Last week I criticized The Good Wife for dredging up old guest stars to try and spice up its more stale plotlines. This week had much of the same approach but it was a total success, so I guess I’ll just go eat my hat. Because of a complex case of the week, this was a head-spinningly confusing episode with our heroes taking every kind of weird legal backdoor to try and quickly get client A out on bail (the return of Carrie Preston as Elsbeth Tascioni) and save client B, an athlete, from a phony doping charge without revealing her aborted pregnancy, which produced a false positive.
Each front in the battle was more confusing than the other. Alicia’s task was pretty simple: spring Elsbeth from a Skokie jail, where she was thrown on trumped-up charges, so that she can get back to representing her client, who could lose a $5 million endorsement if she’s barred from competing. But, to drag the thing out over an hour-long episode, there were all kinds of hoops to jump through, like a psych exam (no easy street for the superficially nutty Elsbeth), and then a protracted legal argument in front of a highly disinterested, somewhat sexist judge (Vincent Curatola, aka Johnny Sack) over the constitutionality of her arrest.
Preston is much fun as Elsbeth and her non sequiturs are always a pleasure to watch—I particularly enjoyed the baffled looks Kalinda gave her this time. But if there was a draggy portion to this lively episode, it was Alicia’s desperate attempts to get her out on bail. Obviously she wasn’t going to get out until the end of the episode, because the show was having too much fun pitting the nonplussed Will and the elegant Diane against a panel of three European judges from the athletic governing body.
Will on his own was a particularly fun time—he can barely hide his disgust (and certainly not his confusion) at the French-speaking tribunal, where the lead judge keeps accusing him of “Rambo tactics,” adding a froggy smirk every time. Yes, the humor of this situation was about as subtle as the fourth season of The O.C. and lord knows haughty Frenchmen are the easiest targets in the world, but whatever, I laughed. Adding Diane to the mix was an obvious, necessary step, and of course she handles the panel with all the grace and fluency Will lacks.
There were two intriguing twists to the doping plot from a storytelling perspective, however. First, that the panel has its own rules unrelated to the legal system—Will was ten times more out of his element than he was in military court, since the burden of proof shifts to the defendant and hard evidence is far less necessary for a guilty conviction. Second, that Will and Diane had to do their jobs even though they knew exactly why their client was under suspicion—her pregnancy, which she terminated via birth control pills so she could race in the Olympics. Often it’s implied that Will or Diane or Alicia have to lie or ignore the truth in front of them to best represent their client, but rarely is it so nakedly presented (the extra-legal status of the tribunal allowed for it).
It was also nice to have Elsbeth get the win—Will and Diane do their best to keep things moving while she’s gone, but this is her show, and her final gambit was a fine piece of international diplomacy. The idea behind two all-powerful Chicago lawyers jumping in to save her case, since she’s helped them out in the past, was a sweet one too, and Preston did well (as she always does) to convey Elsbeth’s weird sweetness.
At the end of the episode, it seems that she and Eli are going to get together to defend him against the Feds’ investigation; sounds good to me. The more Carrie Preston, the merrier, and Eli will be the latest notch on her belt of starring cast (soon she’ll have represented anyone at one point or another).
Eli’s campaign troubles still aren’t too compelling. Jordan was a pretty broad caricature for most of the episode, mocking print reporters for representing a dying format and insisting that Peter should not engage on the issue of race even as Maddie prepares to go after him for passing over and firing minority candidates in the State’s Attorney’s office.
Jordan gets his moment of triumph, but it’s fleeting, as Peter’s big speech on race (which bombed with the minority rights coalition he delivered it to) attracts enough pundit approval that Eli’s declaring it a “Sister Souljah moment.” That remains to be seen (there’s ten episodes left before the season’s over, plenty of election twists to come) but I was happy the show didn’t give a clear win to either Jordan or Eli on this one.
Partially because it’s a tricky topic that has been brewing on The Good Wife for a while—it’s been dropping hints about Peter’s unconscious racial bias for more than a year now, particularly his promotion of Cary as his number two over more-experienced black candidates (partially for Matt Czuchry to have more to do on the show), and his firing of Wendy Scott-Carr (far more justified).
His conversation with Geneva on the issue was remarkably well-handled, and allowed Peter (and any doubting audience member) to see the error of his ways without outright vilifying him. Geneva doesn’t cede much ground but is willing to allow that Peter just feels closer to his white co-workers, feels he knows them better, and isn’t thinking to check that kind of behavior because of the larger implications. Chris Noth and Renee Elise Goldsberry did a great job in that scene, and I hope it isn’t the last time this gets brought up on the show, since it had been building for so long and doesn’t allow the audience to easily pick a side and make a satisfied declaration of guilt or innocence. Peter screwed up, but his biases are subtle and more difficult to parse—something that a lot of us should probably be wrestling with.
- Will doesn’t know what to say instead of your honor. “Thank you, your…Monsieur…Le President.”
- Peter and Alicia’s sex scene to “Non, je ne regrette rien” was the usual brand of intense for them. As Grace notes in the first scene, Alicia appears more confident and sexy throughout the episode, surely attributable to her re-ignited relationship.
- “This guy’s obsessed with Rambo. Does anyone even watch that anymore?”