The Good Wife Recap: Mixed Metaphors

Photo: David M. Russell/CBS

My apologies for the late holiday recap. It’s not due to lounging, but work, and I’m hoping you all were far too fixated on Julianna Margulies looking amazing at the Golden Globes to be angry with me. Anyway, the show …

This season began with Alicia leaving Peter to try things out with Will, but I’m starting to think that this show is becoming less about Alicia’s relationships with men than about the two great (platonic) love stories that are emerging from them: Alicia and Kalinda and Will and Diane. This episode felt minor, but its final beat revealed Kalinda betraying Will for a chance to save Alicia, just as Diane has re-stated her implicit trust in Will. And in that you have the arc, with assured heartbreak all around, that will carry us through to the end of the season.

As intriguing as the case was, it was really a much-needed showcase for Kalinda, who too often this season has been relegated to impressing Eli and making Dana look like an amateur seductress (the former a seemingly impossible feat, the latter a cakewalk). Once again the technology gnomes that keep the show current are earning their worth, this time exploring the legality of an online currency, Bitcoin. It’s a digital currency that actually exists and is traded on the internet for goods and services.  It has a monetary value of $3 to a Bitcoin, and gets released into circulation via mining, like gold. As far as I can tell from my extensive Wikipedia skimming, what separates the fictional Bitcoin from the real Bitcoin is that real Bitcoin exchange is done over a public network, meaning that clients can’t be anonymous, whereas the whole reason the Treasury is up in arms in this episode is that they think Bitcoin is providing a cover for money launderers and drug dealers. Unlike, you know, cash. The penalty for creating a currency is 10-30 years.

The writing, as usual, is excellent, and the episode starts with Jason Biggs, a fine actor still known mostly for sticking his wang in some American Pie, rushing into the reception area of L&G, hotly pursued by two suits. Alicia greets him and admonishes him for trying to do a walk-in at a full-service firm.  He then dumps several bundles of cash on Alicia’s desk, and that argument is dropped. If there’s anyone the folks at L&G listen to, we’ve learned over the years, his name is Benjamin.

The suits happen to be from the U.S. Treasury, which is a fancy way of saying they’re an excuse for bringing Bob Balaban as uptight Treasury honcho Gordon Higgs back to the show. Fine by me. They’re trying to put Biggs, playing a lawyer for the cyber-world named Dylan Stack, in jail for not revealing the identity of his client, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin. Its creator will heretofore be known as Mr. Bitcoin; even the judge thinks the nickname is ridiculous. L&G had sworn off “poke the bear” cases for the sake of showboating or idealism. But as Diane points out to Will, who’s so worn out from this grand jury thing he’s now mixing metaphors, they’ll poke pretty much any animal for massive piles of cash.  

Alicia wins the motion against getting Stack to breach attorney-client privilege, only to see Higgs turn around and arrest Stack for being Mr. Bitcoin. Now the defense is two-pronged. The first attack is to prove that Bitcoin is a commodity rather than a currency; if it’s not a currency, there was no crime. She loses that argument, even with an with an assist from Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, who is beloved by the judge, even while being a terrible actor. So the second plan is for Kalinda (yay!) to prove that Stack is not Mr. Bitcoin by figuring out who the real Bitcoin is, a task further complicated because Stack can’t help out without breaching the attorney-client privilege that Alicia has just proven in court is his duty to maintain.

Kalinda has had some great investigator moments this season, most notably in the trial where she spent a lot of time with that juror who blogged about antique buttons, but this was the most impressive she’s been all season. From the moment Stack walks in the office, she’s already eavesdropping outside Alicia’s door. Then she’s in the lobby, getting the Treasury suits to show her their badges, even making them hold the badges higher so she can take better notes on their names and credentials. Kalinda is so awesomely unafraid of being annoying. Then on the suggestion of Diane, who apparently is the most tech-savvy person in the firm (!), she’s off to Decode-A-Con—ComicCon for cryptographers, which works pretty much the same way in that it’s filled with geeky men, following around the one hot chick who knows her shit. Funny, but that’s the same person Kalinda immediately gravitates toward, too.

After having done a linguistic analysis on the manifesto Mr. Bitcoin wrote when he started the program, Kalinda has determined that he’s a Mrs. Bitcoin, a programmer named Elaine Middleton, who happens to be the third-hottest geek chick in the world. Kalinda has a nice meeting with Middleton in the appropriately unpopulated ladies room, only to have Middleton point the finger at a Chinese programmer named Bao Shuwei who has a crush on her and therefore copies her phrases. Like Bitcoin, Bao’s affections are transferrable, and he develops a crush on Kalinda, then points the finger at Elaine, saying she pointed the finger at him because he found out she created Bitcoin. Higgs then brings in Elaine to point the finger at Stack. Stack in turn seems to have pointed the finger at Kalinda, since the most recent Bitcoin dump has come from L&G’s IP address, and, more specifically, from Kalinda’s computer. Kalinda gets Elaine to search her computer for evidence of who ghosted it, which then throws suspicion back to Bao.

Here’s where Kalinda as we know her comes back to true form. She flirts with Bao enough to get him to invite her back to his hotel room. She knows he should want to claim credit for creating Bitcoin because it will help him land hot girls from Occupy Wall Street. And she’s knows that it doesn’t matter if he flees, as long as she can get Higgs to come to the hotel room with her, therefore proving that he’s still looking for Mr. Bitcoin and doesn’t really believe that he has the right man in Stack. Favorite moments: 1) When Kalinda tells the Treasury goons, “You know, I’m really good at losing people, so after I lose you two, call Mr. Higgs and tell him to meet me on the 25th floor of this hotel.” 2) When Bao leaves a note saying he didn’t invent Bitcoin, but he’s now found a new obsession: Being in love with Kalinda. Well, who isn’t?  3) When Kalinda testifies that she “accidentally” recorded her conversation with Higgs because she got a new phone and didn’t know how to turn it off. And 4) When she proves to be the best investigator on the planet once again, by deducing that there isn’t ONE Mr. Bitcoin, but three: Stack came up with the idea, Elaine wrote the manifesto, and Bao wrote the code.

All of this quality Kalinda time circles back to the grand jury investigation that has been this season’s focal point. Will is getting ready for a proffer meeting with Wendy Scott-Carr, Dana, and Cary when Diane calls about the Stack case. It’s on that phone call that Diane’s undying loyalty becomes clear. They’re joking about all of Will’s mixed metaphors and clichés (“Charge of the light brigade,”  “stick our necks out,” “Poke the bear,” “roll the dice,” “sometimes the ball just bounces funny”) and she promises, jokingly, to visit him in prison every Friday. Diane is so sure she has nothing to worry about that when she asks Kalinda to keep her abreast of the investigation, she claims it’s not so that she knows when she needs to cut her losses but when she needs to help out.
And Will is in pretty great hands with the eccentric Elsbeth Tascioni, who may be the highest-functioning lawyer with severe ADD in all of Chicago and who holds meetings in a probably frigid empty office space with construction workers marching in and out, but who also knows just what she’s doing. She turns the proffer session on its head, so that when Wendy starts asking if Will saw his bookie friend, Jonathan Meade, interact with any judges, Elsbeth gets the SA’s office to name which specific judges they’re looking into. Elsbeth: “Mr. Gardner needs to know what you’re after in order to know how to help you. How can we help you if you won’t give us any direction on how to help you?” The judges, by the way, are Winter, Dunaway, Parks. As Cary tells Wendy, walking out, “She played you.”

With those judges’ names in hand, Will and Kalinda can now figure out which cases with those judges might make them vulnerable. And he is vulnerable, in more ways than one. The more touching vulnerability is when, in a secret parking-lot meeting, he tells Kalinda, tears almost welling up, how much he doesn’t want to go to jail and how he never thought he’d find himself in this position. She tells him it makes him more human and they both laugh about how that’s hardly worth what he’s going through. The Good Wife has never put much weight on sentiment.

Will’s legal vulnerability is that Meade forgave $8,000 of Will’s debt when he quit gambling. Will viewed it as a friend helping a friend, but it could look like a payoff so Will would introduce Meade to those judges. Chiefly, there’s one case file that has memos or notes that might seem to be incriminating if they get in the hands of the SA. Elsbeth implies that Will and Kalinda should figure out how not to have that incriminating stuff in the file and Will and Kalinda share a moment that seems to conclude in Kalinda deciding to destroy the memos without Will or Elsbeth’s knowledge. But then Alicia walks by and Kalinda has to make up her mind on where her loyalties lie.

In this week’s case, what everyone’s seeking, and seeking to hide, is the identity of Mr. Bitcoin. The victory is in making sure the truth doesn’t come out. But in Will’s case, the truth seems to be irrelevant. It’s not about whether Will did something wrong, but just what the SA can milk him for with the accusation of him having done wrong. In Bitcoin, three people knew the truth and were hiding it from both enemies and allies. In Will’s case, he and the judges are the only ones who know, but we’re supposed to believe that no wrongdoing has been done and that this is all a witch hunt. It’s stunning to think of how many intelligent people are involved in this and are operating on partial information.

Diane trusts Will, but she doesn’t know if he really didn’t bribe anyone, or if he just says he didn’t; only he knows that. Will and Diane both trust Kalinda, and Will is certainly trusting her to destroy the incriminating parts of that file. What they don’t know is that Dana has come to Kalinda with a smoking gun that could get Alicia disbarred: The rider from last week’s $44 million divorce suit that may or may not be a forgery. And that means that Kalinda is forced to choose between destroying the documents to save Will or turning them over to Dana to save Alicia. Dana trusts Kalinda to give her real evidence against Will, even though Kalinda has stated that she likes Will and “goes back and forth” on Dana. Dana also trusts Wendy Scott-Carr when she says she’s after Will Gardner, even though we all know that Wendy’s real target is Peter Florrick. Peter is trusting Wendy Scott-Carr to run this case for him, without knowing the grudge she holds. And all sides trust Cary; Alicia/L&G because he saved their asses by testifying on their behalf in that suit last week, and the SA’s office because he works for them and likes his job. But it does seem suspicious that the very document that got Kalinda to turn on Will is the one that Cary testified about and therefore had knowledge of. And he knows Kalinda well enough at this point to know exactly what her Achilles heel is. (Meanwhile there’s a minor, parallel home life trust issues triangle with Zach, Alicia, and Jackie over Nisa that basically results in Zack figuring out that all he has to do is get his grandma to agree with his mom in order to get his mom to change her mind.)

The stage has been set for every one of those trusts to be broken. What happens if Diane finds out that Will actually did it? What happens when Will finds out that Kalinda betrayed him? What happens to Alicia and Kalinda’s mending relationship when Alicia finds out that Kalinda destroyed the life of the man she loves (and she does), even if it was to save Alicia’s career? What happens when Dana and Cary find out Wendy’s real plan? Or if Peter does, for that matter? What happens to Cary when Peter finds out that the way he got intel on Will was by threatening to destroy his wife’s career? As of now, dear commenters, who do you trust?

The Good Wife Recap: Mixed Metaphors