she says, grabbing a bottle off the counter, “I’m going to give Zach some wine. Okay with you?” Hell to the no. “Oh, come on,” Veronica scoffs as she pours, “I let you drink wine at 16.” I know, Alicia grouses, unimpressed. Didn’t Veronica promise to stop interfering with Alicia’s parenting choices? Veronica gives a little speech about their being less public drunkenness in Italy than anywhere else int he world, and the drinking age there is 15. “You just made that up, Mom,” Owen replies, shocked. No I didn’t, look it up, she defends herself. (You know, this is so not relevant to the episode, but it’s just so wonderfully funny I can’t help but put it in.) “There’s less public drunkenness in Muslim countries where alcohol is outlawed,” Owen points out. Ha.
That’s when Veronica – who seems to be keeping the wine for herself – notices Alicia pouring herself a full glass. The daughter doesn’t answer when asked whats’ wrong.
Owen can answer for his sister, though. “Peter asked her to renew their vows.” Oh, great. You know she totally wants to have that discussion with her mother. “Can we please just have a conversation between the two of us without you sharing it with the whole world?” Alicia full on yells this. “What, I’m the whole world now?” I think the gesture with her wine glass might mean the kids, who might overhear from another part of the apartment, but it’s hard to say. “Peter just wants to tie you down. That’s how he works.” Er, they are married. It’s not exactly untoward of him. “Now, see, I think we’ve judged him too harshly,” Owen reaches out to his mother, and wow, he was so easily bought. I don’t get it. Neither does Veronica, whose mouth forms a shocked O. “Since when?” she narrows her eyes, “what happened?” Don’t look at me, I’m just doing the dishes, Alicia avoids the topic. “I talked to him, and I think he’s grown a lot.”
“Oh you are so easily swayed,” Veronica sneers. I just want my sister to be happy, he replies. And I don’t, she snaps. “If you end up with Peter, in two months he’ll be back with the hookers.” Wow. That was awful. Alicia slams down her dish towel and storms off. “I’m sorry, do you want us to stop?” Veronica asks, abrasive. “No, that’s why I invite you over,” Alicia yells into her face. “Fine,” Veronica says, looking over at her son. “Peter talks to you? I’ll talk to Peter.”
Mom, no, Alicia cries, her face pale. That would be embarrassing, but Peter can certainly take care of himself. Oh, unless Alicia fears that Veronica would bring up Will – and you know she totally would. “You talk to Peter, and I will never let you see the kids again. This is my life!” There are tears n her eyes. Shocked by her daughter’s vehemence, Veronica nods. “Good,” Alicia chokes out and rushes from the room. Standing, stunned, Veronica contemplates her wine. “I’m not gong to talk to Peter,” she admits before bringing the drink to her lips. Good.
“Sabrina, has Eugene Kreskov arrived?” Alicia asks the model/receptionist behind the main desk by the elevators. She gets ignored, though Sabrina’s giving a fiercely dirty look to her computer. “Sabrina,” Alicia starts again, sounding hurt, when the girl points one finger toward Cary, who’s also walking into reception. Cary can report that both the pro- and anti-union factions worked on the swing voters all of the previous day; Eugene’s cautiously optimistic that they might turn. This moment of optimism is shortlived, however. “We have a problem,” Eugene rushes over to tell them. “Kennedy and Needleman, our swing votes? Blowtorch just fired them.”
And now we’re back in Rodney Jesko’s courtroom, arguing the unfairness of this tactic; Nancy’s position, of course, is that they were fired for cause, and this is all a big coincidence. “Well, first of all, good morning, everyone” Rod enthuses. “Good morning, Rod,” they all repeat, and he guffaws loudly. It turns out that the two called in sick that morning but were only looking to avoid harassment – as can be seem in a video chat the company discovered. Hence, the firing for “blue flu.” I’ve never heard that term. Interesting. “Not if the company found out by spying on them!” Alicia recoils, and Rod agrees. This was just a routine monitoring of company laptops, Nancy posits (and no, not coincidental to record their video chats at all, nope). Do they have an expectation of privacy at home, even on company laptops? Nancy takes a moment to complain that she’s feeling ganged up on, so Rod asks if either Cary or Alicia will argue, but not both. (Love that they’re such a unit, though.)
The company handbook is unambiguous, Nancy argues. Yes, but this is just pretext to stop the unionization, Alicia correctly notes. “Okay, thank you,”Rodney leans back, “you’ve given me a lot to digest, and again, I think what’s best here is compromise. Thank you,” he finishes, banging his gavel. “Rod,” Alicia prompts. “Yes?” “Whats the compromise?” Hee. “Oh. You get yuor election, and the company can fire it’s employees for cause.” What? Dude really needs to look up the meaning of the word compromise. And remember that giving them the election was their reward the last time.
What do we do now, Eugene worries, hands on his hips. We have three hours before the vote, Cary muses, we need to pick someone off. Clearly she’s had an inspiration, because Alicia rushes somewhere. “Where you going?” Cary wonders. “To pick someone off,” she explains as if it ought to have been obvious. And it really should, because you know whose door she’s standing in front of; Charlene Peterson’s.
(Only thing; if Charlene already took their money to settle her lawsuit, wouldn’t you think they’d make it part of the contract that she can’t unionize? Or something like?)
After apologizing for cross examining her, Alicia starts to pitch Charlene on the switch. “I’m not changing my vote,” the coder cries, slamming the door in Alicia’s face. “Do you realize how important this vote could be?” Alicia asks, and Charlene opens her door in a fury. “Don’t you dare play the ‘your husband died for this’ card,” she fumes, and Alicia apologizes. Could I just come in for a minute, Alicia pleads? Charlene wants her own moment, and when she comes back to the door, she has her cell phone with her. Let’s guess who’s on the other end? That’s right, it’s Nancy, asking as Charlene’s lawyer for Alicia to stay the heck away.
This time, Kalinda’s sitting behind Cary’s desk. “Close the door,” she says mysteriously as he walks into his office and throws up his hands in surprise. I can’t help thinking it must be hard to be sneaky in an office with glass walls. Sighing in frustration, he does as she asks. “If I agree to exclusivity,” she offers, “what would you offer me?” He doesn’t know. She passes over a slip of paper; can he beat that amount? He makes a production out of walking to the desk and looking at the paper. “Is that what you’re being paid here?” All she wants to know is if he can better the number. Is this an actual number from Will, or is it a suggestion she’s made herself? “If not, there’s no reason to talk.” He’ll have to confer with his partners, but maybe. When she nods, he sits. “Kalinda, I’m not getting into a bidding war with Lockhart/Gardner.” Yep, there it is. Good to know, she replies.
And look, here’s David Lee, talking about a client lunch he’d been supposed to have. Margie “forgot” to make the reservation for his usual table, so he was forced to eat near the kitchen. Oh, the indignity of it all! How can he live? Jenny’s doing the same to me, Will admits. “They’re trying to show us how important they are.” Are the clients noticing yet, Diane wonders. No, but they will, David Lee grumbles. “The staff is rebelling.” Alicia, who’s walked into this unhappy discussion, thinks that if they just make one or two substantive concessions, all this will go away. “You mean surrender?” David Lee wonders. Sigh. Not that he was ever on the “we’re all on the same side” page, but, sigh. “Just because you came up short for the Blowtorch workers doesn’t mean you can expiate your guilt here.” Easy, Will tells him. And again, not that we didn’t know he was a mean-spirited son of a bitch, but wow. “They see us spending more on infrastructure, and they want more. The problem is precedent.” Yeah, they see you spending more of fresh flowers, Diane, and on huge bonuses for the partners. “We can’t pay them all more at the same time.”
That’s why David Lee is just itching to fire the ring leaders. “I’ll cap Margie, you get rid of what’s her name, and I guarantee you the rest of them will think twice before they complain again.” Alicia’s appalled. “First of all, that sets us up for years of lawsuits.” Well, not if they come in front of Rodney “24 hours is plenty of time” Jesko, they don’t. You’re management now, start acting like it, David points his finger at Alicia. Diane assumes Will would want to use a familiar strategy – split them up. “Let me think about it,” he says, because he sees Kalinda sauntering toward his office.
“You rang?” he asks, walking in. She did. “Look, if I commit, what am I gonna get?” If you’re exclusive, he starts, but she cuts him off: what are you going to give me? “What do you want?” he asks, and it’s a good question. Is it just as much money as she can, or is it respect, control? He stares at her, hands in his pockets, until she slides a slip of paper toward him. “More than that,” she says. He presses the creases of the folded paper together. “Is this from your imaginary new friend?” It is. (Well, should we guess it’s on behalf of her actual friend, but an imaginary number, or did he get his ducks in a row that quickly?) I need more, Will. “Well, unfortunately, we’re in the middle of a rebellion, so any talk of salary increases will have to wait.” She asks who. “The assistants,” he says, giving her a sharp look. “Why, who were yuo thinking?” It’s singularly unconvincing when she shakes her head. When will he have an answer? He’s got no idea. She takes the paper back.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Kalinda, like leaving us,” he tells her. There’s an uncharacteristic warning in his tone. “I’m sure you’ll be fine with Robyn and the support staff,” she smiles sarcastically. “They’re like family.”
And there it is. Family. Because wouldn’t you treat your family better than this?
“Was it your intention, Ms Peterson, after receiving the four million dollars in company stock, to continue working at Blowtorch as a coder?” It’s Alicia asking the rebuttal question, but Nancy looks ready to have an apoplexy. “I’m sorry,” she interrupts, “Rod, objection. If Alicia is intending to use Ms. Peterson’s recent absence in this time of grieving to argue that she’s no longer an employee…” I’m not arguing that at all, Alicia replies coolly. Ooooh, what’s the trick you have up your sleeve? What’s that in her hands? I love it when she’s this confident (and sneaky). “Oh,” Rod says. “An objection that – let’s not say overruled, let’s say delayed.” Ah. What she has in her hands is a soft-bound copy of Blowtorch’s corporate bylaws; she hands it to Charlene and has her read from page 63, paragraph 2A IX. Cary nods as she reads aloud that anyone owning at least 5% of the company’s stock will be guaranteed a seat on the Board of Directors. “And given that at the close of markets today, Blowtorch was worth a little over 77 million dollars,” she smiles, handing the bylaws to Rod, “well, I’m sure you can do the math.”
“I see,” he smiles, “so she’s a director of the company.” Which means she’s not actually eligible to join the union. Awesome. “Congratulations, Alicia. Very clever.” Glad to see someone appreciates her! Nancy tries to argue that Charlene hasn’t taken the seat on the board yet, but it doesn’t matter; as soon as Charlene received the stock, she became ineligible to vote on unionizing. “Well, I don’t know if that’s true,” Rod thinks aloud, but at a look from Alicia, he reconsiders. “But it sounds true.” Ha. “Rod,” Nancy tries to break into his train of thought, “may I suggest a compromise?” No, he says, tossing away the book, I already have one. And it’s another non-compromise; Ms Peterson can’t vote and the election will still go on. Alicia shoots a triumphant look to Cary, who nods back in pleasure.
I love these two. They work so freaking well together. The coders beam.
“Kresteva is currently ahead of your husband with female voters,” Charlies Rose says to Alicia on his talk show set. OMG, I didn’t realize she hadn’t done the interview yet, and I love Charlie Rose! Best interviewer out there (well, maybe barring Terry Gross). What, this surprises you? I’m a dork. I own it. “Do you think they see something in Peter they do not trust?” The legend underneath Alicia’s face says “politician’s wife/lawyer/mother.” She thinks about the question. “I think it’s because the press has been more interested n peter’s past failings as a family man” cue film of that initial press conference, with Alicia in the horrible boxy tweed jacket, “for which he has long since atoned,” Amber in her police uniform with inset of Peter’s face, “then they are in Mike Kresteva’s present ones.”
Charlie leans in. “Kresteva’s present ones.” He bites his lip, chewing on her comment. “That’s an interesting idea. What is it you mean specifically?” “Running a political campaign is not a one man show,” she tells us over a picture of her and Peter beaming at each other. “For every candidate out there, giving speeches and kissing babies, there’s a spouse. Doing everything else. If everything is perfect, it is still tremendously hard on that spouse. And if it’s not…” If it’s not hard? If it’s not perfect? “If it’s not?” Charlie chooses his words with care. “Do you want to draw a comparison between Mike Kresteva and your husband?” Amazingly enough, she does, though she thinks about it long and hard. “Mike Kresteva is struggling with alcoholism,” she says – NO! – and as she continues, we transition to Peter and Matt watching backstage.
“Did you talk to her,” Peter leans toward his once and future pollster, incredulous. He didn’t. “No, this is her.” Or Owen, anyway, though how she got this out of sexism… Alicia’s face speaks to us on the monitor. “But instead of prioritizing his family, and dealing with those issues, Mr. Kresteva has chosen to throw himself into a political campaign.” Well, she would know what that’s like. I was pretty furious at Peter for that Season 2 run for the State’s Attorney’s office. Also, I’m really uncomfortable with Alicia lying. Kresteva’s a bastard, but if she can’t go after him with the truth… “If voters are asking themselves which candidate is more – truly more committed – to women and families, it’s my husband, Peter Florrick.” Will watches her face on the big screen TV in the conference room, with a drink to get him through it. It doesn’t seem to be helping. “I know it now, and I’ve always known it.”
“Hard to believe she can say that with a straight face, isn’t it?” Veronica’s voice finds Will in the darkness. Oh no! She didn’t! Wow.
“Miss Loy,” Will greets her, shocked. “Please, call me Veronica,” she says, walking into the room. “Okay,” he replies. “Are you here to see David Lee or….” Nope. “I just saw him, thank you. Actually I was looking for you.” Huh, there are still other people walking the halls; Charlie Rose airs at 11 here. Although maybe in central time it’s earlier? “Is there something I can help you with, Veronica?” he asks, utterly baffled. “Yes, as a matter of fact there is.” She poses the question with characteristic bluntness. “Do you love my daughter?”
He frowns. “I’m sorry?” Because if you do, she continues, “it’s time to stop being polite about it. You have a window, but it’s closing.” Very true. “That schmuck of a husband of hers wants to renew their vows. And I know my daughter. If they do that, you’re never going to pry her away from him.” How can she be so sure that’s a good thing when she doesn’t know Will? Is it just that she hates Peter that much, ore that she prefers reinvention? Either way, she’s right; Alicia considers her marriage in suspended animation now, but she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she cheated after renewing her vows. “So you gotta move now.” He just stares. “It’s very nice to see you again, Miss Loy,” he replies, nodding.
Nancy wears Barbie pink to today’s session with Rod. The vote, he tells them, is 29 to 28 in favor of (drum roll please)… “In favor of, um,” Nancy has to ask. Oh, Rod shakes himself awake, realizing he didn’t actually complete the thought. In favor of unionizing. The gallery erupts with cheers. Again as one, Alicia and Cary look down at their table, smiling their satisfaction to themselves. “Thank you so much,” Eugene tells them, before Rod happily asks the crowd to settle down. As Alicia and Cary shakes hands, Rod explains that the union is now the official bargaining unit for coders at Blowtorch. “Let the contract negotiations begin!” he cries, raising his hands.
“I’m sorry,” Nancy begins (even though she’s so not), “I don’t think that Blowtorch will be able to participate in these negotiations. You see the company’s been sold.” Oh. Okay. Maybe she wasn’t originally exaggerating their financial woes. Sold to whom, Cary wonders, and Nancy turns her prim features toward him. “I think you know the buyer, actually. ChumHum.” Oh, dear. Maybe Nancy really is sorry, because she’s out of a job. Er, client. Eugene and his cohorts whisper frantically as Nancy lands her last cheap shot. “They really wanted Blowtorch for the intellectual property and not the employees, so it’s a good thing they got it so cheap.” She turns to Alicia, a faint smile on her face; Alicia looks like she’s about to choke.
“Did you encourage all the union talk at Blowtorch in order to drive the price of the company down?” Alicia cries, aghast, rushing into Diane’s office. Will’s sitting across from Diane. “What?” he asks. “You brought the case to us,” Diane points out mildly. “Yes, but after I brought it, did you drive the price of the company down for ChumHum?” No, Diane immediately answers. “So it’s just a coincidence that ChumHum bought it?” A cut-throat, dirty coincidence. “I don’t know what it is,” Diane replies, “but we didn’t do anything wrong.” OH. You mean you didn’t do anything illegal, and that you’re refusing to feel sorry about screwing Alicia over because her clients weren’t bringing in money and ChumHum obviously does. Well that’s lovely.
“Business just does what business does, Alicia,” Will adds, standing up. Again, lovely. I hate you people; you suck without reservation. And look, they all have to trundle off to a partners’ meeting.
In the meeting, everyone’s got their hands raised. “Good!” David Lee crows, then frowns dramatically when Will and Diane take the seats on his right and left. “Look, the executive committee has arrived.” How’s it going, Diane wonders; David says he’s presented “their” plan to the partners and everyone’s reached a consensus on how to handle the nascent assistant revolution (or, as he calls it, the Clerical Rebellion of 2013). This should be good. Alicia stands to make her own case before anyone gets fired. “It’s okay,” Will raises a hand, “we had another idea on how to handle this.” Astonish me.
And here it is; Lorna and Margie have been appointed “staff coordinators” and they’ll be allowed to telecommute three days a week. (Three days? Wow! That’s a lot, especially for a law firm where you’d think they’d have to deal with physical documents rather than virtual ones.) “You asked us to listen, and so we listened. And this is what they really wanted,” Will tells her, reasonable. Huh. “And the other employees?” Yeah, good question. “We’ll get to them. In time,” David Lee tells her, not nearly as vitriolic as usual. “Baby steps.”
It’s clear from her stiff expression that Alicia’s not impressed. “You bought off the ringleaders,” she realizes. “We handled the problem in a way that protected us and satisfied them,” Will restates. Because there’s nothing else she can do, Alicia sits down. “It’s what management does,” David Lee observes, but Alicia’s not buying it. As Diane moves the meeting forward, she and Will exchange furtive glances, and the ‘end of episode’ music begins.
“So far, it’s not bad,” the singer tells us, pleasantly surprised. Matt the hipster pollster pokes his head onto the campaign bus before the rest of his follows. Whoa, Peter calls from the couch, where he and Alicia are drinking wine, don’t come on this bus without good news. I have good news, he says. “I did some polling after the interview.” Wow, Alicia’s dress is pretty. That keyhole back is gorgeous, and the perfect blue is just so rich. Flipping through Matt’s paperwork, Peter murmurs about suburban women. “It’s across the board,” Matt nods, and Alicia beams over her glass. “Kresteva’s lead just got erased. It’s a dead heat.” Mrs. Florrick laughs out her joy, but Peter’s silent, distracted. We can hear Matt close the door on his way out.
“It was your interview with Charlie Rose that did this,” he turns to his wife. Well, I don’t think that many people watch Charlie Rose – but on the other hand, she delivered one hell of a salacious soundbite with the accusation of active alcoholism, so it’s not doubt gotten a lot of play. She watches him smile at the numbers, sets down her glass, and rest her hands on the edge of the sofa, leaning into him. “Hey,” she starts, and takes a deep breath. “You promise me that you will never put me through the same thing again.” He jerks back, his entire body alight with hope. His hands reach out for her waist, but she pulls back; she needs that answer first. “Alicia,” he says, his eyes devouring her face. “I promise.” Immediately she puts his hands on his face and kisses him lightly. “Then yes,” she decides, smiling up at him. “I would love to renew our vows.” “Let’s do it then,” he whispers. He rests his forehead against hers, and they giggle, charming and sweet.
Well, holy cow that was an episode. I love these kind of titles – marriage is a union! The state works to form a more perfect union! Unions are unions! Good stuff. The case itself was fine, mostly because I enjoyed the guest stars, Mamie Gummer – Nancy Crozier is always good value – and John Michael Higgins most of all. (I played a little bit of his opening scene for my husband, who immediately responded “pair of jacks, pair of queens, we win!” upon seeing him. It’s not the only reason I married him, but laughing at the same goofy things helps a lot.)
But I cannot help saying that I kind of hate us right now, and I’m stuck on that more than the happier bits. I want to think of Lockhart/Gardner as the good guys, damn it. I hate Will and Diane for their treatment of the assistants and their treatment of Kalinda and their treatment of the Blowtorch coders. That last can’t be legal, it just can’t. You’d think that would be some form of insider trading. It makes me completely sick. Once again, Alicia’s victory has been snatched from her arms and replaced with defeat – by the people she trusts to have her back. Maddening.
Now, I know Kalinda can and does take care of herself, but surely they ought to be showing her how much they value her services. If they had any brains, they would know that she’s responsible for a large percentage of their wins and compensate her accordingly. It’s beyond stupid and classist for them not to make her perfectly happy.
Also, I’m pissed at Owen for backing down when Peter asked him to intercede with Alicia. Why couldn’t he back down when ALICIA asked him to? I know he’s a marshmellow, but do you think that was consistent? He’s been against Peter for so long.
And I don’t know, maybe it’s silly, but I hate hate hate that they manipulated her into lying on Charlie Rose. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Kresteva to win; Peter’s not perfect but Kresteva could literally be a sociopath. I just really, really don’t like to see her be used – if Peter had asked her, it would have said something much stronger about their ability to communicate and partner each other. AND I hate that she had to lie to effectively counter Kresteva, that she couldn’t tell the truth about what a bastard he is. I mean, a whisper campaign is one thing, but that was entirely another.
Very tricky, Veronica, with the whole “I won’t talk to Peter” comment. I can, and can’t, believe she went to Will with that information. Is it too late now that Alicia has told Peter she’ll do it? Will we get to see them on vacation if they do? I’m a little obsessed with that idea. I’ve always wondered what sort of vacations they’d take. Are they taking the kids too, do you think? And, again, we’re left asking ourselves if this is it. Will Alicia and Peter make it to Hawaii, or does Will have one last trick up his sleeve? Is she really really to commit to Peter, or is her head reasoning ahead of her heart? Is it all about Peter, or do the professional benefits of possibly being First Lady weigh in?