An hour of TV built around the lyrics of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and the sexual fetishization of baby lotion isn’t supposed to end with the tugging of the heartstrings/the dabbing of one’s eyes with Kleenex.
But this isn’t just TV, it’s The Good Wife. And the beauty of CBS’ legal drama is that no single act happens in a vacuum.
Showrunners Robert and Michelle King possess an institutional knowledge of plot lines and characters that ensures the death of a beloved hero (Josh Charles’ Will Gardner, in this instance) still resonates with his friends and lovers some seven months after the fact; that casual, on-the-record comments about religion from years ago can come back to haunt a woman now considering a political career; and that nobody ever really outruns their pasts (especially if it involves being the subject of a grand jury investigation).
Let’s cut to the heart of the action from Season 6, Episode 6 (“Old Spice”) and the key questions it raises:
“DAMN YOU, OLD SPICE!” | The case of the week — a carryover from last week’s “Shiny Objects” — finds Alicia and Elsbeth Tascioni no longer duking it out in court, but rather teaming up against Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Perotti (Kyle MacLachlan), who’s coming after Elsbeth’s client J-Serve and its former CEO (who’s hired Alicia to sue her former employer for gender discrimination) on economic espionage charges. The case itself is fairly juicy — J-Serve’s essentially been accused of surreptitiously selling defense-contractor code to the Chinese government — but it’s mostly just an excuse to continue exploring the strange attraction between Elsbeth and Josh. Turns out she wears baby lotion and is afraid of sidewalk grates; he smells of Old Spice and can’t get her out of his head. And they wind up atop her desk in a lusty display of intermittent insecurities, ripped bodices, and errant buttons that get matted into his coiff the morning after. Nevertheless, Elsbeth and Josh are lawyers first, lovers second. So while Elsbeth gets her win in a duel of treacheries, she doesn’t necessarily get her man… not yet, anyway. He heads back to D.C., she tells him to “call me, maybe” and after a farewell handshake, each one sniffs a hand to pick up the mate’s signature scent. These two are delightfully loopy, to be sure, but given the heightened seriousness of the show since last spring, I’m OK if their rom-com hijinks aren’t seen again ’til spring 2015.
ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME, YOUR WANNABE STATE’S ATTORNEY | In the week’s deepest, most intriguing arc, Alicia learns one of her major campaign pit stops includes “kissing the ring” of local religious leader and talk-show host Pastor Jeremiah Easton — while somehow quashing the idea of her being an atheist (a point she expressly made back during Peter’s gubernatorial run.) “They deserve to know who you are,” campaign manager Johnny insists. “I’m an atheist,” Alicia practically whispers. “They deserve to know who you want them to think you are,” shoots back the politico, finally being honest.
Alicia rules out using Will’s courtroom shooting as the basis for publicly reconsidering her spirituality, and finally turns to her fervently Christian daughter Grace for some advice. I love that the show’s writers refuse to make mother or daughter so staunchly dogmatic that their conversations ever turn testy. Grace, who on one level is so sweetly pure in her belief system that it’s never occurred to her to be judgmental, is still shrewd enough to know her mother isn’t necessarily looking for God — but rather, a way to make her lack of belief palatable to the voting public. “I can’t believe in God, Grace,” Alicia says, knowing her daughter can handle (or at least deserves) the truth. “I don’t feel the need.” But here’s where it gets interesting. When Grace finally asks her mother, “What’s the struggle?,” Alicia’s answer is one that’s brutally cynical: “Politics.”
Alicia passes her “God test” with Pastor Easton — she hates when people don’t listen, she tells him, and then, after Easton mention’s Grace’s Christianity, adds a vague but believable, “I’m listening.” But on her way home with Eli’s daughter Marissa, who’s been hired as her new “body woman”/right hand/monitor, our protagonist comes clean: “I don’t like pretending to be something I’m not.” Marissa’s answer, however, sums up exactly why Alicia shouldn’t (or maybe should?) be running for office: “You’re good at it.” It’s an amazing juxtaposition with Grace’s subsequent prayer circle with her friends – where they congratulate her for opening a door to religion for her mom that she knows, deep down, remains locked. So Alicia is feeling guilty for pretending to be open to religion — and for using her daughter’s religiousness as a way to mask her own unpalatable stance from the public; Grace, meanwhile, is trying to be open to her mother’s lack of faith, and yet we see how her own purest of intentions have been tainted in the political discourse. Alas, I’m not sure anyone living in Casa Florrick comes out a winner this week.
A PAROLE VIOLATION BY ANY OTHER NAME… | Cary spends most of the episode at a Harvard Law mixer — drunkenly flirting with a hot blonde who can barely believe he’s the in-trouble law partner of Illinois’ first lady, then drinking some more and taking home a buxom brunette who, when he says he wasn’t gang-raped during his incarceration, comes back with a deeply unfortunate attempt at sexytalk: “That’s too bad — it would’ve been a turn-on.” Cary doesn’t run in the opposite direction, though, and it’s just the first of his bad decisions this week. When he and his new conquest get back to his apartment, he finds Joy Grubick (the incredible Linda Lavin), his pre-trial services officer, outside his door and ready for a spot check. “You’re obviously severely inebriated,” she says plainly, her intent never quite clear. But when she checks his Uber account to verify he didn’t drive home drunk, she learns he’d crossed the border into Indiana for his event. And she’s not from the camp that thinks that because it was a Harvard mixer and he’s white that there shouldn’t be consequences. (Fair enough, really.)
As the court considers revoking bail, Joy meets with Kalinda — probably a rare equal in enigmatic intentions. Kalinda’s sure of one thing, though: Cary’s the most honest person she knows — and his being in trouble speaks more to the inadequacies of the Cook County system than to the man in question. Joy, though, has done her research, and quietly probes Kalinda about all of her publicly documented run-ins with the law. Did I actually see Kalinda look uneasy for a moment under questioning? It all comes full circle when Joy recommends to the judge that Cary be saddled with an ankle monitor, a 9pm curfew and a new rule whereby all contact with Kalinda is strictly verboten. I dunno, folks: Can these two resist any future installments of the vertical sexytimes we saw them engaged in a few weeks back? Maybe if Kalinda vows to wear nothing but flats, and Cary swears off his upper-body workout regimen?
In other Cary news, he tries to take a leave of absence from the firm with his name on the masthead — “I’m an anvil here,” he argues – but Alicia won’t hear of it. “No, we do this together.” All I can say is this was a missed opportunity to discuss Alicia’s run for public office, what it means to the future of Florrick-Agos, and how she’s been running roughshod over his initial vision for creating their own kind of law firm free of the Lockhart-Gardner vibe/philosophy/personnel/office space. That conversation has to be coming up before Thanksgiving, yes?
BEHIND ENEMY LINES | Diane decides to exercise her hold on the Lockhart-Gardner lease — wouldn’t you, if you had a chance to torture David Lee? — and it ends with a standoff between the two parties, each threatening to pursue pricey OSHA violations against one another.
Louis Canning and David Lee, though, get out ahead by finding a clause that requires Diane to have been physically present at LG HQ to maintain her power. It looks like checkmate, until Kalinda goes all Queen-to-Rook and figures out Diane is allowed a proxy in her absence. They meet with the Partner Most Unlikely to Be Poached — Howard Lyman — and sweet-talk him into joining Florrick-Agos. “Well, when one is pursuing excellence, does timing matter?” Diane coos so soothingly, you almost believe her. When she guarantees the guy who’s been put out to pasture for years will have a chance to be saddled up and argue in court, he joins Team Florrick-Agos — and Canning, Lee and their ilk are forced to flee the premesis (while taking the ‘F,’ ‘A’ and ‘L’ buttons off their phones as a parting shot).
It’s comically delicious — that is until Diane and Alicia return to their old digs to choose their offices. Cary (who I wish had been in the scene) has already claimed David Lee’s space, so the two ladies have to choose between Diane’s old space and Will’s former office.
“I could use a fresh start,” Lockhart says, understanding how hard it will be for Alicia to sit behind the desk of her late lover. But Alicia insists Diane’s perch is Diane’s perch — and so the women take their places, slowly soaking up the ambiance, the memories of the lives they’ve left behind, the people and partnerships they’ve lost, the exciting yet unsettling prospect of what’s to come. It’s a beautiful, wordless moment — one that Christine Baranski and Julianna Margulies infuse with so much palpable emotion that it’s hard to imagine two other actors on TV right now who could do this work better — if at all.
One wonders, as Alicia takes her place in Will’s kingdom, if the lure of the firm will prove so powerful that it’ll unrail her political aspirations — or if Florrick-Agos-Lockhart’s new space is just a pit stop as she pursues even greater goals.
Heaven help her – or forsake her — it’ll be an interesting road ahead.
What did you think of this week’s Good Wife? Did Alicia’s discussions of religion make you skittish? Is Cary coming undone — or was this just a momentary lapse? Is Lavin in the race for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series? And did you tear up when Diane and Alicia took their desks? Sound off in the comments!