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'The Good Wife' recap: The N-word

February 2, 2011 |  9:23 am


While "The Good Wife" is no stranger to thorny subjects like capital punishment, marital infidelity and terrorism, this week's episode was an especially bold installment, diving headlong into two of the trickiest issues out there: Racism and abortion.

Wendy Scott-Carr, who is married to a white man, discovers a campaign flier accusing her of being "ashamed of her righteous African heritage." After a powwow with Glenn Childs, Wendy shows up at Alicia's office bearing a nasty little leaflet of her own. It alleges that Zach procured an abortion for his ex-girlfriend, Becca, with assistance from his powerful father. Someone -- most likely Scott-Carr -- is messing with Alicia's family. To invoke the favorite metaphor of a certain Alaskan reality-show star, when Alicia's family is threatened, her mama grizzly instincts come out.

Speaking of grizzly, Cary once again finds himself pitted against Lockhart, Gardner & Bond in a case involving the prison-yard murder of an inmate named Winston. Put in an outdoor holding pen for unruly prisoners, Winston quickly wound up with a shiv in his neck. (Fun fact: "shiv" is the word my predictive text always suggests when I'm trying to type another four-letter word that begins with "sh.") Cary and Geneva -- who, by the way, is rapidly catching up to Kalinda in terms of her tough-girl awesomeness -- question David Howell (Ash Christian), a fellow inmate.  Looking bashfully at Geneva, he explains that the suspect, Joey Church (Dion Graham) was retaliating "because of what Winston called him." Geneva laughs at Howell's squeamishness. "I love to see how uncomfortable it makes you white folk. It makes me feel so warm and post-racial fuzzy," she tells Cary.

What's interesting is that both issues turned out to be red herrings, of a sort. Becca had an abortion, or so she claims, but Zach wasn't the one who got her pregnant. As a result, Peter, who is presumably pro-choice, doesn't have to defend his son's actions or publicly declare his support of Becca's decision to terminate her pregnancy. Peter does, however, have to desert the PAC that's kept his campaign afloat.   Likewise, the show pivoted away from the question of whether using a racial slur might justify an act of violence -- or, more to the point, whether black jurors will decide that it does. Church was working for drug dealer Lemond Bishop when he killed Winston. As he puts it, if he killed every inmate who used the N-word, "there'd be nobody left in prison." I suppose this was a bold statement in and of itself, but still, it felt like "The Good Wife" was deflecting a little bit.

Abortion and racism aside, the real juicy tidbits in this episode involved Kalinda. She's taking heat from all sides. Glenn Childs tells his team to step up its investigation of Kalinda because her performance indicates she has sources inside the police force. (Geneva puts it a different way: "Whenever I see [her], I know we're in trouble.") At his own peril, Cary tells Kalinda about the investigation. At the same times, he's trying to finagle a raise out of Glenn, who personally asks him to talk to their investigators about Kalinda. "She's been lying under oath under an assumed name," Glenn tells Cary. Apparently, Blake seems to have discovered the same information. Kalinda, he claims, is really Leela Tahiri, a young woman from Toronto who died in a bus fire, but whose body was never found. So, is Kalinda the "Dick Whitman" of Lockhart, Gardner & Bond? That appears to be the case. Of course, the real question is what made her flee in the first place. At this rate, we should have an answer sometime in 2013.

Alicia's personal life was not the focus this week, but this episode did provide at least one important development. She and Peter sit down for a heart-to-heart with Zach about Becca. Alicia tells Peter that she and Zach have already talked about the importance of safe sex, and that Alicia kept Zach's condoms in her drawer. This was a bit of a "Eureka!" moment for Peter, who tells Alicia, "You could have told me about the condoms." "Yeah, I could have," is her dismissive response. Peter then tells her he wants to share the bedroom again. "I'm not just a roommate," he says. (See clip above.) In the final scene of the episode, Peter greets Alicia with a giant glass of red wine, telling her he loves her. Without saying a word, Alicia walks to her bedroom and leaves the door open. I interpreted this as an invitation to Peter to return to the marital bed. Still, I'm hoping that I've misinterpreted this slightly ambiguous ending. What did you think?

Finally, one of the things I always enjoy about "The Good Wife" is the way the show really uses its peripheral characters and circumstances -- like Grace's Evangelical friend, or the bad experimental theater troupe that played at the bar association gala, for instance -- to create a sort of "cultural texture." In this week's episode, Cary and Geneva enlist the help of an investigator turned full-time-dad, Andrew Wiley (Tim Guinee). They find Andrew with his play group, comprised of other Mr. Mom types, all of whom are staying at home while their wives pursue various entrepreneurial endeavors. In between calls from the babysitter -- "Tell her the baby carrots are a train!" -- Andrew discovers the fact that Bishop sponsored the youth soccer team that Church coached.  He's a bit like Alicia in this way: His parental experiences make him better at his job. I hope the state's attorney's office finds the money to keep Andrew around in the future.

What we learned: Kalinda might be Canadian (!). Oh, and, she might be a woman named Leela Tahiri who faked her own death in a bus accident. Becca had an abortion, but Zach's not the one who got her pregnant.

Further questions: Why did Kalinda/Leela flee her life in Canada? Exactly what kind of trouble was she in with the cops? Will Peter have to withdraw from the race, or will another benefactor save his campaign? And what will happen if Peter actually wins his seat back? Will he be duking it out against Alicia every week in the courtroom? How does Glenn know about Kalinda's past? Is Blake leaking his information to the state's attorney's office?

Real-life inspiration: Judge Morris says that "because I pal around with Bill Ayers" she's accused of being automatically pro-defense, borrowing a phrase bandied about by you-know-who-from-Alaska during the so-called "silly season" of the 2008 campaign.

-- Meredith Blake


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