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'The Good Wife' recap: Meet the family

October 13, 2010 |  7:21 am

Aliciaowen Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much “The Good Wife” crams into 44 minutes of show.  Consider Tuesday night’s episode, in which Alicia did each of the following: Cleared the name of a wrongly convicted sniper, helped find the real one, reunited with her brother, planned a Yom Kippur dinner, and pinned her husband’s chief political rival for malicious prosecution. Just another day at the office, people. 

Zodiac killers aside, the biggest revelation this week was, at least on its surface, something rather mundane:  Alicia has a family.  Last season, I often wondered why Alicia had so few people in her life, other than her kids and Peter.  Now we’re starting to get some answers. On Tuesday night, we met Alicia’s troublemaking brother, Owen (Dallas Roberts).  He and Alicia are not exactly estranged, but are not very involved in each other’s lives — at least of late.  Owen places the blame squarely on Peter, whom he openly dislikes.   

When you’re used to a character who has existed in a genetic vacuum, as Alicia has for the past year, it’s a little bit of an adjustment when you finally do meet a family member (I am thinking, as I do all too often, of “Sex and the City,” where none of the women seem to have a family except for Miranda — and only then, when her mother died). 

All too often, Alicia comes off as more humanoid than human, but the scenes with Owen put her cool demeanor in context. She might scoff at Owen’s psychologizing (“ Does everything have to be about something?”) but the truth is, everything sort of is about something, isn’t it?  Alicia’s mother has been married multiple times, so she is wary of divorcing Peter; This makes perfect sense to me. She also tells Owen that she loves Peter and, as much as I hate to say it, I kind of believed her.  I am intrigued by Owen, whom Dallas Roberts plays as a funny guy with a bit of a manic edge; something tells me he can get a little dark sometimes.  I’m hoping he makes a return visit sometime soon — and that maybe we’ll get to see some of that dark side.   

It was also a relief to see Owen call out Peter, whose glib self-righteousness is really off the charts lately.  “Don’t ever abandon her like that again,” Peter scolds Owen, who lobs one back at Peter by calling him a “whoremonger.”  A low blow, perhaps, but Peter really is appallingly hypocritical.  He might as well have said, “How dare you not come visit my wife, whom I publicly disgraced, while I was in prison, for a number of crimes of which I am, in all likelihood, guilty!”  The money barb (“If you don’t have the money, I’ll sent it.”) seemed especially petty, though it makes me wonder if there isn’t more to this story that will emerge later. In any case, Owen’s retreat from Alicia makes its own kind of sense. When someone you love — whether a family member or a friend — is with someone you despise, I think most people retreat, subconsciously or not.

The Yom Kippur dinner was easily my favorite scene of the episode. I particularly enjoyed Jackie’s awkward, WASPy questions about Judaism, which only got more embarrassing as she swilled more wine.  “It’s not just about the pork, right?” she asks. The tension between Grace, the family’s budding lefty, and Spencer was also a nice touch. Peter, ever the politician, is happy to make nice and talk about his dedication, but Grace isn’t having it.  “What about the flotillas?” she asks, provoking Spencer’s scorn. “The Good Wife” is one of the few shows on TV that would make references to the Pixies, Jimmy Carter and Hamas — all within the same scene.  But hey — that’s why we love it, right? The conversation between Eli and Spencer earlier in the episode was also amusingly caustic.   Eli is a monster and all, but I find his indelicacy oddly refreshing. To wit: “Talk to Peter, find out how much he likes gays and Israel.”  Kalindanotleela

The animosity between Kalinda and Blake continues to boil.  Kalinda was the clear winner in this week’s episode, almost singlehandedly solving the Northbrook sniper case.  Blake’s presence initially rattled Kalinda, but now she’s back on her A (make that A+) game, arriving at the scene of the sniper’s latest crime almost before the police do.   (Did anyone else find that scene extremely confusing?) Her tête-à-tête with Cary, who I think carries a bit of a torch for his old colleague, was also extremely effective.   I was a little annoyed that last week’s cliffhanger — the dirt Kalinda has on Will and Derrick — was left mostly unresolved.  We see a few photos of Will playing basketball with Blake, but that’s it; It’s not even clear when they might have been taken.  (Though Will is wearing a baseball hat, which in costume designer shorthand usually means "young")  Another thing I’m not so sure of?  How long the Blake-Kalinda rivalry can be sustained.  It’s working for now, but their seething hatred is starting to be a distraction — like something lifted from a Hollywood action movie about rival cops.  Kalinda’s a great character as long as her stiletto boots remain firmly on the ground; no need to make her into Lara Croft.      

What we learned:  Blake and Will used to play basketball together.  Also, Alicia is a real human being with a family and was not, contrary to popular belief, hatched in a laboratory.

Further questions: How far back does the ball-playing go? And does Will and Blake's relationship go beyond the odd game of pickup?  Is Will conspiring with Blake to smoke out Kalinda?  If so, then why? Also, why does everyone on this show say "phone" instead of "call"?  Is there more to Owen's dislike of Peter than meets the eye?

-- Meredith Blake


Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'The Good Wife'

'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

Josh Charles talks about what's next for Will and Alicia

'The Good Wife': Coming home and 'Going Rogue'

Photos, from top: Alicia (Julianna Margulies) catches up with her brother, Owen (Dallas Roberts); whatever you do, don't call Kalinda (Archia Panjabi) "Leela."  Credit: David M. Russell / CBS