“I do this because I care. I know it doesn’t sound like it. That’s just the way I talk.”
That explanation, given by Cary’s pretrial service officer to him at the end of his first appointment, could easily apply to any of The Good Wife’s core characters. Everybody cares, but everyone cares just a tiny bit more about getting shit done, and so sometimes, the second attribute outweighs the first. A lot went on this episode, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t first talk about that opening scene with Cary and the bond officer. Seriously, find me another television show that can so effectively introduce a new character (Cary’s officer, Joy Grubick, played by the inimitable Linda Lavin) and an entirely new situation (Cary’s life post-prison) in under five minutes — all while providing tons of backstory.
As Cary and Joy talk, we learn through flashbacks that Cary’s very unhappy with Diane’s presence at Florrick/Agos (which probably has a different name now, right?). We learn that Cary and Kalinda are back on in all possible senses: She kisses his wounded hand in a way that’s terribly intimate, just after they have sex pressed up against a floor-to-ceiling window. (If we’ve been using Scandal as the measure of how sexy things can get in the 9 p.m. time slot, well, time to move the chains.) We also learn that Alicia and Cary are at odds over the addition of so many new lawyers while he was behind bars, and that Cary is hemorrhaging clients. But he’s kept at least one: Ed Pratt, a farmer who’s suing a neighboring farmer for collecting and using his patented, genetically modified seeds. (I spent such a long time trying to find a joke in there.)
From the way Pratt’s case is featured, it would seem like The Good Wife is slipping back into a case-of-the-week structure, something that seemed to get buried a bit last season between Will’s death, all of the wire-tapping shenanigans, and the conflicts between Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since a format like that would be a good anchor for the show as it moves into telling stories about Alicia’s campaign (we’ll get to that). And I’ll never complain about a structure that gives us top-tier guest stars week in and week out — Christian Borle is back (fresh from Masters of Sex) as attorney Carter Schmidt, and Robert Sean Leonard appears for the first time as Christian arbiter Del Paul, although it feels, as always, discourteous to refer to him as anything other than Robert Sean Leonard.
Pratt and the farmer he’s suing turn to Christian arbitration once they’ve realized they find the climate of the traditional courtroom too adversarial. The process is simple: prayer, a few witnesses, some back and forth in testimony. It’s typical court, minus most of the arguing, with approximately 250 percent more prayer. (Robert Sean Leonard winkingly assures both the lawyers and the viewers that it is, in fact, a real thing.) It’s an interesting departure from our typical courtroom setting, and it’s a uniformly strong set of performances. I wish, though, Robert Sean Leonard were being set up in a role that had a bit more potential to recur, and I felt that the scene in which Alicia knocks on Grace’s door to ask for some advice about the Bible was a conceit employed solely to give Grace a little something to do. And it also made me wonder: Why is Taye Diggs reciting Bible verses in such a sexy way? Trick question! Taye Diggs doing anything is sexy.
Meanwhile, Cary’s bond is already in jeopardy — the State’s Attorney’s office is alleging that he used Kalinda to threaten the informant on Bishop’s crew and scare him away from testifying. Diane decries the whole thing as Kafka in action. “The longer I live, the more I realize everything is Kafka in action,” the judge replies exhaustedly. The prosecution has a photograph of Kalinda speaking to Trey Wagner, who’s now left town, and his girlfriend testifies that he left town because “some Indian woman told him someone was gonna kill him.” Since they can’t disprove the allegations about Kalinda, they offer an alternate theory — Wagner’s wife was having an affair with a dangerous man, who could theoretically have been the reason Wagner left town. The judge declares it a wash and invites Cary’s pretrial service officer to break the tie; I saw some eye-rolling on Twitter about how much power she was given in the situation, but pretrial reports can carry exactly that much weight. I like that Joy was given the opportunity to be both all-business and compassionate but shudder to think about what happens in (real-life) cases with officers incapable of making smart, nuanced decisions.
And then there’s Alicia’s campaign, which it seems is now an actuality, in no small part due to the version of Gloria Steinem who lives in Alicia’s head and pops up during daydreams. A legitimate question — we were meant to believe that the first encounter, where Alicia met Steinem backstage at a charity event, did happen, right? And then the other flashes of Steinem were Alicia’s brain embellishing on and inflating the encounter? While we’re asking questions, do you think Gloria Steinem asked her stepson Christian Bale for any acting tips? And won’t Valerie Jarrett be offended that it was Steinem’s appearance, not hers, that sealed the deal for Alicia? And what will it take to get Steinem a recurring guest role?
Alicia wasn’t just spurred on by Steinem (real or imagined), but also by Eli telling her that if she didn’t decide to run, he’d have to tell Peter to endorse James Castro instead. Eli made a show of how distasteful it was to him but said that sometimes bad men have to be given good things. Castro went on to prove precisely how bad he can be, meeting Alicia in a cramped back corridor after Cary’s bond hearing solely to throw shade at Alicia. He talks about how he’ll put Cary away for 15 years, but Alicia doesn’t take any real notice until he casually says, “Will Gardner was your lover. You blame me for his death. That’s why you’re running. Retribution.” (Fans of The West Wing will recognize this as Alicia’s “Crime — boy, I don’t know” moment.) Her face betrays nothing, but she gets right up into his, and as she stalks off, it’s clear the matter is settled.
“If I ran,” she asks Eli, calm as all hell, “What’s the plan?”
Go ahead. I’m listening.