E: They picked the right word here: reason and the audience might have won, but man has it been ugly. What they’ve done to Alicia not merely in this brutal episode, but over the course of the season leading up to this? Ugly.
To sum up: this week was more exciting and better paced than most of the back half of this season, but seeing Alicia wrecked felt just as bad as I imagined it would. We saw a whole host of legal-ish proceedings. At the same time, we get a glimpse of the season — and probably the show’s — end game.
Also. CBS. What the heck? And why, if you must make my show come on so late (even without football or March Madness as an excuse) why can you not put this information out in advance so my DVR can actually record the whole show? Don’t you WANT us to watch the show?
A miserably teary Alicia watches a newscast with the sound off. As usual, she’s so much more vulnerable at home; her knees are tucked up against her chest, her face has been scrubbed of make up, and her clothes are gray and shapeless. “Another Florrick Scandal?” the legend reads, and Alicia turns the sound up for a moment, just in time to hear that in Riverside, votes for Frank Prady got registered as votes for her due to a glitch in the touchscreen voting machines, something we see demonstrated on screen and hear named ‘calibration drift.’ If it’s just a natural phenomenon that occurs over time as touch screens lose accuracy, then why blame this on Alicia? Why call it a scandal? Damn. Also, as a voter, if it happened to you, wouldn’t you talk to someone working the polls? I mean, it’s quite obvious from the film that the vote was registering improperly. Considering how frustrated I’ve been with Alicia over the last year, and how many things she’s actually done wrong, it’s very strange to see her sunk by something that doesn’t appear to be her fault. At least she would have earned the contempt brought on by the release of her emails.
Ah, I spoke too soon. There’s still a lot of contempt coming her way about those emails. We get yet another new quote, this time cut up and placed in front of her smiling portrait in Frank Prady’s mom’s red dress, along with the old ones. “Will, I need you. I need you on top of me,” it reads. Sigh. Anchor Rob Johnson summarizes Alicia’s excuses on the topic — that the emails were a sort of fantasy flirtation — and plays a clip of her interview with Mo Willoughby, who oddly seems to report for the same news magazine (This Minute) as Petra. Cause that makes so much sense? Why would the show undercut its previous report? “But many seemed to turn against the once-admired first lady,” Johnson notes, before cutting to a “local businesswoman” on the street. “I’m disappointed in her, obviously,” the well-dressed woman about thirty, tells an unseen reporter. “Look, I didn’t think she was a saint, but I don’t like how she pretended to be…”
And with that uncompromising truth ringing in her ears, Alicia turns the sound off again.
The coverage switches back to Rob in the studio, and then to film of Peter, accosted by a reporter outside his state SUV. She turns the sound back on. “Well, this is a press witch hunt. They like building people up so they can knock them down.” Indeed they do, and few people would know that better. “Now it’s Alicia’s turn.” He heaves a deep breath. “I love my wife, obviously, and I trust her implicitly. There was nothing between my wife and…” At the sound of a scraping door, Alicia frantically flips through commercials, landing on the first actual program she can find.
“Are you okay?” Grace asks. It kind of sounded like that was a key in the lock, but Grace is clearly in her pajamas. “Yeah,” Alicia lies brightly, making an effort to seem upbeat and in control, “I was just watching … sharks.” Ha. What a fraught image that is, the bloodied shark lying broken on the dock; so appropriate for a woman until recently who fancied herself an apex predator. “Is it too loud?” No, Grace blinks. “You should go to bed.” So those gray things must be Alicia’s pajamas? “I will,” Alicia promises, and when Grace walks back to her room, Alicia (released back to her despair) shuts off the television, and sighs, and drops her head onto her knees.
A bald man places a tiny red chip on a flecked stone tabletop. “What is that?” Eli frowns down at the little square of wires and switches. It’s a microchip, the other man answers, which puzzles Eli. Is he planning to build a robot? Oh, Eli. The man, Ken, works for the elections board, and the microchip — which produces what he calls a man-in-the-middle hack — is responsible for the calibration drift, which did not occur naturally after all. Or at least, not in the one machine where the election board investigators found this chip. “That means — well, I don’t know what it means, but people smarter than me know what it means; it was programmed to override votes in the 12th precinct.” Well, holy crap. Like I said before, they have surprised me again. How did this happen? I would have sworn no one on their team cheated. Ken’s here to warn Eli about the coming formal investigation.
Upon further questioning, Ken explains that the chip was found by a precinct captain who noticed a screw loose on a voting machine. Of course Eli wonders whether the chip wasn’t planted by said captain (or someone else) to discredit Alicia, and Ken admits they don’t know. That’s why they’re investigating. Eli’s picked up the minuscule author of Alicia’s destruction when an even worse thought occurs to him. Is Ken wearing a wire? Go to hell, Ken snorts into his coffee cup. “That’s the last time I do you a favor.” We didn’t hack any machines, Eli growls. Good, replies Ken over his cup. “Then you’ll be cleared.”
Why do I think it’s not going to be that simple?
At her office, Alicia stares at an online headline about her email scandal, her eyes glazed over. “Okay, okay, it’s not the end of the world,” Eli tries to buck her up. “Stop burning a hole in the carpet, Dad, and we might believe you,” Marissa snarks. “All we have to do is stave off a recount,” Eli suggests, and then turns on Alicia and her glassy look. Is she listening? She sits for a moment, blank, the light glinting off leather patches on her shoulders, before asking Marissa to step out and get her coffee, something Marissa correctly identifies as a plea for time alone with her Dad. “How long do you need,” she wonders, “because there’s a fallafel truck downstairs.” Hee.
Just the coffee, Eli snaps, but then thanks her for doing it. (He can be civil — who knew?) Once his daughter is gone, he sits, looking pale and drawn. “Are we in trouble, Eli?” Alicia asks, her voice smooth as if she doesn’t know the answer. As if she’s hoping he’s going to tell her something different from the obvious. His face falls, and he gives her an unconvincing no. “We haven’t done anything wrong?” she asks, her words pointed. No we did not, Eli shakes his head. But could someone have done something wrong on our behalf, she wonders? Just tell me, she pleads.
The trouble is that he simply doesn’t know. Some of their supporters are, at the very least, capable of trying a little creative freelancing. Immediately Alicia’s mind goes to Bishop, but Eli adds Guy Redmayne to the shortlist. “He likes to guarantee success.” Yeah, or he might like to guarantee her destruction! So we welcome a recount, Alicia suggests. “If I lose, I lose.” Once again we see that it’s been the winning that matter to her more than doing the actual work, which is just, ugh. I mean, I’m glad she’s being mature about it, yes, but she shouldn’t have run and sacrificed everything she did if she didn’t care.
“It’s not that simple,” Eli counters. “Elections are stolen during recounts. There’re too many hands involved. ‘These votes shouldn’t be counted, these should.’ And the press is moving against you, it’s always a bad sign.” Okay, she says, throwing up her hands, what do we do?
He squints at her, and then proffers this suggestion: contact Prady, and try to convince him that a recount isn’t in his best interest. What? That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Hey, Frank, you know that election you lost? Maybe you actually won it. But don’t look into that, okay? Because it’s definitely in your best interest to stay a loser. “Tell him doesn’t want to win that way,” Eli says. “Ugly.”
Yeah, that’s totally going to work.
“It never ends, does it?” Alicia asks, and I’m reminded of a similar speech Diane made to Will many seasons ago. “You win the election, you think it’s over. It’s never over.” She shrugs. Campaigning is never over, even if most elections end without recounts, so sure. Are the patches on her shoulders white, rather than just reflecting light? Huh.
“I wish I could tell you that you’re wrong, but you’re right,” Eli admits, sighing. “Life…” he pauses, and my mind immediately inserts the words “is like a box of chocolates” into his mouth. Sadly, he doesn’t read my mind. “Sucks,” he finishes the sentence eventually. This is no comfort, Eli.
I can’t help being reminded of the first few episodes of the show when next we see Alicia, sitting in a crowded coffee shop, painfully aware of the people around her. A waitress sets down a cup of coffee, but after Alicia thanks her, she remains standing in front of her table. You can see the dread as Alicia looks up. “Yes?” she asks. “So did you do it?” the waitress asks in a kind of sleazy, gossipy tone. Do what, Alicia wonders. “Screw your boss,” the woman wonders. After a second’s hesitation, Alicia snaps. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s any of your business,” she says, still probably more polite than most people would have managed. “You don’t get to decide when it’s my business,” the waitress huffs, contemptuous, which I guess is both true and not true? I mean, it’s surely a ridiculous, invasive question for a stranger, but that’s particularly the politicians’ curse. Here, look what a great person I am, vote for me based on the personal details I’m going to dangle in front of you!, they say. Having said all that, can they stake a claim to privacy? Bringing the coffee mug to her lips, Alicia thinks better of drinking just in time.
And that’s when Frank’s campaign manager Martin Parillo shows up. I’m sorry not to be seeing Frank, but it makes sense that Martin would come, if only as a sign that friendly relations are over. Mr. Prady’s not coming, he says. “Did something come up?” Alicia wonders. “Yeah,” Parillo says, “I did.” Ha. That’s such B movie dialog. I love it. “I don’t think I understand, ” Alicia replies. “I think you do,” Martin says, and immediately launches into what he rightly assumes is Alicia’s point in being there, to try and persuade Frank not to press for a recount. Well, Martin is pressing, and he wants her to know he’s not going to fall for her tricks. Okay, she says, standing to end this pointless conversation. “Have Mr. Prady call me, if he wants.”
“You will lose, m’am,” Parillo looks up at her and calls out loudly, “because I’m going to prove to the election panel that you stole this election.” Well that’s just great. “Go ahead and walk away,” he adds as she walks through the door. “You can’t walk away from the election board!”
“Thanks for the time, Diane,” Andrew Wiley closes Diane’s door, breathless. He’s just about to finish his report and wants one last comment from her. Oh boy. “Of course,” she says, “but I’m not sure what I can add at this point.” Oh, he’s going to tell you, don’t worry about that. Or at least he is after he asks his son Timmy to shut off Gerald, his talking stuffed giraffe. Like the giraffe, Diane still feels H-A-P-P-Y, smiling tolerantly as she looks at the two tykes, her sleeves striking out like wings.
“I’m not sure either,” Wiley admits, “but it’s come to my attention that there’s a problem with the metadata that you submitted in court.” God. I for one don’t feel happy about this. There’s no part of this Diane brought down on herself; she acted in good faith, trusting someone who had proved herself so many times before. “What kind of a problem?” she wonders, as Gerald Giraffe expresses another emotion: “Sad. Gerald Giraffe feels sad.” Wiley smiles. “The metadata indicates that Detective Prima deleted the email from the Canadian authorities,” he explains, “but he couldn’t have. He was testifying on the stand at the time.” The look on Diane’s face — it’s utter shock and disbelief.
“Okay,” she says, shaking her head as if to clear it. Then Andrew explains he first thought it was Geneva Pine, but no, she was out of town at a prosecutor’s convention. And, what, you can’t hack a computer from out of town? It’s such a relief to know that.
I’m sorry, Diane says, taking off her glasses, but what are you getting at? Distracted by daughter Dora nearly spilling juice on Diane’s couch, it takes Wiley a moment to answer. “I’m saying from what I could ascertain, Detective Prima never deleted the email,” he shrugs. “No one did. Which means that somebody altered the metadata after the fact to make it look like he did.” As the camera closes on her face, Diane’s horror becomes more and more apparent. “I’m saying you submitted false evidence, Diane,” he finishes.
“Angry! Gerald Giraffe feels angry!” Gerald Giraffe is starting to sound more like a mood ring than a chatty stuffed toy.
“I’ll need you to leave now, Mr. Wiley,” Diane responds. polite but very firm. “If you have anything to say, I’m closing my report,” he reiterates, no longer the bumbling Dad. “I need you to leave, Mr. Wiley,” Diane repeats. They stare at each other, and you can see his triumph when he gives her the ghost of a smile and gathers his children to leave.
As soon as he’s gone, Diane stands and walks out of her office in a barely concealed fury. As she walks, I can see that there’s a sort of built-in cape over her dress in the front. It’s very striking, especially for striding through the halls. She hurries down the stairs to find Kalinda in a small conference room. “Did you fake evidence?” she asks without preamble. “What?” Kalinda asks somewhat obtusely, turning in her seat to face her boss. She’s wearing one of her gorgeous asymmetrical neckline dresses, this one in dark green. “The metadata that I submitted in court,” Diane replies, horrified, and Kalinda gets that awful pitying look on her face, “the evidence that Detective Prima deleted that email!” Diane’s pinched and tight and breathing hard, and she can see the truth written on Kalinda. “Did you alter it?” she asks, shocked and betrayed. Gently, Kalinda suggests they head over to Finn’s office.
When Diane bends over, hands propping herself up on Finn’s desk, we see that her dress from the back looks average, the cape curling smoothly around the back of her arms into sleeves. Clever. And yes, I’m distracting myself a little from the horror of watching Diane realize her life is in flames. I didn’t do it on purpose, Kalinda explains. “I never gave it to you because I found another way to save Cary, but by the time I got to court, you’d already found it on my computer.” Flipping her head up in a miserable parody of the bend and snap, Diane tells her that Wiley knows. “He’s taking it to the police board.” We know, Finn says. “That’s why she came to me.”
“And not to me?” Diane raises her voice. “I told her not to because it would put you in a worse spot,” Finn explains gently. “So you just hoped it would pass?” she asks, incredulous.
“No, no,” Kalinda rushes to assure her boss. “I wanted to…” And that’s when Finn stops the conversation; they have to be careful, because they’ll both be questioned about what they’re saying. “And Kalinda intends to come clean about what she did, but we were trying to find a way not to ….” here he stumbles. “Not to hurt you.”
Too late, love. Far too late.
Spinning, Diane turns the full force of her panic on Kalinda. “This is a dis-barable offense for me!” she cries. “I know,” Kalinda says, looking almost as devastated. The music hammers down on us, and Diane surges out of the room and into the main conference room, where David Lee negotiates on his cell phone, standing next to Cary and a tall, gloomy-looking partner we’ve seen before.
What is it, Cary wonders when he gets a look at Diane’s face. “We submitted false evidence in Cary’s criminal case,” she confesses. “What?” Cary gasps. I honestly haven’t been thinking at all about how this might affect Cary, only Kalinda and Diane, a thoughtless oversight. Could they re-open the prosecution against him? Or more to the point, would they? “The metadata, showing that Detective Prima deleted his email. It was faked. Kalinda hacked into the CPD system,” she says, and Cary inhales, and David holds his hand up and tells her to stop.
“She did what?” Cary frowns. “No, Diane, don’t answer that,” David replies smartly. He’s a rotten human being, but he knows his job, David Lee, and it’s nice to see him snap into protective mode. “None of us have attorney/client privilege with you, so every word you say puts us all in jeopardy.” The firm is already in jeopardy, Diane counters, but of course poor Cary can’t get over the news about his trial. “The evidence was faked?” he gasps, turning his face to the side so he can speak around his hands. “Cary, stop it,” David insists firmly, before turning back to Diane.
“This is about the Internal Affairs investigation into Prima, right?” It is. “Then you have to go before the police review board, you and Kalinda,” he advises, as poor Cary puts his head back into his hands. “Admit the error.” And clear Prima, Cary wonders. If this is true he didn’t do anything wrong, David responds, his back to Cary. “He tried to frame me with an altered interrogation tape,” Cary replies, and we all know that’s true (even if Internal Affairs wasn’t interested in proving it) but Diane thinks David has the strategic right of it. “We open up our books and admit to this. It’s the only way that we can … nip this in the bud.” She give Cary a fearful, even apologetic look; he’s horrified, but not as horrified as Diane when David makes his next pronouncement. “It might be the only way you don’t end up in jail,” he says.
A pair of enormous wooden doors open to the smiling face and open arms of Frank Landau. “Madam State’s Attorney, the pride of the Democratic party, congratulations!” Well. I suspect Alicia doesn’t feel like the pride of anything right now, but she’s grateful for the hug. “And you must be….” “Marissa,” the diminutive young woman grins, preening, “Alicia’s executive assistant.” I’m intrigued; why didn’t she give her last name? I would have expected it, considering how well Frank knows her father. Also, why is she here? At any rate, the two are waved into Landau’s palatial office (far bigger and statelier than Peter’s) and offered popcorn, the state snack food.
“I didn’t know we had an official snack,” Marissa gushes, grabbing a handful as her boss sits. Apparently the General Assembly (i.e., the state legislature) picked it in 2003 after a vicious dogfight between the fluffed kernels and potato chips. I was sort of fascinated to learn that while my home state, Massachusetts, does not have an official state snack we do have a state cookie (chocolate chip – looks like we won that one), a state dessert (Boston Creme pie), and a state doughnut (Boston creme again, of course).
Anyway, he says, I think I know why you’re here. (Because he’s, I don’t know, sentient? Talk about a no-brainer.) “This silly investigation.” Um, Alicia’s neither eating the popcorn nor drinking the Koolaid, and she can’t be convinced it’s an inconsequential problem. “Don’t worry,” he smiles, “you won’t have any trouble with the elections board. We are putting all our talents behind you, Mrs. Florrick.” I’m flattered, she says, but this hacking device is a problem.
“In other words, she doesn’t want comforting words, Frank,” a voice says, and everyone turns to see a small, rat-like man in round glasses standing in Frank’s massive doorway. They stand, shocked. “She is a woman of action,” Ron Rifkin proclaims. “We must earn her faith.” The small, tufty-haired man swaggers into the room, making his grand entrance, and Frank – still smug and delighted – assumes they all know Spencer Randolph, Rifkin’s alias du jour. (Seriously, the very sight of this jovial, avuncular man makes me want to run screaming. Don’t trust him, Sydney! I mean, Alicia. That character — mentor to Jennifer Garner’s main character who had her tricked into believing she was working for, rather than against, the American government — presented such an alarming blend of kindness and smiling cruelty that the actor is essentially ruined for me as a good guy.) You can see Frank’s pride at having stage-managed the moment. “Oh my God it’s you. Yes. Wow. Hi,” Marissa stammers, which makes me think that the real reason this snarky, unflappable girl, raised in politics and unimpressed by power, is here is to give us a good indication of the stature of this man. “It’s truly an honor, sir,” Alicia declares earnestly, shaking his hand.
“Spencer has volunteered to represent you before the election board,” Frank smirks, and Alicia momentarily turns her astonishment on him. “Elections need to be over. At some point, they need to be done. Don’t you agree, m’am?” Randolph asks. “Yes, I do,” Marissa jumps, still star-struck. “Oh, you mean Alicia,” she shakes her head, trying to break the spell. Presumably this guy is some sort of Chicagoan Alan Dershowitz? They’re all looking at him like he’s Gandhi. Yes, I agree, Alicia replies fervently.
“I voted for you, Alicia,” Uncle Evil declares, filmed from below to increase his stature, “and even if I didn’t, I would still volunteer to represent you because I am tired of living in a corrupt Cook County. An election results that is not resolved, and constantly revised, is an election result that I can’t trust.” Well, yes and no. Eli’s right about elections being stolen in selective recounts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the original result was valid. “And that is why I am here to help, if you will let me.” Hell yeah she’ll let you. She’s going to fall over herself to let you. “Mr. Randolph, please,” she replies, shaking his hand once more.
A Romantic Interlude, a title card reads in scrolled writing. A distinguished man in his 60s reads one of Alicia’s sex-fueled emails. “Will, I need you. I need you on top of me,” he says, with a soft piano soundtrack and a potted fern behind his head. He’s wearing a sweater vest. “Alicia. Meet me after work at the hotel,” a second man reads off his phone, this one more rakish looking, with thick hair standing up off his forehead. Both men have close trimmed beards. “Sometimes, I worry this is wrong, you being my boss,” the male Alicia-impersonator reads, and the camera pans back so we see that this little comedy routine is online, where Google-master Grace (of course) has found it. “I know,” Old Man Will reads, “but I can’t get you out of my head. The touch of you. The taste! I need you tonight.” “Isn’t that a song, “need you tonight?” Lol. God. I’m horny!”
Sigh. You knew that had to happen. These kind of parodies are actually kind of pretty great, when they’re not about someone you know. (Um, and also filthy and embarrassing, so click at your own risk; Alicia’s emails are way, way more tame than most of this stuff, and it does go to the contention posters here have made that these read more like IMs or tweets than emails.) I can’t even imagine how excruciating this would be for Grace.
“You were away at depos this week and all I can think about was your hands on me.” Poor Grace stares at the screen as if it were the shattered remnants of her childhood; it’s like the start of the show all over again. Outside, Alicia walks through her darkened apartment. “It seems to dangerous,” the reading continues. “Will, I had a crazy dream about you last night,” Manly Alicia says, and the real Alicia inhales sharply outside her daughter’s bedroom door. “Details later. Happy face!” As TGW‘s credits begin to roll, there’s the coup de grace. “Alicia, last night was amazing. You leave me exhausted. I slept like a baby, dot dot dot.”
If I were Alicia, there’s no way I could live with myself if I didn’t have the necessary conversation right there. I know her family life is different from mine, but it’s hard for me to understand. Also, not to minimize Grace’s suffering, but this couldn’t have exactly come as a surprise. It’s agonizing and embarrassing, but surely Grace knew how much Alicia loved Will. She was there for the aftermath of his death, after all, and both kids seemed pretty clued in to the affair while it was happening.
“Cary, I was worried about you,” Kalinda explains herself in her sometimes-lover’s darkened office. “You were going to prison, and it wasn’t right. That’s why I did it.” You know, I still can’t figure out how the whole on and off Lana thing fits into all this. Where did our dear FBI agent go? I mean, I get that the point was to make Cary’s situation seem more desperate, but to then have Kalinda reverse herself and risk everything to save him? Eh. Feels sloppy.
“Make me your lawyer, Kalinda, let me fight this for you,” he begs, his eyes red in the half light. No, she says gently. “Finn’s doing it.” I’ll do it better, he pleads. “No you won’t,” she declares. “You care.” She stumbles a little over the words. “I need somebody who doesn’t care.” Well, that seems a tiny bit harsh — I’m sure Finn cares — but not in a way that would overwhelm his judgment, which I guess is what she means. Cary leans forward to the edge of his chair, so that he’s almost kneeling in front of her. “They dismissed the charges because of what you did for me, Kalinda,” he says.
“No,” she protests. “Yes,” he insists. “Cary, they knew Prima doctored the interrogation tape.” They did, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t care. “Geneva was ready to drop the charge.” Cary’s got a better grasp of the facts. “No,” he reminds her, “it was a combination of that with the deleted email. The two got me released. Let me be your lawyer.” No, she sticks to her guns, which makes me wonder what she’s planning, and if the point is perhaps more that Kalinda wouldn’t feel guilty leaving Finn holding the bag when she disappears (assuming that’s what’s going to happen?), but would with Cary. Maybe the real issue isn’t that Cary cares, but that Kalinda does. “But thanks, though. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s true, ladies and gentlemen: only one hacking device has been found in a voting machine so far,” Martin Parillo tells the election board, which is meeting in yet another stunning room. Big thumbs up for the locations crew lately! This one has a curved ceiling and gorgeous honeycombed coving. “So you think there’s more?” Ken from the restaurant asks. Somehow from the way he phrased it I assumed that he worked for or with the board, not on it, but there he is conducting the meeting with a woman seated on either side. “I think someone was trying to steal this election,” Martin tells them, and I roll my eyes a little. “To do that they would have had to hack a lot of other machines.” Alicia and Marissa sits on the other side of the room, looking nervous as Ken asks Martin what he’s hoping to get out of this. He’s hoping for a canvas of every voting machine in districts where the reported results differ by more than four percentage between what was predicted and what was reported. Hmm. Interesting. Is four points his margin of error?
And that’s when Spencer Randolph walks into the courtroom. The camera operator must have been lying on his or her stomach to get that regal and heroic shot of the lawyer in the doorway. The woman at Ken’s right hand grabs his arm, star struck. “Four points is a questionable enough deviation,” Martin suggests, but at the sound of footsteps and the preposterously fond look on Ken’s face, he turns and gets thrown off his rhythm as Randolph sits beside Alicia. “Given the margins of error…”
“Lean in and whisper something to me,” Randolph tells Alicia, smirking. She does, and he puts her hand on her shoulder and whispers into her ear that they should hug. They do, and it feels so warm and authentic that Ken and the woman to his right beam at them. “Can I call my first witness, please?” Martin asks. No one’s paying attention, and he has to ask again.
“Let’s start with this cluster right here,” a round, bearded man who looks like black haired hobbit tells the board, pointing to a poster he’s made of Cook County. Why do I even both noting when the guest actors have beards? Probably half of them do. There are nearly 1700 precincts, but Prady’s team is (of course,) only concerned with a flew clumped together where they thinks the hackers acted. “Now, all of this was consistently predicted to go to Prady by at least 4 points.” Martin points out that in each of those precincts (like Proviso and Riverside) there was a seven point swing between the polling data and the result. Well, I don’t know that I find that persuasive. Didn’t they say that turn out was everything? I’d have to see numbers for the whole district before that struck me as conclusive. Exiting polling feels like it should be the most important element, along with any data on turn out amongst Prady supporters. And yes, this is where you could debate forever. Either have the recount and count everything, or not.
Randolph puts a hand on Alicia’s arm. “Statistics are nonsense,” he tells her. “Shiny nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. Don’t worry.” He gives her a reassuring smile, the enormous painting of soldiers on horseback behind both of their heads giving an air of history and consequence to the proceedings.
Would results from these outlier precincts be enough to change the outcome of the election, Martin Parillo wonders. “Absolutely,” his hobbit statistician agrees. Martin holds his arms out. “Nothing further,” he says with a flourish, “I tender the witness.”
“Ah, well,” Spencer Randolph half-laughs, standing up. “Thank you for tendering, sir.” The panel laughs, and clod-like Martin turns, wondering why. He strikes me very much like an insufferable (yet still pitiable) kid with a “kick me” sign on his back. The earnestness, the self-importance, the dramatics, the chip permanently fixed to his shoulder. Ken has to explain that since this isn’t a courtroom, the usual formalities don’t apply.
“So!” the Gandhi of the Democratic Party begins, slapping his hands together. “Mr. Zubrovski!” Zubrovski the hobbit looks terrified. “You know the old saying, that politicians use statistics like drunks use lampposts, more for support than illumination?” The panel laughs, clearly out of an almost groveling love for Randolph. “That’s very funny,” Hobbitski tells him. “Untutored, but very funny.”
“Well, yes and no,” the Grand Poobah replies, “because sometimes even the best pollsters get elections dead wrong, isn’t that right?” Well, but the election was predicted to go to Alicia, and it did. I’m curious that the polling data was precinct-precise for a even a prestigious county-wide race; the election data, of course, but the polls? I don’t know. “During the last political election, one of the most widely covered political events in history, they consistently had Mitt Romney leading Barrack Obama.” They did, Hobbitovski replies, his eyes twinkling. “Right up until the day before the election, Romney plus 1, that’s what all their models said.” Really? That’s not how I remember it, and I practically live on realpolitics.com during election years. At any rate it wasn’t as clear cut as all that.
“But the actual tally was…?” he wonders. Obama plus 4, Hobbitovski reports, but I was right on target. Yes, Randolph replies as if just remembering it. And for that matter, Hobbitovski called this race almost perfectly too, but there were more deviations than the ones they’re currently discussing. “Weren’t there precincts that you though you would go to Mrs. Florrick but also went to Mr. Prady?” Huh. The witness gapes. He didn’t screen for that. Thankfully we did, Randolph replies, and found 14 precincts that went for Frank instead of Alicia by — and you can hear it coming, can’t you? — four points. Hobbitovski sits with his mouth making a full round O. Marissa leans over and whispers in Alicia’s ear. “I wanna marry him,” she grins.
Those Golds with their age-inappropriate relationships. Ew.
“Detective Prima could not have deleted the emails,” Andrew Wiley paces in the front of another panel, which sits in judgment of the unworthy detective. “Nor could anyone else affiliated with the case.” That’s right, because no one can hack anything from out of state. The Independent Police Review Authority board sits behind a table on a stage, in an absolutely enormous and totally empty auditorium, one with a relatively low ceiling and terrible fluorescent lighting. Very weird. He goes on to say that certain characteristics in the metadata make it highly probable that the data was altered, though he never says what those are. Did you find out who altered the data, one of the decorated officers on the panel asks. No, but all the evidence points towards Cary’s law firm, “since they were the ones submitting the falsified evidence.”
And that’s when Kalinda, Diane, Finn and David walk into the room and up the stairs to approach the panel; Prima’s the first to notice this and goes absolutely berserk. The panel excuses the witness — who I assume is Wiley, even though he’s acting more like a lawyer than a witness — but before that can happen, Finn breaks in, and explains he’s there representing Kalinda; David says the same of Diane. “Before this committee decides on this matter, we’d like to be heard.” Andrew watches, rapt, as the police panelist Tom Sketkovich insists they’re not interested in breaking procedure for someone who hasn’t been subpoenaed. Because God forbid that the truth get in the way of their procedures! After Wiley just said it was someone at the law firm, I’m utterly fascinated that anyone would consider them unrelated to the case. “We have information that will serve to clear Detective Prima,” Finn explains.
Okay, now they’ll bite. “Members of the board, I am Diane Lockhart,” Diane steps up, her voice shaking. “and this is Kalinda Sharma, and yes, it is true. I submitted false evidence to the court, for which I apologize to you and Detective Prima.”
Oh, man. That hurt, seeing her turn with an apology to that slime ball.
“It’s a little late now, isn’t it?” Prima sneers, typically whiny. “I, uh, just want to be clear that Diane had no idea that the evidence was falsified,” Kalinda steps up. “It was entirely my doing. Look, I never intended to use it, and in fact, we found another way to …”
The thrumming music ramps up as Prima stomps his way through the courthouse, arms swinging. He walks right into a courtroom where Geneva Pine stands in a truly dreadful gold dress. “We can’t be seen together,” she widens her eyes at him. “They faked that evidence against me,” he announces. ‘What?” Yep, that was quite a bombshell, and Geneva can’t quite process it. “Kalinda, her law firm, they framed me.” How do you know, Geneva wonders; they just admitted it to IAD, he hisses.
When Alicia walks in her door, her first thought is for her daughter, walking off down the hall toward her room. She calls out, and Grace turns around, hesitant. Is everything okay? Yeah, Grace lies, her voice as young and vulnerable as ever. Alicia has her camel colored coat balanced on her shoulders, which just looks pretentious and annoying; her teenage daughter wears a sweater with horizontal stripes of black, gray and pink. “I’m sorry you have to deal with all this stuff,” Alicia unbends enough to say. “My stuff.” It’s okay, Grace shrugs, even though it could never be, and tries to leave the terribly awkward moment. Maybe Alicia doesn’t feel worthy of begging her daughter’s forgiveness, but this is one of the many times I get frustrated that she’s not more of a talker, that her intimate relationships are so sorely lacking in intimacy. I can’t imagine the loneliness that girl must feel with two absentee parents and her brother out of the house; she retreats to the solitude of her room.
Alicia sighs, knowing she’s in the dog house yet unwilling to actually do anything about it other than slip her coat off her shoulders and, likely, pour herself some wine. “Mom,” Grace’s voice intrudes, having thought better of ignoring the situation. “Yeah?” Alicia asks, stopping mid-motion. “Was it just flirtation?” Grace asks, looking close to tears. I think she knows the answer already. “With Will?” After a moment’s calculation, Alicia decides that her child deserves the truth. “No,” she admits, “it wasn’t.”
“So you lied?” Though she looks ready to break, Alicia’s voice is steady. “Yes,” she nods. “Because?” Grace prompts. “Because it’s none of their business,” Alicia replies, convicted of this. I don’t know. I get it, I do, but you asked them to vote for you by presenting this image of the faithful wife. I’m not sure you can say that its not their business after becoming a candidate the way you could when you were thrust into the public sphere by your husband’s choices. “That’s okay?” Grace questions, and once again, Alicia says yes in a firm voice. “I have to go do my homework,” Grace declares, clearly eager to be out of her mother’s presence. I can’t believe that neither of them is asking more questions. This is messy and painful and as usual it’s all being swept under the rug. (I know families are like this, I know it’s consistent, but its sure as heck not the way my family operates.) “Wait, Grace,” Alicia asks, “give me a hug.” The lawyer walks toward her daughter and wraps her arms around that slender back. Grace rests her face against her mother’s shoulder, tense and unhappy.
“Mrs Florrick, thank you for taking time out to answer questions today,” Uncle Evil grins at his charge, and Alicia graciously nods. “Were you aware of any corruption in your campaign?” Still he’s being filmed from underneath, given the hero edit. No, she declares, not at all. “Any involvement directly or indirectly in anything that could be construed as voter fraud?” Not even close, she claims. Um, okay. You don’t think lying about Bishop or about your marriage constituted either of those things? Knowing about your PAC donors when you’re explicitly forbidden to? Not to mention Peter’s ridiculous dirty trick with his downtown speech on election day? “I wouldn’t stand for it and it didn’t happen.” I know she believes that, but her definition of fraud doesn’t align with my own. “Well thank you. You’ve been most understanding today,” Chicago-Gandhi nods.
As Martin Parillo rolls his eyes, Marissa whispers an offer of popcorn to her hero Randolph, holding out a red white and blue container.
“Mrs. Florrick, the morning of the election, do you remember a television interview your husband did with Mandy Post?” I don’t even know why, but Alicia makes it hard on him, saying they did a lot of interviews. Of course she remembers that interview! God, you people are exhausting. “Let me refresh your recollection. In this one, your husband — our governor,” and here he looks at the panel as if he might be imparting new information “– said, and I quote, ‘as far as I’m concerned, you can take it to the bank: Alicia Florrick is going to be the next State’s Attorney for Cook County.'” So that’s going to bite him in the butt a second time, in a completely different way? Ugh. I appreciated his confidence, Alicia lies.
“I’m sure,” Parillo says, smiling, “but shouldn’t we be concerned about his certainty?” He was being supportive, Alicia replies, with far more fondness and understanding than she showed at the time. “Or predictive,” Martin opines, and wow, I can’t believe this turned into a referendum on the governor. “He was reading the same polls as everyone else,” Alicia defends him, and indeed, no matter what the Hobbitovski says, the polls predicted a Florrick victory. “Peter wasn’t just reading the polls, was he?” Ugh. “I think I answered that,” she says.
“You familiar with the Help America Vote Act?” Martin asks, changing tactics. A little, she says, and so he explains: it’s a program where states get money to buy and maintain voting machines. “Money that goes directly to each state’s governor.” He turns to say this directly to the election board. “So Peter had control over what machines were purchased, where they were stored, how they were maintained. Can you see my cause for concern?” She can; she doesn’t say it, but she definitely can. Could Peter have done this? “When your husband was in charge of safeguarding the very voting machines that wound up handing you this election.” Okay, I would disagree with about half of that suggestive claptrap. While it might be alarming to see someone with a political stake in charge of the election machinery (i.e., any politician) Parillo’s using this as a springboard to support a belief he already had — that she “stole” the election — when it hasn’t been proven that the machines handed her anything. As far as we know, all but one machine — which was tampered with by unknown agents — presented correct results. And that results that were slightly unexpected in each direction in different precincts. “I’m not sure what you’re asking me,” she frowns, and he just nods at her, smirking.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he says, pacing the room in his fervent zeal, “there are strong indications that this election was undermined with serious and systematic fraud with help from the highest level. But the only way we can find out for sure is to conduct a full canvas of the machines in the suspect precincts.” Both Alicia and Uncle Evil look alarmed.
So of course Alicia sprints off to Peter’s office, prompting him to clear the room as soon as he sees her face. “Did you try and help me win the election?” she asks, which is obscure enough to sound like code. I’m pleased, however, that their truce has lasted long enough that she doesn’t start by irrationally accusing him of committing voter fraud without even letting him speak first. “No,” he answers. “Did you try to help me win the election by cheating?” she asks straight out, and oh well. That truce was short lived. “Are you serious?” he wonders. “They brought up the Help America Vote Act, said you were in control of the voting machines!”
“I don’t control the voting machines,” the governor explains, stepping forward and lowering his tone. He’s not happy, though. “I don’t get anywhere near the voting machines. I knew I had to stay clear of them…” wouldn’t you think all governors would? “which is why I appointed an independent monitor.” Ah. Of course he did. Shame on Parillo for not even bothering to find that out. “Now, if you wanna know more, go talk to him,” Peter finishes. Which might be terrific news if the monitor wasn’t our slimy old friend Ernie Nolan.
“What?” Peter asks as Alicia splutters with her mouth open, unsure of why this news is being taken so poorly. “He tried to bribe me before I ran,” she confesses. “Well that’s not good,” Peter observes. (Gee, thanks.) “It has nothing to do with me,” he adds, because that’s really all he can do.
Which means it’s up to Alicia to do what she can now, which means meeting with Ernie in her office. So, she says. “You help oversee the Help America Vote program for Peter,” she begins. “but you’re totally independent.” Oh, he’s just loving this, you can tell. “If you’re worried I threw the election for you, don’t be,” he says, quickly easing her mind. Now could he just say that to the election board? Nope. Why on earth not? “When you were contemplating running, Mrs. Florrick, I offered to help you, but you weren’t interested.” Yep, there it is. Small and petty fiefdoms. “So why would I help you now?” Truth? Justice? Making himself look less incompetent as the monitor of the suspect voting machine? She has no answer for this, merely rubbing her thumbs together. “Anyway, I found Prady’s men much more open to donations.”
She can’t quite digest this. “You donated to Prady’s campaign?” she asks. “Yes,” he repeats, as if it were nothing. “You control the voting machines, and you gave to Prady’s campaign?” Just as he would have given to yours. “No comment,” he sneers.
His attitude is starting to give her ideas. “You put this hacking device in the machines for Prady?” He just smirks, and walks out. Scurrying quickly, Alicia follows him. “But Prady lost,” she says. “Yes, because your campaign cheated better than his,” he insists. “We didn’t cheat,” she insists. “Well good,” he replies, before moving in with a threat. “You should have taken my money. Because now you won’t be S.A.”
Obviously the next move is for Ernie Nolan to appear before the election board, eager to smear Alicia. Apparently the Prady campaign does know he exists. It’s a crazy thing, really, because she didn’t need this much help in sabotaging her campaign, yet people are so ready to give it to her. As Alicia crosses her arms and huffs, Martin gets Ernie to explain that they’ve since found 40 man-in-the-middle devices in voting machines. “40 machines,” Martin repeats dramatically. “Even if only a few hundred votes were changes at each one, that would be enough for Mrs. Florrick to steal this election.” That is correct, Ernie replies gravely, something we don’t have the numbers to support. “You would advocate for a recount in those precincts.” Note that he specifies precincts rather than the whole county; I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he didn’t. “Of course I would,” the grave and respectful Nolan replies, and at that point, Martin’s done.
“Mr. Nolan,” Randolph the Great Democratic Hope stands, “in your meeting with Mrs. Florrick this morning did you say that you wouldn’t have swung the vote for her because she turned down a bribe that you offered?” Excuse me, Ernie protests. “Shall I repeat the question?” No, I didn’t, Ernie says. “You didn’t suggest that if the recount is approved, the vote would swing to Prady through your machinations?” No. “You didn’t say these words, ‘you should have taken my money – now you won’t be S.A.?'”
“I said no such thing,” Ernie lies, and Alicia has her arms clenched around her torso. “As a matter of fact, it was Mrs. Florrick who dragged me back to her office in an attempt to pay me off so I’d advise against a recount.” UGH. The hits just keep coming. “My goodness. Is that really true, Mrs. Florrick? Did you really say that?” The opposing attorneys bicker about whether or not Alicia should be under oath to answer this, until finally she appears back on the witness stand.
“Good morning, Mrs. State’s Attorney,” her lawyer says, a nice little calculation to give her the title she hasn’t officially assumed. “Good morning, Mr. Randolph,” she nods. “Are Mr. Nolan’s accusations against you true?” No, she replies evenly, “they’re categorically false.” Parillo snorts, which offends Marissa, who snaps at him. “Hey, can we all keep the comments to ourselves,” Ken Boxer asks. “But isn’t this a classic he said/she said, m’am?” Randolph asks. No. Why not? “Why should this panel take you at your word, Mrs. Florrick?”
“Because I recorded the meeting,” she replies, and Martin Parillo surges to his feet, spluttering objections. “This is beyond the pale!”
“Well perhaps Mr. Parillo can specify this is beyond the pale,” Evil Uncle says. “It’s a secret wire tap,” Parillo opines. Need it be said that I lost all respect for Parillo at this point? Because if he’s objecting, he must know that Ernie did in fact threaten Alicia after unsuccessfully trying to bribe her months ago. He must know that the man is dirty, knowledge that does not paint a flattering picture. At any rate, Randolph the Great White Shark points out that you only need the consent of one party to record a conversation in Illinois, and Parillo’s forced to suck it up.
“Do you have the recording with you?” he asks. She does. “Ah, how resourceful of you.” I wonder if she did all this on Randolph’s direction, or if her own initiative? Either way it’s terrifically dramatic, and I love that she’s been acting upset so she could spring the trap on Nolan so effectively. She plays the recording, starting from the point where he says that he offered to help her. We hear him suggest an alliance with Prady’s campaign, as well as his vendetta against her. And even though what he says is just as bad as before, it sounds like a triumph this time.
Adjusting his suit jacket, Ernie Nolan walks out of the room. “Yes, I can understand why he doesn’t want to hear it,” Rifkin Randolph says. Alicia takes a quiet pleasure in watching the panel take it all in. Thinking on his feet, Martin suggests that the obvious corruption of the man who oversees the voting machines provides yet another reason for a recount. “Not if Mrs. Florrick is blameless,” the Great White Shark suggests. “Blame isn’t the issue, justice is,” Martin replies, ever so quick. “The people deserve election results they can trust.” The election board is ready to decide, but Kalinda calls with a potential boost for Alicia, in the form of computer expert Howell, who’s staring at an insufficiently clear photo of the hacking device. There’s something odd about it, Kalinda reports. That sounds great, but maybe you should have just quit while you were ahead.
“The Cary Agos case,” our gloomy old friend Judge Thomas Glat grumbles. “There’ve been more remakes of this case than Spiderman.” Which is to say, three? Batman’s the one that’s gone through the most reboots and recasting. Geneva Pine stands before the judge in a flashy white and black suit, while Cary and Diane sit. “It was a case dismissed based on fabricated evidence,” Geneva posits, and Finn (standing for the defense, wow) counters that it was a case brought on fabricated evidence. Is it just me, or does it seem incredibly powerful that Finn, the man who brought the original charges, is the one standing there saying that?
“At its best, Your Honor, this was an invidious effort by Miss Lockhart to undermine the credibility of a decorated Chicago policeman.” That same policeman, still outraged, sits a few rows behind his former lover. (The thought of that pairing still makes me want to barf. Why does Geneva always get the short end of the stick?) “A detective who pressured a witness to testify against me,” Cary stands to say, and Diane lays a cautioning hand on his arm. I wish he’d stated that more strongly. Prima didn’t just press Trey into testifying, he coerced false testimony from him. That’s not the same level of wrong-doing at all.
“At it’s worst,” Geneva continues, “it’s obstruction of justice, and I ask leave to bring charges against Miss Lockhart.” Why Diane and not Kalinda? I don’t really see where that makes sense. Did Past-his-Prima give Geneva a false idea of their testimony, or is she just that much of a vengeful tool? Finn’s had enough. “An unfounded charge on top of a trumped up charge, the hypocrisy here is really quite exquisite.”
“I’m the arbiter of this exquisiteness, Mr. Polmarr,” the judge reminds hims. “Now, A.S.A. Pine. Miss Lockhart could be facing three years in prison so take me through it.” Diane presses her lips together and gulps. “Your Honor, Miss Lockhart submitted metadata from the Chicago Police Department, accusing Detective Prima of knowingly deleting an email that pointed at Cary Agos’s innocence.”
“Miss Lockhart had no way of knowing that the metadata was amended,” Finn pushes in. Nice word choice, Polmarr. “Not amended,” Geneva pounces, “faked.” “It was quite simply, Your Honor, a mistake,” Finn counters. “A mistake Miss Lockhart herself would not tolerate from a paralegal,” Geneva snaps, and while Finn objects, Diane looks wrecked, because of course Geneva has the right of it there.
“Your objection pales next to mine, Mr. Polmarr,” the judge seethes, “if Miss Pine’s allegation is true, it is beyond inexcusable.” Oh dear. Judge Glatt has had enough, and heads out for a drink, telling them to come back at nine the following morning.
Sitting down next to Diane, Finn makes a sour face. “Well, we’re officially the bad guys,” he sighs. “Not we,” Diane replies. “I am.” It’s so unfair. Pushing her chair out from behind the table, Diane stands and crosses the room. “What do you want, Miss Pine?” she asks. You mean other than turning a loss into a win? Geneva’s at first cool to the suggestion she might want something. “You went after one attorney and lost,” Diane continues. “You’re going after another. It’s always a proxy for something. So what do you want?”
Instead of hearing what it is she wants, we see that Howell’s taking the stand (such as it is) in front of the election board. Poor Howell’s unnerved by the lack of normal court accoutrements, like a microphone to speak into. What’s he here to tell us about that man-in-the-middle hack chip? That first he examined a photo of one of the chips, and then, once he got to this panel’s room where the forty chips are spread out on a table in little evidence bags, one of the actual chips. Which is from 2012. “This stuff is ancient. Things turn around twice a year now,” he explains to Alicia and Marissa’s delight. So, Uncle Evil asks him, would someone use this tech if they were planning a hack today? Heck no. “That’d be dumb,” he winces. Did they not hear him say the tech was from 2012?
Next the Gandhi of Chicago puts Hobbitovski back on the stand, to say that there was a very large swing in the 2012 elections in this precinct as well, an even bigger gap than in this election. (So, okay. Maybe it’s cheating — the chips are highly suggestive, and it’s highly reprehensible — but maybe the polling data is just off for this area? Either way, definitely a larger issue for the election board.) “You’re speaking of the governor’s race?” Randolph asks, much to Alicia’s consternation. For someone who makes her living thinking several steps ahead of her opponents, she was pretty slow to see that coming. “Peter Florrick stealing an election.” Oh, hello!
I know we’re not a court of law, Ken Boxer quickly intervenes, but I’d encourage you not to speculate so wildly. Well. Chastened, Chicaghandi sits. “You didn’t tell me you’re going after Peter,” Alicia whispers, and he turns and gives her a long look. “I’m going after Peter,” he says. “Dad’s not gonna be happy,” Marissa whispers to her boss, and from the look on her face, I’d say Alicia isn’t either.
Neither of them is nearly as unhappy as Diane, however, who sits at her desk with Cary, Finn and Kalinda arrayed around her, and Geneva Pine facing them.
“I’ve consulted with the outgoing State’s Attorney,” she says, which causes Cary to snap. “Mmmm, would that be State’s James Castro, who wrongfully charged me?” he interjects, forcing Diane to hush him. “At my request, he’s authorizing all charges against Miss Lockhart be dropped.” Wow. What’s going on with Geneva? She’s lost her angry look from court. It looks like Diane’s breathing for the first time in at least 24 hours. “Thank you,” she exhales. “But the price will be high,” the A.S.A. cautions, sounding regretful. “We wouldn’t expect otherwise,” Finn half-smiles.
“Off the record,” Geneva adds, “I can’t condone Castro’s tactics in going after you, Cary.” Well. That’s nice to hear. And it sounds like she means it. There’s a “but” coming, though. “But the larger intent was sincere, and more than justified.” What does that mean? It kind of sounds like she’s taking back that apology, saying that the intent of jailing Lemond Bishop justifies the means. “Six months ago we offered Cary a deal. We would drop all charges if he testified against Lemond Bishop.” “Oh no,” Kalinda breathes. “Diane, we would drop all charges against you if you testified against Lemond Bishop.”
Pulling her lower lip over her teeth in a grimace, Diane laughs without humor. “And here we are again,” she says. “Right at the beginning.”
After Geneva leaves, the four discuss their options glumly. “Judge Glatt was right,” Cary observes. “It is like watching a remake of Spiderman.” Except without the sizzling, adorable chemistry of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone! “Except the evidence against you was tenuous,” Diane replies in contained terror. “The evidence here is iron-clad.” Indeed, especially considering you’ve already publicly admitted to it.
“There must be something else we can offer Geneva,” Kalinda asks, desperate. “Well, I worked in that office,” Finn says, “and Bishop could cure cancer and wipe out world hunger and they’d still want him.” Sigh. Diane asks Finn for a minute, and when he leaves, she raises her turned-up nose to her colleagues.
“We can’t,” Cary shrugs. “I know,” Diane replies, breathing hard. “I spent six months looking over my shoulder,” Cary adds. “You really want to go through life like that?” There are no good choices left here, only silence.
“Did Peter Florrick steal an election?” Peter reads off his phone as he walks into Alicia’s apartment, Eli closing the door behind him. “In battling election fraud charges, Alicia Florrick’s lawyer claimed that the devices in question came from her husband’s race, three years earlier.” The look that he turns on his wife is absolutely livid. (For my part, I’m wondering how a closed board discussion with no witnesses ended up in the press, and why the Democratic party lawyer is going after Peter at all.) “I didn’t know!” Alicia pleads. “That your lawyer was going to throw me under the bus to save you?” Alicia makes the point I just did — that Uncle Evil isn’t actually her lawyer, he’s the party’s. But why would the party not want to protect Peter? Granted that his relationship with them has always been fraught, it’s still odd.
That’s when Peter asks for Eli’s opinion. “Sir, you do not micromanage Spencer Randolph,” he says, respect and even awe infusing his voice. Wow. This guy really must be the eighth wonder of the world if Eli can’t be mad at him for trashing Peter. I can’t have this, Eli, Peter replies. “It won’t stick! it’s a data charge! It’s unprovable!” the campaign manager insists. What does all that even mean? Plus, it’s not data at all, it’s hardware. “And your administration has been unimpeachable,” Eli adds with a self-satisfied smile. Is he forgetting Ramona? Not that this is the same thing. “Until Randolph impeached it,” Peter growls.
So what did you want me to do, not fight the charges, Alicia asks, still feeling stung. Stupid question. The question is, how to fight the charges smartly, without collateral damage. “No,” Peter says. “Either we’re a team or we’re not. Don’t let him divide us.” Stop being defensive and find a way to make it work.
So Alicia calls Spencer in to the main conference room at her offices (we get a sweeping view from the back, including the rarely-seen curved ceiling), and lets Eli do the talking. “Mr. Randolph, it’s not that your efforts on Mrs. Florrick’s behalf aren’t appreciated. They are.” Thank you, Mr. Gold, Randolph replies. “Now that you’ve buttered me up, why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind.” I like the honesty; it feels refreshing until you remember that Spencer must know exactly what’s on Eli’s mind. “We need you to back down from the Peter accusation,” the chief of staff says plainly. There’s got to be a better way to defend Alicia. “There’s not,” Uncle Evil declares without blinking. Need it be said that Eli disagrees?
Taking it in, Randolph laces his fingers together and turns to Alicia. “Is this your wish or your handlers?” It’s my wish, she says, glowing in forest green. “That’s too bad,” he declares. “I’m not here to defend you, Mrs. Florrick.” Well. I’m glad that we’ve got that clear. “I’m here to defend the democratic process.” Huh. I thought he was going to say the Democratic party. “I’m here to defend…”
“…a hero!” he proclaims, back in front of the board. “We cast our eyes far and wide for them. But sometimes the most heroic people live amongst us. Heroes like Alicia Florrick, a woman who watched her husband go to jail,” he continues, and Alicia hardly knows where to look. “Who stood by him till he was vindicated. Who worked her way up the legal ladder. Whose story of courage and commitment so inspired the people of Cook County that they chose her to watch over all of them as their champion.” Well. Much as the actor makes my skin crawl, the guy can paint an inspiring word-picture, that’s for sure.
“But people smell blood in the water now. Party functionaries like Ernie Nolan, who turned against her with outrageous lies because he saw weakness,” he says, putting his hand on Alicia’s shoulder. “But there is no weakness in Alicia Florrick,” he proclaims, his voice ringing out like a charismatic pastor at a church. “There is only strength – strength to fight for what she has earned, and that is why I will not back down, and I know that this panel will not back down either.” Gratitude coloring her face, Alicia looks up at the great orator, drinking in his praise. The panel beams back at him.
Not content to let this stand, scrappy buzzkill Martin Parillo asks to recall a witness — Howell, rather to my surprise. While on the stand, he’s handed over a print out of the software specs on the man-in-the-middle devices. From the print out, he can tell that the software was remotely update via wifi roughly two months ago. Ah. Now, if this were a court of law with a high standard of proof, Howell’d need to actually examine this and not simply trust that Parillo’s print out is accurate, but if we make the assumption that Prady’s campaign manager is being honest (and after Ernie Nolan, I’m not sure we can), this means that just prior to the S.A. election, someone updated the bug. It would definitely have been active for the election. Alicia and Randolph The Great exchange worried looks, and we go right back to the start. Who would do this, and why? “Given this testimony, the panel must approve recounts for all forty of the precincts where the hacking devices were found.”
Wait, what? He must have said that wrong. I’m not writing it wrong, but he can’t mean that there’s one in each precinct? I thought it was just that there were forty total. That flies in the face of all the math and statistical analysis of problematic districts we’d discussed early in the episode. Who knows if one machine in each district would really shift the entire precinct in favor of one candidate? Also, does that mean the election is supposed to have been two months ago? I guess that means that Alicia relinquished her stake in the firm for a pittance, but if so, why is she still using her office there? I guess I was assuming this happened a week or so later.
Staring into space, Kalinda buttons up her deep blue blouse, sitting in the same chair in Cary’s office where we saw her earlier. Sitting in shadow with shadows under his eyes, Cary assesses her mental state. “You’re thinking of doing something, aren’t you?” he surmises. “What’re you talking about?” she bluffs, buttoning up her sleeves. “I’m talking about Geneva’s offer.” She stops buttoning. “I can see the wheels turning.” He’s wearing a gray t-shirt, rumpled and plain.
“Don’t turn evidence against Bishop, he will kill you,” Cary says as she tries to cut off his concern. She stands.
“Things aren’t going well with the election board,” Frank Landau observes, looking far more serious than when last we saw him. Yes, tell us something we don’t know, Frank. “It’s a momentary set back,” Eli replies, “but we’re ready for a recount.” Huh. Why’s she there with Eli and not with Spencer Randolph the Great? I suppose it just emphasizes that, whether Randolph is there for justice or of the party, he really isn’t part of Alicia’s team. We can’t have a recount, Frank replies. The margins will be tighter, but Alicia will triumph, Eli promises, even though if we’re being honest he really can’t promise any such thing. Knowing this, Frank glares at Eli, and then turns his attention on Alicia. “Mrs. Florrick, I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you step down.”
Hurrah!!!!!!! Uh, I mean, oh no. I mean, what’s going on, Frank, you turkey?
The silence in the room extends itself.
“What do you mean?” Alicia finally asks. “We need you to withdraw,” he presses, and she just can’t understand it. “Mr. Landau, I’m not a cheater,” she declares. You know, except in her marriage and as a lawyer and also inadvertently as part of Cary’s defense team. “We know that,” Frank nods. And that’s odd.
“What’s going on, Frank?” Eli cuts to the core of things. “Alicia had nothing to do with the hacking devices.” We know that, Landau repeats. Which means what, exactly, other than the fact that Eli and Alicia and I and the entire viewing audience are all squinting at him in frustrated confusion? “But Mrs. Florrick’s wasn’t the only name on the ballot. There were other tough races, Tilden’s for example.” What? “Who was in danger of losing his State Senate seat,” Frank continues. Oh my God, Eli says, tilting his head to one side to absorb the blow. Though Alicia’s still lost, Eli knows what’s going on. “If he’d lost his seat, we would have lost our supermajority in the Senate.” OH. “The Republicans would have been able to filibuster. You now see why we need you to withdraw?”
No, she declares, angry. “If the recount goes through,” he explains more clearly, “it draws attention to Tilden’s win.” Huh. “So that hacking device was for Tilden,” Eli growls. I’d be grumpy, too, but predictably, Frank won’t explicitly confirm what he’s otherwise made perfectly clear. “I’m not withdrawing,” Alicia defies him.
Look, he says, I understand your position. “But your sacrifice will not go unnoticed. The party will make it up to you in the next round.” I have a real trouble imagining that the scandal of this is worth the supermajority. Now of course Frank is also a Democrat, but Alicia’s the first lady, and so a scandal involving her is not simply going to go away in the next round. “There is no next round,” Alicia rightly declares. “In politics, there’s always a next round,” Frank shakes his head, and maybe that’s true if you have political ambitions, but Alicia’s not that clear about her life or her course. “A spot could come open on the gaming commission,” he suggests. Oh. Right. As much as she’s changed for the worse, we still know enough of her to see that Frank’s playing this exactly wrong. “I didn’t enter this race for a cushy spot on some stupid commission,” she rages. Indeed not. She sacrificed her privacy, what might be her integrity, her law firm with its tremendous profits, and her relationship with Zach for a post where she thought she could do good (and, if we’re being honest, be seen not only doing good but doing better than Peter).
Slowly, Frank stands and buttons his jacket. “Well if the gaming commission doesn’t interest you, take some time and think of a post that would better suit you,” he says. And that right there is the corruption of government. Gross. She snorts. “And if I don’t withdraw, what happens then?” You don’t want to do that, he shakes his head gravely. Why, she wonders. “Because the party will destroy you.”
Oh. Well. That’s good to know we’re all keeping this civil and reasonable.
“Or the party will hurt the governor.” They’ve already hurt the governor, haven’t they? “Everybody benefits from a filibuster proof majority, you know that, Eli,” Frank adds. Eli does. He’s aghast.
Pressing down on his intercom button, Frank calls for someone named Hal to join them. Hal is one of two security officers, there to frisk an outraged Alicia and Eli and confiscate their phones to make sure Alicia hasn’t recorded this meeting the way she did with Ernie Nolan. “We’ll hold on to your cell phone and get it back to you in twelve hours,” he nods. “The party thanks you, Mrs. Florrick.” Oh my God, Alicia says, shaking her head. “Did that just happen?”
Sigh. Look, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I wanted to see Alicia out of that office, but I am not enjoying seeing it happen.
“Landau’s all bluff and no bite,” Peter tells them, and indeed, Peter generally comes out on top when those two fight. “He confiscated my phone,” Alicia counters, something that makes him seem like a really irritating vice principal rather than the head of a powerful organization. “I think we’d be naive to say it’s all bluster.” I say we force the issue, Peter counters. “He threatened the governorship,” Eli thunders.
Let’s call his bluff, Peter presses. “You said that Randolph was doing a wonderful job.” He was, Eli agrees. “Well let him continue to fight the recount. This is a man who’s fought hundreds of cases, most of which have probably been a lot harder than this one.” The panel will decide tomorrow, Alicia says. (Good, because that means we won’t see any more of that weird, unflattering white and gray suit you’re wearing. Absolutely dreadful.) “Do you think he can turn it around?” Peter asks. “Of course,” Alicia replies without hesitation, letting Randolph’s reputation — and his flattery, no doubt — get in the way of what she knows; that he’s with the party, not her. Then let him go, and let him win, Peter says. “I will,” Alicia nods, taking Peter’s certainty in place of her own doubts. “Thanks.”
Yet again, a man follows Geneva Pine to work, but this time it’s Cary, and they’re outside the court instead of in it. Oh, and she’s wearing a more flattering blue suit this time. She flicks her high ponytail to ward a shadowy corner, and Cary follows. Has Kalinda approached you about testifying against Bishop, he asks; that’s not something I can say, she tells him. “Geneva. You and I worked together. Please. Has she approached you.”
Geneva stares at him.
No, she finally admits.
“Okay,” he says, relaxing for a tiny fraction of a second, but the lines under his eyes are still terrible. “When she does, turn her down.” Oh, Cary. “Is Diane going to give me Bishop?” Geneva asks, furious, because she’s the only person who can’t see this coming. “No, not Diane,” Cary says, irritated by her blindness. “Me.” Her ponytail swinging, a shocked Geneva watches Cary go.
“Frank Landau asked you to withdraw all together,” Spencer Randolph confirms. Oh, ugh, I thought we were done with that suit! Bah. “Well that’s a polite way of putting it,” Alicia grumbles as the members of the panel walk into the room. “Well is that what you want?” he asks mildly. “No,” she says, frustrated, “I wanna win!” Nodding, he tells her to let him handle it, and so she relaxes, grateful.
“May I have the floor?” he asks the panel. Um, we’re about to rule, Ken Boxer tells him. “I believe that what I have to say may have some bearing on your decision,” he says, standing, hands clasped together in supplication, and as they’re all enchanted by him, they give way.
He walks right up to the panel’s table. “It has come to my attention that an egregious fraud has been placed in these proceedings,” he begins. “Now, I have devoted my life to righting wrongs, to fighting corruption and collusion and all manner of ills in the justice system, and therefor I am compelled to speak out,” he says, and Alicia breathes in his words as if they were sustaining her very soul, and I want to hide, because I can see what’s coming and I just don’t know why she can’t. “I have just discovered that Alicia Florrick has been lying to me through these proceedings. It is my understanding that the voting machines were hacked under her direction,” he says, and she streams to her feet. “This is a lie!” she cries, but the Great White Shark has the floor, and she’s got to listen to his lies without recourse.
“In light of all this,” he continues, “I must not only side with Mr. Parillo, but I must encourage Mrs. Florrick to step down in her role of State’s Attorney. She has made a mockery of these proceedings.” As Parillo looks on in cynical wonder (he knows something’s up but whatever it is, he’ll take it) , Alicia sits, unable to comprehend the level of destruction the party is indeed raining down on her. So much for calling Landau’s bluff, Peter. “She has committed the high crime of stealing an election,” he continues. “She must never set foot in the State’s Attorney’s office, or any other post. In my opinion, Cook County and the city of Chicago deserve more.” Clutching the arms of her chair, Alicia tries to hold back her tears.
But by the time she’s put on her coat and followed Randolph out of the room into a beautiful mezzanine, there’s only anger left in her. “I trusted you,” she spits, and damn, it’s really a shame she didn’t have her cell phone to record any of this. “I put my fate in your hands.” He turns, unimpressed as she tosses her hero worship in his face. “The man whose speeches I listened to and so admired.”
“Mrs. Florrick,” he says coolly, “I assure you this isn’t personal.” Like hell it isn’t, she storms, and all I can think of is the line in You’ve Got Mail: all that means is that her destruction isn’t personal to him. “Your problem can be summed up in three words. Two thirds majority.” They stare at each other. “Be a good Democrat. Step down now. Everybody wins.”
Well, the audience wins. And maybe, hopefully, Alicia wins eventually. But right now, having her name dragged through the mud and then having to basically admit to something she didn’t do because the party wants to cover for some piddly, cheating state senator? That’s not going to feel like a win at all.
He looks her over for a moment. “Good day, Mrs. Florrick,” he says, and she staggers back to the railing, breaking apart. The camera backs away from her pain so that we see Uncle Evil walk down a stairway in the rotunda and out through the lower level as Alicia swipes at her tears.
And then she’s back in the elevator at her apartment building, another elevator which has seen so much. Shuddering, she draws a deep breath, trying to compose herself, fighting her tears, wiping errant ones away so she can walk into her apartment and be strong for Grace.
But instead, in the hall outside her apartment, she finds Peter, and they stare at each other, and then the sight of him wrecks her resolve, and she runs into his arms, weeping, hiding her face in his lapel as he strokes her hair.
Why is it that my best case scenario sucks so bad?
Okay, so. Random political note. Did you know that Samuel J. Tilden was the first of three American presidential candidates to win the popular vote and lose the presidency? Points to anyone who knows who the other two are. Anyway, it seems unlikely that a show as politically savvy as this one would throw out the name Tilden while talking about voter fraud and not be making a deliberate reference. Another geeky-fun note: Rob Johnson, the guy who helmed the news broadcasts here and in Red Meat, is an actual news anchor at the CBS affiliate in Chicago. Love the touch of verisimilitude! Oh, also? I’ve never seen a news report identify a person as “local businesswoman” or local anything, other than the fake ones on The Onion. Did that seem odd to anyone else?
Here is what I come out of this thinking. Everything that’s bothered me and so many other people this season – it’s been about Alicia failing, not winning, and about her learning from that failure. Her fate as a politician does seem to be sealed by Randolph’s terrible perfidy. Even James Castro and his relentless pursuit of Cary (and now Diane, since she’s in his power), it’s all pointed to this end game — the fight to take down Lemond Bishop (who’s been blunted, so we’re conflicted about seeing him taken down) and the introduction of idealistic candidate Frank Prady, it’s all be working toward this one thing. Alicia now knows what it feels like to be the subject of a political scandal which is both informed by her own mistakes and also driven by the inexorable, implacable will of the powerful. And what’s the point of all that? I think the end of the episode shows us the real end of this story: Peter.
Do I necessarily think this is perfect way to get there? No. Did I enjoy spending an entire 7 months watching the character I love make incredibly stupid (and often uncharacteristic) mistakes? Hell no. It’s been a lumpy uneven mess (barring Cary’s case, which had truly thrilling elements), and I think perhaps the writers were so afraid of tipping their hand that they failed to set Alicia and Peter up for a lasting reconciliation. I’m also not sure that a man as jealous as Peter would be able to stomach his public cuckcolding with such grace. But where they’re going is better than I expected, anyway; it’s far more palatable than watching Alicia retreat into politician mode for the next season. Do I think this is the only way that Alicia could be made to appreciate her husband and what he’s offering? Eh. Not really, though I see why it made sense to the writing staff. Can this second family scandal lead to a true marriage? I don’t know, but that certainly seems to be where we’re headed. The show appears to be taking a page from Oscar Wilde’s (play) book; the 1999 cinematic version of his play An Ideal Husband with Jeremy Northam, Minnie Driver, Julianne Moore, Rupert Everett and the luminous Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite films, and speaks to exactly this point of empathy for the devil in each of us, when a wife first loses and then regains faith in her husband when made aware of her own clay feet.
I’ll be curious to see how this plays out. I’m far more curious about what’s going to happen with Kalinda and Diane and Lemond Bishop, the more short term plot that should be resolved, at least to a certain degree, by the end of the season. And there it is. What did you guys think?