There’s a throwaway moment in the beginning of this episode where Eli is marching out of the Synth magazine offices after being caught off guard by reporter Mandy Post (Miriam Shor), who claims there might be potential confirmation of another Florrick affair. She has a hotel receipt, she says, and will go to press with the information unless he can get her an in-person meeting with Alicia. (Sidebar: How, really, does this prove anything? It’s not like it would have two names on it.) He’s petulant and cornered, and in a classic example of Eli Gold Reacting to Stuff, he grabs hold of the trunk of that braided money tree near the exit and gives it a vigorous shake like it was his philandering candidate’s neck, only stopping when some staffer walks by and catches him.
By the end of “Two Girls, One Code” (sidebar: ew), I felt a little like that tree must have: flummoxed, pissed, and a bit dizzy. Why is Nick still here? Does Will’s cockiness ever take a breather? And Alicia with that kiss. What!? There were some brighter spots — Junior Soprano as Judge Marx, Clarke Hayden’s suddenly a good guy! — but mostly this episode seemed like filler. None of our important threads were advanced in meaningful ways, and the technology-themed case-of-the-week, while fast-paced, felt overly familiar.
But on to what happened: Chumhum is being sued again, this time by a voice-recognition start-up called Margarita Motions that is claiming unfair trade practices after its search-result ranking dropped from No. 1 to the bottom of the barrel overnight. They think it’s connected to the fact they declined to buy Chumhum ads a week earlier. John Benjamin Hickey is back as Chumhum founder Neil Gross, and Viola Walsh (Rita Wilson) is still his attorney. Dominic Chianese is totally delightful as a geriatric judge Marx who is hard of hearing but still has a sophisticated understanding of SEO and link analysis algorithms.
When the team retreats to the L&G offices to try to hammer out a settlement, Will finds the conference room being occupied by another group. I first thought these people were some sort of absurdist acting troupe due to the way one dude rants at Will with a maniacal look in his eyes: “How many drinks did it take?” Turns out, Hayden has rented the space for three days to some divorce attorneys at a rate of $8,765 (nice!), and that hapless rube was not a dramatist but simply a cuckolded husband who later shouts from the wings “Stupid bitch!” Ha.
Viola Walsh tries to cut corners by sneaking into Hayden’s office to try to get the firm to accept a lowball offer, but we know this isn’t going anywhere good when Cary catches what’s happening. He brings the news to Diane later, who marches right back to Hayden, guns blazing. But wait, Diane, Hayden’s on your side; he could see right though Viola’s tactics. “You have been paranoid for so long, you don’t recognize when someone is on your side,” he tells her. Hmm … that sentiment could apply to any number of Good Wifers, no?
Back in court, Neil Gross and Will are having a pointed mano a mano standoff during questioning. Gross says they don’t touch the Chumhum algorithm and therefore can’t affect what results its surfacing, but Will gets him to admit they tweak it daily to avoid things like spam. Time to subpoena the algorithm!
The heart of this episode, however — even though it all ended up being a tease — was what happened next between Eli and Alicia. In a superbly acted little set piece, Eli looks as ashamed and queasy as ever in Alicia’s office when he’s forced to ask her about Will. All the subtext is right on the surface (the dirty games of politics, Eli’s respect for Alicia and her past betrayals), and it’s communicated most with what’s not said, plus the downcast glances and averted eye contact between them. Alicia’s elevator ride of doom as she imagines her life crashing down around her once again is only the cherry on top. Of course, we later learn the receipt was not about Willicia at all but instead a (quite plausible) story about Peter and a campaign staffer, which is then debunked.
Cut to Kalinda’s apartment in — what’s this — daylight? The place looks far less ominous with a little sun shining in and Kalinda in a tanktop looking all feminine and likely post-shag. But, of course, it’s Kalinda and Nick, so something nonsensical and dark has to be going on, right? Right. Hubby wants breakfast, and soon the two of them are smearing yolks on each other and brandishing knives, and she almost decks him with a cast-iron skillet. Cause everyone knows you can’t make a violent, psychosexual sham marriage — er, omelette — without breaking a few eggs. Can this plotline please disappear now?
Things devolve even further later on when Nick goes all Silk Stalkings and gets even more venomous when he learns of Kalinda’s involvement with Lana Delaney. (Sidebar: Poor Lana! She’s always being used or abused in some way at the worst time. And the part when she tells Kalinda, “I feel like I’m warming you up for someone else,” right after, um, servicing her? Ouch. And kinda not entirely off the mark.)
L&G cracks the Chumhum case, of course, even without seeing the algorithm. Seems that it really didn’t have anything to do with the ad buy, but Neil Gross secretly did buy Margarita Motions’ top competitor Wicked Savage, so suddenly their search results began climbing while MM’s dropped. Whoops. But before L&G can leverage this information in court or use it to pump up a settlement number, Team Shady Gross/Walsh has found a crafty way out instead. Gross hired the MM girls onto their side to run Wicked Savage, so they’re backing out of the case. “What happened to running your own company?” Alicia says.
“Things change,” says the MM developer. Oh, don’t we know it.
- That moment in Will’s office before Alicia tells him, “I feel cursed.” He reaches out to grab her hand (arm?), but she’s turned to get up before she notices. His empty hand falls against the leather club chair.
- Our past two muckracking journalists (Kristin Chenoweth, this week’s Miriam Shor) have both been from the recently departed Texas disaster show GCB. Who could be next?
- Why would Peter’s staffer Indira want to go public with a false story? Might someone be paying her?
- Eli picking up on the tension between Kalinda and Peter when they run into each other on his bus. Intriguing potential development, indeed.