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The Good Wife Recap: Arrest Me

"Another Ham Sandwich"-- Eli (Alan Cumming) tries to decipher Stacie Hall√¢¬?¬?s (played by Amy Sedaris) true motives when she starts flirting with him as they continue to vie for the same clients, on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday, Jan. 29th (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: David Giesbrecht/CBS √?¬©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

The subject line of the e-mail CBS sent out about this episode was “The Good Wife’s Biggest Ep Yet?” The long-awaited grand jury hearing on Will Gardner’s judicial bribery charges is one of the bigger moments of the season. But for all the satisfying twists, the trial seemed to lead to a foregone conclusion: Will getting off. Is it a red herring? Troubles for our Mr. Gardner may be far from over.

The episode starts out with Diane filling Alicia in on Will's grand jury hearing, which seems impossible, because HOW DOES ALICIA NOT KNOW?! This scene seems engineered to remind us how serious the allegations of felony judicial bribery are (disbarment and three to seven years), and to give Alicia a chance to have a tender moment in the hall with Will. For all her protestations that she doesn't love him, she sure looks like she probably does. 

Just as Peter was the catalyst for the investigation, he’s also the one person who can stop it. As Elsbeth points out, Will is pretty much guaranteed to get indicted, unless the state’s attorney pulls the plug. And the only reason Peter would do that is if he thinks the proceedings will hurt him. The key will be to demonstrate the ways in which the indictment could hurt Peter and to perform for Cary, who is the direct line to Peter, rather than for Wendy Scott-Car, who’s a free agent.

The strongest moments hinge on Alicia's relationships. She immediately offers to help Will with "my knowledge of the State's Attorney's office," meaning that she's going to set up a meeting to talk with Peter about Jackie that's really a meeting to talk about Will. (You gotta love that as soon as Alicia mentions Jackie's name, Peter knows he’s got serious damage control ahead.) That meeting over wine in her kitchen at eight o'clock — her usual meeting time with Will, coincidentally — is nearly as fraught as the moment when Alicia kicked Peter out. Alicia jumps straight into asking Peter to drop this silly case. He asks her why: Is it because of the firm or Will? They’re the same thing; he’s her boss. Then Peter finally drops the bomb he’s known this whole time: “The boss who you’re sleeping with.” Is that the issue? And Peter explodes with what Alicia has known all along: “Of course that’s the issue!”

The fight gets meaner from there. Peter accuses Alicia of having gone so far down the L&G wormhole that she’s become a pro at lying. “Well, you would know about pros,” she retorts. Ouch. But perhaps he’s right about that wormhole. She wants him to bend his ethics to help her, which he can only do by helping Will. This is something Saint Alicia would never have said in season one or two. Has her ordeal with Peter hardened her heart and loosened her ethics? Or does she really love Will and is willing to throw away her beliefs to save him? The answer is too much to contemplate. Peter leaves the room.

At the beginning, Will’s ability to be saved is highly in question. Daddy Detective on the stand brings up some compelling circumstantial evidence: Will’s win rate is 75 percent, far higher than the usual 60 percent ceiling. And with three justices — Winters, Dunaway, and Parks, all of whom play in his pickup basketball league — his win rate is an astounding 95 percent.

Each of Lockhart Gardner’s major players is called to the stand in turn. Diane is up first, and she mostly kills it, following the strategy of bringing Peter’s name up as much as possible so as to drag him through the mud with Will. When Wendy brings up the $45,000 Will borrowed from a client in Baltimore to pay off a gambling debt, Diane says, “All I knew is what you told me when you questioned me in my office. And that Peter Florrick, the State’s Attorney, didn’t think there was enough evidence to prosecute him.” When Wendy asks her about the pickup games, Diane mentions that Peter often attended them, too, Why didn’t Diane go? Wasn’t it because she found them to be corrupt? “No. Oddly, it was because I didn’t play basketball,” says Diane, awesomely. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong for judges and lawyers to unwind while playing sports, and my guess is that the current state’s attorney doesn’t think so either, or he wouldn’t participate.”

But Diane’s testimony does bring up a few key vulnerabilities. Wendy is harping on the McDermott case, about a little boy who died from eating food tainted with peanut oil. Will had requested to take it over from Diane after they’d been assigned to Judge Parks’s courtroom. Didn’t Diane explain the switcheroo to the associates as being because Will had “a better relationship with Judge Parks”? Yes, she did. But the bigger question is how does Wendy Scott-Carr know about a conversation Diane had with the associates? CUT TO: Kalinda in a car with Dana, who’s extorting her for more information by threatening to use that possibly forged rider to get Alicia disbarred.

David Lee is next. And the State’s Attorney’s office is starting to look ridiculously incompetent. Are they really reading off something David Lee said to Chicago magazine about Will being “sneaky” as evidence that he’s been bribing judges? Then they’re asking him if him doing trust work for Judge Parks at below his usual fee was a form of payoff for the McDermott settlement. David Lee points out that he also did trust work for Peter Florrick at a cost below his fee. And that’s that.

Will now knows that everything about this case is centering on Judge Parks. So he of course immediately goes into Parks’s office and hands him a mysterious envelope. Daddy Detective of course sneaks in after him and takes a photo of the handoff. Parks is then immediately called to the stand and asked about the envelope. He pleads the fifth.

Against Elsbeth’s advice, Will takes the stand and does not plead the fifth. It’s a brilliant strategy. When Wendy asks him in an accusatory way what was in the envelope he handed Parks, he tells her it was $2,000 for an immunization drive for kids in Uganda. He has a receipt. But why would he do such a thing? “Because I think kids in Uganda ought to be immunized.” Then Wendy produces e-mails Will sent to Judge Parks discussing the McDermott settlement. In no world is it okay for a judge and attorney to discuss a settlement. Will says they must have been forged, and then produces the real e-mails, addressed not to Parks but to his associates. The SA’s office got played! When Dana confronts Kalinda, Kalinda gives her permission to hit her. She does.

Elsbeth figures it out: McDermott was the bait to hide Will’s real vulnerability. Alicia’s face on the stand is the next thing we see. Is she the vulnerability Elsbeth is talking about, or is there something much more scandalous still hidden? Is it out of desperation or meanness or stupidity that Wendy asks the question, “Have you been engaged in a sexual relationship with Mr. Gardner?” Even Cary thinks she’s gone off the rails, and in a move that makes you want to stand up and cheer for him, walks straight up to Wendy and tells her, “This line of questioning is inappropriate.” Wendy dismisses him and keeps pressing Alicia for details. Is the affair still active? No. When did it begin? The spring. When did it end? A few months ago. Was it during the time of the affair that her office get moved up to the same floor as the senior partners, and that she was told she was on a track for partnership? Whoa, lady! And in a moment that will make you want to stand up and cheer for Alicia, she gets up and walks out. “You are out of control,” says Alicia, then dares Wendy to arrest her for contempt of court?

Was Wendy trying to hurt Alicia as a way of hurting Peter? Did she know that Alicia’s testimony about her affair with Will — which it would go public if he got indicted, but is otherwise sealed — would hurt Peter’s further campaign efforts? In any case, she miscalculated. And those miscalculations have the unintended effect of making the jury sympathetic to Will and Alicia. One woman wants to know why it matters if Alicia is sleeping with Will; at least she’s getting some. And everyone wants to know who this Peter guy is. He and that judge guy sound way more corrupt than Will. Why isn’t Wendy going after them? It’s an easy, crowd-pleasing solution that takes the onus of Peter to have to risk his newly ethical reputation to keep Alicia’s testimony about the affair from going public. If indictment had seemed imminent, would Peter have pulled the plug? At the very least, he’s not happy. When Wendy comes in to do a postmortem, he sends her on her way in the coldest way possible: “Thank you for your services. My assistant will validate your parking.”

Comic relief comes in the form of Eli trying to land an account crisis managing for the hilariously named GLAC, or Gay & Lesbian Alliance of Chicago. Since Alicia is busy helping Will, he’s been given Caitlin, of whom he is already dismissive and who is further hampered by being both the niece of Eli’s mortal enemy, David Lee, and by being “Alicia-lite.” Fun fact 1: David Lee is apparently important to the gays; Caitlin being his niece could help sway GLAC. Does that mean he’s one of them? We present his Gilbert and Sullivan costume as Exhibit A. Fun fact 2: Alicia is a gay icon. “I didn’t decide it,” says Eli. The gay blogosphere did; Alicia’s suffering as a spurned wife has made her iconic. 

Eli is so dismissive of Caitlin he’s making her make copies of last year’s files. Mostly, he’s petulant about the way Alicia treats him. Eli is an equity partner and she’s a third-year associate. “You’re making me resort to marriage counseling speak,” says Eli, who must know a lot about marriage counseling given his extremely healthy relationship with ex-wife Vanessa. “But I feel you’re treating me with the degree of disregard as you did when I was your husband’s campaign strategist. And I think that is wrong, not kill-a-puppy-wrong but wrong as in incorrect. Working off old information. We all need to reevaluate our working relationship.” Namely, he wants Alicia’s help in landing GLAC.

While in the GLAC lobby, Eli runs into Amy Sedaris’s cheerily manipulative Stacie Hall, who once stole the cheese lobby from him. She suggests they get drinks; they’re up for the same job so often, they ought to be friends. Eli agrees, then calls GLAC, posing as Stacie’s assistant, and asks the receptionist to relay to Stacie that her eleven o’clock meeting with Rush Limbaugh has been moved to noon. Hehe.

Their Machiavellian power plays continue to the bar, where Stacie orders them some drink with mulled wine and brandy, then piles on whipped cream. (Did she bring her own supply?) Like Elsbeth, Stacie has her some quirks. She’s trying not to curse so much, so she says “fish” instead of “fuck.” Speaking of fishing, she tells Eli, “I desire you.” Eli takes the bait. “Well go ahead, make the first movie. Right here. I’m ready. You’re the one who desires me. I’m pliable. So ply me.” No plying happens, this time, but there is some hot talk about the destabilize-your-enemy war strategies of Sun Tzu versus the impenetrable ancient Israeli fort Masada (which clearly represents Eli in all his Jewiness). Their encounter ends with Stacie spraying Eli’s hand with whipped cream an licking it off. “Okay. This is lacking subtlety,” Eli observes.

Meanwhile, Caitlin once again proves that she’s not just a dumb blonde who got her job through nepotism. (Though nepotism isn’t all bad: In a rare moment of being human, David Lee marches into Eli’s office and tells him to stop fucking with her; that she is the only thing he loves in this world.) From reading gay blogs — guess she and Eli have something in common — Caitlin realizes that GLAC isn’t looking for a crisis manager to go up against the Defense of Marriage Act, but for someone who can save the ass of the head of their board, who wrote a letter supporting the AT&T merger with T-Mobile, and then got a $60,000 grant from AT&T. Eli changes his pitch last minute and wins the lucrative account. This he tells Stacie over more playing chicken at the bar. They crash into the world’s most awkward kiss (it’s Alan Cumming and Amy Sedaris; even they’re not good enough actors to make us believe that would actually happen). Still, it’s hilarious. Eli tells Stacie he got the GLAC account, "but I still desire you.” “Okay,” she says. “Let’s go. Let’s have intercourse.”

And then as Eli is pulling up his pants, hair tousled after some mighty good “fishing” that he spots Parker Posey’s face on a brochure for “Vanessa Gold for State Senate.” So Stacie is going to be running Eli’s ex-wife’s campaign. This should be good.

Meanwhile, Alicia is pacing the kitchen, getting ready to tell her kids about what she had to admit in court when Kalinda calls to give her the news that Will wasn’t indicted. They’re having a party to celebrate, and Will and Diane dance like a couple on their golden anniversary and still in love.

But this being the Good Wife, victory is but fleeting. Peter may have ousted Wendy, but she’s now ready to take her evidence of Will’s infractions to the bar association, which surely will not be as lenient as the grand jury. And what is the true vulnerability Will was trying to hide by throwing Dana the McDermott case? Alicia can’t possibly be the only skeleton that has yet to be exposed. Most important — and this is why I love this show — the trial never answered whether Will did or did not bribe judges. He won because he and the firm were smart about strategy and better at gaining the jury’s sympathy. They didn’t win because Will is innocent. Is he?

Photo: David Giesbrecht/CBS Broadcasting Inc.