If I had to choose a single image to sum up the juicy pleasure that was watching tonight's episode of The Good Wife, I'd choose the moment where Alicia, Peter, and Jason were standing together in Alicia's foyer. Those fake plastic smiles! The look on her face! Thankfully, the rest of the episode absolutely delivers on the promise of that drama. It isn't perfect — it's plagued by the same pacing and balance issues that have caused problems all season — but it occasionally reminded me of the best things about old-school Good Wife. And the NSA story line was nowhere in sight. Hooray!
The episode kicks off at Alicia's first Chicago Election Board meeting. Frank Landau wastes no time to remind her she'd promised to vote "no" on the opening order of business — but, Alicia is (understandably) conflicted once she learns that the the board will decide whether to replace the state's voting machines. Presumably, Landau wants to keep using the old machines to falsify election results.
Alicia ultimately votes "no," which leads the rest of the board to accuse her of being a stooge. One member even shows up at her house, offering her the chairperson's seat if she jumps out of Landau's pocket. By the end of the episode, though — as Alicia wonders whether to change her vote at the next meeting — it's clear that she doesn't yet know how to navigate these murky waters. Remind me why it's not a good idea for her to cut and run while she still has the chance? Eli set up this job to rehabilitate her image, but what's the point if she'll just end up embroiled in another scandal?
Back at the office, Alicia asks Jason to sign a liability waiver because his criminal past means her insurance is reluctant to cover him. The sexual tension during their negotiation — along with the strong cocktails — makes it seem like she wants permission to sexually harass him with impunity. After Jason signs, she goes on to offer him mini-tacos. On one level, sure, she's being literal. Even Saint Alicia has to know she's throwing down a sexual innuendo gauntlet, though.
And that's when Peter shows up. Eli and Ruth are in a tizzy because a Vice story alleged that Peter and Alicia haven't shared a bed in three years. This seems like a weird story for Vice to have cared enough about to get to the scoop — sorry, Vice! — but because it's accurate, it needs a substantial rebuttal. Eli and Ruth decide the best plan is for Peter to move back in with Alicia for awhile, except no one tells Alicia. He shows up anyway, storming in with a team of associates and security personnel, and gets a surprisingly cordial introduction to Jason. Mini-taco night is cancelled for everyone.
It turns out Peter and Alicia's performative sleepover is largely for the benefit of Courtney Paige — played by Vanessa Williams, who I'm quite glad to see on my TV screen again — a wealthy donor who's sick of seeing Democratic candidates' dogged sex scandals. That problem plagues both parties but, you know, FAIR POINT.
Eli's next move is baffling. He tells Courtney that it's Grace's birthday, then invites her to a pretend birthday party … to appease her? Even by Eli Gold standards, it's a harebrained scheme. Nonetheless, Eli couldn't have predicted that Alicia would come home feeling good after a cross-examination, pour two tequila shots, then ask Peter, "Wanna get laid?" After they sleep together, Alicia says, "It's always sexier not to care." While I'm sure Peter is being honest when he agrees with her, I'm not so sure that she really believes her own words.
The fake birthday party is, unsurprisingly, a bit of a disaster, especially when Howard Lyman and Peter's mother show up to announce their engagement. (Is there any story Lyman won't butt in on this season?) Somehow, though, the plan pays off. Courtney says that Peter and Alicia are boring, "Like a real married couple." And apparently, that's enough to convince her to back Peter's campaign. It's a surprising turn of events not just because Courtney overlooks the birthday sham and Jackie's casual racism, but also because it means that The Good Wife is still aiming for the White House. Or, as Peter says, "Next stop, Lincoln Bedroom."
Meanwhile, the case of the week focuses on a self-driving car that crippled a young woman named Wendy Searle. (She's played by the lovely Celia Keenan-Bolger.) Louis Canning represents Wendy; Lucca and Alicia take on Tim, the driver; and Lockhart/Agos defends the car company and its executive, Charles Ephraham. Ephraham is a smarmy delight, but his defense gets interrupted by Anthony Dudowitz, a self-described genius and self-driving car expert, who … just happened to be sitting in the back of a deposition at a private law firm?
Anyway, the episode uses Dudowitz to explain how self-driving cars work, how their artificial intelligence is built, and what can go wrong when they're hacked or used incorrectly. It's an interesting case, but tedious in some moments. I always admire the ambitious ways The Good Wife attempts to tackle complex subjects, but sometimes, that ambition can lead an episode to feel overstuffed with information.
Back to the case, though: It turns out the car was hacked! Tim is exonerated! This show will probably never discuss self-driving cars again! That's fine, but it's not a decent payoff after an hour of lectures about the dangers of artificial intelligence.
Then again, it all almost seems worth it for the elevator scene where Louis Canning throws a bit of shade toward Alicia, and she responds by actually, literally body-checking him. "Watch it," Alicia says, both too sweetly and not sweetly at all. You won't watch a better 15 seconds of television this week.