'The Good Wife' recap: Your love is like oxygen
If there’s one image from tonight’s episode of “The Good Wife” that I can’t quite shake, it’s that of Will and Alicia dressed up in powdered wigs for some American Revolution role play. Mercifully, we never saw them in costume, but the mere suggestion of patriotic erotica was enough to vanquish last week’s steamy sex scene from my mind. Will and Alicia, I’m happy for you and everything, but keep your historical sex fetishes to yourself, will you?
With that off my chest, let’s get to the rest of week’s episode, “The Death Zone,” which, icky fantasies not withstanding, displayed the combination of humor, smarts and masterful plotting that makes "The Good Wife” such a delectable treat. This week, the Lockhart-Gardner gang defends the author of a book about a disaster on Mt. Everest in which he alleges that a wealthy mountaineer stole oxygen from a dying man. It’s an obvious nod to Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”: Many of the details, like the dying climber’s satellite phone call to his wife, are directly lifted from Krakauer’s 1996 nonfiction bestseller. It’s something of an odd choice for “The Good Wife,” a show that’s almost maniacally of-the-moment.
But the somewhat dated plot allowed the characters to name-check Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal, so I suppose it all evens out in the wash. It also allowed "The Good Wife" to dabble in the madness of British libel law to much comedic effect. After Lockhart-Gardner handily wins their client’s case, they find themselves back in the (virtual) courtroom before a rather imperious English judge. “The Good Wife” has a well-established tradition of eccentric judges, and it was fun to see this continue. Eddie Izzard was also great as James Thrush, a villainous barrister, but my favorite guest star this week was Simon Delaney as Timothy Ash Brannon, a nebbishy yet capable solicitor obsessed with anagrams. (Alicia is “Familial Air Crock,” Will is “Ward End Grill.”) Like the Chavez subplot from last season, this story line veered somewhat into satire, especially in its depiction of British classism, but I enjoyed it. I prefer a colorful "case of the week" to a rote one.
Not surprisingly, the juiciest development this week is on the Will and Alicia front. Despite Alicia’s ominous look at the end of last week’s episode, their relationship appears to be moving forward: bathroom quickies, covert hand-holding, and so on. But in the episode’s closing scene, we discover Will’s more than willing to throw Alicia under the bus to protect the firm — or at least that’s what he tells Diane. “If she works against us, we are letting her go. I can hold you to that?” Diane asks. Her wording was maddeningly ambiguous: Does “working against us” mean actively trying to help the firm’s enemies, or does it mean something less extreme, as in “no longer able to use her estranged husband’s powerful connections to the firm’s advantage?” Either way, I’m more worried about Alicia’s romantic liability than her job security.
“The Good Wife” seems to be making a conscious effort to mix up the relationships between the principal characters, to push them into uncharted territory. Diane’s unexpected visit to Alicia’s apartment was one example. Though it served a very specific purpose in the episode, the scene was oddly relatable: It’s always weird the first time you go to a co-worker’s house (or have him or her in yours), isn’t it? When Diane asks Alicia whether Peter’s office might have an ulterior motive for pursuing an audit, Alicia says she’s tried to keep her private life and her work life separate. “I need to know if Peter is doing the same,” Diane responds. With that in mind, Alicia advises Diane not to consent to the audit, tacitly acknowledging that Peter might have strictly personal motives for investigating the firm.
Another thing I loved about this scene? The clothes. Daniel Lawson does a superb job with the costume design on “The Good Wife,” and here was yet another fine example of how you tell a story with clothing: Alicia, her guard down, is casually dressed in her pastel “mom” cardigan, while Diane’s still in her formidable office attire (though, let’s face it, Diane probably wears Prada to bed, too). Not that Alicia looked even remotely bad, but you could sense that Alicia was a little shaken without her work armor on.
But my favorite storyline this week actually belonged to Eli, who enlisted Kalinda’s help investigating a mysterious political scandal. Somehow, this is the first time these two have interacted with one another, which I find almost impossible to believe. Regardless, I just loved seeing these two schemers conspiring together. Eli has a meeting with fellow political operative Mickey Gunn, a barely fictionalized version of James “The Ragin’ Cajun” Carville (though the actor playing him had considerably more hair). Gunn wants him to pitch a damage-control campaign for a politician, but here’s the catch: He won’t say who the candidate is, or even what the scandal might be. So Eli asks for Kalinda’s help. When she correctly intuits that Eli wants the dirt on the mystery candidate so that he can force Gunn to hire him, Eli is awestruck. “How have I never met you before?” he wonders. I was thinking the same thing.
A delicious cat-and-mouse game ensues, and eventually Eli and Kalinda figure out that Gunn is just using them to run a background check on a too-good-to-be-true Republican candidate he is trying to woo. It was an entertaining subplot, and I’m looking forward to more Kalinda-Eli hijinks in the weeks to come.
-- Someone on “The Good Wife” writing staff must really have a thing for American history. Remember the judge (from Season 1, I think) with the plantation fetish?
-- Weird that we didn’t get to see or hear the name of the Republican whom Gunn is working for.
-- Another great costume detail: Gunn’s fluorescent green socks.
-- I want to start a list of all the political truisms doled out on "The Good Wife," starting with this one: “You follow any candidate, you’re going to find a nanny.”
-- That didn't take long: This episode also included the show's first mention of the Anthony Weiner scandal.
-- Meredith Blake
Photo: Eddie Izzard, Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies in "The Good Wife." Credit: David M. Russell / CBS