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The Good Wife Recap: Kalinda Shows Some Fear

"The Penalty Box"--Judge Cuesta (David Paymer, seated) explains to Alicia (Julianna Margulies, left), Diane (Christine Baranski, right) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) that he must declare a mistrial because he is being sued and is unable to continue presiding over their current case, on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday, April 22 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Before I get going with the very strong penultimate episode of the season, I just want to acknowledge the truly heroic work you all are doing in the comments section. Fascinating character analysis. But stop talking about quitting the show. You know you’re not going to do it. Why? Because no matter how convoluted the story lines get, the actors are just too freaking good to give up on.

The raise-your-hand-in-praise moment for me this week was Archie Panjabi’s electrifying scene in which Kalinda confronted Lana Delaney. In that one brief encounter, we saw all the attributes that have come to define her — strength, savvy, sexy boots — as well as something new: fear. She tracked down Lana’s unlisted address and within two seconds, managed to both diffuse Lana’s gun-wielding anger and turn her into a quivering mess of desire, panting, and moaning. (We assume this was simply by virtue of being in Kalinda’s presence, unless there was some below-the-belt action we weren’t seeing in the frame.) Kalinda kissed her passionately, and then stopped and rested her forehead against Lana’s. Was it a sign that she wished she could want Lana as much as Lana wants her? Or perhaps her expressing that she just wants to find peace and comfort and love, to stop running, just for a second? Or did she really believe that Lana had talked to Lamond Bishop in order to get Kalinda killed?

Earlier in the episode, Lamond Bishop had come into L&G for a meeting and expressed in no uncertain terms that he was not happy getting a visit from the FBI about a tax issue regarding work Kalinda had done for him. Kalinda doesn’t need people and she isn’t afraid of anything, but Chicago’s top meth dealer does not mess around, and she does need help on this one. She needs Alicia to make the tax issue go away, and she needs Lana to stop digging. The moment her eyes started welling up as she implored Lana to stop talking to Lamond Bishop was one of the very rare instances we’ve seen of Kalinda getting vulnerable in front of another person. She was devastated after Alicia ended their friendship, but that breakdown took place in an elevator. This is a new Kalinda, one who has lost her friendships with Alicia and Cary and has now realized how much she needs them. Just showing up to the bar to see them at the end of the episode was a sign that she’s trying to reach out, that she knows she can’t do this alone. But will all of this be too late? Will her past destroy her? It was a truly remarkable piece of acting.

Even more remarkable was Lana’s response to Kalinda about stopping: “I can’t. It’s my job.” It’s horrible because there have been so many times in this show when our heroes have destroyed lives because it’s their job. They’ve just never directed that blind careerism toward someone we love, and the consequences have never been as dire as death. 

Yes, this has been a very troubled, inconsistent season. (Kind of like these recaps.) But this cast is undeniable and all signs point to this turning back into the show we fell in love with three seasons ago. Cary is back in the L&G fold and Matt Czuchry is getting a chance to emote for a change. Kalinda is going sexy-time again and Alicia’s freeze-out is finally over. Peter and Eli are back on the campaign trail, where they belong. Will is getting naked and vulnerable, the way we like him, even if it isn’t with Alicia. Cruela de Jackie is killing it (and probably killing puppies) from her hospital bed. I’m dying to know: Did she get the House of Sadness or merely manage to turn it into the House of Sadness and Resentment? She will win, Alicia. She will always win. And neither wooden stake nor silver chains nor cross nor garlic necklace will keep her at bay.

The Kings have basically said that this season was really about leading up to season four, which is both comforting and frustrating. Did you really need to take an entire season to figure out you were going to head right back where you started? Let’s take it as a wash.

My second praise-be moment came as a result of everything Christine Baranski did this episode, particularly her takedown of pompous Judge Richard Cuesta, her new client. He’s been put in the “penalty box,” or barred from the bench, because of a case he tried as a prosecutor twenty years ago. A wife-killer he’d put in prison got exonerated on DNA evidence and now the SA’s office is investigating Cuesta for having withheld evidence in order to secure the conviction. When Cuesta insists he’s done nothing wrong, Baranski glows red hot and tells him to drop his entitlement: “No. Patrick Rooney did nothing wrong and he spent twenty years in prison for it. He had his wife snatched from him and then he was accused of her murder. Your attitude, your honor, it will do more to condemn you than the evidence. You’re on this side of the bench now. You have to show humility.” Burn!

The trial is taking place in something called a court of inquiry, and because Cuesta knows every judge in Chicago, they’ve had to ship up a hick from downstate, Judge Murphy Wicks (Stephen Root, whom I vaguely remember from True Blood and about everything else I’ve ever seen). Cuesta thinks he’s an idiot, but he’s awesome, often cutting off the lawyers to question the witnesses himself. A portrait emerges of Cuesta as a guy so consumed by his job that he missed his daughter’s wedding and didn’t even send a gift. He’s so convinced of his own righteousness that he can’t accept that he may have made mistakes or blatantly broken the law. Did he leave inadmissible evidence in the jury smoking area where they could see it? Did his co-counsel? Did he miss seeing four credit card charges made on the wife’s card after she was dead and after the husband was in custody because he had prosecutorial blinders on or because his co-counsel was addicted to painkillers and neglected to show them to him? Or did he see them and is now just lying to save his ass?

Cuesta talks a righteous game and tells Diane he only believes in hell when he talks to lawyers, but he’s the one who will forever have to live with having taken away twenty years of an innocent man’s life, just after his wife was murdered. Guess what, buddy, whatever hell all the lawyers are partying at, you’re going with them.

Two interesting inter-office developments come out of this case. One, the firm decides they need to hire a new litigator to deal with the backlog created by Will’s suspension. And two, Howard suddenly decides he would like to act as a name partner now that he technically is one. The Howard situation is mostly for comic effect. They start using him as a tiebreaker vote, never mind that he’s so senile and sexist he doesn’t know who Alicia is. And that his only question in the litigator interviews is, “Who would you most want to spend time with on a desert island?”

He even briefly plays the role of Eli’s pawn, when Eli tries to recruit the old man to join him and Julius in voting Will out. Howard is too sexist to quite get the plan and decides he wants to oust Diane instead. Will rightly tells Diane to ignore the squabbles, and soon Eli is imploring Howard, “Please go back to us not talking. Please.”

The search for a new litigator brings Cary in for an interview at Alicia’s suggestion. It’s great to see them so friendly. Will isn’t convinced. He still resents Cary for, you know, trying to indict him. Plus Howard thinks he’s gay because he said he wanted to bring two boys — Thurgood Marshall and Keith Richards — to the desert island, and no girl. Wait till he asks David Lee and finds out he wants to bring Gilbert and Sullivan, and the seven Horcruxes where he keeps his soul.

Will insists they interview other candidates, but doesn’t find out until he’s in bed with Callie that she’s one of them. She’s nice and upfront about being a recovering coke addict, and Howard likes that she wants to bring Yo-Yo Ma with his cello and Brad Pitt “for a bit of eye candy” to her desert island. But Will is so freaked out to hear they might work together — is Alicia a factor? — that he gets up mid-foreplay, buttons his pants, leaves, and then cancels their next date. Callie wisely takes another job, insisting it’s not because of Will, and is back to calming him down and riling him up all at once by the end of the episode. I like them together. She’s not pulling any of that Tammy “don’t fall in love with me” bullshit. She has baggage and she’s letting Will know that she doesn’t care if he does, too. Will and Alicia forever, of course, but this is a nice diversion in the meantime. Plus, it led to my favorite line of the episode, when Will informs Diane that he’s dating Callie and Diane blurts out, “Could you please keep your pants zipped?!”

It’s a good thing Cary doesn’t know he blew that desert island question, because he’d probably be more upset about losing his SA’s job hours later. Basically, Eli blabbed to Peter that he’d seen Cary in the office for an interview. Peter gives Cary a lecture about how he prizes loyalty more than anything. Then he invokes life lessons learned in prison about the people you can and cannot count on and you KNOW he’s getting serious. Then he turns all fatherly in a way I’ve never seen him be with Zach, kind of hurt, asking why Cary didn’t just respect him to confide in him that he was having a hard time. And then all of a sudden Cary’s on the street. It’s fast and confusing, but it’s pretty clear Peter had already decided to fire Cary by the time he’d walked in the door. If L&G didn’t eventually hire him back, what would he have done?

The big payoff is Will handing Cary a managerial task, you know, given his experience as Deputy State’s Attorney: managing Howard. His latest demand? A slush fund to get clients laid.

By the end of the episode, Kalinda is the only loose end. She’d refused Cary’s invitation to get drinks with the third years, but she shows up anyway, looking like she’s about to unravel. Alicia has taken care of the tax issue to the best of her ability, having told Lana that it was a mere accounting error that Kalinda got paid directly by Lamond Bishop’s accountant. But it sounds like Lana is going to keep turning up the heat in a way that may indeed get Kalinda killed. Say it ain’t so. I’m okay with Jackie dying. But not Sexy Boots. Not yet.

The drinks provide an interesting window into what the fourth season may have in store for us. Cary observes that Alicia is popular among her fellow third-years, that she runs a little pack. We’ve never met these mysterious other lawyers. Will next year be the year The Good Wife turns into Grey’s Anatomy? Can’t wait! Alicia welcomes Cary back to the dark side. And it’s clear they’re both far less idealistic than they once were. Alicia got a judge off. Was he innocent? It doesn’t matter. And Cary says the only thing he’s learned since law school is that people lie. Our final images are Peter calling Cary? About what? He just fired him. And Alicia pulling out a chair next to her for Kalinda to sit down. I sense the return of a friendship, and a betrayal — Cary’s — just about to begin.

Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS