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'The Good Wife' recap: So funny it hurts

100281_0118b.displayThis week, Michael J. Fox returned to "The Good Wife" in his recurring role as Louis Canning, but the real scene-stealer of the night was an animatronic lion.

Co-creator Robert King recently told me that "in many ways 'The Good Wife' is meant to be just funny as it is dramatic.... To us what's interesting is when it starts creeping into comedy." This quote kept coming back to me as I watched this episode, one that packed some dramatic punch but was more notable for its humorous moments.

Let's start with the lion. This week's big dramatic development is Cary's discovery of Peter and Kalinda's one-night-stand. First, he finds out that Glenn Childs has asked Andrew Wiley to look into Matan's handling of the Kalinda investigation -- in other words, he orders an investigation of the investigation. Quite rightly, Glenn suspects that Matan is "playing politics" in expectation of the new regime at the state's attorney's office.

With Glenn on speaker phone, Andrew's daughter's animatronic lion appears to deliver the news. It was, by far, the most inspired delivery of expository dialogue I've ever seen on network television. (My favorite part was the long pause before Childs concluded the phone call with an "OK?", during which time the lion appeared to be staring gravely at Cary and Andrew.)

There were other laughs to be had. At the courthouse, Louis runs up to Alicia with a request. "My driver went home sick and I wondered if I could trouble you -- " and before the words are out of his mouth, we cut to Alicia, driving at top speed, with Louis in the passenger seat. And let's not forget Diane, Alicia and Will showing up at Stern's shiva, armed with tubs of potato salad -- or was it egg? -- only to discover everyone else has already brought the same globby yellow side dish.

All these comedic beats added up to an unusually witty episode, though I'm not always sure what the goal of these funny asides is, aesthetically speaking. Occasionally, as with the talking lion, it seems like these digressions are just a way for the writers to have a little fun. But that's fine by me -- too many other legal dramas/crime procedurals get bogged down by noir pretensions. It's nice to see "The Good Wife" going for laughs instead.

Back to this week's big news. I expected the revelation of Peter and Kalinda's past to send Cary, given his massive crush, into an angry, self-pitying tailspin. Instead, he keeps his cool and confronts Kalinda with some astute questions. "Why didn't you just tell Alicia? If you just would have been upfront with her, none of this would have mattered," he says, then delivers the kicker. "Or is that why you became friends with her in the first place?" From the way Kalinda clams up, it seems pretty clear that Cary's right.

What will become of Alicia and Kalinda's friendship is anyone's guess, but I find myself increasingly interested in Cary, who has undergone a fascinating evolution this season. He used to be the office weasel; now he's the stoic sage. I'm hoping that a truce with Alicia is also in the works.

As the season winds down, you can practically feel the writers veering away from the Will-Alicia romance. In a nice moment, Alicia admits that Will dumped Tammy's sister for her, but assures Tammy that their "thing" is very much behind them. (Never mind that she's probably the one who needs the convincing, not Tammy.) It's refreshing to see two women acting like grown-ups rather than scratching each other's eyeballs out over a perceived romantic rivalry.

Will and Alicia appear to have reached a similar accord. In one of their first nonawkward exchanges since the disastrous voicemail confrontation, Alicia tells Will about her conversation with Tammy. "I told her there was nothing anymore, whatever was between us back then," she says, and seems to mean it. Will agrees. Shocked by Stern's death, he's also suddenly feeling broody, and tells Tammy he doesn't want her to go to Chicago. For those of us angling for a Will-Alicia romance, it was a serious cold shower.

This may be for the best. Alicia has enough to worry about without the distraction of an office romance. With just days to go before the long-awaited primary with Wendy Scott Carr, Peter is surging in the polls. The DCC files suit against Wendy, citing residency issues (another blatant Rahm Emanuel reference). Rather than drumming up opposition to Wendy, the lawsuit has the opposite effect, making Peter look like a pawn of the party machine.

Happily for us, at least, Eli is furious. "The one thing I hate is amatuers!" he screams, his coiffed hair flopping wildly. (Again, the effect of all of Cumming's scenery-chewing is comedy rather than drama.) Of course, Eli has even bigger fires to put out. Rumors are swirling about Peter's attempt to cover up an affair with a co-worker, and, at Eli's request, Alicia agrees to an interview with Petra. Though this didn't make a whole lot of sense: What good would an interview with Alicia be for Petra if she agrees not to write anything about it? Alicia maintains her cool -- even when Petra asks about an AIDS test -- but the same can't be said for Eli. It's quite the role reversal, but we'll see how Alicia stands up next week as the scrutiny intensifies.

This is another episode that rewarded studious "Good Wife" watchers, though it did make me wonder how anyone new to the show could possibly follow along. For instance, I had forgotten that Alicia worked as Stern's counsel last year, and that she was the only one who knew aout his dementia. Then there was that creepy rat video from Louis' first appearance this season. As in that episode, which I thought was one of the weakest of the season if not the series, this week's case felt a little over the top.

Frankly, my pea brain was taxed trying to tease out the details of the conspiracy, but here's what I pieced together: The truly evil executives of an enormous Internet company, having already looted the corporation's pension fund and needing to cover their tracks, intentionally created a hostile work environment so that their underlings would quit in droves, thereby freeing up the funds to replenish the pension, but in the process drive several employees to suicide. Whoa, OK, time to take a breath. In any case, now that Louis has bought Stern's firm, it appears he's here to stay as the thorn in Alicia's side.

That's wonderful. But, please, no more rats.

-- Meredith Blake


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Photo: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick and Michael J. Fox as Louis Canning in "The Good Wife." Credit: Jeffrey Neira / CBS

Comments () | Archives (13)

I know there is a lot of handwringing going on about what the economics of tv is doing to the overall quality of shows but to me, The Good Wife is proof-positive that tv can still be pretty spectacular. This show may not be groundbreaking in terms of format or concept but it is so well written and acted I DVR the shows while watching the broadcast so I can repeat my viewing (I too, was amazed by the cleverness of the lion!). Bravo.

Great recap. Too bad about Stern..I liked him. Loved the lion, daddy-detective, Abernathy and Eli. I prefer a show that exchanges the screaming (except for Eli's frustrated moments) for intelligent dialogue and wit. I think the only screamer on the show was Rita Wilson, but I still wonder if her character was supposed to be drunk or something during that tirad.

To me, Fox and Wilson were miscast. Wilson would have been better as a Real Housewife of BH suing for something and Fox a client suing a pharmacutical for his condition; neither is convincing as a high powered lawyer and Fox is uncomfortable to watch. I miss Patti, she was more convincing as a real cut-throat lawyer and a better foe for Alicia, also miss the "in my opinon" judge.

I love the little absurdities (comedies) thrown into the mix, it is so much like real life - to think you are being clever (like the potato salad) only to find out everyone else thinks they are too.

Kalinda having slept with Peter explains more than just why she wanted to be friends with Alicia. I think it is also the reason why she kept encouraged Alicia on more than one occasion to cheat on her husband by sleeping with Will. If Kalinda had convinced Alicia to do so, it would probably would have eased her guilt for sleeping with Peter.

Also, I thought when Alicia told Will she had talked to Tammy and had told her to assure her sister that things were over between she and Will, she was looking for some sign from Will that he wasn't really over her. The smile, the nervous laugh - it was kind of obvious she isn't over will by a long shot. And the way he looks at Tammy when she is with Will - you can easily see the jealousy and hurt in her facial expression.

I think the Kings have set the stage with the revelation of Peter and Kalinda's one night stand for a big blowup between Peter and Alicia, which will probably lead to at least a formal separation if not worse. I know the Peter fans don't want to hear this, but assuming the Kalinda/Peter one nighter was around the same time of the hooker scandal, what would have been gained by telling Alicia about it. He probably thought it was dead and buried and telling Alicia would only make things difficult for her at work. Yes, there is the "not completely honest with her" criticism, but again, would coming clean about Kalinda have been more for his benefit rather than Alicia's, given her friendship with Kalinda?

Regardless, if Alicia and Peter offcially break up, she can sleep with Will and still retain her title as "The Good Wife." How wonderful. Frankly, that all sound too soap opera like for my tastes, but I do not there is a large group of fans who want all of that to happen. Not sure I'll keep watching the show if it does.

Where can I buy a lion speakerphone?

Love this show, but HATE the plot twist of Kalinda and Peter sleeping together. Way too daytime soap & so gratuitous for me!


I completely agree. I HATE the plot twist of Kalinda/Peter. I was hoping it wasn't true. I know Kalinda uses sex, but I think it's inconsistent with who they made her to be that she would sleep with a married man. I thought she'd draw the line their. Especially since in season 1, she asked Alicia why did she stay with Peter; she would have put a knife in his throat. I hate to see such a nice friendship between the ladies end.

The show has really gone downhill. I'm increasingly less hopeful that they'll be able to get back on track. Did the writers/directors change or get pre0ccupied with other projects?

During the first season Alicia asked Kalinda, "Did you sleep with my husband, too?" Have we all forgotten that little scene?

I find it strange that with so much packed into each of the episodes, we - the viewers - are left with so little in the end. I am not against taking the time to do things properly, and I suppose the writers are aiming for that, but it is not adding up properly for me.

The prolongued exposition shows that the characters are not very dynamic. They play their type faithfully, they reveal very little of themselves, and even if their lives fall apart - which is unlikely, but let's assume they do - they still won't change or step outside of their comfort zone. Now, that is not unlike real life, but this is fiction!

It was a good episode, it's just that the show is lacking.

Tammy and Will actually go together. Alicia appears to still have feelings for him, but since no one on this show ever displays them, they can easily fill another five seasons of legal drama before the viewers in the future get anywhere near the resolution of who is actually in love there, and is there love at all.

I would like to see both Alicia and Kalinda loosen up and show more personality. And a new love interest for Alicia, please. Too bad about Eli, although that was a nice twist.

I really enjoy these recaps, which I've begun to read after every episode. I have to say that Cary's facial expressions during the lion scene put it over the top. Hilarious!!!

I was very, very impressed with this episode. And I want to share my take on FOUR moments in this show that we rarely (or never) see on television. (Also, I’d love to hear other people’s reactions to these moments, or other moments that they enjoyed)…

1) The talking lion scene. Perhaps the most obvious of my favorite four moments. That idea requires a moment of inspiration in a writer’s life, that survives all the way from a draft of the script, to the production crew making it happen and the editor timing the mouth to the dialogue.

2) The scene in which Will and Diane discuss Stern's death. Did you see what the writers did? They created TWO scenes, with two separate dramatic intentions, but they did it in the same setting. First, Will and Diane have a practical discussion, talking about how to re-acquire Stern's clients. Then Will leaves, but he takes a moment to absorb the gravity of the death, and he immediately RETURNS to Diane. Then they have ANOTHER SCENE, discussing the philosophical implications of Stern's death. For Diane, it offers us a chance to see how she was personally affected by the loss of this mentor (and perhaps former lover?). For Will, the scene lets us see how Stern’s death gives him perspective on the meaning of his life (something that we need, to understand his romantic choices later in the episode).

3) The quick montage leading up to the shiva scene. Kudos to the editor(s) and of course the writers and director. If viewers can replay that moment, please do. Yes, we’ve seen action heroes assemble their guns and swords in a series of quick cuts. But how often do you see people tearing their clothes, donning yarmulkes and assembling their egg salad for a mission to steal back clients at a shiva call? * Bonus for the moment in the kitchen where Will discovers he’s brought the same thing as everyone else.

4) Louis Canning asking for a ride. Again, kudos to the editor and the director. Perhaps the writers were involved in this one, but I’m less sure. This moment might be my favorite because it’s so rarely done in Film or TV. Louis begins to explain why he’s asking for a ride from Alicia and BOOM! Suddenly we’re in her car. Why mess with all the rest of the conversation on the sidewalk. We know Alicia. We know she’s nice. We know she’ll give him a ride. We don’t need to see it.

These four moments, to me, are the kinds of things that set this show apart. I hope we see more of this inventiveness and bravery. Yes, bravery. Messing with the tone of a show with the humorous lion scene, or cutting away from Canning’s request for a ride so quickly, or doing two scenes on top of each other with the same characters discussing the same thing in different ways – those are risks in visual storytelling. This show not only takes the risks, but it succeeds. Way to go staff and crew.

* Bonus moment when Canning fidgets with his yarmulke… although we know that Michael J. Fox is more adept with a kipah than most of his co-stars on that show!

(And of course, the acting is also SUPERB.)

And I can't believe I forgot about the opening scene. They portrayed a suicide by following the actions of one person, as the CAMERA slow panned over multiple security camera views. It was another innovative storytelling device!

Talk about funny.. Did you see the Lion phone? well not a phone but a speaker. I had to have one after searching found it in Australia at theishop.com.au. Now I want a sheep...


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