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'The Good Wife' recap: The agony and the ecstasy

 

As wonderful as "The Good Wife" is, it also can be one of the most vexing shows on television. Tuesday night's episode, which featured some of the best writing and acting I've ever seen on the show, also included a long, silly R-rated sexual interlude and ended with Alicia's predictably disastrous confrontation with Will. It's a prime example of why "The Good Wife" makes for such thrilling, if frustrating, viewing -- and yes, those two things are probably related. 

Let's begin with the "case of the week," which in this episode isn't so much "inspired by the headlines" as it is a direct cut and paste.  Diane gets a call from Viola (played by Rita Wilson, the latest biggish name to guest star), a lady lawyer pal out in California (while we're on the subject, did the green-screen palm trees bother anyone else?).  She's representing Patric Edelstein (Jack Carpenter), a twentysomething programming whiz and internet bajillionaire.  He's also the subject of a new biopic that plays fast and loose with the story of his life. No points for guessing this case is inspired by/based on "The Social Network" and Mark Zuckerberg. Edelstein is suing the studio for defamation, and Viola wants to outsource depositions to Lockhart, Gardner & Bond because, as Diane explains to Will, Illinois is more favorable to defamation suits.

Oftentimes, the case of the week is the weakest aspect on "The Good Wife," though that's usually only when it's a more run-of-the-mill murder situation (those are such a drag, am I right?). I enjoy the show the most when episodes have a case of the week inspired by real-life political or cultural issues -- such as the Cameron Todd Willingham execution in Texas, or the Muhammad cartoon controversy. Some of these episodes have almost a cheat-sheet quality, like just by watching them I get a primer on certain legal issues. Will decides to change the legal strategy in the Edelstein case, suing for "right of publicity" rather than defamation. Since the studio used Edelstein's public profile and name recognition to sell merchandise and sign lucrative product-placement deals, he has a right to the profits. The studio argues, unconvincingly, that the film is a "transformative work of art" and not merely a commercial product.

Lockhart Gardner & Bond's victory is sealed when Will asks the car-company executive the pivotal question: Would they have paid for product placement if the movie had been about a fictional computer programmer?  Studio lawyer Burl Preston (played by the wonderful F. Murray Abraham, a.k.a. Salieri in "Amadeus") immediately folds. There's plenty to consider here: "narrative truth" versus the facts, art versus commerce, the right to privacy versus the right to free expression.

The scene in which Will takes deposition from the film's screenwriter, Rand Blaylock (Stephen Kunken), is one of the smartest discussions I've heard regarding "The Social Network."  Like "Social Network" writer Aaron Sorkin, Rand is contemptuous of Internet culture and, like Sorkin, has struggled with drugs. "This whole movie was my attempt to get back at the Internet," he admits. Just when I thought there wasn't anything else to say on the subject of this exhaustively discussed film, "The Good Wife" proves me wrong. It's also interesting that this episode, which questions the right of the artist to take liberties with someone else's life story, was doing exactly the same thing. At one point, Rand dismisses Will's criticisms, daring him to "write your own movie making fun of me and get Mr. Edelstein to finance it." If Mark Zuckerberg were planning to finance a critical Aaron Sorkin biopic, he can probably save his pennies for something else. Now the question is, should Aaron Sorkin be upset that "The Good Wife" stole "his story" and depicted him as an egomaniac?  Whatever the case may be, it's only appropriate that this show, where technology is so often the foe, should weigh in on the definitive movie about the Internet era.

Now, if anyone has the right to be mad at the Internet, and technology in general, it's Alicia. On a road trip from Oregon to Chicago, Alicia and Owen spend the night in a wood-paneled motel room somewhere in Idaho. They're both dressed down in cool-yet-casual winter apparel, looking like models from a J. Crew Christmas catalog. (Wasn't it nice to see Alicia without all that makeup, for once?) Owen has the ability to ferret out all of his sister's deeply suppressed anxieties, and he quickly discerns that she has some unresolved feelings for "Mr. Georgetown." After several glasses of wine, she blurts out the truth. "Will phoned me to tell me something, but I never got the message." Alicia tells him the whole sordid tale, blaming the lost message on her phone, which "gobbles things." (See what I mean about technology?) Owen mocks Alicia's technical ineptitude but then very sincerely urges her to put on something nice -- "businesslike, not too slutty" -- and confront Will. I assume that Owen's move to Chicago means that the fantastic Dallas Roberts will be featured more regularly going forward. His scenes with Alicia, so vital and authentic, have easily been the highlight of the show for me this season. I am glad he'll be around to be the devil constantly hovering over Alicia's shoulder.

At Owen's encouragement, Alicia finally works up the nerve to talk to Will about the deleted voicemail. She even gets dressed up in a sexy yet office-appropriate LBD, a detail that made Will's rejection even more painful (as any woman can tell you, getting dumped is at least three times worse if you're wearing heels). I am not going to lie to you, my heart was racing this entire scene, and I actually screamed bloody murder at the outcome (sorry, upstairs neighbors!). When Will shut his office door, I was sure he was going to tell Alicia the truth. In retrospect, I should have known this was not going to happen and that he'd use the opportunity to save face -- much as Alicia did a few weeks back. (Those of you who are gluttons for punishment can relive the rejection above.) So, the tide has turned, and now it's Alicia's turn to feel rejected and pine away in silence as Tammy and Will blather on about three-pointer this and three-pointer that. I understand the need to keep this situation unresolved for as long as possible, but 'The Good Wife" is a serious tease. The question is, now that Will knows Alicia never got the mesage in the first place, is he going to second-guess his decision? The correct answer to this is "duh."

Before I go, I must quickly discuss the Kalinda and Blake situation. Although Kalinda's ruthless bed-hopping is, on one hand, a wonder to behold, there's a "Skinemax" quality to these scenes that is just way too over-the-top for me, especially in an episode that was otherwise delightfully understated. I have a feeling that "Good Wife" fans fall into one of two camps: those who love the increasingly kitschy Kalinda stuff and those who really don't. I adore Archie Panjabi and revel in the fact that a bisexual investigator of color is the undisputed hero of a network television show, but I do wish the writers would come up with something for her to do other than mumble sexily and grab people's crotches. There's an ever-so-fine line between sexy and silly, and I think it's been crossed.

So, there you have it: the finest two-thirds of a "Good Wife" yet.

What we learned: Baltimore gang MS13 is expanding to Chicago to partner with Lemond Bishop. Blake's into Georgia O'Keefe. Kalinda equates sex with takeout food. And, oh yeah, she's married.

Further questions: Did Kalinda break into Dr. Booth's office, or did Blake frame her? We still don't have an answer. Was Blake sent to Chicago to pave the way for the MS13-Bishop merger or the Lockhart, Gardner & Bond one? How long are we going to have to wait for Will to second-guess his decision?

Real-life inspiration: Do I really need to tell you?

-- Meredith Blake
twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Video: CBS

 

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

I love Archie Panjabi & Kalinda, but I still miss the Kalinda of Season 1 where she was just a smart, intelligent, take nothing from no one investigator and friend of Alicia's. The whole Blake story made no sense from the beginning because he came into the law firm on day 1 taunting her with the Lela crap. Why, as a new investigator, would he come into the law firm like that??? I was fine not knowing her background. What does it have to do with her job at LGB??? I have a love/hate relationship with the scene between them last night. I loved that she hit Blake with the bat because I simply can't stand him, but I hated the sexual part because why would she kiss & be intimate with someone who's given her so many problems? Her being attracted to him in a sexual way makes no sense!!! I don't think Kalinda would be that cheap. I hope they end this story line soon and get her back to the Kalinda of season 1 that I loved and felt deserved her emmy.

It truly is the best show on TV! I love the stories, the characters and the acting! I wait for it to come on every week, never knowing what to expect other than a great hour of entertainment.

I agree that the Blake/Kalinda stuff has been getting increasingly more silly (and I think it's because he's so badly miscast). But I freely admit, their scenes tonight were HOT and I definitely cheered when Kalinda kneecapped him with her one true love, Baseball Bat. And it helped that in the scene with the FBI agent, she showed some self-awareness, and a little weariness at how tawdry others find her lifestyle.

I would have felt very cheated if Will had just come out and been honest at this time, because the way the status quo stands, Alicia would have had to reject him. It'll be better when the admission comes at a time when Alicia's more vulnerable (all this season we've seen her rebuiding her relationship with Peter, after all)

Tweety65, Kalinda's sexual involvement made perfect sense and IMHO was the most Kalinda-esque that we have seen her for awhile. What we saw again was that she will do anything to get what she wants. For a bit of undressing and nuzzling she not only got a lot of information and her missing bat but she again proved she was the better investigator by getting him to think with his little brain and let his guard down. I was waiting for her to hit him the whole time.

YES! I hated the palm tree green screen! Just show her in her condo and TELL us she's in California, please. Didn't get the whole Viola deal anyways.

I loved Alicia in that ugly hat, her saying Tammy and Will "like sports together," basically everything she said in Oregon with Owen was touching and funny. And the dress she wore to confront Will... not business at all!


A show that I never wanted to miss is about to be off my watch!
I'm sick of Kalinda's (probably the best actor on the show) antics!
I'm sick of law firm antics!
I'm sick of wimpy Alicia!

It's over the top & nothing is believable!

I'm moving on to Castle :)

Vandusan,

I was waiting for her to hit him also; I didn't for a moment believe that she would go all the way with Blake. I know Kalinda uses her sexuality to get info, I just didn't think she'd do it with Blake because of the hostility between the two. Although I thought the scene was sexy, something was just "off" about it for me. When she hit him, I LOVED it and felt that part is what the real Kalinda would do. Get sexual with him, in particular, that to me seemed un-Kalinda. Maybe, I just think he's miscast and have never bought into the so-called "chemistry" between them. I think the writer's simply mis-handled the story line. I remain, however, a big Kalinda fan.

I love the recap and agree with Tweety65

The palm trees irritated me too. They were very distracting.

Overall it was a good episode that almost made me forget about the Will/Alicia moment they promised we would get this week. When that finally happened, and I'm not surprised it was at the very end as this is becoming a trend, I was actually surprised that Will was the one who chickened out. I thought Alicia would have been Alicia and changed her mind.

At this point I don't know what to say about Will and Alicia. Alicia should have left Peter soon after the scandal. To do so now doesn't seem justifiable, only unless Peter goes back to the prostitutes again. Maybe she'll keep starving him out until he relapses. Otherwise, if Alicia goes there with Will at this stage it will be a huge mess. Sigh...the poor star crossed lovers.

I thought the husband thing was so soapish and over the top, but let's see what they do with it. This being said, as creepy as the Blake scene was (mostly due to the impossibly bad acting of Scott Porter), Archie Panjabi was so incredibly nuanced in said scene, it almost made me forget I didn't want whatever was happening to happen.
I completely disagree however on the sexy scene with the FBI agent. It was understated and very hot regardless of the limitations imposed by primetime conservative network tv. If you have a problem with that and had rather watch Alicia and Will make love on his desk, I think maybe you have a problem you should think about.

The Kalinda/Blake scene was ridiculous, more than anything because it basically relies on the premise that Blake is a complete moron. OK, we know Blake isn't a moron and is suspicious of Kalinda, yet he so easily gets himself into that position and believes her? Come on.

I think the most interesting thing is who framed Blake with the email. If Kalinda was being truthful and didn't send it, then who did? Cary?

Dallas Roberts is amazing as Alicia's brother. They capture the big-sister younger-brother feel perfectly. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

What did Blake say to Kalind?

The palm trees were so so bad, I thought there had to be a mix up in post --I don't know how that pic could have been allowed it..It looked like temp VFX..
Other than that, ep was great..When the show is so stylistically perfect-- I can't believe that pic got out!

Alice: Blake told Kalinda, "I found your husband." He also called her be real name, Lela... Kalinda is turning out to be the most complexed layered character on the show. Who is she, really? What is her story?

Oh, what a great show. I loved the scene with Kalinda and Blake. Blake has some rickety past stuff going on with him. I don't think he was falling for Kalinda...just being weak...gosh who wouldn't. Archie Janjabi is FABULOUS..and creating a real interesting character out of Kalinda/Lela. Alisa and Will are getting on my nerves...c'mon...get to it...goodness!!! I love the case stories... Don't get silly though...I can see what the other posters are talking about. But this by far is the best show. Even attorneys I know enjoy it a lot.

I find it disturbing that so many people found it acceptable, let alone HOT, for Kalinda to essentially assault Blake. She was in no imminent danger. Why the violence? Revenge isn't a good enough reason.

I liked the case-of-the-week and Alicia's interactions with her brother. The Kalinda/Blake stuff (as well as Kalinda/FBI agent) was crap.


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