The Good Wife: The Debate

E: First off, very timely, O Marvelous Good Wife Writing Staff. Even for your ripped-from-the-headlines style that’s pretty impressive.  Earlier in the fall you took on campus rape culture right before Rolling Stone did (and apparently with better research), and now an unpunished police killing of a black man caught on tape.  Who could have called that happening? Second, kudos for giving us the debate in a unexpected structure.  Third, no wonder you had to kill Will off to get rid of him; you just can’t quit some of these characters,  not even when you should. Guys, sometimes change is a good thing! Fourth, way to step up, Peter. Fifth and finally, you’ve done something that I didn’t think was possible.  By letting Alicia truly make a case for herself as State’s Attorney, and having her truly answer the question so many months later of why she wants to do it, you’ve just earned my vote.

Well.  You know.  My vote for the storyline, since I can’t vote in a fictional election.

The episode starts with a disclaimer; it was written before the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island.

“I was doing nothing wrong,” a man explains, firmly but politely, walking through a brightly lit mall. “There was no sign saying I couldn’t sit in that area.”  A white female cop follows him.  I was only asking, she says, and he doesn’t slow down. “I just need to know what the problem was back there,” she spits out. Sounds like she was the one with the problem, doesn’t it?  “The problem was that I’m black,” he says plainly.  I was just sitting there waiting to pick up my wife and kids, he adds, and now he sounds a little peeved, and the cop tells him to calm down, and the screen puts up another disclaimer, saying that all references to Ferguson are to the shooting death of Michael Brown in August and its immediate aftermath and not to the grand jury decision.

Another voice joins the video.  “Whatcha doin’, buddy,” a man’s voice asks. “I’m just trying to pick up my wife and kids,” the man being followed by the cops says. “No, you’re under arrest,” the second cop (a guy, also white) insists, and though the first man protests again that he didn’t do anything, he’s instructed to put his hands behind his back.  The camera (the black man’s cell phone, perhaps?) wavers so we see signs for a restroom and various mall stores. “I’m not going to argue with you, put your hands behind your back,” the male cop grunts. “I did nothing wrong!” the soon-too-be arrestee insists. “You wanna make me use this?” the cop asks, and though we can’t see any further down than his shoulders, we can tell he’s reached for something. “Oh, now you’re going to shoot me?” the man wonders.  For standing in the mall? For walking away? “Don’t make me use this, don’t make me use this,” the male cop repeats, and behind him, a black woman in a cardigan surges forward as if to stop his hands.  Instead of a gun, we hear what I think is the sizzle of a taser, and the camera is suddenly facing the ceiling, and the woman starts to wail “no!”  Oh my God, she prays, and a weak voice gasps “you’re killing me!”

And then we’re watching a news report with a drawing of a jury, three brown faces amid nine white ones. “Tonight a jury continues to hear evidence about the death of Cole Willis,” a young blond cheerleader-esque newsanchor explains. “Willis’s death at the hands of two police officers, Michael and Trenton, places Chicago on a growing list of cities protesting racial injustice by local law enforcement.”  Oh boy.  Alicia’s watching the news report on WEQT 8 on her laptop.

“You’ll definitely be asked about this,” political commercial creator Josh Mariner tells her.  What, does he do media consulting too? Why is he there?  Oh well.  It doesn’t seem consistent, but he’s a fun character.  (I hope the writer had a better thought process than that, though.) They are, as you might guess from the title, is backstage at Alicia’s impending debate with Frank Prady. “Are these two cops guilty of, you know, involuntary manslaughter?” Josh stumbles over the words as usual. They can’t make me comment on an ongoing case, Alicia protests. “It’s not still going on,” Eli tells them, stepping in front of a rack of dresses and waving his phone. “I have a friend in the courthouse, the judge just gave the jury instructions.”  That doesn’t count?  I mean, I know arguments are over but don’t they have to wait for the jury? Unless not commenting is about influencing a sitting jury. That’s bad luck. Though Alicia still won’t comment on it, Josh thinks that journalist Frank will have no such compunction.  He’s going after the black vote. “He will play up the, you know, the BLAH BLAH BLAH! The outrage”  As Josh blah blah blahs, a wardrobe consultant with a golden scarf comes over and asks for Alicia’s jacket. Can you do this another time, he snaps. “She goes on in 20 minutes; when do you suggest I take in the arms?” the woman replies.

“I can make you a sandwich,” Marissa offers as she pops into view.  No food, Josh instructs. “It’ll make her want to throw up on stage.”  Oh, lovely. What about peanuts, Marissa suggests, and Josh snaps again. “No!  Now go away, crazy lady.”  He’s such a nice boy.  She goes.

Listen, Eli tells her. “You show support to the police, but you argue that the best way to show support to the police is that …”  “Lose the necklace, it’s less fussy,” the dresser decides, and Eli recoils in annoyance. Why didn’t you do this before, Josh asks. “I needed to see it on the body,” the wardrobe mistress replies, annoyed with his annoyance.  Hey, it’s not her fault if you didn’t schedule Alicia’s time properly.  Let’s hold it together, Eli bellows.  They have only 18 minutes to go.  (Oh please.  Trust me when I say that was not two minutes.)  Pointing, he insists that Josh step away. “Me?  I’m the only one doing my job!” Josh brays, unjust and petulant.

“Okay,” Eli tells Alicia. “Take a breath.”  I can’t tell if that’s a tank dress or just a tank, but gosh, her shoulders are amazingly toned.  “Where’s John?” she wonders, and Eli deliciously has no idea who that is.  “Elfman!” Alicia says, and that makes me a little nervous that she used his first name, given the events of last week.  I mean, I know the kiss was about Cary’s triumph and not about him, but has she ever called him by his first name?  Eli shrugs and says he’s sure to show up sometime, and that makes me very suspicious, after the way that the two fought last week.  It cannot possibly be normal for the campaign manager not to be there!  Eli couldn’t have fired him on the sly, could he?

“Nevermind,” Eli declares, and asks his candidate to take a deep breath.  She does, as if in a yoga class.

“The bad news is that you’re six points down,” Eli tells Alicia, and wow, how did she drop 4 points in the polls?  She’s been 2 points for several episodes.  “The good news is, this is your time to take it to him!”  He kind of growls over the word “take,” which is a little hilarious, like he’s imagining ripping into Prady with his teeth.  “Prady won’t be expecting it. We’ve lowered expectations. Don’t be afraid to interrupt him.  Tell him ‘that’s not true!’”  Oh, Eli’s way too into this.  It’s great.

On the other side of the stage, Prady’s bearded campaign manager is telling him that Alicia is 8 points down.  Where are you getting those numbers?  What the heck?  “She’ll got to try to shake you.  She’ll beat you up, she’ll try to get you to insist on the rules.”  Ha. Smart man. Don’t rise to the bait, Prady nods. “That’s right, just roll with the punches. You’re the frontrunner. Give off the air of the frontrunner, she’ll look desperate.”  What she looks like is muscled.  Look at those arms!  We almost never see her arms bare on this show.  “He’s a stickler for rules,” Eli insists, one step behind Prady’s guy. “He’ll complain to the moderator and that’ll make him look…”

That’s when Marissa cuts in with Alicia’s phone; she’s got a call from work. Despite Eli’s protests, when Marissa explains that it’s about Neil Gross, she takes it.

“They’re saying thirty million dollars,” Neil Gross snaps, pacing through the halls of the new Florrick, Agos & Lockhart. “Thirty million!  I thought I said no higher than fifteen million.”  Yeah, that’s what he said, Alicia remembers.  I can’t help feeling like fifteen million dollars would be chump change for Gross, but I suppose it depends on the context.  “Some guy” named Evan is the one responsible for this negotiating debacle, apparently, and Gross has gone straight to the top because their family guy isn’t cutting it. “I have a pre-nup.  I don’t know why I’m paying an arm and a leg,” he complains, and oh, no, really?  That makes me weirdly sad.  We learned some stuff that would surely have rocked their marriage back in Trust Issues, and sure, the age difference was always creepy, but even so, divorce is never something I cheer about.

Okay.  Anyway.  Sorry.  As she listens to Gross grouse, Alicia notices Elfman off to the side on his phone. “Just so you know, Alicia,” Neil says, looking around suspiciously, “I’m thinking of leaving.”  He didn’t really lower his voice – I can’t believe the young man who just walked by him didn’t take notice. Oh don’t do that, she says. But why not, he wonders.  Alicia’s running for office and so potentially leaving. “I don’t even recognize these people!” he complains.  With Neil Gross, it’s a little hard to tell if he’s just being whiney or being serious. Disagreeable seems to be his permanent state of mind. As Eli grabs at her elbow, Alicia promises to look into it and get back to him.  Good, he replies emphatically.  “I’m unhappy!”

The wardrobe consultant brings back the jacket. “You don’t want to look as if you’re trying to hard,” she says, and I really have no idea how that even follows, but it’s a good picture of the chaos involved.   Immediately, Josh pounces, saying he has something vital to show her. It’s now 8 minutes till she goes on, and “they” have changed the countdown clock. I need you to see it, Josh says, because it’s digital and I don’t want that to throw you.  Oh Lord. “Can I have Diane or Cary?” Alicia asks on her phone, ignoring her handlers.

There’s grand applause for Cary in Diane’s office, and warm smiles all around.  That’s so nice.  Diane throws her arm around Cary’s shoulder, swinging him around a little. “I have to confess, I feel sixty years older,” he says, but he’s beaming.  It’s so nice to see. “But I’ve missed this, I’ve missed just being, I missed talking about something other than going to prison,” he tells his colleagues.  I don’t recognize any of them either. Diane’s assistant of the week signals to her that she has a phone call, so Miss Lockhart slips out.  “Alicia?” she says as she picks up the reciever out at the assistant’s station, “How are you? I think you’re gong on in about two minutes.”  Man, their view of time is interesting; in just under 4 minutes, all of which we’ve seen, they’ve lived 18 on the show.  So far the math in this episode has been a little wiggly.

Quickly, Alicia brings Diane up to speed; it’s obvious that Diane’s alarmed to see Gross going directly to Alicia, and also that she had no idea why Evan would double Gross’s top price.  And hey, there’s Evan now in the main conference room.  Handy! Before hanging up, Alicia offers the suggestion that Evan might somehow be freelancing. Is that another word for sabotage?  I have to go on stage, Alicia says, can you look into this?  Of course she can; kick ass, Diane adds as a benediction.

Cary has woven his way through the crowd in Diane’s officer to the receiving area.  “What’s wrong?” he wonders.  Signaling for Kalinda to follow them once she’s off the phone, Diane starts walking to the conference room. I think you might have to suit up sooner than anticipated, she says.

“My client is ruined, sir,” David Lee says as he pats Deena Lampard Gross on the shoulder.  Sigh.  I’m not exactly glad to see him, but on the other hand, this is the perfect use for David Lee; he can guest star occasionally, he won’t be on the show any less than before, and it’ll just be nice to know he’s always on the other side instead of wondering if he was about to stab us in the back.  “She’s not ruined,” a man — presumably Evan – replies, and starts listing the houses she’ll get to keep.  Emotionally, David sneers.  Well, Deena seemed really nice when she first appeared on the show, and now she’s a cheating snake, so maybe you could say Neil contributed to her ruination; I highly doubt this is what David means, though.  “He slept with my best friend, I can’t believe it,” she replies, and even though this is obviously appalling, I can’t help feeling this comment sounds rehearsed, more like jockeying for position than genuine emotional betrayal and outrage. “You slept with my competitor,”  he sneers.

“That was a preexisting relationship,” Deena rolls her eyes. “Which you then renewed,” Neil reminds his wife.  Sigh.  Well.  That all unraveled quickly, didn’t it?  Sighing, Diane breaks in quietly. “Where are we, Evan?” she asks.  Hmm.  Evan looks familiar in an everyman sort of way.  We’re agreeing on an amount, he replies, hesitant. “And we said thirty million isn’t enough,” David Lee fills them in.

Frowning down at his former colleague, Cary wonders how they could possible have gotten anywhere near 30 million. Neil throws up a hand in Evan’s direction. “We didn’t get to thirty million,” David helpfully explains. “Your lawyer offered thirty million, and we said thirty million wasn’t enough.”  Okay, now they’re really confused. Again, Cary wonders what made Evan make such an offer; photos, David says gleefully. “You might want to avert your eyes, dear,” David tells Deena, and then lays on the table a bunch of photos of Neil in bed with his ski instructor.  Is the ski instructor Deena’s best friend?  That seems unlikely, somehow.  “That’s why your new head of Family Law — the one you promoted after I left,” he says, pointing to a deeply uncomfortable squirmy Evan, “offered thirty million dollars to settle, because these photos will not look good on TMZ.”

That’s intimidation, Cary points out quickly. (And also a totally misstatement of who did the leaving here.) “Class three felony.”  Yes, if I indeed threatened you, but I did not, David insists.  Yeah right. “I just know how salacious photos tend to find their way on to the web,” he adds, turning down his mouth in a weirdly delightful expression of complete innocence.

“Evan’s always been our toughest negotiator,” Diane tells Cary and Kalinda as the three walk into her office. “I don’t understand. What change?”  Because it was David Lee who hired Evan in the first place, Cary thinks that Evan’s too intimidated to go up against his former mentor.  That’s not it, Kalinda tells them; she wants a half an hour to prove that David’s trying to lure Evan away to a new job, and so Evan’s trying to softball his soon-to-be new boss. Damn.  So we put a pause on the negotiations, Diane says, and see if we need to replace our negotiator.  Cary gives her a wondering grin. What, she asks. “I missed this,” he smiles, surprised at his response. “All the usual disasters.”  Patting him on the shoulder, Diane walks out.

And speaking of potential disaster, Alicia’s putting in earrings as her team speaks all at once.  Buzz buzz buzz buzz.  She should hydrate!  Oh, Marissa.  You’re so much fun. That’s when Chris Matthews steps in and grabs her hands.  I’m so glad to do this, he says; I’m so glad  you could, she beams.  With you two running, how could I not, he smiles.  “I’ll see you out there,” he says.  “I’ll see you out there,” she nods, and he goes to introduce himself to Prady in the same way.  You’d think they’d already know each other, huh?

Just before Eli can repeat her talking points, the Haircut finally gets off his phone and pops in. “Wait, wait,” he says, “we’ve got a problem.  I just got a call from one of the reporters, and we gotta think fast.”  Which reporter, Eli wonders; it’s Patrick Mancini with the Middleton Herald, Johnny says, pointing him out. “He’s a real jackass,” Eli growls, “what does he want?”

“He’s, ah, got photos of the governor with Ramona Lytton,” Eflman says, carefully not looking at Alicia, “leaving her apartment.”  I won’t say Alicia’s devastated — interesting thought after the whole divorce negotiations we just saw — but she’s certainly, what, exasperated?  Furious?  “From when, when were they taken?” she wonders.  Two days ago, Elfman says, which exasperates further because it’s clearly after she took him to task for being indiscrete. “He’s planning on making it his first question.”  Gross.  So gross.  (Ha!  This is an episode about gross infidelity as well as Gross infidelity.  Get it?  I’m here all day, folks.)  “Eli, what is going on,” Elfman turns to his colleague,  “I thought he broke it off?” That’s what you all wanted to think. “Yes, stuck it in and broke it off,” Marissa snarks, and I just about choke. That’s so great.  The men are horrified.  I’ll ask him, Eli says as what sounds like theme music for the debate begins. In the meantime, she shouldn’t rise to the bait.

Not rise to the bait, Elfman asks, he’s got the whole thing documented. Defer to us, Eli asks. “You’ve got three minutes,” he adds, talking to Alicia.  Wait, it’s back up to three?  Three minutes after it was down to 2?  Oh, whatever.  Because she’s still in possession of Alicia’s phone, Marissa notices that Peter’s calling. Calling to wish her luck, I suppose. Elfman doesn’t think she should take it, since Peter’s probably also gotten a call from Mancini tonight; neither one cane do anything about it, so he thinks they shouldn’t stress together.  I still think wishing her luck is more like him, but whatever.  Standing off in a gorgeous wood paneled room, Peter puts down his phone in frustration.

“Are you ready Mr. Governor?” a voice asks; it’s Pastor Jeremiah again.   I like this continuity back to the first and second seasons, and I like seeing Jeremiah both on television and also as an activist and political kingmaker again, and it’s in this latter role that he and Peter are meeting in a gorgeous room with rich paneling and railings. “I want to thank you for inviting me,” Peter says as they shake hands.  Not at all, the Pastor says; in this kind of situation it’s best that we all speak with one voice.  His face framed in gray, his hair swirled up into a point, Peter nods and then solemnly watches a news anchor reminding us that the Michael/Trenton jury is deliberating.

“Where are you, Eli?” Peter growls, displeased.  On my way to you, the chief of staff says as his black SUV peels off from in front of the hotel that presumably is hosting the debate. “Don’t answer any questions about Ramona, they have photos of the two you,” Eli says.  Shocked, Peter asks from when, and Eli answers.  Peter’s head falls. He’s knows he’s been caught.

“Have they asked Alicia about it?” he wonders.  Eli shares the back seat of the SUV with Nora, who’s wearing a kind of casual knitted top with a swirl on it.  Yay!  Nora!  I love that we’re seeing her more this season.  They haven’t yet, but they may during the debate, Eli explains; he seems to be careful not to say that’s a sure thing. “Don’t answer any calls, let me work on this for a while.”

A phone rings in Nina’s lap; it’s someone we don’t know — though Eli does — named Bill Duncan.  “Great, it’s reached full saturation,” he grumbles before signing off from his call with Peter and picking up the other phone. “Bill, hey,” he says, “what’re you hearing about the verdict?”  Nice attempt distraction, Eli. “What,” he frowns, looking at Nora. It’s funny how he’s acting for Duncan, who can’t even see him. “No!  Are you serious?  We’re on the verge of a race riot, and you’re asking me about the governor’s sex life?” Good luck trying to make a reporter feel guilty about sniffing out a sex scandal.  Pulling back, Nora gives her boss one of those “you just said what?” stares.  “A race riot?” she asks, skeptical at his use of the term.  “Really!”  He tucks the phone into his clavicle and shushes her; she stares straight ahead, irked.

“No I will not dignify that,” he declares once he’s got the phone back to his ear. “Call me again when you get serious.” He hangs up, and Nora takes the phone back, still glaring at him. “Yep. Black people.  Just can’t help themselves, can they?” To my surprise, Shameless Eli Gold looks a little embarrassed. “I’m not saying you’ll riot,” he defends himself.  “Thanks!” she chirps with false cheeriness. Oh come on, he says. “You’re not like other …” Oh. My. Lord.  He didn’t.  Her eyebrows make for her hairline. “People,” he stammers, realizing what he’s said, not knowing where to look.

“What other people,” she presses, and what I’ve always loved about Nora is that she refuses to back down or be intimidated by Eli’s bluster. “Black people?”  No, he sputters. “What, am I not black enough?” she asks, hand splayed over her heart.  Oh boy. He’s desperate for a way out of this conversation. “Yes,” he says.  WHAT?  Danger, Will Robinson, danger… Her eyebrows go back up into her hair as she stares him down, tucking her chin into her neck. “You’re more… suburban.”  Oh God.  I’m kind of astounded he doesn’t realize how offensive he’s being — and how lucky he is to be saying this to Nora and not anyone else — but won’t say it’s not entertaining to see someone who makes his living lying and bluffing and talking his way out of disasters continue to say the most idiotic and tone deaf things.

She rolls her eyes. “Why am I even here?”  What, he asks. “Eli, you never want me out of the office. Tonight, you wanted me with you.”  Smart girl, Nora.  Ahe’s totally on point; he’s using her as window dressing. “I thought it was just a perk of the job,” he stammers, so obviously and poorly trying to cover up this unpleasant usage that it makes Nora laugh. “I’m your black shield tonight, okay?” she informs him.

And then the phone rings.  It’s Roger Hillman, Eli’s friend at the courthouse.  “Uh huh,” Nora deadpans, still giving him the eye.

An announces asks that the audience take its seats back in the hotel ballroom; the debate begins in 90 seconds. “You can’t defer to the governor’s office, it’s like throwing the you-know to the sharks.”  Ha!  I love Josh Mariner and his inability to articulate a sentence.  Elfman agrees.  Well, I don’t know if that’s why he likes Josh, but he agrees with Josh’s assessment, anyway.  He doesn’t know what Alicai should say, though. ‘All marriages have their blah blahs,” Josh tries, “Their — trials.” Ah, but that’s acknowledging the premise of the question, Elfman counters. “He slept with prostitutes, I think the premise has been acknowledged.”

HA!  Josh, I love you.  That’s hilarious.  (Also, thank you for backing away from the heinous Just One Hooker re-write.) She can say it has nothing to do with the job of State’s Attorney, Elfman offers. “How is that not accepting the premise of the question?”  Good question, Josh.  It’s questioning the question, the Haircut thinks. And that’s when Alicia cuts them off.  I’m just going to say its none of their business, she says.  “It is their business and that’ll just make you look defensive,” Josh replies. “Say Peter and you have to trust each other.”  That makes her look like a doormat, Elfman butts in. “Can you let me finish?” Josh snarks.

“UH oh,” Marissa rushes up to tell them, panic in her voice. Eli tried to call and he couldn’t get ahold of Alicia. When Josh suggests that listening to Peter would be a bad idea, Marissa tells them with a hysterical note in her voice that it’s not about Peter, that the verdict is in. “What?” Elfman asks in disbelief. ‘The Cole Willis jury is coming in right now.”  (Can I just say, as an aside, that it’s very confusing, these names?  Trent, Michael, Cole, Willis, all of them first names.  Could the writers not decide who was who?) Josh shakes his face, flapping in disbelief. “They just went out, are you kidding? They deliberated for ten minutes,” Johnny gasps. We need a response, Josh realizes.  They’ll ask about this.  And sure enough, all at once the panelists cell phones start ringing.

“If they find the cops guilty,” the Haircut starts, as if it was ever a real option that they’d be convicted. “They’re not gonna find the cops guilty,” Josh rolls his eyes, “not after ten minutes of blah-ing.”  Heh.  Sadly, he’s not wrong. The two start to fight about the appropriateness of commenting on a not guilty verdict.  How could she be an effective State’s Attorney if she loses the confidence of the cops?  But what if she says the wrong thing and is blamed for starting a race riot?  Oh dear.  Neither of those is a good option.  “Guys, guys, okay,” Alicia talks over them until they shut up. “Shhhh.  Thanks.”

And that’s when Chris Matthews opens the telecast, which he reveals is set at the Bonaventure Hotel.  (Unsurprisingly, this does not seem to be a real Chicago hotel. In case you were wondering.) Settling herself, Alicia straightens up and hands off some notes to Marissa, waiting for her moment to come out of the wings.  “In terms of the affair, the charges are unsubstantiated,” Elfman whispers. “And you wanna handle it within the sanctity of your marriage,” Josh finishes.  Though Alicia nods at this, I genuinely can’t tell if she’s even hearing them. “Don’t be provocative about the jury, it can go either way,” John says, even though we all know it won’t. “And don’t be thrown by the countdown clock, it’s, ah, digital.”  Really?  Really?  You think her ability to tell time is going to be the biggest pitfall here?  “It blinks green when you have ten seconds left.”  Green, Elfman wonders, why does it blink green?  Why not red?  “I don’t know,” Josh admits, exploding. “To screw with us!”

Dudes, this is so not helping.

“Oh, and meet Prady half way across the stage, and shake his hand.”  Isn’t that what candidates always do before a debate, Josh? “And your mike is live, so say something like “Nice to see you, Frank.””  I love his Alicia voice.  It’s way more polite than his own.  At this bit of inanity, she turns and hisses “what?” at him. “You got it?” he asks, adjusting his glasses. ‘Good to see you.  Frank.”  Ah, I can’t help laughing.

“And now I’d like to introduce the two candidates – Alicia Florrick and Frank Prady!” Chris Matthews says.  Her back straight, Alicia walks out onto the stage. “Good luck, you’ll be great,” one of her advisors calls after her.  Cast in cool blues in opposition to Alicia’s maroon, Frank walks out from his pair of advisors.   As instructed, they meet in the middle and firmly shake hands. “Good to see you again, Alicia,” Frank smiles. “Good to see you too, Frank,” Alicia replies. He widens his eyes at her.  She smirks, then walks up to the podium, where she’s supplied with a pad of yellow ruled paper and a pen; the music behind them is a sort of generic heroic/political theme.  Since we’re asking you not to cheer for individual answers during the debate, Chris Matthews tells the audience, why don’t you give these two a big round of applause now?  Half blinded by the stage lights, Alicia and Frank nod at each other once again.  They’re ready to begin.

Back at his meeting with Peter, Pastor Jeremiah’s reading a passage from the Bible about cutting through the noise and letting justice roll down; quite appropriate for a modern discussion about race and policing when there’s so much sound and fury out there, affecting nothing. “Now that’s why we’re here,” he says, looking up at the assembled clergymen, who include priests and imams.  “Not for the sweet words of flattery, but for justice.  Peace.”  Jeremiah looks down at Peter’s empty chair, and up in frustration.

And the frustration continues out in the hall.  It seems that Chicago’s mayor hasn’t shown up, because he’s in New Hampshire, and he’s not taking Eli’s calls. That’s not a bad thing, Eli opines, as it makes the mayor look cowardly and incompetent and more concerned with his possible presidential ambitions than with his city.  “Except we’re trying to stop a riot from happening here,” Peter whispers, and its nice to that for once he’s not measuring the consequences of something in terms of votes. When Peter demands to be put on with the mayor’s chief of staff, Eli says he’s got her on the line, over on Nora’s phone.  Or his second phone that Nora’s been holding.

A tiny blond woman in a large black fur coat stands in front of a wrought iron gate with a bodyguard. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” she says with a touch of snark and no regret. “This must be about the verdict.”  Who is that?  I know her.  She’s got this Kristin Chenoweth in glasses vibe.  Ah – Rachel Harris.  I hate that I had to look it up, but it’s been so long since she was on the Daily Show!  Anyway, why yes, this is about the verdict, you supercilious twit.  I kind of hate her just for that coat. “Well tell him not to worry, Eli,” she says, “the Mayor and I have been on the phone for the last hour.” Eli, who’s sitting with one phone to his left ear and the other to his right, finds this impossible to believe. “How’d you do that?  I’ve been watching him on a live feed at the fundraiser in Concord!”  Hee.  (Note to world: it is not pronounced Con – Cord.  The syllables smoosh together more than that.  It’s a bit more like the word conquered — it flows.)

Rachel Harris laughs. “Are you and I gonna have trouble tonight, Eli?” Only if this explodes on us, he says.  Okay, it’s not going to explode. “The Mayor canceled all furloughs.  We have 800 extra officers on the street…” Wait, what?  Oh, that’s totally going to stop people from rioting, cops suited up like storm troompers. Does she really not know how stupid that is? Eli closes his eyes.  “In riot gear…” Oh, even better. “…with tear gas.”  Oh, splendid.  Putting Peter closer to his left ear and holding Rachal Harris a few inches away from his right, he turns his head. “They’re going full Ferguson on this one, sir.”  Um, Eli.  She can still hear you.

Not that he’s wrong.  Also, no wonder the writers wanted to clarify what they meant. “Come on, Eli, this is hardly an equivalent situation,” she says, though God knows why.  “Put me on with her,” Peter insists, and Eli kind of hilariously holds the two phones screen to screen. “Hello, Franny,” Peter says. “Listen to me. Can you hear me?”  She can. “I’m at the interdenominational faith meeting down town and I need you to get your ass down here right now or I’m gonna drag the Mayor through the mud.”  This summons does not please her. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what mud you’re talking about,” she bluffs stiffly.

“You know damn well what mud I’m talking about,” he says, his voice low and threatening. “Now I gave the Mayor early warning on this verdict. And he’s still sitting on his ass in New Hampshire.”  Poor Nora looks a bit shocked at the level of vitriol in the governor’s voice. “And if he thinks that he can sit this out and blame me, tell him I’m the one in front of the cameras with the megaphone.”

Well. That’ll tell her.

You don’t understand, she starts to say.  There were no flights… but Peter and Eli have hung up. “Wow,” she replies, and then tells her hulking flunkies they need to get a move on.

“Questions will be asked of both candidates on a rotating schedule,” Chris Matthews explains as Peter watches the TV at his meeting, tucking his phone back into his jacket. The first candidate gets 45 seconds to respond, and the second 30 seconds of rebuttal.  Okay.  “If that rebuttal mentions the other candidate by name, that candidate will have 20 seconds to respond.”  Okay, that’s a little rule happy. I’m shocked that her boys weren’t pushing Alicia to never mention Prady by name. “Both candidates will also have ten seconds to ask the other a direct question.”  In the wings, Josh bounces on his heels, throwing his head back in the agony of anticipation; Elfman and Marissa stand next to him, their nerves better contained. “Unless of course the candidate has exceeded his or her time.”  Waiting through this reading of the rules, Alicia notices a strip of tape on her podium. “And that candidate will have the option of adding to their time, but only by subtracting it from their closing arguments.”  Oh, come on.  We’ve entered the realm of the absurd here. “There will also be a lightning round where the candidate will have ten seconds to respond.”  Are you kidding?  What can you say in ten seconds that’s meaningful?  In the context of a debate, it’s hard to think of much.

“Mr. Prady,” Matthews switches his attention to the actual start of the debate. “You have fifteen seconds.”

“I come in with a clean slate,” he says. “I have no bureaucratic grudges.” Oh, like Alicia and Castro, you mean?  “I have nothing to prove.”  Is that a dig at Alicia and Peter? “All I see is a city that needs a new way, and I wanna be that new way.” Unable to stop herself, Alicia continues to quietly pick at the masking tape, looking up into the blinding lights when Chris says her name.

For a moment, it’s all so bright and so overwhelming so that she says nothing. Quickly, she presses the tape back down. “I hear that a lot. A new way, a new approach to crime, but whenever I vote for that person, we end up right back where we started.  We end up…” and that’s when the digital clock actually does distract her, going from red to a green count down from ten.  She starts to blather about the murder rate climbing.  “We end up…” She’s down to four seconds, and panics. “In short, inexperience is not a value, but it is something to be …”

And that’s where Matthews briskly cuts her off.  “Mr. Prady, in about ten minutes we’ll have a verdict in the Cole Willis manslaughter case. You have a comment on that trial?” He will in about ten minutes, he says. Nicely phrased.  “For now, I think we have to take a look at police training.”  Alicia looks so unhappy that Eli starts snapping at Elfman about it on the phone. “You have her frowning.  Why is she frowning?”  Gee, I don’t know. Because she got cut off?  Because she’s freaking out and mad at herself?  “This is all new to her, give her a second,” Elfman replies calmly. “No, you prepped her wrong,” Eli complains, as if he hadn’t taken part in all of the prepping; mercifully he hangs up when Franny comes stomping into the room, her coat doubling her size.

I just got off the phone with the mayor, she says. “We’re not going to leave the police exposed.”  Rolling his eyes, Eli says that no one wants that – but if the police show up in riot gear, they’ll create a riot. “That’s what happened in Ferguson,” he opines.  Indeed. Okay, she snarks, waving her arms, “so with all due respect to the governor, we’re deferring to the police on this.”  Of course Peter’s walked up behind her in time to hear just how respectfully she says this, which is not at all. “No, no,” he says, hands in his pockets. “You’re playing politics because you want police support in four years.” I guess. You think the mayor would have more at stake here politically, though.  “And you want the African American vote, sir. No one’s winning a Nobel Peace Prize here.” Damn. It takes a special kind of politician to make Peter look like an idealist in comparison. “No one wins if there’s a riot,” Eli snaps, which means she’s achieved an even more impressive feat, making Eli sound apolitical.  “Pastor!” Peter barks. “Come on,” Franny mutters, “let’s not play dueling pastors here.”

“Pastor Jeremiah, I believe you know the mayor’s Chief of Staff?” Peter asks as Pastor Jeremiah walks over to join them. Yes, he does. “She believes the police should be ready with riot gear and tear gas,” Peter tattles.  I love it – it’s like he’s the oldest kid telling his Dad about the dumb thing his little sister has done, with full knowledge that it’s going to get her in trouble.  “That would be a terrible mistake,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “I mean, the people want to see justice done, but they will protest peacefully unless they are provoked.”  DUH, people.

“Franny,” Eli rejoins the conversation, “the mayor goes in like stormtroopers, he’ll be blamed.”  He walks off, and starts listening to the debate (Prady seems to be going on about cycles of violence); Nora’s already there. “How’s she doing?” Peter asks; Eli can’t tell, which is odd. “There’s some bad body language there,” he frowns, watching Alicia write notes.

“Lightning round!  Do you believe the police were at fault in Ferguson, Mrs. Florrick?” Oh my lord.  That’s the most loaded, no-win debate question I’ve heard since they asked anti-death penalty presidential candidate Michael Dukakis if he’d favor the death penalty for a hypothetical man who raped his wife.   “Well I’m not sure,” she says. “Actually it’s the lightning round.  You only have five seconds.”  Chris Matthews, that is crazy talk.  Now I’m going to have to go back and see, because I swear he said the lightning round was ten seconds. Yeah, he did.  Five hardly gives time for a single sentence, and as an audience member I wouldn’t find that interesting at all.  Were the writers not paying attention to themselves, or did they do that on purpose to make the whole thing seems more ridiculous?

“It’s complicated,” she says. “It’s a systemic problem,” Frank answers concisely.  I hate to say it, but it sounds like they did prepare her wrong.  She looks at Prady, who shrugs a little.  “Next question. Talk to us about race relations in Chicago, Mrs. Florrick, you’ve got 45 seconds.”  Oh, well, forty five seconds.  That’s like a year. Looking profoundly uncomfortable, she takes a second before saying that it’s a work in progress.

Diane and Cary are watching this from Diane’s office when Kalinda walks in.   Oh good – does she have any news about Evan and David Lee?  No, not exactly. “His son is undergoing surgery to remove histiositosis tumors at the Louis Children Hospital today.”  Are you kidding me?  He went in to work while that was happening?  That’s sick. His bosses look shocked. “Did you know that was happening?” Cary asks Diane in concern. She didn’t.  Way to be involved in your employees lives, guys. “The operation was successful, he just found out an hour ago,” Kalinda explains, and Diane looks even more shocked. “I’m glad,” cary says slowly, “but…”

“I know,” Kalinda forestalls him, “It was just before he made the 30 million dollar settlement offer.”  The lightbulb goes off. “He’s become nice,” Diane realizes, jerking her head toward where he sits in the conference room.  We should send him home, Cary realizes.  Hell yes you should send him home!  I mean, are you kidding?  I don’t care how big your deal is.

Diane, on the other hand, thinks that could open them up to a malpractice suit from Neil Gross, so their solution is to step in and make sure Evan toes the line, give him a little backbone.  grapsing at straws, Diane asks if  Kalinda did any research on Deena Lampert before she married Neil.  Not only did she do that, she continues to keep tabs on her afterward as a free lance project for David Lee, who suspected her of cheating on Gross — and Kalinda has the photos to prove Deena did. Dang. It’s a bit of poetic justice, Diane notes, using David’s own work against him.  Not to mention being able to counter photographs of Neil with photographs of Deena.

Why did they even bother getting married again?  So gross, these Grosses.

A round of forbidden applause draws their attention back to the television, where Alicia has 10 seconds to respond to something that Frank’s just said. “Crime is crime. Black and white shouldn’t matter. Often it does. But that shouldn’t prevent the State’s Attorney from…”

“Time is up,” Chris Matthews cuts her off, absolutely wrong; she had four seconds left. “But why don’t you finish that sentence?”  Oh, thanks.  She could have finished the sentence easily in that time, and now she’s thrown. “Doing my job,” she stammers.

Great, Matthews continues briskly.  Now it’s time for our first question from the press. Oh goodie. Let’s go to Patrick Mancini from the Middleton Herald. “Do you have a question?” Matthews asks, which, would he be here and not bother to come up with ones?  “I do,” the reporter says, literally rubbing his hands together in oily glee. “Mrs. Florrick,” he says, turning to look at her, avid. It’s a nice bit of acting; he’s managing to be utterly loathsome with only the fewest of words and glances. “Your husband has not always been faithful to you in your marriage.”  Alicia looks smaller, somehow, retreating into herself. “In 2009 he in fact resigned from the office you are now seeking partly because he was caught in a sexual scandal.”  She sees Grace in the audience, in a beautiful dress and a halo of light, looking quite grown up and quite a bit like her mother.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” she says, firm for her frightened-looking daughter where she might not have been for herself. Stroking his fingers together like a Bond villain, he says no, he ‘s not finished. “Yes, but you already called my campaign manager with your question so I’m going to save you the trouble.” In the wings, Josh starts to panic. “God, what is she doing?”  “You have photos of my husband supposedly at the apartment of his legal counsel, is that correct?” “I wish you’d just let me answer my question, Mrs. Florrick,” he misstates. “I mean, ask my question.”  Good – he’s rattled. “My daughter is in the audience tonight, sir, and I would like to do her the favor of addressing your question, not answering it.”  In the wings, Elfman flashes a grin at Marissa and Josh; in his glee, Josh jabs Marissa in the should until she shoves him away like an annoying older brother.

“This is how I would answer your question, Mr. Mancini.” She stares him down. “How dare you, sir.” He smiles at her. “Do you have a personal life? Do you have a spouse?” Now he looks away. “Do you know what it would be like to have your personal life spilled across the stage like this?”  At his podium, Frank Prady looks ashamed. “Broadcasted into the home of your friends, your work mates, your daughter’s friends at school. Do you know what that would feel like?”  He tries to assert himself back into the conversation but it doesn’t work.  “It would be one thing if my job had anything to do with my husband’s infidelity, I’m not even sure what job that would be, but your question would at least then be pertinent.”  Chris Matthews looks over at Mancini, kind of appalled. “But I’m running for State’s Attorney.  I am running to be someone to put a dent in crime in this town,” she says,  stabbing the podium with a finger.  We see her again over the television. “What does that have to do with my married life?”

“That was terrific,” Peter claps decisively, and he and Eli grin at each other.  Their happiness is short lived, however, because Franny and her fur coat (does she not know she’s inside?) reappears. “Uh oh. She’s brought her own pastor,” Eli notes.  It’s with a thrill that I recognize Pastor Isaiah, Peter’s spiritual consultant from the first two seasons of the show.  Outstanding.  In the background, Alicia continues to talk about her husband’s alleged infidelities, and estranged father Jeremiah stops mid sentence to look over at his son.

Alright, I’ll deal with this, Peter tells Eli. “You make sure the police don’t overreact.”

“Because it’s the only story…” Alicia continues when Chris Matthews cuts her off; in the wings, the Haircut is repeating “it’s going to be fine” with great relief and happiness. “I know that I am past my time but let me just finish up,” she says, putting out a warning finger.  Ah, you’ve totally lost control, Chris. “We are real people up here, Mr. Prady and myself. We’re not cartoons.  When you hurt us we actually do bleed.”  Excellent Shakespearean reference! “I know that is hard to remember, Mr. Mancini,” and here he smirks. “But it is worth trying.  If not for me, then for my daughter.”

“I, um, yes, thank you,” Chris Matthews tries to recover. “Mr. Prady, do you have a response?”  “I never finished my question,” Mancini says, slipping his fingers over his thumb, staring up at Alicia, clearly thinking that he’s going to beat her by forcing out the question. In a way, he reminds me of a lawyer with a witness on the stand; the press aren’t the only profession who ruthlessly exploit the personal lives of the people who come into their orbit. Alicia can’t quite believe he’s still going to go there, but to Frank’s surprise Matthews will allow it. “I’m breaking  a story tomorrow about the governor sleeping with his legal counsel,” he says, and the audience starts to boo him.  Belatedly, Matthews realizes this is going into dangerous territory and flips the time period over to Frank. “Fifteen seconds, do you have a rebuttal?”  Defeated, Mancini rolls his eyes.

“I don’t have a rebuttal, no,” Prady says, “but I will say this, I think Mrs. Florrick deserves an apology from the press.”  Surprise flashes over Alicia’s face. The audience claps, and the candidates smile at each other.

In the main conference room at Florrick Agos & Lockhart, David Lee flips through the photos Kalinda’s delivered. “Ah,” he says. “My own handiwork.”  Understandably thrown, Deena wants to know what he’s talking about, and so Cary obliges. “That’s why your prenup is void,” Diane says. “Isn’t that right, Evan?”  Evan can’t but agree. “David, fifteen million is as high as we go.”  Hmm.  Evan looks like a young Ciaran Hinds to me, does anyone else see that?  “No,” says David.  “I’ll keep these,” he adds, grinning and clutching the photos.  When Diane reminds him she has the originals, he says it’s fine. “These are good enough for TMZ.  Not that I’d give them to them.”  Which is to say, David will pass on the photos to the press unless Neil Gross pays up, because he doesn’t think Neil will want it known that Deena prefers Sleuthway to ChumHum.

Wow.  Are we sure Deena’s going to be okay with that?  Because I have trouble thinking she will.

With his usual florid and surly language, Neil observes that just when he thinks that the lawyers he seems be spending half his time with can’t sink any lower – that he’s already reached the ninth circle of hell – they go beneath even his lowest expectations.  For once, I kind of agree with him.  And then he walks out.

Smiling to himself, David watches him go, and then tosses the photo on the table. “After he calms down, tell him we’ll settle for a hundred million,” he says. “You have three hours, or we’re out of here.”

“Governor Florrick,” Pastor Isaiah says.  Wow, I’ve missed him.  He’s so intense and sincere. “Pastor,” Peter replies gravely, shaking his hand. “Father,” Isaiah says, look at Jeremiah, who seems unsettled and angry. “Son,” the man replies.

“Governor, Pastor Isaiah believes the Mayor’s plan is the best way to handle any possible violence.”  Really, Peter smirks.  (I’m shocked, to be honest.  Back in the day I used to feel like Isaiah was more reasonable than his dad, but this?) “Is that what you believe?” Peter asks, putting Isaiah on the spot. “Well  I just know about a deal between you and my father,” he says, and Peter turns his head away, upset. “What deal?” Jeremiah pushes. “An 80 thousand dollar religious study?” Okay, gross, but what the hello does that have to do with the best way to prevent a riot?  “And I think it will be evidence to those upset by the verdict that they’re being mislead.”  Oh, dear. Both Jeremiah and Peter look embarrassed, Peter surprisingly more so. “Why do you hate me so much, son?” Jeremiah wonders. “I don’t hate you, father. I just believe you’re being mislead by politics.”  I’ll say it again, what does this have to do with the best way to deal with the protestors?  ? This seems backwards; though Isaiah has always seemed more honest and less political than his dad, it makes no sense that he would ally himself with a plan that’s going to lead to violence.  Too many conflicting shades of gray.

Luckily for him, Peter gets called away from this conversation by a phone call, just as Jeremiah starts wondering aloud if Isaiah’s mother put him up to this. Geez, does he not talk to her either?  Someone needs to get his own house in order. “The mayor’s plan is being implemented, Mr. Governor,” Franny adds.  “He asks that you assist in his efforts by not withholding the National Guard.”  Oh please.  Because the police in riot gear aren’t provocation enough?

“Well this isn’t good,” Peter observes, staring at a news update on his phone. The verdict has been announced: not guilty.  “Oh crap,” says the mayor’s chief of staff. “I’m calling the mayor. Get out the National Guard.”  Franny, Peter sighs. “If the Mayor goes in with this warrior stance, there’s going to be violence.”

“Mr. Prady?”the moderator asks.  “The point is, drug arrest have been on the rise for years now, and the sentencing guidelines are crazily…” I’m sorry, Chris Matthews cuts him off mid-sentence, “time’s up, Mr. Prady! Mrs. Florrick, you have ten seconds for rebuttal.”  Yes, well talking about guidelines, she says confidently, if there were guidelines — but here Chris cuts her off too, for once not because she’s gone over the limit.  He’s getting a notice about the verdict over his earpiece; Frank and Alicia look at each other in consternation as Matthews tells them their live feed has been interrupted.  They’ve been asked to pause so that the network can go to live coverage of the Cole Willis verdict and obviously the anticipated protests.  Just when she was getting into a rhythm, Elfman complains to Marissa and Josh.   Chris Matthews asks them to sit tight for an hour or two in the hope that they’ll be able to go back on air.

“Great job,” the Haircut leans toward his candidate and whispers, his voice low. “You were kicking ass. Great job on the sex thing.”  Do you want some water, Marissa asks; nope, but Alicia’s starving.  As Marissa offers to run down to the hotel kitchen and make her a plate, Alicia sees Grace walk out of the audience and rushes to hug her, not relaxing her hold for a long time. “You’re doing great, Mom,” Grace murmurs into her mother’s shoulder.

Lined up together, Pastor Isaiah, Nora, Peter and Eli watch a perky blond news anchor announce the verdict; the two police officers have been found innocent in the death of suspected gang member Cole Willis. Peter physically recoils. “Suspected gang member?” Nora repeats in anger and disbelief, her snark  at dangerous levels. “Really, the suburban father of two?”  Yep, that’s pretty awful. You’d think they were watching FOX.

Let’s not get upset, Eli asks. “Why?” she replies with dangerous calm.  “You afraid I’m going to riot?”  Eli wisely chooses not to take her on. “This is your Giuliani moment, sir,” he turns to Peter instead. “Careers are built on moments like this.”  Eli, Peter hisses as Nora wraps her arms even more tightly around her torso, thoroughly pissed. “I’m not saying take advantage of it,” he claims (oh, like hell you’re not), “but no one will talk about Ramona if you handle this properly.”  Peter leans down toward his Chief’s ear. “Eli, you need to stop,” he commands.

At first I think we’re looking at a hospital corridor, it’s so stark and metallic, but it’s just the doors to the hotel kitchen.  From the hotel’s stores, Alicia grabs a sandwich tray, a loaf of bread and a cutting board.   As she’s setting the things down on a counter, a voice breaks into her perfect solitude. “Oh, good, I’m starved,” Frank Prady sighs, making her smile. “Did they tell you not to eat too?”  Yep.

Seconds later, she’s got a sandwich in her grip, and before taking her first bite, she asks how he thinks it’s going.  He flutters a bit before answering with a  frustrated “I don’t know.”  She laughs. “Every time I get going they say ‘time’s up!'”  Oh, she understands. “You had a good answer to that one reporter,” he says, still assembling his snack, and she points to him while her mouth is still full. “You had a good answer to that Rachel question.”  Is Rachel the fourth panelist, the lone woman, or some other type of something I don’t know about? He chews, considering. “It’s all artificial, isn’t it?”  There’s more chewing. “We agree on more than we don’t.”  She laughs, because he’s right, and there’s something so lovely about the way that laugh ripples out.

“We should debate now,” he says, “and see if there’s anything we disagree on.”  Without moving the rest of her face, she raises her eyes from her sandwich to his face.  You can see the internal debate. Is this a trap?  Is he, like Maddie Hayworth, trolling for secrets to exploit?  Doing oppo research on his own?  Will he listen to her only here on to twist her words on stage?  He takes a big bite.  “Our handlers won’t be happy,” she says nervously.  He raises his eyebrows in a challenge. “Okay, you start,” she decides, unable to resist, and pops a chunk of sandwich into her mouth.

A young black man in an orange button down and shiny brown vest carries a box into the metal kitchen doors, the contents shifting and clanking, light occasionally glinting off his close-cropped hair. Wow, the hotel uniform is dreadful. “The system needs to be tweaked, not overhauled,” Alicia’s voice comes through as he turns a corner. “You really believe that?” Frank asks her, surprised.  She does. “We’re on the verge of another Ferguson, and you…”  No no no, she says, mouth full. “That was just about jury selection, the prosecution screwed up on voice dire, that’s why those two cops were found not guilty.”  What, really?  “They were found not guilty because the system is inherently racist,” Frank splutters, “ask anyone!”  So what do you suggest the State’s Attorney does, she asks, if the entire system is racist?  You start with hiring, he says.  Racial diversity at the SA’s office is laughable; where are the black prosecutors? (I can just see Geneva Pine swinging her ponytail in disgust.)  We need the opposite, Alicia says, a pure meritocracy with no cronyism.   Hiring for racial diversity isn’t cronyism, Prady replies indignantly around a mouthful of food. Oh yes it is, she insists.  I’m so fascinated that we’re having DINO Prady take the more liberal line here.

“We need good prosecutors!  There are a dozen defense attorneys I know making $400,000 a year that would jump at the chance to put criminals away.They’re sick of what they’re doing now, and…”  Whoa whoa whoa, Frank says. “Why don’t they?”  She’s at a loss. “You said they’d jump at the chance to be a prosecutor, why don’t they?”  Well, gee, loosing out on the 400k salary seems like the first hurdle to me. What’s going to stop them is that they know they’ll spend half their time dealing with stupid bureaucracy in a poorly run office, she says.  Really?  That’s all?  “No,” Prady says. “They don’t jump, because it’s easier to talk about doing good than it is to actually do good.”  You go ahead and laugh, Alicia; that’s a great point. “And you call me cynical?” she laughs, taking another chunk out of what has to be her second sandwich. “Chicago is on the verge of another Ferguson,” Prady tells her earnestly, “because the system is all white. Because African Americans don’t see someone who shares their experience.”

“You know what’s stupid?” the man in orange and brown says; Alicia and Frank spin to see where the comment is coming from. “You’re two white people arguing about why black people are rioting, that’s what’s stupid.”  Ha. They’re both totally embarrassed, and the young man is clearly annoyed. “And you’re saying there needs to be more black people in office?”  Well, to be fair Alicia didn’t seem to be saying that. “And that’s why we need two more white people running.”  Frank is too embarrassed to even continuing chewing his food.  “Okay,” Alicia says, setting down her sandwich and wiping her hands together to shake off the crumbs and asking the young man directly. “So what do you do?”  Stop prosecuting so many drug crimes, the man says without batting an eye, and both politicians leap on this, for they both agree.  Loudly.

“They put a guy in prison for killing a dog just last week,” a young black man tells a reporter out among the protestors; the entire interfaith conference watches him on the news. “Then these two cops kill a black man and what happens?  They go free?”  “We should go there, now,” Peter stares at the television, his arms folded. “What?” Eli gasps.  “Pastor Isaiah,” Peter says, “Would you like to come with me?” Huh. Why Pastor Isaiah and not Pastor Jeremiah? Interesting. Where are you going, Isaiah wonders.  Looking at the television with it’s dual coverage of the courthouse and downtown Chicago, Peter simply says “there.”

“Are you serious?” Eli snaps. “Yes,” says Pastor Isaiah.  “Yes, let’s go.”  That’s all it takes; Peter nods, and walks out.

The same news cast, with its report of hundreds gathering outside the courthouse, brings us to the conference room at FAL.  “I’m gonna have trouble getting home tonight,” David Lee drawls with a serene lack of concern for the situation.  God, I hate that man.  He’s funny and he’s a terrific lawyer but as a human being, he’s pretty unimpressive. “You might as well start home now,” Diane declares, walking into the room.  You want those photos on TMZ, he asks; Deena sits next to him, perfectly unconcerned. “We do.”  Now Deena does look surprised. “I don’t bluff, Diane, you know I don’t,” he says.  So how is that not extortion, can someone explain that to me again, please?  Instead Cary sends a packet sliding down the table: Deena’s employment contract as chief counsel of ChumHum.  “Evan, what’s going on?” David snaps, trying to move on to a softer target.

“There’s a standard non-compete clause in the contract,” Cary points out; “oh, come on,” David sneers. “Deena was sleeping with the CEO of ChumHUm’s biggest competitor during the time of that contract,” Diane notes, and Deena looks up at her, defiant. “If you ask me, that violates her non-compete. That opens her up to a suit.”  In a move she has clearly learned from her soon to be ex-husband, Deena tosses her head back to complain to the heavens. “God,” she spits out. “You guys are terrible.”

This is what I hate about Gross, and apparently now Deena. For all the whinging, they’re really just upset that their enemies are as smart as their friends.  This is terrible, but David offering to put her sex pictures up on TMZ isn’t?  Really?  I mean, okay, it’s kind of gross (there’s that word again!) but it’s not that sleazy. “Evan, do you agree with these kind of tactics?” David asks sweetly. “I’m sorry David,” Evan squirms. “We’re all sorry,” Cary observes.  “Fifteen million. You have an hour to accept, or it goes away.”

“My law partner Cary Agos was prosecuted on trumped up drug charges,” Alicia tells an audience that now consists of the first man in orange and brown (a waiter?), a second young black man in orange and brown, and two dark haired young men in kitchen whites, at least one of whom is Latino, “so I understand this issue.”  And he had all the advantages of a white entitled businessman, Frank shoots back. “He’s a lawyer. He knew lawyers. And he knew how to work the system.”  Slowly the Haircut strolls into the room, stopping at the edge of the stainless steel island where the two politicians have been eating and debating, standing next to a man in an orange suit with a mandarin collar. “But you put any African American up on charges…”

“Alicia,” Elfman cuts in, “there you are! Why don’t we go back to the green room?”  I’ll meet you there, she says. No, no, I really want you to come now. The kitchen staff exchange glances.  Who’s going to win, the politician or the handler? “Hey, let her talk,” the new waiter says. “She says she’ll see you later.  So, what, would you just stop prosecuting all drug crimes?” he turns to ask Alicia. Marissa pops in and smiles brightly at John. “No,” Prady jumps in. “Non-violent drug crimes. I would de-emphasize them.”  You can just do that, the waiter wonders. “I can.  But I’m not sure Alicia can,” Frank answers, making Alicia laugh. “Why is that?” Marissa wonders. “Politics,” he says. “I believe she would want to de-emphasize drug crimes, but her critics would suggest she was doing this as a favor to her old client, Lemond Bishop, a top drug dealer.”

Good point.

“And they would be wrong,” she says.

“Which wouldn’t matter,” Prady presses, which you can tell doesn’t sit well with their audience. “The politics work against her relaxing drug prosecutions.  But I don’t have any history here. I am free and clear to act.”  That’s totally one of his main talking points, you can tell. Again, the Haircut tries to wrap things up. “Why would you want to stop prosecuting drug crimes?” the second waiter asks. “I can barely walk home with all the drug dealers on my street.” Oh, excellent.  Thank you. The black vote is not monolithic. “Because it’s mostly putting blacks in prison,” the first waiter says. “Well maybe they should be in prison,” the second one replies.

“Excuse me,” the latino-looking cook — or maybe dishwasher, since he’s only in a white t-shirt and not a chef’s coat – asks. “Why is this all about the blacks? Most of the trouble I have in my neighborhood is because of the blacks.” Er. Aren’t you saying it’s all about “the blacks,” too? Despite his previous comments against the drug dealers in his neighborhood, the second waiter takes offense at this.  So does the first. I’m just telling you what it’s like in my neighborhood, the dishwasher puts up his hands. “No, you’re spouting racist bull,” the second man says.  The guy in the orange jacket who’s standing next to Elfman has his phone out now, recording the exchange, which freaks Elfman out enough that he steps in.  He’s smooth about it, though, claiming it’s a proprietary issue with the hotel, making the guy think he’d be in trouble at work rather than it just being that the campaign probably doesn’t want this video out.

There are sirens blazing from their police escort as Peter and Pastor Isaiah make their way toward the courthouse.  Both men stare forward, their eyes intense, scrupulously avoiding each other’s gaze, the tension between them visible on the screen.   “How’ve you been, Pastor?” Peter asks casually. “I’m well,” Isaiah says.  Each man looks toward the other when he speaks, but their eyes don’t meet.  After a deeply awkward pause, Isaiah says “I see that you have been too.”  I have, Peter agrees.

“It’s been a while,” Peter admits, and finally, they look at each other at the same time, if only for a fraction of a second. “It has,” Isaiah nods. “How’s Alicia?”  Ha.  Now there’s a question Peter’s totally not going to answer. “Fine,” he says shortly, inhaling. “No,” Isaiah turns to him, and man but I’ve missed this.  I loved seeing Isaiah force Peter to confront himself. Force him to admit aloud that things aren’t fine, that life is complicated. “It is,” Isaiah will allow.

“Still believe?” he wonders, and Peter thinks about the question. “Do I still believe in God?”  Isaiah nods. “Sometimes.”  The answer doesn’t make the pastor happy.  “You still pray?”  No, Peter admits easily. “Do you want me to pray for you?” Isaiah asks, and there’s something slightly vulnerable in this, as if he’s afraid to be told no.  I don’t know what I’d ask you to pray for, Peter replies; it seems to me that he thinks he needs to come up with the solution to his problems, and then pray to ask God to implement Peter’s plan, which isn’t how it works at all.  You pray because you can’t see the way out.

“That you be a good man,” Isaiah suggests, his eyes a black fire in the dark car. “Do you want to be good?”  Grinning wryly, Peter turns to meet Isaiah’s gaze. “I think it’s a little late for that,” he says.  (Bah.  What a ridiculous cop out.)  “I want to be … effective,” the Governor acknowledges. “Does one discount the other?” the pastor asks. “It can,” Peter nods. “Tonight, for example.”  His face goes cold. “I need to be effective.”  I don’t know, maybe give  yourself a small break – at least admit that when you say being effective, you mean being effective at doing good.  Maybe it’s not the same as being good, but it matters.  He turns to Isaiah.  “Pray for that,” he says.

“Then what would you do?” Alicia asks Prady in the now crowded Bonaventure kitchen, her voice and her body language animated. More people file in as they speak. “You talk about equality, you talk about overcoming racism…”   “Because that’s the point,” Prady cuts in. “No, that’s the poetry,” Alicia says, and my heart stops a little at the beauty of that phrase repeating in her language now.  “That makes people feel good when you say it, but that is not the SA’s job.”  At this moment Prady’s campaign manager, who looks quite a bit like a shorter, bearded Will Ferrell, weaves into the crowd wearing an alarmed expression. “And it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

“That’s cynicism talking!” Prady cries. “No, that’s a defense attorney talking,” Alicia says, turning to thump the island in her excitement. “Saying that I have seen first hand what prosecutors do wrong.” Bearded Will Ferrell searches the faces of the hotel staff as they smile fondly at Alicia, impressed and frankly kind of enchanted. “And I know how to correct it! That’s why I’ll be better at than you.”  Frank tries to cut in, but it doesn’t work. “Because I’m not trying to remake the world,” she says. “I don’t think I can change people.  I think I can change the office.”  Pleased, John Elfman leans over and tells the guy in the orange suit he can film anything he wants; the man obligingly raises his phone. “I can put defense attorneys in office who are hungry to put criminals away.”  Is that really the problem with the SA’s office now, that the lawyers aren’t hungry enough? “I can go after the top crooks because I know who they are!”

“Because you represented them,” Prady counters. “Yes,” Alicia says, excited. “And I know how they work!” Oh God.  Now I’m having visions of Lemond Bishop watching this online, and I freeze a little in fear for her. “I’m not going in with pie in the sky.  We’ve had enough pretty words.  We’ve had enough novices who talk a good game, but then throw their hands up when they realize they can’t stop racism.” She looks out at the waitstaff, who’re smiling back at her and nodding.  “They can’t make everyone good. That’s why people should vote for me and not you!”

And that’s when everyone starts clapping.  The two candidates turn to their audience in shock.

Quick as a snake, Bearded Will Ferrell darts to his candidate’s side. “Frank!  There you are.  Let’s go,” he says, taking the rather stunned man by his arm. “You’re 8 points up.  Don’t squander it,” he hisses, glaring at the other end of the kitchen where Elfman is orchestrating a spontaneous photo op on Orange Man’s phone.

“How many people died of ebola in America?  One,” a protestor at the courthouse tells the news cameras. “A black man.  He did everything he was supposed to do. He went to the hospital, what did they do?  They sent him home with some aspirin.”  The speaker is a young black man, well-dressed, standing with an equally good looking and well-dressed young black woman. “Everybody white got cured – just the black guy they sent home with some pills.”

There’s a strange chaotic music to this night, sirens and protest song, revolving lights flashing off police in riot gear. Driving up to the police barricade, Eli rolls down his window to greet a man named George. “So you lucked out, Eli,” the young man says.  Sometimes I think the casting agents on this show are half responsible for the current trend in beards.  What does that mean, Eli wonders.   A race riot is the headline instead of the governor’s affair, that’s what he means. “How dare you, George, the governor’s facing one of the biggest challenges of his life!”  Am I quoting you now, George wonders: no, this is on background, Eli says, and I love the way outrage slips in and out of his voice. “And you’re obsessing about some stupid unsubstantiated sideshow?”  Okay, George says, backing down.  “Okay, so what do you want me to quote?”  The governor is arriving, Eli begins, but is distracted when  a flash of light illuminates Ramona’s pale, beautiful face in the crowd.

“Look over there,” he says, “and I will bring the governor to you.”  What’s going on, George wonders, not unreasonably. “You want access, George?  Then go over there.” How is George not going to see right through that?  As he gives a canny look to the side, his face flashes blue, then red, then blue again.

“What are you doing here?” he hisses at Ramona. The lights blink quickly, redblueredblueredblue. “Are you insane?”  The Governor asked for me, she says quietly.  “Have you seen the news?” he asks her. “No one’s reporting it,” she justifies herself, her voice and her eyes dull with shame. “That’s because I’ve been killing myself trying to keep it out of the news, but if they see you here…”

“It’s my job, Eli,” she tells him quietly. “The governor wants to discuss the legal implications of closing down the…” Um, the something.  The neural something?  The New something?  No matter how many times I listen I can’t figure it out. Ever the dramatic one, Eli throws up his hands. “No!” he declares. “There are so many things wrong with that sentence.  Just go home!”  And obviously, that’s when Peter drives up, rolls down his window, and asks Ramona to come into his car and chat.

Right.

“Peter, no, you can’t be seen with her, that’ll bring Ramona back into the news,” Eli steps up to the car, his voice low.  He’s genuinely horrified. “Ten minutes, that’s all.”  He turns in his seat. “Can you give me ten minutes, Pastor?”  Isaiah can.  Ten minutes?  He’s going to take ten minutes out of this impending riot?  I’m dumbfounded.  “Ramona, I have a question for ya,” a voice calls out, and I think it’s Peter, making sure he’s heard, but in the cacophony of the moment, it’s a tough thing. “Dear God,” Eli says, hanging his head.  Stepping around the car, Pastor Isaiah looks at his curiously as the lights turn then redblueredblueredblue. “Are you alright, Eli?” he asks, and Eli considers the question. “No,” he arrives at the conclusion, nodding. “I’m not. I just realized that I work very hard, and I am not appreciated.”  Wanna talk about it, Isaiah asks, and Eli turns a look of such unmitigated horror that I laugh out loud.

In the wings at the Bonaventure Hotel, Alicia and Elfman pace as Marissa sits on a curved back love seat near to them.  The debate should resume in about ten minutes; there’s a little violence in the protests, but it’s sporadic.  “Nothing visual,” Josh adds.  Huh, the lighting is so stark I didn’t even see him sitting by Marissa’s feet. “The news is getting bored, that’s why they’re coming back to you.”  Surely they’ll perk up whenever Peter does whatever it is he’s doing to do?  “You’ll get more samplers than usual so keep up the pressure.”  Er, okay.  “Yeah,” Elfman says, looking up from his phone, “and though it was unorthodox, your extra curricular debate with Prady’s got his people really scared.”  It did, didn’t it?  Let’s just hope it doesn’t get her killed when it hits the web. Yep, just keep up the pressure, Josh nods. “I’m thinking of voting for you now, that’s how good you were.”  Okay, now that’s funny. “Great,’ Alicia smiles. “I need to talk to John alone for a minute.”  She waves them off and without a word, Josh and Marissa stand.  “You weren’t gonna vote for her before?” Josh asks as they walk off. “No, I’m not a big voter,” she says.  “I’m in my twenties.”

Her face glowing pale against the blood red suit, Alicia smirks up at her manager, suddenly quite close to him, a sultry swagger in each movement. No. Way.  I totally thought she was never going to bring this up. “Alicia,” he stammers, clearly picking up on her drift. “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.”  Wait, she tells him, grinning. “Listen.  It didn’t mean anything.”  He freezes; this is definitely not what he was expecting.  “What?” he asks, his voice flat. “In the parking garage?,” she asks, somehow thinking that he doesn’t know what she’s referring to.  “I was in a mood.  It didn’t mean anything.”  He nods, clearly trying to cover his disappointment, tucking his chin down.  “John,” she smiles. “You can look at me.”  It’s fine, he says, still looking at his shoes. Oh no!  That’s so cute!  (Do I think it’s cute because he reads so much younger?)  “It’s fine,” he says, looking up. “It just surprised me, is all.  It’s a version of transference. Sometimes candidates or their wives develop feelings for their handlers.  It’s just…”

Another grin breaks out on her face, a slow and sexy one. “Okay, let’s not do that,” she says. Okay, he replies. “You don’t need to instruct me about my feelings.”  Sorry, he mutters. “That’s how I deal with things.  It’s … whatever,” he says, and busts out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.  Surely he’d been planning to say it was complicated, that they shouldn’t, that they couldn’t — but you can tell that he wanted to, and being rejected before he can make a speech he probably didn’t even want to succeed at must feel pretty absurd. Not to mention ego-deflating.

She bends, trying to catch his eye. “You still can’t look at me, can you?”  “Hmm,” he mumbles. “Look at me,” she commands, and he does. “I don’t have feelings for you,” she declares, still smiling. “We’re good!  It just… happened.”  She smiles more, trying to show him just how good and clear and easy this is.  In the distance, Marissa peers toward them, noticing something amiss. Finally, the Haircut drops all pretenses and lets Alicia see the hurt in his face.  She blinks as it sinks in. “I…” she starts, shocked. “What?” he pushes aggressively.  She made him look; now he’s going to really show her what’s there.

“We’ve got a problem,” Chris Matthews interrupts them. Curse you, Chris Matthews!  “What?” the Haircut asks. ‘What’s wrong?”  We’re calling the debate off for tonight, Matthews tells them. “Frank Prady, he wants to delay,” he explains, looking hilariously gloomy and disappointed about the whole thing.

“Tonight,” Frank says on a grainy video on his campaign website, “is not a night for political posturing and thirty second canned responses to questions about racial stratification. Tonight is a night for action.”  Huh. Josh darts in. “By action, do you mean running away?”  Hee.  The video continues with a call for Alicia to join Frank in taking to the streets. “Now is the time to listen.”  As Alicia, Johnny and MArissa stand still, Josh pops over to the laptop again. “Is it the time to listen or the time for action?  Jackass,” he says, lunging at the screen with an accusatory finger.  This is great, he’s made a mistake, Elfman gloats. Though she’s clearly uncomfortable (her arms crossed defensively) Alciai listens as the Haircut tells her to get out to the podium and tell the reporters she’s ready to debate.  “We get a photo op of you at your podium, facing no one.  I paid for this money!”  Josh enthuses.

“Here’s the thing,” Johnny jumps in. “This in the turning point in the campaign.  They just made a mistake.”  Yeah, Josh agrees.  “That’s something Americans can understand.  Cowardice. The dog ate my… blah blah.” Oh, Josh.  “You ready?” Johnny asks. “Can you do it?”  Let’s go, she says, and she does.

“No,” Neil Gross says over his phone, sitting in a chair in Diane’s office. “I’m coming there now.  It’s an irritant,” he says, sounding coldly irritated.  “We can handle it.  It’s okay.”  Cary’s frowning, because it doesn’t sound okay, not at all. Neil sounds defeated, and what’s almost worse, deflated.   What happened?

“Deena used her knowledge with the ChumHum board,” he sighs, and between the three of them we find out that Deena’s play was about the Fappening — the hacking of nude celebrity photos — making it out to seem like that happened through an incompetence or laxness of Neil’s. Wow.  She seemed so nice!  I’m not entirely sure what the point of this is, though. “Leaves us open to a suit,” he observes, shrugging into his usual leather jacket.  “In what way open,” Cary frowns — still looking thin and pale from his long ordeal. “Yeah, well, here’s the thing,” Neil says, pulling on his zipper, “you’re fired.”

Shocked, Diane rises to her feet. “I’m sorry, what?”  You’re fired, he repeats. “You needed to close this down immediately. You didn’t. Now I have to settle for 75 million.  You cost me sixty million.” Diane’s jaw drops in outrage. “I’m done,” he finishes.

“Mr. Gross, no other firm could have done anything else,” Cary tries to at least justify himself. And indeed, we all know mercurial, infantile Neil was looking for any excuse. “You know what, Cary?” he barks. “Save it. Your attorney screwed up. David Lee took advantage of you. That is why I’m stuck where I am.”  So, nothing to do with Deena being vengeful and avaricious, huh?  “I don’t like losing sixty million dollars. I especially don’t like losing it to a wife who cheated on me.”  Oh, whatever, pot.  You keep throwing mud on that kettle. “You need to get your act together.”

Breathing hard, Diane watches her most important client storm out her door. Slowly, Cary turns his head to look at her. “That was unfortunate,” she growls. “It was,” he agrees, and then he thinks. “You know what we need to do,” he says.  Her eyes haven’t left his face.  “I think I do,” she nods.  What?  Are we going after Patric Edelstein again, to get a client with a similar financial heft?

Instead we see David Lee whistling through the underground garage; his happy chirping slows as he sees Diane and Cary (God, I almost just wrote Diane and Will) standing by his car.  Diane looks as if she’s holding her breath so as not to smell something unpleasant. “You wanna offer me more than a hundred million?” Yeah, I thought Gross might be optimistic with his loss projections. “No,” Diane says, and she and Cary exchange a very Will&Diane-like telepathic look. “We know you’re not happy with Canning,” Cary replies quietly.  Oh God.  They’re not.  No no no. “He’s sick. And you’ve been carrying all the weight.”  David Lee begins to smile. “Well, well. Kalinda’s really been working overtime for ya.”  No no no no no no!

“We want you back, David,” Diane says, and stops him in his tracks.

No no no no no no no!  David Lee is MUCH better for the show as an adversary than he is as a colleague.  He’s good in small quantities — he’s never going to be a regular — and he’s deliciously awful.  It’s better to try and beat him, far better than to simply return to the fractious status quo.  This, right here, is the collapse of the dream of Florrick Agos & Lockhart, the start up utopia for women and minorities, the place where they do things better and smarter.

Uncomprehending, he looks at the pair. Cary smiles and nods, and David bursts into hysterical laughter. “You just can’t quit me, can you?”  Oh, how I wish we would.  They better have a vital long term plan that necessitates this, because it’s crap. “What do you want, David,” Diane asks flatly.  I don’t even understand how she can do this, after the way the bridges burnt between the two former allies.

Seriously, this is complete crap.

The red and blue lights flash against those full body plastic shields carried by a phalanx of cops standing in a line opposite placard carrying protestors. “We get no justice, you get no peace,” the crowd chants, united now as they hadn’t been before, united and definitely angry. Behind the lines, Eli frets intensely, standing with Pastor Isaiah and Pastor Jeremiah. Half the time, their faces end up a purple blur when the flashes lose their synchronicity. “Eli, we need to talk now,” Isaiah says.  Eli knows; he steps forward and raps sharply on the door of the black SUV.  To my surprise it opens, and Ramona Lytton sleepwalks out of it, her gloved hand pressed to her cheek.  Peter walks out of the other door, blowing out an unhappy breath but settling into a determined look.

It’s Ramona who’s on Eli’s side of the vehicle, and she’s the one he follows.  Her slim hand covers her mouth now; she looks as if she’s trying not to cry.  I need you not to talk to anyone, the perpetual campaign manager tells her. “I know how it works, Eli,” she says in a composed voice. Unusually, Eli’s face softens with pity.  “What happened?” he asks. “He said goodbye,” Ramona reports with as much dignity as she can muster.  “So that’s it.”  It’s rather a lot of dignity, even if the shellshocked walk out was a bit much. Melodramatically, she wipes a tear from under one eye. “Goodbye,” she tells him, and walks off.  There’s a brief flicker of regret in Eli’s face, an understanding that for his long term political ends he’s helped to hurt a nice person. “Goodbye, Ramona” he calls after she’s walked too far away to hear him.

“Did you have any luck, Pastor?” Peter asks Isaiah, pulling on his gloves against the cold. The crowd’s chanting has fragmented; now we hear “black lives matter” amid the cries for justice. “She’s here,” Pastor Isaiah says, nodding toward a black woman in a white coat, walking toward them with the rather toweringly tall Pastor Jeremiah.  “It’s good to meet you, Deirdre,” Peter says gravely. “I’m sorry about the death of your husband.”  Thank  you, she nods, looking up at him, her hair blowing back from her face. “I think we all want the same thing,” he says, and her eyes search his face, questioning him silently.

“The Mayor’s coming in from the airport,” Franny tells Eli. That was fast. Also, can I just say how effective the costume department is here?  One piece of clothing — that fur coat — told us everything we need to know about the Mayor’s entitled and out of touch administration.  “Good,” Eli smirks happily, “good for him.” Redblueredblueredblue. “Eli, he’s asking that you hold the press conference for twenty minutes,” she pleads. “Franny, this is not a press conference. This is an urgent need to stop a riot.”  Not so urgent that it couldn’t wait for Peter to break up with his mistress, though, huh?  “No, this is not. No one’s rioting.”  Well, she’s got him there. “You’re trying to take advantage of …”  He cuts her off. “Seriously!  The Governor is stepping in for an absentee mayor in the city’s time of need.”

“You don’t wanna make an enemy of me, Eli,” Franny threatens.  Oh dear.  That’s just – no.  God, this woman has read him wrong every step of the way.  She nods, “No, you don’t,” he answers.

The governor shepherds Deirdre down the thin corridor between the protestors and the police, the two pastors walking behind them, and as they walk the shouting resolves into a single word, the dead man’s name over and over. Cole! Cole! Cole! Cole!  The four ascend the steps of the courthouse.

A megaphone in his hands, Pastor Isaiah begins. “I’m sorry that we have to meet under such circumstances,” he tells the crowd of hundreds we can see spread before them. “But I wanted you to hear from the person who should be the angriest at tonight’s events.  Deirdre.” He hands the bullhorn mike to Cole’s widow, and apprehensively, she turns it on and brings it to her lips. “Cole was a good man. If he were here right now, he’d be saying what I’m saying to you now.” She looks out over the large crowd, flashing red blue, red blue. She considers her words, chooses them precisely, delivers them clearly. “This is not the time to break things.  This is the time to fix them.”

She looks up at Peter, standing to her left with Jeremiah behind him.  He shifts to the stope behind her and takes the microphone. “Tonight,” he says, “We are not black or white, rich or poor.”  Listening curiously, a very rich-looking Alicia walks into her lux offices. “That is Governor Florrick speaking from the courthouse steps on … an extraordinary night of protest and outrage,” a male news anchor tells us from the conference room television.  How did Alicia get in to work?  Aren’t they right next to the courthouse?  The news feeds are of men marching in the streets. “It’s odd,” a female voice adds,  “as we’re looking at the these images of protesting downtown, you go about your life, not even thinking about the injustices suffered by others, and that’s part of the problem.”

Letting those words sink in, Alicia walks to her office, only to find a former occupant seated in it, staring at the painting behind her desk. “Hello?” she asks. “I like what you’ve done with it,” David Lee observes mildly.  She blinks down at him. “What’s up, David?”  I like this office, he observes. “It gets the morning light.” Oh, God. He’s enjoying this too much, isn’t he?  “I’m glad,” she says.  “What’re you doing here?”

He looks up, calm and mild. “I’ve come home, Alicia,” he says. “We’re partners again.  Isn’t that great?”  She tries not to let her surprise, or her anger, or her disgust show on her face.  Knowing he’s sown enough discord, he leaves with his coat and a jaunty step.

Seeing Cary and Diane talking in Diane’s office, Alicia throws her things on her desk with a resounding thump, and closes the distance between them.  The two are looking over paper working, wondering aloud what they can possibly do. “What happened?” Alicia asks them.

“Oh, Alicia,” Diane says. “How did the debate go?”  No one’s sure: “we think good,” Alicia hopes, but she’s not particularly concerned with that anymore. “What’s going on? David Lee was in my office, saying he’s coming back.”  The coming conversation makes Diane a bit squirmy, but Cary answers with decision. “Yes,” he says, “replacing Evan.”  Congratulations, Evan!  You skipped your kid’s cancer surgery, managed to lose your firm’s biggest client and got fired, all in one day!  Very sound decision making, that.  (Now, okay, I’m not sure there was any winning this situation; Deena seems pretty ruthless in her determination, willing to expose herself to any kind of public disapproval to get more money.  And sure, he would have just been sitting at the hospital, going crazy with worry.  Still.  That’s what you do.)

“As of when,” Alicia wonders; an hour ago, Cary explains. “Are you serious?  When did you decide this?”  An hour ago, Diane reiterates; Cary looks very willing to brazen out her disapproval (after all, how many times did she overrule him during the six months of his ordeal?) while Diane looks more conscious of it. ” You can’t just… ” Alicia squeaks, then thinks better of it and controls her voice. “Don’t you think it was important to talk to me?”  We tried calling you, but we had to decide right away, Cary explains. “I’m a name partner,” Alicia declares, outraged. Yeah, and also, it’s a completely crap decision.  You’d think Diane would have been more set against it than Alicia. “This is a decision for all of us.”

“No it isn’t, Alicia, not anymore,” Diane replies to Alicia’s complete shock. “You’re running for State’s Attorney.  That was a decision for all of us.”  Okay.  So, that’s been brewing for six months. “I told you…” Alicia begins, and but Diane snaps back immediately, challenging the younger woman. “That it was about Castro. It it was about Cary being prosecuted.  Well Castro’s not in the race anymore, so why’re you still in?” Thank you for having someone articulate this! The two women stare fiercely at each other.  Alicia opens her mouth, and nothing comes out.  Cary raises his eyebrows and nods, pressing for the answer. Without a word, she turns and walks out of the office, and so Cary and Diane resume their paperwork.

But not so fast!  “I have 90 volunteers working for me,” she says, charging back into the room with a full head of steam. “I have five paid consultants.”  And how many full time staff members do you have in this company that you’re abandoning, Alicia?   “Small donations from 38,000 people.” Is it rude to wonder how many of them are Lemond Bishop’s shills?  “All trying to help me win. And you’re asking me why I’m still in the race?”  Yes.  They are. It’s a totally valid question. “Look,” says Cary, trying to calm everyone down. “Let’s just take a moment….”

“No!” Alicia  shouts. “If I were a man, you would never have asked me that.”  Oh, come on, yells Diane. “This is about two people trying to run a law firm. This has nothing to do with sexism.”  Like hell it doesn’t, Alicia fires back. “I wanna win.  I wanna beat my opponent.  You wouldn’t even blink if a man had said that.”  Diane scoffs, but doesn’t interrupt. “Why am I still in? Because I think I would make a better State’s Attorney.  You got a problem with that?” Though it frustrates her, she doesn’t. Diane says nothing, and Alicia strides out, ripping off her coat.

“Okay, we need to ready a statement for tomorrow’s Sun Times,” Johnny Elfman says, oblivious to the fight he’s just missed, “and I need you to get on the phone with Michael Sneed.  In five minutes.  What’s wrong?” he adds quietly as she steps behind her desk. “Nothing,” she says. “Everything’s great.  I’m going to win,” she declares, sitting down. You can see his breath catch with admiration before he moves to action. “Yes you are,” he agrees, surprised. “But we’ve got to keep the momentum going. Prady took a hit tonight, but we’ve got to close the deal.  So.  Michael Sneed is a great lady.”  Er, okay. Entirely unphased by this strange name, Alicia stares at her two partners, perhaps still angry, perhaps thinking of what she’s giving up. “I’ve known her for a long time, she’s not gonna come at you with anything crazy.  She’s gonna talk about family, why you went into the law in the first place, the scandal…” Alicia blinks as he speaks, and refocuses her attention entirely onto her campaign manager.  Onto her future, and away from her past.

So, wow.  I still don’t know if I like the idea of watching her run the State’s Attorney’s office — that is, watching her work as a manager instead of a lawyer — but she’s finally made me think she has something very specific and important to offer.  This is the first time we’ve heard more than platitudes.  This was the episode where – I won’t say a candidate was born, or a politician, but this is the first time Alicia truly articulated for us why she’s the person who can actually do the job.  And she managed to make me think that she’d be a better administrator than Frank Prady, even though he has similar values.  Now, can she follow through on her commitment?  I don’t know. We still don’t have a real sense of her as a great manager, not from her lack of work at her own firm; she’s still not that much more tested than Prady in that sense. But  you can see the influence of the scandal, of Peter and Cary’s politically motivated prosecutions and Will’s death and everything we’ve lived through with her in her answers on that untelevised debated.  She’s a pragmatist.  When she sets out to change the world — and she does want to change it, not simply sit in her own little ivory tower any more — she’ll do it with real, achievable steps.  Small steps, but real ones.

Do you suppose she’ll take any of our team over to the SA’s office if she goes?  Cary and Diane can’t, they’d have to dissolve the firm.  In fact, since Diane refused to run herself, she’d hardly step in for a lower role, while I could have seen Cary doing it if he wasn’t in a leadership position.  Kalinda’s leaving the show. Who’s left?  Carey Zepps?  Are we ever going to get to see Robyn or Dean again?

What I like about this, belatedly, is the idea that the ivory tower I just spoke of isn’t simply her happy mom life in Highland Park.  It’s also her time as a defense attorney, thinking that making money is all that matters.  Yes, of course being able to support her family and to succeed matters, but she’s found that making a larger difference matters more to her. And yes, it’s also about wanting to win (which is totally fair) but it’s also about knowing she can do a better job.

This is not to say that I think Diane and Cary don’t have a point; they’ll have to get used to making choices without her.  Will she have to step down if she wins, or just set away?  Will her name come off the door? I’m sorry they’re making such crap decisions, but there it is.  She hasn’t given them another choice, and I’m still surprised they didn’t make a bigger fuss about that in the beginning.  I don’t know that I buy the sexism charge, but it was an excellent speech.

If you do want to get into sexism, though, I’ll be honest.  I’m surprised that Alicia didn’t apologize for the impropriety of kissing an employee; if she were a man, we’d all think it was sexual harassment.  What a surprise for Alicia, though, to work so hard to convince him that she felt nothing only to realize that though he was hesitant about the wisdom of embarking on a relationship, that he does have those feelings. It’s kind of sweet how besotted Elfman is with her, though; it’s nice to see someone appreciate her.  After he wasn’t able to take advantage of that moment at the debate, I’m curious to know if he’s ever going to try to convince her that she should take a chance on him.

Speaking of being smitten, we should spare a moment for Ramona and Peter. Is it weird that this makes me a little sad? I mean, I get that it’s a disaster for Peter’s career.  I don’t like the sham marriage — it’s basically Peter and Alicia committing to live without personal happiness, since neither can have a real relationship and they can’t be together — and I couldn’t help feeling that Peter and Ramona could have been happy together, even if it makes me sick that she was also Alicia’s friend.  Why, why, can they not commit to either being together or getting a divorce?  The last time they talked about this issue, Alicia told Peter that if he caused another scandal, she would divorce him.  Would that have held if the press focused more on Ramona and less on that randy opportunity to play the hero?  I’m very, very curious.  And totally not sold.

In the end, though, something of real substance happened here. Alicia found her voice.  And she found her cause: good stewardship of the law.  Because that’s what it’s always been about for her, hasn’t it?  She respects rules.  She values the law.  And to be the State’s Attorney, she gets to make sure the rule of law is well and truly upheld.

So, okay.  It makes more sense than I thought.

Oh, and yeah.  Big apologies for the late posting.  I’ve been writing like a fiend this week, had a ton of personal commitments, and like I said last week, now have a job.  With most of my major awards reporting done, though, I should have less trouble in future weeks; it was just bad luck to have a new episode of TGW air the same night as the Golden Globes and the same week as my most difficult, laborious and challenging post of the year – the Oscar nomination preview.

 

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16 comments on “The Good Wife: The Debate

  1. Kiki says:

    Hey E!!!!!

    Did you not review 611??

    Also naturally, critics and fans thought this was the worse episode of the season, and you loved it LMAO. This doesn’t surprise me!

    I didn’t hate it like most people. But I am overall disappointed at the plots, like why did Alicai accuse Diane of sexism? What the hell was that? Is Alicia crazy? Is nobody gonna call Alicia out on how ridiculous she has been acting? It was about time Diane said something but it wasn’t build up properly, one second Diane seems supportive the next she is calling Alicia out. The plotting this season has been sloppy and I don’t only feel it was this episode. I been saying this for the last 7 episodes.

    I can’t wait until we are done with breaks!

    • E says:

      I sure did! I’ve been a bit later — not as late with Hail Mary as with The Debate — but it’s all there.

      And, I won’t say that I loved this episode, but I do feel like Alicia finally got her campaign stance together. I completely agree with you about the sexism charge, and I agree that the plotting has been atypically sloppy. When they’re on, they’re on (as in Hail Mary) but man, they drive me crazy with the whole dropping and picking up of plot threads. So, I hear you!

      • Kiki says:

        Oh how the fuck did I miss that?! SMHHH I even checked yesterday, I must be going crazy. LOL

        And yea I do agree we finally got some life as to why Alicia is running. But personally for me is too late and it also feels like it was just put out there because we keep asking. There has been no proper build up to anything this season. I am so disappointed.

        • E says:

          I think it’s kind of amazing that the show can be half completely brilliant — Cary’s persecution — and half utterly maddening and wrongheaded.

    • E says:

      Oh, and David Lee? First the office, now David – wft????? All their brave shake ups out the window. They need the courage of their convictions, I think…

      • Tony says:

        Right. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m annoyed with the election storyline. The showrunners had a great opportunity to reinvent the show but hit the reset button not even a year later. So even if Alicia wins, as a viewer, I’ll always be wondering when she returns to Agos & Lockhart or whatever the firm is named. It’s a total “fool me once, shame on me” type situation.

        • E says:

          Just ridiculous. I think what was the most upsetting to me about her running for State’s Attorney was that they’d set up a much more interesting possibility in seeing if she could successfully run her own firm and make it the haven she and Cary wanted.

      • Kiki says:

        That was so stupid. So stupid. Is like S5 never happened, because we are back at the same place. What in the world? SMHHHH

        • E says:

          Stupid stupid stupid! I’m pretty sure I screamed “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!” at the television when they asked him. I don’t even see how it’s necessary. He’s not normally on that many shows; I feel like he could appear with the same regularity as their opposition. One of the worst choices of the series.

  2. Tony says:

    I’m still not convinced Alicia wants to leave her ivory tower to change the world – not even a little bit. So far, her career has been: (1) join a fancy private law firm and rack up a lot of billable hours as a junior associate, (2) leave said law firm to become a politician’s wife and raise a family, (3) join a fancy private law firm when finances require her to become the primary breadwinner of the family, (4) leave fancy private law firm to become a name partner of a smaller fancy private law firm when her personal life becomes troublesome, and (5) essentially recreate the previous fancy private law firm when finances become troublesome at the smaller fancy private law firm. At no point in time has she ever expressed an interest in being one of the dozen defense attorneys who would jump at the chance to be a prosecutor. She’s always struck me as someone who will default to the “safe” choice and only deviates from that course when someone challenges her or tells her she can’t do something. Yes, she’ll be able to give a stirring speech when someone attacks her or her family or when she needs to win. But when it actually comes to the work – to actually effecting change? Even small, effective change? No, Alicia’s yet to demonstrate that.

    I’d love to vote for the person Alicia presents – someone who’s able to temper idealism with practicality to bring about true reform. But I think she’s become too entrenched in the system to really change anything. If she were to win the SA’s race, she’d no doubt be more effective – but sad to say, I think she’d only be more effective at maintaining the status quo. Of all the characters on the show, Cary Agos is the one who comes closest to the picture she paints. He actually has seen both sides of the law – both as a prosecutor and defense attorney, and now as someone who has firsthand knowledge of how a person’s life can be damaged when the law is misapplied. And there have been indications in the past that he truly is concerned about justice, what with his involvement in the Innocence Project and the Peace Corps. But the poor guy just needs a break and a cheeseburger.

    • E says:

      Tony, you make an excellent and well documented point. I think she even admits some of what you’ve said — that she wants to make small, practical changes — but we have no real evidence that she’s an effective leader or manager capable of administering even that. That she’s good at strategy, sure, but can she convince the people who work for her to do what she wants? Especially as the head of a large organization?

      If I were to defend her running — something I still find irresponsible, considering that she has a new firm depending on her name for much of its business — I would say that Will’s murder and Cary’s subsequent prosecution led her to think beyond her family, to make choices that are a little less safe. Yes, she risks the most when backed in a corner, but I think the writers’ concept, anyway, is that she’s finally looking to her place in the larger world.

      You make an excellent point about Cary being a better fit for the office — although perhaps ironically he’s far too invested in their firm to leave it. And MAN, does that boy need to eat!

  3. Alice says:

    With the a Alicia running plot line it’s not so much that I don’t believe she’d want to run as I don’t believe she could win, or even really be a contender. She’s slimy. I mean really slimy now a days. She’s in a political marriage, her partner was on trial for helping smuggle drugs, and even though he was cleared you’d think it would have played a bigger role in the race, considering it 1 made her firm and by extension her look bad, and 2 could be used to bring attention to her so many less than ideal clients. Then the whole sexism thing with Diane I’m sorry but Alicia pardon my French but I think the term is shit or get off the pot, you want to run for states attorney good for you but don’t get angry when people start making decisions without you for a firm your aiming to not even be a part of in a couple months!
    I feel like the show has failed to recognize Alicia’s increasing sliminess too, which while makes her unlike able can be very intriguing in a House of Cards kind of way. But instead of leaning into that angle they claim there living in the grey, I’m sorry this show is not living in the grey when it comes to Alicia anymore, yes Will and Diane did slimy things but they admitted they were slimy! Alicia has become a slimy, self-involved person. So if that’s living in the grey I really wonder about these writers moral compass.

    • E says:

      I agree, Alice, that it seems to be moving into House of Cards territory but without the zip or the gleeful acceptance of one’s evil nature.

  4. […] should give it a shot : her remorse matters, but I don’t think it matters enough.   Though The Debate gave me some hope, this episode frustrated me again with the on-going political plot; here’s […]

  5. […] to lose, either. The fact that she’s a woman had me at least partially in her favor, and in The Debate she showed some promise as a candidate.  But, nope, not anymore. Her moral fiber has broken down […]

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