A strange man sits in the Lockhart Gardner conference room, photos of a man facedown in a pool of blood before him. But he seems more concerned with the position of his water glass. He moves it to toward himself, then reconsiders and moves it to the left, then reconsiders and moves it to the right. He barely registers when Kalinda walks in the room. It turns out that the man is a “jury whisperer” who charges $60,000 a week to read the jurors’ “micro-expressions,” meaning “the fleeting emotional displays revealing a person’s true feelings.” By the end of the case, he will have gotten it all wrong, as will have Will and Alicia. The judge is blatantly biased, punishing the defense because Will fouled him on the basketball court, but that doesn’t stop the jury from convicting their client of pushing his rich father off a 12-story balcony because he thought he was going to be written out of the will. It seems that sometimes — shocker! — a preponderance of evidence trumps a clever defense. When Alicia asks the foreman why the jury came back with a guilty verdict, the foreman replies, “He did it. I hope that helps.”
The case neatly sums up what seems to be the theme of this episode: Trusting fact over perception. If last week’s episode explored shades of morality and how far Will could lean over the line without falling into an abyss, this episode found many of our key players abandoning their power games to make strong choices regarding loyalty and self-interest.
Those choices begin with Diane ignoring Will’s threat to bar her from her office with security guards. As awesome as that scene might have been, it’s too soap-operatic for this show, and these people are too smart and greedy to let emotion cloud a major business decision like that. As a new workday dawns, Diane has clearly gotten into her office without being blocked by burly men, and now Derrick, back from his mysterious mission to DC, wants Will to (cliché alert!) “calm the waters” because they need to (double cliché alert!) “keep her on the reservation,” at least for the next two months. Derrick is planning to bring in an independent expenditure committee, or Super-PAC, worth $100 million. When that happens, he and Will can push Diane out, but until then, the firm needs to seem united.
Over a series of lunches, Will and Diane feel each other out Mr. and Mrs. Smith-style. Is the breakup of this mutually advantageous, mutually deceptive relationship really necessary? “I want to make things different so you don’t leave,” Will tells Diane. “You’ll stop seeing other women?” she retorts. Diane wants transparency, to see Will’s client list, which he admits would be worrisome if she were leaving since it would give her a better shot at poaching them. “So it’s a good thing I’m not leaving,” she says, poker-faced. At a second lunch, a bemused Diane opens with, “This is beginning to feel like Groundhog’s Day We agreed I wasn’t leaving.” “Yes,” says Will. “But we were both lying.”
Now that’s what we call transparency. In between lunches, Will has discovered — surprise, surprise — that they’ve been “played” by Bond. Bond has been conducting background checks on all the lawyers at the firm, and he’s promoted Blake above Kalinda either as a play to show he’s boss, or to get Kalinda to leave. It’s unclear. What is clear is that he wants control of the firm, and he knows the only way to do that is to turn Will and Diane against each other. Faced with, yes, a preponderance of evidence that Derrick plans to use Will to push out Diane and then push out Will once he has a majority vote, Will and Diane reunite. They agree to keep up appearances of a rift around Derrick, then push him out as soon as he brings in the Super-PAC.
As much as we love to see Will and Diane back in cahoots with each other, this whole evil Derrick plotline seems forced. Perhaps that’s because we’ve never gotten to know the guy. We don’t know his motivations, his politics, or his methods of doing business besides being a fan of peer reviews and green offices and investigators who beat up witnesses win cases. We’ve barely even seen him do a deposition. It’s hard to suddenly be against him when we’ve never had a chance to form an opinion about him. Also, why don’t Diane and Will want to know more about him? Why aren’t they dispatching Kalinda to look into HIS background? After all, didn’t he hire Blake after rescuing him from his second job as the security detail for the biggest drug ring in Baltimore? And why aren’t they trying to figure out what kind of Super-PAC he’s trying to bring in? You’d think that after the Lou Dobbs incident, they’d want to know that they weren’t staking the future of their firm on becoming the representation for something like a Prop-8-killing group of fundamentalists.
Also hard to take: Blake’s whole “I’ve been made your supervisor” exchange with Kalinda. How did their rivalry go from that sexy-dangerous “ham-fisted” exchange to something out of an Elmer Fudd cartoon? Of course Kalinda is going to win out in the end. She’s Kalinda! Plus, as she and Will confirmed to each other, they’ve got each other’s backs. Now it seems that the only reason for Blake to exist is as a catalyst for Kalinda’s continued badassery, which this week involved her petulantly refusing to help Will and Alicia without consulting her “supervisor,” demanding and getting a $50,000 salary bump (plus a country club membership — mostly, we assume, so Will could see the faces of the members when she walked in the door), and proving her worth by being the only one to see the jury whisperer for the twitchy “medicine man” he was. Raise your hand if you think she flipped him off when she asked him to read her micro-expression.
We find ourselves torn about Derrick and Blake, wanting to know more but sick of seeing them around. It’s as if the writers threw them in as plot devices and then forgot that they needed to be three-dimensional characters, too. They’re taking up too much time to have as little depth as they do. Either give them some room to evolve, or consider them a failed experiment and move on. And while you’re at it, how about not wasting the great Norbert Leo Butz in a one-off part as the failed jury whisperer? The man was brilliant in The Deep End, that short-lived ABC series about rookie lawyers. He would have been a great recurring opposing counsel or member of Will and Diane’s transition team. Now there’s no chance he’ll come back on the show. Not cool, writers. Not cool.
At least we had some resolution regarding the Alicia question. Will reminds her that she’d mentioned having a “talk” and then pre-empts her by assuming she meant to talk to him about Diane’s offer to have her join the new firm. Alicia reaffirms her loyalty to Will, assuring him that she wasn’t going to go with Diane and alleviating our worry that the offer might destroy both their friendship and their chance for romance. Then Alicia cops out of bringing up the Voicemail of Love and we’re back to square one. Whatever. We’re over it. Just dump Tammy soon, okay, Will?
Likewise, there was satisfactory progress on the Cary front, meaning that, fingers crossed, he may soon come back to the firm. Over a series of Deep Throat meetings in a part of Chicago that looks suspiciously like Central Park, Diane approaches Cary about job stuff while he’s on his morning jog, First, she strokes his ego, telling him she made a mistake letting him go. Then she makes him reexamine his dedication to ASA martyrdom by offering him a senior associate’s salary with two-year path to equity partnership in her new firm. Later, when she offers to do the same if he comes back to Lockhart Gardner, Cary realizes he’s in a position of power. He wants double Alicia’s salary, and a title bump above her. Guess the man does have motivations beyond being a selfless defender of justice. We suspect he’ll get what he wants, eventually. But what is up with these people and their crazy salary demands? Maybe we’ve been working as a journalist for too long, but is that normal in corporate law, getting a $50,000 raise, or making what we could only guess is $250,000 to $300,000 a year out of law school with one junior associates job and an ASA position in your belt? Enlighten us, please. Then help us study for the LSAT.
On other, equally satisfying fronts, we saw the welcome return of Eli. Where have you been, old friend? Apparently, he’s been pounding the streets, failing to raise money for Peter’s campaign, and the perception of being in trouble has led to actually being in trouble. So Peter brings in an old pal of his, Adam, who worked on his 2004 run and who comes with donors whom Eli suspects of being Republicans who want to use Peter to spoil the Democratic primary so they can beat him in the fall. Eli wants Adam gone, but Adam has a secret weapon. His phone rings. “Unless that is Buddah or Jesus on speed dial ” says a seething Eli, ready to kick Adam off the campaign. Actually, it’s someone more powerful. Duh duh duh: It’s Jackie. Adam gets to stick around and we get another choice moment of Alan Cumming reacting to stuff.
While shopping for wine (naturally), Jackie reveals that she has Adam’s back because, unlike Eli, he’s recognized her importance and keeps her updated on the campaign. Eli realizes that the only way to get Adam out of his life is bend over backwards to accommodate Jackie and then hope that Peter will ask her to back off, which he does. Jackie and Eli set up a mutual back-scratching society, and Adam ends up literally kicked to the curb, desk chair and all. We don’t know what this means for the rest of the campaign, except that we hope it ends with Jackie getting Eli liquored up and making him wear that Botswanan headdress.
Finally, we leave you with a few observations.
A) We counted four uses of the verb “phoned” instead of “called” and now it’s starting to bug the shit out of us, too. Writers, you’ve been warned!
B) How great was Alicia’s burst of anger against Blake, and her gleeful ribbing of the judge with basketball colloquialisms like “no harm, no foul” and “all laced up and ready to go”? We credit Owen for slowly breaking down that icy veneer.
And C) As much as we’ve nit-picked the writers this week, we could only marvel at the following exchange:
Cary: You know what they did in Roman times to people who killed their fathers? Put them in a sack with a snake, a chicken, and a dog and threw them in a river.
Will: Are we really plea-bargaining down from Roman times? What are you giving me, just a chicken?
[Later, after revealing he’s playing basketball with the judge for their trial ]
Will: Bet that chicken in a sack’s looking pretty good right now, Cicero.
Great, huh? We might have Caligula as our heartless Roman statesman reference, but we’ll phone you if someone better comes to mind.