You have to hand it to the Kings, they love their symmetry. They may leave us hanging for months — even entire seasons — waiting for plot threads to be resolved, but when it comes to milestones in a character’s arc, they’re all about the visual callback. Double stand-by-your-man press conferences for Alicia, double bathroom quickies for the Florricks, and this week, we’ve got the double Kalinda/Nick face-off. Their saga started in the dark with a gun back at the end of last season, and the final minutes of “Battle of the Proxies” made it look mighty likely that things have ended between the two of them in exactly the same way. This was no Blake-in-the-hotel-room-with-a-baseball-bat territory. Kalinda was scared here, and we could see it, but it wasn’t just about her anymore. Nick had threatened Alicia, so Nick was going down. After all of our disappointment (and concern) for Kalinda these past ten episodes with her uncharacteristic weakness in the face of Nick’s gross and abusive dynamics, it felt like a real return to Sexy Boots form that it would take involving Alicia to finally send her over the edge. Kalinda may have been in too deep to fully stand up for herself, but she wasn’t going to let anyone — skinny chest and psychosexual food foreplay be damned! — cross her friend.
But before we get going on all that — and the case of the week, which was also a double — let’s take a minute for a tiny PSA on senior sexuality. It’s hilarious that the only shred of Florrick Thanksgiving aftermath we got was that condom Chum Hum search being traced back to Jackie. Forget about Owen, Stockard Channing, sex with Peter, and that life-size giraffe, there really is (or is about to be) a reason that Jackie has that new glow around Cristian. And she’s bucking the trend by trying to be safe about it. Good on her. Who thinks Grandma could have given a better sex talk to Grace and Zach than the horribly flustered — “you’re being a good girl?” — Alicia? Ick. Even though that moment between Alicia and Zach was adorable — “We never speak of this again” — we can’t wait to see where this one goes.
Knowing the Kings, there’s probably some obscure bit of real-life legal precedent that inspired this week’s case where two different men were on trial for the same murder in neighboring counties, as implausible as it seemed. (Lawyers in the comments: anyone?). Over in Cook County, Will’s defending Troy Malick, a man accused of murdering his girlfriend at a Chicago music fest and dumping the body in her hometown of Minooka. ASA Hellinger is in the other corner, and she seems to have gotten herself up to speed quite quickly in the ways of civilian court after her judicial bias starter case. She can stand up and shout ‘Outrageous!’ with aplomb now, and even give Will some pushback posturing when he tries to find squirrely new ways to bring up the parallel case even though Judge Morris (Jane Alexander) prohibited it. “How are you enjoying the big leagues?” Will says to her. “Oh is that what this is? Seems pretty bush league to me.” Uh-oh, someone’s getting turned on. We hadn’t seen this judge since way back in the sexy season two finale, and while back then she gave Will a little extra attention, this time she’s none too pleased with him, giving him two doses of $10,000 contempt fines.
Over in Minooka, there’s another man accused of the same murder, and this time it’s Hannah Horvath’s mom (Becky Ann Baker) defending him! This client is the victim’s ex, whom prosecution is claiming stalked her after she broke up with him. The judge here is Judge Wicks (Stephen Root) whom we last saw schooling everyone back in that season-three episode when Diane defended a Judge against long-ago potential evidence tampering. Alicia is sitting in and tries to offer help to the prosecution in the hopes that a conviction here will force a mistrial in Cook County, but the prosecutor isn’t having it. “I don’t like defense attorneys ma’am,” he says. “I don’t trust them.” After all the runaround that happens as this case unfolds, one might be inclined to agree with him by the end. But really as tricky as it was sometimes to follow, these parallel cases were an excellent illustration of one of the things this show does best: give a human face to moral ambiguity and the way both sides of the law can exploit this in the service of their client. It seems Minooka can admit evidence from Cook County, but not the other way around, and the city’s got more manpower to get things like soil analysis from the defendant’s shoes (which Alicia brings in for the prosecution) and traces of fabric from the blanket the victim was wrapped in found in the Cook County defendant’s trunk (which Matan brings in, after Hellinger calls him up to help). Are they both playing dirty? Or is it all simply the way things go at the highest level of the law? Is Will right when he says “We have to zealously represent the interest of our client … We can hate it, but it’s our job,” after Kalinda finds that blanket evidence and they realize they’re defending a guilty man? Who are the good guys here? “It’s one of those dilemmas that doesn’t come up in law school,” says the sadly-absent-from-this-episode-except-for-this-moment Cary.
We won’t skip over the new bit of intrigue on the campaign front, especially since it introduces the excellent new character David LaGuardia (Hamish Linklater), adds some fun Eli background (he’s a classical pianist!) and gives us hope that we might get a revisit from Vanessa Gold (Parker Posey) or her campaign manager (Amy Sedaris). But really there’s no good news for Eli here. Seems Mr. LaGuardia from the DoJ is sniffing around Eli’s past crisis management clients, a few of whom have become suspiciously big donors to Vanessa’s campaign. Did Eli offer them a "discount for donation"? Probably not, but LaGuardia’s noticeably uncomfortable when Eli slides that Venetian blind pic of him and Kalinda across the table. Is this the real story? LaGuardia makes him an offer that’s impossible to accept: They’ll halt the investigation in exchange for information about Peter’s indiscretions. It’s obviously lose-lose for Eli, and by the end of the episode, he doesn’t even have a choice.
But it’s the final few minutes, and those two scenes in those two bars, that really seem to set the stage for the big arcs in the rest of this season. We’re almost at the midpoint here, and since we’ll sadly be waiting until January for the next new episode (argh!), it seems like a good a time as any to reflect on how we got here and where we’re going. Is Willicia truly a thing of the past, and could we be ready to accept a Will/Hellinger match? That pretty red lipstick Laura’s wearing and the sparkle in Will’s eye when he finds her in the bar at the end of their case sure seems to suggest that the two of them are ready. As tough as it might be to see Alicia feel potentially conflicted over Will’s involvement with a woman she considers a new friend, Hellinger does seem like she could be a good match for him, and perhaps this paves the way for some sort of new progression in Alicia’s love life? (We hope without Peter.) And then there’s our other favorite platonic love story: Kalinda and Alicia. As bold and dramatic as it would have been to leave us guessing about Kalinda’s safety after her Nick standoff fades to black, the relief we felt when she walked into the bar was too great. (Sidebar: How excellent was that Pixies cover? So many awesome music choices this season.) Kalinda is noticeably looser, but we know we don’t have the whole story yet, neither about Nick or what that photo with Eli and reference to Peter’s indiscretions might mean. There’s clearly deep trouble brewing, but just for that one moment, just for the length of time of those two tequila shots for these two women side by side, all is right with the world. Down the hatch.