Last night's episode of The Good Wife yanked hard on two threads the show's been dangling for months now: the fact that Alicia managed to sail into office with her character rather intact, if not unquestioned; and the fact that the shady deeds Kalinda pulled to spare Cary from prison had yet to garner any consequences, aside from her own guilty conscience. But neither of those was the most remarkable story line of the episode — that honor goes to Diane's participation in a case first about the right of a bakery to refuse to sell a cake that would be used in a gay wedding, and then, later, the right of a wedding planner to refuse to work with a gay couple.
What's bizarre about that story is that it was written and filmed early this winter, long before laws to "protect" religious business owners in Indiana and Arkansas were making front-page news. The Good Wife has borrowed from the headlines before, but this was the first time it's felt damn near prescient. Diane's case isn't in a proper courtroom — her new, conservative client R.D. (Oliver Platt who, as ever, nails it) invites her to a mock debate/trial at a think tank; she's the liberal voice brought in to shore up the conservative side of their argument. There are no consequences or repercussions in play here, so it's all just a thought experiment around the question everyone's been asking lately: When, if ever, is a business legally allowed to withhold services based on sexual orientation? Still, it's fascinating to watch play out, especially after Diane finally starts ripping into the other side's arguments with gusto, even going so far as to ask R.D.'s own gay nephew to play a part in the mock case, to personalize it for R.D. Christine Baranski and the rest of the assembled guest cast are so very good that I don't even mind watching what pretty much amounted to a reenactment of the same debate my family had around the Easter dinner table just hours before I watched the episode.
Meanwhile, Alicia's emails, which were curiously spared by last week's hackers, are leaked to a young journalist, Petra Moritz (Lily Rabe — seriously, this episode's guest bench was absolutely stacked), as she's in the middle of crafting a post-election puff profile of Alicia. We spend a lot of time in Petra's editing bay, watching her and her co-worker shape bits of footage and sound bites based on how complimentary she wants her portrait of Alicia to be — it's a nice little bit of inside baseball, something The Good Wife always excels at. Petra quickly latches onto the emails between Will and Alicia, but Eli is quick to realize that while they're damning, they don't necessarily point to an affair — they could be plausibly classified as a workplace fantasy or flirtation that went too far. It's fun to watch Josh and Eli work each other over as they try to come up with ways to explain the emails away — and even more fun to watch Marissa flit around them as the show's new best Greek chorus — but it's also sort of agonizing to watch Alicia come to the realization that she was going to have to publicly deny how much Will meant to her.
I'm not sure why that makes me so sad — maybe it's just because it makes Josh Charles's departure from the series feel really, truly final — but Alicia is able to bring herself to say there was never an affair in part because Peter supports her in doing so. They have a midday rendezvous at "their" apartment (over a bottle of wine, of course), and have one of the most frank conversations we've heard between the two of them in quite some time. "It's kind of nice sitting here drinking together. It's like watching two other people drink." Oh, Alicia. Your idea of "nice" is so, so depressing. Peter and Alicia agree that maybe they're on the other side of their hate and resentment for each other, and that maybe that constitutes maturity. Then Peter makes sex eyes at her, so "maturity" is probably off the table for a bit longer. He goes on to say that he still does love Alicia, and she sadly responds that she wishes the word love weren’t so devalued.
And so Peter sits down with Petra himself and tells her there was no affair and that she's been scooped. He relishes it, but then, when DOESN'T Peter Florrick get off a little bit on going for the kill? Besides, Petra has bite in her yet — she airs a more complimentary version of her piece, but ends it with the accusation that there was a widespread voting-machine error on Alicia's election day — multiple machines registered Prady votes as Florrick votes instead. She doesn't give evidence beyond saying she'd "spoken with the Chicago election monitor," so it's possible she invented the accusation out of whole cloth, just to make Alicia and Eli and company squirm a little bit. I truly hope that's the case; The Good Wife has squandered just about all of my goodwill in terms of Alicia's candidacy that sitting through a voter-fraud plot twist sounds exhausting. I either need her in or out.
And then there's poor Kalinda, finally caught. Investigator Wylie has been brought in by internal affairs to investigate the "wrongdoing" by Detective Prima in the handling of Cary's case, but that "wrongdoing" was Kalinda's falsification of the metadata in an email. Quickly catching on when Kalinda starts asking him "hypothetical" questions, Finn asks Kalinda for a dollar, announces that's his attorney fee, and tells her their conversations are privileged from now on. Kalinda asks whether Diane could get in trouble for using the evidence Kalinda falsified, even though Diane didn't know it was fake. Finn breaks the bad news that Diane could be disbarred or even imprisoned over Kalinda's mistake. There's a brief flurry in which Kalinda thinks she can "contain" the story and hush up the hacker friend who helped her, but Wylie finally looks at her dead on and says, "Kalinda. You're caught … I hate to say this because I like you, but if I were you, I'd come clean." Then he packs his toddlers out the door and off to a library puppet show, leaving Kalinda just sitting there. Her face is as impassive as ever — that's damn near Archie Panjabi's trademark at this point — but it's clear she knows just as surely as we do that the jig is finally up.