Julianna Marguiles as Alicia, Alan Cumming as Eli.
Photo: David M. Russell/CBS
This episode encapsulates the problems that have slowly begun to plague the seventh season of The Good Wife. After an initial run of very strong episodes, it became hard to see how the story lines were supposed to connect … or why we were supposed to care. Those are far from ringing endorsements for the show at its mid-season break, and the final, gasp-inducing moment of “KSR” — which, believe me, we’ll get to — wasn’t quite enough to redeem the 58 minutes that came before it.
Let’s start with Lockhart, Agos, and Lee, where there’s been a mass exodus. All of the white bro junior associates have left the firm to work for Louis Canning, a discovery Cary makes when he comes to the office for an early work session and finds their iPhones abandoned on a conference room table. (Sidenote: How is Matt Czuchry rendered extra-attractive simply by virtue of the fact that he’s wearing a hoodie and carrying a box of donuts? Must be witchcraft.)
Ultimately, the running of the bros is an anti-climax: They leave, Cary tries to win them back, they decline, Cary devises a plot to lure them into a trap to return, they take the bait and come back, then Cary fires them all. Cary does get to do something for maybe the second or third time all season, and that’s nice, but the story doesn’t alleviate my continued frustration about how tangential the firm’s work feels to The Good Wife as a whole, and how underused Czuchry and Christine Baranski are. #FreeDiane?
Over at the other Good Wife law firm — secondary in size, but not second in our hearts — Alicia and Lucca defend a surgeon accused of conspiring to kidnap and rape the mother of one of his patients. It’s a disturbingly well-researched story line, but its sole function seems to be to give Judge Schakowsky another opportunity to be corrupt, awarding Alicia and Lucca an acquittal even after the jury rules to convict. I don’t understand where The Good Wife is going with Schakowsky any more than I understand how he’s suddenly out of bail-and-bond court and presiding over a prominent case.
Meanwhile, Ruth is still certain that Jason and Alicia are mere seconds away from ripping each other’s clothes off, which is probably a valid concern, so she convinces Courtney to offer Jason a job. This is the only glimpse we see of Margo Martindale in the entire episode, which makes me worry that she’s on the slippery slope toward blatant misuse that’s befallen many promising Good Wife guest stars. Anyway, Courtney listens to Ruth without asking Eli first, which is confusing. Courtney knows Alicia is Eli’s territory, and it doesn’t make sense for her to meddle in Alicia’s life before checking with her new paramour. Regardless, Courtney offers Jason a two-month, lucrative contract in San Jose. Jason offers Alicia the chance to match the offer, but of course she can’t, and so Jason heads out without much of a goodbye.
Alicia is convinced it’s all Eli’s fault and she is furious, and while it’s usually a lot of fun to watch her get incandescently enraged (at Eli or anyone), the dialogue in the scene is almost unbearably tinny. This problem had been cropping up more and more frequently throughout the season. The Good Wife is always a little soapy and over-the-top, but this season, it’s tipped into cheesy territory. You could give Alan Cumming dialogue from an episode of Saved by the Bell and he’d figure out how to nail it, but the show’s other performers aren’t quite as capable of elevating clunky material. Alicia does end up confirming to Eli that she and Jason never slept together, a revelation that I’m not sure I believe.
Later, after Courtney has scheduled hotel sex with Eli at promptly 8:15 p.m. — which he changes to 8:16 p.m. to prove he’s an independent gentlemen — she basically announces, “Well, I’ll be back in a year!” In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised by her announcement. If anything, it was strange that she’d stuck around in Chicago for as long as she did. Don’t most major political donors just drop off the check, pose for a few pictures, and then leave? Eli is devastated. As Courtney explains why she’s leaving and says she thought he wanted her to get rid of Jason, he lies in the hotel bed looking very small and, for lack of a better word, very impotent.
And so Eli sadly heads back to Alicia’s apartment, where she finger-stirs him a margarita. (Incidentally, my friend Kurt Soller suggested a few weeks ago that Alicia switched to hard liquor because Scandal’s Olivia Pope co-opted red wine. It’s an incredibly intriguing theory and I hope we spend the entire winter hiatus debating it.) Eli gently pushes Alicia to call Jason, which initially seems odd. As Jason was leaving Alicia’s apartment earlier in the episode, he told Eli there was something left behind in her office for her — and Eli ransacked through her belongings trying to find and (presumably) destroy that something. The moment calls to mind the voicemail from Will Gardner that Eli had deleted all those years ago, but still, I was not even CLOSE to prepared for him to tell Alicia about doing so. I audibly gasped as he began to explain, “Six years ago, you got a message from Will Gardner. A voicemail, and I erased it.” Watching Alicia’s eyes change as he says this is a reminder of how sublimely subtle Julianna Margulies can be.
Eli goes on, saying, “Will said he loved you, and would give up everything to be with you. And I erased it, I never let you hear it, and I’ve been sick about it ever since.” He’s almost crying as he admits this, and it’s tempting to feel a little bit badly for him. As masterfully as Eli compartmentalizes his actions and emotions, this season has shown us how human and vulnerable he is. That empathy fades, though, when you consider the scope and weight of what Eli stole from Alicia — and when you watch that realization break over her. With as much composure as she can muster, Alicia carefully reaches across the table and, instead of clawing Eli’s eyes out, confiscates his drink. “Get out,” she whispers.
This changes everything. Again. See you in 2016, Good Wife.