E: First, we got a look inside Will Gardner’s consciousness in the masterpiece The Decision Tree. Then, we pinged around the inside of Elspeth Tascioni’s bouncy brain in Shiny Objects. Finally, our series of head trips takes us on a visit to Alicia Florrick’s mind. What we learn is in some ways impressive — she has a really fun work process — but in many others unpleasant, confused and controlled, thoughtful and self-serving. I can’t but admire the brilliance and subtlety of the episode’s structure and writing, but I also can’t help being sick to my stomach over where we seem to be going.
It’s often been said that The Good Wife is a show about the education of Alicia Florrick. I’m not sure it was until this episode that I realized that this is an education in the same sense that Breaking Bad‘s Walter White was “educated” into being a drug kingpin, willing to cross more lines and worse lines as his story continued. I’ve always assumed that the goal of the show was for Alicia to find her way through the competing roles she’s been assigned — wife, mother, lawyer, boss, candidate — and arrive at a place where she can truly be herself. That she would find a way to be more than society told her she could be, that she would make the roles bend to her. That she would not merely recover from the hurt done to her, but thrive. It wasn’t until this episode that I started to think she might never get there at all; that the person I grieved with and respected and cheered for all these years is in fact on the verge of disappearing altogether. That instead, she is literally and figuratively losing her voice. That she may end up a highly successful shell of a human being, a cautionary tale for women with ambition. And once again, we’re left to ponder whether we can still like her because she knows she’s making corrupt choices when she makes them.
Because this season she’s changed from a snarky twenty-something to a fussy old lady, Marissa Gold heaps cough syrups, vitamins, lozenges and contradictory messages of care and caution onto Alicia, who’s sitting at her dinning room table, wrapped in her gorgeous draped maroon sweater and blinking in bemusement. “I don’t have a cold, you know that,” Alicia whispers horsely as Marissa practically curses herself for not buying a sufficient variety of flavors. I do know that, the body woman assures her boss, but it’s prophylactic. Ha. If she’s got a sore throat, what she really needs is tea with lemon, to soothe her throat. Okay, pipes up Johnny Elfman, who appears out of nowhere (also known as the kitchen). “Let me hear that voice,” he asks, sitting down next to Alicia, who favors him with a fond look and straightens her spine. She meets his eyes and clears her throat.
“My name is Alicia Florrick,” she rasps, “and I want your endorsement.”
His face falls.
It’s not that bad, Marissa coos. “It’s kind of cute.” Oh, honey. It’s not bad, it’s awful. “I called them,” he sighs, “they still wanna do the interview today.” What? How can she conduct an interview with her voice almost completely gone? That’s silly. I’m fine, she insists, game for it. He’ll pick her up in 3 hours, then; until he does, she’s under instruction to rest her voice.
She jerks her head toward her laptop. “Is Prady’s interview online?” Wait, this is a filmed interview? Worse and worse; that’s not just silly, it’s ridiculous. “It is, and don’t worry about it,” Elfman says. “Which means I should worry about it,” she gathers. No, he insists. “And stop talking.” Easier said than done, I think.
“Want me to make you some tea?” Marissa asks, and thank you, that’s exactly what she needs. “I’m making you some tea.” Hey guys, Alicia calls out, stopping both campaign operatives in their tracks, “I’ve just been giving too many speeches.” I’m sure you have, Alicia. That’s why you need tea. We’re a week away from the election, Elfman says. It’s crunch time, it’s the home stretch, it’s go time. Alicia and Frank are statistically tied. “So this interview you do today, it’s everything.”
Marissa gives him a dim look. “You have a great bedside manner. Don’t worry about it, but if you screw this up everyone will die.” Snort. I love vintage Marissa. Alicia gives her a pained look. “If you get the editorial board’s endorsement, that’s two points in the polls. Now you need it and he needs it.” Ah. Remind anyone else of the Cardinal’s kiss? “So whoever gets it wins, you understand? Don’t talk,” he cautions her, pointing a finger. As I laugh because he just did exactly what Marissa said, a silent Alicia nods. “She understands,” Marissa steps in.
“Here’s the thing,” Johnny continues. “It’s a conservative paper. It’s the old Democratic machine.” Er, okay. Is that not a contradiction in terms? How old does a Democrat have to be to qualify as conservative? That works in your favor, Elfman continues: they like Peter and they like her for staying with him. Yeah, I’m still not getting it, but okay. Also? They’ll like her even more if she comes across as tough on crime. Well, that’s conservative, anyway.
And that’s all. “Are they going to ask about Zach?” she croaks. Oh, we’re going to talk about this now, are we? We remember he exists now? They might, he shrugs, unconcerned. “If they do, just give ’em the angry mom thing.” What angry mom thing, she wonders innocently, like she and the show hasn’t furiously ignored his existence since September. Don’t talk, the Haircut says, just nod, and like a marionette, she does. We’re leaving now, he finishes, so just rest for the next three hours. Don’t use your voice, he tells her, and don’t answer the phone. Good luck with that! At first I think he’s going to actually take her phone away, but instead he just shuts it off and leaves it on the kitchen counter. What a full proof plan that is. Unable to resist the opportunity to fuss over her candidate, Marissa reminds Alicia not to take the nighttime cold medicine. “I don’t have a cold!” Alicia croaks as her team exits the apartment.
And once she’s alone, it takes Alicia all of about 3 seconds to find Frank’s interview online with the mysterious “editorial board” (apparently the writers didn’t want to commit to a particular newspaper?) and cue it up. Over classical music, Prady sits, loose and comfortable in a nook filled with what might be legal texts or encyclopedias, adjusting his clothing and smiling about how good it is to finally be able to talk substance. We cut quickly to a title card with the words “Vision for the State’s Attorney’s Office,” and when the video resumes, Frank credits Alicia with helping him form that vision. “My campaign manager’s not going to be happy,” he admits as she frowns at the screen, “I’m supposed to say ‘my opponent,’ not her name, but somehow I think you won’t be tricked by that.” Memo to campaign managers: as a voter, not only am I not tricked by that, I am annoyed by it. The use of the words “my opponent” automatically makes me dislike a candidate. “We might be,” one of the unseen editors jokes, and Frank winces to comic effect.
Moving on, Frank explains that Alicia believes the SA’s office needs only small fixes. “Better management. More expertise.” As she listens, Alicia picks up a white notepad from a stack of them to help craft a response. The problems are large, he continues. A racist infrastructure. Militarized police. Listening to this, Alicia slips into a mock interview in her imagination.
“Frank Prady says you think the issues in the SA’s office are small and manageable. Is that true?” We can see this is a fantasy in part because though she’s in the same corner where Prady sat, the books are all gray; her mind isn’t filling in all the details. Also, she’s got her voice back. Just because something’s manageable, you can’t assume it’s small, Alicia explains cheerfully. “And the good thing about manageable issues is that I can be held accountable. If I don’t bring in more hate crimes prosecutions in my first hundred days, fire me.” In the present, Alicia listens to herself answer, and feeling pleased, starts to jot it down on the white legal pad. She’s stopped by a competing vision of an angry Eli. “What does that even mean, fire you? They can’t fire you. You’re already in office.” Yeah, Eli, good point. “It’s not about practicality, it’s about sounding good,” the Haircut opines. Her imagination is being kinder to and more appreciative of Eli, I think. Or at least, his imaginary advice is making me like him more.
Still thinking, Alicia pushes forward with the video. “On his Opponent,” reads the next title card (hilariously refusing to use Alicia’s name). I know everyone expects me to criticize my opponent, Prady says, but I won’t do it. “How about her husband,” the editors joke, and then Prady laughs, and everyone laughs, and he asks how much time they have, because really who couldn’t go on forever about how dodgy Peter is? “No no no,” he puts up his hands. Here he is again, proving himself the better candidate and person.
“You’re not as funny or as likable as Frank Prady, are you, Mrs. Florrick?” an unseen editor asks in Alicia’s mind. Oh, Alicia. I know you struggle with that, but Alicia Florrick’s the candidate’s problem is not her likability, it’s her lack of morality. “Well I think I’m likable,” Alicia tries in a sad little voice (and this has gotten to me since Chelsea Handler mocked her in season 1, this view of her as not being fun enough to be likable), “but more importantly, I’m passionate!”
“You make it sound like you’re acknowledging you’re not likable,” Eli hollers. “No,” Marissa pops up in the peanut gallery, hilariously unpacking a bag full of pharmaceuticals onto a table next to her father, “she’s trying to turn a negative into a positive.” I love that even Imaginary Marissa can’t appear without some sort of care-taking props; seriously, when did she make such a complete transition from snarky youth to smothering grandma? “Are you acknowledging you’re not funny or likable?” the shadow editors ask. “No,” Alicia replies, drawing a deep breath, “I’m just saying that likability is not a key component to the job. Frank Prady has been a reporter for the last five…”
“We said we wouldn’t smear each other!” Frank interrupts her internal rehearsal. I hardly think acknowledging his job title and the demands there of qualifies a smear, but the reminder makes her rephrase her answer anyway. “Likability is not a key component of the job. I’ve spent the last five years working as a lawyer, I haven’t had time to finesse my onscreen presence.” I don’t know, I think that might be worse; that feels like dig that just doesn’t use his name. “Good,” says the imaginary Haircut. “Elegant.” You would think so. She beams until Eli pops into the picture. “Don’t forget, it’s a conservative newspaper,” he yips. Um, thanks? Obligingly, Alicia makes a note of it.
Ah, but then she gets worried again. “So,” says one of the three shadowy figures, “let’s turn to home life. How about your son, Zach. Did he get an abortion with his fifteen year old girlfriend?” UGH. I hate that plot, I hate the repetition of it. I do see it as a fear and vulnerability of Alicia’s, though, so it makes sense that this would come up while she was fretting. She just nods.
“Why do you just freeze up at that?” Eli demands. “It’s a question you’ll be asked.” I love how the different characters step in, not just because she knows them well and can anticipate their objections, but as manifestations of her thought process. She’s mad at herself for freezing, and puts her own negative emotions and frustration into Eli’s obligingly irritated voice. “She’s not freezing up at it,” Marissa steps in to defend her, “this is the first time she’s been asked it. This isn’t even the first time she’s been asked it because we’re just in her imagination thinking about it.”
The whole thing has Alicia so unsettled that she starts pacing around her apartment, her head filled with visions of homeless Zach, his face smeared with dirt, setting up camp on a park bench with a large “Need a Lawyer?” ad on the back of the seat. Oh, I’m fine, Mom, he smiles, his hands in fingerless gloves, wrapping a filthy beige coat around his body, “you don’t have to worry about me.” She looks away, frustrated with herself, and decides to call him. (I would say finally, but considering the show has been pretending Zach didn’t exist since September, I’m more annoyed with the writers even than Alicia.) After scrolling through an un-alphabetized bunch of names (Grace, Evan – who is this Evan and why does he rate first name only basis?) she selects Zach’s name from her contacts and debates calling him. Before she can decide whether or not to start acting like a grown up, her ring tone breaks into her reverie; it’s a call from Louis Canning.
Rolling her eyes, she takes the call and croaks hello. Cool as a cucumber with sunglasses on, Canning sits in the back of a limo, neat in a sweater vest without a blazer, and asks solicitously after her health. “No, I’m just resting my voice,” she rolls her eyes again. Okay, good, he replies; he’s happy to do all the talking. This time when she rolls her eyes, she’s smiling. Let’s solve this lawsuit, he says. He doesn’t have much time, and he doesn’t want to “leave this earth” with it unresolved.
“Mr. Canning, you’ve been leaving this earth for three months now, so excuse my incredulity,” she snickers. “I’m suing your firm for wrongful eviction. It’s a 12 million dollar suit, but for old times’ sake, Alicia, I’m willing to settle for four million dollars.” Really, she beams. Ah, he’s always good fun, Louis Canning. “So that’ll only cost me $500,000 out of pocket,” she rasps. Does she HAVE those kind of pockets? Dang. It’s better than two million out of pocket, he guffaws. And she’s supposed to thank him for that? It’s a nuisance lawsuit, she counters; why would she ever settle it? She thinks he needs to get over it, he thinks she’ll settle so it doesn’t become a campaign issue. Man, how can there be only one week left in the campaign? I’d say thank God if it wasn’t so likely she’d win and wreck the show utterly.
“You’re amazing, Mr. Canning,” she grouses. “You’re supposedly in the last few weeks of your life, and you’d rather be battling me than home with your family.” I can do both, he says, taking off his sunglasses. He wants her answer by 6 that night, or she’ll be in campaign-threatening depositions the next morning. When she remains incredulous, he presses. “You’re a chess player, Alicia,” he says, leaning forward. “Think it through. This one I’ll win.” He hangs up, leaving her puzzled.
What follows is my favorite part of the episode. She sits in front of her computer, where Frank remains frozen with his hands extended as if to ward something off. But before she can return to her interview rebuttal prep, she’s sucked into Canning’s deposition chess. First there’s Alicia’s projection of Diane, sitting in the conference room in a pretty gray dress, explaining in her deposition that she could evict anyone she wanted. Imaginary Canning supplies his argument, that Diane wasn’t a tenant and not able to evict him; Diane brings up the whole proxy shenanigan. Howard Lyman was hired for fraudulent reasons, Canning rightly contends; he was hired specifically so that Diane could evict Canning. “And that’s a wrongful eviction.”
Hmmm. So maybe he has a point? Thinking furiously, Alicia grabs a second note pad (this one yellow) and puts it to the right of her laptop, shoving all Marissa’s cold medications across the table to make room; the white pad with her interview prep sits on the left side. She makes two columns on the yellow pad’s top sheet, labeled Canning and Us. Chess-game Canning argues that Howard Lyman can’t be Diane’s legal proxy because she had no signed agreement with him at the time of the eviction. What? Why wouldn’t they have gotten that signed immediately? Does he mean prior to the eviction? Surely he does. Unable to resist, Alicia grabs a folder labeled Canning Suit that’s conveniently stored in a file next to her, and indeed, as Possible Future Canning asserts, Howard’s partnership agreement was signed on October 18, two weeks after Canning’s eviction. “Howard could not have been Diane’s proxy because at the time, he was still a partner of mine.”
You can see her both frustrated and invigorated, trying to think her way out of this. There’s the show I love, right there. I don’t really need the Ally McBeal-like theatrics from earlier, but I really enjoy Alicia’s intellectual gymnastics. Watching her make mental leaps is pretty great. She writes “Howard Lyman not a partner” under Canning’s column, and then narrows her eyes, imagining Howard giving his deposition. Though all he does is reach gleefully for a bagel, Alicia’s smiling and relieved. Howard and Diane don’t need a written agreement; they had a verbal one. A smiling, superior Possible Future Alicia (clad in a classic, priestess-like black suit) turns to her imaginary adversary in triumph. “Queen takes your Bishop, Mr. Canning,” she gloats. He wags his eyebrows at her; “not really,” he says. Ah, those bishops are so tricky. In her dining room, she stabs at the words “but we have Howard” under the Us column.
What were the terms of your oral agreement, Canning asks Howard; who’s surprised when Howard can’t name anything other than the fact that it would make him a partner? An oral agreement is only valid when both parties understand the terms, Canning presses. “So did you understand the terms?” Sure, Howard shrugs. “What were they?” Canning repeats. Howard has no idea. “Rook to Queen 4,” Canning turns to Alicia, hand over his mouth. Sighing in frustration, Alicia crosses Howard off her list.
But it’s not long before she’s smiling to herself again. Much to Imaginary’s Canning’s discomfort, Alicia pulls a rabbit out of her hat in the oily form of David Lee. From Canning’s former partner, Alicia elicits the following information: Canning tried unsuccessfully to buy Howard back. Which means that Canning considered the oral agreement binding at the time, and that’s all Alicia needs. “Howard doesn’t need to understand the particulars of his contract: you did.” Oh ho! Thrilled with her reasoning, Alicia grabs her phone and starts to dial, momentarily distracted by the goofy screen grab of Frank Prady. It’s starting to remind me of the Heisman trophy; I know it’s a stretch, but since we’re stuck in people’s minds today, that’s mine. I have an answer for you now on your suit if you want, she tells Canning, who seems much less cheerful than a few minutes ago. It’s a good distinction, the croaking voice of the present with the clear voice in her imagination, but it’s also a little weird; it surprises me every times she talks.
“Well now you’re sounding confident, Alicia,” he says. “You were right to tell me to game it through,” she says, ” because…” And then she stops, her mind stuck on the smiling face of David Lee. “I’m gonna call you back, Mr. Canning. I have to deal with something here,” she lies. Take your time, he says, and the camera pans back to reveal a short, chubby doctor in the back of the limo, peeling a blood pressure monitor back from his arm. I want you to be comfortable with your decision, he adds. I’m totally with Alicia — Canning uses his illnesses for all they’re worth and she’s right to be skeptical, especially when his end game is so mysterious — but this suggests that he really is sick. Not privy to this information, Alicia rolls her eyes and hangs up.
She frowns, casting about for a solution to this problem. Has she really thought it all the way through? Why is he so confident? She scrolls through her phone again – Eli Gold, Kalinda Sharma, Spark Boys Computers. She dials Kalinda, and as she does an imagine of the petite investigator opening a door, only her silhouette visible against a bright light, flashes into her mind. Alicia shakes her head, and focuses on the conversation; what if there’s a problem in the wrongful eviction lawsuit? What kind of problem, Real Kalinda wonders, looking amazing as always in a muted teal silk top, an unusual color for her that’s just stunning. Are all the partners personally liable, even David Lee, Alicia wonders. No, not David Lee. (God, I’m so sick of that man and his constant machinations. Why did we take him back again? So we had the pleasure of never being able to build something worthy at FAL?) Kalinda agrees to investigate whether Canning and Lee could be in coots. “Are you okay?” Kalinda wonders. “You sound like you have a cold.” It’s just laryngitis, Alicia grumbles. Because that’s so much better than it being a cold? Well, I guess you’re not really sick with laryngitis; it’s just inconvenient. Anyway. Call waiting kicks in, and the always speedy Kalinda promises info in an hour so that Alicia can get the other call.
When she sees the name Jonathan Elfman on the screen, she smiles. “Hello,” she croaks. “It’s me,” he says unnecessarily, “why is your phone on?” The Haircut is in his car. “Why are you calling me?” she asks, an excellent, unanswerable response that distracts him from his purpose in making the call. If he really expected her phone to stay off, why wouldn’t he have just called her house phone? He shakes his curls to clear his head. “We have a problem,” he admits, because of course they do. “There’s this blog called Court Scene, and they’re reporting something that may end up in your interview, and you need to answer it.” I love the way they both bow to and denigrate blogs on this show. You might hate us, but you can’t live without us! Anyway. What, pray tell, is Court Scene “reporting”? That Bishop was recorded on a wiretap telling someone not to worry about being arrested because he just bought the next State’s Attorney.
You knew it was going to happen eventually. Honestly, I kind of hope it sinks her, after she took his money.
“Mmm hmm,” she croaks. “Alicia. Did you hear what I said?” Elfman asks. She did. “This is devastating,” he tells her. Oh, my friend, if you only knew. Was there a wiretap or not, she wonders, but he thinks it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. “The rumor is the reality, you need to respond.” No wonder she assumes he care amore about appearance than truth. Rightly, she points out that she can’t respond without know whether Bishop really made the comment or not. I’ll work up a response, he says, before commanding her to turn off her phone and get some rest. “This is really helping,” she grumbles before hanging up.
She looks at Frank “Jazz Hands” Prady again, and slips into a Worst Case Scenario Interview. “Mrs. Florrick, are you in league with Lemond Bishop, the top drug dealer in town?” Damn, she hisses.
As Alicia fills a kitchen cabinet with Marissa’s meds, she imagines Lemond Bishop closing his fridge and chatting on the phone. “Don’t worry about an arrest,” he laughs, “I just bought the next State’s Attorney.” Her expression is thoughtful instead of despairing, and she replays the scenario. “Don’t worry about an arrest,” Imaginary Bishop says again, closing the refrigerator, “I just bought the next State’s Attorney. ” I like that her mental game just went from an imaginary chess piece called Bishop to an imaginary version of a man called Bishop. As he walks through a kitchen that looks nothing like either of his, he stops. “Although I guess she won’t be in office for six months.” Ah ha. Nice. She tilts her head, thinking about it, and then puts Imaginary Lemond through the same paces a third time. “Don’t worry about an arrest; I just bought the next State’s Attorney. Although I guess she won’t be in office for six months. You know what? She might lose to her opponent.”
And so Alicia rehearses her answer to the imaginary Editorial Board question. “You want me to respond to a rumor of a wire tap?” They do. Wow, that Shadow Editor has a ridiculous mustache. That doesn’t even make sense, she says, and no, she’s not talking about the mustache. She’s running neck and neck with Prady, and even if she wins she won’t take office for six months. (Six months? That’s just sinking in now as ridiculously long. The president and our governor are all sworn in in less than 3.) That’s got to be some crazy number they made up for the convenience of the show’s timeline. Huh. Thinking about that makes me think she’s going to win (something I hadn’t been thinking of as a given) and it depresses me.
“You’re acknowledging the premise of the question,” Eli thunders, in a separate room in her imagination. “Only because it’s a stupid question,” Marissa contends, but Eli thinks she’s wrong. Eli, so contentious! Gee, that’s not like you at all. “No it’s not, it’s a likely question,” he insists, fixing Alicia with a beady eyed stare. And then he’s distracted by a ringtone, and then so is she.
“You’re right,” Kalinda announces. “There were 22 calls between Canning and David Lee over the last week.” Yep, that’s not predictable or anything. Although I don’t really know why David Lee would move back to FAL and then sabotage it; that seems preposterously spiteful, even for him. Maybe it’s one last favor for a failing Canning? And Lee moving was him jumping ship before the iceberg (Canning’s death) hit? Kalinda puts the call on speaker phone in Diane’s office, with both other name partners listening in.
“So you think David lee’s going to testify against us?” Cary asks. “I think Canning’s counting on it,” Alicia explains; that’s the only way he can win. Do you have a cold, Diane wonders; no, just laryngitis. Blah blah blah. Even if he wins, Kalinda doesn’t see why he’d be awarded more than the amount of one month’s rent, and while thirty thousand a month is a lot to a lay person, it’s certainly no $4 mil. So why does he think he can get four million? And why did he call Alicia to ask for it? Oh, Diane, I’m kind of embarrassed that you even asked that question; he’s trying to use the campaign as a pressure point, of course. Alicia promises she doesn’t want that kind of settlement, and Diane then steps right up and says they’ll use the depositions to limit the amount they have to pay. With even more exhortations for Alicia to stop speaking (this time from Cary), they end the call.
But once Alicia’s powered down her phone, what’s she to do? Plunking herself down in front of the laptop, she looks at the white pad and the yellow pad, notes scrawled on each. No, I’ve changed my mind. This might be the best part of the episode. (I’m taking the good where I can find it, guys.) She looks at Frank, frozen with this hands up. “What do you want me to do?” Imaginary Lemond Bishop asks. “Divest yourself of the pac,” she replies. We can see now that they’re in an downtown loft style apartment with a view that has nothing in common with either Bishop’s suburban house or his brownstone, but okay, it’s all imaginary anyway. Why should the details fill in correctly? “Why?” he wonders. “Because it’s hurting me,” she answers. “No,” he replies calmly, “what’s hurting you is you being here in my kitchen.”
In her dining room, Alicia bites her lip. So going to see him is not a workable solution. What is? She runs the scenario again. Would it work if she sent Kalinda as an emissary? Imaginary Lemond thinks that if he pulls his money, it will look like an acknowledgment that he and Alicia do have a secret deal and are just scared of being found out. “You want Alicia to win, right?” Imaginary Kalinda asks. “You want…” there she’s stumped, and both imaginary role players turn to the audience, as if to ask Alicia for stage directions and dialog. Oh, excellent. Alicia doesn’t know what to tell them.
In fact, all that comes to mind is Kalinda opening that door again. This time, we see into the darkened room: there’s Peter, sitting on a little couch at the end of a bed. “Kalinda,” he says, sultry. Oh, man. After all this time, she can’t even think about Kalinda without seeing this? Awful. It’s been nearly four years since she found out. (And funny that as fans we’re still mourning that friendship, isn’t, even though it only took place over the first season and a half of the show’s five and a half years?) Blinking and tossing back her hair to clear her head, Alicia looks down at the yellow pad. Yes, let’s think about something else.
“I’ve been thinking about you,” Evil Fantasy Peter rumbles, making his voice seductive in the most exaggerated way possible. Kalinda leans toward him. “And I’ve been thinking about you,” she says, not particularly matching his tone. Really? This? Why are you not feeling jealous of Ramona? Why are you more jealous of his one night stand than his mistresses? At least Kalinda wasn’t friends with you when she slept with Peter. And unlike Ramona, Kalinda wasn’t in love with Peter. Imaginary Peter breaks the fourth wall, as it were, and comments on the daydream to Alicia. “We don’t talk this way, and you know it.” His estranged wife looks embarrassed; pursing her lips, she looks down at the yellow pad and tries to guess what sort of damages Canning might think he’s due.
And what she supposes is this: Canning’s suggesting they’ve done him 12 million dollars in real damages, not punitive ones. During the transition to new office space, he lost his top client, who brought in the 12 mil in question, and it was all because they had no where to meet for a settlement conference. How sad. “You know what I could do?” Future Deposition Canning says. “I could put out a statement in support of Frank Prady.”
She blinks. Ah. That’s a possible solution to the other major problem on her mind – Lemond Bishop. Bishop could put out a statement in support of Frank Prady. She jots this thought down on the white notepad. Playing the interlocutor, Imaginary Kalinda asks what the point of that would be; Imaginary Bishop explains that this would imply that Frank is the candidate he bought. “No,” Imaginary Bishop shakes his head. “I just want to muddy the waters. I had a top client that dropped me the week of the eviction. A client who’d been with me for years.” Oh, fun – back the deposition! I love the way her thoughts are blurring together here. “Which client is that?” Imaginary Cary asks, popping up next to Imaginary Kalinda in Imaginary Bishop’s imaginary kitchen. Alicia stops writing on the white pad and scribbles more notes on the yellow one.
And when we switch back to the conference room at FAL, Cary’s seated at Alicia’s right hand, and Diane stands behind them; like the books in the Editorial Board’s interview space, both her partners are wearing gray. The firm in question, it turns out, is Solace Securities. I thought Canning’s big clients were mostly big pharma? I thought that was his specialty? Anyway, Imaginary Canning’s got an affidavit from the CEO of Solace claiming it was the delay in handling the settlement conference that caused them to fire the firm. Ah, but this potential proof just invigorates Work Fantasy Alicia. Which firm did Solace leave Canning for? Brooks, Spelling and Myers. (Wasn’t Myers Canning’s old partner, who he left to take over Lockhart/Gardner?) “A firm of equal size, equal equity, and also one without an office space,” she informs him, triumph barely concealed in her tone. True to dream logic, she’s now sitting with Diane at her right hand and Cary to her left. “Why would Solace Securities leave you and join another firm that is homeless?” When he answers her, Imaginary Canning seems uncharacteristically hurt, almost petulant, waving his hands and twisting in his seat. “I don’t know. Why would they leave? Why would a firm that’s been with me for a decade suddenly turn around and leave?” Are we still talking about clients here?
And this is what she works out: the CEO of Solace walked in on Howard having one of his infamous pant-less naps. Oh, he explained about his sweaty balls, but did the CEO truly understand? Canning looks pained, and Alicia, thrilled.
She’s sufficiently satisfied with this flight of fancy to turn back to interview prep. Why do I feel like she’s testifying in court, rather than just conducting an interview? It’s not like she’s under oath. She’s had nothing to do with Lemond Bishop since firing him as a client, she announces primly. (She’s wearing a different black suit in this scenario, and I can’t decide if it’s some sort of message that it’s less flattering, and she looks so much less comfortable than she does in the Work Fantasy, or if I’m reading into things.) The Editorial Board, lead by the mustachioed man, who looks like a younger Edward Herrmann, is about to move on when Canning interrupts the role play session. “You can’t just leave it like that,” he complains, gesturing to his temples. “She’s a crafty one. You have to ask her a question with no out.” Which is? Of course he’s happy to oblige:”To your knowledge, Mrs. Florrick, has Lemond Bishop, the top drug dealer in Chicago, ever contributed money to your campaign or the pac supporting your campaign?”
Though Alicia bleats that she has no coordination with the pac, Canning stops her. It’s a yes or no question, he says. Faux-Edward Herrmann repeats the question. “To your knowledge, has Lemond Bishop contributed to your campaign or pac?” Caught and horrified, she writes down the word “yes” on the white pad.
“No, you can’t tell them you’re knowingly taking money from the top drug dealer in town,” Eli hisses. His dream-location appears to be a television studio, monitors banked behind his head. “But I am knowingly taking money from the top drug dealer in town,” she insists; this time she’s in the studio with him. “No you’re not!” he snaps. “I am,” she insists. “He told me.”
Eli throws back his head, frowning.
“Maybe they won’t ask the question,” Marissa offers. “Where is this rumor even coming from anyway? Some stupid little website. What was it called?” In her apartment, Alicia quickly searches for and finds Court Scene, where a guy names Bart Janderman’s written a piece, dated February 20th 2015, suggesting that Alicia’s going to be Peter’s protege in corruption.
“What do you want in a credit card?” a video ad starts playing at the bottom of page, and, oh my God. The second I hear it, I know that voice. “No rotating categories? No sign ups to earn cash rewards?” Alicia starts searching frantically for the ad. “Earning unlimited cash back on every purchase, every day?” She finds the little video at the bottom of the screen. As we hear more about delaying your interest payments, Alicia sees bright smiling faces handing over their cards. Finally the spokesman appears, and there’s this strange rush of disappointment that it’s not even an imaginary version of Josh Charles. “What do you want in a credit card?” the man says, and it sounds less like Josh — like Will, our Will Gardner — now that I can see the other man’s face, but still. “Everything,” he says to the camera. What do you want, Alicia? Everything.
As the tinkling music of the ad repeats, we see exactly what Alicia wants: more sex with Will. Bare limbs, black lace underwear. Fingers undoing a bra, hooking into panties, bodies rolling together. Whoa. Are we actually going to see Josh? Were his arms that hairy? “What do you want in a credit card?” his voice (or an excellent facsimile of it) asks again. Alarmed, Alicia shuts off the ad and leaps from her chair, pacing.
“Will?” she asks inside the fantasy, tented beneath white sheets, her bra half on. In her apartment, she breathes deeply, trying to still herself, trying to make it go away.
“I’m not here,” he says, and the voice is like his, but not. It might be less like than before, even. “It sounds like you,” she wonders, confused, and we see the outline of a man’s head and neck and shoulder in the shadow in front of the camera, his skin gray. It’s unsettling. She shakes her head, tries to shake it off, but when she looks back at her computer, it’s clear she can’t be there anymore, and with a rush, she’s grabbed a very cute jacket (white suede, maybe,or wool with black leather detailing) and headed out the door. In the hall, however, she stops short, because Marissa’s lurking by the elevator. Have you been here the whole time, Alicia asks, surprised. It’s hasn’t been that long, Marissa protests, just a half an hour. She was reading on her tablet, waiting in case Alicia needed anything. (What, she couldn’t wait inside? What is this, Downton Abbey?) And she wants to know why Alicia has stepped out.
I want to go for a walk, Alicia explains. Though Marissa doesn’t think that’s a good idea, Alicia insists she needs to clear her head and can’t do it inside. I’m not sure changing locations is going to exercise your demons, Alicia, but you’re a grown up and you can certainly make the choice by yourself. Marissa offers to join her, but that’s the last thing Alicia wants now. Are you really okay, Marissa asks, concerned. Yeah, Alicia lies without conviction. “I don’t know. I think. I’ll see,” she says, and steps into the elevator. As the doors close, Alicia closes her eyes, and I expect a flash back to the passionate elevator kiss that ends season 3, but instead we get some very suggestive, um, suggestions of sexual activity; a man’s hands pulling apart a woman’s knees, then Alicia’s head on a pillow, moaning. “Damn,” Real Alicia curses.
And then she’s pounding the pavement to a thumping soundtrack, her hair bouncing along to the latin beat of the music in her earbuds. As she swings to the music, she’s back in the sunlight sex fantasy, helping someone slip the black bra strap off her shoulder, lying entwined as he kisses her neck. His hair is too long and too dark to be Will’s. A beep interrupts the song; it’s the Haircut calling again, so she shuts off the music and answers. “Hi Jon,” she says, smiling. (Tangent — which seems fitting, since this episode is all about stream of consciousness and tangents — why is he Johnny Elfman on the IMDB and Jonathan Elfman on her phone? Normally, when a Jonathan shortens his name it’s to Jon or Jonny, right? I’ve never seen anyone add the H in before.) “You’re walking,” he says, “Marissa says you’re out walking?” Oh God, not that! She’s not walking! The horror!
“I just need to clear my head,” she tries to soothe him in her raspy voice. “You’re getting worked up about the interview,” he says. “It’ll be fine.” See, though, you can’t just leave Alicia alone. You should have left her with something to do if you didn’t want her to brood. Also, she’s definitely getting worked up, but it is most certainly not about the interview. Worked up is an unintentionally prescient word choice.
“No, it isn’t,” she says, “I did know Bishop put money in my pac.” (Considering the show’s history with surveillance, I’m not wrong to be freaked out that she just admitted that, right?) Here’s the thing, the Haircut says, and we see him in a sunlit room wearing a black shirt. “Here’s the thing,” he repeats. Small pale hands are unbuttoning the shirt. Uh oh. “It might not even come up,” he did not just say that, “in the interview.” Damn, this conversation and the double entendres! She looks around, and then she’s back in the sunlit fantasy. “They’re going to ask me a question that I can’t say no to,” she says, as Johnny stands behind her kissing down her shoulder. Oh, the hits just keep coming. “And what’s that?” he asks into her skin. “To my knowledge,” sigh, “did Bishop give money to me or my pac?”
And that’s when a horn blasts, and someone screams that she should watch where she’s going, because Alicia’s just walked into traffic. Huh. Maybe her campaign manager is right, and walking isn’t a smart idea. That did an excellent job clearing your head, Alicia. Or at least replacing one lets-pretend-its-just-sex relationship with another. “Oh my God,” she says. “what?” “Why can’t you just answer no?” he wonders, and in her fantasy, he peels some item of black clothing off the top off her arm. “Joh-hn,” she moans, “because it’s true. Bishop told me directly he was giving to my pac. He was forming my pac.”
“But you don’t know that he did it,” he murmurs into her neck before pulling her skin into his mouth. “John!” “You’re a lawyer, right? Answer to what you know. Do you actually know he did it?” This, right here, is why people hate lawyers. Not because they have inappropriate fantasies about their employees/colleagues, but because they quibble over the meaning of the word “is.” Her expression is incredulous as she listens to his sophistry. “You don’t actually know that Bishop gave to your pac. You only know he said he did. In fact, you can’t know that Bishop gave money to your pac, because that would be coordinating with your pac.” Um, okay. I don’t get it. How is she supposed to help what people tell her? How is that coordinating? Didn’t Redmayne tell her he was giving the dark money to her pac? I mean, whatever, I’m sure that it violates campaign finance law but the exact violation doesn’t make sense. As I ponder this, Fantasy Suite Alicia leans down slowly. “Coordinating with your pac is against the law.”
And, holy crap. The person under Alicia this time is Finn, and the abrupt transition makes her gasp.
“Hello,” she says. “Oh my God.”
What’s wrong, Elfman asks, not knowing either that he had been starring in Alicia’s x-rated day dreams or that he’s been replaced. “You said ‘oh my God.'” No, she covers, clearing her throat, I just had a thought. So of course he tries to calm her down. “Alicia, remember what I told you?” No, she says, lying on her back on the Fantasy Suite bed. His next words come out of Finn’s mouth: “questions are for dopes.” I can’t decide if she’s not enjoying herself, if she’s freaked out seeing Finn in such an intimate context, or if she’s enjoying herself too much and trying (belatedly) to hide that from the Haircut, but whatever it is, she looks off.
“Alright,” she gulps, and Finn swivels slightly, still speaking with Johnny’s voice. “This is one of those questions. It’s not being… sophist to answer with some specificity.” Yes it is. Hell yes it is. This is the very definition of sophistry. I’ve got it, she says, and her campaign manager tells her to go home and clear her mind of everything else for the two hours before he picks her up. Right. She’s very good at this clearing her mind stuff. That’ll be a piece of cake. After she hangs up, she pops back in the earbuds, and now it’s Peter’s turn to rise out of a bed — except Peter’s not sleeping with Alicia, he’s got a woman, presumably Kalinda, asleep behind him. “Why is it alright for you but not for me?” he asks, lounging like a centerfold. It’s a good question. I mean, except the fact that she hasn’t used their agreement yet and he has.
Then we see her sitting alone on a bed wrapped in a sheet, the Fantasy Suite now moonlit, a gauzy curtain blowing in a soft breeze. Slowly she walks out onto a magnificent terrace surrounded by sky scrapers. A man sits, similarly swathed in a comforter, on a chair. We can’t see his face. “Will?” she asks, even though his hair is far too long and the way he holds his body is off. It makes me think of the memory pop in Decision Tree, though, that scene where Alicia and Will are in the New York hotel and she says she’s the happiest she’s ever been. “Alicia,” he says in Will’s voice.
“I’ve missed you,” she tells him, and it sounds like she’s going to cry. Like maybe she already is. He opens his arms, unfolding the comforter like wings, for her to sink inside. Frowning, Real Alicia changes the song on her phone to a more plaintive piano tune I feel like I’ve heard on a commercial. “I miss you, Will,” she sighs. “I know,” he says (who does he think he is, Han Solo?), “I’ve been away.” I would kind of have loved to see Josh Charles here, but the actor they’ve cast as Fantasy Suite Will looks nothing like him. The nose we see lit by the bright city has nothing like Will’s very distinctive hook. “Just for a little while,” he says, and I feel sure it’s just a good imitation. “But I’m back.” Huh. Does she have a tumor? No ghost sex, please. “Oh God,” Alicia gasps for the third time, and now it seems like she really is crying, at least in her day dream.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she confesses tearfully. Would she have been so honest if he were alive? I can’t help feeling like she’s talking to Will in the way that most people pray; not imaging him naked on a balcony, obviously, but confessing her confusion and expecting him to have answers. Also, you are so right to say you don’t know what you’re doing, Alicia. Can I get an amen? “Everything’s falling apart.” You’re strong, he says as she stares raptly into his face. “You’ll hold it together.” She looks at him in wonder; how can he know this? What does he see in her that she doesn’t see? “We never talked like that before,” she sniffles. He knows. She tries to caress his face, and it’s stiff and unyielding. “You’re not really here, are you?” she realizes, and it almost breaks her, so much that she stops in the middle of the street and stares around her, the picture of melancholy.
Eventually she realizes that gentle pinging noises are coming from her phone. They are, in fact, a text from Evan, the contact on her phone I puzzled over earlier. “God loves you,” he says, “Don’t give up on him.” Whoa. That’s kind of freaky timing. (It ought to be Him, darn it, if you’re a religious person. Bah.) Immediately, Alicia starts to text back, wanting to know who Evan is and how he’s mentally stalking her, but before she can hit send, Grace chirps in with an answer: Not giving up, just done.
Huh. That’s odd.
Alicia thinks so too, and that’s why she decides against sending the text, takes out the earbud (even though the song doesn’t stop), and calls Grace instead. After the long fantasy segments that it’s again a surprise to hear her croaking when her daughter picks up the phone. For her part, Grace doesn’t understand why Alicia left her notepads and laptop on the table. (Shocking, that! The apartment has three items out of place?) I think I’m getting your texts, Alicia says. Oh, yeah, Grace replies, unconcerned, “that happens when Zach updates the software.” Ah. Weird, but whatever. “What text did you get?” Something from Evan, Alicia admits, and Grace (lounging on some gorgeous pillows at home) blanches. Oh, just ignore those, she replies in a very small voice.
“Okay,” Alicia croaks, intensely curious but not willing to press. “Is everything all right?” Yeah, I’m fine, Grace replies. “What about with you, you sound terrible.” Oh, the joys of laryngitis. As Graces quickly ends the call, Alicia’s distracted by a very grizzly looking old man rolling past in a wheelchair, so much so that she actually turns and stares. Okay, that’s enough of the bittersweet music. Time for a more driving — but definitely not sultry — beat. And time to return to work, where Imaginary Louis Canning scoots around in a mechanized wheelchair. It’s workout music. Sol Securities fired me because my health is not at its best and so neither was my service to them, he posits. Fine. What’s that got to do with Alicia? “My health was negatively impacted by the fact that you all threw me out out on the street!”
Well, okay. That would be a very Canning-like tactic. I am a man dying of liver disease, he splutters. “Your liver disease seems to come and go whenever you need it to,” Alicia observes with some annoyance. “Is that a question?” Canning peers up at Alicia, the picture of harmless innocence. Actually it is, she replies. “I’m appalled at you, Mrs. Florrick,” he replies, “questioning my health. Especially with you running for office.” Ah, Canning. “You’re under oath, you’re being deposed,” she reminds him. Enough with the grandstanding already! “So. Let’s take this seriously.” She bends over. “Is your liver failing?” It’s my kidney, Mental Construct Canning corrects, and yes, it’s failing. “The last time I saw you you had a kidney transplant, what happened?” she asks without pity. It failed, he answers. “And how long did the doctors say you had to live?” Two months, he says piteously, if I’m lucky. More if he can find another kidney.
And so Alicia asks the million dollar question. “So why are you here, spending your time suing us?” You fighting with me, it’s what we do, he answers. “I don’t believe you,” she sneers, leaning forward and getting right into his face. Please don’t start kissing him too, Alicia. “Obviously, because you’d have more compassion if you did,” he replies. “You use compassion as a currency, Mr. Canning,” she sneers, and wow, I know it’s just her imagination, but she’s being really aggressive. “Don’t attack me like this,” he complains mildly. I’m not attacking you, she yells. “It doesn’t make you look good,” he shrugs. “It’s not me, it’s the music,” she screams.
Oh. Ha. She clicks off “Sea Change” and lands – ha again – on that chicken rap song Zach liked so much. “Why are you so angry at me?” Imaginary Homeless Zach wonders, which makes me want to hit him because it’s so like Peter with the hookers. Actually, I want to smack her for the petty jealousy and idiocy of her grudge — you don’t feel close enough to talk to me about your deepest troubles, so I won’t talk to you! I wasn’t upset till I found out that Nissa’s parents knew! — so I guess I’m just all around annoyed. The music is sad and classical.
“You know you have to pay me off,” Louis Canning tells her smugly. The devil always takes his cut, is that what this means? She narrows her eyes. “Would it make you happy if I do?” He smiles, swiveling his head. “Yes it would,” he says. “Why?” she wonders. His answer comes in the most basic terms: “you’ll have lost something, and I’ll have won.” No, but she really wants to know. What is it that he’s after? What is it that drives him? She holds on to the question as if it will give her the answer to her own mysterious motivations. Is she really just doing this, running for office, because she can? Just so she can win? Isn’t there anything more to it? Is there meaning in her life and her choices?
“And that’s the whole point?” she wonders, still keeping the snarky tone they use together; he’s still able to read the disappointment in her tone. “Yes. What did you think it was?” She narrows her eyes again. “I don’t know,” she admits. “I thought I did.” And before she can get any closer to the meaning of life, she gets called back to the real world by her phone.
It’s Cary and Diane on speaker. Alicia starts by saying that she thinks they need to pay off Canning in some way to avoid him using his illness against them. He is an expert in that, after all. We thought the same thing, Cary says, and you can hear the “but” coming a mile away. But Canning canceled tomorrow’s depositions, or at least someone canceled them on his behalf, because in the hour or so since he talked to Alicia’s he’s fainted and been hospitalized. I think you’ll agree we should hold off on making an offer, Diane says, even if out of respect. Um, clearly! Unable to get over the speed of it, Alicia asks if they know what hospital he was sent to, and that’s when we find out that it was his wife Simone who called. I don’t think he’ll be up for negotiating, Cary warns Alicia; it sounds pretty bad. Once she hangs up, she checks her watch: it’s 4:20.
“What difference does it make?” Imaginary Deposition Canning asks her. “If I’m in a coma or something?” You’d do it for me, Alicia replies earnestly. Are you kidding, he scoffs. Visit you in the hospital? “If I was dying?” Um, he says, pretending to think about it for dramatic effect, “no.”
She pulls her head back. “I don’t believe you,” she declares. “I’m more consistent than you, Alicia,” he counters.
Back on the sidewalk, she thinks about it.
Then she pulls the earbuds out of her ears, looking determined a little bit pissed off.
And so Alicia sits in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital, looking at all the doctors and nurses rushing by, the patients being transported on gurneys. It actually took me two viewing to find this funny. Eventually, she overhears a doctor talking to Simone. “I wish we had better news,” he says. Simone stands, tall and slender, her right hand wrapped around her left wrist. It’s now five minutes of five.
The Mustachioed Editor asks his Canning-prompted question again; did Bishop contribute to her campaign or pac? All three men have their arms crossed skeptically. “No,” Interview Alicia answers, and he leans forward as if expecting the lie. “You’re sure?” he presses, loud and aggressive. “Yes, not to my knowledge,” she repeats. In the hospital, we can see this doesn’t sit easily.
After struggling a bit, Alicia pulls her phone out of her coat pocket and reviews the texts between Evan and Grace. God loves her; she’s still done. “Why are you done?” Alicia asks Imaginary Grace, who seems to be wearing quite a bit of eyeliner along with her school uniform. “Why shouldn’t I give up?” she replies. “I don’t know,” Alicia stumbles, “I thought it mattered to you.” It did matter to me, Grace agrees. “Now it doesn’t.” This really is an odd turn of events. “That happens, I thought you’d be happy.” She doesn’t look happy.
“It’s good news,” a white haired man tells Alicia, leaning on her kitchen island. “She’s stopped believing in fairy tales.” Is it a coincidence that the gospels are called the Good News? Alicia guesses it’s good. “Then what’s the problem?” the man wonders in a faint English accent. “I don’t know, Alicia replies, and, hmm, anyone else intrigued that here she’s wearing a gray suit? That before she was starkly defined and clear in both her sexuality and work life, but when it comes to religion she’s in between? “The problem is in language,” the man says. “Everyone rejoices when somebody finds Jesus, even though it’s false.” I might be wrong here, but I suspect none of the people who’d rejoice at that think it’s false. Call it a hunch. “But we lack language for rejoicing when someone finds the truth.” Um, you just used the word “rejoice” for both instances. That’s a preposterous conclusion. The words have nothing to do with the reasons that Alicia’s sad.
If I had to guess, I’d say Alicia find Grace’s puzzling faith beautiful and touching, as perhaps as aspect of her childhood or her purity of spirit. She might have been just as sad when Grace stopped believing in fairy godmothers and magic wands. Or perhaps she sees Grace as what she might have been without her parents divorce. Whatever it is, I don’t think Alicia wants Grace stripped of comfort even if she sees it as illusory; she doesn’t seem to find enough power or agency in her own position as an informed adult to want the same for her child.
Anyway. “Who are you again?” Alicia asks the man, and he cheerfully extends a hand. “Richard Dawkins,” he smiles, and I kind of figured it had to be him, probably the world’s most famous living atheist since Christopher Hitchens died. Can you be an apologist for atheism the way you can be for religion? If so, that’s totally what Dawkins is. Anyway. Alicia blinks, then opens Grace’s door to find her still in her school uniform but with one hand curled under her enormous round belly, with a tube to her nose. She’s wearing a t-shirt that says Baby on Board, just in case you didn’t see the burgeoning belly underneath. “What’re you doing?” Alicia gasps. “Sniffing glue,” Grace shrugs, as if it were normal.
The best selling author of The God Delusion is having none of this worst case scenario. “That’s offensive! There’s no reason that Grace suddenly becomes pregnant, and starts sniffing glue!” I’m not saying it’s due to loss of religion, Alicia lies. “Yes you are,” Dawkins tells her, and it’s not quite as patronizing as it sounds, “but an atheist can act just as ethically as a Christian. Maybe even more so, we deal in the truth. Look at all those priests who raped small boys. I’m not saying Christianity makes them do that, but it certainly doesn’t seem to stop them!” Fair enough.
“There is no ethical standard without the absolute of God,” Pastor Isaiah counters, appearing to give a third dimension to the physicalization of this argument. He’s wearing a black jacket over a gray shirt and white clerical collar, crisp absolutes binding up the unknowable. “Everything slides without it.” That’s simply not true, Dawkins responds, annoyed. “We can live by the golden rule, which honors men and women more if they choose to do right.” Um, really? Isn’t the Golden Rule from the Bible? “Not worry about some Santa Claus like figure who punishes and rewards us based on us doing right.” Yeah, Isaiah sneers, “but what about Zach? Do you really want Grace to turn out like Zach?”
Low blow, Isaiah, low blow. It’s unworthy of you. The real Isaiah would have much better arguments in favor of God than just slamming Alicia’s other child; it’s interesting to see Alicia so indecisive and confused here, so unsure of either argument.
“Why am I being used as example of what not to do?” Imaginary Homeless Zach demands of his mother, fiddling with his coat, offended. “I’m at Georgetown!” In the waiting room, Alicia fidgets in her seat. Finally she’s distracted by Simone Canning gently talking to two little girls. (Again, I swear he started off with a boy and a girl. I don’t know why they’d change that. Also, I swear his children were that age – near six – the first time we saw them.)
“So what is this, an intervention?” a rude and overly made up Grace tells her mother, who’s standing with Isaiah in Grace’s room looking down on her daughter. I keep wondering about that uniform; does it automatically make Grace a tart? I mean, Grace takes off her uniform right when she gets home, so the choice to put her in it is a deliberate one, to evoke a particular effect. And is that because we as a society assume certain things about a girl in a school uniform, or because she’s projecting them? Though she’s always liked him, Hostile Imaginary Grace objects to Isaiah’s intrusion. “Why not you?” Grace asks – why can’t she just discuss things with her mother? Well, Alicia has brought in an expert because she feels ignorant and incapable when it comes to religion; of course Hostile Imaginary Grace doesn’t care what her mom believes, she just wants to talk. “Why can’t I be more like you?,” she wonders.
“Oh, you don’t want to be like your mom,” Pastor Isaiah shakes his head, and Alicia agrees with him until she realizes what he’s said. Wait, why is that? It’s crystal clear that Isaiah does not want to discuss her failings in front of the child. “Because of the interview?” When she doesn’t get it, he’s forced to keep going. “You’re planning to lie?”
“It’s not lying,” Alicia answers helpfully. And why isn’t it? “Because I can’t answer the question without coordinating with my pac,” she explains. So, it’s not lying because telling the truth would have a negative impact on something she wants. He does not find this non-reasoning persuasive. I don’t either. “And the other thing. That John said.” “Oh, you mean the John you’re planning to sleep with?” Alicia gives a reflexive denial before turning on Isaiah defensively. “YES,” she says (wow). Behind her head, we see Grace’s reflection in a mirror; she sits patiently, barely existing outside of their conversation. “Why is that wrong?” Um, you’re not honestly asking that question, even of your own subconscious? “Because you’re married,” Isaiah points out, just for starters. Of course Alicia wants to argue that this doesn’t count. “Peter and I have an agreement. You know, I am really sick of you guys playing into this good girl thing, making me feel guilty. He slept with Kalinda. He slept with Ramona. He screwed hookers!” Isaiah nods at these undeniable facts.
“Then tell the truth,” he suggests. I am, she agrees, but he means at the interview. Ah, but if she tells the truth at the interview, she won’t get elected. “How do you know that?” he asks. She’s captivated by this line of reasoning, apparently not concerned with the whole getting arrested for coordinating with/knowing about her pac bit.
So once more she sees herself before the Editorial Board, with Baby Edward Herrmann asking her his favorite piece of entrapment once more. “Yes,” she admits, and Herrmann leans forward. “The top drug dealer in Chicago did?” “Yes he did,” she explains. “I had no control over what he did. Bishop told me that he was financing my pac.” Leaning forward so that his elbows balance against the table, Baby Edward Herrmann considers her. “We’re very impressed, Mrs. Florrick. We’re used to the canned answers of politicians and casual lies.” Ah, yes, the press loves honesty so much. They fling open their arms and hug you for it. They can’t get enough. “But you’ve been very brave in here today by telling us the truth. So we’re going to give you our endorsement.” Congratulations, Alicia! You win a gold star, good girl. “Really?,” she crows, beaming. “That was very brave of you, Mom,” Grace smiles as the two sit in her window seat. “One doesn’t need God to act ethically.” Snort. She reaches over to hug her mother, her face full of hero-worshipping joy.
“Well enjoy your hug,” Eli barks, “because that’s not how it’s really going to go and you know it.” Uh oh, says Marissa in the background: Buzzfeed has an article up about Alicia being in league with a drug dealer. Johnny Elfman brings up one on Politico: “Does Alicia Florrick Have a Secret Agreement to go Lightly On Drug Arrests?” Sigh. That pac has put her in an untenable position from the first. She should have quit the race the second she heard about it. As Alicia sits in the ER, listening to sirens, her face takes on a bitter cast.
And that’s when a drawn, grieving Simone Canning finds her and hugs her, tearfully thanking her for being there. Alicia asks after Louis. “He’s not good,” Simone shakes her head. “They don’t think he’s going to make it through the night.” Oh. Wow. I’m sorry about that; he’s been a really entertaining character, and I’ll be sorry not to have him to kick around, as they say, if that prediction turns out to be true. “I’m sorry,” Alicia shakes her head. “I talked to him earlier today, he sounded so strong.” It’s like that sometimes. When my sister-in-law called me to let me know that my mother-in-law had unexpectedly passed away, I remember saying rather stupidly, but I just talked to her, as if people aren’t allowed to use the phone on the day they die. That, essentially, people can’t be alive one minute and dead the next.
“Yeah, no, he wanted to go to work,” Simone waves her hands. “Thank you for coming. He has all these other lawyer friends, and not a single one came today.” Alicia nods, not knowing quite what to do with that. “Sorry,” she says, because that’s the most useful of our useless words in the face of such big emotions, such terrible moments. “Do you want to see him?” Simone asks, which startles Alicia. “Is he conscious?” No, Simone says, but it’ll make a difference. Huh. It will make a difference, I suppose she means, to look upon the true nature of things.
He asked me a long time ago to visit you, Alicia explains as they walk. To visit if something happened to him. Simone looks rueful and filled to the brim. “That’s Louis. Always caring for other people,” she shakes her head, her words thick with emotion; Alicia widens her eyes at this view of her old adversary. Simone’s so idealistic – like Alicia, before the scandal. The first scandal. “Yes,” Alicia lies.
“He just looks so weak,” Simone says, her voice catching painfully as they reach the windows into her husband’s room. Is that the lake behind him? Poor Simone dissolves into tears, and Alicia pulls her close, just for a moment. “I’m gonna let you go, okay?” she says, holding Simone by her shoulders. “Is there anything I can do, food, or anything?” Um, Simone starts, and her voice breaks again. “You could pray for him,” she cries.
Could she have hit on something worse? Alicia wanted something concrete, something to make herself feel useful. “Pray for him?” she repeats doubtfully. Simone nods. “Pray he lives through the night.” Does Alicia even really want him to? Sorry, that was terribly mean of me. It just seems like it’d be way more convenient if he does die now, but she’s better than that. Or at least, I want to think so. “Hypocrite!” Imaginary Pastor Isaiah and Imaginary Richard Dawkins howl together, trying to stop the promise from coming.
“Okay,” Alicia smiles and nods.
Then she’s wandering down the hall again, whipping her cell phone out to call Grace. It’s such a terrible sad measure of Grace’s continuing pessimism and also Alicia’s lack of contact with her children that the first thing Grace always says after hearing her mother’s voice is “what’s wrong?” Nothing, Alicia says, only saying that she’s on her way home and that if her team shows up, not to worry. “And, um, one more thing.” What? “Can I ask you to pray for me?”
Grace half sits up, alert like a wild animal is. “What? Why?” Haltingly, Alicia explains that she was asked to pray for a friend in the hospital, but since she doesn’t pray, could Grace do it? Ha. I thought – and clearly Grace did too — that Alicia wanted Grace to pray for Alicia herself, not to pray instead of Alicia. Just, I can’t, she says. But why not, her daughter wonders. “Because … I don’t believe in it,” Alicia explains, because what’s more simple than that? “Because I don’t believe in it. Like you do. Is that all right?” Grace’s face goes blank. It’s not all right. “Yeah,” she says.
“How’s your voice?” Marissa asks Alicia as the latter puts on earrings in her bedroom. She’s changed into a suit, a bright blue suit for a conservative group. Conservative group of Democrats, anyway, from what it sounds like, which is still a tiny bit of a head scratcher. Good, Alicia croaks, then rolls her eyes. For her part Marissa smirks, leaning in a doorway. “Yeah, it sounds good. Good thing you went out!” Snort. “I made you tea with lemon,” she adds, which, it’s about time! Marissa makes her way to the kitchen, where she runs into Grace and exchanges awkward greetings.
“I’m not trying to replace you,” Marissa adds, leaning against the counter, and Grace turns in total confusion. How typically subtle of her. “What?” she says, and Marissa throws her hands up. “I just said that in case you were worried,” she explains. Oh, nice to know. Grace doesn’t dignify this comment with a reply; she’s so very much her mother’s daughter that way.
“You look pretty,” Grace tells her mother tentatively as she flops down on Alicia’s bed. Thanks, smiles Alicia, delicately patting her face with her fingertips. Then she turns. “Was it wrong to ask you to pray?” No, Grace replies, but you can pray, too, you know. Eh, that’s kind of beyond Alicia. “But it wouldn’t mean anything,” she says, throwing up her hands. “It wouldn’t mean anything coming from me either, would it?” Graces presses.
“I promised someone I’d pray for them,” her mother explains, “but I realized it would be hypocritical coming from me — but not from you!” Such a sophist. Why did you promise, Grace wonders, surprised; politeness, Alicia shrugs. And then she decides to do some pressing of her own. “Are you losing your faith, Grace?” she wonders. No, Grace says, very quiet and soft, and then thinks about it. “I don’t know.” Aw. That’s so sad – and not because as a Christian I need there to be more fictional Christians, but because Grace’s inexplicable faith produced thought-provoking drama and great conversations. And also for the same reasons I ascribed to Alicia – I would hate to see Grace become jaded, and the fact that she hasn’t after everything that’s happened to her family? I can’t help feeling like her faith has protected her. “I’m just … it comes and goes,” Grace confesses. It certainly does, that feeling of faith. That’s pretty common; she’s in good company. I don’t want to influence you against having faith, Alicia explains. She’s glad Grace has found something to cling to. I bet she envies that feeling of security. “Even if it’s something you don’t believe?” Grace wonders. Yes, even then.
Grace get up off the bed. “Good luck on your interview,” she offers. “Do you know what you’re going to say?” Yes, Alicia thinks she does. Before Grace leaves, she tells her mom she loves her, and the soft music in the background – Lucy Schwartz’s “La Luna” is sweet and melancholy and tugs on your heart. “That’s Mr. Elfman, it’s time to go!” Marissa calls from outside the room, but all Alicia can think of now is Imaginary Zach. Finally, she just does it. She calls his phone. And in her fantasy, they sit on a park bench together, listening to his phone ring. I’m sorry, she says, her fur collar contrasting sharply to his imaginary poverty. “Are you?” he asks, skeptical, as she nods and wraps her arms around him. She really is. He doesn’t hug her back, but he kind of rubs his dirty nose against her face. The phone keeps ringing until it reaches voice mail, and she hangs up just until Zach leaps onto his bed to get it, preppy and clean in a bright knit shirt.
“It doesn’t make any sense to tell them what you know about Bishop,” Elfman claims, driving her to the interview. It’s dark out. “Even if it’s the truth?” Alicia wonders; she’s leaning her head back against the seat of the car, which speaks more to her comfort level with present company than to anything else. Well, here’s the thing, the Haircut says. “The truth isn’t ‘this happened’ or ‘that happened.’ The truth to me is about doing good. And the only way to put yourself in a position to do good is by getting elected.” God, but that’s the most self-serving thing I’ve heard since Albus Dumbledore gifted Gellert Grindlewald with the rallying cry “for the great good.” Nice to see the Haircut taking inspiration from Machiavelli and Nietzsche, though. “That’s the greater truth! And if you don’t get elected, somebody else is going to take that position, and they’re going to do bad things with it.”
Sigh. So politicians have been telling themselves since they were arguing over who got the biggest mammoth steak for dinner. I may be a bully and a cheat, but as long as I can believe that the next guy would be worse, then I can live with myself.
“How do you know that I can do better things that Prady?” she whispers, because does she really know that she’s a better risk? “Because I …” he shakes his head. “Have talked with you, and been with you, and I believe in you.” He turns away from the road to look at her, and the look she gives him in return is unusually soppy.
“No,” an Imaginary Frank Prady tells her. “Truth is just … truth.” Ah, I knew I liked him. “Telling the truth, being truthful – sometimes words have to mean what they say, or they’ll just mean whatever you want. If I tell you I’m not going to steal your car, but then I steal your car because I define steal in a different way than you do, well, how can we all be civilized together?” Alicia faces her opponent in a hallway in her office. “But we’re not voting for a saint,” she argues primly, kind of changing the subject, “we’re voting for a prosecutor.” Thank you, St. Alicia, Frank quips, and she tilts her head, giving him a smile that says “be serious.” So he is. “Telling the truth is — it seems like the bare minimum for both jobs.” Would you lie if you were State’s Attorney, she wonders, but surely that’s not the same thing. No I wouldn’t, he says, and her answering smile is large and predatory. “Then I don’t think you should win.”
Back in the car, it’s clear she’s decided, and not just about lying in her interview. As Lucy Schwartz starts repeating the word love over and over, Alicia turns her full attention onto her campaign manager, her face soft and fond.
And then she’s with faux-Will, back out on the balcony. “Goodbye, Will,” she says to his face, to his inappropriately straight nose, his body as cold and unmoving as stone. She stands. In the car, she smiles at the Haircut, who doesn’t see.
“So don’t say anything about Bishop, okay? You can’t coordinate with the pac — that way you had no knowledge of who’s contributed to it and who hasn’t. ” He turns to look at her. “Okay?” Okay, she whispers.
“Okay,” he says, walking her to the interview room door, once they’ve arrived. “I’ll be out here. Good luck.” He tucks something into his pocket. “Your voice sounds better.” Does it? Maybe. “I’m finding it,” she grins. (Except totally not.) The door opens, and Baby Edward Herrmann stands behind it, so I guess he wasn’t all imaginary. “Mrs. Florrick, we’re ready for you,” he says. “I’m ready, too,” she smiles, and her voice does sound better, and with a beaming look over her shoulder at the Haircut, she moves in, and on.
I mean, come on. That’s just the most basic, deluded, self-indulgent twaddle I have ever heard. I liked this episode better in recapping than I did in watching it, much better, because I noticed all the clever little tricks they used and the references to past episodes and the subtle shadings, but it still leaves me hoping desperately that Alicia loses, even more than I was before. I mean, if she can’t be decent in the campaign, how can she possibly be successful in office? She was a far better rebel leader at Lockhart/Gardner than she’s been as a name partner at her own firm. Promising is always easier than governance. I don’t know why she’s doing this, other than that the chance presented itself. She doesn’t know why she’s doing this. And inch by inch, toe by toe into the water, she’s becoming a corrupt and self-serving politician. It’s so easy to tell yourself now that it’ll be worth it once you get into office, but how many people retain their sense of morality once they’re that far into the lake? Maybe the goal is to save her marriage because by the end, both she and Peter will both be so corrupted that she won’t hold anything against him anymore? That instead of doing the hard work of talking to each other and thinking about their feelings and trying to treat each other well, they’ll just fall back together because neither of them expects a true marriage (or fidelity) anymore?
I’ll stand firmly and say that I really don’t think she should have run once she knew that Bishop was financing her pac, and it’s not even because as a candidate it’s necessary for her to break the law and lie to the press over it. It’s because if she get elected, he’ll own her. I mean, come on. If she can’t talk to reporters, how is she going to say no to someone who’d be willing to shoot her friends and family to keep her in line? Someone who thinks they have a bargain? Now, her original arguments made more sense to me – he can’t know that she’d win, she couldn’t have an effect that quickly. Even the State’s Attorney isn’t omniscient; even if she wanted to, she couldn’t make all his legal troubles go away, and he has to be smart enough to know that much. Those things she could have said, and I’d have been fine with them. I even see why she’s lying; she’s in too deep. If she’s not willing to drop out of the race, she has to lie if she’s asked directly about their involvement. But it’s crappy.
And, Jo(h)n Elfman. So, okay. I call him the Haircut, because as we all know he’s got good hair, but I think there’s a little more than that. He’s a bit of a pretty boy, right? Which somehow makes me think it’s okay to minimize him a little, makes him less serious, which is ridiculous. But that also makes it a little creepy that Alicia’s planning to start an affair with him, when he’s her hot employee that she doesn’t love. Oh, she’s fond of him, and attracted to him, and I’m sure he’s safe, as far as that goes. Discrete. It just points to what a half life she’s agreed to live. No real relationship with Peter, no real relationship with anyone else. I hate it.
Damn it, this is so depressing. I just feel like this is not the show I signed up for, you know? It’s still brilliant. It’s still the best thing on network television. But it’s just so much darker and uglier than I wanted it to be; it feels like the long slow death of the character I loved instead of what I hoped and expected would be her salvation.
I hope you guys still are up for talking about this episode. I think it was incredibly well done, and I think there’s a ton to say. (Like, what’s with Alicia arbitrarily realizing she’s been an ass about Zach, or Grace arbitrarily having a crisis of faith? Are we going to see more about any of these subjects? What about David Lee stabbing the firm in the back — so shocking — or Louis Canning? Did he live through the night or not? What did he really want? Is it even knowable, his last wishes?) I appreciated Mind’s Eye; I just didn’t actually enjoy it. How about you?