The Good Wife: Payback

E: Let’s take stock, shall we? Proving itself once more the most overstuffed hour of television on television, The Good Wife targets a particularly odious and bloviated foe, for-profit colleges, although typically it’s not content to execute that take-down cleanly; we also have telephone scam artists, and predatory college loan companies muddying the waters, providing us with a rather opulent buffet of baddies, none of whom get our full emotional attention.  Not enough for you? The presidential campaign heats up (sigh) with a highly improbable stunt speech (double sigh).  Eli pot-stirs to little effect (sigh).  One of last season’s highlights makes a delightful but sadly short re-appearance.  And guess what we get more of?  Howard Lyman’s threatened ageism suit.  BIG FAT SIGH.

Also, oh my God, Alicia.  It’s like you’re aging in reverse; instead of getting wiser, you’re just making dumber mistakes.

When the episode starts with a replayed phone call, I absolutely believe that we’re listening in on a 911 recording of a murder.  Instead, it’s a collection agent, putting the pressure on a young woman.  I know where you live, the angry man says. I can come to your house.  I can come to your neighbor’s houses. I can come to your parents house. I can garnish your wages. I have your social security number. I have your email. I can ruin your life.

Well, holy crap.  Making all this worse is that Maggie, the pretty blond client sitting next to Lucca in Alicia’s office, is clearly pleading with the agent.  He doesn’t believe her, but she sent in the payment already.  Why doesn’t he believe her?  She hands over the cashed check to Alicia. “I deal with liars all day,” the man screams on the call, which is being replayed on Maggie’s cell phone. “Maggie you took out a student loan, and you didn’t replay — I can do anything I damn please.”  He’s pretty intimidating. Alicia hands the check to Lucca, who looks it over and then passes it back to Jason, who’s just arriving.  Don’t step in front of a train, he admonishes her harshly, causing Alicia to shake her head in horror; just call extension 853 when you’re ready to stop lying.

That was yesterday, Maggie tells Alicia, and that’s when I called Lucca. And none of us blame you in the least. “She just wants the harassment to stop,” Lucca adds.  Again, no one blames you.  Jason steps in to look at Alicia’s laptop, and Alicia introduces him to Maggie, who adds that it’ll be a stretch for her to meet their $150 fee, it’d be worth it if they can make him stop.  After rolling her eyes at Lucca, Alicia makes sure she has the agency’s name right — APY Collections. Her collection officer’s named Bob Bondi, but she’s already tried talking to his manager, who won’t do anything about it.  I’ll bet. We can sue them, Alicia explains, which might work, “but often these places can be a bit intransigent.”  Why, has she sued debt collection services before?

I don’t have a lot of money, Maggie hangs her head. “I’m still working temp jobs. I should have gone to law school like you.” Oh, don’t even get me started. “Instead I went to Colosseum, worst educational experience ever.”  As she offers to come up with a payment structure, Jason calls for Bob Bondi. All three women turn their heads to him in shock. “You won’t get him at work,” Maggie warns him (really?  after all that with his extension?) and he grins. “I’m not calling him at work,” Jason tells her, his smile arch.

“Hi, Mrs. Bondi? I work with your husband. Would you mind getting him for me?”  He shoots the women one of those twinkly eyed, “aren’t I clever” looks.  “Thank you.  Bob, hey, how you doing?  This is Jason.” He listens for a second. “Oh, I know you don’t know me,” he grins. “Strangely enough, Bob, I know you,”  Jason says, sets his phone down and hits speaker.

“Wait wait wait,” Bob says. “… who live at 1245 Roselia Avenue.” How did he get this number?  How does he know that?  Bob’s alarmed and confused. “This is Jason Crouse.  Bob, I want you to focus on this.”  And with those words, the investigator starts reflecting Bob’s threats back at him. “I know your social security number, I know your address, I know your neighbor’s names.”  You can tell that Alicia and Lucca aren’t quite sure about these tactics, but Maggie beams her delight.  How did you get this number, Bob sputters, but Jason’s not giving anything away; Bob suggests he’ll go to the police, but of course Jason has information about prior arrests that Bob didn’t share with his employer, and so he’s able to blackmail the loan collector into submission.  “What do you want?” Bob grumbles.

“I want you to lay off of Maggie …”  Jason rolls his hand, and so Maggie supplies her last name. “Maggie Rossum,” he continues. “She paid her debt.  I am looking at a cancelled check here that you guys cashed.”  I’ll try to get it settled, Bob offers, but it’s not just up to me; my manager Nelson Olstead will just put another guy on it if I stop.  Fine, I’ll contact him, Jason growls. “Don’t call Maggie again, Bob.”  Wow, Maggie giggles.

But as soon as they’ve let Maggie out of the apartment door, Jason turns into the voice of doom. “I don’t think it’s over yet,” he announces. “I think they’re gonna just put someone else on her account.”  So we show them the canceled check, Lucca says, and really, that ought to be enough for anyone. “No. My guess is that APY is charging her twice — otherwise, they’re playing some kind of shell game with her money.”  Huh.  Alicia offers him four hours worth of funding to find out; he’ll call if he needs more.

“So our first case,” Lucca calls Alicia’s attention away from Jason, who she’s watching like he’s a goblet of chocolate mousse on a waiter’s platter, “feel good?”  Her reverie broken, Alicia gives Lucca a grumpy stare.  $150 an hour?  I had to say something, Lucca excuses herself.  Next time, say 200, Alicia suggests.

“I’d go higher than 200,” Grace suggests from the next room, “we need some working cash, Mom.”  I know, Alicia agrees, walking over to where Grace sits with her laptop, “I’m doing my best.”  Turns out Grace is as usual watching Peter, who’s talking to reporters in Iowa, being weirdly cagey about a presidential run.  Huh.  I just assumed that he’d already announced and they just hadn’t shown it; this show tends to shy away from many of those big moments, like Will’s funeral or Peter’s victory speeches and inaugurals.  However, it seems that Ruth’s still raising more money without announcing, because he’s claiming just to be hanging out in Iowa because he’s a friendly Midwestern governor who likes his neighboring states. Right. It’s super believable.

In the governor’s office, the staff’s watching their boy slurp up a large drink.  He seems to clutching a small stuffed animal as well.  And he wants to talk about pensions (something we heard a ton of when he first took office).  In a move that stops Eli dead in his tracks, the candidate says that he wants to talk about setting limits and rolling back pensions.  Hello, Scott Walker, it’s nice to meet you!  And so weird to see you in Peter Florrick’s body, talking out of his mouth.  “Really,” a reporter wonders, “you’re sounding more like Marco Rubio.”  Who, by the way, is on the conservative side of conservative. “Ha ha!” Eli laughs so hard and sharp it’s practically a bark.  Every single staffer watching the television turns to look at him.

“I think we should stop sounding like a Democrat or a Republican and start sounding like Americans,” Peter answers, which I think is a great line even if Eli clearly hates it. “I think that’s what Americans want, I think it’s what we need now, the partisanship going on in this election is killing us.”  It’s not the politicizing of the election that the problem, it’s the constant partisanship of governance, but okay. The staffers of the week look pleased, but Eli isn’t, which we can tell from the way he throws his door open despite knowing it’ll smash into his desk.

Which it does.

Loudly.

Scaring the heck out of his daughter Marissa, who’s waiting for him behind it.

“So did you have trouble getting your desk in here, Dad?” she laughs, her hands up.  Ah, Marissa, always brightening up my day, he snarks, turning on his television (which is almost as wide as his room) set to the all Peter, all the time channel. “This is not from a focus group, it’s just what I believe,” Peter tells the reporters with an admirably straight face. I mean, it’s admirable he can lie so well. Not that it’s admirable he’s lying.  Oh, you know what I mean.  “But aren’t you just playing back-of-the-pack politics, governor?”  Wait, I thought he was doing well? “Saying something controversial and wild to get coverage?”  Well it certainly sounds like it.  Eli laughs, muttering to himself about what a disaster this is as Peter defends his pension idea as sound fiscal responsibility.  “Look, the fact of the matter is that unions have far too much control in this country…”

Oh. No. He. Didn’t.

Eli’s luxuriating in Peter’s mistakes too much to even notice that his daughter’s grabbed the remote control until she’s turned off the monitor. “Dad, I love you,” she declares over his protests, “but this is an intervention.”  YES!  Well done. “Peter chose Ruth over you. You have to let it go.”  Do you think she had to read about this in the newspaper?  Or maybe her mother did. I can’t imagine him calling either of them with the news.  “What’re you talking about?” Eli cries. “This is my job!”  No, this was your job, Marissa points out. “They fired you.  What are you getting out of this?  I mean, besides this luxurious office.”  Nice one, O Mistress of Snark.

For once, Eli’s at a loss for words. “I’m looking after Alicia,” he hisses eventually. “This isn’t about Alicia, you’re getting back at Peter,” Marissa argues.  Daddy didn’t raise no dummy, that’s for sure, and I love that he managed to raise someone who not only sees what’s going on but is willing to admit to it. “What are you talking about?” Eli protests. “That makes no sense.”  I know, she agrees, her face serious, “and that’s why you need to leave.”  Eli screws up his mouth.

“You watched his interview, scoffing the whole way through, but I don’t see you going in there to tell him what he did wrong!”  He’s in Iowa, you ninny, Eli says.  (Okay, the ninny bit was implied.)  Then call him, she suggests, pushing her father’s desk phone toward him.   He shakes his head; he can’t even look at the phone. ‘Then let’s go,” she suggests, more gently. “Dad, you’ll get a new job, you’re desirable,” she says and that’s when he says the first honest thing we’ve heard in ages. “I’ve never been fired in my life,” he admits, his walls slipping down.  I know, she agrees soothingly. “And it hurts. I’ve been fired 8 times. It doesn’t get easier.”  He gives her a fond look. “Come on,” she presses.  Give me the remote, he says instead.

She shakes her head, clutching it. “Ruth Eastman devised the strategy for that interview, and it makes Peter look like an idiot.” Well, self-serving and desperate, anyway.  And a liar. “The press is going to have a field day. I can’t leave while there’s a chance that Peter will come to his senses and realize that Ruth is foisting a losing strategy on him.”  I love you, but this is not healthy, Marissa points out.  The remote, Eli asks, hand out.

She hands it over.

He turns the television back on.

From union busting to union building. “Glad you came in, please, please,” Ronnie Erickson tells Cary as they sit down at the Food Union president’s desk.  It’s a large, nice office, though neither sleek nor palatial.  Call me Ronnie, he tells the younger man jovially.  I bet he hasn’t seen his old friend’s son on television making that comment, but I’d love know what Jackie’s going to have to say about this.  Anyway, Cary’s there just to introduce himself.  Even though Ronnie will be mostly dealing with Howard, the name partner wanted to have a face to face, just to show Erickson how much the first as a whole appreciates his business.  Almost as soon as Cary’s said this, Ronnie gets a call on his cell he’s got to take.  (No doubt someone else has caught the film of  Peter stabbing the Democratic coalition in the back.)  He leaves the room to have the conversation, and as soon as he does, his secretary rushes in to monitor Cary as the latter sits and waits.  Unnerved, Cary stands to look at the photographs and awards that line Ronnie’s office bookshelves.  The secretary, a pale, dark haired, nervous looking woman who won’t meet Cary’s eyes and is practically shaking, grabs the awards off the shelves and runs away with them.

“Did you tell Ronnie Erickson I’d been to prison?” Cary demands of Howard, rushing into the older man’s office. Did he?  “Hey, if a guy doesn’t take a shine to you, it’s your problem,” Howard shrugs it off.  You crossed the line, Howard, Cary yells, his face red, his finger pointed at the elderly man’s face.  Since when is truth-telling a crime, Howard defends himself, pushing up to his feet.  Oh, so you admit it, Cary hollers, and the two are screaming over each other, neither hearing a word the other says.

“Nelson Olstead, manager at APY, hello,” a small-framed man shakes Jason’s hand.  Oh, interesting.  What’s the investigator’s angle going to be?  He claims to be a collection agent from Gary, Indiana.  “You wanna buy my bad debt?” Nelson asks, hands on his slim hips.  “Oh, come on, there’s no such thing as bad debt, just bad collectors,” Jason replies cheerfully. Then he pauses.

“Can I ask you something broker to broker,” he wonders more seriously, “ever double dip any of these?”  What, he’s going to admit that to a total stranger?  “Naw,” he says, “there’s enough real debt, you don’t have to make it up.  Debt collecting might not be glamorous, but it’s legit. At least the way I do it.”  I don’t know, you still look too slick for me to take that at face value. “What about your other offices, what about Michigan?”  We don’t have a Michigan office, Slim Shady says, and this time it does sound like he’s telling the truth.

Jason gives him the fish eye. “Why do I have this canceled check out of Muskegon, Michigan?”  I have no idea, Slim Shady squints at it (possibly wondering about Jason’s cover right about now), but we don’t have any offices there.

Ah ha.  The plot thickens.

So Jason hustles back to Alicia’s office to re-interview Maggie.  It is literally unfathomable to me that people fall for this crap, but it turns out that she got a voice mail telling her that the debt collector’s office had moved (which she has conveniently saved and plays for her horrified legal team), and she believed it.  APY wasn’t double dipping her; they really didn’t get her check, because she payed it to a scam artist who could have hacked her debt info or bought her records from an unscrupulous worker at the collection agency (which less face it, can’t be a job that appeals to people worried about niceties or other folks’ feelings).

“So I really do owe $8,000 to APY, then, don’t I?” Maggie realizes. “There’s got to be something I can do.  I can’t pay it again.” Indeed, that is a monster loan payment, one she would have been saving years to make.  Poor foolish kid. Behind the french door, Grace signals for her mother.

“Mom, can I make an argument here?” Grace says, dressed more professionally for her after school job at home than Kalinda or Robyn (or Jason, for that matter) ever did.  Sure, Alicia says.  The argument is this: if Alicia had been working contingency when she won the Smulders inheritance case, she’d have made $500,000 instead of $4,000.  Wow.  Gently, Alicia explains that in probate court, the rules on contingency are very strict, and wouldn’t actually have resulted in a very different number after all. Oh, Grace replies, deflated, I didn’t know that. Couldn’t we start taking cases on contingency from now on anyway, she suggests.  “Well, sure,” Alicia says, “but the cases that come in the door are too small. We want the money up front.”  Maybe we shouldn’t be taking such small cases, Grace offers. Oh, kiddo.

I want the big cases, too, Alicia agrees, but we have to win the small ones in order to get the big ones.  Building a reputation, that’s her plan. Isn’t there any way to turn the smaller ones into the bigger ones, Grace asks.  I have no idea how, her mom admits, but it sounds good. She smiles and stands, ready to go back to Maggie. “I’m just worried about our bills,” Grace confesses; her mom reaches out a steadying hand. Me, too, honey, she says. “But this is what starting out looks like.”

But when she turns to go back to Maggie and Lucca, Grace’s words take unexpected root.

What, Grace asks.  Alicia turns back to her; could she rustle up some research on Colosseum University, Maggie’s for profit college.  “It’s about to be sold,” she recalls from some back drawer of memories. “Does that mean money?” Grace asks, showing an intuitive grasp of her mother’s business.  It might, Alicia agrees, and walks back to kiss her daughter on the forehead.  “Well I’ll get right on it,” Grace declares, blushing with pleasure and pride.

“You admitted it earlier!” Cary rumbles at Howard; they’re fighting in the main conference room now.  Sigh.  As Diane (wearing a fantastic dress, blue with a maroon lace overlay) walks over and lays a calming hand on both men’s shoulders, Cary turns to the assembled board. “Is everyone else really okay with this?  Is Howard Lyman really what this company is about?”  I meant to say last week, but what happened to Howard’s “easiest ultimatum ever” from two weeks back?  I thought he was going to leave if the firm refused to fire Cary?  God, why do we not have anything better to do? I love Diane and Cary, but there’s no reason for us to be here, and Alicia’s case of the week is actually interesting. Also, I know this isn’t a groundbreaking observation, but Cary’s completely in the right.  How is sabotaging a fellow partner cool?

“You better watch it, buddy boy,” Howard says, pinching his fingers together, “I am this close to filing suit.”  In order to sue somebody you’d have to know how, Cary snaps, and you can see the insult burns as Howard waves his journal of recorded injuries at Cary and Diane.  (Ugh.  He wasn’t calling you old, Howard, he was saying you’re incompetent.)  Diane drags and irate Cary from the room as Howard curses after them. “I am aggrieved, I tell you.  I. Am. Aggrieved!”

You have to watch yourself with him, Diane cautions Cary back in her office.  Are you seriously siding with him, Cary asks, livid, clearly feeling betrayed.  No, says  Diane. “Cary you are not a member of a protected class. Howard is.”  Ugh.  Not knowing what’s good for him, Howard appears in the doorway, demanding in house mediation. “I’ve consulted an attorney,” he declares, hoisting a finger as if the very idea of an attorney should scare them.  UGH.  It’s so annoying. “Who, Alicia?” Diane snaps, annoyed. “I know my rights pursuant to my partnership agreement,” Howard warns them, “and if you refuse, my only recourse is to sue.”  The look Diane gives Cary means she knows they’re in trouble.

“We’re gonna keep trying to get your money back,” Lucca tells Maggie after what’s clearly been a quick consultation with Alicia. “It doesn’t look good,” Alicia adds. “But,” Lucca chimes in, playing good cop, “there might be a way to cancel out your debt entirely.”  It’s nice to see the ladies working as a team.  It’s nice to see Alicia back as part of a team with somebody. “We’ve been doing some research into your university. They’ve been subject to dozens of complaints to the Attorney Generals’ office.” So, federally?  Okay.  As a for profit college, Lucca continues, they treat education like a commodity, like a product they sell.   And it’s Alicia and Lucca’s play that it was a defective product — that Colosseum sold Maggie a $46,000 education that didn’t land her a job.  “You want me to sue Colosseum?” Maggie guesses, confused.  We want you to let us sue Colosseum, Alicia suggests. On — say it with me — contingency.  They only get paid if they can get her a settlement, and since Colosseum is about to be sold, a lawsuit (which they’d be bound to disclose) could gum up the works.  It’s perfect timing to force the school to settle.

Score one for Grace Florrick.

“That’s a nifty theory there, counselors,” a bullet headed,  mustachioed man tells Alicia and Lucca. He’s bald and bullish looking and the women sit in his office. “It’s not a theory,” Lucca smirks. “It’s a fact. Our client bought an education from you, and it hasn’t done what you said it would.”  I don’t know how comfortable I am with this.  I mean, I get that for profit colleges are different from not-for-profit institutions (not to mention suspect) and I also get that it’s an obscene amount of money, but can you really hold the school liable?  (Plus, I’m also really fascinated by the loan company and the scammer.)

Hmm, the man says.  Where did you go to school, Mrs. Florrick. Georgetown, she says. “Did they teach you how to read there?”  As Alicia chews on this unpleasant mockery, I get annoyed, because colleges aren’t where you learn how to read. Is he making a weird sort of metaphor, saying that Colosseum can’t teach Maggie basic life skills?  Nope, he’s just being a jerk; he refers Alicia to Maggie’s enrollment paperwork, where paragraph 23 reveals “an arbitration clause,” Alicia frowns at Lucca. “Oh!  You can read!”  Yea, definitely a jerkwad.  They have a month left to settle arbitration in the 18 month window allowed by the document Maggie signed.

So that’s fun.

Also fun: Eli checking out headlines online. Peter Florrick Foot In Mouth Disease.  Even more thrilling for Eli, Peter barrels into the office suite in an uncharacteristically loud rage. “Where is she?” he bellows, stomping through the halls, looking for Ruth, newspaper in hand.  He’s wearing a blue jacket and khaki pants, looking like every single college boy going to a semi-formal dance, ever.  When Peter slams the door, bellowing “have you seen this?,” Eli goes a little mad trying to listen in to their conversation  through the vent.  Alas, it’s too far up on the wall to hear without standing on reams on paper on his desk, but what else is a nosy parker to do? It’s a strategy, Ruth defends herself calmly. It’s a screw up, Peter insists.  Eli’s soaking the words in like its the most glorious, most rapturous news of his life.

He decides that it’s time.  He puts away the paper, pulls back the desk, dramatically pulls his door open, struts across the suite and triumphantly opens Ruth’s office door.  Neither Peter nor Ruth notice him as he tries to weasel his way back in, sympathetic, competent.  I was going to show you this later, Mr. Florrick, Ruth says, handing the latter some internal polling numbers that have him in second place among Democratic candidates. What?  The newspapers may be ripping into you, she says, but the people are eating this up. (Really?  The Democratic base is eating up Tea Party anti-union rhetoric?  RIGHT.  OBVIOUSLY.  Who wrote this load of crap? How do they even have time to have post-speech numbers?)  “Is this real?” Peter asks. (No, obviously not.)  “As real as anything, sir,” Ruth answers, wide eyed, and soon they’re hugging and continuing to ignore Eli’s existence.  “You’re not selling yourself to the press.  They want to embrace you anyway.” Doubtful.  Very doubtful. “We’re going to straight to the people. Yes, you’re saying controversial things. Yes, it’s the same strategy as the Republicans. But it’s working and you’re winning!”

Yeah.  Like Eli I think that is big old steaming bowl of monkey dung.

And no, getting to see Eli’s shocked face is not worth it.  It’s funny, but not that funny.”Each day’s an adventure,” Ruth says, patting Peter on the back but finally looking over her shoulder at Eli, letting us know she knew he was there all the time.

“Let me start by saying this is not a courtroom and I am not a judge,” a man in his sixties announces, sitting at a table in a light filled atrium, his gray streaked hair in a ponytail, his whiskers white and Santa Claus-like in their fullness, his hands clasped atop the table, his smile warm and avuncular.  Don’t get too comfortable, though, because his decision is final and will stand instead of litigation.   Alicia and Lucca sit on one side, with Maggie several feet removed from the table though still across from the mediator; a bearded man sits at his left hand opposite Maggie’s team.  “Mediation does not replace litigation,” Diane tells the folks assembled in LAL’s main conference room. It’s just an attempt to settle differences amicably.

Let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves, Silver Ponytail announces, and also share our most embarrassing memory. Tom from Smash tilts his head in complete horror; I bet you have tons of naughty stories to share, my buttoned up friend. “That was a joke, people,” Pony adds, and Lucca breaks into a  smile. “You have my permission to lighten up.  Why don’t we start to my right?”  So Lucca (did she call herself Atlucca?  or @Lucca?), and then Alicia, and then Carter Scmidt introduce themselves; Maggie and the Bald Asshat Administrator, who also sits at a discrete distance, do not.  “Good,” the moderator smiles, “we got through that without an argument. We’re well on our way!  I’m Jeffrey Solomon,” No sir!  That’s not really his name!  On the nose much? “…and I’ll be your spirit guide,” he says, prompting a genuine smile from Carter, which is a totally new experience. Rather like his beard. He actually seems to be aiming the smile at Alicia. Wicked weird. They’ll conduct the mediation according to Illinois state law. “So, counselors,” Solomon invites, “call your first witnesses.”

“Why does he get to go first?” Howard gripes. “I’m doing it alphabetically,” Diane informs him. “Convenient,” he sneers. So, Cary, what are your grievances?  “How are you … aggrieved?”  Hee.  I love that phrasing; Christine Baranski is just the best. “He’s embarrassing in front of clients,” Cary begins. “That’s code for old,” Howard complains, waspish, and you know, I wish Cary had followed up here instead of folding.  Give examples!  Because maybe some of what Howard does is because he’s old (not correctly remember client’s names, napping), taking his pants off during the work day, hitting on female clients and employees, and making inappropriate remarks are much harder to excuse that way.  “And he sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong,” Cary adds instead. ‘That’s code for Jewish,” Howard snaps.  Sigh.  See, if you’d used an example, he couldn’t say that.  If you’d said that he bad mouths you to clients, he couldn’t claim religious bias.  You’re too smart to let him get under your skin like that, Cary.

Honestly, what’s up with this absolute time waster of a plot?  It just gets dumber and dumber.  What a total waste of our fine actors time and talents.

“You teach at Colosseum in the Dental Hygienist program, Miss Howe?” Yes, a very pleasant, brown haired woman in a mint green sweater smiles.  She’s overweight, and her clothes aren’t fancy, and not to sound like Howard, but I wonder if that’s code for incompetent or unprofessional with the casting department. She taught Maggie periodontics. “Are you a periodontist?” Alicia asks; no, she isn’t.  She’s a dental hygienist, and no, she’s not licensed.  She might have let her license slip a few years prior. 12 years prior, as Lucca points out. And she was never licensed in Illinois. “How could my client have received an adequate education if you’re not a licensed hygienist?” Alicia asks. “Because I’m a good teacher,” Miss Howe points out confidently. “All of my students think so.”

“Where were you licensed?” Carter Schmidt wonders. Ohio. “And dental anatomy doesn’t change when you cross state lines, does it?” he asks; Miss Howe rewards him with a blinding, grateful smile.  “I don’t think so,” she grins, and that’s all he’s got.

Lucca does have one more line of questions, however.  She pulls out one of Maggie’s old exams, and challenges the teacher to answer the first question.  At first she complains that the multiple choice answers are covered with tape, preventing her from knowing what the answer is, which seems pretty damning. But this is nothing to how it looks when Lucca tells her to remove the tape, and she still answers wrong.

“Geezer. Gargoyle. Old fart,” Howard reads from his list of complaints.  As Alicia initially suggested, he’s specific, which adds a more impressive punch to his arguments.  He had to be told; you’d think Cary wouldn’t.  “Flaccido Domingo.  That one hurt especially given my devotion to the opera.  And, my, ah, sexual prowess.”  Even Howard seems to have trouble coming out with that one; Diane raises an eyebrow at Cary. “And you would like this name calling to stop?”  He would.  With thirty years in the law, Howard thinks he deserves respect.  (Thirty years?  What, was he forty-five when he took the bar?  Fifty?)  Much to Howard’s annoyance, Cary wants a minute alone with Diane.  (“Objection!  You cannot have an ex-parte conversation in the middle of our trial!”)

“You’re the one who called Howard an old geezer,” Cary remembers. So, Diane blinks. “I’m not the only one guilty of a few indiscretions,” he explains.  “Cary, please, we’re only going through this to keep Howard from suing,” Diane cries. She’s wearing a black, short sleeved cardigan over a dress with a thick black belt; the slim skirt has a black on white pattern, and the top, white on black. So long as you’re not just hanging me out to dry, Cary replies, but I kind of feel like he’s hanging himself  out to dry; they have legitimate issues with Howard, and he’s not being very competent in laying them out.  Giving him an exasperated look, Diane walks back in to the conference room, where Howard insists she notes their absence for the record. “There is no record!” she cries.  Gosh.  This must be pretty frustrating. “We’re just trying to clear the air, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”

“I want to call a witness,” Howard fusses, ignoring Cary who insists he can’t call a witness since this is not a hearing. “I call Diane Lockhart to the stand!” Howard announces in a ringing voice.

Sigh.

“Hello, father,” Marissa Gold says, sitting across from her father as he types on his laptop. ‘I want to run something by you, but I need your undivided attention.”  He types.  He does not answer. “I’m thinking of taking pole dancing classes, what do you think?’  Whatever makes you happy, dear, he says, although I’m not even sure he’d care if he knew what she said.

“Do you know Yael Naftali?”  she asks.  Naftali is an Israeli politician, the chief of staff to a cabinet minister who hopes to run for the Knesset with Eli’s help, and eventually Prime Minister — and also a dad of one of Marissa’s friends from her IDF days. Huh.  Do you think his general political acumen would translate to an entirely different country and culture? I mean, I’d expect things might be a little different, and he’d have no local contacts. “I see what you’re doing,” he says. “I’m giving you the opportunity to make a impact,” she says. “It’s have an impact — make a difference.”  What? I don’t think that’s right.  (No.  I looked it up.  It isn’t.)   “You want Netanyahu out, here’s your chance,” Marissa pushes, “Mr. Naftali is offering you twice what you’re making now.”

He tilts his head like a bird. “How do you know what I’m making now?” he wonders, distracted. “I’m a witch,” she replies, and I almost fall off the couch, and he smiles in spite of himself. “talk to him, Dad.  What do you have to lose?”  She hands him what looks like a business card and he stares at it in wonder.

And no, not wonder because the business card doesn’t make sense, considering that Naftali’s in another country and approached Marissa via the phone.  Wonder at how his life might be different if he called.

“82% of Colosseum graduates find employment within a year of graduation,” Shiny Bald University President Asshat reads off a brochure, his smile smug beneath his mustache.  What employment, Alicia asks, a question which baffles the Asshat; he’s forced to admit that working part time McDonald’s would fit under their definition of employment, a result hardly worth the nearly 50k tuition.

“How many work less than 15 hours a week?” Lucca wonders.  I have no idea, Asshat answers. “Well we do,” Lucca tells him — 33%.  “How many work minimum wage jobs?”  Done pretending to be cheerful and kind for the moderator, President Asshat starts to glare.  “We run a high risk, low functioning population, Miss,” he tells her, patronizing. “55%” Lucca tells him.  Is he suggesting that these people wouldn’t be able to work at McDonald’s without their Colosseum degree? “Why don’t you put that in your brochure,” she snarks, and Carter asks her not to badger the witness. The fact is, she says, the vast majority of Colosseum grads are worse off than when they started.  Maggie looks at her, jaw dropped.  I can’t help thinking this must make her feel pretty foolish.  The college thinks she’s low functioning?  It thinks the students are high risk?  The degree she worked hard and paid through the nose for really isn’t going to help her? “They wind up unemployable and saddled with massive debt.”

“Please, Your Honor, do we need the speeches?” Carter wonders.  We don’t, Solomon agrees. Does Lucca have a question?  No, they’re done.

“President Stenborg,” Carter begins, “you make it sound like you don’t care about the quality of the education. Is that true?”  No, he says. “I care very much. But I also care about running a successful business.”  Wait, why is that antithetical to educating students?  “You supply a service,” Carter suggests. He does. “Traditionally, higher education is a product marketed only to the elite.”  I’d question the use of elite, what with 2/3rds of the population in my state being college graduates, but okay.  It’s 43% in Illinois, rather to my surprise.  You make it available to the masses, Carter says. Again, Asshat agrees. “If we didn’t do it, these students would never get into another institution.”

Okay, sorry.  Let’s break that down.  That sounds very laudable, but if the kind of industry-specific training Colosseum provides doesn’t actually lead to a job within that field, and leaves the student drowning in debt they can’t pay off, then what’s the point?   It’s not like getting a liberal arts degree and suing the school because you found a good job in technology rather than in your field of French literature or music or zoology.   When you study to be a dental hygienist — apprenticing in a particular, very specific industry rather than a generalized liberal arts course — you’re supposed to be able to be one.  If a Colosseum grad like Maggie can’t use that degree, then why is it important that she goes to college? How is the college serving that downtrodden population?  You can make lots of arguments about the emotional worth of the college experience (hell, I’ll do it for you), but what Maggie had seems to be vocational training, which seems to me to be distinct. And she got it from a for-profit university which is selling her professional training.  And if vocational training doesn’t get you work in your field, I will ask again, what’s the point?

So, anyway, I cry foul.  Pontificating about under-served populations is just meaningless bloviation if you’re not actually giving those downtrodden stragglers an actual leg up in the job market.  Don’t buy into the argument, oh wise King Solomon!

“Do you mislead prospective students?” Carter asks. “No,” Shiny Asshat replies. Why, he would never! Perish the thought!  “I’m not allowed to!” You can see that all this makes Maggie feel like crap, and partly that’s because it IS crap.  What are those percentages if not false advertising?  “We’re subject to the same laws every business must follow. Our customers get exactly what they pay for; no more, no less.” Which is saying what, they’re not great students, so its okay for us to give them unqualified teachers?  Solomon nods, making me wonder if his nose functions properly.  How else could he escape the rotten stench of that argument?

“Okay, I think we can all agree that Colosseum is not Harvard,” he says, missing the point entirely.  When Alicia attempts to explain that’s not her point, he asks her to focus on the actual lies and unfair tactics that add up to Coliseum being deceptive about what they offer. Sigh.

In Michigan, Jason stares at the door of Suite 777.  The window’s been papered with old newsprint and no one answers his knock.  Happily, the building manager comes around, and when Jason poses as a prospective tenant, he’s able to go into the suite and look around, since the previous tenant left a month before.  Dang!  I’m fascinated by the fact that Jason invents occupations for himself (this time as a skip tracer) but consistently uses his own name.   In a surely illegal move, Jason scoops up some mail from the floor while the manager isn’t looking.  Later in his car, he actually opens up the one hand-addressed letter, which contains a check for 6,000 from a Chicagoan named Molly Tuff.

As he’s gazing at it, and as I wonder what he’s going to do with it, Alicia calls.  How’s arbitration, he asks. Not good, she confesses, letting herself back into her apartment.  Can he find her some lies that Colosseum tells its students by tomorrow?  Okay, he laughs, let me see what I can do.  “Hi!” a small voice calls out. Alicia’s goodbye clogs her throat as she sees the person sitting at her kitchen island.

“Marissa!” she trills, and the younger woman waves, and pops off the stool, and goes to hug her former boss and exchange pleasantries.  Who knew there was something I might miss about last season, and here we have two; Cary with a meaningful plot, and the mere presence of Marissa Gold.  “Your office looks amazing,” Marissa coos, “I can’t believe you did this all without me.”  Ah, well.  Time, it moves on. “I thought you were in Israel,” Alicia says as Marissa re-seats herself. “I was,” the girl says. “Designing purses. Really cool. Leather and macrame. But, then I got worried that my dad was having a nervous breakdown.”

Somewhat foolishly, Alicia doesn’t get what Marissa means at first.  It’s not about Marissa being in danger – which, ha like Eli thinks about other people that much or that deeply?  She asks for cereal, and then has to be reminded of what she was talking about as she pours.  Oh yes.  It’s all Peter’s fault.  He worked on those campaigns for so long.  Peter was his life, and he’s having trouble letting go.

Well, he’s my chief of staff now, Alicia offers.  Now, he’s not the kind of catatonic, snow-Nazi-zombie watching mess he was at first, but she knows he’s not over it.  How can she not know this?  Is it her guilt over the situation talking?  Weird. I know, I heard, Marissa says, still carefully pouring Sugar O’s into a large bowl as Alicia gets her some milk.  Sugar O’s?  Ha.  I cannot see Alicia buying that, not even close. At once Alicia thinks she hears disapproval in Marissa’s tone, something the latter denies. “…I just, you know,” she tries, and then she slumps, cereal forgotten. “You’re right, I don’t approve.”  Why?

“He’s about to pass up an opportunity to run a campaign in Israel, a big campaign,” his daughter explains, “because of you.”  Well, we all know that’s not quite true. “I never guilted Eli into anything, he wanted to stay,” Alicia defends herself.  And indeed, anyone watching at home will remember that Eli suggested himself as a candidate and fought for the job, not to mention that Alicia knew at the time that he was doing so in order to avenge his firing.  “I know,” Marissa says, looking up at Alicia, her brown eyes wide, “and that’s why I’m hoping you’ll fire him.”

Right, because we all know that’s sit really easily on him.

At first, Alicia thinks it’s a joke. “that’s the only way he’ll move on, “Marissa pleads. “Convince him you don’t want him.  I know it’s hard on you. Don’t do it for you.  Do it for him.  Please, fire him.”

Well.  That was unexpected.  She’ll never go through with it, but Marissa is totally right.

“What are you looking to major in, Jason?” a guy in his thirties asks our investigator, somewhere in the Colosseum University building. Dental hygiene, Jason says (using his real name again, dang), but the other guy won’t believe it. Are you guys accredited with the ADA?  “I’ll tell you the truth, right now we’re not.  It’s pending, but you don’t want to be a dental hygienist! Come on, look at you, a guy like you?”  Jason’s not the stereotype of a dental hygienist, certainly;  that’d be Maggie, more like.  “You like cars? We got a great automotive tech program.” See, this is what I mean – it’s vocational training, which is fine, but success ought to be measure in whether their graduates find jobs in their actual fields.  What’s your placement rate on graduation, he asks, and the recruiter’s face says it all.  I can show you stats later, he promises, pointing back presumably at his desk, but why don’t we get some lunch first?

Is that a sales tactic, or is he hitting on Jason?  I totally can’t tell.  Which is fun. Perhaps less amused (or just convinced he’s wasting his time) Jason excuses himself.

“Wait, Jason,” Recruiter Dude says. “Are you a vet?”  Intrigued, Jason says that he is.  Lies?  The truth?  Who the heck knows. “Cause I’m gonna make your day,”  Recruiter grins. “See, most of our students, they have to come up with at least ten percent of their tuition out of pocket, but you got you the golden ticket.” He actually winks. “You got federal loans plus the G.I. bill. Let me show you. C’mon.”  Jason comes.

And then he goes to Alicia’s office, silent, smirking. “You got something,” she realizes, watching him sit and then pick his feet up and deposit them on her desk, one by one. She leans forward, elbows on her desk. “What?” she asks, fascinated and showing it, slim in a dark blue suit with smudges of lighter blue on the jacket. “90/10,” he tells her, voice dripping with cream. I have no idea what that is, Alicia replies.

“You need to call this recruitment office, Randy Duffield,” he says.  Okay, she replies, what’s his number.  No.  You need to call him to the stand.

“Mr. Duffield, can you please tell us about the 90/10 rule?”  Duffield is still wearing the purple fleece over a chambray button down. “It is a federal law,” he says, quite uncomfortable, “that prohibits for profit colleges from receiving more than 90% of their revenue from student aid.”  And where does the other 10% come from?  “From the students themselves,” he explains. “Their own private funds?”  Prepped by Jason, she gets Randy (kind of the perfect name for him, preppy and inauthentic — apologies to any Randy’s who might be reading this, but the name does provoke a certain imagine in my mind, at least) to admit the military loophole; the G.I. bill, Department of Defense assistance can be counted as private money, part of the 10%.

I don’t see where you’re going with this, Carter asks, so Lucca explains it to him and us.  Maggie’s a veteran, and so she was entitled to go to Colosseum for free.  Wait, I’m confused.  Does that mean that Maggie didn’t get the extra G.I. bill funding, or that she did?  Alicia’s more interested in whether or not Randy and his fellow recruiters target military personnel.  No, he says, but Alicia summarizes an email from his boss that asks the recruiters lure veterans from the V.A. and other military centers.

“Objection as to lure,” Carter sasy, winning a bone dry glare from King Solomon. “Sure. Find another word for lure?”  Persuade, Alicia suggests brightly. “Isn’t it a fact that you persuade poor unqualified to take out loans they can’t possibly repay?” That’s just to true, he says. Alicia rests.

“Mr. Duffield, is Alicia Florrick spinning your words?” Yes, he huffs. “You believe in what you do?”  He does. “Our students, they may not be the best and the brightest, I’m sorry to say that,” he shakes his head, and once again poor Maggie looks thoroughly humiliated. “It’s true, but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a chance.”  Okay, dude. No one is arguing that they don’t (and I think Alicia’s really letting this get away with her).  The argument is, is a crappy college education really better than none?  And is the education that Colosseum gives worth the money they charge for it?

“I’d like to call Maggie Rossum,” Carter Schmidt breaks the temporary silence.  Alicia and Lucca turn to their client in consternation.

“Did you or did you not, Miss Lockhart, suggest that I catheterize myself at a client meeting?”  Oh my.  That’s not cool, Diane!  “In this very room, not one week ago!” You were getting up to go to the bathroon every five minutes,” she reacts, exasperated and perhaps embarrassed.  Answer the question, yes or no, he instructs her.  She admits it by not answering directly.

“Howard, we all make jokes, ” Diane justifies herself, “including you, about everyone in the firm.”  I’ll take that as a yes, he says. “Cary gets made fun of for his youthful appearance,” she declares, pointing at him. “Twerp, pimple,” he recites. “Preschooler.” Don’t forget gerbil! “And we’ve all made fun of David Lee,for, well, you know.”  Gee, Diane, for what?  For which aspect of his David Lee-ness do you mock him the most?  “And I’ve heard you joke more than once about hte pole stuck up Diane’s ass,” Cary adds, causing Diane to flinch as if indeed poked by something sharp. “Excuse me?” she asks, definitely displeased.

“Oh, come on, that’s different,” Howard throws his arms around. How is it different, Cary wants to know. “I’m not talking about harmless ribbing,” Howard declares, sitting down, and he does honestly look upset. “People pour prune juice in my coffee,” he admits, looking down at the table. “They leave adult diapers in my office.” Oh, come on, Howard, Diane snaps, not believing it.  What, they do, he says. “No one is leaving adult diapers in your office!” Cary barks. Again, I think you’ve totally lost control of the narrative here, Cary.  He’s totally got you on the defensive. And he definitely has them dancing to his tune: he gets up, leaving them no choice but to follow him to his office, where he takes an adult diaper out of a drawer. “Property of Howard Lyman,” he reads off the diaper, written in sharpie; Diane’s truly shocked and ashamed. And then there’s a bib.  And a catheter.  He tosses them all on his desk.

Is it awful of me to admit that I wouldn’t put it passed him to plant those?  Because I totally wouldn’t. In fact I’d consider it the most likely scenario here.

“I had nothing to do with that,” Cary says, repulsed. “But you’re creating the climate,” Howard insists. “Ah, it’s a diaper, Howard, it’s not a burning swastika.”  Okay, Cary, back off now. “These young associates, they look up to you.” Um, not so much, right?  “They follow your cues.”  Again, not unless he was sending out totally wrong ones. Also, I’m sorry, but not doing work on your cases, sleeping through meetings, not bothering to learn your client’s names, and walking around without pants on might have something to do with the associates’ lack of respect.  Just saying.  They harass me, he says, his voice throbbing.  They humiliate me!

There are actual tears in Diane’s eyes as she moves toward her partner. “Howard, I am so sorry,” she says. “And I want you to know that we are going to take meaningful steps to correct this ageist culture that we may have unwittingly created.”  Despite his brave words, Cary nods; he too feels remorse.

Gah!  I mean, hurrah for mediation working for once, and for people seeing someone else’s point of view, but Howard contributes to his bad reputation.  Cary’s totally justified in being outraged and aggrieved by him and his behavior, and instead, the old man’s cleverly made everyone pity him instead.

Are you a good student, Carter Schmidt asks Maggie.  I do my best, she hesitates. “Good,” he says with faked understanding. “That’s all anyone can ask for.  Do your best.” Lucca and Alicia listen, concerned, waiting for the shoe to drop. “Now, in order to do your best you would have to show up for class, right?”  Ah. There’s the shoe.  It depends, Maggie defends herself, but Carter presses; does she really think she could be a good student without attending class?  (Lucca objects, and Solomon’s sympathetic, but finds it relevant.)  “I think you can be a good student in a lot of ways,” Maggie declares. “I understand why you would say that,” Carter replies, pulling out a sheet and handing it to Mediator Solomon, which is her attendance record; she missed 2/3rds of her classes.  Crap!

“I had to work a lot to pay my bills,” she explains.  Well, then, did you buy your textbooks?  No to that too.  What, seriously?  How many shoes can he drop? “Wow.  So, aside from tuition,what did you spend all that student loan money on?” What did she spend it on?  The money went to her and not the college?  Huh.  Now I feel old, because I’ve never even heard of the loans going to the student instead of directly to the college.  Apparently, she’s been living on them, in addition to the money she’s scraped up from her part time jobs. That’s a third shoe. Dang. “Living expenses incurred while you were not buying books or attending classes,” Carter nods. “Looks more like a defective user than a defective product.”  Objection, Alicia and Lucca cry as one.

Damn, that was a devastating cross.

I would be curious, though, about her grades.  If her grades were bad, then it’s fair, no one should hire her.  But if they weren’t, then her attendance record might even augment their argument about it being a worthless and defective product.  The very fact that she could graduate after missing so many of her class, that none of her teachers failed her, is surprising to say the least.  That’s what I’d argue, anyway, in order to try and dig myself out of that hole.

“He made it sound really bad,” Maggie tells her lawyers, back in Alicia’s office.  “That’s because it is really bad, Maggie,” Alicia tells he; I said it along with her, because good grief!  “The credit card interest was eating me alive; paying off that card seemed like the smart thing to do,” Maggie justifies herself.  Wait, that’s even worse!  Unreal. “And it wasn’t illegal!”  Maybe not, Alicia replies, Lucca standing like a pitiless angel over her shoulder, but it doesn’t look good.  (Also, is Lucca going to get a desk at some point?  It’s only fair, but where will they put it?) Look, I was working two jobs, Maggie tells them, but I always got notes when I couldn’t make it.  Hmmm.  Okay, it’s too bad you didn’t say that in mediation.  What about the textbooks, Lucca wonders; turns out that she got them as pdfs and shared with classmates. Okay, that would have been helpful to hear in the mediation, too; not buying your textbook isn’t the same thing as not reading it. “We all tried to make the best of it, we really did.”

Who’s we, Alicia wonders, straightening up a little in her chair. “My study group. We’d just kind of share horror stories, job tips, you know, that kind of thing.”  Well, that doesn’t actually sound like a study group (sounds more like friends) but okay; I’m more curious these horror stories, because that’s twice she calls going to Colosseum a nightmare, yet we have no evidence that the experience itself was bad yet.  Alicia takes that in. “How many students?”

And to judge from the number of loud folks talking in Alicia’s sitting room, between 15 and 20. They all appear to be in their 20s and casually but nicely dressed; there’s more hipster present than anything else, everyone’s pressed, largely fit, largely good looking. The casting directors idea of non-tradition college students is very, um, tidy.  “Look, we just need to enumerate ways Colosseum lied to you,” Lucca asks them, but they don’t stop talking, and they don’t listen, which is both silly and annoying.

“I see you’re running an adult day care now,” Eli sneers, skulking behind Alicia.  Okay, that just pisses me off.  What does that even mean?  Alicia smiles in appreciation. “You wanted to talk?” he asks; yes, she says, leading him back to her office.  Well, it’s not like there’s an actual meeting being conducted there or anything.

Her face as she walks between the french doors is worried, but after she’s pushed out a heavy breath, she turns to him, composed; he shuts the doors, which provide impressive and unlikely sound-proofing. “I’ll get right to the point, Eli,” she opens. “I just don’t trust you anymore.”

Wow.  His mouth hanging, Eli stares at her, wordless.  I’m surprised, too; I didn’t think Alicia would fall in line with Marissa’s plea.

“I need to be working with someone different,” she continues. “Someone who gets along with Ruth.  Who has her confidence.”  Second life time firing for Eli; it takes him a few moments to close his mouth, but once he does, his face takes on a shrewd look. “Did Marissa talk to you?” he asks, and Alicia lies to his face without blinking. “Eli, you have an ulterior moment here, and you know it. You’re using me.”  Yes, he tries to shrug it off as harmless, but you’re using me too!  “I keep Ruth from messing with your life!”  Well, I’m a big girl, she declares.  I can take care of myself.  True, but she does definitely like to have some insulation between her and the campaign. He starts to respond, and she puts up a hand.

“No,Eli,” she cautions him. “I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” Like facilitating her humiliation on that cooking show? “But now … we need to part ways.”  You’re serious, he asks, watching her face, alarmed and stunned.  “Yes,” she says. “We both need a fresh start.  I know it won’t be easy, but … it’s time.”

He stares at her, mouth open yet again.  Is she really doing this to him? The woman whose loyalty and continued kindness was the foundation of his revenge plot? Really?  He nods his understanding, but his expression doesn’t change. “Good bye, Eli,” she says, shaking his hand and returning to her wildly ineffectual meeting; Eli continues to stare, slack jawed, at nothing.

“No, I agree, I think maybe a class action makes sense,” Maggie tells Lucca; have I mentioned how much I like the recent graduate’s beige and white striped sweater yet?  It’s very pretty. I’m really exasperated that these people haven’t mastered the kindergarten level skill of shutting up, though.  (To be fair, gatherings of lawyers aren’t good at that either.)  I’m not sure if we have the where-with-all, Lucca begins, but Alicia cuts her off. “Actually,” she says, “a class action isn’t possible here.”  Remember that enrollment agreement? Yep, it’s back to bite them in the ass.  But if that’s the case, why were they meeting with all the students again? Just so their testimony can help Maggie?  The more I think about it, the more interested I am that they’re all so hostile about Colosseum.  Is it the job market, or is it really a worthless degree?  Anyway, they’re horrified that one among the many papers they signed could have put this restriction on them. “We can really sign away our rights?”  Legally yes, Lucca explains as Eli lurks in the background, one eyebrow winging up, his mouth pursed.

“So the school can screw us, and then trick us into not doing anything about it?”  Wow, Maggie’s so bitter.  Not that I really blame her.  Eli sidles up to Alicia. “A class action suit isn’t possible,” he tells her, “but a debt strike is.” Huh.  Really.  “It’s already happening at another for-profit, ” he nods. “Corinthian College.”  Oh, I’ve heard of them.  Interesting.  (Talk about rabbit holes, yikes. That’s a well documented disaster.)  He swans off, leaving Alicia with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“These are the names of 350 Colosseum graduates who are willing to default collectively and suffer the consequences,” Lucca says, slapping a folder in front of Carter Schmidt and President Asshat. “Unless you intervene with the Department of Education and the loan companies to settle their debts.”  She’s still wearing her tweed and leather ensemble; I kind of assumed the student meeting was at the end of the day, giving the number of people they gathered, but it’s still sunny.  “Really?” Carter scoffs in his patronizing way. “Getting desperate, are we?”  It’s a debt-strike, Alicia explains. “Let’s see how that will play with your resale value.”  Asshat sucks in his bottom lip and juts out his already prominent chin, bringing it to Jay Leno proportions. “Or you can settle,” Lucca grins. “We’re listening.”

Okay, great, but  — settle for who?  Maggie, or the 349 other people?  I’m suspicious of this tactic.  Interested, but suspicious.

“Okay,” a woman says in one of those annoyingly sympathetic voices, like she’s doing the voice over in a commercial about menstrual cramps.  From her vantage point in the large LAL conference room, she directs everyone to take a cotton ball out of a bowl, one of which is placed directly in front of Howard, who sits at the head of the table. Lawyers surge forward to do her bidding. “Just one,” she cautions. “Now insert it into your right nostril, please, good and tight.”  What the what?  Diane’s game, but Cary, sitting at her left hand, just stares at the speaker, frowning.

“Okay,” Mrs. PMS continues, across the long table from a beaming Howard. “Look at him,” Cary points to Diane, the cotton stuffed up his nose, and then picks up the cardboard glasses Smooth Talker asks them to put on, “he’s having a great time.”  Nope, there’s no disguise to it. “Now take the kernels of corn,” she adds. “A handful will do.”  There are bowls of dried kernels lined up neatly with the cotton balls and three-D style glasses. “Come on,” Diane presses a reluctant Cary, “It’s sensitivity training. Let’s be sensitive.”  She drops the kernels into her high heel like a chef putting salt in boiling water, slowly cascading, and they rattle as they hit the sole.

“You know what?” Cary grouses. “I think Howard planted those diapers in his office so we’d have to go through this.”  Like I said, I wouldn’t put it past him at all, but there’s no help for it now. “Here we go,” Diane says, hoisting up her heel at him as if giving a toast; Smooth & Sensitive Talker then instructs them to walk around the room and “so something simple, like tie your shoes.”  Who’s going to have shoes that tie in this office?  Sorry, I’m quibbling. “Oh,” Diane inhales as she stands and first puts weight on her corn-filled shoe: “it hurts!”

“This is what it’s like to be 80 years old,” Sensitivity Lady says. “This is what it’s like to be old.”  The various employees hobble around the room, bent over. “Isn’t’ that right, Howard?”  Some times, he agrees. “Every day is a struggle.” He looks up to address the room. “I’m sorry I take naps, but … now you know why.” He unfolds a handkerchief from his pocket.  I don’t think the naps are the problem so much as your lack of pants, Howard. “All day it hurts!” He presses the snowy handkerchief to his eyes, pretending to weep; Diane and Cary rolls their eyes at this extravagant display. Sensitivity Consultant rubs a gentle hand along his back, her paisley sleeve swishing. I think Howard could use all of our support right now, she says, and three young, pretty women coo and hug him from behind.

“This is not happening,” Cary says, shaking his head.

The Illinois Management Coalition seems to having a do at a lovely old building, maybe a hotel, where Peter’s speaking to – well, I assumed it was the press, but maybe it’s just Illinois Managers?  “I think unions do have a place,” he says. Alicia stands beside him in a white suit. “BUT if we’re going to stay in a global economy, then I think we have to look beyond the standard management/labor…” The reporters don’t even want to hear the end of this ridiculous sentence.  (Seriously, if Scott Walker couldn’t get national traction with GOP primary voters on this issue, then how the heck is a Democrat going to?  Grrr.)

“And you agree with your husband, Mrs. Florrick,” Ronnie Erickson pushes through the crowd.  What on earth is he doing there?  He’s not a manager. “I do,” she blinks, “I think creative solutions are essential.” So you’re against unions, he snaps. “No,” she replies, “but I support my husband when he says he’s looking for new ways to avoid strikes.”  Strikes?  Danger, Will Robinson, danger!  “Then what do you think of your wife’s debt-strike, Mr. Governor?” Ronnie adds.  Ha.

Of course Ruth steps right in, saying Peter’s got to go elsewhere. “Actually you don’t,” Ronnie proclaims loudly. “Your wife is organizing a debt strike among the students at Colosseum University.” Poor Alicia looks like she’s been called to the principal’s office.  Well I support my wife, Peter replies.  “Even though she’s unionizing?” Ronnie insists, and when Peter tries to explain, he cuts him off. Aren’t you organizing a strike, Mrs. Florrick?  Citing attorney/client privilege, she refuses to discuss her case, and this time Ruth manages to swoop in. “Oh, it’s okay for your wife to strike but not my union,” Ronnie hollers after them.

See.  When she went off on that “I don’t want any strings on me, so I shouldn’t put any strings on Peter,” it was just a matter of time before the absurdity of it came out.  No strings, huh?  A presidential campaign is exactly what you want when you’re trying to live an uncomplicated life!  She can’t make an argument or pursue a case because what if it conflicts with the insane, improbably positions Ruth has foisted on Peter which she’s then bound to pretend her own support for?  Ugh.  She deserves this insanity. I can’t even feel sorry for her. It’s annoying, though.

And surprise, surprise, look who’s flying into Eli’s tiny office in a fury?  Slam goes the door into the desk. “You gave Alicia the debt-strike idea, didn’t you?” Ruth demands, her hair standing back off her face, absolutely livid. Wow.  He starts to speak, but she cuts him off. “He told me to keep the family out of trouble, and there she goes stirring up trouble in an issue that’s a no-win for the campaign!”  It’s not no-win, Eli protests. “Peter can’t be saying ‘vote for me’ in one breath, and ‘don’t worry about paying the federal government’ in the next!” Oh, I didn’t think of that, Eli plays dumb. “I guess he doesn’t want to choose between alienating the unions or business interests, either!” You’re killing the campaign, Ruth growls, her voice guttural and low. “No I’m not,” he answers triumphantly, “I’m not running Peter’s campaign.”  She staggers out of his office as if dealt a physical blow.

Sigh.

That’s when a smirking Eli calls his daughter’s Israeli politician friend and thanks him for his offer of employment before refusing it.

“Molly Tuff?” Jason asks, when a short young woman with big hair opens the door to apartment 1B.  It is; who’s he, she wonders suspiciously. “I think this is yours,” he says instead of answering her, handing her the envelope. “It’s your payment on your student loan.” She looks up at him in wonder. How’d you get it, she asks, squinting at him. “From the person who scammed you,” he explains. “I’m a private investigator, I can have a client who fell for the same scam. Sent her payment to that address, too.”

“I can’t believe you got it back,” the girl breathes, and he grins hugely.  He must feel like Santa Claus right now.  “I never have luck like this.”  She stares at the envelope in amazement, but then a memory strikes her. “They just called yesterday with a new address.”

And now it’s like Jason’s the kid on Christmas morning.  Could he get that address?

Oh, he can.  He stakes out the Michigan Mail Store, working on a crossword puzzle until a young guy in a red t-shirt, with long lank hair and a blank expression checks the correct mail box. “Hello, Jackass,” Jason grins, starting up his truck.  The music intensifies as Jason follows him to a brick apartment building on a busy street, clicking his seat belt off before coming to a stop. Drums pound as the investigator grins around his chewing gum, watching the scammer slouch toward his apartment, somebody’s purloined loan payment sticking out of his back pocket.

And that’s when he pulls a tire iron out of a bag in the passenger seat.

The music builds menace as Jason stalks across the street, choking up on the tire iron.  It’s making me nervous.  I don’t want another Boy Scout, I really don’t.  He raps on the door with the iron, a sharp bright sound. The Slacker Scammer opens the door and takes an involuntary step back as he takes in the smiling investigator with his fist full of iron.

Alicia walks into her apartment to find a silent, smirking Eli waiting for her.

“I’m staying on,” he declares in response to her startled greeting.  She considers this for a second. “Okay,” she allows.  Why, because he just proved himself so adept at getting her into trouble?  She shrugs.  “Sounds good.”

There’s a knock on the door, perhaps aimed at distracting us from this absolutely unbelievable turn of events.  I mean, obviously he’s not leaving the show, but come the freak on.  Why are there no consequences for the shenanigans he’s been pulling?  He’s embarrassing her at every turn, and she just shrugs?  Seriously. It’s like some of this stuff happens outside the reality of the show. It’s lazy, stupid plotting that assumes the audience isn’t even paying attention.

“Mrs. Florrick, I apologize if I’m interrupting,” Carter Schmidt declares at her door, exquisitely polite as ever. What do you need, she asks. “Just to deliver this,” he says, holding up an envelope. “Colosseum is suing you and Lucca Quinn for tortous interference with contract.” He gives her a smile and a nod, and there she is, left with their counter move.

“A judge will probably knock this down,” Lucca brushes off this suit, but Alicia thinks you could make a good argument that they crossed the line in asking for the debt-strike. “They escalated, and we escalated further, so now we need to …” “Keep going,” Lucca stops her. Wow, Lucca, that’s some dress.  They’ve really been experimenting with color and pattern lately, don’t you think?  First Jackie’s water color suit last week, and now this kaleidoscope pattern with gray and pink roses?  Wacky. “No, I was going to say escalate,” Alicia frowns.

“Lucca’s right,” Jason says, sitting across from Alicia’s desk.  He doesn’t look up, but he does show them a graphic on what’s likely Alicia’s laptop: the strike’s causing Colosseum’s stock to drop.  They haven’t been willing to back down so far, Lucca frets, playing devil’s advocate. “Not to us,” Alicia realizes, “but what if it was someone they cared about even more applying the pressure?”

“You don’t happen to know anything about the shareholder derivative suit that’s been filed against us, do you?” Carter asks, leaning up against a bank of cabinets in Asshat’s office. No, Alicia replies. “Absolutely not!  But, if I had to guess, I’d say the theory is that Colosseum’s predatory recruitment tactics are a violation of its fiduciary duties to its stockholders.”  Huh.  Nicely done. “Am I right?”  Uncanny, Carter agrees.  The beard looks good on him, don’t you think?  It’s different — rougher than his polite, well-mannered persona — but I like it.  It gives his characterization dimension, somehow.

Lucca sums the situation up. “You’re now facing a debt strike, which is destroying your not-very-good name. A shareholders suit, which could bankrupt you if it continues.  And if either continues, the Feds are going to investigate and revoke your eligibility to receive funding.”  Again, President Asshat sticks out his over-sized chin. “What do you want,” he asks, and the two women look at each other, smiling.

(Just a quick question.  What do they want here?  Besides as much money as they can get, obviously. Are they looking for money for Maggie, and willing to strand everyone else?  I wish we knew.)

The doorbell rings, and there’s Alicia answering it, wearing a white sheath dress with black triangular insets which must have gone underneath the suit jacket with the black lapels.  Man, it’s been a long day.  It’s Jason on the other side, carrying a thick white envelope.  I’m sorry to bother you so late, he says, but I wanted to drop something off.  “It belongs to Maggie,” he adds as he hands it over.

Staring in wonder, Alicia looks down at the envelope in her hand and then up at her investigator. “Maggie’s money?” she gasps. “Ayup,” he grins.  Ah, it’s gray-bearded Santa all over again. “From the scammer?” We can just see the top of a wine glass with some red wine in her other hand. “Ayup,” he grins again, head bobbing. “How did you do that?”  I persuaded him, he says.  “How,” she wonders — and it is definitely interesting, not least because he confronted the guy hours ago.  “By being persuasive,” he answers, his smile just as large.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you,” she realizes, smiling herself, her voice low and flirtatious. “No,” he agrees cheerfully, but then expands his thought. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know,” he offers.  Right.  The implication is clear that she does not want to know his methods. (I want to know if he called the police on the guy, but I bet he didn’t and left him to scam other people unrestrained.)  Pbft,” she scoffs, rather like a beautiful version of Bill the Cat, “at the end of the day sometimes I’m so tired, I…” but here she stalls looking at him over the rim of her wine glass, ready to drink, “I can’t think straight.” She sips. That’s why I drink, he grins, and she’s graceful enough not to spit out her wine for laughing.

“What do you drink?” she asks boldly, catching his eye and holding it.

 

Oh no you didn’t, Alicia Florrick!  Oh no you didn’t!  He works for you!  Your husband is running for the freaking presidency of the United States!  Your daughter lives with you!

Oh good lord.

I mean, okay, I doubt anything happened, but it would be a whole lot nicer to see her re-discover sex if she’d just divorce Peter.  Or starting sleeping with Peter again.  I cannot get behind the meaningless affairs while she’s married and I wish she would just stop.  I mean, I totally get that she doesn’t want to spend her life as a nun, and I’m sure as heck not going to say I don’t understand his appeal, but I hate that she’s compartmentalizing her sexuality.  It’s like Peter’s cheating has thoroughly ruined sex for her, and she can’t reconnect to the emotional component of it even seven years later.

But more on that in a minute.

First, hmmmm.  What to say, what to say.  Episode related comments.  For profit colleges are ripe for a critique, but I wish that they had concentrated a bit more on the college, or on the loan collectors and their ugly tactics rather than all the other ephemera in the episode.  I mean, I want that scammer to go down for his crimes, not just to get beat up or threatened with a tire iron. (Also, I really don’t want to have another investigator who’s Blake-style violent.) I want to know what it was that Maggie hated so much about being a Colosseum student. It seems like this went beyond her frustration with not getting hired right away — twice she says she had a terrible experience as a student — and yet they never explained why that was.  I wonder if that information got cut out of the episode?  I get that making Lucca and Alicia money is the point, and in order to do that they need to go after the deepest and most vulnerable pockets, but I hate leaving so many interesting plot threads hanging like that.

Not that I hate the funny stuff, but Howard’s ageism suit and Cary’s inability to do anything other than bumble is just not funny. If we have to see Howard, why can’t we have Jackie scheming with him?  That was at least a novel presentation.  I’m so over Lockhart, Agos & Lee.  Up to this point, all we’ve had are nonsensical revenge opposition (something done far better in season five) and ridiculous comic fighting between Howard and Cary.  Done with it.  Not okay.  Fix it, please.  Find some way to make those characters relevant or cut them loose from their contracts — and I say this as someone who loves Cary and Diane.

I like Alicia and Lucca as partners; they push each other in good ways.  I like Cush Jumbo.  I like her wacky wardrobe, and her smirks, and the whole thing. Do I like her as much as I liked Alicia partnering with Cary?  I don’t know.  Maybe close?

Eli makes no sense. Peter’s political turn around makes no sense.  It’s too stupid to dignify with discussion, really, except for the fact that I don’t expect this show to flout logic the way it has this week.  Not that politics doesn’t defy logic routinely, but still, I’m too tired of it to even continue explaining why the Democratic party wouldn’t turn on labor unions.  On the other hand, I can’t say that it’s not that much weirder than Donal Trump being the potential Republican nominee.

So here’s the thing about Alicia and relationships, and please excuse me for a bit of a rant, but this has been building up for some time.  In the beginning of this show, I think a lot of us got swept up in the love triangle.  Would Alicia pick Will, or would she rekindle her relationship with Peter?  Would she truly work on her marriage, or would she leave it?  The sad answer to all these questions is no, and not just because the show killed off Will.  Think about that — all those questions, all those alternatives that set up the dramatic tension of the show, that set up Teams and rooting interests, and she’s not going to choose any of them. She won’t do anything that we thought in the start.  When the Kings said they wanted to explore the psyche of the woman who stays, it belatedly seems clear they had something very specific in mind, and it’s not at all what they led us to think.

I don’t think it’s in the end game for Alicia to find personal happiness. I don’t think she’s going to fall back in love with Peter, and I don’t think she’s going to have a lasting romantic relationship with Jason, or The Haircut, or Finn, or anybody else. (And no, I don’t think personal happiness equals a romantic relationship, but it’s not outside the equation, either.)  I think she’s given up on the idea that she can ever have a relationship with either Peter or someone else.  And that would be one thing if she devoted her life to some sort of cause, if there was redemption in her suffering and her loneliness, but there isn’t. It would be one thing if she had a reason to go on. Instead, it’s just greed and ambition and putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve never been right before when I’ve made assumptions about the show’s direction, but I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this: I’ve become convinced lately that the Kings just don’t want what I want for Alicia.  My vision is not their vision.  Their vision isn’t about the way a woman self-actualizes after a scandal, and it’s not anything to with Alicia becoming either a better person or one more in tune with her own desires, as I assumed in the start; it’s about her becoming like Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin.  (I’d say it was about Silda Spitzer, but even she finally gave up on ex-husband Eliot.)  Yes, I know, they’ve made that clear from the beginning, but I guess I thought they meant a woman in that situation, rather than those women specifically.  I thought it could be a story of hope, but it isn’t.  It’s about the way that marriage dies, not about how it might resurrect; it’s a mummification.  And even worse, it’s about how that woman dies inside.  It’s about what she gives up to be the political spouse and how she continues to maintain the moribund fiction of family.  It’s not even, in the end, about what her bad husband has done to her, and it’s not about why she stayed in the first place.  In the end, it’s about what she does to herself.  It’s not in the end a friendly story.  It’s a tragedy rather than a victory, The Portrait of a Lady rather than, say, Middlemarch .

My brother the neo-con likes to go on about how Madame Secretary is really thinly disguised campaign propaganda for Hillary Clinton.  I don’t agree, of course, but I can’t deny The Good Wife is a lot closer to the Hillary Clinton story, and in a way no one would see as boosting her campaign. See how the scorned woman becomes a soulless shell!  See her trade happiness and authenticity for empty, restless ambition!

Sigh.  Am I wrong?  Did you like the plot of the week?  Do you have the faintest idea why Alicia took Eli back, except for the fact that she generally takes men back without any thought of how they treat her?  (Actually, that’s not true.  She broke up with Will because he made her too happy; apparently she’s more comfortable being used and being dumped on.) Should we invent some sort of drinking game to make the farce at LAL bearable?  Let me know, please!

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6 comments on “The Good Wife: Payback

  1. Starli says:

    Hey, it’s me again. Still not watching, but I just needed to get this out there (even if it’s just repeating what you already said), because the end of this recap summed up pretty perfectly why I stopped watching. My vision of the show just does not match up with that of the Kings. It’s never been about (positive) personal growth for Alicia, about her taking control of her life and actually being happy (ironically enough the two things she proclaimed to want out of life). Instead she’s just gonna keep getting pushed to wherever life around her is currently taking her, refusing to deal with anything. Oh, and she’s gonna learn not to say ‘sorry’, which is just depressing. I wish somebody would point out to her that you can be polite and even kind without being a doormat.

    In a weird way this has actually retroactively messed up the parts of the show I really loved. Since in the long run none of the relationships build up before really seemed to matter, partly because it doesn’t seem like Alicia might ever be capable of a real, proper friendship, I just stopped caring about even the parts that I adored before. The kings apparently aren’t interested in these characters becoming better people, in dealing with the different issues they had. They just wanted… well, I guess, what they consider interesting. And they don’t seem to think that actually genuinely caring falls into that category.

    I think it’s really sad that Alicia’s takeaway from the scandal seems to be that caring makes you someone whose going to get screwed. Or at least that making decisions based on that caring for someone else is going to get you screwed. I can understand that it must seem that way for her in a way, considering that being the housewife for Peter blew up her life (even though we really don’t know enough about her life before to understand how that came about. Was is what Peter wanted? Or did she decide to stay at home, because she just loved being a mother and didn’t want to miss anything? I kinda really wanna know, because it should play a part in how she feels about everything now) and I in no way advocate sacrificing yourself and/or your happiness for someone else, but I also think there’s really no way to actually being happy if you don’t allow yourself to make meaningful connections with someone else. And that does mean taking someone else into consideration and sometimes bending your decision making process for them as long as it’s a two-way-street. I do think we saw occasional glimpses of that with Cary and Alicia based on the two episodes and random scene I did see of the first half of season 6 and I really want to care about that, but it’s hard when it doesn’t seem like the writers do, too, since instead of building on that, Alicia is once again out on her own, separated from everyone we’ve come to care about with her in the past seasons. It’s also getting kind of hard not to believe the rumors that there is a boat load of tension between not just Julianna and Archie, but between Julianna and, well, all of them, but that’s a whole different can of worms.

    Anyway, I think you’re right and they’re selling an utterly depressing story. It reminds me of that time I read someone saying, that they really loved Kalinda, because they thought she was just such a wonderful example of someone with a (presumably) troubled past rising above that and becoming a functioning member of society and I still think that it’s so utterly sad that apparently Kalinda counts as an example of the best that can happen to you if life screws you over. Kalinda, who so rarely ever seemed genuinely happy, who seemed almost incapable of forming meaningful relationships with another person, especially since they tanked her and Alicia. Hey, wait, that sounds like something I’ve already written, doesn’t it?
    I think it’s ironic that Alicia seems to be headed into all the aspects of Kalinda that I never liked and it seems to be celebrated as a show of strength, when I think she’s just letting herself get ruled by being scared. Closing yourself of is actually not the hard way of doing things after getting betrayed like Alicia has. The hard way is being really terrified that the next person might do the same thing and still letting them in. The hard way is not letting yourself get broken by what someone else did to you, but rather refusing to let that one person define how you see the world. It’s not bowing down when other people tell you to get tougher, to get more uncaring, to stop saying ‘sorry’, but rather saying that you like who you are and even if everyone thinks it’s stupid, you’re not going to bend. The really funny thing is that Alicia’s way of holding on to who she was before the scandal is actually the thing that is bogging her down the most. Her marriage with Peter. The one time she is actually taking a stand, saying I don’t care what the world thinks, I don’t care what he did, I’m going to be the one who stays and all it essentially does is cause her to go further and further down the rabbit hole. And we’ve come back to the reason I stopped watching, which is that the kings don’t seem to see it that way.

    I don’t know if they really believe that Alicia is on a good path or if they think that watching her become a tragic figure, broken by life around her and unable to let go and rise above it, is better TV, but either way it’s not what I wanted and it’s not something I’m watching. Because all it does is make me sad, that they could have gone another way, that they could have done something really inspiring and this is what we got instead. I’m so sick and tired of being told that this is somehow better, more real, worth more, because it’s depressing and tragic and whatever the hell else. Being cynical and giving up, because, eh, there’s nothing you can do, the world just sucks, is not the hard way. And it sure as hell isn’t better than fighting your hardest to be the best possible version of yourself, even when it gets you hurt and even when the world around you is trying their hardest to prove you wrong.

    I had a whole lot of side tangents in this, about the other characters, but it’s already really long and I’m sorry about bringing all that negativity to your blog, but when I read that paragraph of your recap, it just really hit a nerve with something that I’ve been thinking about as far back as Season 2 and I needed an outlet.
    Also, tvline.com has this show listed as ‘a safe bet’ for renewal and I’m getting really scared that they might keep going, because somewhere in the back of my head there is also floating around the memory (that might be wrong) of Matt signing on for two more seasons after season 6. And i’d say that might be a good thing, that a deliberate last seasons might give them a chance to right the ship, focus back on the core characters, give them all a decent storyline to go out on, but that would require the kings to think there is actually something wrong with the ship right now and that doesn’t seem to be the case. So yeah, I’m just scared and also really sorry to bring more bad news, because I as much as I love your recaps, I do not want you to keep having to sit though this for another season. And on that (somewhat) positive note, your recap was as lovely as always and as frustrating as this show turned out to be, at least I can be grateful for that.

  2. Kiki says:

    Hey E!!! I am still here and reading but I just have nothing else to say about this show, the episodes are just fine, nothing to care about really. The isolation of the characters is heartbreaking and the new characters just don’t give me the same emotional connections as the old characters I already love.

    As for it being one more season after this, I can’t accept this. This HAS to be the last season, you can see how hard they are alraedy struggling. I don’t know what CBS is waiting for, but I do believe in my heart this has to be the last season. Please God! LOL

  3. […] up Eli?” she asks.  It’s a lost and foolish battle, but I’m still baffled that she took him back.  Really, does she make any consistent […]

  4. […] university president, sparring with opposing counsel Martha Reed or charming bearded mediator Geoffrey Solomon.  Grace Rex and Richard Masur, it was so nice to see you again, even in a relatively […]

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