Let’s begin at one of the only scenes that made this frustrating bait-and-switch episode worthwhile, shall we? You know, the part in Alicia’s office where she’s saying one thing but her tone belies another and then there’s all that searching eye contact and dramatic music leading up to a rushed exit? I’m talking, of course, about the Über-wistful moment between Cary and Alicia just a few minutes from the end right after she opens her first direct mail brochure from a yacht company — and we all know what it means when you start getting those ...
Alicia: Cary? They offered me equity partnership — again … I think I’m going to take it.
Cary: That’s smart.
Alicia: You think so?
Alicia: I can argue for what we want there?
Cary: Argue … what do you mean?
Alicia: With the equity partners … I can argue with them. For…things.
Cary: Sure. [Beat.] That’s a good idea.
And, scene. Sigh. Cary and Alicia — how far we’ve watched you progress, only to end up here, say it ain’t so. From competitors within the firm to competitors in the courtroom to allies to higher-level equals for one shining moment (!) to not-so-equals again in the end. Argh! It’s like the close of season one all over again, but that was back before we liked Cary so much, so now it just hurts. It’s the first Kings-penned episode in a while, so you’d think that those two could have let the dream of Cary and Alicia running things marinate for more than half an episode, but oh no, they had to dash our hopes in under an hour, but not before raising the stakes with Cary’s proposition over Tupperware at Alicia’s apartment when she hosted the spurned fourth-years for a little strategy session. “C’mon, I’m sick of waiting on other people,” he says, in that dated-looking leather jacket. (Sidebar: We hate to give Nick credit for anything, but he did have sharp-fitting outerwear.) “Florrick, Agos & Associates. Look at that, I just gave you first billing.” Imagine it, Alicia — we can!
But of course it wasn’t to be, and instead we’re left with pinched smiles and the big stuff going unsaid, as usual. So how did we get here in the first place? This whole "you’re a partner/actually, you five are partners/actually, never mind/okay, fine, one of you can have it" stuff felt needlessly complicated and lame, but here’s how it went down just in case you missed a step: Remember last episode when we got that game-changer with Cary and Alicia (and three other fourth-years we don’t care about) becoming equity partners? Just kidding, folks! L&G only did that because they were in dire straits and needed the capital contributions, and now that they’re flush they want to rethink that whole profit-sharing idea. Although last time Neil Gross said L&G would never get Chum Hum’s business even if they got his future wife’s, he obviously changed his mind — secret love child, anyone? — because suddenly David Lee’s counting up his chickens and including a $54 million retainer from the company among them. Um, okay, amazingly swift resolution to the bankruptcy plot we sat through all season, we’ll take it. “What a difference a month makes,” says a triumphant Diane, after Lee announces it’s the firm’s best quarter ever. But since crotchety Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler) is not about to “give up 5 percent of [his] yearly nut to those guys who did nothing,” the partners vote to delay the offers to the fourth-years.
Ugh. We know we’re dealing with lawyers and all, but this seems a little much; it’s transparently greedy however you slice it. Diane protests a bit, as does Will, later, but it’s hardly enough. When Alicia gets the word, she is pissed, which makes her on fire during the case of the week, which is a mock trial against Will and Diane, who are representing an energy drink called Thief in a wrongful death suit by the family of a teenage girl who died after consuming it.
When Cary and Alicia get the ask from Will to argue opposite them, Alicia’s intrigued and amused, but Cary’s a bit more circumspect. “You ever played your boss in tennis?” he asks. “They don’t really want to lose.” Clever gentleman, that Cary. (Sidebar: Cary would surely have more stylish athletic attire than Will’s basketball look, but do we think classic whites and a Royal Tenenbaums–style headband or Federer-esque black?)
“We’re partners now,” says Alicia. “They’re not our bosses anymore.” Foreshadowing alert. The two of them kick ass together in court, proving Thief not only skirted FDA regulations with their ingredients, but they also used shady marketing techniques to target anorexics. It’s only a matter of time before the client watching in another room wants to settle, implying that Will and Diane won’t be able to get the job done. Ouch. Now it’s Will who’s pissed, so of course he takes it right into Alicia’s office after hours and the dramatic music swells on cue.
There’s shouting. There are flared nostrils. There’s so much pent-up emotion that this can only go one way. And then there it is: the first Willicia liplock in more than twenty episodes. Willicia fans, tell us in the comments: Was it good for you? Was it how you pictured it? For me it felt unsatisfying, herky-jerky, and over too fast. Was I the only one who thought Will was going to slip into the elevator behind Alicia after she rushed out of the room muttering to herself? Now, that would have been a scene. Instead, we get both of them independently freaking like they accidentally set off an atomic bomb. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” Will cries. Leave it like this — here’s hoping it won’t be — and we can barely tell if Will was actually feeling something or just fired up and raw over losing. The fallout from the morning after: “We should avoid being alone together,” says Will to a skittish Alicia, which obviously is the precursor to them ending up alone together plenty.
There’s also some amusing and slightly hard-to-follow stuff with Elsbeth, Eli, and new character Josh (Kyle MacLachlan!), but the heart of "Red Team/Blue Team" was the final two minutes, with Alicia being welcomed (again) into the fold by the partners in the conference room, while Cary and Kalinda stare forlornly in from the other side of the glass. It’s wistful and slightly bitter at once, and hopefully setting things up for some shifting allegiances. (Sidebar: Kalinda’s had her arc, now if Cary doesn’t get a love interest or a new job (or both) in the last part of this season, Matt Czuchry seriously needs to call his agent.) “We’re peers now. Welcome,” Diane says to Alicia this time, but let’s not forget her puzzling, almost sinister glare at Alicia’s other partner welcome meeting last time. What’s being left unsaid now? What surprises could be in store between these two? What a difference a month makes, indeed.