Uh-oh: Jackie’s seeing bugs, the 27th floor is dead (long live the 27th floor), and Peter’s latest scandal refuses to disappear. Was this the best episode of the season so far or what?
Perhaps it’s just relief at not having to watch Kalinda and Nick get it on with spaghetti carbonara — or not having to watch Nick at all! — but I thought “Don’t Haze Me, Bro” was a crackly delight from start to finish. Much like the deceptively angry tune “I Swear” by Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside that threaded its way through the hour (did anyone catch what I think was a cameo by the band at the straw poll event?), this episode took some complicated feelings and laid them over a punchy beat with plenty of wit and slick production values. If you weren’t looking hard (or were new to the show), you just might have missed a lot of the tension and fear at its core. Among them, ideas like: It sucks to be powerless to stop the spread of humiliating rumors (Alicia); it sucks when it seems like everything always comes back to money and you can’t just have a giggly evening discussing Spanish filmmakers and drinking gin (Maddie); it sucks to have to be cagey about research you’re doing for your former boss whom you slept with about someone else he potentially slept with (Kalinda); and it sucks to go straight from the hospital to a public speaking engagement when you might be losing your mind (Jackie).
But on to what happened: Everyone’s favorite mother (in-law) is back and dressed to the nines for her release from the hospital after having a stroke at the end of last season. (Sidebar: We checked out the medications that flashed by briefly on her discharge form — prodexiphan, cytrophynal, protexinol — and they seem to be made-up names. Why?) Peter’s there as the dutiful son to pick her up and get her settled back at his house, plus he’s had Eli book some softball appearances for her on his behalf to keep her busy. Nothing can go that wrong at a sparsely attended luncheon for the Alliance of Retired Americans, right?
Mandy Post from Synth magazine finally gets her sit-down with Alicia to confront her with those Indira Starr rumors, and Alicia plays it predictably cool and unruffled. “I could kiss you,” says Eli, after her command performance. “Well, that would give them something to write about,” Alicia cheekily replies.
The case of the week comes on the heels of the death of college freshman Trey Lawson, who was killed during a water-polo-team hazing ritual called the Dunk at Chicago Polytech. His teammate Wayne Crockett plead guilty and is serving eight years, but now Lawson’s family is suing the school for liability. There’s graphic video of the event, à la the death by stun gun at the anti-NATO rally two episodes ago, and there’s plenty of testimony showing that the school knew about the Dunk and its dangers for decades, so this one seems like it’s in the bag. But, of course it’s not, especially since we’re only six minutes in.
Back at the L&G offices, Will is doing one final walk through the 27th floor that they’ve had to give up since Maddie Hayward wouldn’t agree to a new payment plan and Hayden is tightening the reigns. “If you ever want to be motivated, just come on down to the 27th,” Will tells Diane. “It’s a kick in the ass.” (Sidebar: How great would it be if all companies had this sort of magical dead space where you could swing by for a minute and then emerge newly motivated and focused, like Diane does later on?)
Of course, the liability case gets more complicated, as wild-haired opposing counsel Jared Andrews (John Glover) keeps flipping the script on what his defense is actually about. First he claims the school isn’t liable because the death was a hate crime, since some teammates made fun of the victim using gay slurs. But! Trey wasn’t gay, as Diane proves with testimony from one of Trey’s girlfriends. But! He still could have been gay, as plenty of gay men sleep with and marry women, says Andrews. (Like potentially the presiding judge here — ha.) And! Who cares if he’s not gay if people thought he was gay, hence, the hate crime still stands. And onward into the definition of swishiness and mannerisms as a proxy for a protected class, and finally, Andrews tries a Hail Mary pass and morphs it into a black-on-black hate crime, since Trey apparently mocked his killer for not being black enough, but that’s where things finally trip up. Seems that Trey and Wayne were in rival black fraternities that had a history of fights between them. No two athletes from these frats had ever been on the water-polo team at the same time, and the school was aware of this animosity, hence, liability is proven. Nicely done! We’re pretty sure this kind of legal tap dancing on the fly is pretty unrealistic (lawyers in the comments — anyone?), but I found it quite enjoyable to watch and challenging (in a good way) to follow. Plus, who doesn’t love a rapid-fire argument hinging on semantics?
But back to those bugs. They’re everywhere: from Jackie’s bee lapel pin in the beginning to her dragonfly one in the middle and of course those creepy CGI cockroach things invading her peripheral vision. They were absurd and scary all at once, and we have to hand it to the writer of this episode, Keith Eisner, for sustaining such a unique and ominous tone here without going overboard. We last heard from Eisner in season three in that complicated number centering on Colin Sweeney, bondage, and stolen semen, so we know he can do amusing and enormous changes at the last minute with finesse. It’s not a total surprise that the biggest pest of all arrived in the show’s final minutes and goes by the name of Jimmy V. This nasty blogger's got a menacing voice and news that appeared to make Eli’s blood run cold, but, worse than that— it sounds as though it’s going to take a lot more than Raid to get rid of him.
- “I’d hate to limit your scope,” Hayden says to Cary, in that excellently layered moment where he tells him he’s getting an office (sort of). Hayden, we’re not completely sure what your motives are yet, but we feel the same way.
- Will to Diane, after she wins the case: “It feels pretty good, doesn’t it?” “Winning?” she says. “No, nothing to lose. Welcome to the lifeboat.”
- Eli to Mandy Post at the straw poll after he got her story killed. “It gives me no pleasure wasting my time to prove you wasted yours. Here, have a sausage.”