As I watched the first two-thirds of last night’s episode of The Good Wife, my notes were full of effusive comments — about the incredible work Alan Cumming is doing this season, the professional chemistry between Lucca and Alicia, the irascible charm of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (yes, I know I bring that up every week), the show’s ability to pack story on story on story, doing more in a single episode than most shows do in a month. But toward the end of the episode, we found ourselves in an all-too-familiar setting — the cubicles of an NSA-surveillance operation — and my heart sank, because honestly? The Good Wife covered interesting ground when it focused on the NSA in seasons five and six, but I will have trouble staying interested in another extended storyline rooted in NSA surveillance. Of course, the fact that the NSA operatives now have permission to continue surveillance on Alicia didn’t spoil the episode completely for me — it just makes me very nervous.
And what’s funny is the NSA has only come into play again because of a one-off case of Alicia and Lucca’s. Their client, Kristen, was fired from her large tech company for lying about a past job on her résumé, a lie that was only discovered because she was forced to take a polygraph because of theft at the company. Jason discovers that the theft in question never actually happened, but the company counters that the polygraph was permissible for reasons of national security. And so Alicia turns to an old friend for help — Jeff Dellinger, the Snowden-y character Alicia and Cary represented several seasons ago. It is nearly impossible to remember that Zach Woods is playing Jeff Dellinger, not his character from Silicon Valley, but I did my level best … although now I want at least one official, sanctioned HBO prestige-drama character to do a crossover on The Good Wife before the series ends. Is that too much to ask?
Cary talks Alicia through the process of contacting Dellinger, who’s fled to Iceland, a process that involves a burner phone and a bounced signal and also hiding under an actual blanket, and he agrees to help. Dellinger tells the judge that an app of Kristen’s that she made as a side project was sold by her company to the government. The company then fired her to prevent her from profiting from her creation. Or something like that. It’s an intricate story even by The Good Wife’s standards, but it ends with Kristen’s company offering a settlement and the NSA having enough reason to keep listening to Alicia’s calls. (Literally because she said the word “Snowden” out loud on the phone.) Incidentally, Kristen’s app, Spoiler, was designed to analyze the pilot episodes of television and predict what would happen later in the season, and if our actual, non-fictitious government has that technology and is holding out on us, I’ll be very upset.
Speaking of upsetting, the story going on back at the firm this week is an odd one — the partners are conducting interviews for a summer position, and a young African-American woman named Monica is among the candidates. David doesn’t want to hire her because her schooling and test scores aren’t Ivy League–level, and Howard is boorish as ever in her interview, but what’s really baffling is Cary’s failure to push for her. Four episodes ago or so, he was the one complaining about how homogenized the firm had become — why is he all of a sudden content to go with the status-quo white-dude hires? Why is Diane suddenly impotent when it comes to hiring the qualified female candidate of her choice? The joke’s on all four partners, since Monica releases her secretly filmed interviews, but the whole story is misbegotten to begin with, and unrelated to the rest of the episode.
Meanwhile, Peter’s gone up another 4 percent in the polls, which according to Ruth means he has an actual shot at the presidential nomination, not just the vice-president slot. I’d list all of the things Peter’s done that should disqualify him from being anything resembling a serious contender, but IF BEN CARSON CAN MAKE A GO OF IT, why not Peter? Peter’s increased chances mean Ruth needs Eli even more now (because Peter needs Alicia). Alicia reacts to all of this news by putting ice, tequila, and triple sec in a glass, then stirring it with her finger to make a “margarita,” which is absolutely the proportional response. I’m still really enjoying the fact that The Good Wife is using Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but I have to wonder whether her chances will be hurt at all by the fact that a prime-time TV program keeps cheerfully suggesting she’s eminently beatable by a one-term governor with no national experience? She can’t be thrilled about it. And while we’re asking questions, I’m sorry, I know Ruth Eastman is supposed to be the best of the best, but why would you give the candidate with sexual scandals in his past a slogan with the word “service” in it? The snarky “service above self” headlines write themselves.
Peter’s newly bolstered chances put Eli in an odd spot. On the one hand, he’s now perfectly placed to take down Peter on an even grander scale. He arranges for Frank Landau to introduce Peter at Peter’s announcement speech, all while liaising with Judge Schakowsky to get the evidence he needs to prove Landau tampered with Alicia’s election results last year, thereby linking Landau and scandal to Peter’s announcement and wrecking his chances. But Shakowsky tells Eli he has proof that Landau only tampered with the voting machines at Peter’s request, and I think that’s the first time the show has confirmed that’s what happened, correct? If Eli has Peter’s involvement publicly confirmed, the taint of the scandal spreads to Alicia, and she’ll be ruined, too. (Throughout all of Eli’s scheming, there’s a funny little ongoing struggle to get Peter and Alicia a venue — and outfits — that mirror Obama’s presidential announcement.)
And so to protect Alicia, Eli backs down. Some might argue that maybe Eli’s heart wasn’t really in seeking vengeance on Peter, but I disagree. It’s just that his regard for Alicia is greater than that, which is confusing and hilarious and complex and also pretty touching, and it’s fascinating to watch him roll through all of those emotions and come out unsure of what his next move is. I can’t wait to see what he schemes up next, because truly, when it comes to Eli, this season really is as good as gold.