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'The Good Wife' recap: Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned

May 11, 2011 |  7:10 am

THE-GOOD-WIFE-Getting-Off-Season-2-Episode-22-4
This week’s episode of “The Good Wife” begins with a warning — or maybe it’s a promise — from Nancy Krozier, the faux-naïve lawyer played by Mamie Gummer. “This will mostly be about sex,” she says, looking directly into the camera.

It was a slightly meta way to introduce an episode that was, in fact, mostly about sex. “The Good Wife” has always been a very, shall we say, “10 p.m."  kind of show, but this week’s installment — titled “Getting Off,” in case you missed the point — was perhaps the most carnal yet. There was that picture of the murder victim, bare-chested, bound, gagged and lying in a pool of his blood; there was the revelation that the murderer had severed the victim’s penis and left it on ice in a champagne bucket (paging Dr. Freud!); and there was a monologue so racy, it inspired Alicia to pull that rumpled old copy of Chicago magazine out of her sock drawer.  Some day in the not-too-distant future, some grad students in gender studies are going to have a field day with this episode.

Even more so than usual, the case of the week had a thematic resonance with Alicia's personal drama. She's representing Stephanie Engler (Sarah Silverman) the owner of a website called SideEncounters.com, targeted at philandering spouses. Stephanie and her husband have an open marriage -- though, as it turns out, the arrangement is not without its complications. The case was interesting -- it was about sex, after all -- but really, Stephanie's here as a foil for Alicia. She explains her romantic philosophy to Alicia, sounding a little bit like Sting when she asks, "If you love someone, don't you set them free?" For Alicia, the answer is "no." Or, as Stephanie puts it, "You like to tie them down." It's a kinky double-entendre, but on a metaphorical level, it's also true: When it comes to fidelity, Alicia's a traditional gal.

After last week, we were all anxiously awaiting a showdown between Alicia and Kalinda. And boy, did we get it -- or, more precisely, did she get it. Alicia, usually pretty good at the poker face, is totally unable to keep her cool when Kalinda stops by her office. She doesn’t even bother to tell Kalinda that she knows about the tryst, nor does she have to; the look on her face says it all. As with Peter, Alicia is unwilling to listen to any kind of explanation. “You slept with my husband. You do not say anything after that. It is selfish to say anything after that.” The essential difference is that with Kalinda, Alicia’s emotions are much more raw and unfiltered. Not that Alicia exactly held back with Peter, but his betrayal was less surprising. Her response to Kalinda is much more visceral and difficult to control. “I swear I will scream at the top of my lungs if you don’t get out of my office now,” she says, and we believe her. Heck, even her nose gets all red! Kalinda is rattled by the encounter, and she too breaks down — behind closed elevator doors, of course.

But the fighting ain’t over yet. Later, Kalinda tries to prep Alicia in the SideEncounters.com murder case, but Alicia ignores her then suggests “someone who hasn’t slept with my husband” might be more appropriate for the job. Kalinda stays cool, and appeals to Alicia’s rational side. “I slept with him once,” she says. “I didn’t know you. I’d never even seen a picture of you. To me you were just the housewife. Then I met you and I liked you.” Unfortunately, Alicia’s “rational side” is nowhere to be found.  It’s clear that what really bothers her is not that Kalinda slept with Peter — it’s the possibility that their friendship was founded on a lie, born out of pity, rather than mutual trust and admiration. The question is whether this damage can possibly be repaired. I still think there’s hope, and that much of it will hinge on the reason why Kalinda slept with Peter — because with Kalinda, sex is almost always a means to an end.  She’s callous about it, but never casual.

For a hot minute, it appears that Kalinda might leave the firm. She pays a visit to Sophia, a friend who, like Kalinda, is apparently a member of the Secret Society of Sexy Female Investigators. Sophia offers her a plum corporate job and, even though it means she’ll have to ditch the leather jackets and stiletto boots, Kalinda accepts without hesitation.  But once she discovers the private firm will be working with the state’s attorney’s office, she decides to stay put.  Was anyone really surprised by this? Kalinda, as we all know, is indispensable to this show, and it’s hard to imagine how the writers could work her into the narrative week after week unless she stayed at Lockhart-Gardner.

But, Kalinda’s near-departure serves a larger purpose. Before she leaves, she wants to try to, somehow, make things right and in a conspicuously out-of-character moment, she asks Will, “What do you want from life?” He’s baffled by the touchy-feely talk, but Kalinda helpfully cuts to the chase. “You want the same things as Alicia?” she asks, then tells Will that Peter and Alicia are separated. We’ve seen Kalinda do this before — try to rekindle the Will and Alicia flames as a form of penance for her wrongdoing. It’s terribly unsubtle, which is why I also think it’s sweet.

Despite the enmity between them, Kalinda wants Alicia to be happy, and she also knows that this means being with Will.  The question going into the season finale will be, are there “too many issues” for this to work? She’s still married, with two teenagers at home; he’s got a girlfriend. The attraction, at least, is still very evident. He certainly seemed to perk up as soon as Kalinda mentioned the separation, and Alicia certainly isn’t holding back — the look she gave him from across the office was more than just “come hither,” it was “ravage me now.”  Prompted by Kalinda, Will does one of his patented “check-ins” with Alicia, promising her that if she “ever needs to talk,” he’s there. The coded “I’m here for you” stuff has been going on forever between these two, and it looks like next week, things might — finally! — move beyond talking.

Like a prettier version of Gen. Sherman, Alicia marched through this episode, leaving scorched earth in her wake. The last enemy on her list is mother-in-law-for-now Jackie, who’s been trying to pry information out of Zach and Grace. Alicia ain’t having it, and shows up at Jackie’s polite ladies’ club to tell her as much. If Jackie wants to see her grandchildren, she needs to clear it with Alicia first; no more “surprise” visits. Jackie suggests that Alicia may lose custody to Peter, since he’s a state’s attorney. “Who banged a hooker 18 times,” Alicia clarifies. “Let’s see where that ends up.”  Meow!

There was something strangely exhilarating about hearing those words come out of Alicia’s mouth, and you get the sense that Alicia relished saying them too.  It’s an interesting about-face; Alicia used to shy away from talk of Peter’s dalliances.  Now she embraces it. It’s as if it has taken two years for the enormity of Peter’s transgressions to sink in. In that time, she’s also realized that they’re his mistakes — not hers. She’s got nothing to be ashamed of, but plenty of things to be angry about. Eighteen of them, to be precise. (Or, actually, more like 19.) The one question I have is, how are we to interpret Jackie’s threatening “I know what goes on in your house”? Does she think Alicia was having an affair? Or is she talking about the kids? Gaaaaah! So many possibilities!

Alicia makes one more stop on her scorched-earth campaign, getting legal advice from David Lee regarding her separation from Peter. Between all the Will and Kalinda drama, these scenes almost got lost in the shuffle, but they were really well-done. David was supportive, professional and totally mercenary all at once.  He advises Alicia to postpone filing divorce papers until next year — after Peter garnered his lucrative state’s attorney salary (which, naturally, David knew off the top of his head). This piece of advice is going to be essential going forward, as it leaves a slight opening for a Florrick reconciliation. It also, I suppose, leaves an opening for Peter to go after Alicia, especially if things with Will get serious. I’m also guessing custody will play a big part in Season 3.  What’s the one thing uglier — and more dramatic -- than politics? Divorce.

One last thing: be sure to check in tomorrow for my Q&A with Josh Charles.

RELATED:

Complete Show Tracker coverage of "The Good Wife"

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"The Good Wife" recap: Alicia and the no-good, horrible, terrible, very bad day

"The Good Wife" recap: "Once a bad person, always a bad person"

-- Meredith Blake
Twitter.com/MeredithBlake

Photo: Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) meet with their client, Stephane (Sarah Silverman).

Credit: Jeffrey Neira/CBS

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