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The Good Wife Recap: Ringtone of Doom

"Executive Order #13224"– When Alicia (Julianna Margulies, right) is forced to report to a government monitor regarding her new case, she hires lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston, left) to protect her own rights, on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday, Nov. 6 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: David M. Russell/CBS ©2011 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As of this week, the Good Wife may have surpassed Law & Order as the leading TV employer for awesome character actors. The string of actors who made me clap when they popped up onscreen was enough to make me gloss over the fact that I still have no idea what happened in that gratuitously confusing case of the week. Bob Balaban as a cupcake-obsessed Treasury Department representative; Carrie Preston (ARLENE!) returning as the vowel-deficient Elsbeth Tascioni, who I guess got Peter out of jail; Jay O. Sanders, a powerhouse in tons of Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park productions here in NYC, as bemused Judge Hal Ferris (bring him back!); Aaron Tveit of Catch Me If You Can and Gossip Girl, as an AUSA, who really ought to have been given some song and dance numbers rather than a single line, repeated: "This testimony may infringe on the Classified Government Procedures Act"; and Titus Welliver making his triumphant, though I assume brief, return as Glenn Childs, now an AUSA. Guess if Cook County votes you out, the feds will always take you. Childs is still as much of a jerk as ever, and oh, the look on Alicia's face when he marched into the courtroom and gave her a "What's up" head nod. I'd say that look is about five times milder than the one Cary's going to get any day now when she finds out he's pursing the SA's case against Will.

First up, mad props to whoever came up with that case. It felt like getting bulldozed by a textbook, but in a good way; I've never been more riveted by paperwork and word choice, while also having no idea what was happening. As far as I could tell, there was this guy named Danny Marwat who was imprisoned and tortured for being a suspected terrorist (or at least someone who had contact with a tribal leader connected to Al Qaeda) while he was working as a contracted translator in Afghanistan for the military. He was suing the government for $6 million for six months of torture the government denied ever took place because the government was also denying that he'd even been imprisoned.

LG manages to provide sufficient evidence that Marwat was imprisoned. They get the evidence they want, but it's in the form of a depo-dump, or piles of courtroom transcripts with all the important stuff redacted. I actually had to go through stuff like this during a summer I spent working for the Public Defenders Service in D.C., and we'd get police reports with all the witnesses' names blocked out; we tracked down a guy whom our client only knew as Bubbles, so Caitlin's a-ha moment made me feel all warm and fuzzy, though I could have done without the bleeped-out scenes between the judge and attorney. Perfectly clever, just unnecessary. But I digress.

Childs evokes Executive Order 13224, some law that requires the lawyer of any suspected terrorist to be available for questioning by an appointed official from the Treasury's office: BALABANNNNNN. Alicia is sent to be the LG representative and starts getting suspicious when he starts asking her questions she doesn't feel she can answer without violating attorney-client privilege, about certain towns in Afghanistan Marwat might have mentioned, or certain phone calls he might have made. What it all seems to lead to is that Alicia cannot actually be within hearing distance of anything that happens in the case. But she is, and that leads to her being put in the position of either telling Cupcake Balaban what she heard and sending her client to jail, or not telling him and facing eight years in prison and a fine of $250,000 herself. If the point was to make sure we know that everything the government does is completely inscrutable, it worked.

Now that Alicia needs representation, she turns to awesome Carrie Preston, an odd duck who needs to join LG stat. She's so incredibly effective in her own way, coming with ingenious loophole-y stalling techniques that she delivers amid compliments on cupcake design and fashion choices. By the time she's finished stalling, Diane has managed to get the case dismissed. We never really know whether Marwat was a terrorist nor find a reason to care either way. As my new favorite judge, Jay O. Sanders says, "Here we are, the same people, one week closer to the grave," which is sort of the way I feel after trying to sum up that case.

Meanwhile, we now know that we're building up to a season-ending showdown between Will and Peter, with Alicia in the middle if only now a side note to the two men's obvious loathing for each other. It turns out Blake's parting gift to LG was walking into the SA's office and handing Matan information about that time Will stole $45,000 from a client's account at his first firm in Baltimore fifteen years ago to pay off gambling debt (you commenters are so smart! Also explains a lot about that moment when he walked away from Celeste and the poker game in the hotel room a couple episodes back). The most interesting part of the case was not Blake's final act of revenge because, you know, who cares, or that Peter wants to use the case to bring down Lamond Bishop and his meth ring, but just how reluctant Cary was to jump onboard with the witch hunt. Does he have a soft spot for his old boss? Does he really just think it's bad for appearances, given his and Peter's personal connections to LG and that the offense is way, way out of their jurisdiction? Or does he maybe have something he's hiding in his past that he's moved on from, and therefore doesn't want to punish Will for something that happened fifteen years ago? OR does he still have a thing for Kalinda and does he know that if he succeeds he's going to destroy any chance he has with her? Please let it be answers C and/or D.

Either way, the case leads to new Deputy Attorney Cary and his new hot sidekick Dana (who of course is not leaving the SA's after all) storming into Will's office to "remind" him that he's legally obliged to let report any criminal activity he hears about Bishop while he's representing Bishop's "legitimate business" (a.k.a. money laundering) interests, and with Will reminding them that threatening him in order to get him to violate attorney-client privilege is a crime. Caitlin, of course, was perched outside of Will's office imagining him naked and was pulled in to be a witness to the interaction. Her interaction with Will thankfully included none of the undressing-with-the-eyes moments from last week; if she doesn't do the obvious and sleep with him, she's like two rungs away from being my favorite character. (Diane forever and ever.) That interaction leads to Will and Peter having an epic showdown on the courthouse steps, with Will's hot head getting the best of him. When Will wants to know why Peter is coming down on the firm, first the audit and now this, Peter says he's not going to "go there." And then of course Will does. Is there a chance that Peter didn't know Will and Alicia were having a thing? Probably not. But Will saying the "A" word in this context confirms it, prompting Peter to not only continue his LG takedown campaign, but to recuse himself so that when the eventual takedown happens, he won't be subject to accusations of bias. Dumb, dumb Will.

It's not looking good for our boy. Diane calls him about the Marwat case while she's simultaneously scarfing down lunch and looking over Afghan prison encampment aerial photos, and when he picks up the phone, he's in a nondescript location outside the office. Then mid-phone-call we hear the familiar annoying ringtone: "Mom, pick up the phone. Mom, pick up the phone." It's Grace (GRACE! — shakes fist) asking her mom if she can go to Bible Study at a nightclub; she's convinced her parents will go to hell if they get divorced, as if they weren't headed there already.

Any TGW fan who didn't go into a minor panic attack when that phone rang is hereby banned from watching the show. All four people — Will, Alicia, Diane, and Kalinda — near that phone knew what that meant. Kalinda is keeping it close to the vest, while Diane immediately called Alicia's office to find out if she was out of the office for a late lunch, too, then made it clear to Will that she knows by inviting him to a tension-laden meeting over their sexual harassment insurance, and making everyone in the office take one of those sexual harassment seminars with those hilariously terrible nineties videos with voice-over and synthesizers. Perfect music.

The sexual harassment seminar seems to be making Alicia have second-second thoughts about Will. Is the show trying to tell us that what's happening is actually inappropriate, that they're not two consenting adults who've known each other for fifteen years and are just acting on an attraction that has nothing to do with their respective positions at the law firm? I hope not. Though of course Diane is probably thinking exactly that, and she will surely claw out the eyes of anyone who threatens the firm she's worked so hard to build up. Now that she can't trust Will, the seams are already starting to show, particularly in their ridiculous made-up rift about 9/11. Will is now a homeland security hardliner who says things like, "I saw smoke from the Pentagon" and "Do you think anybody's being tortured under your friend Obama now? Do you think anybody's being tortured? No. You're trying to fight an old war now, Diane. Rumsfeld and Cheney are gone. They're writing books." What? Now we have to believe that this whole time Will and Diane have been at political odds? If they break up over this whole SA investigation and the Alicia affair, we never figure out how they ended up as partners in the first place, I will kill this show.

Photo: David M. Russell/CBS