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'The Good Wife' recap: The old boys' network

March 26, 2012 |  9:50 am

Matthew Perry Julianna Margulies The Good Wife
From the very beginning, “The Good Wife” has been an unabashedly feminist show, one that’s uniquely sensitive to the challenges faced by working women and political spouses. Even so, Sunday's episode, which pits Alicia against an all-male blue ribbon panel investigating an accidental police shooting, stands out as a kind of feminist fable: One woman single-handedly battles the racist, patriarchal political establishment of Chicago -- and looks impossibly chic while doing it!

It all starts when Diane, up to her eyeballs dealing with the internal power struggle at Lockhart-Whoever, asks Alicia (Julianna Margulies) to take her place on the panel. Diane explains that it will be a good opportunity for Alicia to network with other lawyers and judges and, besides, the panel needs a woman. From week to week, “The Good Wife” consistently finds new and interesting ways into the procedural portion of the show, and here’s another shining example. Who even knew blue ribbon panels existed — outside the county fair, that is — or that they have the power to sweep huge scandals under the rug with little to no oversight? Not this blogger, that’s for sure.

Neither does Alicia, apparently. Dressed in a fabulous pleated blazer, she joins the rest of the panel in a dark, woody, decidedly masculine space. It looks like a room at the Harvard Club or some other old-school bastion of white male privilege; all that’s missing are the cigars and brandy snifters. The head of the panel is the smarmy Mike Kresteva (played in a bit of type-casting by Matthew Perry), a powerful lawyer with a murky agenda.

Without much time to prep for the panel, Alicia has to wing it, but her naïvete comes in handy: She doesn’t know that she’s not actually supposed to ask questions. The case involves a cop (played by Charlie Hofheimer, who also popped up on TV Sunday night as Peggy’s boyfriend on “Mad Men”) under investigation for shooting an unarmed black man. (Once again, “The Good Wife” is eerily well-timed.) He claims it was an accident, but, with some help from Cary, Alicia uncovers evidence that suggests the officer planted a gun on the victim.

It also happens that Peter (Chris Noth) failed to pursue an investigation case against the officer and his mysterious “drop gun.” Annoyed that Alicia is pushing for a real investigation and thereby fanning the flames of racial strife, Kresteva turns the tables on her: Either she agrees to absolve the cop of wrongdoing or he’ll snitch on Peter who, as you recall, is already battling the perception that he’s a racist. In the end, Alicia shrewdly recuses herself from the case, but something tells me Peter hasn’t heard the last of it.

Speaking of people getting guns, this week Alicia once again finds herself squaring off against longtime nemesis, Jackie (Mary Beth Peil), when her ex-mother-in-law outbids her on the house she and Peter once shared. To be honest, I didn’t see the Jackie twist coming. When Alicia learns that “another Florrick” has made an offer, I half-expect some kind of ironic Alicia-Peter reunion straight out of an O. Henry short story, or maybe just "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." (I can see it now, Peter and Alicia singing a duet: “Do you like suburban Chicago/And getting caught in the rain?/Are you over those hookers?/Are you into champagne?”)

There are few elderly women with a spare $1.9 million to spend meddling with their son’s personal lives, but apparently Jackie Florrick is one of them. It's too bad she doesn’t have the sense to match her bank account, because whatever yearning Alicia has to return her old life — and, judging from those slightly cheesy flashbacks, she has plenty — is squelched by Jackie’s interference. At this point, I can’t imagine Alicia moving back into the house, even if Jackie gave it to her for free. While I remain furious on Alicia’s behalf, I also won’t pretend to be sad about this development.

Alicia’s also busy helping Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) with her IRS investigation. Despite her pledge of openness and honesty, everyone’s favorite leather-clad investigator remains rather cagey when it comes to the subject of her personal finances, only telling Alicia exactly what she needs to know, and not a bit more. It turns out that Lana, one of Kalinda’s numerous former paramours, is leading the investigation, though the exact nature of her motives is unclear. Is this just an elaborate act of lover’s revenge, or does Lana know something about Lockhart-Gardner’s relationship to Lemond Bishop and/or the mystery of “Leela” that we don’t?  Although Kalinda has reached a détente with Alicia, it still feels as though her character has stalled somewhat this season. Unlike Will, Diane and even Cary, who’ve grown considerably this time around, Kalinda is still pulling the same old tricks. It's time for the writers to throw the fantastic Panjabi a bone.

Rounding out the episode is a conclusion to the civil war over Will’s now-vacant partnership.  With Eli, David and Julius all jockeying to take his spot, Will (Josh Charles) hatches a plan to get cantankerous porn-lover Howard Lyman installed as his replacement. It’s a brilliant stroke on Will’s part, and a clear indication that his Machiavellian ways are not entirely a thing of the past.  It’s a win-win for both parties: Will preserves his position of power, while Howie scores a corner office near the bathroom.   


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-- Meredith Blake

Photo: Alicia (Julianna Margulies) clashes with Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry) on "The Good Wife." Credit: David M. Russell / CBS