After our almost-date — we wish! — with Matt Czuchry, we almost couldn’t bring ourselves to recap this Cary-less episode. But duty called. And we’re glad we gave this one a second viewing, not for the overdramatic class-action lawsuit with repeat stunt guest star Michael J. Fox, but for the moments in which Peter got his badass back and Alicia, Will, and Eli all cracked and showed they’re human. Plus, Method Man stopped by and it sounds like he’ll stop by again. All is forgiven.
An interesting anti-cynicism current ran throughout the episode. We started with Alicia and (surprise!) Canning going house to house, effusively complimenting pies and crumb cake in a race to sign up families for a class action against J&L Pesticides, which tainted the neighborhood ground water and caused women to either miscarry or become infertile. The lawyer with the most signatures would win the right to represent the lucrative suit. As regular viewers, we recognized both lawyers’ mind games immediately. Canning gives his whole “If you see me moving like this” speech to get the handicapped sympathy vote, and Alicia goes for the “I’m a mother” and “You’ll have to give me the recipe!” angle. They’re both slippery, means-to-an-end kind of people, not nearly as dissimilar as they’d like to think.
We remember Canning as the guy who got rich helping out a pharmaceutical company whose drugs made people want to kill themselves. But to anyone who wasn’t around for that, he’s the kindest, bravest soul to ever grace a courtroom. When, on a house visit, Alicia asks Canning who’s paying for his car and driver — Lockhart Gardner is sure Canning is a “Trojan Horse” sent by J&L to steal the class action and then lowball the settlement — Canning tells the roomful of housewives that his condition makes it impossible for him to drive, and suddenly Alicia is the bully. (Line of the night, from Canning: “Mrs. Florrick, you seem like a nice woman from the outside and then I get a glimpse of the darkness within.”) Each time he mentions his condition, he finds someone — the miscarrying women, the judge — whose relative is going through something similar. It’s not a fair fight. But then again, Lockhart Gardner has three lawyers and Kalinda on the case. We don’t feel THAT bad for them.
We watch as our cynical lawyers meet cheery, blood-drive-pushing judge Abernathy (Denis O’Hare in a brilliant nod to his other job as the vampire king of Mississippi), and end up all wearing “I Gave Blood” stickers on their suits, even Diane, who clearly didn’t give blood. And we watch as Kalinda lies her way into Canning’s four-bedroom brownstone looking for clues of his deviousness and comes away phoning (heh) Alicia and telling her, “I think he might be sincere.” What? That may have been the most ludicrous statement anyone will ever make on this show. Here, sincerity is a worse affliction than any neurological condition. It’s a relief when Judge Abernathy forces Canning and the Will-Alicia-Diane triad to join forces and they all rip off their blood drive stickers in disgust. There’s only so much pretending to care about things one can take, you know?
Lucky for our TV, which might have spontaneously combusted had Kalinda been right, Canning was, indeed, in the pocket of J&L. He tried to negotiate a $2 million settlement for a class action worth $55 to $70 million not because he thought any settlement was better than no settlement, but because he wanted to lowball the victims. And he borrowed $4 million from the hedge fund 27 Equity to fund the case not because, owing to his wife’s recent miscarriage, he was fueled by compassion for women who’d miscarried, but because he was sure he’d make back that amount and more after he torpedoed the class action. Eventually, Lockhart Gardner discovers a hole in his schemes and calls him out on it in court. He objects, forgetting he can’t object to his co-counsel since he’s supposed to be on their side. So he throws it over to the J&L attorney, who makes the exact same objection and throws the blinds off this charade. As Abernathy/O’Hare says, “I’m going to overrule that on absurdity alone.”
That was fun, but the whole Canning plot felt half-baked. It started with a great idea — hiring a proven ratings-getter like Fox as a guest star and playing off everyone’s universal adoration of him by making him morally ambiguous. But he’s a little too ambiguous. This episode would have been way better if he actually were sincere and our flawed heroes at Lockhart Gardner had ruined the class action by doubting and sabotaging him, letting down a hundred childless families. Instead, he makes a mistake he’s way too smart to have made and then gives some speech about how he only did this because he wants to stop cynical lawyers from hurting corporations so much with their big settlements. Huh? We went over a dozen reasons why this souplike case ending makes no sense, but it’s just not worth thinking about anymore. Good-bye, Mr. Fox. Tell Mamie Gummer to stop treating infectious diseases in South America and come back to us!
At least we had developments in Will’s love life, Will and Diane’s scheming, and Peter’s amazingly resilient campaign to keep us going.
First, at Chez Will, Tammy (a.k.a. “Don’t fall in love with me” lady) is, shocker, falling for Will. But he’s taking her for granted, to the point of stopping their kinky Madden NFL video-game-and-sex combo romp on the floor to take a phone call from Alicia. Honestly, can’t anyone on TV and in movies turn off their phones before getting it on (ahem, Chuck and his new ladyfriend)? Your sex is not mind-blowing if you can’t ignore your ringtone! Anyway, Will stands up Tammy. Tammy whines to Alicia over neglected sandwiches. Alicia basically advises her to give up on Will, as she has. Tammy puts Will on a 30-day hiatus. Moping, indecisive Will laments to Alicia that since he had to fire that corrupt alderman dude as his best friend, he doesn’t have anybody to talk about girls. (Runner-up line of the day: “I need friends. I need, like, a fat buddy who I can tell things to and get drunk.” We vote for Kevin James!) And by the end of the episode, Will and Tammy have given up trying to quit each other and are in a non-committed, but decidedly “preferential” relationship. Here’s hoping Alicia brings up the Voice Mail of Love sometime before their wedding.
Meanwhile, in the Tahiri Square that is the Lockhart Gardner offices, David Lee has joined Will and Diane in their plot to overthrow Derrick. That was kind of a no-brainer, given how he reacted when Derrick tried to make him do peer evaluations, but it’s still fun to see the gusto with which he schemes. They make plans to recruit Julius, who is currently indisposed buying Bass Industries on Gossip Girl. Diane says they need his support so it doesn’t seem like a hostile takeover by “the racist white partners,” but once Julius finds out Derrick installed keystroke spyware on his computer, he’ll jump at the chance to join the racist white partners.
Derrick isn’t making this easy, though. At the partners’ meeting, he makes a surprise announcement that he’s brought in a new client, Americans for Growth, a new bi-partisan super-PAC with guaranteed financing of $120 million. Suddenly Will and Diane’s plan to win over the partners with a class action they may or may not win doesn’t seem so hot. A few snooping sessions later, they’ve come up with a new plan. They use their knowledge of the spyware on Alicia and Julius’s computers to send messages about which of Derrick’s people they plan to recruit to their side. Derrick takes the bait and starts shipping those lawyers back to D.C. Cue Will and Diane’s congratulatory low-five. We’re surprised they didn’t teach each other how to Dougie.
Finally, back against the wall, our amazing SA candidate, Peter, has found new life. The campaign is so broke they only have enough money to pay for three staff members until the election. (Not counting Eli and his well-earned massive salary, we’re sure.) So they recruit a disaffected pollster Matt Becker. He’s willing to work for cheap because he seems to hate Wendy Scott-Carr. Plus he gets the bonus payment of all the episode’s best lines.
What our pollster reveals is that during the last debate, when Peter snapped, “My marriage is none of your fucking business,” his numbers among voters under 30 shot up from the 20s into the low 70s, and they’ve stayed there. “It was like watching a baby chick’s eyes open,” says Matt. Kids like swearing; they thought it was honest. And while Wendy may get points for being black, she is, as our fellow Yalie points out, “Donna Reed black.” Peter is an ex-con, which makes him hard-core. If he comes out in favor of medical marijuana, the only issue that will make the youth vote get off their couches and to the polls, he might just win this thing.
Peter meets up with a rapper named Young Boxer (Method Man), who bonds with him about prison and agrees to do a fund-raiser for him. And he starts making inspiring speeches at high schools. He’s so good, indeed, that he inspires a high school music teacher (Christopher Sieber from Shrek on Broadway) to make a horribly unhip YouTube video involving him singing about Peter’s greatness while wearing a Revolutionary War outfit, surrounded by male cheerleaders. Soon, the video is getting more play than Peter’s speech. To make matters worse, the teacher is so jazzed about Peter, he promises to make a new video every week. “God, it’s like a hostage crisis!” cries Eli, before going to the school to offer the teacher a new position as “liaison to the political director,” meaning Eli will get to vet and kill all his videos before they hit the Internet. Poor guy. It’s classic Eli subterfuge, but as he’s leaving, the teacher tells him how Peter talking about bullying at the school changed the mood there for at least a couple of days. And as Eli listened, his mood, too, seemed to change. Is he recognizing that Peter’s campaign has greater meaning, that he’s working for the best guy, and that it is imperative for the city that he wins? Or did he realize that what he’d done to the teacher was a form of bullying, too? Either way, he became a little more human.
We close out with the burning question from last episode finally answered. Yes, Alicia has let Peter back into her bed. And as she lies there stiffly, listening to Peter talk about how he’s weirdly become hip and now has a rapper on his side, she cracks up uncontrollably. At least they can acknowledge how ridiculous their lives have become. Appropriately, the New Pornographers’ “Testament to Youth” plays in the background.