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'The Good Wife' recap: Alicia and the terrible, no-good, horrible, very bad day

April 13, 2011 |  8:25 am

THE-GOOD-WIFE-Foreign-Affairs-Season-2-Episode-19-4 Ever have one of those days where you’re just trying to do your job, and all of a sudden, some former TV star representing a socialist dictator waltzes into your office, steals a case from you, then all of a sudden you’re on TV talking about how you’ve forgiven your husband’s infidelities, only to find out hours later that he’s actually cheated on you with your best friend?

Yeah, me neither.

But it’s a testament to the writers and cast of “The Good Wife” that such a patently implausible “day from hell” can elicit our sympathy. 

Alicia’s roller coaster of a day begins on a domestic note. On her way to work, she’s checking out a house for sale in the suburbs — apparently, since last week, she and Peter have changed their minds about staying in the city. But after having one look at the house I can’t say I blame them: It’s gorgeous, and available for the low, low price of $2.4 million. The real estate agent explains why the house is available for such a (relative) bargain: “It’s a divorce, so they’re motivated.” That’s what we call foreshadowing, people.

You can tell Alicia has tremendously mixed feelings about the whole thing. She practically gets a contact high walking around the spacious, perfectly appointed home, but, like a reformed addict on the verge of a relapse, she’s visibly relieved when work obligations cut the visit short. “It is tempting,” she admits.

The scene was an effective way to set up the rest of the episode, in which Alicia has to juggle her thriving new career with the particular demands of being the wife of a politician — arguably a job in and of itself. On the eve of the long-awaited election, Peter is tied with Wendy Scott-Carr, but a slam-dunk interview with her devoted husband may help put her over the edge. Reluctantly, Alicia agrees to sit for an interview, too. Her about-face on this subject struck me as curious. She changes her mind only after finding out that Frank Landau, and not Eli, asked Diane to give her the afternoon off. So was the interview her extravagant way of repaying Eli’s kindness? Or does she really want Peter to win? I’m not sure, and maybe she isn’t either.

Alicia’s interview is a smashing success, and helps Peter clinch a victory over Scott-Carr. (Question: Isn’t there a general election ahead? Wasn’t this a Democratic primary? Or are the writers hoping we forget that part so they can start getting ready for Peter’s Senate race?) But the real insight comes when Eli, prepping Alicia for the appearance, asks: “Peter slept with Amber Madison on 18 different occasions. Does that bother you?” Her rather too-honest response? “Does it bother me? It horrifies me!” Alicia’s become a lot more forthcoming over the last two seasons, but it’s still rare for her to articulate her feelings so explicitly. This was a great way to really get inside her head, and to see the unlikely rapport that she and Eli have forged.

Will watches Alicia’s interview from the office conference room, taking generous swigs from a tumbler full of whiskey. The booze can be read two ways: Either Will, still hung-up on Alicia, is self medicating, or he’s just unwinding after an improbably long day at the office (more on this later). As of last week, it seemed pretty clear that Will had moved on, but perhaps not. Kalinda, who’s also got Alicia on her mind -- if for totally different reasons -- finds Will in the conference room. “You should tell her how fantastic she is,” she tells him, but he dismisses the suggestion. “You’re in a weird mood.” I liked how cryptic this whole scene was, though I wasn’t quite sure what was motivating Kalinda. Is she simply hoping that, if Will actually tells Alicia “how fantastic” she is that they'd then run off into the sunset together before the ugly matter of Kalinda’s one-night-stand with Peter could come to light? 

If that was indeed Kalinda’s goal, it’s already too late. Alicia finds out, via Andrew, that Peter was rumored to have slept with a co-worker named “Leela.” Predictably, the news comes at the end of the episode, mere seconds after Peter is projected the winner. Let’s just say Alicia doesn’t take it so well No doubt, Alicia’s humiliation is all the more intense given that, only hours earlier, she’d publicly claimed to have forgiven Peter’s indiscretions. On the verge of a breakdown, she slips out of the victory party undetected.

With only three episodes to go, Alicia is at a serious crossroads. It seems unlikely that she can forgive Peter, but she’s got her family to consider: If she leaves him she’ll only succeed in attracting more unwanted media attention. Will she stick it out once again for the kids? For the sake of her dignity, I hope not. In any case, things at the office are about to get really, really awkward. I have a sneaking suspicion Alicia might just be giving Louis Canning a call in the near future. No matter what, that big yellow Colonial Revival is going to be on the market for a bit longer.

Now before I go, a few words on the "case-of-the-week," which even for “The Good Wife,” was extraordinarily over-the-top. Lockhart/Gardner is representing the owner of Latin Star, a drilling company suing Platico Stillman, a giant oil conglomerate. Platico Stillman pulled out of Venezuela after President Hugo Chavez's rise to power, skipping out on money owed to Latin Star. Thus ensued an absurd series of twists and turns involving complex international law, a few justifiably aggrieved oil workers, a "geophysical surveying map of the untapped oil reserves in the Orinoco Belt" and, oh yeah, Courtney Love.   

Former presidential candidate and “Law & Order” star Fred Thompson made a very meta guest appearance as Frank Thomas, a lawyer and former television star representing Chavez. The role was doubly ironic given that Thompson, a Republican, played a character representing a socialist. He shows up at the offices of Lockhart/Gardner and, like a villain out of an Ayn Rand novel, gleefully declares, “Your client’s oil facility has just been nationalized.”

The whole story strained credulity to such an extent that it was almost, if not quite, farcical. I’m sure the writers were aiming for some level of satire, especially in the scenes with Chavez -- or rather, Chavez’s torso. (Side note: Crazy dictators are all the rage these days.) Adding to the cartoonish feel was the busty, Monica Bellucci lookalike representing Platico Stillman, and the fact that Will and Diane make not one but two visits to the courthouse in a single day (Cook County, apparently, has some very efficient courts). 

I’ll give the writers credit, at least, for not even trying to present the story with a straight face.  

A few small observations: Alicia

--Where was Chris Noth this episode? Wasn’t it strange that Alicia didn’t even see him from across the room? Maybe this was for dramatic effect, or maybe Noth is too expensive to have around if he’s not talking. In any case, for all the focus on Peter’s campaign lately, we’ve barely seen the guy -- except on his posters.

--I am really loving Alicia’s wardrobe lately. Costume designer Daniel Lawson is doing a fantastic job with her style evolution. Remember the pearls and — egads! — boxy blazers she wore last season?  Lately, perhaps as a sign of her independence, Alicia’s been wearing some seriously edgy looks like this one, right, which appears to have been borrowed from Kalinda’s closet. I want one.

-- Meredith Blake


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Photos from top: Eli (Alan Cumming) prepares Alicia (Julianna Margulies) for her interview; Alicia in one of her edgier new outfits. Credit: Jeffrey Neira / CBS