E: Okay, here’s the deal. This week featured a really difficult and emotional case — which was a criminal case, by golly! — and some big emotional revelations and upheavals, not to mention the departure of two interesting new characters. Good, right? Except for two things. 1) Consistent characters. 2) Believable plots.
So that’s the other side of the coin.
Though the sun is shining, the offices of Lockhart, Agos & Lee are empty and eerily silent. Not a creature is stirring, not even in the conference room, where 8 black cell phones lie dormant in the middle of the table. It’s all a bit unsettling, those soldiers all in a row. Has everyone died of the plague? Or perhaps extreme old age?
The third phone from the far end begins to chime out in a generic ringtone. The call is from Cary, on November 10th.
“Brian, it’s Cary,” Cary grins on the elevator, wearing a hoodie layered over a gray t, an extravagantly pink box of donuts under his arm. He thanks the obsequious new associate for pulling an all-nighter on one of Dipple’s cases; Ethan Carver is expected an hour early. And then he steps off the elevator and into a ghost world. Like Cary, I don’t understand what’s happening at first. He calls someone named Cedric, genially wondering why he and Brian/Biff aren’t at the office. Could they be showering at home, or down on the 27th floor? “I’ve got donuts on the 28th,” he grins again, and ends the call just in time to see the hollowed out conference room with the eight black iphones on the table, and stacks of boxes marked “Dipple” arranged around the room.
His jaw slack, Cary calls first Cedric (Fogerty) and then Briff (Carter). Their phones ring on the desk. It’s nicely dramatic, and succeeds at striking horror in Cary’s heart.
“Where the hell is my defendant?” Judge Don Schakowsky demands angrily. Breakfast is back! How strange to see him in this more expansive setting. Your Honor, Alicia begins to explain. “I can’t wait to hear this,” he snarks. Apparently he’s taken his obsession with punctuality and efficiency to a wide new stage. Life beyond Bond court; it does exist. “But Mrs. Florrick, if the next word out of your mouth isn’t ‘right here’ or ‘dead,’ I will be very upset.” Let’s be honest; you’re already upset. You live on the corner of Blowing Your Stack and Fuming. You’re a citizen of Angrytown.
But I digress.
“He’s in surgery,” Alicia explains. When the jury has been impaneled? Say it ain’t so! “Is that the 21st century equivalent of ‘my dog ate my homework’?” No, Alicia replies (and, what does that even mean, that in the 21st century all elementary school students are surgeons?), “he’s literally in surgery.” Being the pain in the ass he is, Schakoswky bloviates on about she’s used the word ‘literally’ improperly. Surely he can’t literally be in surgery! Was he in an accident? But actually, since her client is a surgeon, he is literally in a surgical theater. Tediously, Breakfast insists that the good doctor must have scheduled a surgery to conflict with his court date; not so, insists Alicia. It’s just that the very respected cardiac specialist Dr. Portnow’s working on a 4 month old baby, and this has run longer than expected.
And he’s on trial for criminal conspiracy, Matan Brody huffs from the prosecution table. “Your Honor, this is obscene,” he complains, standing and buttoning his jacket, clearly of the opinion that Portnow scheduled the operation to make himself look good. (I’m still stuck on the timing here. A few second ago, Cary was walking into his office at the crack of dawn. If Portnow really has been in surgery for five hours — not really that long for a pediatric heart surgery, I don’t think – then when did he start it? 2 am?) “It was intended to go so long so you would wonder how a doctor could do such villainous things.” Villainous, Matan? That’s particularly inflated language. Interesting. No, Matan, Alicia snaps. “The surgery went two hours longer than planned.”
“Wait. Mrs. Florrick. Your client had an appearance time of 10am.” So that means he started the surgery at 5am? That’s very, um, industrious. “I don’t know if it was staged or not, but I will treat your client like any other. I am issuing a warrant for Dr. Portnow. Sheriff. Please arrest Dr. Portnow as soon as he puts down his scalpel.”
At the LAL offices, David and Diane vent in loud voices. They’re wearing the requisite gray suits, while Cary leans back against the wall, still in his sweats. I don’t understand. Did he come right from the gym? “Cary, who is it?” Diane demands. “Who left?” The devil spawn, David spits out (speaking of people who live in Angrytown on the intersection of Hissing Street and Hollering Corner). “Seriously, David,” Diane rolls her eyes at him. “What, you’re worried about offending him?” David snaps. Oh, David. “Can you join us here?” Diane turns to Cary, clearly sick of David’s useless invective. “Yes, can we talk about the idiots you hired?” Quite rightly, Cary points out that everyone he hired, he hired with David’s full approval and agreement. I won’t take the blame for this, the youngest name partner insists. “Stop it, that’s enough,” Diane pounds. “Is there anybody left, Cary? From Dipple’s team?” She’s devastated, more so to hear that answer is no.
“Typical Ivy League morons,” David grouses. “You let ’em in the door, they foment a rebellion.” Who is is that wanted to hire those Ivy Leaguers again? Who mocked Monica’s non-Ivy, “third tier” education? Ah, the whole concept of irony is lost on David. Or maybe it’s just self-reflection. “All young associates are snakes,” Howard Lyman insists. “And you wonder why they walked out?” Cary asks, defeat echoing in his voice.
“You’re not seriously blaming us?” Diane asks, and I have to say, I’m with her. I could understand the rebellion Cary and Alicia helmed, after the crap Diane and Will pulled with the rescinded partnerships. But Briff can’t have put in more than what, a month or two of work? How entitled is that? They just wanted good work, Cary sighs. “Which we gave them,” Diane answers from her high horse. “Grudgingly,” Cary frowns, “and only because they were willing to bust their asses on a highly technical case!”
Hold on, David commands, watching people walk through the office. Ah, so they’re not alone! It looked like it. It’s Dipple’s men, he points out. Diane’s eyes bug.
How long will it take to get this filed, she asks Cary. Just a few hours, he nods reassuringly. “I put together the strategy, the associates just ground out the exhibits.” Good, Diane says. And then she remembers something from the last rebellion. (Man. It’s like rebellion is the new campaign over on the legal side. Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and big bit worse.) What if the associates purged ongoing work product from their computers? What if, in other words, they took Dipple’s files with them? “I’ll check,” Cary gasps, alarmed. “We have hundreds of pages of scientific explanations and diagrams,” Diane reminds Cary. (Ooooh, why? Abortion? Gay marriage? Birth control? Intriguing.) I’ll check, he nods.
“AAMOF, what is that?” Ethan Carver asks Diane, looking up from his damnable cell phone when she joins him in her office. “As a matter of fact,” she explains before greeting him and asking how he is. “Oh,” he says. “You know what I hate about acronyms? They make you do all the work.” That’s not an acronym, she explains. An acronym has to make a word, like NATO. (By which she means it doesn’t have to form a pre-existing word, like SHIELD; it just has to be something you can say like it’s a word.) “Really?” he looks up from his phone, smiling. “We’re arguing before we even say hello?” I said hello, she banters back. (I don’t want to say she’s flirting, because Kurt, but, well, listen to them.)
“Mr. Dipple is impressed you’re willing to take this on,” he says. “Go out on a limb,” Diane smirks, “that’s where the fruit is.” Oh. I like that. “So I can tell Mr. Dipple we’re set to file?” Diane, who’s seen Cary ashen face through her office wall, asks for a minute, and hustles into the hall. “They wiped them clean,” he declares, the tendons in his neck taut. “Their work product, everything.”
“We need to talk, Cary,” Diane replies, her voice going up an octave. “I am not falling on my sword for hiring people everybody wanted,” he snaps. “That’s not what this is about. You turned it into a generational fight.” It is a generational fight, he shoots back. “Which blinded you to the fact that they played you. They played you, Cary!” No, you know what I see, he asks. “You, David, and a half a dozen other partners froze the associates out.” What? Obviously his partner doesn’t agree. “No matter how this happened, you need to make this right, Cary,” Diane demands. “Now!”
That seems just a little harsh, no?
“The thought of you in here with no view depresses me,” Courtney Paige tells Eli, hanging a massive painting on the wall where the extra copy paper (and it’s shelving unit) used to be. Apparently there’s nothing to see outside the window behind his desk? “It’s by an LA artist, Jose Ramirez,” she explains of the vivid scene, rollicking swirls of red and green, rounded people rushing through a farmer’s field with a cityscape in the distance. “It’s a little big,” he whispers hoarsely; she just smiles. “I wanted you to be swallowed up in it,” she smirks, giving her words a double meaning. “Oh, that won’t be a problem,” he agrees, doubtful about the painting but happy to be swallowed up in her. “So how are we?” he asks, leaning on a metal shelf, “Are we good?” She gives him a quizzical look. “It’s just – it’s weird to be dating a billionaire.” She snort-laughs.
“Not a billionaire,” she teases, sashaying toward him. “195 million.” (Oh, thanks for clearing that up. I’m sure he’s far less intimidated now.) They share a quick kiss.
She never answers the question.
Are you going to see Ruth now, he asks as Courtney heads for the door. Which she, graceful as ever, does not smack onto his desk on her way out. (Or maybe that’s just because she’s a functional human being and can remember that it won’t open all the way.) She is. “She wants to talk about Alicia,” Eli guesses correctly. “Tell her I handled it,” he adds.
“I need your help, Miss Paige,” Ruth jumps right to the point; she’s worried something untoward is going on between Alicia and her investigator Jason Crouse. I admit, I’m fascinated by this. Why would Ruth go to Courtney on this issue? That seems crazy. Didn’t she want Courtney to think that Peter and Alicia are a boring old happily married couple? Didn’t they go to preposterous lengths to convince her of that fiction? Isn’t she afraid Courtney will withdraw her support if she sees this potential for scandal and defeat?
But at least someone on the writing staff thinks not, because Ruth (who claims that Eli has no judgment when it comes to Alicia) essentially asks Courtney to throw some money at the problem and make it disappear. Sigh. I suppose that is what big donors sometimes do.
And accordingly, she does. Jason’s sitting in some sort of gorgeous park or botanical garden, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper by a pedestrian bridge over a rushing stream. His black iphone has the same generic ringtone as Cedric’s. As walkers and cyclists pass by, Courtney offers him 50k for two months work. It’s characteristically of him that the only answer we see is a long silence.
“Good morning,” Cary says to the rebellious eight, joining their table at a brick-walled cafe. Somewhat to my surprise, they’re all white men. Were all those giggling girls not invited to join the boys club? “How’d you find us?” Briff asks him, stiff and defensive. On his right is Cary’s Would-Be BoyToy. “Where’s the brief?” Cary asks. “Don’t you want to know why we left?” No, he really doesn’t. “It’s nothing personal,” BoyToy says, “we like you.” Yes, we remember. “We just… don’t wanna be like you,” Briff finishes. What the bleep does that mean? They don’t want to be the name partner in their own major law firm in their early thirties? They don’t want to leave their first firm not for getting enough respect? Seriously, I’m at a loss.
Also, I’m sure he takes that as a total compliment. So well said, you little sniveling dog.
“I don’t give a damn,” Cary bites out, his face like carved ice, “give me back the brief.” There is no brief, Wanna-Be sneers. We never started it.
Cary simply can’t believe that, charging them with erasing the files, threatening them with criminal prosecution. “Come on Cary,” Briff cuts in, bursting with smug confidence and glee, “you know we’re too smart for that.” Okay, that totally makes me hate you. “It’s why you hired us, right?” Yep. “Brian made sure we didn’t look at any of Dipple’s files,” Boy Toy (Dirk, according to the Imdb, played by Phillip Shinn) explains. “We put up our Chinese wall.” I can’t decide if Cary is more horrified or impressed that they’ve been planning this efficiently for this long. “Canning represents Dipple’s opponent,” Briff concludes. “He wants us.” They think CANNING is going to give them more respect? Ha ha ha ha ha ha. “God,” Cary stares at them, grinning slightly, “you are the devil’s spawn.”
Now that Dr. Portnow (handsome in a very stalwart, lantern jaw, Captain America, ever so vaguely bland sort of way) has arrived at court, Alicia and Lucca pepper him with instructions. Apologize humbly for missing the start time. Promise it’ll never happen again. Accordingly, when a grumpy Judge Breakfast enters the court, his sarcasm level set on kill, the doctor stands and earnestly declares his remorse. He was in surgery. “I know that. The scrubs are a really nice touch.” Are you suggesting that your sheriff would have given him time to change his clothes? (I wonder if the costume department had a discussion on how clean those scrubs should be; they’re crisp and pristine, and I wonder if that’s accurate. I mean, I know they wear surgical gowns over the scrubs, but still. On the other hand, arriving in court covered in blood might not make a good impression either.) Lucca points out the inconsistency of this critique, but the judge has no patience for her.
“Okay, sir. Your bail has been revoked.” Alicia gasps out a shocked “Your Honor!” “No, the three of you chose theatrics over my valuable time.” Sigh. He is such an ass. “I don’t care who you are, sir, or what your reputation is. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a defendant charged with planning to kidnap, sedate, and rape a woman.” Holy crap, WHAT? Well. They sure set us up for that one. “And to make sure Dr. Portnow isn’t too busy or distracted to make his court dates, he’ll be put in the care of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Just until we get this rescheduled. Whenever that may be.” Dang. Respectfully, Dr. Portnow attempts to point out that this will mean canceling surgeries, some on very sick children, but it only makes the judge scream louder for the sheriffs to drag the perhaps not-so-good doctor away. Alicia narrows her eyes as an angry Breakfast stomps out of court.
And with a quick knock, she lets herself into his chambers, where he’s hanging up his robe. “Actually, sir, I think now is a good time,” she presses when he at first refuses to listen to her. “I’m sure you know as well as I, m’am, that this is an ex-parte conversation.” Yes, Alicia agrees, but she still thinks they have dirty laundry he won’t want aired on the record. What are you playing at, Alicia? She must know – she ought to know – that he’s going to see your concern as blackmail. But she’s too afraid that he’s biased against her and penalizing her client because of it. (I feel safe in saying he’s penalizing your client because he’s a jerk, actually.) “Your client is accused of conspiring to rape the mother of one of his patients. I’m not sure how our relationship figures into this,” he replies. Wow, this case gets uglier by the moment. She’s baffled. Just leave, Alicia! Don’t play his game! “I’m waiting,” he snaps. And so instead of leaving well enough alone, Alicia points it out. She particularly thinks that he wouldn’t want that whole ugly business about the FBI sting on the record. “You were bribed, sir.”
“Yeah. They targeted me. That means nothing. I didn’t take it.” Only because Eli warned you, she reminds him. You can see from his face that he didn’t know she knew.
“Get out of here,” the judge snaps, standing. “Your Honor, all I’m asking for is fairness,” she insists. What does he think she means? I’m willing to bet it’s an equal return on warning him. (I know that’s not what she means, and you know it, but I get the impression he doesn’t understand honesty or integrity. I doubt he would remotely understand what she’s talking about. I can’t decide if it’s funny or sad that someone as morally compromised as Alicia can still look saint-like and naive in comparison to other characters.) I said get out, m’am, he bites. She stares, at a loss. “Get out! Now!” She speeds out, and walks through the hallways of the court, worried.
To recap. Before getting to the first commercial, we find that 8 white male LAL associates have taken their entitled backsides over to Canning. Quick is defending a heroic-seeming pediatric surgeon who may or may not have a vile double life, and in doing so Alicia has unintentionally attempted to blackmail a sitting judge. Did I leave anything out?
Brutal Mercy – a website that looks, frankly, like manga fan fiction, a tastefully naked hand-drawn man and woman kissing on its home page in tones of red, white and black — turns out to be an online community for people with dark sexual fetishes. Torture, rape, humiliation, that kind of thing. It also turns out that Dr. Portnow was high volume user, according to our old friend Detective Rodriguez; “over the course of 8 months he logged in 182 times.” Okay, that certainly qualifies. As Matan continues his questioning, Alicia leans in and puts her hand on Dr. Dubious’s arm. I just want the jury to see me touch you, she explains in a whisper, so they won’t perceive you as a threat. They nod to each other.
“Then on June 23rd he posted a photo of a woman we i.d.’ed as Lucy Van Gaal.” (Spelling courtesy of the Imdb.) Matan clicks the court screen up, showing us a screen grab from Brutal Mercy, and asks the detective to read the caption beneath the photo of a curly haired blond cheerfully holding up a tray of oven fresh baked goods (nestled between two photos of women in various states of bondage). “Can’t get this one off my mind,” Thealgia writes, “Tasty target. KSR, anyone?” Matan directs the detective to explain the initials KSR to us; on this particular site, it’s short for kidnap, sedate, rape. Visibly shocked, several jury members inhale their horror; they whip around to look at him. Portnow gulps, looking down in front of him, and Alicia watches the jury unhappily.
Again at the ASA’s prompting, Rodriguez explains that another poster (Ordelon246) found poor Ms. Van Gaal tasty, and so the two began a private chat filled with graphic, grotesque detail. “They worked out how the defendant was going to kidnap Ms. Van Gaal, what he would use to sedate her, what the two of them would do to her sexually.” As if this weren’t stomach turning enough, Matan picks up three stacks of paper, each perhaps an inch and half thick, each filled with this correspondence to be entered into evidence. Wow. Of course Alicia argues that the sheer volume of the 211 posts is prejudicial, but Matan successfully argues that they’re essential to proving a conspiracy. “If you’d rather, Mrs. Florrick, we can read them into the record and I can rule on them one by one.” Very funny, Breakfast. She would not rather that at all. Alicia and her pretty brown pantsuit sit in defeat.
So for months you tracked the defendants plan to kidnap, sedate and rape Ms. Van Gaal, Matan continues. “How did you decide when to arrest him?” They waited until the night before he was going to abduct her, the detective explains, just after he finalized plans with his co-conspirator. (Interesting that they weren’t willing to waiting to catch him in the act, but I guess that’s why we’re looking at conspiracy and not attempted k, s and r.) Ordelon would call in sick from his work at a bank in Tampa, drive to Chicago and find a place where they could rape Ms. Van Gaal undisturbed (shudder); it was Dr. Darkness’s job to sedate and kidnap their victim. Portnow squirms uncomfortably.
“Did you find any real world evidence consistent with that plan?” Matan wonders, which means they must have, or he wouldn’t be asking. They did, and it’s a dozy. Rubber tubing, syringes and propofol, the sedative that killed Michael Jackson. “Which matched exactly what he described in his posts.” Now it’s Alicia’s turn to look down and wince.
This just does not look good. There is no angle from which this looks good. Sure, it rings a bit of Minority Report‘s pre-crime unit, but that website itself (which, in opposition to my usual m.o., I am NOT researching) and the prosecution’s case? Yuck.
“There has to be an easier way,” David Lee complains, standing in the main conference room and flipping through a document. “The easier way walked out the door this morning,” Diane growls, but that seems silly. Where are all those female associates that Howard was sexually harassing? Where are the masses of associates from that mixer Cary threw? Where are the rest of the partners and the department heads and all those old people? There are a few other people at the table – an older gentleman, a young African American man, Howard himself — but no where near the numbers we know this firm can and should be fielding. “My first case was a patent,” Howard observes, giving us a possible clue about this mystery brief of Dipple’s. “For what? The wheel?” David snarks. And that’s when Cary walks in, grips the back of a chair with both hands, and admits their former associates have gone over to the Dark Side. That is, Canning.
You’re kidding, says Diane, whipping off her glasses. Drink! Of course what comes up next is the apparently non-existent brief. “We’re dead in the water,” Diane gasps. Filled with the old can-do spirit, Cary thinks they can get together and make one up. “In three and a half hours?” Diane wonders, disbelieving. “How much time do you think we need?” Howard asks. “A week to find new associates,” David grouses. “A week to figure out what the hell this is!” He brandishes a schematic that looks something like a drone with three propellers. “I need to come clear with Carver,” Diane sighs, leaning toward Cary in defeat. “I could call the judge,” Howard offers.
And screeech goes the needle on the record. “You know Nico Terzi?” He certainly does, and without ado he pulls out his phone to ask for some breathing room on the filing deadline. Howard, that would be an unexpected miracle. “Then I’ll go get us some help,” Diane declares, popping out of her seat.
“Detective, do you remember how Dr. Portnow said he had selected Ms. Von Gaal?” Ugh. I’m not sure how she can even stand to say that. Unsurprisingly, he can. “He said she was a passenger on a recent flight he’d piloted.” Huh? Alicia establishes that this was not in fact true — a sign that Dr. Darkness was keeping his online life at least somewhat divorced from his real one. Matan looks up in surprise at the line of questioning, although I can’t think why. She’s grasping at straws. “So it was all just a fantasy,” she argues. “That part was,” Detective Rodriguez corrects her.
Alicia’s next move is to explain away the presence of the tubing and the drugs in Dr. Doom’s trunk. Aren’t those reasonable things for a surgeon to have, she asks? Actually, I’m not sure. I mean, he’s not an anesthesiologist. He’s not the one who sedates people. “I found it unusual that he had it in the trunk of his car,” the detective replies. You can see the jury debating this. “Even though Dr. Portnow how medical device company reps often give him samples and he just tosses them in his car?” He did, the detective admits, but I’m still not buying it. That doesn’t preclude him planning on using them. And honestly, without testimony from those reps, I wouldn’t believe him. Especially since medical device reps wouldn’t be giving away pharmaceuticals.
“So, Dr. Portnow created a fantasy where he was a pilot, which he’s not,” Alicia says, pacing. “And Lucy Van Gaal was a passenger, which she wasn’t. And he talked about using tools which turned out to be leftover medical…” Objection, Matan stands; Alicia’s testifying instead of the detective. She is, and so the objection is sustained. “Detective, Dr. Portnow wrote some upsetting things online,” she nods. “But he never kidnapped, or sedated, or raped anyone, did he?” Alicia ticks these possible offenses off with her fingers, stepping closer to the witness stand with each one. “No,” the detective says, “but that’s because we stopped him before he could.” “Thank you so much, detective,” Alicia calls out loudly over his words. “We appreciate you testifying.”
The thing is, right, he’s not accused of actually kidnapping or sedating or raping anyone. He’s accused of planning to. So the question isn’t whether or not he did those things, but whether he was serious in planning to do them. Of course, those things are so awful that the fact that he could have been planning to do them colors our perception of his character.
“How’s it going?” Jason rumbles out in the hallway. “Skeptical jury. Skeevy client. Harder than it should be with someone who’s not guilty,” Lucca observes. Does that mean she’s convinced he wasn’t planning on doing anything? “What can I do to help?” the investigator wonders; Alicia thinks it’d be a good start to find out if anyone on “the dark fetish website” has actually committed one of the crimes they’ve fantasized about. That seems really hard to verify. Isn’t user info supposed to be private on places like that? Obviously the state can compel disclosure by subpoenaing user data, but I don’t see that defense attorneys could.
“Congratulations,” Lucca smirks. ‘There’s a lot of weird porn in your future.” She pats him on the chest, smirking, and walks away.
“I may have to raise my rate,” he tells Alicia. “I didn’t realize you were such a prude,” she flirts, tipping her head. I got offered 200 an hour, he says. That was ages ago! What’s he playing at? Is he just throwing out that number because he knows she can’t compete with it? “Diane wants you that bad?” Alicia asks. She does, but it’s actually Courtney Paige who’s offering now, he admits, and he whips off his glasses to show how serious the situation is. Drink! “She wants to hire you? Someplace out of town,” she realizes. “San Jose.” She sighs. “Yep. That’s Eli’s doing. He’s worried about us.” Again with the us, Alicia. “The offer’s for two months,” he says, and you know, I think that 40 hours a week for 8 weeks at 50k actually works out closer to 150 an hour, if my calculator is doing that work right. “I can’t beat 200,” Alicia admits. Of course she can’t. He knows that. “I know,” he says, and they nod sadly at each other.
“We wanna offer you the job,” Diane smiles. “You do,” Monica Timmons smirks, giving her would-be boss the side eye. “Look, um, we made a mistake not hiring you the first time around,” Diane admits. How right that turned out to be! “But, ah, I thought we worked well together on Chum Hum.” Right again. I love this girl. She’s a shining light on this muddled, inconsistent season. “And that’s why you want me back, because we worked well together?” Monica half laughs. “Yes, of course,” Diane tries to brazen it out. Miss Monica looks over to the conference room, where David is batting at a file like a cat with a toy on a string. Diane gulps.
“I want the same salary the other associates were getting,” Monica replies, “and 250 protected pro-bono hours.”
How much do I love that her stipulation is to protect the amount of work she can do for free? Love. This. Girl.
“Dr. Portnow was my hero,” a woman gasps, and at his table, Dr. Darkness actually makes a pouty face. Unbelievable. “Bella’s had three open heart surgeries and Dr. Portnow was there every step of the way.” Well, he would be, I suppose. It’s hard to operate otherwise. Ms. Von Gaal can’t even look in his direction. “And when did you first become aware of your role in the defendant’s rape fantasies?” Matan asks. God, how awful. This poor woman. “After he was arrested. Detective Rodriguez showed me the things he posted on that website,” she explains. It’s hard for her to get those words out. “Could you please read this?” Matan asks, advancing on Lucy with one of his three packets of posts. Quickly, Lucca objects, as the posts are already in evidence. “Ms. Gaal’s interpretation of the posts in necessary to establish their relationship,” Matan posits. Gross. “He’s reaching,” Lucca scoffs. (No, what he’s doing is trying to maximum impact on the jury. Talk about prejudicial.) “I disagree,” the judge rules, because of course he does. No wonder Alicia thinks he’s out to get her.
Poor Lucy looks down at the page, steadying herself. “We’re ready,” she reads, looking down as if expecting the words to leap off the page and bite her. “I know where that bitch lives, and she worships me so this won’t be hard.” GOD. “I just need to get her alone. Once I stick her with a sedative it’s seconds till she twilights. Then I’ll take her limp body…” She stops. A young juror wraps her arms around her body defensively. “I can’t read this,” Lucy shudders. Of course she can’t. Even Lucca’s twitching.
“That post is from October 21st,” Matan informs us. Huh. Of last year? He was arrested in June, right? “The next day, October 24th, did the defendant call you?” Alicia too is averting her eyes, looking sick. “He said he was checking up on Bella,” Lucy says. “When you told him you were home alone, that Bella was out at a play date, did he ask if he could come by anyway?” Matan looks at the jurors and the defendant instead of his witness when he asks this. “He said he would be in the neighborhood.” “And if he hadn’t been arrested, and if he had stopped by, you wouldn’t have hesitated to let him in, would you?” There’s something far more smarmy than sympathetic in Matan’s voice here. Again, the defendant looks down at his lap in shame.
(Look, I know the dates on this show never make sense, but what the actual heck! October or June? Pick a month! Also, does any of this make sense? He was in the neighborhood or he was going to be? He asked to come over, but then he didn’t when Bella wasn’t there? He asked if he could come over, but didn’t? He was planning the ksr for the next day but called to see if he could come over the night before? The witness and the situation are so sympathetic that it’s harder to focus on the way the details don’t fit together.)
“In all the times you were with Dr. Portnow,” Lucca asks, “did he ever say or do anything inappropriate?” No, never, Lucy replies, hunching over, shaking her spiral curls like a hedgehog with its prickly spines. In fact, Lucca continues, you always found him to be a good person and a caring physician. Shaking, Lucy summons the courage to answer. “I thought so, but…”
“Lucy, October 24th,” Lucca talks over the witness, “wasn’t the first time Dr. Portnow called to check up on Bella, was it?” No. No wonder she liked him. I don’t think that’s normal, a surgeon making all those calls to a patient’s house. He called her on June 13th, July 11th and July 25th, according to her phone records; that fits the timeline of Bella’s surgeries, she admits, without remembering dates. “Are you aware that Dr. Portnow posted on the fetish website that he went to your house on those days?” No, Lucy says, shaking her head, her hair springing. “So he might have had fantasies about you, but he never acted on any of them, did he?” I guess not, she admits.
Yeah, but how could you ever be around someone like that again, knowing how they think of you?
“I don’t know if I wanna win this one,” Lucca confesses to Alicia, sitting together in a crowded bar. So you think he did it, Alicia asks before correcting herself. “I mean, intended to do it?” “I don’t know,” Lucca admits. “But when you fantasize about something that much, I don’t think it makes a difference.” Well, okay. I’m sure it makes a great deal of difference to Lucy Von Gaal. As traumatized as she clearly is, there’s no doubt she’s happier not to have been kidnapped and raped. And potentially killed for her silence, even though that’s not in the KSR official motto. Where it doesn’t make a difference is in how you and she now feel about Dr. Portnow.
“Yet there are fifty children alive today because of him,” Alicia argues. Oskar Schindler wasn’t a perfect person, but he did a lot of good, in other words? How do you balance the shades of gray? “And if we lose,” Lucca replies, “there’ll be hundreds more who won’t live because he’ll be in prison.” Yes. “It’s odd,” Alicia muses, “that someone could be so good, and think things so bad.” It is. We assume that doctors are all do gooders. If Grey’s Anatomy teaches us anything, however, it’s that you don’t need to be “good” to be a doctor. You can merely be ambitious and smart and capable, rather than motivated altruistically. But again, like Oskar Schindler, perhaps he’s both. Most of us are both, just not in such extremes.
“It’s people,” Lucca replies through a mouthful of wine, “they’re all scum.” Alicia chokes on her drink (which is not wine), laughing. “Damaged much?” No, Lucca protests, “observant. Don’t expect anything from anybody and you’ll never be disappointed.” Um, that sounds pretty jaded and damaged to me. Come to think of it, though, I’m shocked Alicia’s arguing against that world view. “That’s a said way to live,” she says, taken aback. “Doesn’t have to be,” Lucca shrugs. “You and I are just sitting here, having a pleasant drink, but I don’t expect anything of you, and you don’t expect anything of me.” Um, what’s she even talking about? Friendship? Romance? Because Alicia does clearly have expectations of Lucca — as her business partner — and vice versa. You don’t expect the same thing from each person. “Still, I’m not gonna kill you,” Alicia presses, and Lucca lightens up. “Not yet, anyway,” she replies.
“Bourbon neat, please,” Jason asks the bartender, stepping between them. Have fun on the dark fetish website, Lucca wonders. (Clearly they want us to know that’s the real name.) “Talked to a buddy in cyber crimes; said they’d never had a case where somebody from Brutal Mercy actually committed a crime.” I still don’t think there’s anyway to know this, but the news is thrilling, at least for Lucca, who perks up out of her cynicism-induced fog. “Good! That helps!” “But?” Alicia asks, demonstrating her superior knowledge of Jason’s news delivery style. But they have found Ordelon246, who turns out to be a registered sex offender. And guess what? He’s testifying for the prosecution.
“Alicia, can I talk to you for a sec?” Ah, the bad news continues. Let’s just guess. She agrees, and they walk a few feet away from the spot where Lucca sits, curiously nursing her drink.
“Listen, I don’t wanna leave you in a lurch,” Jason says, hands up, “but I’m on a plane tomorrow.” In other words, you’re leaving her in a lurch. “I can delay a week if you want me to finish this out.” But in other words, he wants to go. This is his chance to uncomplicate his life. “No,” she says, her voice thick, “you should.” He thanks her and wishes her good luck. “How long will you be gone?” she wonders. A couple of months. “I understand if I don’t have a job when I come back.” That would make things even more uncomplicated! “Will you call me?” she asks, and when he narrows his eyes in a question, she corrects herself. “When you get back.” Sure, he nods.
“Ever spent any time in Northern California?” Funny, I don’t think of San Jose as Northern California; obviously it’s not Southern California, but I think of San Jose and San Fransisco as central. (And yes, I have been there.) He grins. “Enough. Too much fleece, too many ironic beards.” Ha. Well, it’s certainly a hipster enclave. She laughs out loud at this, and then shrugs, smiling up at him. “Good bye,” she says. “Good bye, Alicia, ” he nods, and walks away.
So, um, did he not join the cast? Because I thought he did.
Monica Timmons walks through the empty halls of Lockhart, Agos & Lee, the light hitting her amazingly toned arms. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. Where are all the old people? Where are all the women? Those 8 guys were not the whole firm! I love that she’s here to save the day, and they certainly need more people, but they’re pushing this shortage to an unbelievable and unnecessary level. “Oh, Monica, there you are,” Diane sighs in relief. “Appendix to the federal rules. I flagged form 18,” the young woman says. Diane has another job finding conforming examples, but David starts waving a finger; not until she gets him on the phone with an “egghead” from Chicago Polytech. His secretary is waking him, Monica confirms. Girl gets it done, like we knew she would.
Of course, why she has to I don’t really know (where is the rest of this bleeping firm????), but I fully believe she could do the work of 8 guys.
“Monica, is form 18…” Cary begins, and she cuts him off. It’s a template for simplified pleading, and it’s all they need. She’s silenced Cary both with her knowledge and by knowing what he was going to ask, and she smiles quietly to herself, typing into her laptop at the other end of the table from Cary and Diane. “Hey, if you want to take a quick nap,” he offers, but no, she’s good until the crisis is over. In the back of the room, Howard moans and tosses in his sleep. “I don’t wanna eat this!” Diane pulls off her glasses in defeat. (Drink!)
“We’re not gonna make this filing deadline, are we?” Cary leans over to whisper to Diane. Huh. How much of an extension did Howard win them? Is it only a day? No, Diane agrees, and with this outside assessment, he shuts his laptop and walks off. Where are you going, she asks. “We need more bodies,” he says.
You have more bodies! SO WHERE ARE THEY? For the love of God. This couldn’t be more stupid.
Resplendent in a plaid flannel and black leather vest, Ordelon 246 introduces himself on the stand as one Manny Hoffstedter, registered sex offender and long haul trucker. He’s got a real creepy 70s thing going, especially with that pornstache. “That’s an isolating life, isn’t it?” Matan asks. You could say that, Manny answers, but he finds solace in trolling the net from the back of his cab, particularly Brutal Mercy, where he met the defendant. “Thealgea, yeah,” he says enthusiastically, waving his hands. “It’s a screen name. The Greek spirits of pain and suffering.” Manny laughs and points at Dr. Portnow. “I like that.” You also liked his plan to KSR Lucy Von Gaal, Matan points out. “I did,” he grins under his mustache, “I still do.” Alicia shakes her head in disgust and horror. “It wasn’t just a fantasy for you?” Matan asks him to confirm.
“I was all set to go through with it. So was Thealgea,” Manny declares, and Alicia and Lucca explode out of their seats at the same time. Speaking for Team Quick, Lucca objects that this calls for speculation. And for once, she’s sustained. “The jury will disregard statements about the defendant was or was not about to do.” That’s fair. Matan changes tacks. “Did it change your opinion to know Thealgea wasn’t a pilot?” Naw. “We all use fake online personas. It feeds the fantasy.” So what made you think he was willing to go through with it? “I could tell Thealgea really knew Lucy,” he says, and an older member of the jury strokes his chin. “And the plan he had, it wasn’t just made up kink. It was too real.” This prospect delights Manny. “I wanted it.” He chuckles to himself.
For her cross examination, Lucca begins by asking if Manny’s sex offender status comes from a violent or non-consensual crime. “Naw,” he says. “I got popped a few times with lap lizards.” He chuckles at the jury, expecting them to understand; it’s left to Lucca to clarify that this means he’d been caught with prostitutes. He jerks his chin toward Matan; “like he said, the road’s a lonely place.” Huh. I didn’t actually realize that patronizing prostitutes made you a sex offender. I thought that list was for rapists and age limit violators. Anyway. She mentions that his most recent prostitution charge was dropped in exchange for his testimony today. “Oh yeah,” he says, scratching his neck. I love the contrast between the clearly skeevy old man and the upright-looking doctor, brought together by their similarly ugly interior lives.
“Before today, before you walked into this room, you’d never even seen Dr. Portnow, had you?” No. “Did you have a phone number for him, or an email?” He didn’t give ’em to me, the man tosses up a hand. “So, even though you had no way of connecting in the real world, you still thought you two were going through with this plan?” Her hands flutter over her stunning dress — the bodice looks like bands of pop art or cartoon folded up into origami squares, shoulders and long sleeves made of a sheer fabric with thin bands of black velvet. “He was gonna use a saying. He was gonna put up a post that had the word “hooked” in it when he grabbed up Lucy.” Ah. “But did you actually arrange a place?” Yeah, he says.
“That’s odd,” Lucca replies. “Your company driving records show you were out of state this whole time.” Matan (sitting next to a very puzzled fellow ASA, an Asian woman with long hair) stands to object. “Not in evidence.” “That’s right,” the judge says, his eyes narrowed. “I think Lucca wants to put it into evidence.” Indeed she does; she passes the cargo manifest to Breakfast. “So, how were you planning to participate,” she asks, reading out of a folder, “all the way from Santa Fe New Mexico, Bakersfield California, and Santa Cruz?” I could get back, he claims. “Really? 2965 miles, a drive that would take four days.” You can see the jury taking this in. “If he’d a-written me, I’d a come back.” Manny puts his hands up. “Yes. And your cargo of fresh fruit and vegetables, I guess you’d just drop those beside the road.” Nicely done, Lucca. Manny leans forward. “Yeah,” he claims, “if he had written me.” Lucca gives the jury an eye roll over her shoulder; the white haired man rubs his shin again. “Alright,” she says brightly. “Sure. Stick with that.” Matan’s objection is sustained, but the cross has done its job if anything can.
Eli walks down the gray halls of Alicia’s building, hands in his coat pockets. He’s just in time to catch Jason walking out of the apartment. The investigator’s answer to Eli’s “how are you” is to explain that he’s moving to California; when Eli reacts in surprise, Jason laughs. “When you see Alicia,” Jason says, hands in his pants pockets, “tell her I left something for her.” “Sure,” Eli nods, “where?” She’ll know, Jason grins, and waves his chin at the campaign staffer.
When Courtney calls Eli a few months later and asks what he’s doing, he does not confess to rifling through Alicia’s drawers in search of Jason’s last communique. “Nothing,” he lies, “just waiting for your call.” “Do you have time to see me tonight?” she asks, sitting in her office signing things, surrounded by minions. Or colleagues. Or what have you. “I didn’t until you asked,” he replies. Aw. “How does 8:15 sound?” That’s very specific, he teases. “Well, I’m a specific kind of girl,” she flirts back. “Okay, I’ll see you at 8:16,” Eli says as Alicia walks down toward her office. “I’m demonstrating my independence by being late.” They laugh cutely together.
“Eli,” Alicia replies, walking with stiff dignity around her desk. Her black suit indicates a new day. “What do you need?” I’ve come to talk to you about something slightly sensitive, he says, and as he does she notices a book behind her desk, entitled Unhealthy Obsessions: Why Smart Women Make Bad Decisions, by Dr. Patricia Evra. Ha. “Jackie and Howard,” Eli says. Can this really be his concern, or is he making that up? Inside the book is a yellow post it; “Use Portnow’s wife to explain his fantasies. Talk soon.” That’s completely hilarious how appropriate to this entire series that book is.
“Is everything all right?” he wonders, tilting his head. “Yeah, what do you need?” she asks, distracting, trying to focus on him. “Peter thinks she should have a pre-nup,” Eli says. Um, really? Really? “Who?” Alicia asks. “Jackie,” Eli repeats, “and Howard.” She stares at him.
“Eli, I don’t give a single damn,” she tells him. His mouth hangs open, and his silence is potent. “Why are you in my life, Eli?” she asks, angry. “Why am I…” Yes, she snaps. “Why are you telling my investigator to move to Silicon Valley? Why?” I didn’t, he splutters. ‘Why are you letting your paranoia run my business?” Well. He’s being paranoid, is he? His concern was unjustified? “No, seriously, Eli, I have been very fluid between your needs and mine, but I’m done.”
“Alicia, I haven’t done anything,” Eli protests. “He’s going to work for Courtney Paige! I can’t find a good investigator in the same price range and I probably won’t be able to afford him when he gets back, and what business is it of yours what I’m doing with my private life?” Because you don’t get a private life, you complete jerk. When you decided to let Peter run, when you decided to stay fake-married to him and when you lied about it on TV and to the print media, you gave up your private life. You’re not owed some happiness on the side. You’re not owed reporters not finding out. You’re perpetrating an election fraud. That’s what this is. If you want some happiness, you have to be honest and get rid of the barriers to it. Stop being so self-righteous about what you’re owed and what you think is private, because you’re just plain wrong.
UGH! She pisses me off so much!
“Alicia,” he attempts to placate her. “My life is my life,” she explodes. WRONG. “And I want you to back the hell up.” Tough sh*t, lady. “I wasn’t sleeping with Jason,” she bites, “but even if I was, that’s my business.” No, it isn’t. People are giving your husband tens of millions of dollars, he pays tens if not hundreds of salaries, he’s asking to be the leader of the freaking free world, and you think you get to lie about your relationship with him and it’s nobody’s business if you do? WRONG! “It wasn’t me,” Eli pleads. “I don’t know how he came to Courtney’s attention, but…” Ah. Yes he does. It was Ruth, obviously. “Actually, I do know how he came to Courtney’s attention.”
“Eli, leave,” she tells him, uninterested. “It was Ruth, not me!” I get why she’s mad, but ugh. “Leave, Eli, I have a client,” she points out, nodding her head toward the hall. He looks; Lucca is talking to Dr. Patricia Evra in the hall. Huh. I didn’t take that book as literally as I should have, maybe. “Alicia, I swear,” he tries to continue. “I don’t care,” she hisses. “I have work to do. Work that will be twice as hard because I don’t have an investigator.” Well, then you shouldn’t have flirted with him in a room full of strangers with cameras, Alicia. “Now leave!”
I don’t really know why Briff and his co-conspirators have taken up residence in a cafe, other than the parallel to Cary’s own rebellion. It’s not a flattering comparison. At any rate, Cary sits back down in the seat he occupied the first time, but this time, he has a strategy. He’s wondering if they’ve signed contracts yet with Canning; the fact that they’re in a cafe instead of Canning’s office has probably already told Cary the answer. “Not yet. Brian’s pushing to get us a 25% bonus if we crack 2500 hours.” Is that even possible? “It’s all over but the shouting,” Briff declares smugly. “Well, if it’s not over over, then I have a pitch. We’re willing to offer you twenty percent billables bonus if you come back.” The rebels are stunned. “You serious?” Dirk asks. He is. “You’re desperate,” Wanna Be replies. “Maybe,” Cary grins, “but I’m willing to beat whatever Canning’s offering you salary-wise.”
“It’s not just about salary, Cary,” Briff shakes his head. “it’s the lack of upward mobility, it’s the culture.” Well, what if Cary can change that? “You tried already. It didn’t work.” Briff wasn’t even there for that! How could he become so disenchanted so quickly? I thought they were actually unusually willing to listen to him and use his strategies right out of the gate. Also, how is he the leader of this gang? Little sneak. “Because I didn’t have the leverage. Now with the threat of Dipple walking, I do.” We can’t just have idle promises, Dirk protests.
“Instead of 8 years to partner, we’ll guarantee you five. Full equity,” Cary offers, and you can see the other guys stunned and tempted; Dirk and Briff play it cooler. “And you pick your cases. No mandatory rotation.” Um, how does that even work? How do they get people to work the less interesting/desirable cases, then? Clearly, though, they’re buying what he’s selling. It must beat Canning’s offer by a ton. We have to have it in writing, Briff shakes his head. “Yes,” Cary agrees, “but you have to commit right now, and get back to work immediately. The only way this works is if we get on the Dipple case right now.”
“How do we know you’re serious about this?” Briff asks, exchanging another glance with Dirk. In answer, Cary pulls a packet of checks out of his jacket pocket. That’s $80,000 in signing bonuses, already made out. Briff’s jaw drops, and Cary smiles, knowing he’s got them.
Boo. I don’t want those weasels back. Sure, they’re smart, or at least Briff is, but they’re soulless, too, and slimy.
“Thank you for testifying for your husband,” Lucca tells Dr. Evra, who’s wearing a gray suit, black glasses and a chilly expression. She looks like a snotty Janeane Garofalo. “I know how difficult this must be, having to … confront all of this.” Strangely, Lucca seems to be feeling the situation more than the good doctor’s wife. “Things are only difficult if you don’t understand them,” Dr. Evra declares in a plummy, bored voice. And you understand your husband, Alicia replies, an edge to her tone.
Evra turns a somewhat patronizing smile on Alicia. “He’s highly compartmentalized. Most extremely successful people are.” Um, you realize that you’re talking to the wife of your governor, right? Whose husband is also a presidential candidate, right? We can easily argue the worth of the two men’s jobs, but Alicia knows from highly successful, and she knows from clay feet. “That’s true,” Lucca stammers diplomatically after a richly disapproving look from her partner that just manages not to be an eye roll. “My husband’s online activities provide a safe space where he can explore and exhaust his darker thoughts so they don’t spill over into the rest of his life. They’re a necessary release.” Lucca’s eyebrows fly up to the ceiling.
“I know you’re a therapist,” the lawyer begins. “I’m a clinical psychiatrist,” Dr. Evra corrects Lucca, with a tolerant smile. How did anyone ever marry this caricature of a woman? She’s not even a person. “Right,” Lucca agrees, “but we’re calling you as a wife. We want you to explain why you trust your husband. Why the jury should too.”
“Because he’s superlative at what he does,” Evra replies, a little bit exasperated and entirely missing the point. “Because he supports my personal goals, and respects my personal boundaries, and I extend the same courtesies to him.” It’s a good thing the doctor isn’t very observant, because Team Quick makes no effort to hide their disgust with her robot-like lack of emotion. “Okay,” Lucca tries again, “we’re worried that, to a jury, this analysis might come off as a bit…” “Cold,” Alicia supplies the obvious word. And ice queen Alicia should know. “You want me to be less clinical?” Dr. Evra asks, puzzled. “How you are at home, with your husband,” Alicia suggests, which results in a moment of silence. “This is how I am with my husband,” the therapist says.
And, wow. I really, really hope they don’t have any children.
(Because messing up those fictional kids would be really unfortunate. I couldn’t help thinking it, though. She’s just awful.)
“She’s a disaster,” Lucca moans after they’ve walked Dr. Evra out. “What do we do?” Alicia wonders, crossing her arms over her chest. “We need someone to explain these fantasies.” Lucca gets an idea; what if they actually put their client on the stand? Well, he could hardly make a worse witness than his detached and ice cold wife.
You know who’s not ice cold? Eli. Or Courtney Paige. Both of whom are lying in a large bed with silk sheets, the covers thrown off, recovering. Wow. “Okay, that was, uh…” “Amazing?” Eli finishes Courtney’s breathless thought. As they laugh together, he drags her hand to his lips by their laced fingers and kisses it.
And of course, that’s when her phone rings. It must be strange for him to be on the other side of this equation. (It’s strange for us to see him with someone at all, but we know he’s used to having his own life controlled by his phone.) “Really?” he asks when she slides over to get it, “I turned off mine.” Okay, she tells the person on the phone, twenty minutes. “We should get room service,” Eli declares, perhaps pretending that their date isn’t over. “You should,” she turns to look at him regretfully. So they’re in a hotel? Okay.
“Work?” he asks, still reclining on the bed, arms behind his head. Yeah, she says, standing and swinging a robe around her naked body. “You haven’t got another hour?” No. He turns away, pouty, and she crawls across the bed to kiss him once more; when she pulls back, the expression on his face has softened, fond and besotted. “It was fun,” she says, and he agrees.
And then he thinks about it.
“Why?” he asks, craning his neck up a little so his position isn’t quite so relaxed and vulnerable. “What are we referring to? Tonight?” She huffs out a breath. “I have to get back home,” she tells him. “To the Bay Area?” Yeah, she says, as if he should know this. “When will you be back?” She searches for information in her head. “A while.” What’s a while? “A year?” she guesses, some what regretful. “Oh,” he says, curling his face into the arm tucked behind his head. He gulps. “So that’s… it?” he asks, turning back to face her. His pale throat and shoulders mirror his emotional vulnerability. What do you mean, she wonders, her eyes trained on his face, her fluffy robe armor. “This,” he says. “Us.” “No,” she tries to soothe him. “Eli!”
That’s when he props himself up.
“No no no,” he says. “I know that voice.” She compresses her lips; clearly she was hoping he wouldn’t notice. His eyebrow flick wide, briefly. “I’ve used that voice.” “This was fun,” she tells him, her tone switching from solicitous to dismissive. He clears his throat, unable to look back at her for more than a few seconds. “It was fun,” he agrees, “Like a carnival ride.” She sighs. “I like you,” she insists. “And I like you,” he sighs back, still looking away, still not wanting to see what he knows is in her face.
He bites his lip, and then turns back to business, perhaps trying to stave off what he knows is happening. “So Ruth got you to buy off Jason Crouse?” What, she asks, thrown. “Alicia’s investigator?” “Well yeah,” she tells him, baffled. She wants him to go quietly, but she also doesn’t want him to bring up another woman while she’s trying to let him down easily. “He’s coming out to work for a little while. Isn’t that what you wanted too?” Slowly, he looks away, his sternum jutting toward the camera, and she sees she’s made a mess of everything.
Dressed crisply in his suit, Eli lets himself out of Courtney’s suite, but no sooner has the door closed than he regrets it. It’s key card entry, so humiliatingly, he has to pound on the door for her attention. “Look,” he says when she opens it, dressed in something dark red and soft, “I’m in the middle of a heated campaign, and normally all I can think about is tracking and spot polling, but right now I don’t give a damn about any of it.” She tilts her head, her eyes full of pity. “I don’t know what this is, but I like it.” He tries to smile at her; he’s rusty. He doesn’t know what to do with his face. “I think you’re perfect. For me.” Her face warms to a smile, flushed and flattered. “So don’t go. Or go,” he realizes, fluttering his fingers, “but go, and come back. Soon?” He looks at her with his whole heart in his eyes.
“Eli,” she begins, patiently, “the way you feel about campaigns is the way I feel about my business.” He knows what that means, and his hopeful face breaks. “And right now, that’s my focus, business. You understand that, right?” He nods. He does. “I loved every moment of our being together,” she tells him, smiling as if offering a gift rather than a caddish kiss-off. He tries to smile. “Know that,” she finishes, and then literally kisses him off. As Courtney pulls back, you would think from his face that she’d stabbed him, or literally (rather than just figuratively) ripped his heart out of his chest. She walks back slowly, never relinquishing his gaze (her eyes regretful and fond), and closes the door.
And for the second time this season, when he walks down her hall, passing a hand over his face, Eli Gold is shattered.
On the witness stand, Dr. Portnow tries to compose his handsome face into something trustworthy and likable, trying a smile, unable to trust himself, unable to relax. “Those posts on Brutal Mercy, did you write them?” Alicia asks. “Every word,” he takes ownership. “Why?” she asks simply; as he begins to answer, Lucca watches the jury, her eyes sharp for evidence of their response. “I’ve asked myself that a lot,” he confesses, “and the simple answer is, they made me feel good.” Not a good answer. “Good? How?” Yeah, the jury’s not loving this. “Not like a good person, believe me, but, um…” he shakes his head. “Excited, and other times relaxed. Wow, it’s hard to share these thoughts out loud.” The last sentence is low, mostly to himself.
It wasn’t hard to share these thoughts with Ordelon246, Alicia wonders. “No,” the doctor answers decisively, “I didn’t know who he was. Or where he was.” Then why make plans with him? “They weren’t real plans,” Portnow corrects, firmly this time. But they were so specific, Alicia notes. “That made them feel more real,” he admits, “I know how that sounds, but I needed that release. The stress of my job, the stakes of what I do, can be unbearable.” Well, that makes a certain amount of sense; it’s just the method of release that confuses the general public. “I can’t just walk away. Too many people depend on me. And the site … became a way for me to decompress.” He looks over at the jury. “And I knew it was okay because Lucy was safe. I couldn’t hurt her. That’s not who I am.” The older juror rubs his finger against his lips this time. Not all of the jurors are willing to meet his eyes.
“Your Honor,” Alicia asks in sidebar, standing in front of the judge’s bench with Matan and Lucca, “we ask that you lay out not only the elements of conspiracy, but that you give examples from…” This is a smoke screen, Matan interrupts. “The defense wants to confuse the jury with a lot of case law.” This is jury instructions, Lucca points out; where else do you instruct the jury? Matan thinks the case requires no special instruction; it’s a simple matter of intent. What if anything did Dr. Portnow intend to do? Alicia disagrees, though surely intent plays into her case too. “What constitutes a fantasy?” Alicia argues. “If we can be convicted for our fantasies, we’re at the start of a slippery slope.” We ARE on a slippery slope. Because when people make public threats against the safety of other human beings, at what point can we say it’s alright to ignore it? Hell, look at the federal government. Online communication is both too anonymous and too tempting not to snoop on. But is it right?
Intent is almost always an issue in criminal cases, Matan argues back, making me wonder if he’s not reaching here. Why isn’t intent always at issue? “Whether you intend to kill is the difference between murder and manslaughter,” Matan continues. “Thoughts matter.” Well, yeah, but you’re talking about them mattering when a crime has actually been committed; here the thoughts are the crime. The question truly is whether they were really preparing to commit one or not. Isn’t it? You have to mean it. Intent. “To be criminal, thoughts have to be coupled with actions, and the jury need to be clear on that,” Lucca adds, reading my mind. Thank you. “I’ve decided,” Breakfast declares. “The jury will be instructed on all the statutory elements of conspiracy.” Matan’s eyes bug. “No,” the judge cuts off his protest, “the jury needs it. And I will hear on what legal precedents to mention.” Wow. For once, something’s gone Quick’s way.
Ding! “It’s weird to be back here so soon,” Briff grins at Cary as they all walk off the LAL elevator together. “I’m sure it is,” Cary says, turning back to look at the rebels fanning out behind him, “but we don’t have a lot of time.” “So what do you need from us?” Dirk asks.
“Our strategy on the Dipple claim is prove infringement of core technique and block any novel process argument,” Cary explains, and then he stops in the middle of a corridor. Slowly, he turns and looks at them. “What?” Briff asks, still smiling. “Actually,” Cary thinks, “come to think of it, we don’t want your help. You’re all fired.” The eight men out stare with their mouths open. Excuse me? “Yes,” Cary says. “Diane, what do you think about that?” They turn to see Diane standing behind them. “You’re right, I don’t think we need them,” she smiles. “What was that about, you just brought us here to embarrass us?” Dirk frowns.
Nope. Remember that Chinese firewall? “You just heard about our side of the case. Now you’re conflicted out of working for Canning on his side.” They bite their lips. “You can’t do that,” Dirk complains, his face pale. Um, really? You can’t break contract and leave. So there. “We just did,” Diane smiles. “Thank you for your service, you can go now.” Is that a security guard behind her? “And the signing bonuses?” Briff asks, as pink as his shirt. “They’re real,” Cary nods, “But I don’t think it’ll look to good for you when I spread the word how easy it was to blow you out of a multi-million dollar deal with eighty grand. Jobs may be hard to come by.” Go to hell, Briff snaps. “Oh yes, thank you. Not that I needed it, but you just gave me cause to fire you,” Cary fires back. There’s a security guard standing behind him, too. “Gentlemen?” Cary says, beckoning to the security guards, who neatly file the defeated eight out off the floor. Moving alongside them, Diane walks over to Cary.
“God that was fun,” she exhales as the elevator doors shut on the boys. In response, Cary raises his hand, and Diane smacks his palm in a resounding high five. They walk down the corridor together, secure in the knowledge that even if they’re not ready for the filing deadline, Canning won’t be either.
Portnow’s jury files back into the courtroom. I wonder if that’s as quick as it feels. They weren’t even out fifteen minutes, Lucca comments with a furrowed brow. “Is that a good or a bad thing?” Portnow wonders. He clearly doesn’t watch legal dramas. “It means the jury was swayed powerfully,” Alicia explains, “but I have no idea if it was by the judge’s instructions.” The jurors sit, all except a slim, dark haired woman in a red dress, the foreperson of the jury; Portnow and his team stand to hear their verdict, and she looks Dr. Doom right in the eye before turning back to the judge and reading what she and her fellow jurors have decided.
Which is guilty.
The courtroom explodes in cheers.
Portnow leans forward, puts his hands on the table in front of him. “How can I be going to jail for something I didn’t do?” he asks. “It was never going to happen.” Indeed. It’s a strange case. “We’ll appeal,” Alicia assures him. But that could take years, he hisses. Yes. “Your Honor, we’d like to calendar a sentencing hearing,” Matan calls out, adding that until the hearing he’d like to continue holding Portnow without bail. “You’re jumping the gun, Matan,” the judge declares, holding up his hand to quell Matan before turning to the jury. He is?
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the surly judge begins, “This is the point where I normally thank you for your service. But I’m not going to do that today.” An elderly man in the back of the jury booth tilts his head in confusion. “You took an oath to render an impartial verdict based on the law and the evidence,” he reminds them. Dr. Darkness sways on his feet, one hand on the knot of his own tie. “Each and every one of you violated that oath.”
“Judge!” Matan calls out, not more shocked than I am. “Save it, Matan,” the judge snaps, holding up his hand again. Alicia and Lucca exchange shocked glances. “As a matter of law, I find that there was insufficient evidence to support guilty verdict here, so I am vacating the jury’s verdict and entering a judgment of acquittal.” Her jaw open, Alicia stares at the judge as he bangs his gavel. When he meets her gaze, he nods once, quickly, just a little flick of his eyes down.
And of course she’s pounding on his door moments later. “Mrs. Florrick,” Breakfast chirps cheerily, throwing his reading glasses down onto the desk. (Drink!) “How else can I help you?” Oh no. How else? Does that mean he “helped” her already. “What you did up there, Your Honor? We earned that, right?” Is that the question? Can you earn a man’s innocence under the law? Surely he’s either innocent or not. Sorry, quibbling. “It wasn’t about what I said earlier,” Alicia stumbles, “because I didn’t mean…” “Mrs. Florrick,” he smiles. “Why don’t you just say thank you?” She talks an involuntary step back. “I have work to day,” the judge declares, putting his glasses back on, “you can go.” Still uncertain, she does.
“Eli,” comes Courtney Paige’s voice over Eli’s voicemail, back in his office, “I wanted to say goodbye to you. I had a great time,” she says again, surely driving a nail through his heart every time she relegates their dalliance to mere entertainment. “And I’ll miss you know. I hope you know…” Bleep! Head in his hand, Eli plays it again, cutting off her hopes once more.
In her kitchen, Alicia stirs what’s presumably another margarita with her finger, sucking the moisture off with a pop. She drinks, savoring the taste slowly. When the doorbell rings, she greets Eli with a sort of campaign promise. “I know,” she says, “I’m packing for Iowa now.” That’s not it at all, he says, his voice intense and sincere. “I’m sorry.”
She stares at him for a moment, utterly without the emotional resources to respond. Her head’s too full of Dr. Portnow’s ugliness and Breakfast’s layers of deceit that she just can’t deal, and she tells him so. But tonight Eli isn’t listening. “I had no idea they were sending Jason out of town,” he promises, but she’s just not that interested in blame or guilt now. “And I know I have been too involved in your private matters.” Um, whatever. Everything in a presidential campaign is public. Nothing is truly private. “Okay, Eli, you’re forgiven,” she says wearily. “I have to go pack. Good night.” She closes the door and moves away, zombie-like, but he calls her back with another knock.
This time, they sit and drink together at Alicia’s dining room. “You seem more upset than I do,” she observes, and truly, he can barely speak. “I started to care about someone,” Eli admits; rather to his embarrassment, Alicia knows immediately who it was. He acknowledges this with the barest of nods. “I don’t care about a lot of people. Too much work.” He thinks about this. “I mean, too much work to make it… work.” He thinks again. “But I thought, this isn’t so bad, with her. I could get used to this.” He flashes Alicia his hopeful smile. “Then do,” she says, truly happy for him. “Be happy, Eli.”
“I wanted to,” he admits. “She went away.” Alicia stares at him, unsure of what this means. “Where?” California. For a year. (At this last admission, Alicia begins to see a barrier, and you can see her sympathy set in.) “She had work.” I’m sorry, Eli, she says.
“You’re nice to me,” he notices. “No,” she says, drinking, “just listening.” He doesn’t know how to take this. He’s heartbreaking. “I’m sorry Jason was sent away,” he says. “Eli,” she tries to stop him. “He was only my investigator.” Yeah, I know, Eli says, and ice clinks in his glass as he drinks from it. He sets the glass down, and shakes his head.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this, Alicia,” he sets down his glass, laughing at himself, “but I think you should be happy.” She blushes. I’m fine, she says. “I don’t wanna be in the way,” he shakes his head. “You’re not,” she repeats, “he’s my investigator.” “Don’t let the campaign get in your way,” he insists, and she blushes again, grinning down at the table. Um, I think the thing that’s in her way is that she’s MARRIED. “Okay, Eli, I’m fine,” she grins, and she drinks, and he stares at her with all the desperation of his own missed chance. He steels himself. He’s practically shaking.
“Six years ago you got a phone call from Will Gardner, a voice mail, and I erased it,” he confesses. My jaw could have hit the floor. In a million years, I never thought she would know this. I never thought he would say it. Alicia, too, is taken by surprise. “You were about to go up on stage, to stand by Peter for his SA run,” Eli continues, water in his eyes, and finishes with complete contempt for himself, “and I didn’t wanna hurt that.” She blinks, her jaw stiff.
“I listened to the voice mail.” She stares at him in silence. “Will said he loved you and would give up everything to be with you.” Now it’s her eyes that fill with stinging tears. “And I erased it,” he says, his voice raspy, his eyes cast down on the table. Her chest rises and falls quickly, visibly. “I never let you hear it. And I’ve been sick about it ever since.” He looks up to face her. “And I don’t want to stand in the way of your happiness ever again.” He nods tightly. “That’s why I’m sorry.”
If you didn’t know her, you might at first mistake the tightening of her face for something other than rage. But by the time she’s lent forward to take his drink out of his hand because he doesn’t deserve her hospitality, there’s no mistaking it, and Eli rears back, alarmed. He knows he’s not forgiven. “Get out,” she growls.
And the screen goes black.
Let me start by saying, this has been an absolutely exhausting week for me of work and Christmas preparations. I’m sorry to be so late. I hope there’s at least someone out there who still wants to read this! I wish you all right now a wonderful holiday season and New Year, and blessings in whatever tradition you celebrate. I’ll see you for at least two new episodes in January! Will it be the beginning of The Good Wife‘s final year? Despite intense fan speculation and oblique hints from the writers, the show’s fate remains to be seen.
Now. On to the show, and there’s a lot of show to talk about.
You don’t need me to restate my frustration with the whole concept of Alicia and a private life, do you? A private life that specifically entails an extra-marital relationship. I’m not without sympathy for the loneliness of her life, but there’s a simple cure for it, and it’s called a divorce. We can’t say anymore that Alicia’s staying for noble reasons, like giving her children a vision of fidelity. She’s stubborn, and she’s ambitious — like her husband, ambitious in a way that flatters her vanity without actually standing for anything. But in her ambition (in Peter’s ambition) together they’ve committed an election fraud nearly as serious, in my opinion, as the appalling vote fixing Peter arranged for her SA’s race. If she wants to lie to the public, the public does not then owe her a life without scrutiny. And she might not like examining her own behavior, but that’s what the press exists for. And, in the same way, blogger fans of the show. She’s not owed a pass. She’s not owed a bit of fun on the side. She needs to woman up and be honest if she wants a more personal happiness.
However. However. If I’d been imagining a confession born out of Eli’s three months of pain, I might have imagined him ratting out Peter, letting Alicia know that Peter orchestrated the election fraud and then let her take the blame for it. That, surely, is a piece of information Eli has which hurts Alicia, which would change her life to know. Never would I have anticipated this. And I suppose that’s why I still love this show despite all the ways its let me down, despite the ugliness its imposed on Alicia, the way her life has become more cold and lonely rather than less. It still surprises me. It still breaks my heart.
Of course the biggest victim of this episode was Eli. Or was it? Maybe it was Courtney’s character. Do we really believe she’d just use Eli and throw him away? After the whole “I’m just a Bible-loving girl from Texas” routine, I expected her to be less of a lothario, somehow. Yet here they have her using Eli like a tasty little piece on the side. It’s nice that they’re messing with gender roles, and lots of religious people don’t let Christianity’s teaching on sex stop them from getting it on, but wow. That was really harsh. Probably we (and Eli) just didn’t know her well enough to know better, but it felt out of character.
And speaking of people we might have thought better of, Dr. Do Good (or Not) was played by Josh Stamberg, whose many appearances include The Affair and Castle and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and, according to his imdb page, on many lists of the worlds hottest guys. To fit in with the obvious fandoms of the TGW writing staff, he’s been on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (beloved, at least, of the NSA boys for its troll musical). He’s also the son of NPR’s Susan Stamberg, and we know how the TGW writers feel about NPR. Oh, and I can’t quite tell if this is a reference or not, but every time I heard the name Portnow, I thought of entitled white guy epic Portnoy’s Complaint. Anyone else?
Now, his case apparently was drawn from that of the Cannibal Cop. It’s quite a read. You can see clear and obvious parallels (including Alicia’s mention of the Dark Fetish Network, the real website Brutal Mercy appears to be based on, according to the second article), especially when you consider the structure of the case; often the argument was not, did Portnow truly conspire to rape, sedate and kidnap, but whether having that darkness inside him made him automatically a threat, untrustworthy. And of course you see the inspiration clearly in the language of the trial. “…the nearly yearlong kidnapping conspiracy alleged by the government is one in which no one was ever kidnapped, no attempted kidnapping ever took place, and no real-world, non-Internet-based steps were ever taken to kidnap anyone.” It’s a very fertile dramatic and philosophical subject, really. The one place where they might have let the subject down, I think, is the whole “KSR” lingo. Can you really do that and not get identified? I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t want to believe it could be a thing.
And then, obviously, there’s Alicia and her mangled love life. Even with everything he’s been through, I never saw Eli’s confession coming. I’m sure that was building all season, but I never expected it, not even for a minute. (Ironically, Eli might have found a way to truly sabotage Peter’s campaign, even though he doesn’t seem to care about that anymore. They’re always telling us that Peter’s candidacy couldn’t survive Alicia defecting; if Eli was still truly mad, he could destroy Peter by destroying his marriage.) Will always reasserts his hold over Alicia when I’m least expecting it.
On the other hand, as sexy as he is, I don’t know that Alicia throwing over her whole life for Jason is a good idea. So far, he’s mysterious and emotionally unavailable. And potentially violent. Definitely not the safest bet, hitching your wagon to that star. Should we really be rooting for that, or should we give up? Will Jason fly back from California, unable to be smart and stay away? Will Alicia embark on yet another ill-fated affair, or is she out of luck?
Of course, I would love to see her throw her life over. Her life kind of sucks.
And that’s all I have for 2015. See you on the other side, friends.