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The Good Wife Recap: Female Troubles

"The Art of War"-- Alicia (Julianna Margulies, left) represents Laura Hellinger (Amanda Peet, right), an Army captain who accuses a civilian contractor of attempting to rape her in Afghanistan, on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday Nov. 4.

You’ve been brainstorming for weeks in the comments about what kind of dark arts Maddie Hayward could be practicing behind the scenes with all her Alicia-courting and Peter-endorsing, and now we finally have our answer.

With those five words, “I’m running against your husband,” season four has its first official, truly qualified supervillain. (Yes, we know Nick did show up earlier, but he quickly became so absurd that we know it’s only a matter of time before Kalinda will prevail over him. Besides, it seems like his story line may be wrapping up sooner than originally planned.) Maddie, on the other hand, has money, influence, and guile to spare. She could only be more perfect if she were wearing a monocle.

All of this, of course, raises the question: Does this mean that the whole Indira Starr story was conjured up by Maddie, too, like some of you have suggested? Was her initial funding of Peter’s campaign — and ostensible payoff of Indira — all part of the sunk costs she budgeted for her own run all along? If so, wow. And also, yikes. This woman sounds practically as calculating as Chinese General Sun Tzu, author of the classic military strategy doctrine that gave this week’s episode its title.

It’s modern warfare, however, not the political sort, that’s the issue at hand for the case of the week. Military Judge Kuhn (Linda Emond) is back, but this time she’s at the L&G offices on behalf of a female JAG corp lawyer who’s claiming an attempted rape by a military contractor while stationed in Afghanistan. Judge Kuhn wants Alicia to represent her in a civil action suit against the contracting firm Martinel-Lewis, since the military court decided there wasn’t enough evidence to mount criminal charges. Everything’s complicated by precedent, though, most notably the Supreme Court Ferris ruling of nearly 90 years ago, which excuses active-duty soldiers from liability.

This thread could have been a total yawn were it not for all the amazing guest stars once we get to court. Brian Dennehy! Amanda Peet! And of course our favorite bleeding heart hippie judge, played by Denis O’Hare.

Seems that outside contractors might be protected by Ferris, which prevents L&G from getting a subpoena for the accused rapist at the outset, but then Alicia disproves that one with a shrewd line of questioning to the Martinel CEO, so Mr. Smug does have to appear. There was some back-and-forth and a deft assist by Judge Kuhn, but in the end, the case gets dismissed because, while L&G established that the attack did take place, it seems that since the accused was five minutes into his active-duty deployment, he was protected by Ferris after all. (Sidebar: We were confused on this one. First he wasn’t protected, then he was? Plus, isn’t alcohol banned on U.S. bases in Afghanistan? How would the two of them have gotten tipsy at the MWR?) But anyway, props to the nuanced acting chops of Brian Dennehy to telegraph the emotions behind his hollow victory with just a few withering looks to his entitled client, and to Peet, who played vulnerable and tightly wound flawlessly.

Other items of note: Kristin Chenoweth returns (yay!); Eli got Mandy Post fired (ha); and Hayden is reading the Steve Jobs biography, which is why he’s acting bitchy.

But back to the Maddie bombshell. In the words of General Sun, for the winning side to prevail, “the best policy is to capture the state intact; it should be destroyed only if no other options are available.” Hmmm … let’s see: Maddie has already said she’s willing to spend her own money to bankrupt Peter’s team, she’s potentially not above playing puppetmaster to create nonexistent sex scandals, and she has dirt from Alicia that could humiliate her and undercut Peter. If she continues on this path, one has to wonder how intact “the state” will be by the end of this campaign — and we don’t just mean Illinois.

Loose Threads

  • Congrats to Josh Charles, who makes his directorial debut with this episode. Nicely done! If he keeps this up, we may have another John Slattery–style double threat in our midst.
  • How much do we love the super neighbor from Louie (Yul Vazquez) as Jackie’s new caretaker, Cristian? Please let there be a mambo scene coming up.
  • Quote of the night: Captain Hellinger to Alicia after losing the case: “What do you do when it’s all over?” Alicia: “You start up again.”
Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/CBS