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'The Good Wife' recap: The paper chase

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Well, Diane certainly has a type, doesn’t she?  

In the opening moments of “Alienation of Affections,” the first new episode of “The Good Wife” in 2012, we catch a brief glimpse of Diane in her downtime — wearing a pair of flats, no less! Of the show’s central characters, Diane is easily the most mysterious. We know very little about her, except she’s a fierce dresser and a committed Democrat, and the elusiveness only adds to her powerful mystique. As a result, the opening scene of Sunday night’s episode had a strange voyeuristic thrill.

Dressed casually yet impeccably, Diane is minding her own business at an art museum when a handsome, rugged Australian named Jack (played by Bryan Brown, of “Cocktail” fame) sidles up next to her. Diane helpfully points out the artist’s signature on the “inside top of the right thigh.” Jack follows her to another painting, and some serious flirtation ensues.  Just when it appears that Jack has sealed the deal, he drops a bombshell — or, rather, a manila envelope. Jack, it turns out, isn't a random stranger at all, but a process server there to deliver a grand jury summons.

It’s a brilliant little vignette, isn’t it? (A process server falls for the lawyer he summons to court. How has this not already been made into a romantic comedy called "You've Been Served!" starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel?)

The scene is great for a number of reasons, not the least of which it’s so novel to see a little romance between people over the age of 40. It’s also clear after this episode that Diane is attracted to her opposite: men who are smart but a little rough around the edges, physically tough, and are in some kind of adversarial position to her. It also perfectly sets up the rest of “Alienation of Affection,” an episode that was as playful as it was suspenseful.

 

Jack also serves Will, Alicia and David Lee, the latter of whom turns up at the office wearing a Napoleonic ensemble of knickers and a red military waistcoat. (He seems annoyed to have to explain he was just doing a little Gilbert & Sullivan at the Yale Club.) It turns out Lockhart-Gardner is being sued for alienation of affection by the ex-husband of a former client, a wealthy venture capitalist whose wife left him after discovering he slept with a stripper.

David’s eyebrow-raising ensemble is symbolic, in a way, because the lawsuit becomes a referendum on his place in the firm. Until now, David has been pretty much untouchable. Because he brings so much money to the firm, he’s operated more or less autonomously. No one’s dared to question his morally dubious tactics, tactics that include setting up a DUI trap so that Mr. Huntley would lose custody of his daughter. But now that the Huntleys have reunited, they’re suing the firm for $44 million, accusing David of breaking the couple apart intentionally so the firm could sell off one of Huntley’s companies at a huge profit. 

The suit provokes a furious bout of infighting at Lockhart-Gardner. David and Julius blame each other, while Eli balks at the suggestion that, as a newly minted equity partner, he should have to cough up $1.2 million to cover David’s mistake.  Like David, Eli is used to playing by his own rules with little patience for office politics. Using clause 63, a loophole written into the firm’s bylaws, Eli tries to wage a mutiny against David. Diane warns him against it, insisting that David is still worth far more than his mistake has cost them, but Eli is insistent. A delicious catfight erupts. (“You don’t clause 63 me! I clause 63 you!”)

My hunch is that Eli’s crusade against David may have had something to do with Alicia’s divorce. If Alicia has to find another lawyer, it will certainly delay the already-sluggish proceedings, and it might even be enough to make Alicia reconsider the decision entirely. As Eli admits to Diane near the end of the episode, he’s already set his sights on the governor’s race, which means he wants Alicia and Peter together at any cost. For now, he’s agreed to a truce with David, but it’s only a matter of time before the wicked Iago-esque Eli of Season 2 reemerges 

In the end, the case hinges on a single piece of paper, a conflict of interest agreement signed by Mrs. Huntley that exempts the firm from accusations of fraud. (I’ll leave it to the legal experts to explain that one.) Alicia worked on the case way back in 2010, during her first few months at the firm, and the rider appears to have gone missing, meaning that her minor clerical screw-up could cost the firm millions of dollars. In a fantastically tense scene, Kalinda stops by Kalinda’s office to patiently try to jog her memory about the contract. Just as Alicia appears on the verge of a full-blown panic attack, David swoops in with some impossibly good news: The missing rider has been discovered in Cary’s old files.

Alicia suspects that David forged the document and slipped it in with her divorce paperwork, and she turns to Diane for counsel. In another terrific scene, Diane advises her not to “poke holes in her own testimony” — or, in other words, to ignore her suspicions about the almost certainly fake document. As I watched this episode, I was struck yet again by how effectively “The Good Wife” dramatizes the moral conundrums of the legal profession. In an unexpected twist, Cary is called in for a deposition and says he has “absolutely no reason to believe that document is a forgery.” Although I remain wary of Cary’s motives, it was nice to see him and Alicia share a rare friendly moment. Could a truce be in the works?

The firm narrowly escaped its latest brush with disaster, but the walls are rapidly closing in on Will. A lawyer stops by to tell Will, in no uncertain terms, that he’s in trouble. If he turns evidence, he might be able to get a reduced sentence of a few years in jail, but he’ll lose his license. It’s terrifying news, and Will gets about as close to panicking as we’ve ever seen him. Without telling Alicia why, he asks Alicia for the name of a good lawyer — “ Too bad there are none here,” she quips — and she recommends Elsbeth. It’s unclear whether this was a good idea. Elsbeth leaks false information to a reporter, claiming that Wendy is investigating three of the county’s most honest judges for bribery. It’s a short-term win for Elsbeth, but the leak also gets Wendy fired up, and as the episode concludes, Jack returns with another summons, this time for Will. If nothing else, the investigation could be a real boon for Diane’s personal life. 

Stray thoughts and things I am still trying to figure out:

--Just who was that bride Will was dancing with?  His sister, perhaps?

--Last time I checked, Wendy was using the Will investigation to secretly go after Peter.

--What’s the deal with the lawyer who stopped by to consult Will on the investigation? Diane turned away when she saw him walking in to the office, which makes me think there might be some kind of personal history there (a quick IMDB search reveals that he was also in an episode from last season, “Cleaning House,” but to be honest, I don’t remember his character. Chime in if you do.)

--Did anyone else think something might have happened between Will and Mrs. Huntley, given how Diane insisted he should be the one to talk to her?

--I loved how the episode was bookended with Jack and Diane scenes. He'd better pick up the check on their first date.

--I also loved David’s sarcastic deposition, in which he confessed to a multitude of sins (not crying when the Challenger exploded, a secret crush on Jackie O).

[For the record at 5:23 p.m., Jan 9: An earlier version of this post misspelled the actor Bryan Brown's name and has been corrected. ]

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— Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

 

Photo: The cast of "The Good Wife." Credit: CBS

 
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