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'The Good Wife': The Chinese wall

May 18, 2010 | 11:02 pm

Next time your boss asks you to pick up a red-lined contract at a client's house, you might want to say no. That's the lesson from tonight's episode of "The Good Wife," in which a slightly tipsy Alicia is sent to pick up some important paperwork from possible wife-killer Colin Sweeney's apartment, only to find him chained to a half-naked dead woman lying in a pool of blood. Although you and I might describe this sort of experience as "nightmarish" or "harrowing," Alicia Florrick just calls it "Tuesday."  

Sweeney is in quite a pickle, since his company is also going through some sort of ill-defined yet lucrative merger and apparently it doesn't look good to have a sex killer as your CEO. The case appears to endanger the merger, or at least it does until the investors decided they'd be better off with Sweeney in jail and another CEO at the helm. This presents an interesting dilemma to Sweeney's legal team at Lockhart & Gardner, who represent both his person and his personal and financial interests. These interests are now directly at odds with one another: If Sweeney goes to jail, the merger will go through.  As a result, Diane declares a proverbial "Chinese wall" between Sweeney's criminal and financial representation, but the term is used almost ironically. Diane wants Julius and Alicia to consent to a plea bargain so Sweeney will go to jail and the firm will profit from his company's merger. She is most definitely not interested in fighting to keep Sweeney free; then again, can you blame her?

The Chinese wall is sort of the central metaphor on "The Good Wife," a show in which personal and professional lives are constantly overlapping -- and sometimes colliding. And of course, the folks at Lockhart & Gardner are bouncing over Chinese walls all day, every day. In fact, it's precisely Alicia's new-found ability to mix business and personal life and forget about so-called "conflicts of interest" that saved her from being fired. She's officially knocked down the Chinese wall separating her from Peter, and so far it's helping her at the office. The question remains whether it will hurt her in other ways.

Unlike Alicia, Cary wasn't able to leverage his personal connections into job security, and guess what -- he's not happy about getting laid off. He and Alicia have a tense encounter when Cary comes to clean out his office.  Alicia is gracious, but Cary's not having it. "I don't have a name, I don't have a fairy godmother, I don't have the whole Chicago political machine behind me," Cary says, and also accuses Alicia of sleeping with Will. Initially, I sort of sympathized with Cary -- it's no fun to get passed over for external factors like who you're married to or not -- but then I was reminded of something wise old Kalinda said this episode. "Cary would have done the same thing if he had the opportunity." And she's right. Plus, call me a terrible cynic but if Cary expected a fair career in which advancement was based entirely on merit, why did he get into law in the first place?  In any case, it looks like Cary is here to stay. Glenn Childs (whose name, by the way, sounds to me like it belongs to an adult contemporary singer and not a state's attorney) woos Cary into working for him with a few Malcolm Gladwell references and, more enticingly, promises of revenge against Alicia. Naturally, it makes for good TV, but I have to say, the lawyer friends I have who have been laid off in the past year have all but welcomed the event as a chance to take a few months off, fully-paid. Cary should lighten up.

Cary and Alicia's fleeting friendship is, to quote Kristin Cavallari, "dunzo," but her relationship with Kalinda is another story altogether: They are bosom buddies. Kalinda, ever the shrewd judge of character, accurately senses that Alicia is likely to wallow in her (possibly) Pyrrhic victory over Cary.  "You're gonna turn this into something morbid because that's who you are," Kalinda says, so she commandeers Alicia's keys and the two head to the bar for a few shots of tequila. Alicia fesses up to Kalinda about Will, though we don't get to hear what I'm assuming were the juiciest bits of their chat. All we get is Kalinda saying "I'm sure he feels the same way about you." I'm assuming (hoping?) it was something along the lines of, "I love him and want to leave my husband for him but I can't because of this damn job," but it's not entirely clear. Emboldened by liquor and their frank discussion, Alicia comes out with the question we've all had on our minds all season long: She asks Kalinda if she's gay.  In response, Kalinda says "I'm private," which is one of the most galling non-denials in the history of the world, yet she manages to rebuff Alicia's perfectly reasonable questions without seeming cagey or rude.

Alicia never gets the change to push Kalinda on the Big Question because their girls' night out is interrupted by a phone call from Will. A tipsy Alicia runs off to answer the call with a long, breathy "Hiiiiiiiii...." and is clearly hoping that Will is making some kind of booty call/confession. It was a pitch-perfect little acting moment for Margulies and it's too bad she was on a cell phone and not an old-fashioned land line, otherwise she could have twirled the cord in her fingers flirtatiously and the effect would have been complete -- the woman was as giddy as a teenager. This evident glee made something clear that we knew already: despite her sober resolve to work things out with Peter, Alicia still likes Will. (Be sure to check in later for my interview with Josh Charles on this very subject!) Later in the episode,  Alicia and Will have another one of their trademark conversations full of loaded questions and awkward pauses. Will asks Alicia how she's holding up; Alicia isn't sure whether he's talking about the Sweeney case or their "situation." Their awkward verbal fumbling is sweet and surely rings true to anyone who's had a crush in their lifetime -- that constant vacillation between reading too much into one gesture, then completely missing the most obvious sign of all. Oh, you two, get it together already!

So here we are, with only one episode left in the season. Any predictions about next week? Based on the preview, it looks like Alicia finds herself in the same position in which she began her journey this year: standing by her man while he tries to salvage his political career. Do you think Eli will be able to strong-arm her into compliance, or can Will get to her first? I can't wait to find out!

What we learned: Kozko isn't dead after all, and based on his videotaped testimony, he has some pretty damning evidence against Peter. Elsbeth is no good with computers, but she's something of an investigative genius. There's a Savannah in the Cayman Islands. Also, blogger Ben Smith of Politico appeared in this episode. Were any of you political nerds able to spot him?

New questions: No, really, is Kalinda gay? What did Alicia tell Kalinda about her feelings for Will? Will Kozko return from the Cayman Islands to testify against Peter?

--Meredith Blake


Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'The Good Wife'

Josh Charles talks about what's next for Will and Alicia

'The Good Wife': Archie Panjabi talks about the mystery of Kalinda's sexuality

'The Good Wife': Everyone is that person

'The Good Wife': Fuzzy vengeance

'The Good Wife': Peter crosses the line

'The Good Wife': Alicia defends an (alleged) murderer

Photo: Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) and Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranksi) talk to their least favorite client, Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker).

Credit: David M. Russell / CBS

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