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'The Good Wife' recap: Breaking up is hard to do

January 12, 2011 |  9:12 am

Will alicia stare
"The Good Wife" returned Tuesday night after approximately 14 years of reruns.  The show's last installment, a heart-wrenching, nail-biting episode in which Alicia and Will teamed up to save a man from execution, was one of the finest of the season.  It also left virtually all of the show's many mysteries hanging in the balance -- including when Will and Alicia would finally sit down for a talk.

So going into this week, anticipation was feverish, but this episode was something of a cold shower for "Good Wife" enthusiasts.    

To me, the cases on "The Good Wife" are always the B plot, the filler that sustains us between the truly important developments at the office and at home.  Most of the time, the cases are pretty great filler, and occasionally, they're even brilliant.  Other times ... not so much.  This week's case, involving Jonathan (Oliver Smith) and Alexis (Leelee Sobieski), two pill-popping college students accused of killing a pharmacist, ranked as a "not so much."  

The couple's role was largely a symbolic one, meant to make us -- and Alicia -- ponder the nature of romantic relationships.  Their lawyers divide them from each other and try to get them to turn, but the young lovers won't betray each other, despite the hordes of cynical lawyers urging them to do just that. (I'm reminded of the words of Sonny and Cher, which have been in my head since October: "They say we're young, and we don't know, We don't find out, until we grow ...") The intercutting between each of the interrogation rooms was an artful touch, but something about the case itself seemed half-baked.  I was never exactly on tenterhooks waiting to see what would happen.

Still, the storyline served its purpose: Making everyone in the fictional "Good WIfe" world think twice. For one, Will's Machiavellian tactics appear to rub Alicia the wrong way. Knowing that Alexis is, in fact, pregnant and has been making calls to her ob/gyn, Will lies to Jonathan, telling him that she's been calling a secret lover.  It was a desperate and ineffectual ploy, and a pretty nasty one at that. Alicia was none too impressed. "I understand, I just don’t have to like it," she tells Will.

But Alicia wasn't the only one doing some second-guessing.  It appears that Will's steadfast faith in his friendship with Alicia was also shaken.  Diane confronts Alicia with the news that she is starting a firm with Julius and David and asks her to join them. She also requests that Alicia keep the news in strict confidence.  As Will and Alicia spend the day making their investigative rounds, it's clear that she's wondering one thing: "Should I tell him, or shouldn't I?"  Ultimately, she doesn't.  When Diane tells Will that Alicia knows about the new firm, he looks positively gutted.

So why didn't Alicia spill the beans? Did she feel obligated to Diane's request for secrecy, or did Will unwittingly fail an ethics test he didn't know he was taking?  I tend to think it was the latter.  Alicia has slid with ease into the morally murky legal world, but there are still some things that are off-limits. Lying to a young man about the fidelity of his pregnant girlfriend would appear to be one of them. Does this mean Alicia will forget all about having that conversation with Will?  I'm afraid that it might. I can understand why she might be turned off by WIll's hardball tactics, but then, suddenly, I remember who she's married to.  Peter's sins are hardly any more forgivable than Will's. I have a feeling Alicia will probably just continue to "steer her heart" toward the devil she knows -- a.k.a. Peter -- rather than the devil she has a lingering crush on. Sigh. 

The appearance of Alicia's brother, Owen, also added to this episode's melancholy vibe. Fresh off a breakup with his boyfriend, Kevin, Owen is in a cynical state of mind. Owen initially claims that Kevin was unfaithful, but Alicia ferrets the truth out of him: It's Owen who was doing the cheating.  What felt just right about this scene was that Owen felt as angry with himself as, no doubt, his cuckolded boyfriend was. Owen asks Alicia how she manages to sustain her marriage, despite the considerable odds against it, and she doles out some wise, albeit unromantic, advice. "Sometimes you have to steer your heart" in a specific direction. There's something about Dallas Roberts' acting that is so effortless and believable that it appears to rub off on the occasionally robotic Julianna Margulies.  Alicia never seems more like a flesh-and-blood human than when she's with Owen.  I also found it delightful that Owen -- between his sense of humor and a little bit of tequilla -- was able to charm the formidable Jackie. Once Alicia unwrapped that Botswanan wig, I knew it would end up on someone's head. Little did I suspect it would be Jackie's. 

This was a moody, contemplative episode, but next week promises to more action-packed, as the fall-out from Diane's defection begins. What will happen? I know you have some predictions of your own, Show Trackers, so have at it. 

What we learned: Cary is not messing around, and neither is Will.  

Further questions: Is there a connection between Kalinda and drug kingpin Lemond Bishop?  Judging from the look on Kalinda's face at the mention of his name, the answer would appear to be yes.  Will there be armed guards at Lockhart/Gardner? And will Cary join Diane's firm? Can Will forgive Alicia for keeping mum about Diane? And, as always, WWAD? (What will Alicia do?) And just why do so many old people read Reader's Digest?

Minor linguistic quibble: Why does everyone on this show say "phone" instead of "call"?  It's a trifling detail, but it drives me crazy. 

-- Meredith Blake

Photo: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick and Josh Charles as Will Gardner. Credit: John Paul Filo / CBS


Complete Show Tracker coverage of "The Good Wife"

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"The Good Wife" recap:  Kalinda comes out (sort of)

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