The Good Wife Recap: The One With the Hand Job

The Good Wife

Season 7 Episode 17
Editor’s Rating *****
Julianna Margulies as Alicia. Photo: David M. Russell/CBS

“Shoot” is transcendent at times, but it also has moments that are absolutely bonkers. More and more often, I think The Good Wife’s ability to be both of those things will be its most enduring legacy.

Let’s get the worst bits out of the way first: Eli’s magical handicapped-bathroom stall is back in play this week, still giving him a near-perfect auditory window into Peter’s grand-jury case. I’m still not sure how one of network television’s strongest prestige shows — in its home stretch, no less! — is relying on a bathroom trash can as a key plot device, but here we are. Once again, Eli gets the information he needs to keep Peter’s head above water during the investigation.

While Lloyd Garber is being questioned about his donations to Peter and their relationship to his son’s murder charge, Eli overhears a particularly bombastic and irritated juror, who can’t possibly believe that Lloyd can so clearly recall details from many years ago. Leveraging this, Eli tells Alicia not to invoke spousal privilege in her testimony, and to make as many offhand comments about Lloyd’s faulty memory as possible. This enrages the prosecuting attorney, Connor (Matthew Morrison, still haunting me even though Glee is gone), but he seems stymied for now. But again, I can’t stress enough that all of this transpires because Eli magically eavesdropped in his special bathroom. How has no one else noticed this trick? Or reported it to someone? And somehow, the construction noise from last episode has completely disappeared, making it even easier for Eli to listen? This is driving me crazy.

As all of this happens, Peter’s lawyer stands around with his dog. The dog shtick is getting old. There, I’ve said it.

Moving on. Cary, Diane, and eventually Lucca are representing Harry Dargis (Blair Underwood), a man whose young daughter was shot and killed, and who took out a billboard calling out the gun store that sold the murder weapon. Often, perhaps too often, witnesses on The Good Wife seem polished, or distant, or sedate. Harry is a brilliant, compelling exception to this rule, and he’s played masterfully by Underwood. His eyes are red, he can barely speak at times, and you can see the weight of the loss he carries, even after the case ends happily, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But before we get down to the details of the case, there’s one more thing to mention: The opening vignette that introduces Harry and his daughter, Yesha. It’s the most simple and arresting sequence The Good Wife has done in a long, long time. We watch his daughter grow up. We sympathize when she’s sad about her braces, then we celebrate when she kisses a boy at the prom with those same braces in her mouth. And we’re shocked (or at least I was) when she gets shot through the throat with a stray bullet, a glass of chocolate milk still in hand. The sequence doesn’t last much more than two minutes, but by the end, we know Yesha well enough to truly feel her loss. And we know the pride and joy she brought to Harry’s life, if only because we see him drained of it all as he sits in court, childless.

Harry’s case is presided over by Judge Abernathy, which is wonderful, because I’d hoped Denis O’Hare would return before the series wrapped up. I love how The Good Wife has taken advantage of New York City’s deep bench of character actors, but even among that eminently talented bunch, O’Hare has always stood out to me. It’s The Good Wife, so the case takes multiple twists and turns — the tourism board gets involved, as do scores of other business owners from Harry’s neighborhood, and the gun-store owner is reasonably sympathetic, which keeps the case from getting too one-sided.

But finally, Abernathy announces that the billboard must come down, and that until it does, Harry will have to pay damages for every day it stays up — 10 cents per day. Harry pulls $40 out of his wallet and offers to pay upfront, and Abernathy tells him he’s now allowed to leave the billboard up for the next 400 days. It is frankly difficult to have any hope in America if you’re a proponent of stronger gun control, and sure, Abernathy’s verdict is television, not real life. But there’s something properly hopeful and joyous about this win regardless.

And Grace shows up again this week, spawning another fun game of “Is This the Last Time We’ll See … ?” She’s been accused of plagiarizing a college essay in a manner that seems completely baffling to me — if a school used a plagiarism-detecting software, wouldn’t they still, you know, review the essays? — but I applied for college way back when the SAT only had 1600 points, so maybe I’m a bit out of touch. The realism doesn’t matter much, though, since it’s mostly an excuse for Alicia to go mama bear on a guidance counselor and the admissions officer herself. It’s is basically one long game of chicken, with a class-action lawsuit thrown in the mix. The admissions officer backs down, Grace gets accepted, and then immediately announces her plans to go to law school. Hooray?

Meanwhile, there’s a spring in Alicia’s step that seems fueled by her affair with Jason and I’m … not enthused. It’s not that I don’t love Alicia being able to express her sexuality. I do. And I’m particularly fond of television shows that portray the sexuality of older women (especially older mothers) as matter-of-factly as they do when telling stories about younger women. But I’m concerned about this suggestion that Alicia is only the best version of herself when she’s with a man. It’s very odd, and made odder because we still don’t know the true nature of her feelings for Jason. If Alicia’s just having a fun, sexy time with a handsome dude, more power to her — God knows my entire sexual orientation breaks down to “Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s facial hair.” It’s just all a little strange and difficult to parse, especially after Alicia sees Jason kissing another woman in a bar.

And that brings us back to the bonkers side of things: As Alicia sadly walks out of the bar, a cover of “Everybody Hurts” plays, sung by a woman. At this point, I can no longer tell when or whether The Good Wife is joking. Alicia and Jason make up later, and then she gives him a hand job under a restaurant table. There are only five episodes to go, Alicia. By all means, you do you.

The Good Wife Recap: The One With the Hand Job