E: Shall we talk about what I’ve discovered lately about the Education of Alicia Florrick?
When I think of the word education, I think progress. An educated person is one who knows more, is better, smarter. Bafflingly, we’ve seen Alicia get tougher, but no more in touch with herself and no better able to advance her goals.
And what did we find in Discovery? A woman who blithely told her husband that he could go ahead and run for president, yet thinks that her life will remain the same when he does. She’s been scrambling to build a business utterly from scratch which she might have to abandon in less than a year if that campaign goes well. Did she give a moment’s thought to whether the life of a first lady (or even a candidate’s wife) is one she wants? Nope. Not even a little. Does she think about living in a press-induced fish bowl? No, she doesn’t. She thinks she can give Peter her cake, and eat it too. In fact, she strikes out in fury when her closest political adviser suggests she not sleep with an employee, as if there was anything reasonable about her position. Sorry, Alicia. Leaving aside whether an open marriage is morally excusable, and forgetting all about your hypocritical ire when Peter dared to followed the terms of your agreement, you created the conditions which make that arrangement virtually impossible. It’s your own damn fault, not Eli’s.
Except really, it’s the writer’s fault for having her give Peter the campaign go-ahead, which is the stupidest and most out of character thing she’s done in the entire series. It makes no sense; the writers wanted it to happen so it did, and there’s no other justification. I refuse to believe that any rational human being wouldn’t have known that in giving Peter permission to run, she was also handing over her own life for possibly the next 9 years (longer if he loses the nomination and tries again in the next cycle or the one after that), leaving her at best a weak satellite in his orbit.
So, um, yes. I’ve gone back to being mad at the show.
After a dead on parody of an Apple or Microsoft commercial (but of course for Chum Hum), Diane opens her office door. “Nice to see you again,” she says, and we don’t believe it in the slightest. Why do both she and Cary look so out of sorts? Because it’s a very confident, smirking Monica Timmons who sashays in through the open door.
“Let me know if I’m not in frame, I can move down,” Cary bites, sitting opposite Diane’s desk next to Monica. I’m not filming, she smirks. “Oh, how considerate,” he mocks, getting so far into Monica face that Diane needs to play mom and tell him to knock it off. “She went out of her way to make us look like bigots; I think I’m being pretty friendly, considering,” he sniffs. Monica, meanwhile, is looking at the trio of new hires who happen to be clumped together in the hall, perfectly lined up behind Cary’s head. “I can see you went with diversity,” she snarks. “How are Biff and Skippy?” “Mike and Brian,” Cary corrects her, perhaps deliberately missing the point.
Diane, being Diane, cuts through the petty crap. “Why are you here?” she asks baldly. “I can’t imagine it’s to apologize.” From the way Monica straightens her head, we see she’s come to ask a favor. “A friend of mine was recently run out of business by a giant tech company,” she says. “And you don’t have the resources to pursue the case on your own?” Diane guesses. She’s wearing a gauzy leopard print blouse with a built-in tie at the neck, which is very pretty even if leopard print isn’t, let’s say, the most formal pattern for an office like this. You said to call if I needed help, Monica adds softly. “You’ve complicated our relationship since I made that offer,” Diane reminds the younger woman, and ain’t that the truth. “But at least we know we can be direct with each other,” Monica puts a brighter spin on things. I really like her; does all this mean that she’s struck out on her own? I so wish Alicia would offer her a job.
Plus, she adds, giving Cary a saucy look, it might be good for your image. How, Cary growls. “The company I’m suing is even more lacking in diversity than yours,” Monica grins. “And what company is that?” Diane wonders.
“Chum Hum,” Louis Canning announces. Of course! As if the faux commercial (full of Chummy check-ins) wasn’t enough, let’s remember that Canning stole Chum Hum away. It must be an irresistible target. “And you want us to help?” Alicia asks slowly, sitting opposite Canning and next to Lucca. “Actually I want Lucca to help,” he replies, “but I know you two have this Bert and Ernie thing going.” He points to them, and they look at each other, puzzled. Why Lucca, when it’s Alicia who has history with Chum Hum? “Well, it’s a racism case,” Canning admits, “and my firm is a little pale at the moment.”
“What an honor,” Lucca snaps. “My parents would be so proud.”
On the other hand, Alicia’s not going to turn down a gift like that just because it’s motivated by gross racist calculations, and asks what the case is.
“We used to book up weeks in advance,” a woman says, focusing on the doors of her former restaurant, Little Dobeki, now permanently locked behind one of those garage door style rolling metal security screens. “Our venison pot pie was written up in the Trib. We were Zagat-rated,” she recalls ruefully. “Then people just stopped coming. It’s hard not to take it personally when it’s your baby.” And what does all this have to do with Chum Hum, Cary wonders; he and Diane have joined Monica and her restaurateur/client/friend outside the empty storefront. “Their maps program, Chummy Maps,” Sad Chef explains, getting out her tablet. It has a feature which helps users “stay safe” by telling them which parts of the city to avoid. Oh, very interesting. In classic traffic language, the program layers green, yellow and red over the areas of the city map where it decides neighborhoods are safe, sketchy and unsafe. “When the filter is on, driving directions avoid the red area.” It looks mostly like the real life applications were in walking mode, not driving, but we get it. “The filter is always on by default,” Monica smirks. “You have to manually turn it off.”
“So you lost your foot traffic,” Diane nods. It’s worse than that; when the filter is on, the red danger zone covers up the icons for any businesses within it. “When this came out, it’s like I didn’t exist,” Sad Chef makes sad eyes at them. “It says this is an unsafe area?” Diane asks, very surprised. The clean streets are bordered by pretty, well-kept brick buildings, and peopled by chatting families and nicely-dressed young people. “Doesn’t feel unsafe,” Diane observes. “Yes, except for one thing,” Smirky Monica smirks, and we know what she’s going to say. “Too many people of color.”
“Our maps are not racist,” a guy with a round red face and scraggly beard announces defensively, sitting in the Lockhart, Agos & Lee conference room. “They’re based on algorithms, and math is not racist!” Lucca has to set a calming hand on his elbow. “Chum Hum is very proud of it’s diversity and openness,” she adds. “And yet their safe filter deters people from patronizing businesses in African American neighborhoods,” Diane points out. “Chum Hum is not responsible for the actions of those who respond to its software,” Lucca smiles, as if the mere suggestion was absurd. “It was Ms. Feldman’s choice to open a four star restaurant in a marginal neighborhood, not ours,” New Mr. Chum Hum scoffs. Who is this guy, anyway, and where is Neil Gross? On the set of Manhattan, perhaps? It’s not a marginal neighborhood, Sad Chef Feldman replies, offended (as, let’s face it, she ought to be). “It’s a black neighborhood.” “It’s both,” he replies evenly, “which really isn’t that uncommon.”
Oh boy. That’s not the thing to say during a negotiation. “Wait,” Monica splutters, putting up a hand. “What?” He’s not saying anything that unusual, Lucca brazens it out, although she can’t be pleased to do it. “Look at crime rates. Look at home values.” Her dress is strikingly similar to Grandma Gilmore’s from last week, black shot through with silver (rather than gold) thread in an organic pattern. “And look at the biracial lawyer pimping for a racist system,” Monica snaps. It probably does sound patronizing, but I really like the idealism and sizzle and yeah, anger Smirky McSmirkerson brings with her. “Excuse me,” Lucca rears back, even though that’s exactly what she’s doing, and the room descends into accusations and anger.
“Wait wait wait,” Alicia calls out above the fray, and the room stills. “Chum Hum will admit no wrong,” she declares, “but in the spirit of making this world a better place, Mr. Harmon is willing to offer Ms. Feldman $50,000 to open a new restaurant anywhere she wants.” A gesture, if you will, Canning adds. “What gesture is that,” Monica asks, leaning back in her chair, “the finger? Chum Hum is worth 300 billion.” Snort. Like I said, I like her. I really like her. “I know how much my company is worth, thank you,” round red Harmon snaps. Since when is it his company? “Since your stock’s dropped 22% since you’ve become COO?” Chief operating officer, huh. So that doesn’t mean that Neil is gone forever. Cool. Harmon’s pretty bland. At any rate, Lucca gives Cary an interested side eye here, impressed with this bit of background knowledge, and she keeps looking, considering. Huh. It only takes a few more seconds of general yelling for Harmon (who doesn’t look like a diva but seems to be one) to walk out in a snit.
“Your guy’s a piece of work,” Cary notes, catching up to Lucca as she follows her colleagues out of the room. “Unfortunately for you, the law’s on his side,” she answers loftily. “We’ll see,” Cary says.
“You’re kind of in love with her, aren’t you?” Courtney Paige asks Eli over an intimate, fancy dinner, her voice purring. Who, Eli wonders. “Alicia,” Courtney pushes, and Eli actually snorts. “No,” he answers, in a way that might not calm my nerves if I were his girlfriend, especially since he apparently just spent the last 30 minutes of their date talking about Illinois’s first lady. “Occupational hazard,” he waves off her concern. “You have to be obsessed with your candidate or you’re not doing your job.” It’s a really fascinating point, especially considering that it was the thought of hurting Alicia that made him pull back on his evil plans to topple Ruth and Peter.
Courtney, however, has picked up on a different aspect of his reply. “Candidate?” she asks, and he gives her a very pointed nod. Huh. We’re back on that? How could the last time not have been enough. “Well,” she considers, “the question is will the voters still think she’s tainted by her scandal?” He nods, chewing on the problem, and so Courtney gets out her checkbook. She’s a specific type of person we really haven’t met on the show before; a decisive woman with clear opinions and a bank account at the ready to back them up, someone who likes throwing her money around to see what it can do.
He purses his lips, smirks, widening his eyes. “You’re staring at me, I can feel it,” she observes, not looking up. “I can’t help it,” he declares, looking down, his face fond and pleased. “You are very sexy when you’re writing a check.” Though she snorts, they both know he’s telling the truth; she slaps the check down in front of him and waits for him to look at it. $50,000, he reads in complete surprise. “Convene a focus group,” she instructs him. “See if you’re resurrected St. Alicia.”
I don’t suppose anyone’s going to ask the New Alicia if she wants to be resurrected.
In her kitchen, Alicia’s doing a terrible job of reading cue cards for web messages Ruth wants to use to spam Iowa voters. Yuck. You really want more of this, Alicia? I mean, I like that politics is local here (she’s doing individual messages for different towns) but she’s hardly giving it a real effort; we see her glancing away from the camera, stumbling over town names. “Really?” she asks Ruth after ending with the tagline “Florrick is for families.”
“Really? It feels like I’m pandering to housewives,” she says, perhaps because of the whole pro-ethanol segment. “Anyone who knows me will smell the bull crap a mile away.” Yes, Ruth agrees, standing on the other side of Alicia’s island next to the camera woman and the card holder, “but it’s Iowa. All they smell is bull crap.” This dry witticism makes Alicia laugh out her nose. “Look, these email blasts aren’t meant to be subtle. They’re a sledge hammer. So don’t pull back!” As they cue up the next city, Alicia haltingly courts the voters of Sioux Center, and minions mill about.
And then Jason lets himself in.
Even talking about her kids (“who I love and adore,” she ad-libs) can’t keep Alicia’s focus away from her scruffy man-candy. Sensing Alicia’s lack of focus (since she’s not, you know, blind or deaf) Ruth lets the candidate’s wife go to take care of what she claims is work.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asks, walking up to Jason who’s stayed in the hall. “Ah, nothing,” he shrugs uncomfortably, but she knows it’s not true, and they stare at each other for a moment. “So I have something to say,” he announces with a self-conscious smile. “Okay,” she replies, clearly prepared for him to quit. “Now, we agreed that I would stay freelance, right?” They did. “It’s how I keep my fees low. And part of that freelance work has taken me to Lockhart/Agos.” The idea makes Alicia look away. She knows. “Well clearly you have some hard feelings toward them,” he says, “but Alicia, I would never use information gleaned from here…”
“Oh, I never thought you would,” she cuts him off. “But if you have some sort of issue with this arrangement then we should talk,” he pushes forward, for once approaching a problem head-on instead of flirting around it, “because I need to know if I can continue working here.”
There. He’s said it. He’s been completely honest; she needs to tone down her disapproval (her emotional claim on him) or he’ll bail. His words leave a sour taste in her mouth; she tries to control her lips, and her emotions. “I want you to work here,” she affirms. “Even if freelancing takes me to Lockhart/Agos?” he forces her to confirm. Yes, she nods ruefully, and he smiles. Good.
“I have something for your motion to dismiss,” he switches up topics, pulling something out of his pocket, and she wilts in relief. “Oh. I thought you were going to say you’re going to Lockhart/Agos for this case,” she beams, and as if able to see inside Alicia’s skull, Ruth starts looking suspicious back in the kitchen. “No,” he rumbles, “unless you want me too.” She moves around so she’s standing next to him, where she can see the screen of his phone, the repository of his collected evidence. That’s right. Instead of just handing her his phone like you’d expect, Jason waits for Alicia to turn near him, and she does, leaning in and putting her hand on his wrist. After she squints at his phone, he performs the most middle-age specific flirting ever seen on television; he hands her his reading glasses. Delighted, she laughs and puts them on her own face. Waiting their little show, poor Ruth narrows her eyes in anger.
“You’re suing Chum Hum for tortious interference with prospective advantage?” good old Judge Michael Marx asks Monica’s team. Well, it is a tech case. Do you think there’s a tech court, or do they just give this one guy all those cases because he’s the only guy on the docket who understands this stuff? “Yes, Your Honor,” Diane stands to say, “Chum Hum’s filter creates a racist geo-fencing effect that disadvantages business owners in African American neighborhoods.” I don’t know why, but I’m really enjoying their jargon this week. Geo-fencing is just a fun word. Lucca (in a very, um, interesting color blocked dress with black lace sleeves) stands to assert that tortious interference requires that Chum Hum intended or at least knew their filter would cause harm. “And there is none here.” We believe there is, Cary stands (cute in a beige suit). When Lucca asks, the judge allows her to put a witness on the stand to prove that the intent requirement hasn’t be met.
“Mr. Harmon,” she begins, ” (I thought I’d seen Harman on this show before, but at least according to the IMDB he hasn’t been; he does costar on Manhattan with John Benjamin Hickey, however. This show and it’s interconnected guest stars…) “Is it possible for Chum Hum’s filter to have a racist intent?” Schlumpy in a navy jacket over a black plaid shirt, Harman answers with a very decisive no. “The software is powered by two things and two things only: objective third party collected data, like crime rates, and user-reported feedback.” Like comments and reviews? Exactly. “Which is entirely in users hands. I mean, there’s no way that anyone at Chum Hum could use a safe filter to purposefully interfere with plaintiff’s business,” Lucca argues. Not even if we wanted to, he agrees.
“Mr. Harman,” Diane begins, “is it true that Chummy Maps is only available on COS, Chum Hum’s own operating system?” Yes. So? To answer that unspoken question, Diane forces Harman to read from a study that counts COS users as 71% Caucasian and only 11% African American. Does this match their internal numbers? “Chum Hum is not to blame for socio-economic disparity,” Harman claims unsympathetically. “Our products cost more because they are better products.” Oh, Steve Jobs wanna-be, that’s not going to help. Quite persuasively, Diane argues that since Chum Hum was aware of the disparity among their users, they should have compensated for the inevitable bias that user-generated feedback would create. “Objection! Speculation!” Alicia rises to say. “Perhaps,” the judge replies out of the side of his mouth, “and yet I’m still curious.”
Harman, of course, doesn’t think the results would be skewed; Diane presses home her point and Alicia dings her for restating a question he’s already answered. “I’m just giving him a chance to rethink,” Diane agrees, “but it seems he doesn’t want to. Withdrawn.” Judge Marx smiles in appreciation of Diane’s ploy. And in the end — as a very downtrodden looking Alicia and Lucca clearly expect — the judge rules that Chum Hum’s lack of racist intent does not protect them from responsibility for the unintentional racism their unbalanced data-gathering system might produce, and so denies the motion to dismiss.
Quick upon the heels of this news, Cary stands and asks for full discovery. In her bad wig and shiny shiny suit jacket Alicia stands, almost stomping in petulance. The plaintiff is only asking for full discovery in order to force us to settle, she pouts. Trade secrets! “But you can’t shut them out entirely,” the judge replies. He’ll grant discovery. But don’t smile too soon, Cary! It’s limited to racist references and Chummy Maps. Somehow, this caveat does not dim the delight at the plaintiff’s table.
A “Hey, It’s That Guy” sits slumped down across from Eli’s desk, shuffling a sheaf of papers. “What do you think?” Eli asks, excited. HITG looks around the room, which is clearly not what Eli was asking, and pronounces the room to be small. Oh, you’ve got a bright one here, Eli. “Don’t you get claustrophobic?” I’m actually starting to like it, Eli claims, chipper. “Yeah. Stockholm Syndrome,” Kevin Kilner quips dryly; he’s worked steadily from Murder, She Wrote to House of Cards and Happyish, so you know you’ve seen him before. “I meant, what do you think about the focus group?” Eli redirects the conversation. “You wanna run her for a senate seat,” HITG asks, and I’m blinking. State senate? Senate senate, a la Hillary Clinton? Gah. “To start,” Eli raises his eyebrows, and I’m even more baffled. What is this about? He’s given up on either running Peter or ruining him? He wants to make Alicia his horse now?
“Alicia Florrick, wife of the Illinois governor,” HITG Guy muses, and Eli’s off on a promotional rant. The woman who stood by her husband in his worst moments! HITG sighs and closes the folder with Eli’s paperwork. “Housewives, Republican and Democratic.” Housewives. What’s with all this derogatory taking presumption about housewives? Who even calls women that anymore? Stay-at-home mom or soccer mom, those are the current terms. “And Independents,” Eli nods. He wants a focus group with as large a sample as Courtney’s 50k can buy. “But we have to have iron clad waivers. Nobody can know we’re doing this. Especially Alicia.” Typical. Why not Alicia, HITG wonders. “Because I’m using it to convince her,” Eli explains, making the pollster laugh. Good old Eli, up to his usual tricks.
And then the phone rings, and it’s Ruth, upset enough about something she wants to see him immediately. She’s waiting for him in her office, wearing a most serious face — so serious that she walks over and closes the door behind him herself rather than just ask him to do it. You know, I don’t love her flowy jackets, but this mottled print is definitely the best one we’ve ever seen her wear. Coming back to her desk, she then rips the cord out of her desk phone and speaks into it. “Gina come in here,” she says. Nothing.
“Do we need the cone of silence?” Eli asks, wrinkling his nose in confused disdain. Awesome reference, Eli.
“Alicia and Jason Crouse,” Ruth replies, deadly serious.
“I have no idea what that means,” Eli replies.
“Jason Crouse, Alicia’s investigator,” Ruth sighs. Eli knows who he is, but not why Ruth is concerned. “Are they having an affair?” Ruth asks point blank, and Eli, blindsided, takes a moment to think about it. “No, of course not,” he replies, but it feels like a reflex more than a real answer. “No.”
“He came by the apartment while I was filming Alicia’s internet ads, and she touched him.” Touched him where, Eli wonders, spell bound. “His arm,” she says. Like a massage, Eli wonders, and Ruth sneers at this. “Then let it go! She touched his arm. People touch each other’s arms.” Flapping, Eli tries to illustrate this on his own arm. “She was smiling at him like a school girl, Eli. And not just in front of me. In front of the whole crew!” From Eli’s face, you can see his vision of perfect candidate St. Alicia is crumbling. “Eli, I wanna be clear here,” Ruth says, walking around to the front of her desk and leaning on it for support. “They were touching in front of strangers with cameras!”
Yep. They were indeed. And that’s just as bad for the campaign as Ruth fears, even without an affair.
Okay, he says. Let me look into it. “Now we both know that Peter’s campaign wouldn’t stand the impact of something like this,” she says, and Eli drags in a large breath through his nose. “And Alicia’s rehabilitation would certainly become a wasted effort.” Let me handle it, Eli says. “Oh, Eli, you didn’t even know,” Ruth shouts, throwing up her hands in a fury. She can barely look at Eli, she’s so livid. She can’t even stay in her office, but walks out, leaving Eli to curse this turn of events, all alone.
Meanwhile, at Canning & Associates, Alicia’s directing Canning’s associates through discovery. Anything racist or relating to Chummy Maps has to be turned over – and they’re searching through an intimidatingly large pile of hard drives to pull out every problematic file or memorandum. Sigh. Mark them as Responsive or Non-Responsive, Canning instructs. That was a little like the old days when Will and Diane would divvy up work between the associates, wasn’t it? Only this time it’s Alicia in charge, working for her sort-of enemy on behalf of accidental racists. It makes my head hurt.
Smartly, Lucca wants to know how narrowly they’re going to define “responsive,” a term we gather to mean “responds to the criteria of being racist or relating to Chummy Maps.” Well, we don’t want to do the opposition any favors, Canning huffs, so Alicia informs his troops that if they have any questions about an item, they should ask. To the peppy sounds of That Dog’s “Retreat From the Sun,” Team Flinn and the Canning minions scan through loads of emails for whatever racist epithets they can find. And it’s not much (it seems like Chum Hum employees talk about food a lot) until an unrelated search term calls up a query about including home ownership rates in the safety zone mapping terms, sent by one Kip O’Neil. “Damn,” Alicia says, “I think this one’s responsive.” But since they didn’t actually include home ownership rates in the final algorithm, Jason thinks the discussion is irrelevant. When the trio calls him — Alicia sprawling out in her chair — Canning of course agrees with Jason. If they had, Alicia argues, it would have automatically disadvantaged poor neighborhoods. “It’s a proxy for race!” But again, they didn’t, so it wasn’t, he insists. It’s a delicate question. Alicia wants the judge to sort that out, but Canning starts proposing implausible theories, so they all decide to take a little field trip to Chum Hum to ask Kip what he meant in person.
“Apricot thyme granola, or rose pistachio pepita?” offers a coder in the non-holiday equivalent of an ugly Christmas sweater, walking the Flinn women over to a breakfast bar. Without waiting for an answer (grrrr), he places a white bowl in each of their hands, and then picks up a glass pitcher. “Almond milk? We make our own.” Seriously? How affected is that? No, no, we just wanted an answer to that question. “No, that was just in beta,” Kip explains to them. “See, we had to show users something, back on day one, before there was any user feedback,” he says, rounding the breakfast bar; once he’s on the other side we see that he’s wearing light blue Bermuda shorts. Right. “So we used other data just to start it off.” The current iteration is user-focused, though, right, Lucca asks, following Kip through the bright, highly patterned office. “100%,” he answers in a surfer-like drawl, ” we realized that if we kept it completely in the users hands, we could avoid another animal incident.”
Oh my. That sounds ominous.
“Okay, a what incident,” Alicia can’t help asking. “Oh, just something that happened last year in the imaging department,” Kip says, and I can’t tell if he’s being evasive or ready to spill juicy gossip. “We were this close to causing a major you-know-what storm,” he adds gleefully, giving me my answer. Helpfully, he heads back to his desk to show them. No no no, says Lucca, who really doesn’t want to know. (Well, at least he knew it was bad. Maybe that’s something? A trifle weird that he has last year’s mistake stored on his desktop, though.) “Just stop.” We can’t just pretend we didn’t hear that, Alicia whispers, but Lucca postulates that it’s not related to the specific mandate of the case. “Does this thing you were about to show us,” Alicia begins. “The animal incident?” he growls, clearly enjoying it. Yes. That. “Does it have to do with Chummy Maps?” No, he says, but we were all worried… No no no, the women talk over him loudly, like small children with fingers in their ears calling I can’t hear you! “Don’t say anything else.”
Turning to Alicia, Lucca suggests that if it has nothing to do with the map ap, then they can avoid looking at whatever it is. “And we really shouldn’t look at it,” she adds. Um, you do remember that racism was the other thing you were supposed to look for, right? Of course it’s possible that the Animal Incident isn’t racist but embarrassing in some other fashion. So, hmm. I kind of feel like they ought to look to make sure it’s not racist, but … well, they’re not going to, at any rate.
Just because it’s an awesome space, Cary and Monica sit in the main conference room about five chairs apart, typing into their own laptops. He has an office, but I guess it’s unlikely she’d be working in there, and clearly the writers want them to interact even if they don’t have a real reason to. “Super shady street!” Monica sees on a social media site, “heard gun shots! Never going back.” She snorts and makes a note; he watches and listens. “What,” he asks, “something in the discovery?” No, the reader comments on Safe Filter, she says, and then she reads it aloud to him, complete with the exclamation point and a sad face at the end. “You think it’s racist?” he assumes. “Do you?” she asks, not looking up from her rapid note taking.
“He heard gun shots, it’s not racist,” Cary stops his work to say. Talk about unacknowledged bias; who said the writer was a he? “My guess is he thought he heard gunshots,” she turns to say.
And that’s when Harvard Brian walks in with a large box. I’m glad to see he’s willing to fetch and carry for bosses of both genders. “More discovery from Chum Hum,” he says. “We’ll take half.” Monica leans back in her seat, irked, and then she stands up to pace. “So,” she begins, “Biff and, um, Skippy are working out for you?” Couldn’t think of a name for the third member of the White Ivy Triumvirate, huh? (For what it’s worth, Brian totally looks like Biff from Back to the Future, though; he’s got that neanderthal brow and massive jaw and everything. I’d love to know if that’s a coincidence or if it inspired the nickname.) She pours herself a cup of Perrier, and Cary decides to do the same. “Yes, they are,” he defends his choice, “and how is that not reverse racism.” Sigh. Oh, yes, the much persecuted Harvard educated white man. Boo hoo. How could it not be reverse racism for someone to say those Masters of the Universe shouldn’t snap up the best of everything?
“What, not making fun of their names?” she laughs. “Yes, calling them white stereotype names.” Sigh. White stereotypes from the fifties, maybe. “Is that what Biff and Skippy are?” she asks. “Country club names from some bad skit somewhere,” he suggests, and they both walk back to their laptops. “Polo outfits and tennis rackets. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.” Right. “We don’t wanna be having this conversation,” she half-laughs. “We already are,” he pushes back.
“Yes,” she agrees, “reverse racism, that dangerous contagion that’s taking hold of society.” It doesn’t have to do that to be true, he asserts. “So how is that not reverse racism?” This argument. Ugh. “Because harm has to be present for racism to be… harmful,” she counters, though I’m not sure that answers his question. (Actually, it definitely doesn’t; her reply suggests that it’s the adverse consequences of racist actions that are to be feared, not the attitude that might prompt them. Basically that because she’s not in a position to harm the white trio, then it doesn’t matter what she thinks or even says about them. And she’s right that her rancor isn’t harmful, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t judging someone based on their race.) “You think they’re idiots because they’re white guys,” Cary laughs into his bottle. “No, I think they’re idiots because you hired them instead of me,” she says. Now there we go. It’s certainly fair of her to resent her competition. And for what it’s worth (and despite Brian/Biff proving himself pretty smart last week) I think David and Cary are the real idiots here. Cary smirks, tight-lipped, and then Monica hums and stands up.
“Can I see your laptop?” she asks, walking over with hers. He’s a bit hostile at first — “why?” Because I wanna steal it, she laughs. I like her so much. Will somebody please hire her? “What?” he asks as Monica sets her laptop down next to his. “Banner ads,” she explains. “This one is my Chum Hum account, and this one’s yours.” Her advertises music by Midnight Criminal, and his leather loafers from Salvatori’s racist department store. (What an awesome little piece of world building.) She clicks the refresh button. “I get soul food, and you get skiing.” Ah. The ads are targeted, and there seem to be racial overtones to them. “Meaning?” he asks. “Maybe we can expand the discovery,” she smirks, looking pleased with herself. More stuff to look through, more chances of finding something, more chances for Chum Hum to settle.
When Eli rings the bell, it’s Jason who answers the Florrick door. Cause that’s totally going to calm his fears. “Alicia’s out,” Jason says, minimalist as ever. Eli’s eyes narrow down to slits at the sight of him. That’s fine, he replies, his gaze malicious. I’ll wait. Awkwardly, as if against his better judgment, Jason steps back and lets the campaign operative in; Jason’s tilting from side to side as he walks, his hands in pockets.
“You doing some work?” Eli asks, practically radiating his ill intent. “Ay-yup,” Jason replies with characteristic reticence, slowly turning to face Eli. “Mind if I ask you a few questions?” the campaign manager asks, looking tiny, sharp edged and prim next to Jason’s loose, untidy energy. That depends, Jason answers. On the questions. You really walked into that one, Gold. Eli laughs, as if it were a joke.
“Married?” he begins, firing it off as if it’s going to be the first in a long list. I am not, Jason grins slowly. “Girlfriend? Kid?” Eli asks in short staccato bursts. “I’ve had girlfriends,” Jason replies. “Not kids.” “I have a daughter,” Eli volunteers, softening his approach. “Divorced. Me. Not my daughter.” He laughs at himself a little. “Huh huh,” Jason fake-laughs as a warning, still wary, still on edge, still dangerous, and so Eli narrows his eyes again. That’s how you want it, is it? “Sorry about my nosiness. I just like to know about Alicia and her life,” Eli explains. “No problem,” Jason replies, even though it clearly is. “You know, they’re paying me now, so I’m gonna get back to work.” He points to the office behind him. “She’s getting close to you. Isn’t she?” Eli asks, effectively stopping Jason’s forward progress. Now the investigator looks at his shoes and smirks.
“I think these are questions for Alicia, not for me,” he answers, cagey, both hands back in his pockets so he can’t throw them in a punch. “You understand why I ask?” Eli adds, walking right up to Jason’s face, hissing between clenched teeth. “Her husband is running for president. There’s a lot more attention being paid.” After giving Eli a good stare, Jason takes off his glasses (drink!) and steps forward. “I think these are questions for Alicia, not for me,” he repeats. “Good talking to you.” And Eli’s left to chew on the inside of his mouth, unable to get a hold on the slippery investigator.
Somewhat to my surprise, Cary puts Monica on the stand to talk about the difference between the ads Chum Hum uses to target her and Cary. This is nothing more than retailers wanting to reach their customer base, Lucca argues. “Opposing counsel’s missing the point, Your Honor.” Am I, she snarks. ‘Tell me.” And so he does. “The point isn’t that white people get white ads, and black people get black ads.” It isn’t? “Because you haven’t made that point,” Judge Marx smiles, knowing where Cary’s going with this. “The point is that the ads that appear on Chummy Maps extract user data from the entire product suite.” Oh, crap. Good news for justice, bad news for the combined forces of Canning and Flinn (Florrick/Quinn — that makes sense, right?). “Search engines, chat sites, news feeds, shopping, all of it.” Diane stands in agreement. “Chum Hum is a fully integrated platform; therefore our discovery shouldn’t be limited to Chummy Maps alone. It should include all of Chum Hum.” Alicia and Lucca are horrified. “Your Honor,” Alicia and her bad wig stand to complain, “that’s a hysterical escalation. It would be a ridiculous amount of material!” Good thing we can handle it, Diane boasts, and the judge agrees. “Whose side is the law on, again,” Cary asks as they leave the court, trading barbs with Lucca.
And when poor Alicia slumps home, who’s there to greet her at her door but Eli? “Eli, I just got my ass handed to me in court; I don’t have the bandwidth for any campaign talk,” she grumbles, attempting to ignore him. Well, too bad, chickie. “This is not about campaign talk,” he promises. “Okay,” she moans, dumping her things on the little desk in her kitchen and head right for the liquor. “I know you want me to ask you why you are here, then, but I’m not going to.” Okay, then Eli will begin without her encouragement.
“Jason is in your office, working,” he tells her, raising his eyebrows like a too cheerful clown. Okay, she says. “Seems like a nice guy,” he adds, and finally Alicia looks at over at him as she dumps some ice in her glass. “He reminds me of… ” Eli considers. “Actually, he doesn’t remind me of anyone.” As she pours the lime juice into her glass, you can see Alicia’s just ready for him to spit out his concern. “Very strong. Man of few words,” Eli continues. “which is odd, because most of the people who I deal with, who you know, use a lot of words.” He tries to turn this into a joke. “Yes,” Alicia says briefly, unstoppering a bottle, “I’ve gotten over words.”
“How’d you find Jason?” Eli asks, and Alicia actually smiles. Just say whatever it is! “What are you after, what are you trying to say?” He blinks a little, and then tries to be delicate. “I know your private life is none of my business, but when it begins to …” he twitches, “spill into your public life…” He shakes his head back and forth.
“You’re telling me,” she says, coldly livid, mocking him, “when I sleep with Jason, you’d rather I kept it private?” Coolly, she sips from her finished drink and watches Eli’s face fall apart. It’s really hard not to laugh at his expression. He’s absolutely aghast.
“You’re joking,” he laughs uncertainly, “right? Making fun of me?” She gives him a Mona Lisa smile and takes another drink. “Okay, I think you are making fun of me, but I still need to be clear.” He clears his throat. “This is a speech I normally give to the candidate, but I will adapt it for you.” Lucky me, she snarks. “Rule number one: no touching in public,” he says. “Ever. If Jason is on fire, let him burn. Touching in private, no such thing. No where is private anymore.” Clearly, she snarks, and stalks off out of the kitchen. “Rule number two. If you have to go out together, make sure there’s a third party present, preferably female. Rule number three: if you go out in a bigger group, never under any circumstances let it be in a hotel, a bar, or a hotel bar.” By now Alicia’s nearly reached her office door, but she takes a thoughtful step back. He didn’t talk to Jason about any of this, did he? Perish the thought! He backs up a little, even.
“Okay,” she decides, advancing on him with her drink in hand, “this is the last time we talk about this.” Eli gives her a sharp nod. “I am not sleeping with my investigator,” she declares, and Eli wilts in relief. “But if I were, this conversation between us would never take place. I would never let it take place.” Um, what does that even mean? Just tell me you heard me, he pleads. “No Eli,” she snaps, her voice low and dangerous, “I didn’t hear you.” He blanches. “I won’t hear you. You can show yourself out.” Turning on her heels, she walks into her office, leaving him alone.
When we return from the commercial break, we get to watch Jason absorbing the section of the conversation he can hear from inside Alicia’s office. There’s a lot of frowning going on. “Bad news,” Alicia says as she walks in; he resumes typing quickly. “They got full discovery.” Okay, he answers, shutting his laptop, new ballgame. “Yeah, a lot tougher one,” she agrees. We hear the sound of Eli shutting the front door, and immediately Alicia tries to circumvent the awkward. “Do you want a drink?” she asks, pointing to her own highball glass set as she sets it down on her desk. “I’m getting better at it.” No, he says, rising as she sinks into the chair next to him, but thanks.
He looks down at her, and she looks up. “Everything okay?” she asks, as if the whole thing with Eli didn’t happen. She’s gotten even better at lying to herself, which I’m not sure I knew was possible. “No,” he says as if she’s crazy for asking. “Full discovery.” Indeed. “Oh,” she huffs. “Well. Maybe we’re just on the wrong side of this one.” Gee, do you think? “Maybe,” he growls. “I’ll see you.”
“The judge’s granted full discovery,” Louis Canning tells his assembled troops. “Now this complicates our job but it doesn’t alter it.” It’s just more stuff to go through, so get going, in other words. As everyone else leaves, Alicia and Lucca stay behind to explain – not about the so called Animal Incident, as I was expecting, but a problem some users brought to the attention of the online customer service. When I type in my name, a user writes, it comes up with “some seriously racist crap.” You know how when you type in the start of a search, you get the most popular options that complete what you’ve already written? In his case, the autocomplete followed up the name Jamal with “stole my car” and “arrest record.” Oh dear. That’s not good. Canning agrees that it looks bad. “But it’s non-responsive,” he insists. “Really?” Alicia and Lucca wonders. “How do you figure?”
He figures because the autocomplete is simply based on user feedback, on what searches have been run before. It’s the same argument they got buzzed for before: Chum Hum isn’t racist, its users are. Except as the judge pointed out, even if many of its users are racist, the company ought to find a way to compensate for them. The racist content eventually becomes their fault. Not that Alicia and Lucca bring this up; they decide it’s Canning’s case and he gets the final say. “One could argue,” Canning argues, “that it’s racist to interfere with the results.”
“Okay, we need to deal with the Animal Incident,” Alicia switches topics. Yep. You knew we would. “I don’t like the sound of that,” Canning says, and he’s going to like it even less when Alicia (who’s wearing a stunning gray dress, so perfectly fitted I could cry) explains what it is. “Chum Hum has photo identification software,” she begins, “it sorts your photos into categories.” Without being told, Lucca brings up the page with the categories Alicia describes: camping, vacation, graduation. “One of the customers pointed out that it had tagged photos of her friends,” Lucca picks up the thread, clicking on the Animal category, where we see a smiling African American woman surrounded by a large cowl of thick hair. “Oh,” Canning groans.
Yeah. That’s pretty much the definition of not good.
“Alicia Florrick was willing to forgive her husband when he stumbled,” a woman with a smooth bob says in what’s clearly the focus group, sitting behind the number 7, “she deserves at least that much understanding.” The man sitting next to her, designated #8, agrees. They wouldn’t have put her on the election board if she hadn’t turned herself around, right? Oh God. I’m rather astounded that people are so ready to forgive her — and also, honestly, that her not divorcing her husband matters so much to anyone under 60. That can’t possibly be typical, can it? I mean, I don’t know anyone who would vote for Hillary Clinton because she stuck with Bill, or who respects Huma Abedin for not kicking Anthony Weiner to the curb. HITG walks between a U made out of folding tables, and asked the group what else Alicia has done to change their opinion of her. “Her episode of Momma’s Homespun Cooking,” a woman in her twenties answers. “It was so.. raw.” It was that for sure. Who knew that would be a bonus? “Like she’s a real person with crap to deal with.”
Eli and Courtney watch in complete amazement. “This is really good,” Courtney breathes, and Eli (wearing a very silly headset) nods enthusiastically. Soon, however, they’re interrupted by Nora, whom Eli grabs and drags out into the hall. “I have a mission for you,” he says. Oooh, a mission, she smiles, intrigued by the idea of playing Mata Hari. “Sounds very … mission-like.” Ah, yes, I can see your poetry training shining through, Nora. Actually, it is, Eli declares.
“Mr. Agos?” Brian/Biff asks, walking into the conference room where Monica and Cary are once again working in hostile silence. “Cary,” Cary reminds the young associate as Monica smirks. “I was checking up on the background of the coders over at the Chicago Chum Hum office,” he begins, and Cary gets him to specify that he’s looking at safe filter creator Kip O’Neill. Uh oh. They’re going to find the Animal Incident even without discovery. “I went through his online postings.” Facebook and twitter, coming back to bite you in the ass. “A year before he created the filter, in 2013, he got mugged. He didn’t say where, but he said it was in a ‘sketchy neighborhood.'” Intrigued, Monica stops her work to listen. “If you were mugged by…” Poor Biff/Brian chokes on the words, and looks back at Monica in alarm. “You can say it,” she says. “If he were mugged by African American people it’s evidence he was racially motivated in the creation of the filter,” Briff spits out, giving Monica an embarrassed look. “Good,” Cary replies. “Do we know if he was mugged by African Americans?” Not yet.
“Whoof,” Cary says as his underling walks out of the conference room. “That is pretty good work by Biff. Don’t you think?” he asks Monica. Well, it’s a good find, anyway.
“It’s really not my team,” a guy says in a small voice, looking at that alarming photo of a smiling woman marked Animal. “Imaging and tagging.” It’s Kip, and this time he’s wearing an orange and red Hawaiian shirt. “I’ll bring Josh over,” he offers, and runs away from Team Flinn. Hmm, or should it be Quick? Oooh. I like that portmanteau way better. Of course Alicia’s focusing on why Jason hasn’t joined them; it seems he told Lucca that he thought Alicia might want to limit his hours on the case. Oh boy. So much for your hot pool boy fantasies, Alicia. But before she can vent her confusion and frustration at losing out on her favorite new toy, Kip shows up with Josh, a teeny tiny programmer in an unironic sweater and glasses.
With large stiff gestures, Teeny Tiny Josh explains that there was no racist person telling the software to label our unknown lady an animal; an algorithm did it. So your algorithm can’t tell the difference between an African American woman and an animal, Lucca snarks. “It can now,” Tiny not-Tim quivers. “but, ah, three years ago we hadn’t given it enough examples. It had real issues with light and shadow.It got a lot of other stuff wrong, too, just nothing else that looked so…” he breaks off in confusion, looking at Lucca, who raises pitiless eyebrows at him. “Racist?” Alicia suggests helpfully. “Right. It’s gotten better. Google had this problem too.”
Yep. They had exactly that problem.
“Did you ever see the algorithm mistake a white person for an animal?” Alicia wonders, and gee, what do you know, that never happened. “Why would it do that?” Tiny not-Tim wonders, his face blank. Sigh. It doesn’t mistake them for polar bears or white seals, Lucca suggests, which makes little Josh giggle. How ridiculous would that be? Well, why not? Why does it have trouble with one race and not another? “I guess because we hadn’t given it enough examples,” Josh frowns. “We’re not racist!” No, of course not. “I’m not saying you are,” Lucca replies. “I’m just looking around your workplace.” And when she does, all she sees are Caucasian men in their twenties. It’s possible there’s one woman in the back of the room, but maybe I’m just extrapolating because of his/her fuchsia sweater.
“It’s clearly responsive,” Alicia tells Canning at their next meeting, this time in Alicia’s office. “I disagree,” he says, and of course he does. Nothing is responsive in his world. “It’s not racist…” Right, tell me that one again, I haven’t heard it enough, “its a technical shortcoming.” No. It’s a racist technical shortcoming. “It’s implicit bias,” Alicia argues. “Look, no one at Chum Hum is actually racist, they just code what they know.” No one you’ve talked to self-identifies as a racist, Alicia, but that’s not the same thing. “That’s why the tagging software never misidentifies white people as animals,” Lucca snaps, and Canning stands up, a little Napoleon.
“The software has been corrected,” he snaps back. “You yourself said no one there is actually racist. This is non-responsive. Click it.” Ugh.
“He’s wrong,” Alicia tells her partner, who sits down heavily beside her. Lucca nods. “He also pays our bills. So I think we have to click it,” Lucca replies, gritting her teeth. The two women stare unhappily at the red and green buttons on their screen (responsive or non-responsive). Happily, Alicia get a brief reprieve when her doorbell rings. It’s Nora. “The campaign sent me,” she announces. Why, Alicia wonders, confused. “In case you need anything,” Nora explains — but as Jason saunters in behind her, it’s clear what’s really going on. She’s a chaperon. “Back to the grindstone?” Alicia asks Jason. “Yeah,” he grunts, “tough boss.” And then Lucca heads out because she’s had a call from Cary; who knows, maybe he wants to settle? Um, no. But Nora immediately sees this is what Eli didn’t want — Alicia alone in her apartment with Jason — and scoots inside. “I’ll just wait. In a corner. In case you need anything.” I’m fine, Alicia tries to insist. “It’s okay,” Nora tells her cheerfully, pulling a paperback out of her purse, “I have a book.”
Cause that’s not obvious or anything, Eli.
“Thanks for coming in, Lucca,” Cary says from inside his office. Honestly, it feels smaller than Alicia’s old office, the one she was redecorating (or failing to redecorate) when Will realized she was leaving and fired her. Anything to settle this, Lucca replies in that pert, arch way she has. When she sits down, he shares the information about their Achilles heel, Kip O’Neill, and his mugging. “This is why I’m here?” she asks, smirking. Yes, he says, even though personally handing her the information is completely unnecessary. “Why call me? Why not Alicia?” I though you’d be more helpful, he answers. (Really? What does that mean?)
She looks at Kip’s printed out Facebook status, and then back up at Cary. “You’re implying the assailants were black?” she asks, and Cary snorts, belated realizing that this sound like a racist presumption. “I’m not implying anything, I thought you could ask your client,” he laughs awkwardly. Gracefully rising, Lucca hands back the print out. “Next time, call Alicia too,” she suggests. “This seems like something both our sides would need to address if it turns out to be race related,” Cary adds. “Bye,” Lucca says, giving him a flat glare through the glass wall on her way out.
And as soon as she’s out of his sight, she pulls out her phone and fills in Alicia. “That’s alright, I got it. Jason’s here, I’ll ask him.” Jason slouches in one of Alicia’s chairs, chewing gently on the arm of his glasses. As soon as she fills him in, he heads off to discover the race of Kip’s assailants.
You know what, though? She’s not quite ready to let him go. “Did Eli talk to you before, when you were here?” she asks belatedly. I guess she was too angry to do that before. He freezes, and you can see tension take his shoulders underneath his olive-colored jacket. “Ay-yup,” he admits. “About us?” she asks. I half expect him to say that there is no us; her word choice interests me, anyway. “What do you mean, us,” he growls. “Us, working together,” she clarifies. He watches her for a second, and then nods. Yes. Have you noticed how much of this episode is filmed looking up or looking down at people? The characters are rarely on equal footing. I don’t want things to be uncomfortable between us, she sighs, and he agrees. “Well then don’t let Eli make them uncomfortable,” she insists. He looks down, squirms a little, and then walks toward her, which looks very intimidating from that angle.
“Here’s the thing,” he confesses, his voice scraping like gravel, “I used to have a very different life. A very…” he shakes his head. “… uncomfortable life.” Oh dear. “I didn’t like it. So now, there is nothing I do that makes me uncomfortable.” He pins her down with his gaze. What does it mean? That he’s comfortable with her? Or that she’s on notice that he’ll bolt as soon as things get weird? “Nothing. Even if I want something…”
And that, of course, is when Nora opens the door. “Is everything alright in here?” Once she’s gone, the moment of uncharacteristic honesty is too. Though Alicia tries to pry the end of the sentence out of him, it’s shut fast inside. “Look, I just like things simple,” he says. “Work simple, home simple.” And isn’t it, Alicia asks. “It was,” he answers, and they share a complicated, rueful look before Jason excuses himself to go back to finding Kip’s assailants. When he leaves, Alicia lets out a frustrated puff of air.
“How do we go from mugging victim to possible racist?” Canning sighs. There’s just a lot of that going around these days. Alicia explains what ought to be obvious. “So cynical,” Canning sighs, which is hilarious. The good news is that for this new day, Alicia has armed herself in a black leather suit jacket. It’s not quite Kalinda, but it’s definitely bad ass. “Here he is,” Lucca says, wearing a very cute black and white sweater; it’s Jason, with the happy news that Kip’s muggers were white. Hallelujah! We dodged a bullet, Canning observes.
“What do you get when you cross a black and two Mexicans?” Jason asks, and the three lawyers stare at him. “Excuse me?” Lucca asks sharply, crossing her arms. “It’s a joke,” Jason tells her, but unfortunately it’s more than that: it’s a joke that Kip emailed a few weeks before launching Chummy Maps, and will give Diane and Cary grounds for bias. “Damn,” Alicia curses.
They really are on the wrong side of this one.
“I’m not a racist,” Kip defends himself. Today he’s wearing a bright orange sweater with thin stripes, and glasses that somehow fog over his eyes, making him look like a bug. Do you think they have an unofficial dress code here? Everyone’s candy-coated. Maybe the costume department has these folks matching their office a little too much. “And I’m sure some of your best friends are blacks and Mexicans,” Lucca snarks. “The joke was just me breaking up the drudge work,” he offers, this explanation woefully insufficient. “Apparently work around here gets pretty drudge-y — there are dozens of these jokes here!” Lucca denounces him, thrusting a sheaf of printed out emails toward him. (What does he think it means to be racist? Is he congratulating himself on not joining the Klan?) “Then you’ve seen the white jokes too,” he says, taking the papers. “That really doesn’t help, Kip,” Alicia sighs.
“Look, we work a hundred hours a week here. We sleep on the floor half the nights. It was a meta-joke, a joke about joking. Like a dead baby joke,” he offers, digging that hole even further.
“So they were just a bunch of immature frat boys blowing off steam,” Canning assesses, back at his office. “Pretty much,” Alicia agrees (and why is that okay? because they’re smart and educated?), “but it’s going to be pretty hard denying any knowledge of racism to Judge Marx.” Her temporary ally looks thoughtful. “You’re right,” Canning realizes. She can’t handle it; you’re finally agreeing with me, she gasps. “it’s been known to happen, Alicia,” he laughs. Great, she says. She’ll tag all the racist jokes the coders emailed as responsive.
“Not just email,” Canning suggests. I knew that was too good to be true. He wants every joke on the entire internet. “You’re going to bury the emails,” Alicia realizes, surprised, as if this weren’t the strategy employed by every TV lawyer in the history of TV. Of course not, Canning replies with an admirably straight face. I’m just following the judge’s directives.
“This is there discovery?” Diane asks as Cary sets down a 50 TB hard drive on her desk. It’s a relatively small box, but like the TARDIS, it’s bigger on the inside. “Picture all the contents of the Library of Congress, and then multiply that by five,” Cary says, holding up one hand, his fingers spread out for emphasis. Or in case she can’t count. “Congratulations. We’ve just been hit with what may be the biggest document dump in American legal history.”
Well, you did say you could handle whatever discovery they threw at you…
And angry Eli stomps through the governor’s office, frowning fiercely. “Go away,” he spits at a blond staffer talking to Nora, who’s now wearing a draped mustard dress with cool puffed sleeves. “What are you doing here, you’re supposed to be at Alicia’s!” he hisses. “No,” she tells him. “I’m supposed to be working.” That was work, he snaps. “No, that was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, Eli,” Nora declares, then pauses for dramatic effect. “And I’ve done your laundry.” Ah, Nora. How I adore you. Not quite the mission you were hoping for, was it?
“What are they doing now,” he whispers. “Eli,” she snaps, exasperated, “they’re not schtupping at 11 o’clock in the morning.” Sssssh, he hisses. “Courtney can’t know!” On cue, Courtney sashays out of Ruth’s office. “You are a horrible employee,” he tells Nora as if unable to understand the depth of her baseness. “Okay, and you’re a monster,” she hisses back.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do,” he switches gears, chipper and smiling as Courtney walks up behind Nora. “Thank you so much,” Nora replies (clearly use to these sudden reversals of style), and glares at her boss before stalking off.
“Everything all right?” Courtney asks. Yes, Eli lies, and then his face and voice go all soft. “Can I call you later?” About the PAC, she teases, knowing full well what he means. “About the PAC,” he nods. And then, oh my gosh, she stands on her toes and kisses him on the lips in the middle of the office. After she leaves, Eli has an unobstructed view of Nora wagging her finger at him. Oh, no you don’t!
“You rang?” Ruth interrupts Eli’s reverie, and hands him a file. It’s essentially a background check on Jason — oppo research, if you will. “Skeletons and such,” Ruth adds. “Show it to Alicia.” No way, Eli tells her. “It won’t work.” You haven’t read it, Ruth promises him. “Alicia doesn’t scare,” Eli shakes his head. “Not when it comes to men.” Huh. That’s an interesting way of looking at Alicia’s past; it’s demonstrably true, given her marriage, although you could argue that’s a special case. Ruth takes a step in. “All women scare,” she says. “Use it.”
Wow. Do you suppose her search turned up more than the assault conviction and disbarment Alicia already knows about?
“Here he is again,” Monica observes as Briff walks into the conference room, where she’s still improbably closeted with Cary. “What did you find, Brian?” Cary asks, taking pity on the new associate. “I was going through the algorithms,” he says, hands in his pockets, awkward. “I thought you were looking through the discovery,” Cary frowns; he and Monica are both typing away at an impressive rate. “Sometimes it’s best to look at the math,” Brian observes, and that’s right, he interned at a tech company, didn’t he? “What did you find?” Monica wonders. “A patch,” he says. “Pretty crude, hastily done.” I don’t know what that means, Cary frowns, doing his best Temperance Brennan imitation. “It’s embedded in the photo-tagging software,” Briff explains. Ooops. “It was altered so that the word ‘animal’ could never appear in a photo tag.” That was their idea of a fix? Unimpressive.
“Why would they do that?” Cary wonders, and I don’t blame him. We know why, but I wouldn’t leap to a racist conclusion if I didn’t know, because I wouldn’t expect the software to do what it did. “To hide something?” Briff guesses, which is right on the money. It’s a loose string; you should tug on it.
“Plaintiff has a motion to compel?” Judge Marx asks, surprised. “We do,” Diane tells him, coming to the judges bench for a side bar. With her laptop. With the tagged photo on the screen. Squirming, caught out and ashamed, Alicia and Lucca try to make themselves too small for the judge to see. “We discovered this photo when we noticed a patch in Chum Hum’s photo-tagging algorithm,” she explains.
“A patch in the software? So it wouldn’t happen again?” Oh, the tone in Marx’s voice is just not promising. “Yes, but rather than fix the underlying problem, they patched it to prevent one instance of the problem from recurring.” Was this included in discovery, the judge wonders. We don’t know, Diane complains, because of the data dump. “It will take my firm six years to work through it.”
Alicia looks down at the ground, pained.
“I see,” says the judge, and then he shuts the laptop so he can see Alicia’s face. “Mrs. Florrick. Did you include this photo in discovery?” There’s nothing she can say but no. “Were you aware of the photo?” We were, she admits, “but we found it non-responsive.” Sigh. It’s got to suck, defending a decision you didn’t agree with. “Really? So you found 50 terabytes of data responsive, but an African American woman being mistaken for an animal didn’t make the cut?”
“We believed it did not,” Alicia replies, her eyes still on the ground. You will give all responsive documents to plaintiff’s attorneys today, the judge snaps. “And you have been found in contempt,” he adds, his personal contempt plain on his face. “Your Honor, this was not my…” she starts, but he’s not hearing it, and Canning gets a pass. “You will pay 5,000 to the clerk by the end of day Friday, as well as any plaintiff’s costs or attorneys fees incurred in pursuing this violation.” Ouch. Even Cary and Diane don’t gloat. “And if there are any more games like this, the sanctions will be doubled, do you understand?” She does.
Leaning on his black SUV, Eli waits for Jason on what I’m guess is the street outside Alicia’s apartment. Have we seen it since the first season, since Peter followed Alicia outside to stop her from meeting Will? Hmm. Maybe just when The Haircut was photographed walking out of the building? “Look,” Jason says, hands in the pockets of his black jacket, “you have any more questions, you ask Alicia. I’m a guest here, all right?” I don’t have a question, Eli replies pleasantly. Good, Jason growls.
But then Eli holds out Ruth’s folder of dirt.
“What’s that?” Jason asks, on guard, disdainful. “A file on you. From the campaign.” This makes Jason laugh a little. “You serious?” he wonders. “I’m not, but the campaign is,” Eli explains.
“She knows all about my criminal record, I don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist,” Jason scoffs. “Take a look at the back page,” Eli invites him, stretching out the paper even further. Jason takes it. “Does she know about that?”
He looks, and Eli puts on his most intimidating voice. “Why are you investigating Alicia?”
What? Well. I didn’t see that one coming.
“It’s none of your business,” Jason replies. “Actually, that part is.” Oh, come on. In a presidential campaign, it all is.
“I was goin’ into business with her,” Jason says, his face cold. “I wanted to know more about my prospective employer.” Plausible, if suspicious. Better than the alternatives. “I don’t believe you,” Eli says. “And I seriously don’t give a damn,” Jason tells him. Yeah, I’m not buying that. “This stuff? This is your life. It’s not mine.” See, but that’s where you’re wrong. When you choose to work for a woman whose husband is running for president, it became your life. When Alicia told Peter he could run, it became hers. If neither of you wanted to live in a hermetically sealed bubble, you shouldn’t ever have signed up to do it.
“Eli,” Jason says, putting himself right up to Eli’s face. “Do not make it mine.” He stares at the campaign operative for what feels like years; Eli stares back. “Now get off my car,” he demands, and it’s only when he steps away that Eli slumps and breathes again.
This time, it’s not just Cary and Monica sitting in the conference room. ” Okay,” Diane says, “we’re listening.”
“One,” Lucca begins, wearing the same black and white chevron sweater. “Effective at 9am this morning, Josh Shelby’s employment at Chum Hum was terminated.” Oh no! Tiny Tim! Poor little goat. “The photo-coder,” Cary nods as Lucca hands over a document confirming this. “Yes,” Lucca continues. “Two, the safe filter has been changed from a default setting to an opt in. Users will have to activate it if they want to know what areas to avoid.” Hmmm. “And the business icons should not be switched off,” Monica insists. “We agree,” Lucca raises up her chin.
“All right,” Cary says, “and how much’re you offering?” Zero, Alicia tells them. (Gosh, I love that leather blazer. She looks like such a ninja.) “We were under the impression this was a settlement offer,” Diane asks, after exchanging puzzled looks with Cary. “These are Little Dokebi’s financial records,” Alicia says, handing over a thick file of her own discovery. “The restaurant was struggling. Ms. Feldman was slashing costs almost as much as 35% because business was going soft.” Ms. Feldman looks horrified. “She started doing this two months before the safe filter went live.”
“Restaurant business 101, Ms. Feldman. Your business tanked because you skimped on quality.” Canning gloats, and Alicia tries to shush him. “That’s not true!” Feldman defends herself. “How did you even get these? documents?” Diane wonders. That’s when the new COO steps in. “Ms. Feldman stored them on Chum Hum’s cloud based spread sheets service.” Which is private, Diane complains. “Actually, users authorize Chum Hum total access when they agree to the terms of service,” Alicia replies smugly. “It was a free service.” She probably wanted to save some money, Canning mutters. He’s really not a nice person. The room devolves into chaos.
I’m not sure what we can do about this, Monica tells her friend outside the conference room. From the doorway, Lucca watches the debate, clearly conflicted. Like she wants to be on that side of the fence and wonders how she ended up on her own. “So your client isn’t racist,” Cary snarks, walking up behind her, “just omnipotent.” Keeping us all safe, she agrees wryly, still watching the other women converse. “Wanna celebrate?” Cary asks, tucking his phone into his jacket, smiling to himself but looking straight ahead. Well. That was unexpected, considering he spent the entire episode sparring with Monica. Sparing him a quick look, Lucca turns her head back toward the knot of women. “In what manner?” I love her prim use of the word. “In any manner you desire,” Cary smiles, and Lucca does turn to look at him then, flashing a dimple at the camera.
And of course, her desired manner involves a crowded club and a pounding techno bassline. “So is this your place?” Cary asks, slugging back a drink. “Let’s go dance,” Lucca points to the densest spot in the large room, where bodies writhe in the flashing lights. “I don’t really dance,” he says, and she almost chokes on her drink, laughing. “Too bad,” she laughs, and heads off, ditching her drink to dance with strangers in the throng. He smiles, watches.
“Screw it,” he declares, and pushes through the crowd toward her. She tosses an arm over his shoulder, and they dance, along with a hundred others.
Apartment door 903 opens to reveal Eli. “I’m sorry to bother you so late,” Eli begins. “We need to talk about Jason.” No we don’t, Alicia growls wearily. She’s taken off her leather jacket to reveal a pretty black dress with blocks of lace and sheer fabric beneath. “He has a file on you,” Eli presses. “What does that mean?” Alicia shrugs. “He has a personal file on you,” Eli says. (How did Ruth find this out, I wonder. Does Jason have an office? A cloud account she could have someone hack into?) “He has looked into your past.” The two of them stare at each other. Eli nods. It’s true, all of it.
Alicia slams the door in his face.
He frowns. We end as we ended, with That Dog’s peppy “Retreat from the Sun.” Our view goes from Eli’s thoughtful, canny expression through the peep hole in the door, to where Alicia stands in her kitchen, leaning on arm on her island, weighing her options.
Well. That’s a lot to discover.
I liked the case, even though I didn’t love being on the wrong side of it — and no, Alicia and Lucca feeling bad about it didn’t exactly make me feel better about that part. I’m sorry that Ms. Feldman ended up with no money at the end (not even the 50k Monica sneered at in the beginning), but affecting change for the greater good actually felt more satisfying than a payout from my perspective. I’m thrilled that they brought Monica back, and I would love to see her stay on the show in whatever capacity they can find.
I really hope Canning paid those contempt fees, though, what with it being his instruction to leave out stuff Alicia wanted to mark as responsive. Or Chum Hum.
Cary and Lucca, huh? That’s an interesting thought. I did see her eyeing him early on, but I guess I was preoccupied with or blinded by his sparring with Monica. We just haven’t seen Cary get his game on in a long time. I’m going to reserve judgement on this one.
I’m also reserving judgement on Jason. Why does he have a file about Alicia? How did Ruth find it? What does it say? Was it just for his personal edification, or is there some deeper game going on? Really strange. He’s made himself pretty clear, though; he won’t complicate his life, no matter how much he might want to. And Alicia comes with a boat load of complications. Let’s face it: Alicia’s an ocean liner of complications.
And yeah, I won’t go on again about the sheer stupidity of Alicia (of any of them) thinking that a presidential run is anything less than a prison. Put St. Alicia in a convent, stat! I honestly wouldn’t count out a run for office, if Eli actually makes it to the stage where he presses her for one. She’s done it before. It would bore me, and probably disappoint me because she’s yet to prove she stands for anything other than ambition, or can solve problems larger than the strategies of a case, but I wouldn’t put it past her or the show. Sigh.
Yeah, I’m not even going to go down that road. At some point, Eli and Alicia and Peter will probably have to deal with that information Eli dug with to sink Frank. When they do, that’s when we’ll know what’s going on.
Or I suppose this show could bury that thread as they’ve done so many others.