Nothing says, "Our hiatus is finally over!" quite like opening the first episode back with 45 seconds of erotic asphyxiation. Welcome back, Good Wife! I missed you, too.
The return of erotic asphyxiation can only mean one thing – Colin Sweeney's back in town, and he's filed suit against a television program that ran a "ripped from the headlines"-style story that's suspiciously similar to his. It's a little odd to open the episode with Sweeney, since he didn't play as heavily (or at all, really) in the first half of the season as Alicia's campaign, Cary's imprisonment, or Lemond Bishop's looming presence. But it's also a nice way of drawing the show's focus back to the courtroom and the day-to-day workings of the firm. And thanks to Dylan Baker, who's played Sweeney for years, it's delightful, if very, very creepy.
In addition to playing Sweeney, Baker also plays the TV version of himself and the actor playing that version – three characters in all, each distinct from the other, and the Actor version is particularly delightful, since it's so transparently just British Dylan Baker in a Toupee with an Attitude. The television network tries to build a case by proving Sweeney did, in fact, murder his wife, meaning there's nothing defamatory about the way the show portrayed him. They nearly succeed, but at the eleventh hour Alicia (who's been advising Sweeney on the sly) finds ChumHum logos in several shots of the episode in question. The firm is able to threaten an infringement lawsuit, and the show ultimately backs down. Two stray Broadway-related observations: First, I just now realized Colin Sweeney's name is likely a nod to Sweeney Todd, since they're both murderers and everything, and second, Laura Benanti is a dream of a performer and she nails everything she's given as Sweeney's wife, but it kills me to see her in such small roles.
Meanwhile, Prady meets Alicia for a secret (non-sexy) rendezvous at a hotel to play her a false flag robocall of a lisping, effeminate man talking about how Prady supports gay issues – conservative, suburban households are getting the call. When Alicia takes his concern to Elfman, Elfman swears the calls aren't coming from the campaign or from the PAC. Alicia confronts him again with the Twitter handle @Tobyzeigler44, which Elfman tells her is a secret, campaign Twitter occasionally used for passing on sensitive information. I would like to formally request that The Good Wife stop referencing The West Wing, unless it's prepared to back these references up with season-long guest starring arcs. Thank you in advance.
While Alicia was meeting with Prady, she noticed the name "Redmayne" on his phone, and Elfman tells her he's a wealthy donor from Arizona. (Again, I'm not sure if this is me not understanding the scope of politics, but would a state's attorney's race really garner so much out-of-state funding and attention?) Alicia secures a meeting with him at a private club, and before she goes, her staff warns her in advance that she's going to have to figure out how to actually ask for things. They rehearse a little, and it's the dance Alicia's done all season – realizing she's sort of awful at something essential, failing to get better at it with practice, diving in anyway.
But Redmayne (who's played to perfection by Ed Asner) is more than Alicia had bargained for. He's grabby with Alicia in an, "Aw, shucks, I'm just on old man!" way, first lingering on her hand for a little too long, then touching her knee as she tries to stick to her talking points. Alicia stands up to try to diffuse things, and Redmayne asks her to sit back down so he can "see those pretty legs of hers." It's uncomfortable, but Alicia starts playing his game by making a testicles joke, and for a second there, it seems like the whole encounter might be redeemable. Redmayne even says he's going to donate to Alicia. "One million in dark money!" And he even points out he's not just doing it because of Alicia's slammin' body (I'm paraphrasing.) "Then why is it?" Alicia asks.
"It's because I don't like fags."
The word hits hard, in part for obvious reasons, and in part because we're not used to hearing "fag" on television – The Good Wife had to get special permission from Standards and Practices to use it. And I'd imagine it's particularly hard for Alicia to hear, since her brother is gay, although that aspect isn't specifically addressed in the episode, which is a little strange. Maybe we're meant to believe they're still on the outs from when Alicia told her brother she was running for office? At any rate, Alicia clumsily half-defends Prady ("He was married…") and leaves. It's clear she'll be taking the money.
Redmayne's meeting with Prady is similarly catastrophic, since Redmayne is determined to get Prady to join in with him in objectifying Alicia. It's particularly sickening to watch because while viewers know Redmayne brought Prady in for his own amusement, Prady still thinks he's attending a legitimate business meeting. Once Redmayne says he's talking "about bangin' that bitch ’til she screams like a $5,000-per-night whore" (Alicia is the bitch/whore in question), Prady righteously storms out. And Redmayne sits back, smug, certain Prady's refusal to get crass about Alicia means he's gay. Prady pays Alicia one last visit and gently tries to figure out why Redmayne chose Alicia – and why Alicia accepted. Alicia's polite and evasive, and she makes it clear that this will be their final secret meeting.
Somewhere in all of this, Kalinda spends several days as Lemond Bishop's son's bodyguard/nanny/escort home from school, which creates a few nice moments, but it's hard to believe THIS is what Bishop had in mind when he told Kalinda she'd owe him a massive, no-questions-asked favor for trying to help Cary.
Everything wraps up with Alicia at home with Grace (still firmly in her season-long role of Person at Home When Alicia Needs to Say Things Aloud). Grace asks why Alicia is sad, and Alicia says she was bad that day. Sweet, naïve Grace says that's impossible, because her mother is the best person she knows. Normally, in moments like that, Alicia retreats, shakes it off, justifies her actions to herself, and moves on. This time, she breaks into open sobs. Alicia knows exactly how far from "good" she is, she knows she brought herself there, and I'm guessing she has no idea how to get back to where – to who – she was before.