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'The Good Wife' recap: Great walls of fire

March 2, 2011 |  9:04 am

THE-GOOD-WIFE-Great-Firewall-Season-2-Episode-16-9
Over the last season and a half of "The Good Wife," we've watched as Alicia's feelings for Will have ebbed and flowed. Working in close proximity with her law school buddy has stirred two competing emotions in Alicia: attraction and disgust. Perhaps that's too strong a word, but it often seems like the biggest obstacle to a Will-Alicia romance is not Tammy or Peter but Will's rather slippery morals. 

In Tuesday's episode, Will asks for Alicia's assistance with their latest client, a Chinese dissident named Shen Yuan. Imprisoned and tortured for five years, Shen Yuan is suing an American search engine with the unfortunate name of "Chum Hum" for turning over his IP address to the Chinese government. Initially, Will just wants Alicia to sit in on the negotiations -- "just look angry and intense" -- but clearly, she believes in the cause and throws her best efforts into it. Apparently, Will does too. In a fiery deposition, he attacks Chum Hum's bestubbled chief executive, Neil Gross.

The deposition as heated-forum-for-contemporary-debate has become a fixture on "The Good Wife," and this scene is no exception. Neil maintains that, even if his company has to comply with oppressive laws, "American businesses in China help open the door just a little bit." Will is more skeptical. "It also doesn't hurt that we also owe them $843 billion." He also makes fun of Neil for wearing a hoodie in a deposition, a tactic that seemed unnecessarily bullying and snide. The point, I think, was to show us a hint of Will's dark side.

Given Will's showy denunciation of Chum Hum, Alicia is especially dismayed to discover that his interest in the case is financial, not humanitarian. She catches Patric Edelstein, the Mark Zuckerberg-esque Internet billionaire we met a few weeks back, in a secretive meeting with Will. She correctly deduces that the goal of the suit is to get Chum Hum out of China, so that Sleuth.com can swoop in and monopolize the growing market.  Alicia confronts Will with her suspicions. "I just for one minute wanted to think that we were doing the right thing," she tells him. Will claims that they are doing the right thing, even if the underlying motive is venal and not altruistic. Alicia's disappointment intensifies when she discovers that Edelstein also plans to comply with Chinese authorities. "It's the law," says Will, dousing Alicia's crush like a bucket of ice-cold water.

Alicia's moral evolution (or devolution, depending on your perspective), a key theme last season, has become something of a given lately. So in a way, her exchange with Will felt like a throwback -- especially when Will told Alicia, "If you thought about all you've learned this last year, you'd believe it too." I mean this in a good way. It was a return to the central questions of the show: Just how far can someone bend their core beliefs and still retain their integrity? Where is the line between realism and cycnicism? All too often, it seems that Will has crossed that invisible border.

Every time this happens, Alicia take a step back. For example, a month or so ago, Will indirectly tampered with a murder weapon; later in the episode, Alicia opted out of confronting Will about the voicemail. You got the sense that she wasn't ready to put everything on the line for someone who'd do something so sketchy. The quesion is: Will all this craven opportunism drive Alicia back into Peter's arms for good? Who would you choose, the husband who slept with a prostitute or the guy who doesn't give a hoot about human rights in China?

On the subject of romance, Cary and Kalinda's brief kiss came as something of a surprise. For a while now, Cary has taken a conspicuous interest in Kalinda's well-being, but his motivations were still somewhat opaque. Was he crushing hard on Kalinda, or did he have ulterior motives? Based on this episode, the former appears to be true.

Kalinda, in an attempt to be more "normal," has sent change -of-address notices to her colleagues. (Alicia's so thrilled by this minor breakthrough, she jokingly tells Kalinda, "'This is going in my copy of 'Eat Pray Love.' ") Cary stops by Kalinda's new building to let her know a grand jury is being impaneled to investigate her. Before dashing off, he kisses her. Now, Cary's always been in awe of the super-sexy Kalinda -- haven't we all? -- but I was surprised to see him act on it. The question is, how far will Kalinda take this whole "normal" thing? Could a relationship possibly be in store? Now that would be interesting.

Less surprising is the outcome of Will and Diane's long-planned ouster of Derrick. The previews for this week's episode suggested a highly dramatic episode, but the end result was more farcical than anything else. The pro-Diane faction -- Diane, Will, Julius and David -- gather around a steaming vent to plot out their strategy. With the count virtually tied, Diane proposes an ingenious, if absurd, solution: Enlist the support of Stern's so-called "gang of three" retired equity partners whose names, because of a contractual obligation, remain on the firm's rolls.

This twist was quite obviously pulled from thin air, but it provided some great comic fodder. The scene in which Diane negotiates with the remaining two partners -- one of whom angrily berates a waitress for not bringing his ice cream fast enough -- was priceless. Naturally, one of the partners keels over before the meeting even takes place, throwing Diane's coup into further disarray. But the real suspense comes from Julius who, for a minute or so, appears to be double-crossing Diane and Will. He promises to vote for Derrick in exchange for a promotion to head of litigation. Derrick takes the bait, but it's all a trick: Julius votes for Diane. Just like that, Lockhart, Gardner & Bond is plain-old Lockhart-Gardner once again.

By the conclusion of this episode, Peter's also managed to eliminate an adversary. After a little electronic snooping, Zach and Becca discover that Glenn Childs has a nanny problem of his own. He quickly withdraws from the race, leaving Peter and Wendy to duke it out. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story line is Zach's role in it. Not just that he's willing to play dirty, but that he's become something of a technological ambassador for both his parents, using Facebook to track down Glenn's real nanny, and Twitter, to confirm Edelstein's whereabouts.

As always, there is much to discuss in this episode. What did you think?

What we learned: Glenn Childs had an illegal nanny. Kalinda is trying to be normal, but a grand jury is being impaneled to investigate her.

Further questions: Does Will have a soul? Will Peter triumph over Wendy Scott Carr? And will Viola offer Alicia a job?

Real-life inspiration: In the past, Google has been criticized for cooperating with Chinese restrictions to Internet access, but has started to push back against these regulations. Yahoo withdrew from the country after turning over information to Chinese authorities. And the fictional Bush administration lawyer in the episode was clearly based on real-life Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, author of the infamous "torture memo." 

-- Meredith Blake
twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Photo: Alicia (Julianna Margulies), Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) and Will (Josh Charles) talk strategy. Credit: David M. Russell / CBS

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