E: Well, shoot. Guest stars continue to shine (this week Blair Underwood as a grieving father), the grand jury investigation of Peter marches on, the show continues to explore hot button, cutting edge legal issues, and Alicia continues to explore her (ahem) relationship with Jason in increasingly risky ways. Is there any shot that no one snapped a picture of the two of them in that pub? I’m going to say none. Where is all of this going? With only five episodes left to the entire series, surely there’s got to be a turning point – a ramping up of the action – soon.
This week we have five basic plots: the political plot, the work manuevering plot, Grace’s college letter plot, the case of the week and the romance plot. This was a lot of plotting; some bits were unworthy (sigh, stupid work plot) and some bits were really interesting but got short shrift. And, yeah, I know, I’m way behind. Let’s just slip back quietly into the world that was, though, and we’ll be up to speed in no time.
The case of the week is probably the most interesting plot of the four, with Blair Underwood called in as a single father (Harry Dargis) suing the gun shop that sold the gun that was used in his daughter’s death. I actually thought I was watching the wrong show at first, because the story of the sweet dad and daughter going through their lives together felt nothing at all like The Good Wife. And then, of course, the daughter gets murdered by a stray bullet from the drug dealers next door (as she sits on a kitchen stool in her prom dress describing her adventures to her adoring papa) and we cut to the dad in court, and realize yes, we are in fact in the right place. That was pretty grim and sad. Her bereaved father takes out a billboard blaming the aforementioned gun shop, Gloria’s; Gloria’s (in the person of Becky Anne Baker’s lawyer Alma Hoff, whose TGW highlights include the small town proxy case and defending Will’s killer) sues for defamation and harm. Uncharacteristically, Cary messes things up by trying to argue that the gun shop literally caused the shooting, which of course is not only unprovable but untrue, much to the irritation of both Diane and delightfully daffy liberal judge Charles Abernathy, who longs to give them a break.
In the end, after a lengthy game of Suit and Countersuit (the gun shop adversely affects local businesses, as does the crime rate! the tourism board cooks its numbers!), Abernathy’s able to offer them something significant. He declares that the billboard is in fact defamatory, but sets the fines at a dime a day, enabling Underwood to go on standing up to the purveyors whose guns make his neighborhood unsafe, and continue his daughter’s legacy. He hands over forty bucks to the judge, which buys him more than a year of informative vengeance. And, hey, we got a last visit from one of the most memorable judges in the show’s impressive stable, so that’s something all on its own.
Work plot: Alicia and Diane meet again on the whole “female-lead firm” plot. Not ready to commit herself (particularly not wanting to act against Cary’s interests), Alicia asks for more responsibility for Lucca. I’m glad she’s looking out for her one and only friend, but I’m so over all of this.
On the romance front, there’s lots of sex, much of which occurs in a luxury hotel room on Alicia and Jason’s lunch breaks. Until Alicia’s dinner with Diane, anyway, where she accidentally sees Jason meeting up with a blond woman and kissing her hard on the lips in greeting; you can feel the moment like the shock of cold water. (I’ll confess, I wondered where he had the time to see anyone else before I even thought to be mad at him for it.) She goes over everything with Lucca, angrily considering herself a fool, and then eventually congratulating herself (unnecessarily) for not breaking down over it. No, they weren’t going steady, they hadn’t talked about it, but she honestly hadn’t considered that he could be with other women, and her reaction teaches her that she’s gotten attached. After Alicia gives him the cold shoulder, Lucca sits Jason down and explains why. Contrite, the investigator shows up at Alicia’s apartment unannounced. Grace is predictably absent. We weren’t exclusive, Alicia says, and I don’t know if she’s trying to bluff him or herself by arguing that its no big deal when her actions have shown everyone otherwise. If anyone should be explaining, she continues, it should be her. Alicia’s the one who’s married, after all! True enough, girl. She was just a friend, Jason bleats, but Alicia cuts him off and demands that he kiss her. He does, and then confesses that he’s jealous of Peter. Don’t be, she grins.
Like most parts of the show, I wish we’d learned a little more about this. Does he really have a friend that he kisses on the lips? I have a ton of guy friends, and I’m an affectionate person, but that is sure not how I greet them. And while I don’t see these two as some sort of romantic ideal, I dislike the idea of him seeing someone else on the sly. But I guess we’re inside Alicia’s head, and the show isn’t going to tip up off to more about Jason than she knows.
That initial lunchtime tryst that brought Alicia and Jason into the episode is interrupted not only by Diane’s desire for intel on Gloria’s gun shop, but also by Grace, who’s been told that her college admission essay was rejected as plagiarized. This seems insane to both Grace and Alicia, considering that the essay was a highly personal reaction to the specific details of Grace’s life and her parents’ various public scandals. There’s a lot of back and forthing about the website used to check these things, and it’s never quite clear what’s going on (Alicia seems to be talking to the admissions team from a particular local college, but isn’t the issue supposed to have to do with all colleges?) because the college won’t explain what about the essay felt off to them. With Jason’s help, Alicia realizes she can submit Grace’s essay to the website for analysis on her own, and it all ends in Alicia brow-beating the admissions team into submission by thundering use of rhetoric. It seems that Grace had failed to properly attribute a quote from the Sermon on the Mount, or merely didn’t put it in quotation marks. Whatever this means for Grace’s academic future and enrollment in any particular college, seeing her mom in kick ass-action mode cements one thing: Grace’s ambition to become a lawyer.
So, again, it’s an interesting issue, and we could have spent a lot more time on it. In fact, it would have made more sense if we had, and been more enjoyable. Given all that, it was a perfectly fine detour in a show that consistently over-extends itself. We’re simultaneously in setting up and cleaning up modes, where the writers and showrunners seem to be tossing in all their ideas, and all their favorite guest stars, and so that leads to the feeling that the episode is overstuffed but also kind of a placeholder, which is definitely weird and frustrating.
Finally, Eli’s back listening in the handicapped bathroom to Connor Fox’s grand jury proceedings. He’s called in Peter’s biggest donor, who (in Film Noir Gangster terms) sings. According to Howard McGillin’s Lloyd Garber, Peter offered to take massive campaign contributions in exchange for not prosecuting Garber’s son in a murder investigation. Much to his delight, Eli hears a grand jury member questioning Fox on the likelihood of this. Isn’t it a little obvious? So when Alicia gets called to testify, instead of having her essentially plead spousal immunity, refusing to answer questions that might incriminate her husband, Eli and Mike Tascioni suggest that she answer question about Garber that discredit him, painting him as chronically unsure of his facts, playing into the doubts of that one witness. Rail though he might, Connor can’t figure out how Alicia knew to phrase her answers so perfectly to that one juror.
Of course, Garber comes back to restate his testimony, and all Alicia’s hard work is eventually undone. Which is fair, because even if he doesn’t remember the exact wording, there’s no way that Lloyd is going to forget the general facts of someone letting his son off a murder charge, especially when that person expects so much in return. Peter’s still in trouble.
And hey, if he really traded prosecutions for money, essentially holding Garber as his hostage campaign bank, then Peter ought to be in trouble. It’s pretty vile. As much as we’re in Peter’s camp by virtue of the fact that Alicia is, you have to question whether or not we should be. Is he really guilty, or is The Man just gunning for him? We never know for sure, I suppose because Alicia rarely knows for sure. She’s become all more thick skinned about her husband’s moral failings, but maybe she’s on the wrong side this time. I’d like to think she would be horrified if she actually thought it were true: I’m sure she just thinks its one of the many truthless attacks that get thrown at Peter every other week. I’ll be interesting to see where this goes, and whether Alicia will continue to expend her personal capital cleaning up his messes.
Of course, she’s not so concerned with his image that she doesn’t mix things up a little. Alicia, Lucca and Jason end up in a booth in a bar together to end the show. In a booth, you say? Who are these people, and what have you done with our bar stool-loving cast? The reason for the booth becomes obvious when Lucca gets up and Alicia swoops right into Jason’s face, less than an inch away, and all the while her hands are busy under the table, she’s whispering to him about how a reporter might describe the moment, courting, even reveling in the possibility of exposure and destruction. It’s sexy — he’s totally mesmerized by her power — and yet my every nerve is screaming. Cell phones, you dumb asses! How is it possible that a picture of this won’t end up online? Or even video? Someone’s acquired a real taste for living dangerously. And boy, it does explain/illustrate a lot about politicians and stupid sexual missteps.
All in all, the episode feels like a placeholder, like it’s pushing us toward the main events without seems to be much at all. (Except sexy, obviously.) And I have no idea how long they can just drag out the same tired plots without actually doing anything; we’re so close to the end here! There’s very little time for all this dithering. (I wanted to make an analogy between what went on under the table at the restaurant and what the writers are doing, but I’m not sure it’s precisely right. We should be getting more out of it if that were the case.) I’m particularly bored with all the manuevering at LAL, and also at the grand jury. None of it has the menace of previous set ups (the NSA wire tap, Bob Balaban bearing down on Will to turn on Peter, or Diane and Will joining forces to stop David Lee’s attempted coup), perhaps because we’ve been there so many times before. But maybe the pay off will be different.
One of the most striking lines comes from Alicia’s penultimate conversation with Jason, when they’re talking through the whole friend-kissing/exclusivity weirdness. I wasted the last twenty years of my life, she says. I’m not wasting the next. Do we agree with this? Is being a wife and mother a waste of those years? Was her time in these last seven years wasted? Is it just about not getting rid of Peter (which you can still do, girlie) or about being home for so long? I mean, we know you and Zach don’t have the sort of relationship that Underwood and his daughter did, but poor Grace, getting thrown out with bathwater again. It’s like Alicia forgets she exists when she’s not around, and it’s maddening. Or is the waste, in Alicia’s mind, just not going with her gut, not consulting herself first? Not thinking about what she wanted? Not having a plan? God knows we’d all prefer to see her living intentionally and not just going with the flow. She’s starting to feel like a new person, even more confident than she was with Will, wholly given over to their affair, smiling that feral smile, but is being fully open to her sexuality in a relationship she has to hide really her definition of an fulfilling life? This is made a more difficult question because the writers have continually pressed upon us that we don’t know how deep this relationship is, or whether Alicia and Jason are good for each other. We knew Will loved Alicia (whether or not you personally believed she should love him back): we knew that besides an attraction she and Finn shared a deep emotional connection. And sure, Will didn’t know how to have a grown up relationship, and Finn was tethered to his ex-wife, but at least we never got the impression that they could be unstable, bad guys. But maybe that’s the point; that there are no guarantees when you fall in love? If that’s even what they’re doing? And is this questionable relationship going to make up for all the other ways that she doesn’t know what she wants?
Ah well. The real action has to start somewhere. And I hope, desperately, that it all ends with Alicia finding herself.