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The Good Wife Recap: False Positive

"Live From Damascus"--Caitlin (Anna Camp, center) helps Alicia (Julianna Margulies, right)as she presents the firm\'s case against a software company being represented by Viola Walsh (Rita Wilson), on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday,Feb. 19 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Urggghhh. Just as all of us predicted, Will’s triumph over the grand jury last week was a false positive. He’s not pregnant. So sad. He is, however, out of the law for the next six months. That something of this magnitude would result from the season-long build-up was inevitable. How it came about though, doesn’t quite make sense, given that Wendy Scott-Carr took the job of special prosecutor to bring down Peter. Why take Will’s infractions to the bar association when all that does is further Peter’s agenda? Is she operating from sore-loser vindictiveness? From righteousness? Or is it another red herring, and did someone with a better motive make the leak? Was it Cary? This show has made its name on avoiding the obvious, and Wendy Scott-Carr is far more complex than the easily foiled, heartless villainess she was made out to be last episode. My money is on Will having someone else who wanted to see him squirm, and Wendy coming back toward the end of the season and wreaking real damage on Peter.

With the failed grand jury investigation, Will is free and clear on judicial bribery charges. But now that the bar association knows about the $45,000 he took from a client’s account 15 years ago, he’s in danger of losing his law license. With the bar association, there is no statute of limitations, and they don’t care if he put the money back. Misconduct is misconduct. His only hope for leniency comes when Diane tells the disciplinary board, led by Grandpa Gilmore (Edward Herrmann as Lionel Deerfield), that Will started the pro bono program at L&G. It’s not true; he fought the pro bono program the whole way. They give him two options: A six-month suspension—no clients, no cases, no entering a courtroom except as a private citizen—in deference to his good work with the pro bono program; or fight the charges and accept the board’s ruling, which would be permanent. Gone is the bravado Will had before the grand jury, knowing he hadn’t bribed those judges (or that he could get out of it if he had; I’m still not convinced he’s innocent). Gone is the sense that he can outsmart this thing. Gone is his fight.

Suspension would be the obvious choice for almost anyone, but Diane isn’t sure Will can take it. “Six months away from the law will kill you,” she tells him. Besides not being able to enter the courtroom, he also can’t enter the office unless it’s to hand off cases or deal with the business. He obviously won’t draw a salary. The firm’s name will change to Lockhart & Associates. And there is the stain on his public record. Everyone will know about his suspension, and likely why it happened. Someone who knows the way law firms work, please answer this in the comments: What will this blow to his reputation mean when he returns to work, as Diane says he can and shall? Is he tainted property now? Will his clients ever trust him again? If Diane thrives without him, will she realize that reigniting their partnership isn’t to her advantage?

Whatever the ultimate outcome, Will’s suspension is a thrilling and daring reboot, better, I’d say, than the Peter-Kalinda revelation and subsequent Peter-Alicia separation of last season. Though the circumstances are somewhat similar—a big change foisted upon one of our main characters—Will is owing up to his mistakes, rather than trying to cover them up, as Peter did. This time, the big shakeup feels like a good thing, a chance to move forward. It’s propelled our heroes toward character growth rather than miring them in the job of picking up the pieces of their shatter existences.

Tellingly, Will is thinking aloud with Alicia when he decides to give in and take the suspension. The Will of Season One and Season Two would have fought it. But Season Three Will seems so at peace having made up his mind—he did the deed and needs to accept the consequences—and finally rid himself of the monkey he’s carried for 15 years. Is this the Alicia effect? Her stricter sense of right and wrong seems to have rubbed off on him, just as his sense of moral grayness has rubbed off on her. And now she’s his role model for strength and resilience. If Alicia could step away from the law for a decade and come back amid a humiliating public scandal, he can do the same. It’s thrilling to see how beautiful Alicia is in his eyes, how she managed to change a man just by being herself, and how small Peter looks compared to Will in this moment. Peter may love her and want to protect her, and he did fire Wendy Scott-Carr for having hurt her, but he doesn’t act like she makes him want to be a better man. He may be behaving well, but his heart’s not in it. Will taking the suspension is as loud a declaration of his devotion and worthiness for Alicia as the Voicemail of Love. But since this is The Good Wife, she of course doesn’t get this and it comes at a times when she’s ruled out all possibilities of being with him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Will evolves now that he’s all on his own. Will he go through a hilarious depression filled with fantasy baseball and beard growth and lounging around in track pants and very unflattering Under Armor sleeveless turtlenecks? The official impediments to his relationship with Alicia have finally lifted, but she’s shown no signs of being able to handle both him and her kids. My guess is that he starts something serious with someone else, and that by the time she realizes she wants him back, things may be too complicated. With Will gone, the energy of L&G has turned decidedly female. This is Alicia’s chance to show her mettle without a man around, and to really take Diane’s lead, as Will suggested. We know Alicia and Kalinda will be working closely together now that Alicia has taken over Kalinda’s tax case from Will, and secrets about Kalinda’s past will surely surface. Kaitlin is poised to become the new Alicia, or at least do more than look pretty and blonde and say things like, “Really? That’s why you brought us in here?” Will may always have a place at L&G, but in six months, will the firm have changed so much that he no longer fits in? Will he even want to come back? All I know is that Josh Charles has never looked hotter than he did marching toward the elevator with that baseball bat over his shoulder, determined to make the best of an uncertain future.

When it comes to punishment, the world of The Good Wife strikes me as less like that of Mad Men than like that of Lost. In Mad Men, all bad behavior has consequences from the divine hand of Matt Weiner. Roger’s heart problems seem to stem directly from his philandering with anyone who is not Joan, whether it’s with his secretary wife or the Double Mint twins. Don’s running away from his past leads directly to his brother’s death, and so on. Punishment causes change, but fundamentally the characters aren’t becoming better people; Don’s loses Betty partly because of his true identity, but instead of going with a smart, challenging, age-appropriate woman like Faye, he’s replaced Betty with a much younger woman who simply accepts him without question. Self-preservation on Mad Men is staying afloat and swimming farther than the next guy, not evolving.

In The Good Wife, as with Lost, punishments are few and far between. Our heroes are allowed to keep making questionable choices and getting away with them. They win cases with guilty clients, or get by on technicalities, or sacrifice others in the name of figuring out the island’s mysteries. And every time they get away with something without punishment, it’s as if they’re taking another shovelful from a hole at their feet, until suddenly they’re standing on the edge of a cliff, unable to move without being forced to confront their demons. Will’s acceptance of his punishment is the equivalent of deciding that getting on the submarine to return to the messy but real life before the island. It’s about deciding what kind of person you want to be, rather than preserving who you are.

 What I love about this show is how quickly Will’s first juicy case after beating the grand jury indictment turns into his last hurrah before having to leave the law. Everyone’s so punchy at the start of the episode. Alicia even makes a joke. Alicia! “So this is where creativity goes to die,” says Neil Gross, the head of Chumhum (that fictional tech giant that’s battling Zuckerberg stand-in Patrick Edelstein for world domination). “No, that’s the next floor,” says Alicia, dryly. He doesn’t get it.

This is a case that dips back into the show’s common themes of unrest in the Middle East and technology’s hold on our lives. L&G represents the families of three dead American protesters who are suing Chumhum for selling data-mining software to the Syrian government that was used to decript the protesters’ phone conversations and emails in order to capture and kill them.

Kalinda of course has a source inside Syria who’s feeding her information from the ground. Cute and wonderful Jonathan Groff is the brother of one of the captured protesters. When Groff’s sister turns out not to be dead, Kalinda’s source, Samir, helps with her rescue, only to disappear himself. Is he dead? Will she have to lead a remote mission to free him now? It’s probably the former, but hoping for the latter. Oh, and she also awesomely exposes a 30 year-old dude in Kansas for posing as a lesbian Middle Eastern blogger in a nod to recent-ish headlines.

Denis O’Hare is a delight as always as hippie judge Charles Abernathy, who is over the moon about the Occupy Wall Street protesters just outside of their courtroom (that is not on Wall Street but in Chicago… technicalities). He salutes “these amazing young men and women” who are “braving 30-degree with a grit in their eyes and a shared cause to challenge a system.” His sniffling during very serious moments because he got pepper sprayed lending them his support is priceless.

Chumhum loses when Will gets the cute Indian guy from 90210, who here is a Chumhum tech support phone operator, to admit that the company assists Syrian government officials in getting their data-mining software to operate properly. That means that not only did Chumhum knowingly sell their product to a totalitarian regime, but also they help the despots use it, and in using it, the despots kill people. Groff’s sister survives, though. Tears. Happiness. Diane was worried about Will trying too hard to hit a home run with his last at bat. He hits one anyway.

Change is afoot everywhere. At the State’s Attorney’s office, Cary’s also clearing house, which includes downgrading Dana from courtroom action. She was just following Wendy SC’s orders, she claims, though we also know she’s a bad flirt and made a lot of those mistakes all on her own by being not as awesome as Kalinda. She’s pissed off enough to make it clear that she’s downgrading Cary out of her pants in return. Totally fine, as long as this means he and Kalinda can finally get together.

Meanwhile, Eli is getting back into politics, which is where he belongs. What a treat it is to have Alan Cumming sparring with both Parker Posey as his ex-wife, Vanessa Gold, and Amy Sedaris as his occasional sex partner and Vanessa’s campaign strategist, Stacie Hall. Stacie has plenty of moves, like walking into Eli’s office and talking about how she can still taste him from the night before. Or leaving her sock in his office so she can pick it up in front of Vanessa, thus alerting her to the fact that she and Eli have been fishing. But Cumming and Posey are so good together—I know this is sacrilege to say—you almost wish Sedaris would just give them the floor. They bicker just as beautifully as Stacie and Eli, but in between zingers, there are humanizing moments of tenderness he and Stacie will never have. And at least in this arena, Eli seems to have Stacie beat. When he tells her to go public with her affair with a Bin Laden and use it to make her opponents seem racist and insensitive to the plight of the Middle East, you know she’s in good hands.

All of this sets us up nicely for the rest of the season, but the indelible image is Will’s goodbye to Alicia. They joke about how he’s stayed late, trying to “squeeze out one last billable hour,” and what he might do next (write a rock opera). They seem so connected and at ease with one another. The longing, love, and affection are palpable. But there he is, stepping into the elevator and urging her to follow Diane’s lead now instead of his. And there she is, standing in the hall. They ended Season Two both rising in the elevator, with the doors opening and closing to new floors and increased passions. Last night, doors closed between them. She stayed put on a high floor and he descended to who knows what. Will they ever wind up in the same elevator again, or has that door shut forever?

Photo: Jeffrey Neira/©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved