Well, now, wasn’t that interesting. This series started with the atom bomb of a political husband’s transgressions, but even though his wife built a new world from the ashes, it still feels like we’re watching a group of people circling each other while holding grenades. They’ve all pulled the ring out, and now the question remains whether each can toss his or hers off fast enough to blow up someone else, or if they will all misjudge the timing and destroy themselves. What we didn’t anticipate was an outsider sneaking a live bomb into the circle and sweeping everyone away.
“Who is Wendy Scott-Carr?!” Eli shout-whispers into his phone as everyone — Peter, Alicia, Diane, Will, even Childs — watches Childs’s own brand-spanking-new ASA Anika Noni Rose mount the stage of a Cook County Bar Association gala and announce that she will be the third candidate in the race for State’s Attorney. Last week, we predicted that there was something big in store for Rose on the show; her character just appeared out of nowhere and in soft, measured tones almost got a grieving son to admit that his father was probably the psychopath who killed his mother. And here she was at the podium, going off like a Chekhovian gun. “Every now and then you need a woman to clean house, and that woman is Wendy Scott-Carr. Time to clean house,” said corrupt judge Victoria Adler (the amazing Kate Burton), announcing her new puppet candidate, and, no doubt, her new campaign slogan. Bomb, broom, what’s the difference? We’re certainly not talking about the Will and Alicia will-they-won’t-they issue anymore.
The slack-jawed looks of the males who’d just had their worlds upended for once were not only a fitting punishment for their past attempted manipulations of Alicia, but a perfect response to those who may think that Mad Men is the only thing worth watching on television anymore. If the women of Matt Weiner’s world are still scrambling for footing and testing the rocks at their feet to see if they’ll stay in place with each step, the women of this show are those same women 40 years later, having made most of the climb. On the surface, this was a power play of women, apparently often overlooked in the higher stations of the Chicago legal world, versus two men (Peter and Childs) trying to either regain power or hold onto it. But the announcement played out much more like an elbowing for position among a group of women who know that if they don’t have the power just yet, they will soon. The greater battle seems to be among deposition-leaking Scott-Carr and bribe-taking Adler on one side, and Diane and Alicia, who know their secrets, on the other. Either way, the men seemed insignificant.
The entire episode focused on the different ways in which women can wield power. Foremost is the aforementioned power grab, which played out through the nifty directorial device of following various secret-bearing manila envelopes around Chicago. The first contains a tape of the Childs deposition (as we later find out, leaked by ambitious Scott-Carr at the urging of Adler) falling into the hands of a female reporter, who makes it front-page news, with Alicia as the automatic suspected leaker. The second envelope is a request for comment from said reporter to Adler; Eli had visited the reporter wanting to know her source, and just followed the bouncing envelope until it reached Adler’s door. (Digression: How awesome was Alan Cumming’s “we’ve got to bury the bitch” scene with Peter in the middle of an elementary school? We love how every time Eli delivers bad news to Peter, it’s in the middle of some incredibly inappropriate public setting. That toothless little kid’s grin as Peter gives Eli the go-ahead to take his gloves off was priceless.) The third manila envelope comes by way of Cary in the form of a subpoena to Alicia regarding the leak. He’s becoming such a contemptuous weasel, with that condescending comment about how “I know you would never break the law in such a manner,” and that reference to Will and Alicia and their “thing” right before he turns on the deposition camera.
It’s hard to watch Cary move further to the dark side — here’s hoping his character becomes more than just vengeful and affronted soon. But it was great seeing Will’s rage as Cary threatened Alicia with disbarment because of that trial in which Peter pointed her to evidence. There’s still something there, even if it does seem like he’s going to have a new romantic story line with Tammy (Elizabeth Reaser), the politics-hating reporter from The Sporting News. The final envelope is Diane’s to Adler, containing the evidence that Adler has been taking judicial bribes. Really, that envelope represents Diane’s ambition to run for office in four years and her threat to bring Adler down if she attempts to run and ruin it for her. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of the episode was watching Diane’s face when she realized that Adler had a better way of spoiling her ambitions by getting behind the unknown and presumably clean Scott-Carr. Thwarted at this and slowly losing her position at work, Diane seems like she’s being set up to do something immoral and desperate to hold onto what little she now has.
Even the case of the week explored the issue of gender roles. Alicia is representing a D.J. (High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu) who presided over a rave gone wrong that ended in the deaths of five clubgoers during a stampede for the exit. She’s entered into a co-defense with the security firm. They know they’re going to lose; it’s just a question of how much they’ll have to pay and who will take the brunt of the reward, the D.J. for overbooking the club, or the security firm for opening the exit doors. Then they get a new judge, Judge Quinn (Griffin Dunne), who seems to be golf buddies with the prosecutor (Edward Hermann … a.k.a. Richard Gilmore!). Quinn is an overt chauvinist who tells Alicia that next time she comes back into his court she’d better be wearing a skirt (which we kind of agree with, since that pantsuit might have been Ralph Lauren but it was kind of fugly). “So, is my skirt short enough?” she asks. Later she jokes to Kalinda that Quinn has requested she start carrying a parasol.
Things are looking so bad with Quinn that Alicia’s co-counsel suddenly decides to get elective surgery for a deviated septum, only to be replaced by the sickeningly fake-naïve Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer). She’s a familiar face from last season, when, as a prosecutor, she won over the male judges with her seeming lack of legal knowledge, only to defeat Alicia. She undercuts Alicia from the start, pretending to have forgotten her name. And she knows just how to exploit Quinn’s chauvinistic soul, doodling hearts on her legal pad, quoting lines from a play Quinn’s daughter was in, referencing the Beatles, and pretending like she doesn’t know. “Is it an act?” Alicia asks, knowing full well that it is. Crosier is playing up to the judge and the jury so that when they inevitably lose, Alicia’s client will do most of the paying. The only way Alicia gets a leg up is by using her feminine virtues, too, visiting the heavily sedated deviated-septum lawyer in the hospital with Kalinda and manipulating him into allowing them to add a new witness without notifying Crosier. The new witness is a custodian who can testify that the security company failed to cover up some holes in the floor, thus causing the ravers to trip and fall and then get crushed. It’s a breach of co-counsel, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. (
Though can someone please explain to me how a $3 million settlement of which Alicia’s client pays $2 was a good outcome? Her DJ client gets off with a $2 fine.)
The best part of this episode, though — the one thing besides the Scott-Carr grenade that will have everyone talking — is the emergence of the wrath of Kalinda-Leela-whatever-her-name-is. In a parking garage, Blake locks his car and walks away. Ever-watchful Kalinda is right there, putting on sunglasses and striding forth in her tight skirt, leather boots, carrying a baseball bat. She’s just found out from Alicia that Blake has been trying to make a point by referring to her as “Leela” around the office. So she takes that bat and smashes his windows. All of them. Then she starts rifling for blackmail materials: Blake’s car-rental receipt; a folder imprinted with pen-pressure marks; a box of bullets in the trunk. And then she leaves a lipstick-kiss mark on the car to let him know she was there.
“So how do I escalate this?” Blake asks her. “Any way you want, Scout. I’m game,” Kalinda replies. They start tossing off the research they’ve been doing on each other. Blake knows that everything about Kalinda — her name, her suburban upbringing — is a lie. Kalinda knows Blake has a secret history with Will Gardner, and she knows about the ammunition for a .357 in his trunk. “It’s kind of a big and sloppy gun. You shooting deer, or compensating for something?” she asks. “You want to find out?” She moves closer and closer till they’re practically breathing in each others’ mouths. “It’s a little ham-fisted, don’t you think, using sex?” Blake whispers. “Yeah, you’re right,” Kalinda whispers back, her mouth still just an inch from his, her hand doing who knows what. “It feels very ham-fisted.” And with that, she walks away, and we have to take a shower. This Leela business and this whole Will-Blake collusion better pay off, because that was one hell of a tease.
Below, a clip of Kalinda’s crazy rage and the hottest confrontation ever. Not recommended for the sexually frustrated.