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The Good Wife Recap: Crying Game

No one deserves this. No one deserves the pain we saw wash over Alicia Florrick’s face as she walked away from Peter’s victory party, coming to the wrenching realization that she had been betrayed not only by her husband (again), but by her best friend, too. All she’d done that day was be the titular good wife that she is. She toured the $2.1 million four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath house in the suburbs Peter wants them to move into once he’s won the election. She finally agreed to a television interview about her marriage, and pulled it off so well she singlehandedly secured Peter’s victory. She’s given all of herself, made so many sacrifices — including her own lustful urges for Will — to boost this man up, and she gets this slap in the face in return. We knew this revelation was coming, but we didn’t expect to feel Alicia’s despair so acutely. Break out another Emmy for Julianna Margulies. For the first time since we started watching this show, breathlessly and obsessively two seasons ago, we got a glimpse into Alicia’s reservoir of repressed emotion. And where those tears land, we predict, will soon be scorched earth.

That final, indelible image of Alicia finally breaking down was enough to make us forget ávez had shown up, hilariously and unexpectedly. But that’s just the kind of Murphy’s Law day it was. And we very much appreciated the structure of the episode, that had each potentially disastrous element of Alicia’s life calling her cell phone in succession as she toured the home that represents the life before Amber Madison that she will never get back. Tellingly, the dream house had come on the market because of a divorce. Foreshadowing? We think so. Step away from the bad karma, people!

First on the phone is Eli, who’s watching Wendy Scott-Carr’s white husband and two children give the supportive spousal interview that he so desperately wants Alicia to give but has promised her he’ll never ask her for. Eli is phoning to tell her to watch out for the press, but he’s really testing the waters to see if she’ll cave. Next up is Andrew Wiley, who’s become so dogged about these missing pages from Blake’s interview that he’s reminding us of, yup, Wile E. Coyote. He thinks Alicia knows something — her name was the subject heading in the interview notes — and doesn’t seem to get that not everyone has the same savant-ish need to get to the bottom of some incomplete paperwork as he does. Now we get why his rocket-scientist wife keeps him chained up at home with the kids and the talking lion phone. After Wiley comes Natalie Flores, whom Alicia hired as a temp to help with her citizenship, and who has found an important discrepancy in the translation of a contract for a case involving an international oil company failing to compensate a small drilling contractor in Venezuela. And finally, Will comes in on the other line, telling Alicia she has to rush in, since their Venezuelan oil-well-drilling client just had a heart attack.

The case starts off as ho-hum contract law and quickly turns to farce. The oil company is refusing to pay the $89 million it owes the contractor because they say he completed the wells five months after deadline. Will thinks the company just wanted to get out of Venezuela owing to Hugo Chávez’s antagonism toward American businesses. Either way, Natalie’s catch on the translation mistake renders the contract void. Our heroes are on the verge of a settlement when in walks Fred Thompson, capped teeth gleaming, playing some other made-up actor who’s also a practicing lawyer and is now taking over the case.

As Fred tells Will, Chávez has just nationalized LatinStar Drilling, meaning that Will’s client is no longer the plaintiff, and Will is no longer the plaintiff’s council. Smart Natalie points out that, according to Venezuelan law, Chávez can’t nationalize without giving LatinStar three months to assess the fair-market value of the company. But when Diane brings this up, a headless, red-sweater-wearing Chávez announces he’s just going to change the law, evoking a 2008 act by the Venezuelan national assembly that allows the president to change law at will if it protects the interests of Venezuela. “The Americans now want my oil. They thirst for it. All Americans,” he says, through Natalie’s translation. “Except Courtney Love. Not her. Even now she is not appreciated in her country. Where is her Academy Award? Where?” “Oh my God,” Will remarks, ”It’s like being in a Woody Allen movie.” YES! BANANAS!

Soon they’re before Ana Gasteyer, the “in my opinion” judge. Will and Diane are throwing out the phrase at every occasion, as they argue that since Chávez changed the law half an hour ago, it is — in their opinion — ex post facto as regards this case. But when they try to throw Fred under the “in my opinion“ bus, they discover that the actor is exempt from the judge’s usual rules, given that he helps young people with his show and is “so much taller in person.” In the end, rather then freeze LatinStar’s assets, which helps no one, they join up with Fred to represent Hugo Chávez with the goal of raking the big, bad oil company over the coals.

The big, bad oil company responds by producing four oil workers who have agreed to testify about inhumane working conditions at LatinStar’s drill sites. If the oil company can prove LatinStar had human-rights violations, it will be exempt from paying the money it owes. But one by one, when faced with Chávez, still headless and now bragging about the human-rights prize he got from Qaddafi, they recant their testimony for the sake of their families back in Venezuela. And the last of the four workers, who doesn’t have family in Venezuela, it turns out, got injured not at a LatinStar site, but at the off-shore drilling site of the big, bad oil company. The threat of bad publicity is enough to force the big, bad oil company into a settlement, and there’s some mumbo jumbo about a map of untapped oil sites that Chávez is going to try to win, too. Whatever. It was inconsequential but amusing. And as the episode closes, we find out that Fred offered Natalie a job in D.C. as a translator, killing our dream that she would stay at Lockhart Gardner and romance Eli some more.

In the midst of all this, Diane gives Alicia the afternoon off, which happens to be just enough time to do that spousal interview she said she couldn’t do because she had too much work. Alicia calls Eli, furious at him for having messed with her life and gotten her pulled off a case she’s worked on for over a year. But when she realizes it was Frank Landau of the DCC who pulled the favor with Diane, and that Eli has kept his word, she relents. It leads to what may be the very best scene we’ve ever seen on this show, with Eli coaching Alicia through her interview, and basically falling in love with her (as a potential future candidate) in the process.

Eli plays the part of the reporter, who he assumes will be gunning for dirt. Does Alicia forgive Peter? (She does.) Does she know he slept with Amber Madison on eighteen separate occasions? (She does and it horrifies her; Eli coaches her to sound less horrified.) Alicia admits to feeling partially responsible for Peter’s indiscretions, because she feels like they both didn’t give their marriage enough attention. And she says she believes he won’t stray again, not necessarily because he knows how much he hurt her, but because he knows how much he hurt their children. And her children, we can tell by the choked sound in her voice, are what matter to her, far more than Peter. Eli glosses over this, perhaps thinking Alicia is acting for the cameras, but it’s as real as she gets, and it’s going to matter big-time down the line.

Just before she’d gone to meet with Eli, Alicia had asked Kalinda if she knew why Wiley was so relentlessly on Alicia’s case. In that moment, Kalinda had the chance to avert the bomb that will destroy their friendship if Alicia finds out about the Peter affair before Kalinda tells her. But she just asks Alicia if they can talk sometime. And as we know from our Will and Alicia back-and-forth that on this show, such talks take far too long to materialize and come far after the damage has already been done.

Instead, Kalinda goes to talk to Cary, beneath umbrellas on a rain-less day. Kalinda wants Cary to try one last time to stop Wiley, and Cary wants Kalinda to get Alicia to put in a good word for him with Peter so he doesn’t get summarily fired the second Peter takes office. There’s a mean tenor to the conversation, with Cary calling Kalinda out for having fucked it up so royally with Alicia. Does Kalinda plan to just come out and tell her best friend that she slept with her husband? Do we sense a hint of anger and jealousy in Cary’s voice?

At the television studio, Alicia is acing her interview, which Will is watching in the office, admiring her longingly while sipping on scotch. (Tammy who?) When the reporter asks Alicia if she has any political aspirations, she says no; she likes being a mom and lawyer too much. But the reporter has a point: “You’re smart, you’re eloquent, well-known, well-liked. My guess is you’re better liked than your husband.” Our guess is that we just saw the first seed planted for Alicia opposing Peter in court, in divorce court, and in politics next season. And the way Eli swelled with pride and affection while watching Alicia makes us think that he’d defect from Peter to run her campaign in a second.

At Peter’s victory party, which PETER DOES NOT ATTEND, Jackie is singing “Danny Boy” by the piano and communing with her grandchildren, who keep joking that she’s drunk. (“I think that’s just her,” says Alicia, enjoying herself for the brief moment before her entire world falls apart again.) Amid congratulations, Landau reveals that he’s already plotting Peter’s campaign for Senate, and that Eli will be running that, too. Just knowing that Eli will be back again next season makes our heart do a copy-room jig. But Chris Noth seriously has to find a little time to step off Broadway for a second and participate in his own friggin’ election. His absence is more and more obvious, and it’s ruining the show.

As township results roll in, securing Peter’s victory, Alicia slips into a back room with a glass of wine to soak it all in. She must be dealing with both the pride of knowing that she pushed Peter over the top and the dizzying prospect of having her whole life upended once again. Of course, this is when Andrew Wiley, the least socially astute person on earth, finds her. He wants to apologize for hounding her so much that day. He finally figured out what was in the missing pages, and he’s sure Blake was lying, since he testified that Peter slept with a co-worker two years ago, but as far as Wiley can tell, this co-worker Leela never existed. When she hears the name, Alicia stops dead in her tracks. This is the moment that, we believe, will send all our heroes down a path of mutual destruction. The Alicia-Kalinda friendship is over, as is, it seems, the possibility of a Kalinda-Cary hookup. Eli, who’s come to admire Alicia so much, will likely find it hard to stand behind Peter any longer. And Peter, we’re sure, will soon find out that his wife is no longer willing to be a good wife anymore. Alicia Florrick for U.S. Senate 2012.

Photo: JEFFREY NEIRA/CBS