"I'm having a crisis of confidence, and it's taking up all of my time."
Alicia wasn't kidding when she described her post-resignation, post-firing life to Finn Polmar (who is, after all this time, still just the sort of character you have to refer to by first and last name); unemployment is not a good look on her. She's theoretically working on a memoir with a ghostwriter who seems affable enough, but who makes Alicia realize how few friends she has left by asking her questions about whom he might be able to speak with to get to know her better. She has enough time to actually answer telemarketers' calls. She waits by the door for Grace to get home from school. She … sands a door? It's a baffling project, and one that requires at least one trip to a hardware store, "incognito" under a too-fancy baseball cap. She dutifully waits for the clock to turn over to 5 p.m. before she starts drinking. And, at Eli's request, she starts calling her campaign donors to thank them for their support. (This seemed like a little too convenient of a plot device — do candidates really call voters who gave them $100?)
While making her thank-you calls, Alicia connects with Brett Tatro, a client she'd gotten acquitted of attempted murder charges years ago (for beating a man in the parking lot of a strip club), but who's been charged again (this time with murder) now that the victim in that case has died. After seeing the very young, very scared public defender assigned to Tatro's case, Alicia steps in, a decision that's followed by an honest-to-God inspirational montage of Alicia converting the door she sanded into a desk and papering over framed prints of floral arrangements to make a link chart of the events of the case, including grisly crime-scene photos. The New Pornographers' "Failsafe" plays. If this is The Good Wife relocating its sense of weird, dark humor, I like it. There's yet another additional emotional scene later in the episode when Alicia moves the door again, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Alicia dives into the original case materials sent over by Cary and the firm, and as she listens to her first interview with Tatro all those years ago and the other tapes associated with the case, the episode starts flashing back between the present day and the original case — which means Kalinda is back, as is her friendship with Alicia. Still, it's only for a single phone call and a few drunk, giggly moments, and one more serious conversation about when it's appropriate to lie that happens toward the end of the episode. But the bar footage looked like it might have been reused from earlier episodes, and during that brief scene at the end, Alicia and Kalinda are never in the same shot at the same time, so really, we're no closer to solving the "no, seriously, WHY did Archie Panjabi and Julianna Margulies completely stop filming together?" mystery. We also get a brief flashback of Zach and Jackie, and it's nice to see them again, especially because it motivates Alicia to reach out to her son after almost a full season of estrangement.
The episode is less about the details of the case and more about Alicia (although I guess that could be said for every episode of The Good Wife on some level), but in a nutshell: Lexie, the stripper who was Tatro's alibi, has died since Tatro's original trial, but even more problematic, she perjured herself at the original trial (in part because of a young, arrogant Cary's urging), and a bouncer from the club comes forward saying Lexie only ever protected Tatro because he was her drug dealer, anyway. Alicia manages to get the bouncer's testimony discredited (also, somewhere in the middle of this is a brief debate about topless versus bottomless strippers, which prim Early/Flashback Alicia has to pretend not to be scandalized by), only to have an ADDITIONAL witness come forward. He was working in the gas station across the parking lot from the strip club, saw the fight, and says he identified Tatro in a photo lineup during the original investigation.
Alicia's baffled as to why the gas-station attendant wasn't called in the original trial, but Finn meets her at the bar and fills her in: The police officer who oversaw the photo lineup underwent an internal affairs investigation for his shady practices during lineups and photo arrays. Because the officer's practices were questionable, the gas-station attendant was kept off the stand, but there's a catch: Internal affairs investigations are confidential, so when Alicia tries to enter the investigation into evidence in court, Judge Donaway wants to know where she got her information (and assumes it was from Peter or Cary). He threatens to jail her for contempt if she doesn't divulge her source, and she thinks about it overnight, then returns to court and says it was Kalinda. It's pretty brilliant — there's reasonable cause to think that Kalinda would have access to secret information like this, but since Kalinda's long gone, there's no way to hold her responsible.
But, again, the episode's not really about all of that. It's about the question Alicia asks Finn at the end of the episode: "I'm thinking of starting my own firm. And only taking cases I believe in. And I want to know if you'll join me." The thing is, we've been here before. We've already had an "Alicia strikes out on her own!" cliff-hanger. But I do like Alicia when she's like this, when she's principled and creative and intelligent and engaged. I'd rather see more defendants like Brett Tatro and fewer like Colin Sweeney. And so I think I could tentatively get behind the idea of a Good Wife that looks like last night's episode did — for a season in which Alicia stays small and picks the most rewarding cases and works out of Zach's bedroom, although I obviously think she should turn down Grace's offer to be her intern and hire Marissa instead.
I can theoretically get onboard if this is the plan, and if her tiny, profitless firm will prove the remaking of Saint Alicia (or even better, the invention of Alicia the Pretty Okay Person). But I still don't understand why The Good Wife took us to this point in the manner it did. We spent so much time on Alicia's campaign, arguably to the show's detriment and inarguably at the expense of screen time for the show's very deep, very talented bench of cast members. I can't decide whether or not this particular destination was worth this season's journey — but I'm guessing season seven will give me plenty of time to figure it out.