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'The Good Wife' recap: 'I wish this had happened to somebody who cried a lot'

October 27, 2010 |  8:51 am

Willtux There's no doubt that the writers of "The Good Wife" have their work cut out for them, creating 22 compelling episodes a year. But given that American political scandals erupt even more often than that -- or so it seems -- they have one slight advantage over the creatives at other shows. Another day, another future "Good Wife" plot on the cover of The Times.

In case you didn't catch it, this episode was inspired by the recent allegations of sexual assault brought against Al Gore. In the barely fictionalized "Good Wife" version, Joe Kent is "the most beloved Democrat in America," and is about to be honored with a Nobel Peace Prize for his ill-defined "work with women" in Africa. His accuser is also a hotel masseuse, a young woman named Lara White (Natalie Knepp). With only four hours to decide whether to take Lara's case, the partners at Lockhart, Gardner and Bond have their work cut out for them. Can they run an exhaustive background check on White and build a convincing case against Kent in a few measly hours -- and after the close of business, no less?

This is not the first time that "The Good Wife" has used the plight of a female (alleged) victim to make its point about the news media -- and, lest we forget, to remind us of Alicia's own involvement in a high-profile scandal. In the second episode of last season, Alicia investigated an exotic dancer who accuses fraternity boys of rape. Predictably, her checkered past becomes more of an issue than the possible guilt of the accused. One might say that "The Good Wife" is running out of material, given how Tuesday night's episode replayed a similar scenario. But I think the repetition serves an important reminder that these kinds of allegations crop up with depressing regularity. No matter who the accused might be -- a conservative talk-show host, an NBA all-star, or a diminutive Polish director -- it's the accuser whose reputation, more often than not, is subject to the most severe scrutiny.  

Sure, some of these women might be craven gold-diggers or political saboteurs, but it's easy to understand why someone like Lara White might be reluctant to come forward -- especially when the perpetrator is "a saint." "People really don't want to believe this about him. I don't want to believe this about him, so I just won't," White decides. How many women in the real world come to the same conclusion? I am hoping this was a sheer figment of the writers' imagination, but I doubt it. (Speaking of women who accuse high-profile men of sexual misconduct, I would like to see "The Good Wife" take on the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas case. It's certainly nothing new, but it's back in the headlines after 19 years. So why not?)

Against the backdrop of these charges, Peter and Eli (let's face it: mostly Eli) try to secure some much-needed endorsements for Peter's campaign. Eli panics when he sees Wendy chatting with Vernon Jordan, and he's over the moon when Kent's attorney offers his client's endorsement, if only Alicia will drop the case. (Side note: It was an unseemly coincidence that Jordan showed up in an episode in which a young woman presents soiled goods as proof of sexual misconduct) It was a clever way to raise the stakes, and to put Peter's new-found moral clarity to the test. To his credit, Peter is happy to pass on the endorsement. My feelings on the Will-versus-Peter debate are well-known, but I must give credit to Peter for maintaining the ethical high ground -- at least when it comes to the law. He's had plenty of opportunities to meddle, given Alicia's rising profile in the Chicago legal community, but so far he's refrained. So, score one for Peter. Though, given that he also listened to Alicia's voice-mail, it's probably a wash. Peter might be a creep, but he's not a dope, and I don't think it will be long before he confronts his wife about her unresolved feelings for Will. After all, nobody keeps a message in their voice-mail for 86 days by accident. Any guesses as to how many times she's replayed it?

Meanwhile, Will's relationship with Tammy seems to be progressing, though it's unclear exactly what's motivating his romantic life. Will is known for bedding a long line of anonymous beauties, but Tammy seems different, and not just because she's over the age of 25. She's also funny, beautiful, and independent, so I doubt that Will's very public embrace with her was solely motivated out of spite toward Alicia. My prediction: Will is going to fall for Tammy, and Alicia is not going to like it. She's already distracted by their canoodling, and I expect that the jealousy will only get worse.  

This episode was an interesting creative experiment: The partners have one night to make or break a case, and they have to do so in their black-tie garb. One of the best things about "The Good Wife," and what truly distinguishes it from the slew of other legal procedurals on television, is its willingness to play around with narrative structure. Rarely do we get an episode that unfolds in a predictable three-act format. "The Good Wife" is also willing to indulge tangents that add texture to a scene, like the ongoing joke about the dreadful entertainment at the Bar Assn. gala. For me, the highlight was a performance of something called "The Cow Without a Country," which looked a little like "Old MacDonald" as reimagined by Samuel Beckett. The fictional lawyers of "The Good Wife" might be a tad more glamorous than your average Chicago attorney -- Diane's gown in particular looked like something Bianca Jagger might have worn in 1978* -- but no amount of gold lamé can make rubber chicken sexy.  

What we learned: Will is in love with ... someone. He dated Tammy's sister in college, but broke up with her when he fell in love with someone else, i.e. Alicia.

New questions: Is Will falling for Tammy? Or still in love with Alicia? Is Cary playing head games with Alicia, or has he moved on?

* This is a good thing.

-- Meredith Blake


Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'The Good Wife'

'The Good Wife' recap: Baseball bats and ball gowns

'The Good Wife' recap: Meet the family

'The Good Wife' recap: Strange bedfellows

'The Good Wife' recap:  I just called to say I love you

'The Good Wife': Top 10 things I learned on set

Photo: Will (Josh Charles) looks pretty cute in his tux, just admit it. Credit: Jeffrey Neira / CBS