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'The Good Wife': How Alicia almost got her groove back

November 11, 2009 |  7:03 am

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Move over, F. Lee Bailey! For a junior associate, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) has one heck of a track record for winning every case she tries, and last night her winning streak continued unabated.  But somehow, this episode didn’t feel so triumphant.  To be blunt, this episode was kind of a bummer.

For one thing, layoffs were looming at Stern, Lockhart & Gardner.  By now, we all know that “The Good Wife” is the timeliest show on television.   That meant that, this week, Will (Josh Charles) and Diane (Christine Baranski) were having to make cuts at the firm.  Though Alicia was safe from the chopping block, she was under serious pressure to perform to preserve her job. (Even though, lest we forget, last week she got a guy off death row and, the week before that, won a huge wrongful-death case -- but who’s counting?)

Will appoints her as co-counsel on a case involving Anna Loeb (Natalie Gold), who just so happens to be the daughter of the mysterious “Mr. Stern,” the firm’s absentee third partner.  She and her husband are fighting a personal-injury lawsuit, after a woman fell on the sidewalk outside their home.  Anna used to be a party girl, but during a stint in rehab, she fell for a yeshiva student, married him and converted — if that’s the right word — to Hasidic Judaism.  It was a fun, unexpected twist to the episode.  We’re led to believe that Anna is a wild child, but instead, she wears long skirts and wigs.  Initially, I thought this tension between Anna’s old and new lifestyles would be the focus of the episode, which would have been interesting.  But no.  Even when it’s discovered that Anna has been using the phone to call her father on the Sabbath — which is strictly forbidden — the point is quickly forgotten, but I am not sure why.

For a while there, it seemed like this would turn into a “very special episode” about anti-Semitism.  Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) and Alicia discuss the possibility of a biased jury, and there are references to a number of hate crimes taking place in Anna’s neighborhood (meant to be an unnamed Chicago enclave but actually filmed in Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint).  But again, like Anna’s party-girl past, that potential was squandered.

That’s because, this week, Keith Urban came to town.  No, it wasn’t actually Keith Urban, but Alicia’s co-counsel, with his manicured stubble and long, styled hair, looked a whole lot like Mr. Nicole Kidman.  The character’s name is actually Ryan Alprin (Chris Bowers), and he’s a cheap storefront attorney hired by Anna’s husband. He also wears three-piece corduroy suits -- code for "I'm very earnest." Mr. Stern is worried Alprin doesn’t have the chops to win the case, which is why Alicia ends up as co-counsel.  There’s some opposites-attract tension between Alicia and Ryan.  He's kind of a jerk, and he keeps asking her pointedly personal questions about why she’s still married to Peter, but you get the sense that Alicia is attracted to his idealism.  But just when things start to be warming up, the episode comes to an abrupt, weird halt:  Kalinda discovers that Ryan never passed the bar and isn’t really a lawyer at all.  Alicia urges him to rest the defense immediately,  the case is over, they win, and Ryan is gone.  I guess the writers were going for a jaw-dropping twist, but it was an unsatisfying, downright bizarre way to end the episode.  I would have liked to see a little more resolution between Alicia and this guy. He was unbearably cheesy but would have been the perfect rebound for someone so buttoned-up and proper.  Here's hoping he rides his motorcycle back into town sometime soon.

With the layoffs, the unrealized sexual tension with Keith Urban, the allusions to anti-Semitism that never really came to fruition and the strange surprise ending, this episode felt like a bit of a non-starter.  Have I just gotten spoiled and come to expect too much of this show, or was this episode just all over the map?  What did you think?

-- Meredith Blake

Related:

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Complete coverage of 'The Good Wife' on Show Tracker

What television critic Mary McNamara watches when she's not working

Photo: Scrappy attorney Ryan Alprin (Chris Bowers) really knows how to rev Alicia's (Julianna Margulies) engine, on this week's "The Good Wife."  Credit: David M. Russell / CBS

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