When you’re writing a show based on a politician’s downfall, there must be no greater pain than watching a germane and spectacular scandal happen while you’re on summer break. Anthony Weiner's Twitter-gate began just ten days after The Good Wife season-two finale aired and became old news two months before the start of season three. You can almost hear the frustration in this week’s episode, when Eli’s new political strategist frenemy Mickey Gunn (played by the vibrant Michael Kelly) asks where Eli was when that mess was going on, and the only response Eli can muster is, “God, the day politicians discovered Twitter
” Guess it made more sense than having him go into the copy room and rage about that ill-timed summer hiatus.
It wasn’t until the subject of Weiner came up that it became clear how far beyond anything else on television The Good Wife is in terms of topicality. Not since The West Wing has a show so artfully weaved a fictional world into the current news cycle. So if last week’s attempt to tackle the Arab Spring, Israel-Palestine relations, and gay college romances gone wrong all at once came out as confused and overly ambitious, at least it comes from a good place. The Kings had to have been chomping at the bit of current events.
This week, current events, specifically the 2012 presidential campaign, play much better, since they have finally (finally!) brought together a pairing hotter than Will “going hard on” Alicia: Eli and Kalinda. Is there anyone whose breath didn’t shorten when Eli asked Alicia, “Who’s the investigator around here?” It makes sense that they’ve never met. When would they have? Kalinda worked for Peter before Eli did, and they hadn’t had occasion to cross paths at the campaign office or Alicia’s apartment. Everything about their first interaction pointed to the best chemistry ever on a show known for great chemistry. Eli enlisted her because he needed to pitch Mickey on how to manage a scandal that Mickey would tell him nothing about. It took Kalinda two seconds to figure out Eli’s motives: “You want the information so he’s forced to hire you or you’ll expose it.” When Eli asked her, in awe, “How have I never met you before?” he seemed to be speaking for all of us.
There is so much potential in this coupling built on a mutual love of finding dirt and winning. It is, of course, not sexual, but if their banter — Eli: “I’ll need you again” Kalinda: “Then invoice” — isn’t foreplay of some kind, I don’t know what is. They have wonderful odd couple rhythms, like when Eli told Kalinda “Mazel tov” and she stopped dead in her tracks, having no idea what to do with that. But Eli keeps asking Kalinda where he knows her, and that is troubling. Did they cross paths in another context? And how will Eli react when he finds out his new ally is the reason why his future governor and Alicia are no longer together, a possible catastrophic revelation for Pete’s gubernatorial campaign? There was also a moment when Will was marching through the office going, “Where’s Kalinda?” and she was with Eli. Given their bonding session over being emotionless voids at the bar last week, and how many times Will has fought to get Kalinda to stay at the firm, there’s no way Will and Eli aren’t fighting over her in the future. Or that Will isn’t going to have a freak-out when he sees how much extra cash Kalinda is making from invoicing Eli. Didn’t she just get a massive raise?
The introduction of Mickey to the Eli posse was also pretty intriguing, and not just because he was a guy who claimed to have no money for a campaign but was somehow able to spring for a couple of burly actor colleagues to come to meetings with him in an attempt to intimidate the un-intimidatable Eli Gold. Mickey is a delightful snake; he tricked Eli into vetting his candidate for him by hinting that he’d hire him if he could find any skeletons in the guy’s closet. Eli may not like being used, as he said last episode, but he seems to respect those who can (almost) pull one over on him. As Eli and genius Kalinda figure out, Mickey’s candidate is not local, but presidential, and he’s (gasp!) a Republican who seems to be a rarity among politicians in that he has not slept with any nannies or interns yet. We see Kalinda showing Mickey a picture of the guy but don’t see the photo ourselves, which is a nifty trick by the show to not get locked into casting. Mickey also slips into a New Orleans drawl and starts going on about crawfish, which must mean he’s based on a young James Carville. In that, there’s potential for a Mary Matalin, sleeping-with-the-enemy story line. Or, better yet, perhaps the story line will be with Eli and a Republican lady. Oh, sweet anticipation!
The Mickey interaction was also useful in that it gave a number of insights into Eli. Eli isn’t getting laid and Mickey hasn’t gotten laid since the summer of ’08, which would be during the Obama campaign, apparently the last time any Democrat in politics wasn’t in a sexless, double-dip recession mood. Eli and Alicia are still allies; he makes her race back from court for a “meeting” with Mickey that consists of only walking in the room so he can see that Eli has “Saint Alicia” on his team. How that would be a boon to any candidate who isn’t Peter is a bit of a mystery. We learn how Eli would have handled the Weiner scandal, by getting out front and capitalizing on the “entertainment value” of someone who can Facebook message so well about “Jewish girls who suck ” you know the rest. The only false note is when Eli says he’ll join up with the campaign, provided Mickey gets hired, because “I don’t mind this guy [the candidate]. He’s not bad.” Why would Eli blow his wad like that after having just told Mickey he would only reveal what he found out about the candidate if Mickey hired him? And if Taub 2.0 and the Jewish community were furious with Eli for working on a pro-Muslim campaign, what kind of wrath would rain down on him if he tried to get a REPUBLICAN elected PRESIDENT? Would he really risk getting blackballed like that?
Meanwhile, New Alicia is still kicking ass in court. She gets a libel case dismissed in the first few minutes of the episode, but not before whispering to her client, “Nothing personal, but I have to rip your friend apart.” The case is basically the controversy surrounding Into Thin Air with a few twists. The author of the book, Danny Lambros, was climbing Mount Everest with his brother, a mountaineering guide, who died in the “death zone,” the area above 26,000 feet where oxygen is not sufficient to sustain life. Rich guy Oliver Cardiff (yet another Wire alum, John Doman) sues Danny for having written that he stepped over Danny’s dying brother and took his oxygen tank on the way to the summit. Since the oxygen-deprived “untrustworthy perceptions” of all witnesses can’t be proven false, the book isn’t libelous. Then Eddie Izzard walks in and there’s no way this case is over that quickly.
What follows is basically a big fat excuse to give Izzard some great lines as barrister James Thrush, as well as give us didactic lessons on the legal quirks of England. British libel laws are the opposite of American libel laws; it’s up to the person libeling to prove what he says is true. And since Izzard, uh, Thrush, bought the book on Amazon, and since eighteen copies have been sold in England, all bought by Cardiff’s staff, he can sue Danny in British court for 20 million pounds. It turns out there are two different classes of lawyers in the U.K.: posh, bombastic barristers like Thrush, and the work-a-day solicitors like the marvelous underdog Timothy Ash Brannon (Simon Delaney) that Danny hires, who may not have fancy credentials but does have an impressive nervous habit of making up anagrams of people’s names. And since Danny’s business and wife’s house are in Toronto and it’s a British commonwealth, the suit has frozen his assets.
The deposition, or letter rogatory, takes place over video with a judge who proves perhaps the most annoying of The Good Wife’s quirky judges, demanding the lawyers call him “Your lordship,” and greet him with “Good morning” even though it’s evening in Chicago. Will blows it by doing his usual American pontificating, leaving the more deferential Alicia and Brannon to take over. They touch on the issue of “libel tourism,” which is apparently something Roman Polanski and Arnold Schwarzenegger did. And we learn what I assume is true, that Parliament was going to change their libel laws to eliminate libel tourism, until the recent News of the World brouhaha — yet another current event the Kings are probably kicking themselves for not being able to address over the hiatus.
Thrush is pure asshole, consistently undermining Brannon. Then he wanders around Will’s office carrying a baseball bat and giving a speech prompted by nothing about how he’s not the England of “doilies and cucumber sandwiches,” but is instead the England of “football hooligans and Jack the Ripper.” It just seemed like an excuse to give Izzard something to do since he’s likely never coming back; it’s not like Lockhart Gardner are going to be trying a series of cases by video conference in the U.K. Thrush’s other main function is to spar with Alicia, which turns Will on with “American revolution” fantasies. She playfully offers to dress up. He wants to “take” her in his bathroom on a ten-minute break, but Diane spots them, though she doesn’t suspect anything yet, and inadvertently spoils the plan. Between that and their brazen fondling of pinkies during the deposition, they’re asking to get caught.
Lockhart Gardner wins points by playing a tape of the dying man talking on satellite phone to his wife, who creepily recorded the conversation so their son can listen to it one day. Then Alicia discredits a female witness whose vision was blurry from having gotten Lasik right before the climb; why she shows up to court wearing glasses is never explained. The case seems almost won when they hit another impasse. Though Cardiff allegedly did the same thing to a dying Japanese climber on Trango II in Pakistan, he has, through another quirk of British law, won a superinjunction against Trango II ever being mentioned or even discussed. “It is as if the book [about Trango II] and its events and even events questioning the events never happened,” explains Thrush. “We would ask for a superinjunction to prevent the mention of the superinjunction.” The only way to discuss the events of Trango II in court is if they are a matter of discussion in the British press. Alicia takes care of that by getting Eli and his “geek squad” of “Internet trolls who tweet anonymously” (Becca????) to take up the cause. Brannon questions Cardiff and gets him to admit that he did indeed bypass a dying Japanese climber and take his gear. And since Cardiff is about to head off on another mountain-climbing trip to Patagonia, the book isn’t subject to libel laws since it serves as a warning to future climbers of Cardiff’s pattern of abuse.
The warning flags don’t go up nearly fast enough, though, in Diane’s section of the office where Peter has asked the firm to interview for being the state’s attorney’s outside counsel on civil matters. It would bring in $20 million a year and Diane wants to go for it. Her first hint at something amiss should have been when Will told her she ought to do the pitch without him. She’s worried there’s something he isn’t telling her; she doesn’t want to get blindsided. “Have you noticed you’re turning into me? All those sports metaphors,” Will asks. “I’m a better version of you,” Diane rebuts. They have a nice laugh.
But when she gets to the SA’s office, she is indeed blindsided. What starts out as a civil conversation turns into one filled with menace, as Peter and Cary ask Diane to voluntarily submit the firm to an official audit by the state board of taxation in order to prove that they’re not running off of Lamond Bishop’s drug money. The scene is masterful, with Noth playing the bomb dropping perfectly; there’s no menace in his tone, and he seems reasonable and friendly, but as the camera does a well-timed zoom in on Christine Baranski’s face, its clear she knows that something isn’t right.
But she suppresses her better instincts and goes back to Will to see if he has other ideas. He suggests asking Peter if he’d accept an audit by an independent accounting firm. “Let’s not expose ourselves on a subway platform unless we have to,” says Will. “What a colorful and pointless metaphor,” Diane replies. They have another laugh. But Peter wants a departmental audit only, and he hasn’t asked any of the other two firms up for the job to do the same. Diane says she’d never butt into Alicia’s personal life, but does just that, dropping by her apartment unexpectedly, transparently looking for a clue to what’s going on in her marriage. She’d called the office and Peter said he was home; that he’s not there sends up red flags. Alicia knows she’s been made but refuses to answer direct questions about Peter. So Diane tries another tack: “If you were assisting me in this decision, how would you advise? Agree to the audit or not?” Alicia the Moral advises not, and the look on Julianna Margulies’s face at that moment expresses exactly why she got that Emmy: She’s humiliated, her job is now at stake, her boss sees her as a liability, the husband that she kicked out of her life is still controlling it from afar, and she’s just found out that Peter has moved on from hurt to vengeful.
Diane turns down the offer to get audited. In her mind, Alicia is why the firm just lost a potential $20 million. Alicia’s relationship with Peter was supposed to benefit the firm; it’s why they kept her instead of Cary, and now they’re losing money and they may soon start losing cases. She gets Will to agree to let Alicia go if things get worse. But what will Diane do when she finds out that Will could soon make Peter even more wrathful? Could this be the real beginning of the end for their partnership?