E: This show is evil. So very, very evil. And I don’t mean cutesy twisted evil, I mean you can’t break our hearts like that evil. You can’t just leave us like that for the next six weeks! That cannot possibly be the last word on the subject!
I will say it again, though. Matt Czurchy is getting a showcase this season like whoa.
When Cary Agos walks into the courtroom, the room is empty. This should be his terrain, his castle, his home turf, and indeed, from a distance he looks crisp and confident. It’s only when the camera spins behind him that we see his suit bowing between his shoulders, imperfectly pressed. When he looks toward the prosecution’s table, we see the strain in his face, skin pulled so taught it looks like his sharp jaw bone will break through. He looks to the jury box. He looks to us. He has been hollowed out, his eyes in shadow.
And a toilet flushes in a gleaming chrome and gray bathroom, where Judge Richard Cuesta (wait, I thought he was demoted to traffic court or something?) endeavors to purchase a pair of tickets to a Neil Diamond concert over the phone and to wash his hands at the same time. He’s on hold, he’s off hold, he’s back on again; the automatic faucets won’t turn on, or shut off before he can reach them. Yeah, we’ve all had those moments. When he grabs his phone from under his chin with still unwashed hands, thrilled to have finally reached a live operator, I bet I wasn’t the only one wincing.
In his chambers, Judge Cuesta struggles into his robes to find his morning getting increasingly irksome when all his assistant can find to feed him for breakfast is a banana walnut muffin instead of his preferred carrot. Hanging up the phone, he clomps into the courtroom. I’m at once heartened, after the awful family life revealed in The Penalty Box, that he’s at least trying to get these tickets for his wife, and doing it himself rather than having his assistant do it — but I can’t help thinking if he’d only paid attention in a more timely manner he wouldn’t be in this bind. The court room rises (Geneva Pine with a phone tucked under her ear), and once they’re all on their feet he waves them down.
“Your Honor,” Diane begins, slim in a rust colored suit, but he shuts her down immediately. “Miss Pine, what’re you doing on your phone?” he snaps as the prosecutor texts someone, her phone at waist level. “If I can’t be on my phone, you can’t be on yours either.” A sheriff’s deputy (or bailiff, or whatever they’re calling the courtroom officers this week) delivers a plastic wrapped muffin to the bench. “This is not carrot,” he frowns, stammering as if looking at an impossible thing. “This is – this is berry of some kind.” Damn, not a good morning.
Then he brightens. “Oh, Mrs. Florrick,” he says. “Showing your support?” She nods and smiles a hello from the front row of the gallery. “I’m surprised you made time for us, you know, running for State’s Attorney and everything.” Ouch. She tries to reply, but he has no time. He wants everyone in his chambers for a 402 – Geneva, Diane, Cary and the court reporter. “I don’t think I’m much help here,” Alicia tells Cary, alarmed, but with a reassuring hand to his shoulder. We’ll call if we need you, Diane dismisses her.
“It’s hard to be on this side,” Cary tells his partner, and she squeezes his shoulder and says she knows, even though she doesn’t quite.
“Where are we at,” Judge Cuesta clutches his hands together as he sits, wearing a green button down and a vest instead of a suit jacket, “because I really don’t want to be in that courtroom with you people.” Geneva, a vision in tweed, tells him that the prosecution will offer 10 years if Cary pleads out. Yeah right. No way, Diane scoffs as Cary sits down behind her. “Well you have a loser case, Diane,” Cuesta leans forward. If you think that then you should recuse yourself, Diane replies evenly; behind her, Cary gulps.
No, no, Cuesta bleats. This is off the record. You haven’t started recording yet, right Judy? The court recorder nods. “Now when Judy types, history takes notice.” Oh, that’s such a comfort, that his improper behavior is off the record and not on it. “Otherwise I strong arm both of you and we compromise in the middle, that’s a 402.” I did nothing wrong, Your Honor, Cary breaks in, pale as bone; and Geneva tilts her head in annoyance. “You’re in my court, young man, that means you did something.” That’s probably the most horrifying thing a judge could say. Being in court does not make you guilty, though certainly we know Cary did something stupid. I can’t believe Diane’s not repeating her objection to this attitude.
“There is a wire that I will allow in court, that has you, Mr. Agos, advising drug dealers how to avoid arrest,” Cuesta declares, stabbing at his desk with a finger. Why has Cuesta heard the tape? He wasn’t present for the pre-trial hearings. Diane rolls her eyes; she tries to have the tape thrown out at hearsay. Yes, Cuesta says, and pointing to Geneva presumes that she’ll make the anticipated forfeiture by wrongdoing argument, and he will rule for Geneva, “because she is right on the law.” Diane drops her head. “You know that, and I know that, so take the plea,” he barks.
“No,” Cary says, quietly defiant, and Cuesta puffs out a frustrated breath.
“Alright then, Miss Pine,” he says, turning to the prosecutor. “Sweeten the deal.” She kind of pouts. “Come on,” Cuesta says. “I’m not your friend here.” I guess that’s something? She’s willing to play ball; six years, best she can do. “There we go,” he says happily. “Diane! Mr. Agos!” Diane looks like she’s sucking on a lemon. “This is what’s called compromise. Six years with day to day good time, that means three years in prison. Whadda ya say?” He’s so hopeful, so cheerful, as if this could possibly be a treat Cary would want. Like, yay, three years in prison! Goody goody gumdrops!
“I say no,” Alicia protests, back at the office. It’s three years of his life, and he won’t be able to practice after it. Again Cary’s eyes are red, and his lips start to pucker at the edges. Diane quotes Will to them; juries are a jump ball. “Judge could be in a bad mood. A witness falls apart. A juror changes his mind. They’re unpredictable.” I can’t go to jail again, Cary says firmly. “I was there a week. I can’t even imagine it.” But if you’re convicted, it’ll be fifteen years, Diane points out, which I guess translates to 7 and a half, which yes, is a lot worse. His face muscles tightening almost imperceptibly, Cary looks away; when he does, he sees Finn out in the hall. Ask Polmar, he decides. Find out whether the SA’s bottom line is really three years.
“So,” Finn says, closing his door behind the two women, “do you need a lawyer?” Heh. Alicia casts her eyes down at this and smiles her flirty smile, but Diane is the one who puts the question to him — does he have any idea where the SA’s bottom line is? — and he of course responds that it would be unethical of him to say. Luckily for Alicia, her phone rings, so she leaves Diane to the awkward task of pressing Finn by herself.
And wow, for the first time this year, the person on the other end of the line is Jackie. Welcome back, Jackie! I was starting to wonder if something had happened to you (or, rather, to actress Mary Beth Peil). Alicia’s not so thrilled to hear from her patrician pseudo-mother-in-law, but Jackie thinks that the interruption is warranted; when Grace’s school couldn’t reach Alicia, they called Jackie instead, but she really thinks Alicia needs to come in. Why, Alicia wonders; once Jackie established Grace isn’t hurt, she’s not very interested. Jackie hunches and whispers into the phone. “Alicia,” she says. “Did you threaten to kill a teacher with a knife?”
Snort. Okay, that’s freakishly hilarious.
At the court house, Judge Cuesta’s finally managed to get back on the phone with the ticket agency, and they’ve managed to locate two tickets for him, but he has to pick them up in person before the office closes at 5. What? Ridiculous. I mean, maybe since the show’s at a college, the box office wouldn’t be part of the theater? Whatever. Hold the tickets for me, Cuesta begs, looking at his watch (which reads 1:35); I will be there. At the very grumpy prompting of his assistant, he goes out into the court.
He has no patience even to let those assembled stand; everyone but Diane and a once again texting Geneva basically ends up doing a squat. “Where are we on the plea, Miss Lockhart?” We reject the plea, Diane tells him. “You are not helping my day, Miss Lockhart,” Judge Cuesta informs her, and I frankly want to spit over this lack of professionalism. It’s not her business to help his day, and it’s not his right to demand she does. Fine, he grumbles, but I want you to know, we’re doing the voir dire this afternoon. “This jury will be seated today,” he snaps. “Let’s go, bring ’em in.” He checks his watch; it’s been 4 minutes.
As quickly and unobtrusively as she can, Alicia tiptoes through Capstone Academy. A friendly-looking teacher waves her into a door. Jackie nods in greeting, and the two women walk into an inner office where a small gathering has assembled — Grace, two muscular folk in gym clothes, and a pretty woman with curly hair and a floaty blue cardigan. Alicia touches her daughter’s arm, hand sliding down to comfort.
Ah, Mrs. Florrick, the petite, silver-bearded man behind the desk says. Perhaps you can explain this. “Dear Coach Linklater,” he reads. “as I wrote yesterday, Grace needs to be excused from running in PE because she has contracted a cold.” Grace and Alicia exchange uncomfortable looks. “If you make her run again, I will personally come down to your office and knife you in your lower intestine.” He gives Alicia a grim, shocked look over the slip of notepaper. “I will then call Principal Englehardt to help you, but since he doesn’t receive or return parental calls of concern, you will most probably bleed out.” Snort. He gives an outraged look to everyone in the room. “Thank you for your concern, Alicia Florrick.” He’s bristling as he sets the note down on his desk and rests his hands next to it, leaning into . “Did you write this, Mrs. Florrick?”
See, here’s the thing, she says, and clears her throat. “Just to be clear, it was a joke.” Um. Yeah. What did they tell you about not joking during an election, Alicia? “Have you ever seen Darkness at Noon?” I should have known. No, the silver-beared man squeaks. Didn’t Capstone have a hideously smug headmistress (in an office at least twice the size of this room) and not a principal the last time we dealt with administration? The main character uses this threat, and Alicia wrote it down to make Grace laugh. “It was never meant to be delivered.” That seems like a thin defense, in that it was delivered. Wait, why was it delivered? The two gym teachers — why two I don’t know — glare at Alicia without a trace of humor. Just muscle and animosity. “Yes, and yet here it is on my desk,” the little man laughs, a tinge of hysteria accents his tone.
“Alicia is a good mother,” Jackie volunteers. “She would never stab … a teacher.” Wait, was she just stumbling over calling the coaches teachers, or was she thinking that Alicia might stab someone else, like Jackie or Peter? Thank you, Alicia cuts Jackie off. “Just to be clear,” Alicia repeats, “it was a joke.” About killing a teacher, the silver haired man fumes. “It wasn’t meant..” Alicia sputters. “How did it get here, anyway?” Well might you ask.
The pretty woman with the curly hair takes this. “Grace is in my civics class,” she explains, “and we were discussing free speech. Was satire protected as free speech?” After class, Grace explains, she showed the note to the teacher. “To ask if it was protected.” Oh, Grace. How are you that naive? “You laughed,” she pleads. “You knew it was a joke!” Yes, but she still asked for the note. “To show it to her husband. You said he’d get a laugh too,” poor Grace tells us. And obviously she also shared with with the administration. GOD.
“It’s not Miss Slavick’s fault she brought it to me,” Englehardt tells Alicia. “It’s the responsibility of all teachers to bring me threats without fail.” His voice goes into a quietly stratospheric falsetto. “This is a threat!” I’m sure every dog in a mile radius heard that. It’s a joke, Alicia counters. We don’t like jokes like that here, he says, which, fair enough. “I understand, and it won’t happen again.” Sigh. I wonder if this is purposefully reminiscent of the Apple Store piece from This American Life? On the one hand, this is ridiculous, but on the other, it’s also a sign of Alicia’s social position that she thinks this will just go away because everyone should know she didn’t mean it. It makes me think of Cary in his innocence, too.
“Guys, I think we should leave it there,” the Principal tells the still livid-looking gym teachers, who leave as ordered without ever uttering a word. I have no idea which one Alicia comically threatened to gut, but in real life I imagine they’d have a lot more to say. I pity Grace when she does start back up in gym. Jackie coos about how nice it is that everyone realizes this is just a misunderstanding.
When next Judge Cuesta checks his watch, it’s 4:48. How is he possible going to get to Chicago State University to get those tickets in time? Can he even reasonably get out of this building in twelve minutes? Do you believe you can be impartial in this trial, Diane asks a bearded man with owlish glasses. He thinks he can do his best, he says. The defense likes him; Geneva does, but she’s run out of peremptory challenges, so she asks for a sidebar which the grants with great reluctance. “We move to strike for cause, Your Honor. This juror has a sister who’s a defense attorney.” You allowed another juror onto the panel who has a cop for a brother, Diane points, and Cuesta snaps. “You are wasting your time ASA Pine. I find this juror acceptable. You are seated, sir,” he says, and the man — oh my gosh, it’s Aaron from Revolution! — sits down, nervous and clutching a book in his hands. I said we’d be done by five, and so we are, with voir dire done, the judge says. He doesn’t care if Geneva has a motion. They’ll begin with opening statements in the morning.
“Oh there you are,” Marisa Gold tells Alicia. Yay! She’s arrived at her new campaign headquarters, which might just be the Florrick/Agos office? At least, I’m going to guess that from all the brick and the familiar freight elevator, even though the layout looks different. Is it weird that I miss this place? “They’re arguing again,” Marisa adds. About the interview, Alicia wonders. Marisa has no idea. “I think they just like it,” she says.
And indeed, there’s Eli and Elfman, together again, bickering like the Odd Couple that they are. Maybe I’ll just start calling the Haircut Oscar Madison instead. Like embarrassed children, the two stop their fighting the moment Alicia walks into the room. “So we have a problem?” Alicia asks. Yes. If Cary get a guilty verdict, Eli explains, he thinks Alicia shouldn’t mention it; she should claim not to be commenting while the matter is still under appeal. Oh, gross. That’s not cool. That’d look heartless, Marisa complains, and her father derides her right to an opinion. The body woman is not supposed to think.
“Uh, she’s right, Eli,” Elfman kind of sneers, which is not like his normally cool demeanor. “And you’d know that if you’d been with us more.” Let’s be honest, he adds. Your focus is on Peter. I don’t even know how Eli can dispute that — this is why he hired the Haircut in the first place — but he does, and vociferously enough to have Alicia closing her eyes in annoyance. Thankfully, Nora steps in (NORA! He brought you with him!) to let them know the Weekly Standard is on the line. As, Eli braces himself for the inevitable questions, Elfman steps in, still atypically hot under the collar. “Eli, you don’t get to decide this. We get to decide this.” He taps on the speaker phone and introduces himself to the reporter, Brian, who needs a quote on a story he’s been chasing. “Hi Brian,” Eli snarls, “Eli’s here too.” Wow, both of you, Brian laughs. “I’ve got the two horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Ha ha, very funny; that’s it for Alicia, who leaves before Elfman asks what Brian needs.
“Tell me this isn’t true,” he says. “Did Alicia Florrick threaten to murder a Chicago teacher with a knife and then let him bleed out like a pig?” Eli’s jaw drops, and the Haircut just stares, shaking his curly locks. Brian repeats the story in his gravelly voice (does he have one of the disgruntled gym teachers as a source?), and Eli can’t even process the charge. “Brian, I … what are you talking about?” he stumbles. So that’s an unequivocal no, Brian asks; “Yes it’s a no, are you insane?” Elfman barks. A worried Marisa, on the other hand, rushes out of the room and drags Alicia back in. I don’t know what intuition prompted that — she wasn’t at the school or at work, after all — but it was good thinking.
“Good talking to you, Brian,” the Haircut says,”any time you wanna know about flying saucers, you call us too.” He hangs up. Both men are laughing. What was that, Alicia asks, and Elfman (grr) tries to shield her from it. Nothing, he says. He didn’t even mention the trial. I think you better tell Alicia what he asked, Marisa demands. No, it was a joke, Eli scoffs. “Did you threaten to murder one of your kid’s teacher’s and bleed him out like a pig?” Marisa asks as E&E dissolve into fits of giggles. Eventually, they realize the candidate is not laughing. “Alicia,” Oscar Madison asks. “Well,” she says. “Here’s the thing…”
“They can’t know,” Geneva Pine flirts into her phone, “I have to head into court.” Oh ho! So that’s why she’s been glued to her phone; it’s not news on the case, it’s a hot and heavy love affair. No way, a personal life for Geneva? Cool. “No, you can’t call me back at home,” she says, and I’m suddenly less enchanted. “I can’t leave him, I can’t.” Wait, WHAT? No. That’s not good. Is she wearing a ring? I have never noticed. Is it a boyfriend or husband? “I’m going now,” she smiles. “I’m going.” Yes, that was a truly impressive effort. “And don’t smile at me on the stand, I’ll crack up.” On the stand? What? Who could she possibly be dating — cheating with, apparently — that’s part of the trial?
“Name and occupation, detective?” she says, barely able to contain her smile. Oh, say it is not so! Gorgeous, smart Geneva Pine is cheating with the creepy heartless bald detective with the thick black hipster glasses? Gross. “Gary Prima,” he says, leaning into the microphone. “I’m a detective with the narcotics section of the Chicago Police Department.” And then he winks at her. I think I’m going to barf. She gives him a saucy, reproving little look, her ponytail swinging, and he sits back up, rubbing his lips. Ew ew ew ew ew. “And you had a confidential information record the defendant committing this crime?” she asks. Diane objects loudly. Argumentative. “That is correct,” Judge Cuesta chirps, clearly in a better mood after his concert, sounding happy to make up for his snippiness of the day before. “Sustained.”
“You had the defendant record the defendant?” she rephrases, and Past His Prime Prima has to correct her. The CI recorded the defendant. Yes. That. “Trey Wagner was a member of Lemond Bishop’s crew, and he agreed to record Mr. Bishop’s attorney, Cary Agos.” Cary frowns. This phrasing makes it sound like Cary was the target initially, not Lemond, like they assumed Cary was guilty of something, which is odd. I’ve never really thought about it this way, but I suppose Trey must have not only edited the conversation but initiated it so as to trap Cary. And do you have that recording for this court, Geneva asks. For form and for the sake of future appeals, Diane objects; hearsay. “I think we’ve been over this,” Geneva swings around to look at both Diane and then the judge. Forfeiture by wrongdoing? Yes, agrees the judge, I’ve warned you about this before, Miss Lockhart. Past His Prima wags his eyebrows at Geneva, who flares her nostrils and tosses her hair like a high-strung horse.
“Excuse me, gentlemen, there is no cross talk in the jury box,” Judge Cuesta admonishes two jurors – Aaron from Revolution and the guy sitting next to him. “The only one is court who should be talking is me!” Geneva frowns at the jurors as the judge gives an admirably concise recap of the legal issues; then she frowns as an intense young man, heavy on the eyebrows and light on the hair, walks into the courtroom and sits down. Since the person who recorded this conversation is dead, the judge explains, the defense cannot ask him why there are gaps in the tape, so the jury will have to decide for themselves if the recorded testimony is not worthy of their full belief. Geneva is so mesmerized by this man that the judge has to prompt her to play the tape.
“You’re Bishop’s lawyer, right?” Trey’s voice begins over the tape. Yeah, I’m one of them, Cary says. WOW. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but now I’m wondering if Castro initially hoped to catch Alicia in wrong-doing, or if he targeted Cary particularly, or if he was simply trawling for anyone connected to both Alicia and Bishop. There is, as advertised, a large chunk of conversation missing before the portion we’ve heard before begins to play. As we hear Cary play the cool guy, damning himself, the intense young man drops a note on Geneva’s desk, a handwritten slip of paper with the words We NEED To TALK scrawled in erratic capital letters.
If he’s an informant that’s one thing, but if that’s the guy she’s cheating on? I can’t even.
“What did I tell you about jokes?” Eli chastises Alicia in a crowded staff meeting. For once, Elfman is in complete agreement. How could you say you were going to stab someone? It was just a quote from Darkness at Noon, Alicia sighs. “Oh, really, which episode?” Marisa wonders, causing Eli to snap at her, too.
Why write the note at all, the Haircut wonders, and isn’t that the truth! That would have made a great verbal joke. Not a very good episode of television, but honestly, I have a hard time imagining Alicia writing this down and and even harder time thinking Grace would be dumb enough to take the note to school and pass it around to the staff. “The PE teacher was shaming Grace into running laps around the school while she was sick,” Alicia excuses herself. (And, okay, I’m sorry. If one of your children is sick — and I say this as a mother — either keep them home, or make them participate fully in school. Yes, it’d be more important to be there for the academics than gym class, but good grief. If she has a broken limb, or even a sprain, or asthma, that’s when you write a note to the gym teacher asking them to excuse your child.) So you threatened to kill him, Eli says, pointing out the ridiculousness of calling that her excuse. “So I threatened to kill him,” Alicia sighs, rolling her eyes. “That was a joke. Don’t joke.”
They formulate a plan together; they’ll have to get back to reporter Brian, since they incorrectly laughed in his face, and they have to get the note back from the civics teacher. Why did that not happen at the initial meeting? The principal had the note, so I’m not even sure how it ended up back with the civics teacher at all, but why wouldn’t Alicia have asked for it straight out? Where the heck was her head? Eli doesn’t even understand how the civics teacher ended up with the note in the first place since it’s about the PE teacher. My God, he says, smacking his hand against his forehead, this is a nightmare. “The only bad people to have in your life are teachers. I’d trust assassins over teachers.” I think Cary would beg to different on all counts, Eli. “This was my childhood,” Marisa notes, and that makes me laugh. “People ask why I turned out the way I did.”
E & E are more interested in how to spin the story. The joke is too complicated to explain. (UGH.) Could they defend her for having said it and meant it? No. Could they say Grace wrote it? Um, not on Alicia’s watch. “She wrote it as an example of what not to… something…” the Haircut attempts to no avail. Oh, come on, Marisa provides the voice of reason once more. It’s a joke. That’s the truth and that’s all you can say. What’s the joke, Eli asks. “She’s Alicia Florrick. Does she look like she’s going to knife a teacher? That’s the joke.” Indeed. “Sometimes it’s funny to say the thing that’ll never happen. We’ve all done it.” Yes again, Marisa. The Haircut looks at Marisa’s father in shock; as long as they get the note back, this should be survivable.
“Detective Prima, was Trey Wagner your confidential informant?” Diane asks; Geneva watches, apprehensive. He was. When was the last time they spoke? Two months ago, just before he disappeared. Didn’t you talk to him a month ago on the phone, Diane wonders, and Past His Prima gives Geneva a worried look. “I don’t think ASA Pine has the answer, Detective,” Diane interjects dryly. (Diane, how I love you.) Geneva objects on grounds of relevance, which is ridiculous considering that Diane basically just caught the detective in a lie; Cuesta’s curious about the answer. Geneva looks wrecked, and that’s where she kind of breaks my heart again, because if she knows about Trey’s attempt to exonerate Cary, then she must know that Cary’s innocent, that the tape really is manipulated, and if she knows all that, how can she stand to keep prosecuting him? I don’t understand that, I really don’t. In many ways, a defense attorney operates in despite of the truth; guilty or innocent, the client deserves a defense. But a prosecutor? Yes, they have to believe in guilt before bringing the case, but if the defense can actually prove innocence (rather than just maneuver a not guilty verdict) shouldn’t they celebrate, because then they didn’t put a guilty person behind bars?
Sorry. I really don’t get how Geneva could believe that Cary did this or worked all that time for Bishop, I just don’t.
“I spoke to someone who identified himself as Trey Wagner, but I wasn’t, I couldn’t be sure,” Past His Prima twitches. ASA Finn Polmar assured you that it was Trey, didn’t he, Diane presses. (She can just say that, but can’t introduce Finn on the stand to give his own testimony? Does that seem nonsensical to anyone else?) He did, Prima admits, shifting in his seat, looking uncomfortably from the jury to Geneva and back. “And did this person on the phone tell you that he had set up Cary Agos?” It’s hearsay, Geneva objects, but Diane argues successfully that the hearsay exception flows both ways, and Prima’s forced to answer that yes, this person said he set up Cary by selectively shutting off the recording device. Geneva’s horrified that the jury gets to hear this; that Trey was too scared to turn in Bishop, so he provided the SA’s office with damning manufactured evidence against someone less threatening.
“And how long after he said this was Trey Wagner killed?” Diane wonders. Of course Geneva objects, so Diane quickly rephrases; how long after he made this confession was Trey Wagner killed in a car crash the police deem suspicious? 48 hours. Geneva looks infuriated, which again really bothers me. Since Diane’s now finished on that dramatic note, a snarky Cuesta decides to break for lunch; it looks like he miraculously made it over for the tickets, because he marches off singing the Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline.”
“Got it,” Marisa says, and Alicia puts her hand over her phone, sitting in her office. That’s a smaller desk than Will’s, isn’t it? I’m so relieved that they’ve changed things up enough, and are shooting everyone from different enough angles, to make being here a bit less painful. The body woman has clearly been trolling the internet for mention of the note, and she’s found it on Buzzfeed Politics: “Grizzly Mom in Illinois Race Shows Claws.” There’s a photo of Alicia making a speech next to one of a standing bear, arms extended. “Good headline,” Marisa snickers. “Don’t get Alicia Florrick angry,” she reads; Alicia shakes her head and rolls her eyes at this rumor that she threatened a teacher at her daughter’s “tony high school,” but she’s pleased that even though they got the story, at least they don’t have the actual note. There is a red flag, however; Alicia’s been on the phone with Grace, who tells her that the civics teacher will only hand over the note to Alicia in person, which seems odd. Why? I think because she wants to make sure you’re not going to threaten to kill someone again, Grace replies dryly, and then apologizes for trusting the teacher in the first place.
Don’t worry, I’ll call her, Alicia says. I’m just sorry I put you through this. You didn’t put me through this, Grace says; I did. Alicia protests, which makes her a lot nicer than I probably would have been, because as dumb as it was of Alicia to write the note, it was a thousand times worse of Grace to show it to anyone. Really, considering the publicity surrounding their family, and the way they’ve been betrayed over and over, I’m stunned she’s still that trusting, and I wonder if Alicia’s doing her a favor by letting her stay that way. “I need to stop joking,” Alicia replies, which, okay. “They need to get a sense of humor,” Grace tells her, and Alicia smiles. Oh well.
“You’re nice with your daughter,” Marisa tells her boss. Yeah. Eli would never have been that nice, even on a good day, and I do really admire her ability to (generally) be calm and loving even while she’s being firm with the kids. Speaking of Eli, he and Elfman conference call to discuss the Buzzfeed article; they think that Alicia can own the Grizzly Mom title and people will be okay with it. “I tried to stab a teacher because I love my daughter?” she asks in disbelief, and the two men snap at her lack of enthusiasm for their spin plan. Of course this idea only works if the note itself doesn’t get out (or so they claim); Alicia assures them she’s on it.
“Uh oh,” Marisa says. “I’m really beginning to hate those syllables,” Alicia replies as the body woman brings her laptop to Alicia’s side of the (definitely new) desk. “Are you asking me how I would handle school violence?” Frank Prady clarifies with a reporter at a press conference online. Uh oh indeed. Yes, but any school violence, the unseen reporter presses. Gee, I wonder what they’re talking about? “What are you watching?” a nervous Elfman asks; it’s Frank with the Correspondents Board, Marisa says. “Let me say this,” Frank tells the camera. “If a teacher or a student threatened to knife a student, yes, I would prosecute him.” Alicia drops her head into her hand. “Or her?” the reporter asks. Yes, Frank says, giving me mental reruns of the “stiffer the better” interview, to the fullest extent of the law. “And yes, if there were even merely a written threat, I would prosecute.” Furious and disappointed in Frank, Alicia shakes her head. “School violence is too serious to treat as a joke.”
Alicia, he’s coming after you, Elfman surmises. That’s kind of his job, coming after her, isn’t it? Exploiting her weaknesses? We need to go with the oppo research, Eli breaks in. The Haircut has two sources claiming to be Frank’s male ex-lovers; Eli assures her that no one will know it was them. Do these two goons even know Alicia? That’s not what she cares about, the appearance of wrong-doing. (Plus, it’s a two person race. Everyone will know it was them anyway.) We have to feed them something or they’ll hunt you down, they say. We don’t agree on much, but we agree on this. Almost resigned, Alicia asks for the rest of the afternoon to consider her options.
Ah. There’s a picture on Geneva’s desk of her in a white suit in front of a stone church, clutching both a white bouquet and the intense looking man who wanted to talk to her at the courthouse. So she is married and cheating. Awesome. You know, I understand that this is part of the episode’s theme — Will’s jump ball, that Cary’s fighting for his freedom against a system in which none of the players have their complete attention focused on the justice of what they’re doing, as exemplified by the cranky judge and Geneva juggling an affair — but I’m sorry that the very first glimpse we ever get of this character’s personal life is such an ugly one. Yes, she’s always had a chip on her shoulder, always prickly, but I like Geneva, and I like that we’ve had this character played by a very beautiful actress who despite that has always been valued for her brain and dedication rather than her looks or sexuality. After all, they could have given her Dana’s plot — flirting with Kalinda, sleeping with Cary — but they didn’t. Not that I want her to be a nun, but geesh.
Anyway. Castro’s in her office, menacing. “You gave them reasonable doubt,” he complains. Er, why is SHE responsible for that? A) It’s the truth, and B) she tried to shut the line of questioning down, but the law wasn’t on her side. Not that this prosecutor’s officer seems to care about that. I know, she says wearily. Do you know what to do, he asks ominously. She does. Good, he says. Do it.
Castro notices Geneva looking past him at another bald head gleaming in the dimly lit hall. “We cannot lose this,” he insists as he leaves. Geneva holds her stomach as Past His Prima walks in. “So,” he says. “It’s over between us.” Thank God. If it were any other time, she says, trying to let him down easy. “Now that you don’t need me,” he says bitterly. “That’s not fair,” she complains, and what did he expect would come from dating his married coworker, but he just walks out. What’s the solution here? Pouring her feelings into work, of course. Now kick some ass, she tells herself. And indeed, the next day in court we see the results of her brainstorming – a new witness. Kalinda Sharma.
Just as Aaron from Revolution sat down with his book – the novel he’s been reading since the first day, Wyndham Lewis’s Revenge for Love — the bailiff calls the jury back from their tiny cement holding room. The sidebar is over, he says, although Diane’s still talking to Judge Cuesta when the jury files in to take their seats. (Kalinda wasn’t on the witness list! The speedy trial provision prevented us from preparing a witness list thoroughly!) Aaron always looks terrified, and he’s good at it, though I’m really not sure why the courtroom is so frightening. Does he think there are nanites hiding somewhere? As he sits, he watches poor Cary try to remain composed. “Enough,” decides Cuesta. “The witness is in the woods; let’s bring her in.” The what? I thought the witnesses waited out in the hall. I don’t know that term.
On the stand, Kalinda introduces herself as a freelance investigator. Still? Really? “And do you primarily work for Mr. Agos’s firm, Funnel, Adore and Lookout?” Er, what’s that? Did she just change the name to protect the firm? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that Cary’s being tried in his own name, and Diane’s representing him using hers. Anyway, that’s where Kalinda mostly works. “To your knowledge, did Cary Agos work for Lewmar Bishop when he was Emperor of the Lake District?” Okay, now I’m really confused. “No, he definitely wasn’t,” Kalinda responds.
“Kalinda Sharma, are you Cary Agos’s hunter?” Okay, what? Diane stands to object. This is an old lawyer trick, she claims. “I’m not trying to trick,” Geneva replies. “List Pine is lying under the question, and …” The two women begin to talk over each other, and so the judge breaks in. “No, no,” he says. “This is not time for a debit.” Oh good grief. Aaron leans over to ask his neighbor – the man he was admonished for talking to earlier — what the prosecutor had just said. “She said, are you Cary Agos’s lover.” Ah, Aaron nods. Does he have a hearing problem of some kind? Is he having a stroke? Maybe that’s why he looks terrified. He rejoins the proceedings in enough time to hear the judge call this an old lumberjack trick, making it appear as if the wasted was nothing. Er, okay. That’s got to be confusing, living inside his head. Diane’s objection is sustained, and she then asks that they “abstract nunneries.” That must have been fun to say. Of course Aaron’s hearing (or I guess it’s his brain?) snaps in for this last bit — they should disregard hearing the bit about Kalinda and Cary being lovers. Cause that works, pretending you didn’t hear something.
Wearing her habitual black and white, Alicia walks through the office only to run into Finn. Not literally – they’s separated by almost enough space to satisfy Cary’s bond restrictions — but they’re both stopped short by it. She tucks in her chin, gives him a little look from under her lashes, and walks up to him. He steps a little closer, looking around. “Have we been avoiding each other?” he asks, and again, gosh, I love that he’s so direct. “I … I don’t think that we have, but… we should probably talk anyway.”
Sadly, neither of them is that good at talking about whatever this is between them. They sit slumped on either side of Alicia’s new desk with its modern yet feminine lines. I can see now there’s metal under the ebony wood.
Finn, of course, is the one to start. “I don’t want to avoid you,” he says after some false starts. I know, she agrees. “I hate awkwardness at work.” Why do they have to see each other? Doesn’t the elevator go directly to see 27th floor? Why’s he on the 28th so often? Not that I think they should avoid each other, either, but running into each other at work is not the reason. It’s too much like high school, he says, and she agrees; so let’s not avoid each other.
“So here’s the thing,” he says. “I like you as a friend.” Now that sounds high school. She says she feels the same. “It’s stupid to drop our friendship just because…” Exactly, she cuts in, nodding fiercely before he can say that she kind of hit on him and he didn’t exactly mind. He sits back and exhales. “So here’s what we do,” he says, “we have … rules.” Good, she agrees. I like rules. Do you ever, Alicia. “We meet in brightly lit diners, not bars.” Pancakes not drinks, she suggests. Yes. They smile. “And we talk about the law,” he finishes, throwing his hands out to demonstrate the vastness of the subject matter open to them. “Great,” she grins, “with accordion music.” Well, unfortunately accordion music kind of turns me on, he quips, and she laughs.
And then she stops laughing, because she sees Frank Prady talking to a woman in the hall. “Okay,” Finn says, immediately taking the cue. “No music. I’ll see you.” Sigh.
Maybe oddly, she goes to meet Frank in the hallway. You’d think she’d want privacy, even with the magic tower of invisibility her coworkers have constructed around her campaign. “So what the hell?” he asks, waspish. She’s at a loss. “You leaked to the press these two guys who said they had an affair with me? I thought we said…” Wait, what, she cuts in. You leaked them to the press, he insists, very upset. She did not, she promises. Or your staff did, he insists, and that seems very likely. Excuse me, we did not, she says, although I have no idea why she would be so sure. It’s not like her staff listens to her or tells her the truth. “Do we have an agreement or not?” he presses, angry. We said we wouldn’t smear each other.
“What a minute,” she cuts in. “Who’s the one who went to the correspondents and said I should be prosecuted?” Yeah, that’s not cool. Shaking his head, he asks if she’s serious. You turned a one day blip into a fight, she adds. “I didn’t know you threatened to…” and here he cracks up, because like Marisa said, it’s so ridiculous you can’t even entertain it, “stab a teacher.”
The story was already out, she tells him glumly. (By about thirty seconds.) They didn’t offer me any context, he said. “They just asked me if I would prosecute a women for threatening to stab a teacher, and yes, oddly enough, I said yes.” Here he breaks into laughter again. “I didn’t know it was about you.” I love the undercurrents of privilege running through here; OH, since it’s you, obviously we know you were joking. The law clearly wouldn’t apply to you.
“Then correct it,” she challenges him. Er, say what? “Tell the correspondent that you know what I wrote was a joke and that they were wrong to take it out of context.” Yeah, he doesn’t love that idea. “Ah,” she says pointedly, watching his clench his jaw, “are we not friends anymore, Frank?” Our agreement wasn’t that we help each other win, he says. It was that we not fight dirty. Right. Well, I could see how exploiting a gaff could feel different than the sexual slur crap – but on the other hand, how refreshing would it be to hear a politician say “oh, come on, you know that’s not how my opponent meant that.” That’d be a candidate worth voting for. You did fight dirty, she says, but he insists that since he didn’t know what they were referencing, that shouldn’t matter, a nonsense defense that justly bothers her. (On the other hand, it’s not like she can take back the two lovers; there’s no undoing that one either.) “Okay,” she says, giving him a disappointed look, “let’s just leave it there.”
So you’re just going to let your handlers leak dirt on me, he asks. “Dirt that you know isn’t true?” Does she know that? Because smearing is nasty and doesn’t belong in politics, but I didn’t get the impression that it was manufactured evidence. I have no knowledge that my handlers did that, Alicia answers as if she were in court. “Wow,” Prady says, taking in a deep breath. “So we’re right back where we started?” No, she disagrees. “We’re even in the polls now.” He sniffs again, and makes his exit as dignified as possible.
Again we see the court from Aaron’s point of view, loud and bustling. This time, Diane and Geneva are at the judge’s bench; Diane has a note in her hands. Over Diane’s objections, the judge says they’ll return to his chambers, then tells the sheriff to excuse all the jurors except Juror 11, who should join them in chambers. Always panicky, Aaron now looks like he’s ready to run.
“Why?” Alicia asks Cary over the phone. ‘What happened?” He doesn’t know. “They took our only slam dunk juror into chambers.” He’s the only one they feel comfortable with? Damn. Does he think Geneva’s trying to bounce her? “Him,” Cary corrects, “and it looks like it.” He’s standing in the stone hallway of the courtroom; Alicia’s in a brightly lit classroom. “Well, how’s the alternate?” she wonders; both are bad, he says. Keep me in touch, she asks, and then hangs up.
“Thank you for coming, Alicia,” Ms Slavick walks in and shakes her hand. Oh no, Alicia says. I’m never too busy for Grace’s teachers. Right. “I know you want your note back. I’m so sorry for how this got blown out of proportion,” the teacher says. “I knew you were joking, but there are liability issues…” I understand, Alicia nods, and then cuts to the chase. Why did she want to talk? The door remains open through this conversation. “My husband works with the teacher’s union,” Ms Slavick says, “and over the last five years there’s been a decrease in school crime oversight in the SA’s office.” Immediately, Alicia realizes that this is a shake down. “Yes?” she asks. “Yes. It’s terrible,” Ms Slavick continues. “It’s terrible. There used to be a task force of eight teachers that would advise the State’s Attorney on school crime.”
“And you would like to have that back?” Alicia surmises. “Yes,” the dirty civics teacher says. “We would love to have that back.” Wow. Extortion. That’s just awesome. And that’s not all! She wants the committee, with positions set aside for teacher union members. “That would be really great for us.” Mmmm. I’ll bet.
“Just give it to her,” Eli snaps. No, Alicia declares. It’s patronage. Um, no, it’s blackmail, which is different but also illegal. How ironic that this all comes from an ambitious civics teacher! Or ambitious for her husband, anyway, since private school teachers are rarely unionized. Of course it’s patronage, Alicia, Eli tells her. “How do you think this thing works?” I said no, she says in a calm and dangerous voice. “And I congratulate you on that stance, Alicia, but you need that note not to circulate.”
As ever, Elfman swoops in with a more rational argument as to why she should compromise her principles. Yes, it’s important that she shows how she can stand up to patronage, but if no one knows she’s doing it, then what good does it do? “There’s some patronage that everybody accepts. Your husband accepts…” Oi, Eli winces, because he knows the argument is now lost. “Exactly,” she says. “I’m not going to be like Peter.” She stands up. Hey, I still want to find out if E&E leaked the sex story without her permission! Or at least, I assume that’s what happened, but I’d like to hear them talk about it. “You know,” Eli rolls his eyes up at the Haircut, “ethics!”
Skulking along the walls, Aaron makes his nervous way into Judge Cuesta’s chambers. “Mr. Fratti, is it?” the judge says loudly, and offers doubting Aaron a seat. He sits across from the judge; Geneva and Diane stand behind his chair. I have a note here, the judge says, from an anonymous juror. Wow, this is really the episode for note passing, isn’t it? The contents are as follows: “‘I think Juror 11 might be partially deaf. He is having trouble understanding the proceedings, and he continually asks those around him what’s going on.’ Are you deaf?” No, Fratti answers.
Geneva wants the Judge’s attention, and Diane reminds her they’re supposed to be silent. “Stop it,” Cuesta snaps. “I understand what’s going on here. Miss Lockhart, you think he’s pro-defense and you want him to stay, and Miss Pine, you want him to go. Well, shush! Both of you. Now Mr. Fratti, is there anything that would prevent you from understanding this trial?”
“I didn’t hide anything,” he says. I know that, but please answer the question, the judge presses, and so reluctantly, squirming, he does. “During certain moments of stress, I can suffer from APD, auditory processing disorder.” Knowing it’s over, Diane closes her eyes. And why didn’t you mention this during voir dire, the judge wonders; because it only happens infrequently, which was the question put to me, Fratti answers. “Occasionally, I can have trouble with the sequencing of words, or confusing similar sounds.” But it didn’t affect him at all during trial, he insists; he followed the trial, and he has coping mechanisms. Geneva and Diane can’t help breaking in here with their obvious views, but the judge holds up a hand. He’s thought of a test; he turns around and asks Fratti what he just said. What we heard was “What waxing of the last wideness?” Your Honor, please, it’s not a common name, Diane interrupts, and it’s through that cue that Fratti’s able to answer that the last witness was named Kalinda something. She looks momentarily relieved.
At this, Geneva wants to ask a question, but Cuesta has a different one. Turning his back on Fratti, he asks whether Cary Agos hurt lemons bussing the important tree mills of honey cuts. So, something about Cary and Lemond Bishop, but what? Fratti has no idea.
After the bailiff escorts him out, Fratti notices Cary in the courtroom hall with Kalinda, and looks around to see if there’s anyone . Right, because after going to such extreme lengths not to break his bond agreement, Kalinda and Cary are going to hang out and hold hands in the courthouse? Excuse me while I go hit something. (Okay, no, they’re not actually touching but they’re on each side of a corner and about 2 inches apart so in terms of the bond agreement .) “I’m sorry,” Fratti says, walking up to Cary. “I thought you were innocent.” Argh. He walks off, then turns to look back at Cary, who’s leaning on the wall and asking Kalinda for help.
Those moments replay after commercial (that’s so weird, I don’t like it), but from Kalinda’s perspective rather than the juror’s. We don’t have a strong enough case, Cary tells her. Um, ya think? Now, I still think the phone call with Trey provides reasonable doubt, but when Geneva comes in with all the circumstantial evidence about Cary’s long standing relationship with Bishop once Cary’s on the stand… Ugh. Even if he’s in better control of himself, things got incredibly ugly with Viola in mock prep. I’ll see what I can do, she says.
The first thing she does is get on the phone with Alicia and explain about losing the juror. “How can I help?” Alicia asks. Kalinda thinks they have to go after Dante, the one crew member who still remains alive (we think) but who ran off after Trey was killed. I can’t get anything out of Finn, Alicia replies, but Kalinda won’t leave it at that. “Alicia, he knows that Cary is innocent. He knows that this is a wrongful prosecution, and he will hear it if you say it.” Is that part of their case, I wonder? Are they going to have Alicia testify about Castro? That might help. Kalinda wants any lead that could get them to Dante, although I don’t really know why Finn would have that information. If the SA’s office knew where Dante was, wouldn’t they go after him? Not to save Cary or undercut their case, but to try and turn him against Bishop too?
You’re kidding, Eli snaps as Alicia shuts off her phone. Elfman reads the note aloud off Eli’s laptop. That bit about knifing the coach in his lower intestine will never get old. “You know, for some reason I thought this was going to be funnier,” Eli frowns, doing his best prissy Felix Unger. Ha. “Where is it, on the blog?” The correspondent blog, the Haircut confirms. “Give her the patronage, Alicia,” Eli presses. What does it matter now, she asks – and indeed, it’s an excellent question, being that the cat is very much out of the bag — but they think that the teacher union will matter. God. I have to go, she says, ignoring their demands.
And she’s going to a very loud diner where Finn’s waiting for her and a baby wails in the background. “Well you succeeded in finding the ugliest diner in Chicago,” Alicia tells him, although I think the cherry red vinyl booths are actually pretty great. It’s pouring outside, and she shakes her coat and her hair and jacket as she sits down. “Well it helps that we both smell like wet dog,” Finn says dryly, and she laughs. “And pancakes,” she says as the waitress sets down a pair of plates in front of them, with butter and bacon to boot. “Perfect.” She looks down at the food, and then over at him, and then folds her arms on the table. “So, fellow lawyer,” she begins. “I have a request that’s gonna make up both uncomfortable,” she says. Great, that’s why I’m here, he quips. “You heard about Cary’s trial?” Yes, the juror, he says. Yes. “We need to find Dante,” she says, and he looks around the room uncomfortably. But he’s the only one alive who can testify to the wire being edited.
So, I take it that Cary is not testifying after all? I mean, not that Dante wouldn’t be better — not being Cary — but still, I feel like they’d determined that Cary could handle being on the stand?
I can’t say anything, Finn says, looking down at his plate. I get that, she says, I do. It’s just that — and that’s when the lights go out. Alicia looks up, her white blouse glowing blue in the half light. Well that’s not good, Finn observes. “It’s the storm, hold on,” a woman says, and then as Finn invites Alicia to keep talking, a waitresses sets a red votive candle between the two of them. Ha. “I was saying, no I think you were saying?” Oh, he was. I can’t say anything, he repeats.
And that’s when another patron picks up his guitar – as you do — and starts playing, and then singing in Spanish. Oh, man. Alicia can’t control herself, laughing into her hand at this suddenly romantic atmosphere. “Of course,” Finn snarks.
“So you can’t say anything?” she repeats. Right. He can’t. But he can pass her a small manila envelope. What’s that, she asks, and he shrugs exaggeratedly. “I can’t say anything.” When she frowns, he spills; they’re surveillance photos from Bishop’s house, pictures of anybody entering or exiting. “Of course I don’t know how you got ’em,” he says, “because, well, I can’t say anything.”
The hands folded over the manila envelope belong to Kalinda; it now rests not on the laminate booth tabletop, but on a beautiful wooden table. In the distance, we hear intermittent snatches of an argument.
“My Dad’s fighting,” Dylan Bishop tells Kalinda, having trudged downstairs and walked into the gorgeous, immaculate kitchen. The wooden surface is actually his island. “He’ll be right here, it’s just his girlfriend,” the boy offers, opening up the fridge. This poor lonely child. “Sure,” Kalinda says, watching Dylan as he grabs a container of milk. “Do you work with my Dad,” he wonders. “Sometimes,” she says. “Do you come here after school?” Yeah, he says, pouring himself some of the milk. Is she thinking he might have overheard the conversation? Hmmm. “Why?” No reason, she says, but the presses more – is that at three o’clock? Dylan’s saved from this uncomfortable conversation not by a bell, but by his father rushing down the stairs, furious with the elegant girlfriend’s refusal to trust him. (Gee, I wonder why she doesn’t?) “Very adult,” he says, throwing out his arms, as she ignores him and walks down another set of stairs in the living room.
He stalks into the kitchen, looking especially large and powerful in his fitted pink shirt and suspenders. He tells Dylan to go to bed. I know, the boys grumbles, and they hug, and say they love each other as Kalinda averts her eyes, and then the boy takes his milk upstairs.
“What do you need, Kalinda?” Bishop asks, putting away the milk and wiping up the island. It’s clear he’s not in a mood to help. “Dante,” she says. Yeah, he snaps, a lot of people need Dante. Why ask me? Because I think you know where he is, she says. Huh. Does that mean that Dante was one of the people photographed coming in and out of Bishop’s house? “And if you wanted him to testify, he would.” Alright, Bishop admits, and wow is his fuse short. Maybe I don’t want him to testify. Does that mean that Bishop is hiding actually hiding Dante, not the other way around? Confusing. It’s a little late, he says. Can we do this another time? No; she has some photos she wants him to see. It is with great reluctance that he allows her to take them out; he steps back, but leans on the island with one hand.
Like a card dealer, she puts each one out on the table, each image showing a man walking out of Bishop’s door. Shaking his head, Bishop leans in again, arms on the island. “Kalinda,” he says patiently, “I know you like Cary. But you shouldn’t be here, saying that to me.” He picks up one of the photos. “And you shouldn’t be here with such a weak weapon.” Kalinda stares back unflinching. “These are four known drug dealers entering your front door,” she tells him. Yep, he agrees cheerily. What of it? He’s not there, he says, brandishing one, shoving it toward her face. “Do you see me in that picture?”
“You don’t need to be there, sir,” Kalinda gives it right back to him. “For them to arrest me, I sure do.” This is not about you, Kalinda says. “This is about Dylan.” He barely moves, but in that instant Bishop turns from an exasperated man into a terrifying predator. ‘There’s enough here for child services to take your son away.”
Holy crap. Is that … oh my gosh. Who is making that threat, the State’s Attorney’s Office, or Kalinda?
Bishop stares down Kalinda, not saying a word, not moving an inch. You can see she’s rethinking this strategy. He turns his head slowly until we can see the white of one eye from behind. It’s a measure of how alarming his silence is that Kalinda feels the need to point out that she’d never be so stupid as to show up with anything other than copies of those pictures. “Anyone know you’re here?” he asks, his voice low and guttural. “Yeah,” she replies, tensing the tiniest possible fraction, and his answering nod is just as tiny.
And that’s when he explodes, right in her face.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asks, pointing at her face, and I have no idea how she doesn’t recoil. “Who do you think I am?” I’m not, she starts, but he’s not letting her speak. “No – you come here, threaten me?” She gulps. “You come here to threaten my son?” I’m not threatening you, she claims. “Look – we wanna help you. But, we need your help.” Tell him that the State’s Attorney is plotting this, not you! “Get out of here, Kalinda,” he commands, “before I think about this too much.” He stalks off and stomps up the stairs, so she collects her photographs in silence.
The next morning in court, Kalinda’s already seated behind Cary (again with the bail violation, right in front of the judge?) when Diane walks in. She bends over to the investigator. “Kalinda, how did you find Dante?” Kalinda just blinks up at her. Never mind, don’t tell me, Diane smiles. She heads up to her seat, and Cary turns back. “You’re a life saver,” he says fervently. I’m just looking forward to this being over, she tells him, and Cary grabs her hand and holds it with more gratitude than he has words to give. “Your Honor, we have a new witness,” Diane proclaims. “Dante Wallach.” Kalinda settles into her seat for the final chapter.
“Dante Wallach,” the young crew member introduces himself on the stand. And you know the defendant, Diane asks. “That guy? Yeah,” is the answer. And was he present in Lemond Bishop’s kitchen the day of the wiretapped conversation, May 25th of this year? Yeah, he says (he’s quite the conversationalist – although I guess that makes him unlikely to get tangled up on the stand, if less likable than his late crew members Trey and Jim), and Cary permits himself a small smile, which makes me unutterably nervous. “And did you ask him questions about your business?” Dante’s attention catches on something at the back of the court, and Cary turns to see Bishop walk in and seat himself behind Kalinda. “Yeah,” he says, but Cary can’t look away from Bishop. Why is he here?
“And you have heard the prosecutor’s tape of this conversation?” Kalinda smiles reassuringly at Cary. “The wire? Yeah,” Dante replies. “And does this tape reflect your conversation?” Yeah, he says, then stops in confusion. What does she mean? The face Cary turns toward the witness is a study in tension. “Did Cary tell you how to break the law?” Diane asks, clearly expected him to scoff at the idea.
“Yeah,” he says.
Little bits of Cary’s face tighten, as if creating dimples of stress, as if his face were caving in from the monumental effort not to cry, not to break. As if the structure of his bones were breaking apart.
“Let me ask you again,” Diane starts, and Geneva, no doubt stunned by this unexpected bounty, cuts her off. “I think he already answered,” she says, but Diane snaps back; she wants to be clear that she’s asking whether Cary told you he couldn’t help you break the law.” Cary thinks about looking back at Bishop, the obvious source of this betrayal. “No,” Dante drawls, “he told us how to break the law. How to be smart about it.” Cary shakes his head, slowly. “Ah, Mr. Wallach, excuse me, but outside this court you told us the exact opposite of what you’re saying here.” Now Cary does turn around, and Kalinda shakes her head at him. The very outmost edge of his lip starts to flare up, just on the one side. Maybe you misunderstood me, Dante shrugs.
“Is someone threatening you, Mr. Wallach?” We see Diane from below, from Cary’s perspective; her suit has some sort of appliqué on the front which makes me think of feathers, a saving angel turned in on itself. Argumentative, Geneva objects; Diane asks for a sidebar, and Judge Cuesta agrees, and all this while that the professionals worry about procedure and technique Cary sits and watches his entire life, his entire future, everything he’s hoped and dreamed and worked for, every piece of pride he has, drain away.
He turns in time to see Lemond Bishop lean in toward Kalinda. “Don’t you ever threaten me again, do you understand?” he hisses, voice low. “Get him to tell the truth,” she pleads. “I need to know that you understand, Kalinda.” She understands. “Now get him to tell the truth.” He trains his eyes on Cary, watching and listening from his place as the accused. “That’s your problem,” Bishop says, and he leaves. Faced with the catastrophic failure of her desperate gamble, Kalinda is as anguished as we’ve ever seen — our peerless investigator, our girl who always plays the smart game, who’s always so many steps ahead of the rest of us, who hardly ever judges wrong.
Cary turns away.
He stares down into the table. He’s still staring, seeing himself indistinctly in the shiny table top in the conference room back at work. He’s a man apart, a sleepwalker in a dream. He sees Diane talking to Geneva through the glass walls.
Rushing into the room, Kalinda says his name, sits down next to him, urgent, unsettled. “Look, I will talk to him again,” she says, desperate. No, he says. You can’t. She rears her head back. “You can’t take the plea,” she replies, sensing that he’s given up. He licks his lips. “Four months ago,” he says, “my life, it was just that — my life. And now I don’t know what it is. I go from one nightmare to another, and I just want it to be over.” There is strain in his voice, tears in Kalinda’s eyes. “They’re gonna convict me. We don’t have a case. I look at the jury…” And here his voice breaks, and he stops so he doesn’t cry. “… and they wanna put me away.” He sniffs in as much leaking emotion as he can.
Diane opens the door, and he twitches away from Kalinda, tries to recover his poise. “Cary, do you have a minute?” Diane asks. “Oh, yeah,” Cary replies, aiming for nonchalant; Geneva follows Diane into the room with the air of a mourner at a wake. The SA’s office, it seems, has a new offer. “Mr. Agos, hello,” she says carefully as Diane sits in her fantastic feathered dragon of a jacket. “The State’s Attorney is prepared to offer time served with six months probation,” Geneva offers, looking him full in the face. “Really?” he asks, looking to Kalinda and Diane in wonder and confusion. Time served? You mean there’s an end? There is. “If you testify against Bishop.” There’s that faint smile on his face as Cary’s hopes collapse; Kalinda watches him closely in case he does.
Finally he raises his head. “I can’t do that,” he replies, sniffing. Geneva understands. In that case, she can offer him a better plea — four years instead of six. His mouth falls open and his head falls back and his eyes raise up and he gasps, hard, because it is clear that this will be his best hope. With time served, someone wonders, but since he only served a week I can’t see how that would help. No, Geneva says. Day for day that’s two years in prison. “It’s the best you’ll ever get,” she says, and again, his face starts to pit, and break apart, and she has the grace to leave him to it.
When he raises his head, and his throat spasms, Diane asks what he thinks. “I think I’m angry,” he declares. “She’s not wrong, Cary,” Diane impresses on him. “We go to jury, you might get fifteen years. That’s seven and a half in real years.” I don’t know how there could be more water in Kalinda’s eyes, but there is. “Or you get out when you’re thirty seven.” He inhales a shuddering breath. “And it all comes crashing down,” he says, and stands.
“Cary, where are you going?” Kalinda asks, rising up to meet him. I need some air, he says. I would be concerned — hell, I am concerned — that he might harm himself. He presses his hand against Kalinda’s shoulder, then grasps Diane’s hand and squeezes it on his way out.
“How’s he doing?” Alicia asks on her cell phone in the campaign office. “I don’t know,” Diane says, sitting behind her desk. “It’s so hard. I can’t imagine being in his position. Where is he, Alicia wonders. Downstairs walking, Diane guesses. “I’m coming over,” Alicia decides. I think that would be good, Diane tells her. And then she thinks. “What do you think he should do?” Diane asks. “Take the four years or fight?” Alicia wonders. Yes, that. “I have no idea.”
“Oh,” Diane remembers to ask. “Did you really threaten to knife your daughter’s PE teacher?” We need the levity; the embarrassment of it wilts Alicia where she stands. “Not one of my better moments,” she confesses.
Before Alicia can leave, however, she catches Eli and Elfman crowing over a news story. There’s Ms Slavick on the news, saying that Alicia’s a perfect parent.”She was joking with her daughter, that was all.” Then there’s the natty little principal. “I want to be clear,” he tells a reporter. “We take school violence very seriously.” His seriously demeanor lifts into a perky smile. “But this was just a misunderstanding. Mrs. Florrick has been a real friend to our school, and …” Beaming into Alicia’s suspicious face, Eli cuts off the clip. “You guys didn’t,” she says. Didn’t what? Ha ha, Eli. Didn’t promise Ms. Slavick or her husband a job on this commission if Alicia wins, you dolt. When he denies it, Alicia presses. Is he saying that they just changed their minds? Yes, Eli said. After getting seats on the Illinois Safety Commission, the Haircut explains.
Oh, Alicia realizes. So you didn’t offer them patronage — Peter did. “Yup. He had some empty seats on a new commission he formed.” Oh, awesome. The Haircut tries to spin this as a win for Alicia, but he’s lucky that she’s distracted.
Distracted, of course, by her distraught partner, who’s wandering the streets of Chicago at night. I’m terrified that he’s going to throw himself in front of a car to make it all end. He stops to consider the full moon, the bright skyline, the fresh air.
And that’s when the dark SUV pulls up behind him. He barely has to turn to know who’s inside.
“Cary. How are you?” Bishop asks, rolling down his window. That’s a fine thing to ask a man after what you did. “Hunky dory,” Cary says, looking thin and knife blade sharp and sounding recklessly angry. You wanna talk, Bishop asks. “Sure,” Cary snaps, like a man with nothing to lose. “Why not?” He walks around the car and steps in, his gaze resolutely focused in front of him.
“You’ve been good, Cary,” Bishop tells him, and when Cary turns his face and doesn’t quite look the kingpin in the eye, thanking him, there’s perhaps a little gratitude mixed with the anger, despite everything. He has tried to be good, tried to retain his professional ethics no matter what it costs him. I know what you’re up against, Bishop says, and yes, he does at that. Four years. That’s a hard one. “Trial’s not over yet,” Cary says, with more optimistic than I’d have thought he could muster. “Yeah,” Bishop says as if he hadn’t himself dealt the killing blow, “it is. They want you. They’ll get you.”
He looks at Cary, whose eyes are wide with alarm. “I have a way to move you out of the country,” he says. “You won’t be able to return, but I’ll get you an apartment. I need a legal consultant in Europe.” He has dealings in Europe? Really? “It’ll be good pay.” His eyes gleam in the darkness as Cary digests this: no jail time, the chance to use his legal training, to live in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. “I’m not being purely selfless. I need someone loyal, that can help me.” Cary sighs. Where would it be, he wonders. Barcelona, Bishop answers. “What do you think?” It’s a curious question. Either way, he loses his company. His parents don’t care. Kalinda has made it clear she’s not his future. He thinks about it, frowning, and sighs again. “I think that … I can’t do that.”
Why, Bishop frowns. “The firm put up 1.3 million, if I jump bail they don’t get that back.” Oh. I had totally forgotten about that. So send them the money from Europe, Bishop offers impatiently. “Don’t go to jail for four years over a law firm.” Cary’s lips twist one way and then the other.
When the elevator doors open, he looks up to see Alicia leaning against the reception desk, the Florrick, Agos & Lockhart sign behind her, smiling at him. He raises the corners of his lips in greeting. “So,” he says, walking up to her, looking almost like his old self, “how’s it going?” Not good from the sound of things, she admits. “Ah, momentary set back,” he says, with a flicker of his old confidence, and she jerks her head to indicate that they should go talk, and so they walk through the office side by side, and I cry, seeing them like that.
They sit in her office, facing each other on the client side of Alicia’s desk. “You gotta fight it, Cary,” she declares, and he shakes his head. No, he doesn’t. “Four years. Two years for good behavior, and you didn’t do it!” she pleads. He knows. “I’ll be thirty seven, I can do that, I can’t do fifteen years.” She starts to tear up. “Good Lord, Cary,” she whispers. “What you gonna do?” Cary shrugs, sounding in charge, though his terribly thin face belies his tone. “Choices have been reduced.” If you take the plea you can’t appeal, she reminds him, which horrifies me. “Alicia!” he stops her. “I have watched you with clients long enough to know when you have a case and when you don’t.” Well, and he’s a lawyer too. He knows. “The smart deal here is to take the plea.”
He stands, putting a hand on her shoulder, but unlike his moment with Diane and Kalinda, he stops and looks down at her. “You’ll come and see me?” he asks, and I break again, because who else does he have? (I cry each time I see this. I cry re-reading that sentence as I’m editing this.) Alicia throws her arms around him and cries into his shoulder. “I will,” she squeaks. “Good,” he soothes her, rubbing her back, finding strength in being her comforter. “Good. I don’t wanna be lonely.” He breaks only a little on that word, lonely. There are tears on her face, and her nose is running.
“Would you like to revise your plea, Mr. Agos?” Judge Cuesta asks. Cary stands, wearing a black suit with a white shirt as if to a funeral. He takes a deep breath before squaring his shoulders. “Yes, Your Honor,” he says. “I would like to plead guilty.”
Oh my God, you cannot leave that there! That cannot happen! Nooooooo! I have no idea how to get out of this, but that cannot be all there is.
Okay, so. Let me say first off that the acting is spectacular, top notch, incredible stuff which again, is more than I knew these brilliant actors were capable of. I mean heck, who knew faces could even do what Matt Czurchy’s did here? And the lack of vanity, that little droplet of snot falling out of Julianna’s nose? It was amazing.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have any issues with the episode.
First off, since when is Cary 35? We know he spent time in the Peace Corps before law school, but wasn’t he hired by LG straight out of Harvard? The Peace Corps requires a 27 month commitment. That would have made him 26 or 27 when Alicia meets him. Since that was 5 and a half years ago, I don’t see how he can be more than 32. Having him closer to Alicia’s age undercuts not only their original competition, but also detracts from their mother/son dynamic. Matt looks younger than 35. So, what’s that about?
Another large problem is the sudden, maddening amnesia surrounding the bond restriction between Cary and Kalinda. I didn’t want to snark about it during their last, most effecting scene, but are you kidding? First in the middle of the courthouse and then right in front of Geneva in the fishbowl conference room? If Geneva’s going to prosecute him in the first place, then I hardly think she’s going to be sentimental enough not to just revoke his bond; after all, if her end goal is really to get him to turn on Bishop, then what better way than to pop him back in jail? Why wouldn’t Judge Cuesta notice? And if Cuesta knew about the wiretap before the trial, something that strikes me as slightly fishy, why wouldn’t he know about the terms of Cary’s bond?
I have never understood, truly, how a show can be this nuanced and smart and beautifully written and yet play so fast and loose with consistency between episodes. Far lesser shows prove themselves able to maintain their own universes in a more clear and reasonable way. I don’t get it. Doesn’t anybody on the writing staff care about this? Don’t they have anyone looking at it? (And if not, let me be the first in what I’m sure is a long line of fans ready to offer their services.) It pisses me off. Don’t tell me they couldn’t have made effecting moments between Cary and Kalinda if they were meeting eyes across a crowded courtroom, or if they’d snuck somewhere to be together and talk rather than either brazenly defying the court mandated separation, or pretending it never existed when it was such a focus of earlier episodes. I won’t even get into the total absence of important Florrick Agos players like Carey and Robyn, or Dean and Clark. Why introduce Dean at all only to drop him completely after three episodes? And I’m sure Nathan Lane is busy, but after the affecting relationship he forged with Cary, to not include him in the storyline even once? UGH.
And, okay, I get the point. A trial depends on a lot of ineffable factors, rather than just the evidence and the guilt or innocence of the accused. A judge’s mood, a prosecutor’s love life, a juror’s health issues. But in many ways, isn’t that a distraction? With those random elements in the forefront, we failed to focus on the dramatic points set up in the previous nine episodes: Castro’s vendetta, the pressure on Cary to flip, and the whole evidence of other crimes bit which only merited a oblique mention in Kalinda’s testimony. Yes, Bishop bringing in Dante to lie was devastating, although I thought doing so to punish Kalinda, thereby dooming Cary to jail but then offering him a job to get out of it, just felt messy. Not that life isn’t messy (and I suppose that could have been Bishop’s way of, I don’t know, having his cake and eating it too?), but it felt again not as consistent as I’d wish. For that matter, the very fact that Dante went into hiding from Bishop, yet Bishop was able to find him in less than 12 hours? I don’t know. Was that never what we thought?
All that said, the acting was glorious, and the scenes between the main characters so achingly tender and emotional. I cannot believe that they’re going to just leave Cary this way, although how they can save him and restore his ability to practice law? I don’t know how any of this is possible. Even if Alicia’s elected State’s Attorney, she wouldn’t have the opportunity to overturn the plea. I am devastated for him.
Another thing that fits beautifully into the whole ethos of the series is that Cary’s dignity and loyalty remain despite the extreme strain and trauma of the season’s events. While loyalty and duty have always been the hallmarks of Alicia’s character, it’s both surprising and yet fully consistent with his character to see Cary (after earlier refusing to trade on his connection to Peter or to exonerate himself by troubling his former mentor) hold so steady to his principles. Yes, of course he must fear reprisal, but there seems to me a bedrock in his unwillingness to break confidentiality and give up Bishop. If it had been about a personal loyalty to Bishop, or even personal ease, he’d have taken the job in Europe.
Indeed, this episode gives us a more than usually positive look at our main characters. Despite having a clear understanding of what refusing them will do to her campaign, Alicia stands steadfast in her resistance to both patronage and negative campaigning. Granted, both those things go on without her consent, but that consent has to count for something. In fact, I suppose we can say that tonight’s episode marked the futility of our character’s stands, and the ineffectiveness of their leadership. Kalinda pushes Bishop too far and dooms Cary to jail; Alicia looses control of her staff twice. Diane is unable to present a full enough defense after gambling on the speedy trial provision to befuddle the prosecution. And yet, I love them, and I’m proud of them for trying, for maintaining their dignity and integrity in the face of such trying events.
To my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a day of bounty and beauty, of family and food and rest. International readers, may you holidays all be lovely. And since we won’t meet again until after Christmas (unless there’s a mention of the show in the upcoming Golden Globe nominations), I will wish you now a holiday season without tension, infidelity or drug kingpins. May you enjoy every minute – and may the team succeed in rescuing Cary in the new year!