The Good Wife Recap: Chopped Balls and Botched Investigations

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The Good Wife
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Partway through my viewing of last night's episode of The Good Wife, I texted a buddy, "I haven't felt this way in a really long time!" and when he wrote back expressing confusion, I said I meant, "Excited about two consecutive episodes of The Good Wife." (In hindsight, I could've been clearer.)

The case Alicia picks up in bail-bond court this week is a fascinating one — her client is Eric, a young man whose photographer mother took nude pictures of him and his sister as children. The photos were on display at the Chicago Museum of Fine Arts, where they're about to become a part of the permanent collection, and Eric took a hammer and bashed them off the wall. The museum is represented by Nancy Crozier, the resplendent Mamie Gummer, who Alicia says is back for a 12th case against her. Can that possibly be right? (Speaking of Mamie Gummer: Did everyone see Ricki and the Flash? If you want to go see Ricki and the Flash really quickly right now and finish reading this recap later, I'd totally understand.) Alicia quickly offers to represent Eric not just in the matter regarding his vandalism, but in getting an injunction against the museum exhibit on the grounds that he never gave consent for the photos to be taken. Stray observation about Alicia's time at bail-bond court so far — where are the women? Separate courtrooms? A different time of day?

I'm always interested in which cases on The Good Wife are "ripped from the headlines," Law and Order–style stories, but this case is particularly intriguing. Without doing so directly, it raises some interesting questions about all parents taking and sharing pictures of their children without consent, even if they're only doing so on social media. On top of that, the story line seems to be a direct allusion to the work of Sally Mann, whose controversial nude photos of her own children were recently reintroduced to the zeitgeist after she published an essay in the New York Times defending her work, following her memoir late this past summer.

At any rate — the judge (recurring character Peter Dunaway, whose behavior is fishier than normal all episode because he's a newly converted Muslim and Ramadan is making him hungry, which is a big enough minefield that I'm going to take a wide step around addressing it), rules that Eric's mother was within her rights as a parent to consent to the photos being taken on his behalf, which is sort of horrifying. Lucca, who's been working with Alicia, claims that this doesn't mean that the museum has the right to use Eric's pictures as commercial images, even if the museum is able to display them. We've only known Lucca for two episodes, and it's clear already that she's VERY good at plot twists.

But when Eric becomes unwilling to pursue criminal charges against his mother for child pornography, it seems like the case is about to unravel, but Alicia and Lucca wind up pursuing financial damages for Eric on the grounds that he was an unpaid child employee for years of his life. The museum and Eric's mother agree, and Eric and his mom share a moment of hand-holding that I think is supposed to read as touching, but after the events of the episode, it just makes me a little queasy. And aside from that, the fact that Eric finds resolution in financial restitution doesn't quite line up with his repeated assertions that the images were ruining his life and that he'd stop at nothing until they were made private. Perhaps it was a "better than nothing" solution?

Meanwhile, Alicia's in search of an investigator to assist with her cases from bail court. I'm not sure how she's affording that on the very low wage that bail-bond work provides, but I guess she could always sell off some of her apartment's fancy chairs? She has a lot of fancy chairs. There's a handful of semi-promising options, including Amanda, a young woman whom Alicia fondly compares to Kalinda, which just sounds like a lie (the fondness, not the comparison). She's basically a straight reiteration of Kalinda, down to the kicky sports car, and it's not clear what point the writers are trying to make with that decision. Frankly, after the season-six finale green-screen debacle, I'm surprised they're not trying to put as much distance between the show and Kalinda as possible.

But after Amanda botches an easy task, Alicia winds up going with Jason Crouse, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in part thanks to the insistence of Grace, who's still working as Alicia's secretary. But Agos, Lockhart, and Lee are interested, too, after Alicia handed off her list of possible investigators to Cary in what reads like a boneheaded, "Oh, just handing off this list of possible employees to the firm that's my sworn enemy; what could possibly go wrong?" move. Still, Jason agrees to work with Alicia for an extremely low-ball fee.

There's plenty of drama on the campaign trail, too, as Alicia and Peter and Eli and Ruth do the necessary dance required to get Eli in place as Alicia's chief of staff. Eli's first order of business is to get Alicia to take a meeting with Frank Landau, the DNC official who screwed her over in the election tampering scandal. Eli has a top-secret plan (again, only Alan Cumming can talk about top-secret plans and not sound like the villain in a 1930s talkie) that involves Alicia apologizing to Landau, so she can come back and destroy him later. This all ends in Landau offering Alicia a seat on the Election Board — and immediately telling her how to vote in the first matter the Election Board will consider in its next session. The whole affair gives me hope that Margo Martindale will be used more effectively than other guest stars have been during her time on The Good Wife.

I'm uneasy about what Cary has to do throughout this episode — he's basically acting as a hall monitor and/or schoolmarm while he tries to mediate disputes between the new associates at the firm and Howard Lyman, whose sleeping and sexual harassment have risen to new heights. Cary tries to gentle Howard out of the firm and Howard responds by literally threatening to chop his balls off. In retaliation, Howard crashes a meeting between pro-choice advocates, EMILY's List representatives, and Diane. Look, Christine Baranski is a national treasure, and Matt Czuchry proved his acting chops last season, but if all they're going to get to do is take off their glasses dramatically while wearing fabulous blouses and gloat (respectively) it's going to be a very long season.