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'The Good Wife' recap: An uncivil action

February 9, 2011 |  8:22 am

MethodMan Honesty -- or the lack thereof -- is a favorite recurring theme on "The Good Wife." Tuesday night’s episode examined a slightly different, though related, premise: authenticity. 

At the behest of his new pollster Matt (Jeremy Strong), Peter decides to support a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The idea is that the "youth vote" will come out for Peter if he's pro-pot. The plan backfires when a high school glee club instructor makes a hokey -- and 100% earnest -- video in support of the Florrick campaign. Matt, watching the video, declares, "You know the worst thing to happen to any candidate: to be unhip. Ask Hillary in '08."  This is a tad hyperbolic -- the only thing worse than an unhip politician is one straining to be hip -- but in this day and age, there's nothing quite as toxic as sincerity.  Eli tracks down the zealous instructor and offers him a phony job as a "liaison" to the campaign if he'll agree not to make any more videos. The instructor tells Eli he felt inspired by Peter's recent visit to the school, in which he spoke out against bullying. For a minute there, you could see Eli's cynicism recede ever so slightly. It's a sad state of affairs when campaign managers dampen -- rather than incite-- enthusiasm for their candidate.

The Florrick campaign might be terrified of sincerity, but it's desperate for a little "street cred," so Peter suggests they enlist his prison buddy, a rapper named Young Boxer (Method Man). They sit down for a powwow, and Peter tells, uh, Mr. Boxer that he "need(s) the youth vote." Young Boxer promptly erupts into laughter, but then offers to do a fundraiser for the campaign. (I loved that Eli barged in at this news.)  The scene was brief, but Chris Noth and Method Man shared some nice chemistry; you could almost believe they did time together, and that Young Boxer might genuinely feel obliged to help Peter out. I'm looking forward to seeing where the show goes with this subplot.

Of course, the question of authenticity was forefront in Alicia's mind as well, because her arch-nemesis, Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) was back. The last time we saw Louis, he was representing Big Pharma in a class-action lawsuit. Though I loved that "The Good Wife" played on expectations and made Louis a villain rather than a saintly victim, the episode itself was subpar at best. So I was a little worried that Louis' return would mean another lousy episode. Thankfully, my concerns proved to be unfounded.  This time around, Louis is vying with Alicia et al in another class-action case -- a suburban "infertility cluster" caused by fertilizers dumped in the area. Only this time, he wants to represent the alleged victims, and he's competing with Alicia to win over the hearts and minds of the afflicted neighborhood. The question is, who will the alleged victims believe has their best interests at heart? The scrappy, independent lawyer with the twitch, or the slick law firm?

Louis, whose wife recently miscarried, claims to be a changed man, but Alicia isn't buying it. She suspects that Louis is actually in cahoots with the chemical company and that his goal is to get the victims to low-ball their claim. Even Kalinda is surprised by Alicia's cynicism, pointing out the fact that planning a miscarriage is "kind of an elaborate trick." "I think he's getting in your head," she says.  Alicia can't quite believe that Louis has good intentions, and she is practically giddy to discover that he has been negotiating behind the scenes with J&L. I wasn't sure what to make of his final monologue. For a show with what we can fairly call a liberal cant, Louis’ speechifying had distinctly conservative overtones. "I think companies ought to pay for their mistakes. But I think companies are paying too much for their mistakes. And I think lawyers are helping people distort the amount of harm," he tells Alicia as inspirational music swelled on the soundtrack. Was "The Good Wife" taking up the mantle of tort reform? Or were we meant to roll our eyes at Louis’ hollow proclamations?

This week's case, a class-action lawsuit against a chemical company, was pretty much boilerplate -- derivative of legal thrillers such as "A Civil Action" and "Michael Clayton." It's the machinations surrounding the case that made it interesting. Once again, it's the legal back story that's way more interesting than the case itself. I had no idea that lawyers actually have to "win" the right to represent a class, or that there are hedge funds out there devoted solely to funding these types of cases. Any legal experts out there care to enlighten me about all this? Did this episode accurately portray the intricacies of class-action lawsuits, or did it fudge?

With the $55-million class-action suit in their pocket, Will and Diane now have significant ammo to use against Derrick. In a meeting of the firm's equity partners, Derrick finally shares his big news. The super-PAC he's recruited is a group called "Americans for Growth." He says it's bipartisan, but I’m guessing it will be conservative (the name "Americans for Growth" appears to be a fusion of "Club for Growth" and "Americans for Prosperity," two well-known fiscally conservative PACs) and that this will cause further trouble with Diane. Not that they were bound to be allies at this point anyway. It turns out that Derrick has not only been investigating the firm's employees, he's spying on them as well. Kalinda figures out that he's installed key-reading software on computers around the office, and now Will, Diane and Julius are going to use this discovery against him -- though I still don't totally understand how. I am enjoying Will's and Diane's revived partnership, but I'm also hoping that the writers put the Derrick plot line out of its misery pretty soon. As several commenters pointed out last week, Derrick's one-dimensional villainy is getting a little silly, and it's a shame Michael Ealy hasn't been given more to do than slither in and out of people's offices and stare them down while saying menacingly cryptic things like, "Trust me. My information is sound."

The episode concluded on a jarringly triumphant note. Will returns to his office to find Tammy waiting for him with her feet up on his desk (Because I am fluent in TV body language, allow me translate: that means she wants to get it on). She admits that her South African soccer player was fictional, and she tells Will she wants "not commitment, just preferential treatment." Intercut with this is a scene of Alicia and Peter in bed together -- it appears last week's ending was not as ambiguous as I had hoped --as they laughingly recount their days to each other. It's not sexy, exactly, but it was sort of sweet. Unless the previews for next week are wildly misleading, it looks like this romantic bliss might be short-lived. I hope so. I sure would hate to see Alicia wind up being Will's skinny drinking buddy.

--Meredith Blake


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Photo: Method Man stars as Young Boxer Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / CBS