E: Peter finally declares himself as a candidate for the presidency, an event which inspires deceit of epic proportions. And the jolly even stirs up old feelings, too. As usual, Eli sees the clues before anyone else: Alicia’s turning back toward Peter. Ho, hum. I can’t believe this is the result of genuine feeling so much as it is a plot necessity so that she’s even more gutted when she finds out that he was actually responsible for the voting machine scandal, hid his involvement from her, and then let her take the fall for it.
Because that, my friends, is going to be a kick in the teeth, even for a woman who’s learned to take punches without flinching.
In other news, Jason might be a sociopath. Christine Lahti plays a more superficially friendly iteration of Rita Wilson’s Viola Walsh. Lockhart, Agos & Lee is a complete disaster. And since we’re generally dipping back to previous seasons for our story lines, we borrow one of season five’s creepiest plots; Alicia’s back under NSA surveillance. Is the presence of the delightful Michael Urie worth that rock in the pit of my stomach? Time (and the corresponding viewings of goat videos) will tell.
First, however, we need to see a hipster named Kristen Balko take a lie detector test for her work at a company very weird called Running Milk; she’s thin and awkward with stick-straight brown hair and a mango-colored cardigan, sitting next to the table forested with test-taking equipment, leads and a lap top spread out ominously. Her enormous opaque glasses, I can’t even. And not in the good way; she looks like she should be co-starring with Sarah Jessica Parker on Square Pegs. We get a little update on the way lie detector tests are taken these days: the test taker will give her the questions first, and then hook her up to the machine. Is this how it worked in those NSA episodes? Though she’s not obliged to, she answers the questions the first time he asks. Has she ever shared confidential work material with anyone? No. Has she ever stolen anything from work? Never. (Not even bringing a pen home by accident? Wow.) Has she ever lied to the company? She hesitates briefly before saying no, sun shining through the blinds and through her sleek fall of hair.
“I lied,” she confesses to Alicia and Lucca, those translucent lavender glasses jutting out from each side of her thin face. They’re all I can see. About stealing from work, Lucca asks, perhaps thinking about pens and paperclips like I was. No, Kristen tells them. “I lied by saying I never lied to the company.” Come on, girlfriend, they’re not dentists. Could you be more specific? She fudged her resume to say she’d worked as a vice president of information technology before getting this job as a v.p. of information technology. (Gah, what is she, 26?) Lucca can’t quite believe that’s enough to have gotten her fired. No, they fired me because I lied on the lie detector test about ever having lied to the company, Hipster Owl explains. Gosh, that’s convoluted.
“But that wasn’t the point of the lie detector test, right,” Lucca prompts as Jason walks down the hall and into the room. “They were trying to find someone who stole confidential material?” Right, Owl agrees. Huh. Not exactly paperclips after all. Alicia and Lucca appear to have coordinated their outfits today: Alicia’s wearing a white tweed suit with black piping details on the jacket, and Lucca has on a long sleeved black dress with white ruffles at the throat (a sort of modernized nod to British judges robes). It seems that Kristen’s bosses didn’t really care about the reason behind the test; since she lied to the company, they could fire her. “That’s why I’m suing. Silicon Valley’s a very provincial town; I can’t get a job anywhere.”
Um, wait, her job was in California? If she’s a vice president at a significant tech firm in California, why’s she coming to a (let’s face it, dubious) Chicago start up law firm for her representation? That makes no sense.
After explaining that a company’s not legally able to force employees to take lie detector tests, Alicia notes there are some exceptions. Like theft, Jason points out. And even though the Hipster Owl here didn’t steal anything, her company can use the test as a fishing expedition for other infractions of company policy. “They need corroborating evidence,” Jason points out; Alicia thinks the company must have already known she lied on her resume. Why not just fire her for that, then? The Hipster Owl doesn’t think they could have known.
Okay, Alicia says. “Why don’t you give us the day to think about…” Are they really going to turn down a customer? I don’t have a day, the Owl replies. “Mr. Canning told me you’d be able to move faster than he could.” A chill spreads over Alicia’s features. “Louis Canning?” she asks, as if there could be another. Yes, Louis Canning. I guess it makes more sense that she’d approach Canning first, but still… “He already filed the suit, but he got busy with another case, and he thought you’d be good to take it over.” Shooting Lucca a look of pure irritation, Alicia mutters to herself quietly that she’s sure he did.
“Okay, I will see if they have any corroborating evidence,” Jason declares once the Owl’s gone. Good, Lucca agrees, because the polygraph can’t be the sole basis for the firing. Jason’ll give it five hours. There’s no consciousness of any kind between Alicia and Jason, no flirting, no awkwardness, nothing.
When he leaves, Alicia and Lucca discuss setting up malpractice insurance for their new partnership; they can bundle coverage through Alicia’s home owners insurance (weird coupling, that) but Alicia’s worried about Jason having another violent incident, particularly since as a contractor he wouldn’t be covered. She enlightens a very surprised Lucca about Jason’s past as a disbarred attorney in New Jersey. “Yeah, well, due diligence,” Lucca nods in agreement, “we should find out what happened.” Yep. Before picking up a call on her cell, Alicia says she’ll try to talk to the judge.
“What’s 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 decisions these days? Last week she was batting her eyes and all “drink with me, Jason” and now she suddenly remembers he might be a total liability? Buyers remorse? Ugh. Anyway. I suppose her heart wasn’t really in firing Eli in the first place; it’s at least consistent, if not sensible, that she’d still rather take the devil she knows over a stranger. “What would you say is the best thing about Peter?” Eli asks, walking down a street toward a building that has the look of a traditional wooden pub. It seems that he needs a quote from her for Peter’s bio. Does it need to be true, she frowns. Ha! “True-adjacent,” he says, pushing his way through frosted glass doors. “Peter’s motto is Service Above Self. ‘My family has benefited from it, now American can.'” Alicia looks ready to gag. “Eli, that’s…” I know, he preempts her. “It’s nauseating. Help me out.”
“Eli!” Ruth Eastman drawls loudly from the other side of the restaurant. “Over here,” she waves, and he presses his phone to his chest, muffling the call, and walks toward her. “I thought this was a staff meeting,” he says, staring, baffled, at her cozy table for two. “It is,” she challenges him. “Turn off your cell phone, and I’ll turn off mine.”
Huh. Charm offensive 2.0?
“What is it?” he asks, looking down at a red drink in a highball glass in front of him, an orange wedge and a maraschino cherry stuck on a tooth pick on the side. An Alabama Slammer, she says, and he picks it up and slugs some back.
And then, of course, he winces and starts choking before he’s even finished the gulp.
“Yeah,” she snickers, “I like ’em strong.” She holds up her glass toward him. “Confusion to our enemies,” she says, and they clink, and drink. This time Eli takes a more manageable sip, but his voice still comes out raw as a donkey’s bray. “So what are we discussing, Ruth?” he asks, trying to be suave. “What makes Eli Gold tick,” she answers. “I know how this works, Ruth,” he tells her. “Unless you’re trying to seduce me, which I very much doubt,” he begins (I’m less sure, because she seems to have taken unusual care with her appearance), “you get me drunk, you pretend to be drunk, and you find out more about me than I find out about you.”
Yep, that’s how that sort of thing usually works. “Oh, Eli, you’re too suspicious,” she waves him off, playing with her hair. Playing with her hair? Seriously, dude, don’t discount the fact that she might want you to see her as a woman. “You’re a new tree in my forest, that’s all. I want to know more about that tree.” Whoa, this is so weird. She must be messing with him. “Because unless I chop it down, that tree’s now part of my life, so…”
Smiling, he obliges. “My grandfather, Samuel Gold, was a teamster organizer in Brooklyn. Everything I know, I learned from him.” Oh, interesting. Ruth nods as if fascinated. “I remember going to visit him in his office when I was little. All the people coming to kiss his ring. Looking for advice, for help.” Well I bet that makes Peter’s Scott Walker talk all the more odious. “And he told me, the most powerful men are the one that no one knows exist.” He leans forward, intent.
That would explain a lot.
Ruth laugh explodes through her nose.
“Is something funny?” Eli asks her. “Oh yeah,” she says. “None of that was true. Your grandfather was Ira Goldstein. Owner of a schmata business in Queens.” Eli looks away, embarrassed and furious; he’s making his fish-face of intensity, the one where he sucks in his cheeks and rounds his mouth. “He died a pauper after his brother-in-law cheated him out of a uniform consignment for the NYPD, and that quote? You changed it. It’s from The Usual Suspects.” Smirking, she brings her drink to her lips.
Ever the professional, he laughs in appreciation that she can call him on his bull. “So what do you want, Ruth? Why’re you pretending to care about me?” A waiter sets down another round of drinks, even though Eli’s is barely touched and Ruth’s is half full; he takes away an empty glass in front of Ruth, leaving the colleagues with two a piece. ‘We got more internals,” she says, handing over a gray folder. “From this afternoon.” He opens it, but she tells him the results before his eyes can focus on the page. “Peter made another four point jump.” Eli looks up at her in shock. “That’s more than a fluke, it’s a trend. We broke through, we’ve got a shot.” He flips through the numbers. “And not just at the vice presidency,” she adds, deadly serious: his eyes flick up to her face. “We could win.”
“Things turn sour for Hillary,” she continues. “The emails, the next thing they throw at her…” Well, they’re ready to throw everything they have at her. Eli’s lost in this vision, although it’s hard to tell if he’s seduced or repulsed. “We win. But we need to be rowing in the same direction.” Indeed. He nods. “This goes the way we all want, there’ll be enough to carve up for both of us. You see that, right?” I do, he agrees. “So the strategy’s changed.” Oh, she has his attention all right. “We’re not being kind and deferential to the front runner, we’re acting like the front runner. We’re not aiming for the vice presidency, we’re aiming for the presidency.” So what do you need from me, he wonders. “We’re moving up the announcement to Thursday. We wanna take advantage of the momentum.” He nods. “You need Alicia?” Yes, much more than they originally decided, even. “Voters need to see these two together. Young, vibrant, looking toward the future. Jackie O to his JFK.” JFK, really? That’s an interesting stretch. He’s not that young, for one thing. “We need to work together, Eli. You need to trust me. And I need to trust you.” She raises her glass. He closes the folder, raises his glass, and they clink.
A tall slim woman wearing an olive gray suit and a slash of red lipstick walks into court as Lucca and Alicia hastily prepare themselves; the court doors open for her, and she steps in like a bride, like a queen. Even though she’s wearing shades I can tell it’s Oscar winning director Christine Lahti of Chicago Hope and that whole wacky stuck-in-the-bathroom Golden Globes moment. “Who’s that?” Lucca wonders, but Alicia has no idea.
Christine Lahti recognizes Alicia, though, and immediately introduces herself with a kind of cheerful aplomb. “Andrea Stevens, it’s so nice to meet you. I was told you were the opposing counsel.” By whom? That’s intriguing. “It just makes it … so much more exciting when you respect the opposition, don’t you think?” It does, Alicia agrees, smiling. “Hello,” Stevens tilts to look around Alicia, and Lucca holds out her hand and introduces herself. “I love your hair!” Andrea enthuses. Wow, a nice lawyer. You can see Alicia wondering when the last time that happened was. “Tell me, how many years are you out of law school, Lucca?” Okay, now we know what kind of nice she is: mean girl nice. “A few,” Lucca blinks, immediately suspicious. “Well, that’s better than ‘less than a few,'” Andrea laughs, not kindly.
The fact that everyone else stands suggests that the judge has arrived. I’d better go, Andrea tells them, but then thinks better of it and reaches into her pants pocket. Like Elsbeth, her suit jacket has mid-length sleeves, and she has a long-sleeved shirt beneath. I don’t understand that look. “Lucca. If you ever need any advice…” She pulls a card out of her pants pocket and hands it over. Oh, charming. Lucca (who does not look that young) smirks back in annoyance.
“I’ve read your motions,” the judge announces without prelude, “I would like to take up the jurisdictional question.” Ah. It’s dry, wizened old Judge Michael Marx, with his tufty beard. Excellent. When he makes the pronouncement, the room explodes, Stevens and Quinn and Florrick all three talking at once.
“Whoa whoa whoa, wow,” Christine Lahti (sorry, Andrea Stevens), hollers as if she hadn’t been yelling herself. She smiles. “I was warned about Chicago courtrooms, but I didn’t think it was going to be about who shouted the loudest.” It isn’t, Judge Marx replies calmly; Lucca looks even more irritated. “What do you have?” Stevens smiles again, having sneakily won herself the chance to be heard first.
“This is rank forum-shopping,” she declares. “Mrs. Florrick knows this case belongs in California.” Right, as if Mrs. Florrick was the one who set all this up? “Running Milk has no Chicago offices.” Um, not to sound disloyal, but I can’t help agreeing with that. “And the lie detector test in question took place in California.”
Alicia stands. “Kristen Balko lives in Chicago,” she explains. “And thanks to the cloud tax passed by the Chicago City Council, Running Milk’s offices are both in California, and in Illinois.” Yes, Stevens cuts in, “but respectfully, Your Honor, they are not physically in Illinois.” “But as Running Milk and their ilk have constantly reminded us, brick and mortar are things of the past. The cloud is the future.” Tech savvy Judge Marx snickers quietly to himself in appreciation of this sally.
Oh dear – that means so many of our witnesses would have to be flown in from San Jose, Andrea complains; Lucca rises to make the same claim in reverse for potential Chicago witnesses. Again, we descend into talking over each other. “Thank you! But as Miss Stevens pointed out, this shouldn’t about who shouts the loudest. Motion is denied.” Hipster Owl beams up at her new legal team. “We’ll hear the case here. Please have the Running Milk software specs sent to me by end of day. Thank you.” He bangs the gavel, and we’re done.
That doesn’t actually make sense to me, but whatever; it wouldn’t be much of an episode if they couldn’t try the case here.
Miss Stevens shrugs her shiny shoulders at Owl’s team. “Just the first skirmish,” she says lightly, shrugging again for good measure.
And since she’s got some free time, Alicia does a little Chum Hum sleuthing on Jason’s background. It’s clear she feels a little creepy doing it (perhaps even more so considering all the rotten things that have been said about her online; I can see why she’d hesitate to invade his privacy that way) but it does need to happen, and so she clicks enter. Local Attorney Arrested Tuesday, thumbnails proclaim. There’s even a mug shot of him from the State Police database. “New Jersey Attorney Pummels Judge Outside of Courtroom,” a headline reads. When the doorbell rings, Alicia looks up in shame. Is it Jason? Has she been caught mistrusting him?
Nope. It’s just Eli. Eli in high dudgeon, actually. “Peter wants to be president!” he bursts out; Alicia needs him to repeat it. “Peter thinks he can be president,” he restates.
Alicia stares at him for a moment. Why does her hair suddenly look messy? “I need a drink,” she decides, and walks back into the apartment. Her black tights contrast with the white tweed suit, and her skirt’s shorter than usual, no? “Do you want one?” Funnily enough, he doesn’t; he’s probably still got Alabama slammer seeping out of his pores. He’s got to go help plan Thursday’s announcement; she needs to be in Springfield, he’s written her a speech. Oh, that’s neat. He writes speeches? Why do I not remember that about him? It’s very Michelle Obama, he adds. Come 3pm Thursday, you’ll need to be prepared to give it. They need you more than usual, he adds, and they keep mixing their metaphors — you’re either Michelle Obama or Jackie O. (I’m trying to decide if those comparisons actually qualify as a metaphor. Huh.) Anyway, Alicia needs wine, and lots of it.
“Do you ever wonder why I’m hearing this from you and not Peter?” it occurs to her to ask. Yep. I totally wonder that. Stiff as a poker, Eli rears his head back, wrinkles his nose. “No. What’d you mean?” That she’s hearing that Peter is truly running for president, and that she might be first lady, not from Peter but from his campaign, obviously. “I am not his campaign manager,” Eli sneers. Even worse! She’s not even hearing it from Ruth! You think he has a chance, Alicia wonders, not nearly as offended by this as I am. “I don’t know,” he confesses. He thought Trump would have imploded by now, so he can’t claim to be clairvoyant. (You and me both, Eli.) “Primaries are their own insanity.” Someone ought to engrave that and put it on the Iowa and New Hampshire state signs, so when you drive in, you know what you’re getting in to.
This is when he notices she’s not drinking wine, and is so startled by that he asks what she’s drinking. She’s mixed triple sec and tequila into a margarita, she says, and he’s frankly astounded. “Huh,” he says as she pops a finger into the glass and then into her mouth. “Are you judging me?” she wonders, alive to his confusion; he denies it quickly. “That sounded like a judgmental ‘huh'” she presses. “No,” he replies. “You get as sloppy drunk as you want to.” Ha. Yet another reminder that he doesn’t care, but it’s still funny.
She just snorts. What does the campaign want from her? “Be involved. Go on Thursday. Give a good speech, be First Lady-like.” She rolls her eyes. “I got Frank Landau to introduce you. That’s not bad, having the head of the Democratic committee say nice things about you.” Immediately she’s suspicious. “What are you doing, Eli? This doesn’t sound like you.” Yes it does, he says. “This is what I sound like.” I love their repartee today; just a great conversation. “No no no,” she disagrees, pointing a finger at him. “You’re scheming something.” But the real question is, does she care? He’s been less than delicate with her public persona, but if she doesn’t’ care about that, and if she won’t keep him fired for his own sake, is she really going to care what he’s scheming now? Nope. “Cheers,” she says, tipping her glass at him, and then she drinks.
At the courthouse Jason poses the age old question to his bosses: do they want the bad news or the good news first? They answer at the same time, Alicia choosing the bad news (obviously), Lucca the good. His preference is the same as Alicia’s and mine: he gives them the bad news, which is that Running Milk’s HR department knew Kristen lied on her resume. “So we have no case,” Lucca sighs. The good news, though, is that he’s pretty sure the theft which allowed HR to use the lie detector never actually happened. Ah. Curious. (If there had been a breach, the company would have had to report it to their customers and the California State Attorney General, neither of which they’ve done.) Well, that is good news, and it might just balance out the bad. “Fruit of the poisonous tree,” Jason grins happily, and Alicia beams at him.
And then she dives in.
“Why’d you punch that judge?” With a look at each of her colleagues and a hilarious little squeak, Lucca runs away. “I was angry,” Jason answers, holding her gaze. “Why were you angry?” she wonders. “Don’t you get angry?” he asks, trying to misdirect her. “I do, but I don’t punch people,” she refocuses the discussion. He keeps staring, more serious than we usually see him. “Maybe you should start,” he says, and he walks away.
So that went well.
“As you can see, Your Honor, Running Milk never suffered a security breach, and since that was the only justification for polygraphing our client, that polygraph must be thrown out,” Lucca argues. Cool. Wow, everyone’s clothes are weird today. I didn’t notice earlier, but Lucca’s wearing a beige suede jacket over a blouse and skirt, the blouse with odd cut outs. Alicia’s in maroon (unusual for her), and Hipster Owl wears a dress with wild and clashing patterns on the torso.
Opposing counsel Stevens (in a damask suit with shiny patches and a shiny blouse) asks for a minute to confer with her client, the CEO of Running Milk who at Judge Marx’s insistent flew in at great personal cost. Thank you, Marx replies dryly. She bends and whispers showily, and Alicia rolls her eyes at this obvious tactic. “Without admitting to any wrong-doing, Your Honor,” Miss Stevens begins, “Running Milk agrees to rehire the plaintiff at her original salary.” The Owl straights up in her seat, shocked. That’s unexpected. “We just want this to be over.” Really, Alicia snaps, since when? Since an hour ago, Miss Mean Girl replies. “We ask that this suit be dismissed, Your Honor.”
Of course Lucca wants assurances that they’re not going to polygraph the Owl again, and the judge agrees it shouldn’t be an issue since private firms are barred from giving polygraphs. Alicia wants a ruling on the subject, and seems like to get it. Interestingly, this doesn’t sit well with the Mean Girl; she does her little bend and whisper, and then stands to say that you can polygraph employees engaged in counter terrorism work. Lucca and Alicia pivot as one toward the Owl, who raises her hands in confusion; she’s not working with a government contract. “Your Honor, my client has no connection with national security, and again I ask for a ruling,” Alicia says, and in response Andrea the Smiling Mean Girl hands out information about Running Milk’s government contracts. Ah, so theatrical. She totally needed to confer with her client about that — nothing says spontaneous idea than bringing the supporting documents with you.
If these contracts were the reason for the polygraph, Alicia asks, then why create the fiction of the security breach? Good question. “Are we really wondering why the National Security Agency might have a need for secrecy?” Andrea looks down her nose at them all. Yeah, but if their need for secrecy was so paramount, then you wouldn’t let this case go to court where the whole strategy becomes public record. Why wouldn’t they just settle with the Owl on their own? Anyway, Lucca points out yet again that Running Milk just wants to rehire the Owl, polygraph her and fire her; while Judge Marx agrees that this is clearly their intention, their apparently real government contracts legally give them that right. How insane is that? “Before Miss Balko returns to work she’ll have to submit to a polygraph.”
Man, that’s annoying.
“Your Honor,” Eli says, sitting primly in wait for Judge Breakfast, who’s about to zip out of his robe in his chambers. “I don’t have time for this, Eli,” the judge says in that charming tone we’ve all become accustomed to. Not even for a friend, Eli answers evenly, and the judge advances on him. “If you’re wearing a wire, you have to tell me, or it’ll be thrown out in court.” I guess I don’t really blame him for not being trustful anymore. “I’m not wearing a wire,” Eli says calmly. “I need your help.”
“I would never have taken that bribe,” Breakfast says. “I didn’t need you to warn me.” Tell yourself that all you like, my friend, but he did warn you, and he’s come to collect. “What do you need,” Breakfast caves, folding his arms. “Information on Frank Landau, and his manipulation of voting machines in the last election,” Eli declares. No, I won’t do it, Breakfast protests. He won’t betray Landau. “He won’t know it’s you,” Eli promises. “I just need the proof from you, and I’ll do the rest. His insistence on not betraying Landau forgotten, Breakfast grins. “What are you up to?” he asks Eli, who only raises his eyebrows, a cat with cream. Eli’s arched brows transform into the black and white photo of Alicia’s arched eye that brings us to the first commercial.
A young black woman in a bright blue suit jacket calms herself while staring at the Lockhart, Agos & Lee sign in the reception area, Diane’s touch evident in the stunning floral arrangement softening the stark lines of the firm’s name. There are perhaps five young white guys palling around with each other, staring at what might be their resumes, all waiting to be called. Time for new associates? Is that what happens in the fall normally? I mean, last week it was September, right? She balances a folder on her lap and tries to still her nerves until a receptionist calls for her. Then Monica Timmons stands with a bright smile and sails off to meet her future.
Her future goes through Cary. “You won’t mind working at a big law firm?” No, she says. I think I’d like the challenge. “Where are you from,” he wonders. Maryland. Baltimore, he asks. Yes. He frowns. “Tough neighborhood.” Um, okay, buddy, that whole city isn’t like The Wire. Unless you’re assuming that she has to be from the tough side of town based on her race, you complete and utter idiot! I’d really like to smack him right now. Why not just let her tell you what her childhood was like if you’re interested? He’s not as socially clumsy as they’ve been writing him this season, and it’s annoying. “No,” she smiles, tight lipped.
“Loyola,” David Lee reads off her resume, “we don’t see many applicants from that law school.” Sigh. Actually, I think it’s underrated, Monica smiles. What else can she say? Why did you call her in for an interview if you don’t think her law school was good enough? “Professor Edmund Kindle, who clerked for Justice Kennedy,” she begins. “Never heard of him,” David cuts her off rudely, derailing a story about her mentor. “How nice,” he grins, patronizing. ‘Thanks for coming in.” I guess I’m not as upset at him as I am at Cary, because David’s just a complete toad, and I don’t expect better, but the rudeness is still so ugly.
And luckily for Monica, she’s got Howard next. We don’t get to see many black lawyers in here, he admits, and she openly stares at him in shock. Without Julius or Dean I guess they don’t have anyone we can name, especially in this season of ancient white people. He asks for her age; it’s 26. “What are you, Nigerian or what?” What, she answers, and he laughs. “A sassy one,” he diagnoses, waving his finger. “I try to be,” she replies, holding on to that interview smile with all her might. And that’s when he asks what really is his patented interview question for all the summer interns (and prospective rainmakers as well); “if you were on a desert island…”
Wait, did he just say he was interviewing her for the summer intern program? He did. Does that really make sense for September or, at best, early October? I mean, not that we ever know when the heck stuff happens on this show, but still. According to this source, law students begin sending out applications in December and January, and will interview in the spring. Did six months just go by between this and the last episode? Why would they specify summer interns and not simply associates? Sigh. Whatever.
And then there’s Diane. At least this interview shouldn’t be embarrassing. “I’m glad you came in today, Monica,” she declares. “I’m glad I did too,” Monica lies. “We need fighters in here,” Diane continues, and now maybe I’m paranoid, because it seems like she’s making a racially based assumption too. Oh, come on, Diane. “You’re from Maryland?” she observes. Yes. “Baltimore?” You see Monica’s smile turn into a grimace. That’s right. “You have to be tough to grow up there,” she pushes. What’s a girl to say?
Kudos to the writing staff for highlighting issues of white privilege in hiring, but I hate that they’ve turned LAL into a nothing more than a butt of jokes and a cautionary tale this season.
“Monica Timmons,” Diane says, plunking a stack of files onto a table, Monica’s at the top. Do law firms really do this, take a photo of each applicant as they walk in the door? “I like her.” No, easy pass, David Lee says, sitting on Diane’s right in the main conference room. There’s a large round platter of sandwiches between the four interviewing lawyers, with food for perhaps 25 people on it. “I know she didn’t go to a top tier law school,” Diane argues. “Top tier, Loyola barely made it to second tier,” David complains as Cary and Howard get their food. “I like Monica, too,” Cary says, “but I do worry about her LSATs.” Oh, that’s interesting. I thought LSATs were just about getting in to law school, not for prospective employers. We need new talent, Diane argues. “Yeah, and we’ve found it in Brian, John Michael, and, uh, the other one,” Cary frowns and wiggles his hand as if it’ll call up the last name. “You mean the three that look like you?” Diane asks, smiling.
“That has nothing to do with it,” Cary stares back at her, offended. (Hey, you’re the one who told Alicia that he still believes he’s a better hire than her, because he’s a young guy without a family.) The three name partners start to bicker about what they need, until Howard raises his name, a napkin and his voice. “Ah, excuse me! I’m for the black girl.”
For a moment, everyone just stares.
“I’m gonna regret this,” David Lee says, “but is there a reason you want to hire a candidate that is significantly less qualified than the others?” (Again I want to ask why she got an interview. It’s not as if there aren’t women and African Americans going to top tier law schools; those school balance their classes with gender, and pay attention to diversity too. But perhaps those women don’t want to work at someplace as demonstrably stodgy as LAL has turned out to be.) “She’s black. She’s suffered. Like my people,” Howard explains, waving his sandwich at them before taking a bite. Alrighty then.
We don’t hire on the basis of race, Howard, Diane admonishes him, which of course confuses him. “I thought we were on the same side,” he asks. “You are on the same side,” David replies. “You’re both for dipping.” They’re what? Did I hear that wrong? I’m not, Diane says, and then there’s just arguing from all sides, with no word on what that even is.
And in case that wasn’t enough of a head ache, there are loud arguments in Judge Marx’s courtroom, too. This is what it boils down to: if the Hipster Owl wasn’t working a government contract, does Running Milk really have the right to subject her to the lie detector test again? Well done, Florrick & Quinn. It’s better than no strategy. Alrighty then. Alicia demands to know which project makes the exception necessary.
“Your Honor, I am stunned by the cynicism here,” Nice Mean Girl Andrea grandstands. Alicia knows full well she can’t give out that kind of information! “No one here has the security clearance for that!” So we just have to trust you, Lucca asks pointedly. “No, you have to trust the US government,” Mean Girl replies. She’s a great character already, this one, and so sharply written: holier than thou, an apparent stickler for the rules, suck up to authority, a bite behind her smile. “Running Milk has already misled this court,” Lucca points out. Sadly for her, Judge Not-Richard Marx buys the national security angle, and upholds the polygraph. Oh well.
“Hey,” Bite & Smile says soothingly as they all leave the courtroom, “you did your best.” I’m not sure whether Lucca or Alicia is going to punch her first.
And more noise, this time from campaign central at the governor’s office, where at least 20 staffers crowd in to listen to the campaign manager’s thinking on the announcement. We want to echo the Obamas in every way, Ruth decides. You do? Okay. They’re going to make the announcement on the steps of the old State Capitol building, same as Obama. She wants Peter in exactly the same overcoat as Obama wore, she tells a staffer named Jean (their stylist?) and Alicia dressed as Michelle, clearly thinking this will make the corruption-tainted pair look plausibly presidential. His brow contracted, Eli scoffs silently from the back of the room. “The whole point, people, is to get the press to put the two photos side by side: Obama and Peter.” She illustrates this with splayed hands.
“Excuse me,” Peter says, and the room erupts into whoops and cheers as he walks in. Well if that doesn’t go to your head… “Thank you for your enthusiasm,” Peter says, motioning down with his hands, “please don’t jinx those polls.” Every laughs. “This race is in flux; I can take you that because I feel it out there on the trail.” That sounds so smug and self-important, doesn’t it? “It’s because of all the hard work we’ve been doing, but now, we need to double down. I want every voter in this country to see who I am, where I’m from, and why I’m doing this. Thank you!” A rock star in his own office, Peter slips out to more thunderous applause.
Okay, I’ll play along. You’re a political animal, a philanderer, a charming networker, an Old Boy, you’ll always pick self-interest over loyalty, you’re impatient and disinterested in other people having emotions that don’t serve your interests, you’re smart and cunning and blown up with your own hype. I have little sense of you as a executive/administrator because the show creators are far more interested in campaigning than they are in governance; it’s really astonishing how many times they’ve managed to have you run for something in 6.3 years, especially considering that you spent half of the first one in jail. You’re the son of a powerful family, a creepily ambitious mother and, if I had to guess, a cold, selfish, ambitious father. And you’re doing this not because of any specific cause or agenda but because you can; because you’re ambitious and the opportunity presented itself and why wouldn’t you?
“So no luck with Leahy or Durbin,” Peter asks back in his office, jacket off. Obviously Durbin is Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois; I guess Leahy’s Patrick Leahy from Vermont? That’s an interesting choice. I can’t see Leahy getting in bed with a potential union buster, but if you’re looking at New England for the first in the nation primary, why not New Hampshire’s Jean Shaheen? Ah well. Anyway, he’s clearly looking for the oldest of Old Boys to announce him, and can’t get one. It’s kind of a nice echo of the conversation over at LAL. “They’re endorsing Hillary,” Ruth explains. After Peter waves off the idea of a state senator, Ruth calls Eli in to the rescue. “I’m glad to see you two working so well together,” Peter observes, clearly surprised. How sad is it that all they have to do is walk into a room together and Peter thinks wow, progress! And how foolish he is to imagine that even this humble surface change reflects the reality beneath.
“Eli wanted Frank Landau to introduce Alicia,” Ruth explains. “It’s a good idea; he’s well respected in Democratic circles, and Eli wrote him an excellent speech.” Sounds good, Peter says, as Eli inclines his head, basking in the praise. “But I’m wondering if he might be better to introduce you, Mr. Governor,” Ruth suggests, before turning back with exquisite politeness to verify with Eli. “If you’d be alright with that?” He inclines his head; of course he would. “I’m here to serve.” He can barely contain his malicious glee as Ruth lauds Landau’s ability to give a real barn burner of a speech.
His insides clearly humming with the thrill of it, Eli quickly makes his way back to his supply closet office. Once in the doorway, he exhales. Clearly, he can’t believe how lucky he’s been.
“She stole Landau from you,” Nora comments; she’s sitting on the bookshelf on the back wall next to Eli’s television. Her arms are crossed and her eyes are narrowed.
“How is it you can lurk in an office the size of …” he begins, shutting the door, but she cuts him off. “Ruth stole Landau from you,” she repeats, because he is simply not behaving like Eli would when suffering such a loss, “and yet you seem happy, Eli. What’s that about?” She tilts her head like a bird, quizzical, smirking. He puts his hand over his heart, fingers splayed, smirking back. “I’m a good person,” he offers, mocking. “No,” she tells him, her smile getting larger. “You’re setting Peter up.”
Whether it’s a sign for her to be quiet or one to say that he’s only sort of setting Peter up, Eli wiggles his fingers at Nora as he sits down behind his desk. I want to be alone with my thoughts, he says grandly. (To savor this victory, no doubt.) Nora, however, isn’t ready to let him alone; I thought you were after Ruth, not Peter, she says. “Sometimes to cut out the cancer you have to endanger the patient,” he tells her. Ha. “Oh my God,” she says. “You’re like an evil scientist.” When you see Eli looks up at her briefly, it’s clear he finds this the highest of all possible praise.
Scooting over to sit on his desk, Nora tips toward her boss so he can’t avoid her gaze. “What are you endangering Peter with?” Like the grand villain Nora just accused him of being, Eli can’t stop himself from monologing. “Frank Landau rigged the voting machines in the last election. He’ll have his arm around Peter at the greatest moment of his life.” You can see the dual use photo op shimmering in front of Eli’s inner eye. “That’ll leave a mark,” he nods.
“Judge Hess? Alicia Florrick. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me,” Alicia says when her call picks up; she’s sitting in her office, staring at Jason’s mug shot on her computer, on the site she visited before called the Daily New Jerseyan. Right. She’s calling with questions about Jason Crouse, he asks. Yes. “I’m conducting background checks on private investigators,” she says, not quite telling the full truth. Oh, I heard he relocated to Chicago, the judge replies, unsurprised. “I was wondering if you could shed some light on the incident that got him disbarred,” she asks, sitting. “Are you thinking of hiring him, m’am?” Hess asks. She is, she says, omitting the fact that she already has. “Then I have a word of advice,” he says, and she readies herself to hear it. “Do you have a pen?” I do, she says, picking one up and holding it above a notepad. “No no no no no and no,” he says.
For some reason, she doesn’t write it down.
“He’s a ticking time bomb. He will smile, he will tell jokes, you will think he’s a normal person,” the judge continues, as Lucca and the Owl walk in to the apartment and toward the office, “and he’ll explode when you least expect it.” As Judge Hess says these words, Jason walks into the hall behind the women; Alicia holds up a finger, asking for a minute.
“Um,” she says, “That was several years ago.” Yes, he says, admitting it. “Have you read the book The Sociopath Next Door?” Oh dear. That’s not good. She hasn’t. “One out of every 25 people are sociopaths,” he says, which surely can’t be true. Through the french doors, Alicia watches Jason chat lightly with Lucca and Kristen; he’s the only one turned toward her, his cheeks curving up in that slow sexy smile. “They don’t have the gene that leads to compassion. They can fake being a normal person, but deep down, they aren’t.” Oh dear. “They may not murder, they may not rape,” the man says, in a flat voice which makes me wonder if the part is being read by a non-actor, “but they will eat away your life from the inside.” Wow! Don’t hold back there, buddy. “That is Jason Crouse. And my advice to you, m’am — is run.”
In blissful ignorance of this character assassination/illumination, Jason quizzes the Owl for the way Running Milk invites its employees to pursue their own passion projects on company time; Lucca explains to Alicia that the thinking is one of Kristen’s side projects is what got her fired. “Well, I was working on a relationship mapping app,” the Owl rolls her eyes, clearly thinking the theory impossible. Excuse me, what, Lucca asks. “It’s a way to create diagrams of relationships between concepts, ideas, people, other pieces of information; I found a way to cross platform on Java script for an app they call Spoiler.” No doubt standing in for most members of the audience, Alicia looks completely lost. What’s Spoiler? “It analyzes the pilot episode of a new series, and predicts stuff like who will sleep with who, and who will get killed off.” Okay, interesting that it’s possible to make accurate guesses by algorithm, but what the heck’s the point of that? Why would you want to be spoiled by a computer? The person-driven internet is spoiler-filled enough.
Anyway, Alicia quickly sees the relevance of this. “So it’s predictive,” she says, summing up all the details she doesn’t understand into the one she does. Yes, it’s predictive. Did anyone say that it was being looked into for the NSA? No. In fact, the Owl finds the very idea hilarious. “No, it’s just a stupid little program. It’s not for surveillance.” Without a word, Alicia takes off. Where are you going, the Hipster Owl wonders. “To talk to someone,” Alicia replies unhelpfully.
That someone is Cary Agos. “What’s so secret you couldn’t talk on the phone,” he asks. She motions with her eyes for him to join her on the elevator. Once he does, she asks. They have a mutual friend. He left Cary a way to get in touch with him if they needed to. Well, she needs to. It’s complicated, Cary tips his head. Alicia shrugs. “What isn’t?”
Well, this is rather a lot complicated; it involved buying a burner cell and a sim card, and putting the latter into the former while locked in her bedroom with the blinds drawn. And, oh yes, she has to dial the number under a blanket. A screen on the phone shows the call being re-routed all over the world – Zimbabwe, Italy, Australia, South East Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, South America, finally pinging up to Jeff Dellinger in a tavern in Iceland, playing darts.
“I’m a friend of Cary’s,” she answers his hello, “you said to call if there was anything we needed?” Oh, honey, he would absolutely know who you are. Where are you, he wonders, finger in his ear, trying to hear her over the friendly noises in the bar. Chicago, she answers. “Did you do everything?” Everything Cary said, she tells him. “Can I come out from under the blanket now?” Well, did she type the number in under the blanket? She did. Then yes, he says, and she throws the blanket off. What do you need, he asks. Your help, she says, her post-blanket hair wild.
“When you say potential, Diane,” Cary says, looking down at 5 resumes with accompanying photographs, Monica Timmons in the middle of five white males, “what you’re really talking about…” The four interviewers are sitting in Diane’s office at her oval table, and the discussion is not going smoothly. “Just ask me what I’m talking about,” she says. “You’re talking about the future of this firm.” Yes, Diane agrees. “And Monica is the kind of attorney I see in our future.” Howard pulls Monica’s file out of the bunch. “New law, that is where our future lies. In companies like 3Sac.” David slouches to the side of his chair. “The 3D printing company? Their billable hours are laughable.” So where Chum Hum’s when they first started out, Cary wisely notes. “We need people like Brian. And John Michael, and Ray, and I think we should vote,” Cary declares, clearly frustrated.
“I vote for the black girl,” Howard says, looking at her photograph. “Well you don’t get a vote, Howard, you’re not a name partner,” Cary snaps. Then why is he even there? I’m on the hiring committee, he protests. “You volunteered for the hiring committee when you were thinking about suing us,” David drawls. So, what, he’s not really on it? Are you kidding? That’s hardly fair. He leaves, muttering about the ridiculousness of it all under his breath.
“Okay,” Diane says, ready to wheel and deal, “Cary, I will vote for the guy who interned at Silicon Systems.” Brian, Cary nods. “Right. And David, I will agree to the automaton with the perfect LSATs…” Billy Bob, David leans over the table, hands clasped. “That’s not his name,” Cary complains. “The two name guy,” David shoots back, showing how much he really cares. “If you will both agree to support Monica.” Cary looks at David, who nods.
“I’m sorry, Diane, I just can’t,” he says, and Diane throws her shoulders back against her chair and tosses her glasses onto the table. “Then what will work for you, David?” she asks, anger in her voice. “Hiring the three most qualified candidates,” he insists. “Three white guys,” she shoots back as if insulting the candidates. “Two from Harvard, one from Stanford.” Yup, David agrees, owning it. “Do you agree,” Diane presses Cary. He doesn’t like stating it in such bald terms — he’s not as willing to own his privilege as David is — but he does agree. I liked her, I really did, but… “She doesn’t look like you,” Diane sums up. “That’s not fair,” Cary flushes, but of course it is. “A lot of things that aren’t fair are true,” Diane barks, livid.
“Your Honor, at some point your ruling must be honored,” the Mean Girl patiently asks of Judge Marx. “This is not about your ruling,” Lucca chimes in. “They want to play a video without telling us from whom,” Andrea Stevens complains. “It is a matter of some delicacy,” Alicia explains, all three women at the judge’s bench in a sidebar discussion; not to mention national security and the safety of the person in question. “Advanced notice places him at unnecessary and unacceptable risk.” Not-Richard-Marx nods. Who is it, he asks, and she freezes. “Your Honor, I’m being genuine here. I don’t want to imperil the man who was brave enough…” The judge covers his microphone. “Give me a name,” he insists. “Jeff Dellinger,” she says. “We’re really going to hear testimony from a disgraced poor man’s Snowden?” Bite & Smile laughs. Marx smiles. “I wanna hear it,” he says, and it wipes the insinuating smile right off Andrea’s face; her kind of bully only pushes it as far as the authorities will allow. He’ll listen in chambers, and decide whether to admit the video or not. Unable to resist, Alicia gives Andrea a saucy look as they step away.
And so Judge Marx sits in chambers, with the three lawyers and their two clients arranged behind him. “Spoiler has been one of the NSA’s most exciting civilian acquisitions,” he tells them. I wonder how update he can possibly be on this kind of information; he’s been in hiding for like a year and a half, right? “And though it was created for rather banal purposes, the same infrastructure lends it self well to processing other kinds of data…” Behind Jeff’s head we first see a snowy mountain, and then the pyramids. “…like, understanding conversations between potential terrorists, and predicting their future plots.” The picture switches to the Taj Mahal. “You know, like if one terrorist is going to get into a love triangle with another terrorist’s wife.” He giggle-snorts. “Just kidding.” He thinks. “Sort of.”
Judge Marx snorts in laughter.
“The NSA has spent millions of dollars to secure the Spoiler app, and in my experience the Agency and their partners will do, ah, … a lot… to protect that kind of investment.” Behind him, the picture switches from Stonehenge to the Statue of Liberty; behind the judge, the Owl looks over at Lucca in complete surprise.
Shutting the laptop off, Alicia makes her case. “Your Honor, Running Milk continues to mislead this court. They sold an app to the government, an app my client created, and then terminated her to prevent her stock options from vesting, so she wouldn’t share in the profits from her own invention.” Andrea attempts to murder Alicia with her eyes, but when she speaks, her voice is mild and reasonable. This testimony proves nothing, she says. “You’re asking the court to take the word of a man disciplined by the NSA before fleeing to a non-extradition country.” Iceland is? Really? She suggests that Jeff’s grinding an axe, which is probably a fair assumption even if it’s not true in this case. “Can we get Mr. Dellinger in here?” the judge wonders, narrowing his eyes. Really? You’re really going to ask that? Why the heck would he endanger himself just to give expertise testimony? “I understand, and I sympathize,” says the judge, but he somehow doesn’t see this as an insoluble reason Dellinger can’t show up. And without that, the polygraph stands.
Are you kidding me? That’s crazy! Shouldn’t they be looking at more proof that this is a ploy on the company’s part to defraud the Owl of her profit share?
“What? Are you kidding me?” Ruth practically screams into her phone. “Eli!” I sort of assumed she was going to chew him out for something, but no, she’s looking for support: they’ve lost the old state capitol building where Obama made his announcement. How, he wonders. (Like you don’t know?) “There’s an interfaith breakdancing competition on the steps,” she tells him, hand over her receiver. “Are you kidding me,” he sputters, and yeah, that is kind of wonderful. Huh. Maybe he’s not the mastermind behind that one. “We need the parallel to Obama,” she growls into the phone. “Well it’s not just any steps! It’s the town hall steps!’ Ah, now Eli’s sort of chewing on his face. Is he just enjoying her distress, or is he celebrating being the cause of it? She covers the phone with one hand. “The advance team. They’re suggesting the steps of the local gym.”
Of course he’s indignant. “They say they look the same,” she explains, and then hisses into the phone. “It doesn’t matter if they look the same, it’s a gym. Did Lincoln exercise there?” Ha! “Did he talk about a house divided while on the treadmill there? Then why are we there?” Double ha. Meanwhile, Eli’s crept around to the back of her desk, and typed a search into her laptop. He spins the machine to face her. “Not bad,” he says, looking at a photo of the gym steps, and she turns. He squints. “Are those crosses?” It does look more like the steps of a church than of a gym. “No, decorative Xs,” she decides firmly. “With a decorative Jesus?” Eli asks, and she goes back to the phone to ask why. “It’s a Catholic gym,” she tosses over her shoulder.
Wrinkling his nose, Eli straightens up. “A Catholic gym, is that a thing?” Nope; it’s the gym at a Catholic school. “You swear you can get the steps?” Ruth asks, running a hand under her collar. “Okay, then tie them down,” she says before hanging up. “And see if you can get the breakdancers to move!” Whether or not he’s responsible, Eli’s definitely amused.
“You’re not screwing with me, are you, Eli?” Ruth asks, running a finger along her jaw. Oh, surprise; he looks outraged. “This hurts both of us,” he insists, raising his eyebrows to try and get her to deny it. After a moment’s thought, you can see her deciding not that he’s innocent, necessarily, but that she doesn’t have the energy to waste figuring it out. Big mistake, chica. She moves on to planning, speaking out loud but more to herself than him. They need to cover up the crosses, have people on the steps, and if he walks up through the crowd, it might still look like the Obama announcement. Oh, Eli is loving this so much. He must be behind it.
“I found what you were looking for,” Judge Breakfast says quietly, sitting in the extra chair on the wall across from Eli’s desk. He nearly puts Eli into shock. “What’re you doing here?” the vengeful strategist whispers. “Better than you coming to my office,” Breakfast says, though I’m not at all sure that’s true; he hands over a bottle of wine with a red bow tied to the neck. Because we’re all paranoid villains here, Eli asks Breakfast to confirm whether or not he’s wearing a wire. He’s not, he says, and then he offers up a red folder. “Here’s your proof. The man who arranged the hack of the voting machines last March? He’s an old stooge of Frank Landau’s.” Why could Breakfast find this out and Eli couldn’t? Fascinating. “And he’ll talk,” Eli asks, his eyes glowing. “He’ll talk to a reporter if they protect him under the shield laws.” The master plan is to set up the interview for Thursday, so the story runs just after Peter’s announcement. “He’ll introduce the governor, and I need this report to come out.”
Breakfast’s head bobs in the front of the screen, out of focus. “He’ll pin it on Landau.” Definitely, Breakfast says, picking his nails. “Landau and Peter.”
Screeeeeeeech! Say that again?
Blinking, stunned, Eli looks down at Breakfast in shock. Excuse me, he asks. “He’ll pin it on Landau and Peter,” Breakfast repeats, finally looking up at Eli. Does he think this is what Eli wants him to do? Is this real, or is he bending the truth to “pin it” on the governor? “Peter Florrick?” Eli echoes, witless. Yes, Breakfast repeats, quietly enjoying Eli’s distress. “What’s wrong?” But Peter had nothing to do with the hack, Eli says. Calm and smug, Breakfast nods. “Yes he did. He was worried about his wife losing, so he set it up.” No, Eli never expected that. And despite Peter telling Alicia and the press on election day that she would definitely win, I didn’t expect it either.
“What’s wrong?” Breakfast wonders, finally standing up. “This is good, Eli. You wanted to hobble the governor? Well, this’ll knock him out.” Yeah, see, he didn’t actually want to knock him out. “Right,” Eli says reflexively. “So, Thursday, right? You want him to drop the bomb just after Landau intros Peter.” Eli keeps nodding, but you can see he’s a million miles away. Is that still what he wants?
“Forget everything you’ve ever heard or seen on television,” Jason Crouse tells the hipster Owl, who’s hooked up to a practice lie detector machine in Alicia’s office. “Attempts to manipulate the data output are futile.” So what does she do, O lie detector guru? Manipulate the person giving the test. “Any deviation from the baseline doesn’t make the needle go all crazy.” Huh – so Hollywood has been lying. “It’s the polygrapher’s job to figure out what they mean. So while the machine may be objective, the polygrapher’s not. He’s the key.” Okay, interesting, but how does she do that? “So what do you want me to do, flirt with him?” she asks in the flattest, most unflirtacious voice ever. “Throw him off his game,” Jason counsels. “Start by asking a bunch of questions.” And then? Confess, before the test even starts. To lying on her resume? No, he says, to everything else.
“Every mistake you ever made,” he explains, which seems like it would be a bit obvious a strategy if only for the sheer volume, “every lie you’ve ever told — convince him that you are unburdening yourself.” Okay, that’s one plan. “Make him feel you’re being truthful. It’ll make him want to give you the benefit of the doubt, and remember, doubt is your friend.” Alicia smiles quietly to herself. “You don’t have to come off as truthful,” he finishes. “Inconclusive works for you here.” And that’s all he’s got. “Are you ready?” he asks?
“This is,” a female voice gushes, “I’m so honored you’d bring me back for a second interview.” Oh, poor Monica Timmons. There’s Diane with her big enameled chain necklace, and what can she possibly say? Why is she doing this to both of them? “Monica, I’m afraid this isn’t a second interview. The firm won’t be able to extend you an offer.” That put paid to her happy smile. Yuck. “What?” she asks.
“Associate hiring is extremely competitive, as you know,” Diane explains awkwardly. “We have seen dozens of eminently qualified candidates, and, uh, well, I’m afraid you came up short.” This is a really nice bit of acting from Nikki James; we see humiliation, confusion, frustration. Monica looks through Diane’s door to see Cary shaking hands with one of the white triumvirate, and I’m struck by the cruelty of bringing her here to see that. “Most firms would have sent a form letter,” the girl sighs, clearly pained, “why drag me in here?” Diane stumbles a little over her words. “Because I … want you to know I think you’re a stellar young woman, and you have a bright future. If I can be of any help, please call.”
Yeah, you could have said that over the phone, Diane. I know this wasn’t your choice, but you should have thought of her and her comfort rather than assuaging your own guilt. Instead, she smiles (as is her wont) as if she’s just delivered a gift. It’s a very characteristic mistake, I’ll say that. “You brought me in here to say you want to help me,” Monica sums up, her voice brittle, her smile dangerous. “But not to give me a job. Okay. Thanks.” She stands up. “This was most illuminating.” Closing her eyes, Diane listens as Monica shuts her door. That didn’t quite soften the blow like she intended.
“What is this place?” the Hipster Owl asks as she, Lucca and Alicia walk into a gray room. “It’s a neutral third party location,” Alicia explains. It’s neutral looking all right. “They said that the polygrapher would meet us,” she adds, checking her watch.
“Hello, I’ll be administering your test today,” a computerized female voice announces, causing the three women to search the room, disconcerted. “I’ll be asking you questions, then observing you for truthfulness,” a CGI head says from a kiosk at the back of the room. Seriously? (I love the Owl’s expression of disbelief. Fabulous.)
“Is this a joke?” Alicia stammers, and slowly the three women converge on the machine. “I analyze fifty different measurements in real time, including basel body temperature, retinal movement, and vocal stress.” Huh. All we can see is a touch screen with a hand print. “I’m Multiple Input Lie Detection; Mild for short.”
Ah. Well. So much for Jason’s prep strategy.
Obviously, this sends Alicia back home for another margarita. Her wig is huge today. It’s not as egregious as the first episode wig, but it’s unusually fluffy for her. She’s mixing the tequila and triple sec with a spoon when the doorbell rings; she sighs, frustrated to have her de-stressing moment cut off just as she was about to take the first sip, and goes to answer the door. Hmm. I like the peplum on her jacket; it’s always been a nice silhouette for her.
Anyway, when she opens the door, there’s no one there; only a faux UPS envelope (UPE) that starts to ring. Inside, obviously, is a phone, and she’s so eager to get at it that she actually leaves bit of cardboard on the floor in her haste. “Hello?” she asks when she finally gets it together. “Hey, it’s Mr. Gutierrez!” a smiling voice explains. She exhales. What else was she expecting? “Did things work out for your client?” Now he seems to be in a frat party of sorts. Living the good life, Mr. Hoodie is. Apparently it’s very cheerful over in Iceland. (Although it’s also not as perfectly safe for him as Andrea alleged, either.) Nope, Alicia says glumly, and actually things have gotten worse. How can that be? That seems like a little much to lay on his shoulders, too.
Of course you can see he feels bad about that. “Is it my fault?” he asks, finger in his ear again. Thankfully Alicia’s upfront about the challenge of the high tech polygraph. “Mild?” Dellinger wonders. Yeah, he echoes through the phone. Those Homeland Security pinheads always think things like that are cutting edge, he scoffs. “You wouldn’t happen to know any way we could … beat it?” she asks, and then suddenly we see a black screen with two green voice pattern graphs, and hear a rolling Middle Eastern drum beat. Oh no. Oh no. No no no no. He doesn’t, but he doesn’t think it’d be too difficult. We’d love to get some insight, she asks, and as she does, a box with the name Jeffrey Dellinger appears on the screen, connected to a box designed “Unknown.” Let me see what I can pull together, he says – but as he does we see the latest Frick and Frack from the NSA (the dark haired one played by Ugly Betty‘s hilarious Michael Urie) pull off their headphones and grin at each other in glee. “Welcome back, Mrs. Florrick!” the non-Urie stooge, Frick, throws up his hands. No no no no! “The water’s fine!” As they high five, we pan out to the enormous NSA monitoring station, and my stomach sinks down to my toes.
Honestly, I don’t know if they’ve ever had a plot that freaked me out more, unless it was Eli getting pressured into betraying Peter, but it all feels like one big Big Brother creep. It hits all my buttons; very North By Northwest/The Net/The Tiger in the Well. They’re gathering intel, just waiting for you to do something wrong…
And that’s what they’re doing now, soaking in one of Alicia’s calls with Grace. “She sounds stressed,” Frack observes. She’s not stressed, Frick scoffs, lounging back in his chair. Why’s she at home in the middle of a work day anyway, Frack asks, tossing a black foam ball, one those fidgety things they give elementary school kids with too much energy or adults with anger problems; “maybe her firm tanked,” his colleague guesses. Yes but no — something they could have figured out by googling her. Can they not do that, I wonder? Does that somehow break their hacker code? The incomplete and yet totally invasive picture they get totally freaks me out. “Total stressor,” he smirks. “If she were stressed, it’s because she’s not over… what’s his face being shot,” Frick responds, his tone thick with contempt for Frack’s inability to understand Alicia’s emotional state.
Frack leans over onto his desk, his eyes alight. “Do you think we could get authorization?” he wonders. “To keep up the three hop?” Frick guesses. Yes. Frack starts diving for data to supplement their case. “I just sent you a file,” he says, and Frick clicks on it. “Goats – no more goats.” Wait for it, wait for it, Frack smiles, tossing his ball. How long, Frick sighs. 23 seconds, Frack promises. And the goats all fall over.
“Fainting goats!” Frick proclaims, tossing up his hands. He loves it. The two of them start braying.
“Oh my God, it’s like day school,” a tall, skinny man in a suit proclaims, walking between the cubicles. “Come on, let’s go.” Ah, it must be Middle Management Man’s replacement. “Status meetings,” he shouts out. Really? Do they have a meeting room that can hold all these people? There’s a good hundred of them in there at least.
“Uh oh, firings,” Frack shudders. What? “The changes in the Patriot act, they take place at the end of the month,” he explains. “They’re not gonna need all of us anymore.” The spy-master pales. “Are you kidding me, I just moved into a new apartment!” Ah well, maybe it’ll be the guys in software, Frack hopes. “They’re always screwing off.” He uses the opportunity to chuck his ball at his colleague.
There are only twenty people in the conference room at the tall man’s meeting, even though it looks like the entire cubicle farm as cleared out. “As you probably all know, we can no longer collect bulk telephone data,” the Thin Man announces, griping the back of a chair. The collected workers groan. “I know,” he says. “It’s a bit of a shift. But we’re taking this as good news.” Okay, hear we go, Frack mutters to Frick. Time for the firings. “FISA will still grant us three hop monitoring of our most important targets, so none of you are going to lose your jobs.” The workers moan and sigh their relief, as if everyone (everyone except Frack, anyway) had been holding their breath could now release it. “Yes, you heard me,” he says as his staff thumps each other on the arm and blows out their breath. “The changes in the Patriot Act will force us to be more focused, but that’s it. All of our tools are still in place.” Oh, score one for privacy and civil liberties! Fan-freaking-tastic. “Course, it’ll mean more paperwork,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. They groan and boo on cue. “Seriously, I just saved your jobs, and you’re complaining about paper work,” he snaps as if he hadn’t just set them up to moan about it.
Well, it’s lovely to know they’re all gainfully employed spying on the rest of us under the barest of all pretexts.
Speaking of which, Frick and Frack hasten to ask the Thin Man if they can keep listening in on Alicia. It’s like she’s their favorite TV show and they’d lost their subscription to HBO or something. Can we have her back, please please please? They clearly don’t have any reason to suspect her of anything; it’s more like they just enjoy her. They’re so excited that they’re bouncing and bounding, goat-like, after the Thin Man, whose actual name is Foyle. “Her husband is running for president,” he admonishes them. Yes, Frack agrees, but we’re monitoring everyone else who talks to Dellinger, even if it’s just something harmless like talking about a case. Frick has sucked in his bottom lip, and Frack’s eyes are enormous; they’re like kids (human children, not goats this time) begging for a particularly thrilling treat.
“Okay,” the Thin Man says, “do this. You can track her for 48 hours.” The analysts, who’re a good head shorter than the Thin Man, start to bounce on their heels in excitement. “Find me another connection between Mrs. Florrick and a brown target, and I’ll get you a green light.” Another brown level target? Seriously, Frick complains. “Take yes for an answer,” the Thin Man grins. “Thank you sir,” Frack says, pushing Frick back.
Back in her office, Diane has an email from Monica Timmons, which she clicks open immediately upon receipt. The subject line says “thank you,” which makes Diane smile; see, she was grateful in the end. Except when it opens, it’s just a link to a Chum Hum video file. With some trepidation, Diane opens it.
And yeah, she should be worried. “You don’t see many black lawyers in here,” Howard observes. Whoa. She filmed their interviews? Was it a sting? “How old are you, honey? What are you, Nigerian or what?” Howard asks, with a legend saying “undercover video shot at L/A/L”; Diane frowns fiercely at her screen.
“Thank you for coming in,” David Lee oozes, “but I think I should warn you that we have a certain Lockhart/Agos/Lee type here.” Ah, the days are so far from Diane’s plea to Dean to join a woman and minority held firm, aren’t they? “And you’re not really it.”
Oh, that’s so not good. Even if all he means is that her school isn’t good enough (after all, this is David Lee who championed his niece and asked for an army of women to fight his battles back in the first season) it still is so far from good.
“We’ve had African Americans here before,” Cary smiles across his desk. God, you too? “But we are open to all types and all backgrounds.” Diane gulps. “No, no, you’re exactly the kind of diversity we want at Lockhart/Agos/Lee,” Diane smiles, looking at Monica’s resume. Then the video cuts from the first interview to the second meeting. “We’ve seen dozens of eminently qualified candidates, and, well, you just came up short.” Sigh. Under Diane’s smiling face, another legend appears. “Lockhart/Agos/Lee hired three WHITE MALE associates.” Does their reputation precede them? Because she went in there filming; she had to be thinking she’d find something. “Cary!” Diane screams.
And there’s Alicia’s little name box up on the screen at the NSA. There are five lines connecting her to other people; green arrows indicate that one call is active, and Frick and Frack scramble to pull on their headphones in time to hear Lucca says she’s gotten good news about Jason’s past. According to a witness, the fight was more verbal than physical, with a little pushing and shoving thrown in. “The judge walked out of Callahan’s, this bar, without a scratch on him.” From her house, looking very tall in a black pantsuit, Alicia says that Judge Hess drew a very different picture. Even though Alicia had spoken of her intent to do so, Lucca (who’s crossing a street, wearing her suede jacket and a cute blue dress) is amazed she got through to the judge. “He made it sound like Jason beat him within an inch of his life,” Alicia adds, clearly worried. Well. Perhaps the judge has an axe to grind here himself, although it’s surprising Jason got disbarred (in New Jersey, no less) for just pushing someone. There’s a knock at the door; Lucca needs to get there asap to babysit the Owl while Alicia goes to Springfield for the announcement.
“What?’ Peter complains outside the Catholic School gym. “We can’t be on the steps,” Ruth tells him, and indeed, the steps are cordoned off. By the way, this looks nothing like the Old Capitol building. According to the fire department, the steps need reinforcement, and they don’t have it. For real? “Let me get this straight,” Peter asks her. “We couldn’t announce on the Springfield steps because they’re having a square dancing contest.” Breakdancing, Ruth corrects. “Interfaith break-dancing competition,” Eli corrects her, like it’s relevant, like he can’t stop himself. “So we moved to the gym because they look similar. But now the fire department says we can’t because they’ll collapse?” (Gee, whose work does all this sounds like? It’s making Ruth look pretty incompetent, that’s for sure.) “Or lean aggressively,” she says, making me laugh out loud. “So where does that leave us,” Peter wonders.
Inside the gym. Which is one of those old fashioned gyms that also has a stage in it. “Did Lincoln do anything here?” Peter asks. Hell to the no. “Did Obama do anything here?” Not to our knowledge, sir, Ruth tells him straight up.
And then a staffer (Jean) walks up with the exact coat Obama wore to his announcement. Why am I putting this on, he asks, gamely shrugging it on. “Because Obama wore it,” of course. “Because he announced outside in 12 degree weather, and I’m announcing in an 89 degree gym,” Peter growls. It won’t look that way on TV, Ruth promises. Hmm, but the reporters will know. I’ll be sweating like a hog, Peter complains, and so Ruth says she’ll put fans on the stage. Which I guess will just look like wind in his hair? Oh, and don’t forget your scarf!
Frank Landau arrives, and its all buddy buddy from here. Glad to have you, happy to do it, sorry we’re doing this in a mortifying gymnasium, et cetera, et cetera. “Here we have the common touch,” Peter tries to make the best of it. “Yes, and the common smell,” Frank snarks. “I think that’s gym socks.” Well done, Frank; you’ve made Peter laugh at himself, which is something.
“In a few hours, Peter Florrick is about to take the stage here in Springfield to announce his candidacy for president,” a news anchor reports over Eli’s office television. He stares at the screen, and the roped off area of the gym (floor marked up for basketball games). “So,” Nora asks, leaning on the wall with the copy paper in a fitted green dress, “are you gonna destroy him?” Why don’t you close the door, Eli snaps. She does, and sits down as the anchors discuss whether a liberal Democrat can go all the way. (After last week’s dip into Republican territory? Have we forgotten that already?) “So, are you gonna destroy him, Krishna?” she asks again. (Or at least, that sounds like what she said each time I’ve listened; it seems weird, because I didn’t think Krishna was the god of destruction, but that really does seem like what she said.) He’s not sure, it seems. “If I destroy him I destroy her,” he observes. Oh. Wow. Who, Ruth, Nora asks, wondering why that’s a bad thing. “No, Alicia.” Duh. “She didn’t know Peter had her voting machines hacked.” And I’d like to think that would bother her, but who the heck knows these days?
“But he did if for her,” Nora defends him. “And then he hung her out to dry,” Eli counters, and I can say for sure that’s something that will matter to her. Personal loyalty is one of the very few moral lines she seems to have left. “Then what’s your plan?” she wonders. Eli shakes his head. “I have no idea,” he admits, and then turns back to the television. “All that and more, coming up next,” the reporter promises.
All that and more.
“I commend your ingenuity,” Diane tells Monica, “and your chutzpah.” The girl snort-laughs; she’s wearing a hideously unflattering white tweed suit that makes her look like she has no neck. “Maybe if I’d put that in the special skills section of my resume, I’d have a job.” You know, I totally get it, they’re scummy, but I also feel like there’s an element of her behavior which is just a bit bratty and entitled. They don’t owe her a job in general, and they don’t owe her a job over Ivy League educated competitors in specific. I don’t blame her for being upset, and I blame her for putting up the video, but still. “Monica, I’m not saying our world today is enlightened. Far from it,” Diane pitches. What does she possibly hope to gain by calling her in here again? “But starting out as a woman in a big law firm thirty years ago? Let’s just say I empathize.” Oh dear God. Does she think that’s going to make it better? “Everyone has to eat dirt on the way up. The only difference is what kind.” Um, is she saying that Brian and John Michael and the other one will eat the same amount of dirt?
Are you seriously comparing your history to mine, Monica asks in disbelief. Yeah, that’s one big reason why this was a terrible idea. Not as terrible as Diane’s suit jacket, which is kind of a red white and black leopard print, but pretty terrible none the less. “Yes, I am,” Diane replies, unphased. “If you chose to lay on your back for a male partner or two just to get ahead, that was your choice.” Diane keeps a straight face at this incredibly ugly accusation, which I never would have. “Excuse me?” Diane asks; good, I’m glad you’re not asleep over there. “I don’t choose to have women hold their purses tighter when they see me coming down the street,” Monica says, and I want to smack her a little for being nasty, because she’s right that she’s had extra dirt to eat, but she’s sullying that righteousness with nasty and unnecessary innuendos. “I don’t choose for cops to drag me out of my car and frisk me just for failing to signal.” Oh my God, seriously? Now she has my sympathy back. What a disaster this meeting is. “I’m not trying to equate…” Diane begins, and Monica cuts her off. “Yes you are,” she says in her little girl voice, because Diane was,”and there is no comparison.”
They stare at each other for a moment.
“I don’t need your understanding. I don’t need your advice. What I need is a job.” Well, that’s fair, in that I really don’t see what Diane thought she’d accomplish by bringing her in. Monica makes a dignified exit. She would have been a credit to you, losers; the girl puts together a very affecting rhetorical argument.
“It was from Springfield that Abraham Lincoln announced his candidacy for president,” Frank Landau announces in ringing tones; here’s another master of oratory at work. Wearing a Michelle Obama hat and scarf, Alicia beams up at Peter; even with the heat and the clothes and the gym sock smell, the enchantment of this momentous occasion is impossible to resist. “It was from Springfield that Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president. And it is from Springfield that our next great president will hail as well!” Peter stares at Frank, squinting, as Alicia takes in the cheering crowd.
“Oh my God, I’m burning up,” she tells him. “I’m like a wet seal with sweat,” he mutters (ooh, attractive) and so she blots his forehead. Watching that on camera, Nora coos over how sweet they’re being. “Yeah, you can’t buy moments like that,” Eli agrees archly. “Why are you so cynical,” she asks Eli, as the news puts up Ruth’s much desired side by side comparison; then Senator Obama and his wife, along side Governor Florrick and Alicia, standing in front of faux columns that really do echo the state capital backdrop. New Orleans jazz plays in the background (a version of, what’s that song “Be Kind To Your Web-footed Friends”? “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” sorry), and the camera lingers for a moment on Alicia’s fond look as Peter hugs out his thanks with Frank. Now that’s the picture Eli wanted, but he’s struck speechless by the side view. What, Nora asks, but he doesn’t say it; he just takes in the fact that Alicia has once again turned her romantic interest back to her husband.
“Introducing Peter Florrick!” Frank thunders, his arm high in the air. A very happy Peter gets hit by half a dozen small fans hidden in the podium. “Well I’m gonna make this brief,” he says. “Today I am announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States of America!” He sucks in his bottom lip happily, throws out his arms, basking in the adulation of the crowd. “How’s that for plain speaking?”
“Well let me just tell you I couldn’t do it without this woman by my side,” he declares, and she walks forward to be kissed; in the crowd, a supporter screams her name. “Cool air, thank you,” she breathes, tugging at her beautifully knotted scarf. “I think you all know my wonderful wife!” he yells as if there were no microphones. They grin and pageant-queen wave together. “With you all the way,” someone yells.
“Hello?” Mean Girl Andrea answers her phone, walking down the courtroom hall with the Running Milk CEO and a third man. “Oh, Mrs. Florrick, you must be in Springfield.” If she weren’t so mean, you’d think she was genuinely delighted. Yes, Alicia says, apologizing for the background noise. “I hear it’s going well; I’m really happy for your and your husband,” Andrea says, and again, if I didn’t know better… “Yes, there are a dozen supporters staring at me right now,” Alicia nods. Oh, good for you, Andrea coos. “Yes, I’m going to tell them about Spoiler,” she threatens. Ah. Nice. I’m sorry, what, Andrea asks. “Jeff Dellinger is willing to talk. So is Kristen.” Uh, that’s not good. “What do you think will happen to Running Milk’s stock prices when the world finds out they’re in bed with the NSA?” She takes a minute to discuss this development with the CEO.
“Amend the suit to gender discrimination and we’ll settle,” she offers. “They’d rather be seen as sexist than in bed with the next Edward Snowden?” Alicia asks, and as Andrea treats this as stupid (after all, Silicon Valley isn’t exactly known for it’s gender parity) Frack’s eyes bulge. Andrea offers 1.2 million; we’ll have a nice little chat after, she sasy, and hangs up. Frack, meanwhile, is going insane. “She just said Snowden,” he announces, pulling off his headphones. What, Frick asks. “She just said Snowden. The next Snowden.” What was the context, Frick frowns. “Doesn’t’ matter the context, she said it.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How far beyond stupid does that go? “He’s a brown target,” Frick realizes. “That’s our second connection. We can start listening to her again!” We just found our back door, we just found our back door,” Frick celebrates, so of course Frack sends him a file. “What is this?” It’s goats “singing” “I Will Always Love You,” of course. What else would it be?
Huh. That’s a thing. I did not know that was a thing, but it is. They seem to have recut that one (I’m sure they couldn’t get the actual rights to the Whitney video) but whatevs.
If I look past the fact that I’m not actually enjoying the plotting of the season as a whole and the characters in general, this episode has a lot to recommend it. I mean, the NSA subplot is horrifying, and they’re repeating themselves, but at least it’s interesting. And for once I am genuinely curious about how far Eli’s going to go, and touched that he’s still being protective of Alicia’s emotional life. He’s not past caring! Way to give me the warm fuzzies, Eli.
Now, do I believe that Alicia would really look at Peter in that way again? I guess, maybe. They do have this on again, off again thing going, and it’s never made all that much sense. We known they’re both turned on by expressions of power in the other. We think she’s not sleeping with anyone else, Jason’s proving to be a potentially problematic piece on the side, and she’s been celibate for a while. It’s not unreasonable to think she might be lonely. Is it a little weird, coming in the same hour where she complained that Peter didn’t even tell her himself he was going to seriously try for the presidency? Sure. To me, that wouldn’t be sexy. But she’s never rated her claim on his time or attention in a reasonable way, not even now that she’s “educated” in the ways of the world and the habits of power.
I don’t even know what to say about Peter’s campaign. It’s sort of weird when the whole point of him trying is the brutal way he’ll fall. I don’t know; will that failure make him a better and more interested husband and father? It’s not like her scandal refocused Alicia on what’s most important in her own life. Contrary to what was promised, and despite all her talk of clarity, she’s really just as confused as ever. Her life is as unexamined as ever. Maybe that’s our human condition, but it’s fairly frustrating to watch. I suppose the best that can be said for Peter is that at least he knows his own course.
Of course, the show continues to struggle with the roll of LAL. That’s the structural issue with this episode for me. So far it seems to be a catalog of big law firm ills. Too many old people! Not enough sensitivity to old people! Too many young people who isolate Cary! Not enough young people of color! In their defense I can only say that the large clutch of first years in the first few episodes seemed to include equal numbers of men and women, if not much ethnic diversity. And hey, maybe the show’s sort of laughing at their own inability to keep a diverse cast? I just wish they’d do that by actually hiring more actors of color. If they really wanted to take on this issue, I’d be there for it (it’s one they explored better at the State’s Attorney’s Office), but right now it feels like an inconsistent flavor of the week topic. Not to mention the fact that they made it all so obvious: the white men were far more qualified (unneccessarily so, because it’s not like they only let white men into Ivy League law schools) but all our sympathies go to Monica anyway. I’d rather they went with a more Marthas and Caitlins situation, with more complexity and depth. The lack of nuance seems unworthy of the show, even if it’s in general a ripe topic for discussion. Heck, they could be explicitly touching on the fact that Peter represents those Ivy League Old Boys and is after Hillary, the presumptive front runner that the establishment’s even now a little uncomfortable with. They’re normally much better at ripping topics from the headlines, but all this LAL bashing just blurs together into one big explosion of incompetence and stupidity.
And, I guess that’s it. This week didn’t inspire the fountain of fury that last week’s did. What about you? Do you appreciate or decry the return of NSA? Are you still giggling over those goats? Do you think Jason’s a sociopath? Do you think Alicia flirted too much with him, and is now freaking out over it, or is she just forgetting that happened? And do you think that, with only Cush Jumbo on the payroll, The Good Wife has a diverse enough cast to be throwing stones at fictional law firms for their hiring practices?