E: Well, hmm. On the one hand, there was a lot of humor to enjoy in this episode. On the other, we have a heavy build up of old plots the show’s already done to death (Peter gets investigated! there’s dissension in the ranks!) and wasted guest stars (and regulars, for that matter) clogging up the works. Let’s break it down, shall we? And just because I feel like it, I’m going to change up the format again as I do it.
To the good: 24 hours of sex and honesty (and Melanie Griffiths’ very weird 70s movie Roar) for Jason and Alicia while Grace and Peter are off on college tours. (Can you imagine being the tour guide who gets Peter and Grace in his or her group? At least there’s no Secret Service shadowing them anymore, but still, that can’t be good. If I were Grace, I don’t know if I would remotely want the pressure or weirdness of that. My mom would never have gotten the chance to stay home and play with her new toy.) Lots of pajamas, lots of nudity, lots of making whoopee in the shower and various rooms in the apartment. It was sexy, yes, but it was more than just sexy; we got to see Alicia without make up (and briefly with her real hair, amazing!) weaseling out a few personal details from her very closed mouthed lover. (Much to her amusement, he’s only ever been cheated by friends, never lovers.)
To the indifferent: Is it too much to say that Alicia’s more emotionally involved than she thinks? Witness her substitution of Jason’s name for Finn’s during her discussion about last year’s negotiations.
To the bad: The secret’s out, and it took even less time than I thought it was going to. Veronica, Owen, Eli, Mike Tascioni, even the process server kid got to see Alicia in her bathrobe in the middle of the day and draw the obvious conclusion. Why did she keep answering the door in her bathrobe, and not send family members to do it while she got dressed? Ugh. Heck, even the pizza delivery guy got to see Jason in Alicia’s pale pink robe. (Why borrow that one and not the more masculine, sober, supportive piece Alicia sported when letting the world into her apartment? To each their own humiliation, I suppose.)
Also, you know I laughed my head off when Alicia told Jason that her arrangement with Peter really made it okay for them to be lounging around her apartment for sex and pizza. I mean, can you imagine Peter’s response? He is never, never going to be cool with her being with anyone else, not if they were actually divorced, much less now. Peter would have done his level best to pummel the snot out of Jason. Alicia from 2 or 3 years ago would have been appalled by the casual way she shrugged off Jason’s reasonable concern; her marriage is a construct of mutual career benefits. (Not that this takes away his personal responsibility — Jason certainly is responsible for his actions here, and I would like him more if he cared more — but since she’s the married one, to me that makes her more culpable. He doesn’t get a pass for asking about it, and she doesn’t get one, period.)
To the good: Alicia’s family continues to kill it. From Veronica ogling a half naked Jason (“the color of Italian skin!”) to Owen’s self-deprecation tagging along with Mom’s investment disaster cleanup meeting with David Lee (“it seems I’m good at math”), to them pretending to be interested in re-investing Veronica’s non-existent money with spin instructor/day trader Gino and their giddiness at laying the trap, I could not love them more. Humiliating, concerned, quippy, elated; they did it all. The family Callaghan: now there’s a sitcom about an Irish family with a gay son I’d happily tune into.
The indifferent: John Magaro’s Roland Hlavin. He’s quite the confident little trickster, isn’t he? He’s a smug, smirky little Napoleon. Do I really see him as a Bob Balaban level villain on the show, the puppet master bent on taking down Peter and anyone else in his way? He certainly hasn’t proved his worth yet, and considering that this show has given us various top notch actors (Balaban, Noni-Rose, Welliver) tilting at the same windmill, he’s got a lot to live up to.
To the bad: Guest stars Margo Martindale, Matthew Morrison and Will Patton were largely wasted in brief grand jury related scenes. Oh, Mike Tascioni and his dog Tom are funny enough, but really, they pulled Margo and Matthew in for essentially what, two scenes each? Hopefully Matthew will have more to do later, because so far, it seems like an actor of his caliber wasn’t really necessary to do a double take at Mike’s so-called service dog. And he’s certainly not coming off as a Wendy Scott-Carr caliber opponent, either. Now there was an actress, and a role, that beautifully blended a sweet exterior with brutal instincts. (On the other hand, should the expanded cast ever release some sort of album, Morrison would be right up there with fellow Broadway stars Alan Cummings, Anika Noni-Rose, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Nathan Lane, Will Chase, Steven Pasquale and movie musical stars Stockard Channing and Anna Camp, just off the top of my head. Seriously, that’s a lot of talent, not even including Matthew Lillard. Somebody should get on that.)
To the good: I’m sort of struggling here, but I’ll say that this episode was a nice comic pause before what I assume will be a hard hitting and emotional wrap up to the series. We had some good times, we got to see Alicia relaxed and happy (and mostly exasperated that no one’s letting her have her little time out from reality), we laughed at Eli and Veronica and Owen, and Jason probably intimidated Gino Davidson into getting Veronica’s money back. And I definitely love the way that Jason intimidates people just by staring at them silently; they fold under his too intense gaze, babbling over his quiet. Awesome.
The indifferent: What it is that the writers love so much about Eli listening through airvents and making impromptu stools out of trashcans? Sure, I liked the structural tweaks in which we saw the repair men (competing with the sounds of the grand jury) actually wander surreally through the courtroom, their loud conversation obscuring the details Eli was so longing to hear. The line of variously handicapped patrons queuing up for that particular restroom was amusing, but I’m bemused by the pay off. The People versus Lock? This really isn’t about Hlavin figuring out that Alicia (inadvertently, though he doesn’t’ know that) warned Judge Breakfast about the investigation into him, and that Breakfast in turn is keeping quiet about Peter’s vote fixing? Doesn’t that seem like the issue with the big emotional pay off, and not some squirrelly campaign finance malfeasance? I don’t care that Al Capone got put away for tax fraud; that’s just not good television. It’s years too late to complain that the show repeats itself, however, so I need to just get past it and hope for the best.
To the bad: Poor sad regulars Cush Jumbo, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry and Zach Grenier. It’s one thing to waste your guests, but entirely another to make up stupid plots to justify having your regulars around. I know everyone can’t have the most exciting plots each week, but I couldn’t be rolling my eyes harder over the machinations between LAL’s board. David and Cary (the strangest of allies) fear Diane’s possible co-opting of female partners, and so pressure Alicia into telling them if Diane approaches her about creating an all female firm. Sensing their concern, Diane does in fact approach Alicia, denies being in favor of an all female firm before actually advocating for one. Or a firm with an all female board, which would somehow be more focused than an “all service” firm, but we never find out how. By focusing on women’s issues in some way? What would that even mean? Sigh. Really, who the heck cares? I mean, go girl power, but is this about feminism, or is it just about getting rid of David Lee? Lucca gets to make her one appearance of the episode when Alicia uses her former partner as a sounding board on whether to support the ouster of Cary and David or not; Lucca, interestingly, thinks not. Despite always voting for The Man, Cary still seems cool, and she likes him. Alicia likes him, too. On the other hand, Diane is actually offering her something, and it’s not like David Lee likes her. What to do, what to do?
And maybe that’s my issue: these days, it’s less about Alicia (or Diane, or Cary, or anyone) standing for something than about having the ambition to stand. It makes me sad, all this. I’d have loved to see the firm work more at building something than at squabbling over who gets what bit of what they’ve already got. Both of Alicia’s attempts at entrepreneur-ism have flopped, and it makes me sad that she can’t make a firm work on her own terms. It would have been nice to see what those terms really were when she wasn’t totally beholden to someone else, and to see her make it work. Now I don’t feel like anything’s really at stake. Like Alicia said, she’s happy to be a cog in their wheel. So what are you going to do to shake the remaining six episodes up, show? What have you got for us? Was this the quiet before the storm?