The Good Wife
Three episodes left in the season, and like Alicia, we’re wandering through our apartment, dazed and bleary-eyed, feeling hurt and betrayed — but only because we know it’s close to over and we can see the end clearly in sight. Then again, like Peter, we feel as though we’re being kicked to the curb for the summer by a show that we love more than it loves us back. Is it possible to be both of them, both victim and perpetrator, even when the perpetrator feels like a victim, too? Or is the show/are the Kings the new take-no-prisoners Alicia in this scenario? Perhaps time, cruel unrelenting time, is her stand-in? This is getting very meta.
Easier to understand is the transformation of Alicia into the kind of formidable creature for whom the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” was created. When this season is over, Julianna Margulies might as well just clear some shelf space for her new Emmy. To watch her stumble home in shock after finding out that Peter and Kalinda slept with each other and kept it from her is devastating enough, but then we watch her face as it hardens and hurt turns to anger and action, which is perhaps even more upsetting to see. She grabs boxes and packing tape and starts gathering up things. She calls movers, and Cady Huffman, the amazing Tony winner getting shafted in the thankless part of a Realtor. Cady takes her to a two-bedroom overlooking the courthouse and Alicia signs the lease then and there. “Wow. When you decide, you really decide,” the Realtor remarks. Is she moving out? Is she moving Peter there? Since this show so often does the opposite of what you’d expect, and since she’d already stuck with him through prison and the whole prostitutes thing, we half wondered if Alicia were merely channeling her anger into picking the apartment she wanted for their family, instead of moving to the suburbs as Peter had wanted.
Alicia phones Peter, still deep into celebrating his state’s attorney win, and tells him to come over. He’s drunk, either with excitement or alcohol, and she lets him, for a cruel second, think that this is the new home she’s chosen for them. But no. It’s Peter’s new home. Here are the keys. She’s paid his first three months’ rent. Peter is stunned. “You slept with my best friend,” Alicia tells him, her voice threatening to break. “It was before she was your best friend,” Peter tells her. “Look, I’m not trying to make excuses. I’ve changed. I love you. What can I do to make this better?” He sounds sincere, but the short answer is nothing. And the long answer is that he’s kind of got a point.
Cue Alicia’s heart-wrenching breakdown at the kitchen sink, followed by the throwing of things. If there’s a theme to this episode, it comes in the form of the song that Alicia blasts, alone in her apartment, from Zach’s iPod: “Mr. Hurricane” by Beast. “I thought I was a victim … ” the song goes. “I stopped being a victim, but you weren’t there to see.”
Game face on, she is indeed a hurricane going up against highly entertaining, incredibly fertile lawyer Patti Nyholm (the great Martha Plimpton) in an emergency injunction for a liver transplant in a hospital room. Alicia’s client is a rock singer and mother of a 5-year-old who has three weeks to live without a new liver. There’s a motorcycle-accident victim down the hall in the hospital who’s being kept on life support until his brother can come from Afghanistan to say good-bye, but as soon as he’s unplugged, they’ve got twelve hours to get the liver to their rock chick, and for some reason, she’s been kicked off the top of the donors list. The answer she’s been given is that she’s too far gone and the liver needs to go to someone who has a better chance of survival. But Alicia is not having it. Her client notices: “You’re not like before. You’re fighting for me.”
The case is kind of whatever; without the invigorating presence of Plimpton, it would be a snooze. And with her, it’s just kind of confusing, but in an entertaining way. Gleefully manipulative Patti has popped out her kid from the last time we saw her on the show, but she’s already pregnant again! “It happens,” she tells Will. “Are you thinking of populating a small island?” he responds, awesomely. They’re in conversation because Patti wants to hire Lockhart Gardner to help her sue her firm for $8.6 million for firing her for being pregnant. Was she really fired for being pregnant? Who knows if she was even fired at all! But Will sees the advantage of having her embittered and in his office; this donor case is really a lead-up to a much larger class action they’re planning to bring against the hospital for over-testing patients and charging them exorbitant fees. Legally, Patti can’t still spill her firm’s secrets, but she says, “I’m human and pregnant and who knows what I might say in my state.” And the first thing she says is that the hospital administrator who claims to be away on an emergency and unable to testify in the injunction is actually just at his vacation home in Michigan. Later on, she passes information via a story she tells her baby.
In the end, Alicia’s donor gets her liver (big surprise) and Patti gets back her job at her firm, just as the donor suit ends and the class action ends. Was she fired in the first place because she was pregnant or because she was alienating clients or because she was stealing clients? Who knows? Was she even fired at all? Our guess is the class action fizzles; it didn’t seem like Lockhart Gardner had much evidence, and we could never figure out exactly what the case was about. But if it means more amazing Martha Plimpton appearances where she argues in court about whether or not she has the ability to wink, we’re all for it, confusion and all.
It’s interesting in this episode in particular that Plimpton’s gripe against her firm is being fired for being a moody, pregnant woman who’s being replaced by the Harvard boy with the penis (Ken Cosgrove!!!). Later, we find out that Alicia’s patient got taken off the donor list not because she’s more likely to die than the next donor, but because her judgmental male doctor has a bias against tattooed women who were hard drinkers in their youth and whom he blames for their own liver failure. In fighting for both these slighted women (if you can call Patti that), Alicia is in a lot of ways fighting for herself and her own independence from cow-towing to her husband’s needs and societal appearances.
That Alicia is done being the victim, or even being nice, is abundantly demonstrated when Jackie comes to her office to confront her about leaving Peter. Tone laced with contempt (“I have come to admire ASPECTS of you”), Jackie predicts that Alicia will “poison” her children with her bias and lashes out at her for hurting her son on the day he should be happiest. Alicia calmly tells her to be cordial, to mind her own business, or be asked to leave, but Jackie insists it’s her right to be there. After all, she practically raised Zach and Grace these last two years (never mind that that became necessary when her son cheated on Alicia with a prostitute and went to jail). It is freaking vicious; Alicia basically thanks Jackie for her service, but tells her she’s no longer necessary. She’ll make sure she sees her grandchildren, but that’s as far as she’ll go. “How can you talk this way?” asks Jackie. “Because I am this way. Your son has made me this way,” says Alicia. (True.) Then she’s off to court, a “Damn you to hell!” from Jackie probably sounding like sweet music to her ears. Can you even fathom how good it must feel for her to be able to finally rid her life of that woman?
Jackie, of course, will not be tamed, and she goes straight to Eli to ask him to pound some sense into Alicia’s head. In Jackie’s mind, Alicia is being selfish and prideful; this is all because she can’t forgive Peter, so she’s taken the easy way out. It has nothing to do with her darling boy being a philandering scumbag. Eli listens then replies, awesomely, “Jackie, this isn’t the fifties.” Still, he goes to talk to Alicia, and it’s heartening to see the warm rapport that’s developed between them. She gives him the time to ask what she knows he wants to ask, and he gives her the courtesy of not asking why she left Peter. He just wants to mitigate the political damage. As genuine as the relationship between Eli and Alicia seems, though, the scene strikes a few false notes. First, Alicia seems shocked when Eli mentions he knows she left Peter. Why would he be coming to see her? For the company? And Eli knows everything. This should not be a shock. Second, Eli asks if the split is “irrevocable,” and when Alicia says yes, he actually has to ask, “Wait, does that mean it will change?” ELI USED THE WORD IRREVOCABLE. He knows what it means.
But while Alicia is becoming a superwoman internally, she’s still putting on her alter ego of the good wife in public. Will asks her if she’s excited about Peter’s win, and she replies, “I’m busy,” which only prompts him to suggest she should take a week off to spend with Peter before he takes office. She breaks down yet again in what may be the third Emmy-worthy breakdown of the episode, telling her kids about the separation, but she has to ask them not to tell anyone, since there are people out there who will want to hurt this family. “Mom, you need to protect us more,” says Grace, plaintively, causing her mom to cry even more. Protect them from what? Life? Hasn’t she been doing that all long? Plus, me thinks Alicia’s plan to keep this quiet is going to implode pretty quickly the second anyone spots Peter leaving the apartment where he lives alone RIGHT BY THE COURTHOUSE.
Alicia and Peter have one final confrontation when she comes home to find him waiting in the kitchen (what, she didn’t change the locks yet?). Peter is contrite, and sincerely so. He’s phoned (heh) a marriage counselor. “If you asked me to give up the state’s attorney’s office today, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he says. Alicia’s reply — “Lucky me” — is so cold that you know this is headed downhill and fast. Her answer is no to him, no to the marriage, no to counseling. Then Peter jumps to a conclusion that doesn’t seem to be quite merited from the situation: “You’re sleeping with Will, aren’t you?” Um, would a woman who’s been having a two-year, slow-burning affair just suddenly get the impulse to kick her husband out and accuse him of something bad so she could be with her other man? Not Alicia’s style, and clearly just a ploy by the writers to keep this never-ending Will-Alicia thing going. Ain’t gonna happen, people. “Oh my God, the gall! Are you here to assign blame?” asks Alicia, rightly appalled at how her husband has suddenly turned into a monstrous Mr. Big in front of her. Peter wants to know if she’s divorcing him. She hasn’t decided. Then they get to the matter of Kalinda, whom Alicia has been avoiding all week (and who may have found a new love interest, or at least a new friend in a cute female nurse at the hospital). “She’s blameless in this,” says Peter. “Oh really? Did you rape her?” Alicia shouts back. (Ouch!) “She didn’t even know you then,” says Peter. (Again, good point.) “She knew you were married,” says Alicia.
And there we have it, folks, the heart of Alicia’s dismay. She maybe could have handled knowing there was yet another woman in Peter’s past. And she maybe could have handled knowing that Peter and Kalinda had slept together in their wild college days, or some time before she and Peter were married. But as her brother Owen frequently pointed out, Alicia has an incredibly rigid moral compass. Over the past two years, she’s had to endure knowing that her husband is a good man with very bad tendencies, and that Will is a great lawyer who will manipulate anything and anyone to get his way. She’s been dipping her toe into defying authority (like that time she and Will found and moved a gun that the other side needed as evidence), but it’s with the spirit of a straight-A student playing hooky during her free period, the rush of illicit behavior without actually being illicit. And now she’s finding out that the one person she thought she could count on to be sound and supportive has a moral compass that’s pointing in a completely different direction from her own. It’s not just that Kalinda has slept with her husband and never come clean about it, but that Kalinda is the kind of person who would sleep with a married man at all.
Peter knows it’s over. “Okay, Alicia, have at it. You’re the injured one,” he says, the elevator doors closing on him as Alicia screams, “Say something! Say something that will make me fall in love with you again.” (Ouch! OUCH!) Soon, back at his office, you can tell Peter is going to channel his anger into being Lucifer as state’s attorney. Scorched earth all around. “You must be thinking of the old Peter Florrick,” he’s telling someone on the phone. “I’m not in the favor-granting mood today.”
And in walks Cary. He’s there to introduce himself to Peter and to make sure that his past at Lockhart Gardner won’t affect his future at the state’s attoney’s office. We learn a few things from this: (1) Cary is staying at the SA’s office. Or at least he wants to keep his options open. Earlier in the episode, Diane and Will had called him in to offer him a third year’s bonuses and salary, but a second year’s title. (Also learned from that: Lockhart Gardner is in the black and will be expanding … cue new cast members next season.) Cary doesn’t seem too psyched about the prospect of being under Alicia at the firm, and his approaching Peter is a sign that he’s not taking the job. We also learn that Alicia has never talked about Cary to Peter, since he has no clue who Cary is when he walks in the door. This kind of makes sense, given that Peter was in jail the entire time Cary and Alicia worked together, but you’d think that as the dude who was trying to win back his wife as well as the state’s attorney’s office, he might have gone to one of the ten billion cases she argued against Cary. Either way, Cary mentions how he wants to overlook all the bad blood between him and Alicia. Peter immediately offers him a seat, as the strains of the night’s theme song — “I thought I was a victim” — start blasting in. And in a way, we sympathize with Peter. He fucked up royally, again and again, but he’s more than paid his penance, enduring jail and Alicia’s cold shoulder for two years, and now he’s being punished again for something that happened even before that, and with a woman he could never have predicted would become his wife’s best friend. Is it wrong for us to be proud of both of them at the same time? With all the scorched earth in both their wakes, will there be a building left standing in Chicago when this is over? What will happen when Alicia finally confronts Kalinda? And where does Cary fit in? Dying to hear your predictions in the comments. Until next time …