Oh, Will Gardner, you might be the most competitive, vindictive, infuriating attorney scorned in the greater Chicago area of all time ever, but damned if you’re not also the most towering, uncompromising romantic figure on network television today.
Is it possible to be all those things at once? Yes, in the hands of The Good Wife‘s insanely talented writing team — where no person is only one thing, where the good and bad and complicated in-betweens of human nature reside in every character — such conundrums and juxtapositions aren’t the exception, but the reality.
And that’s exactly why our protagonist Alicia Florrick can flash back to her life as a struggling single mom, a steely power player, a possible “slut” (oh, Jackie, how you make your presence felt even when you’re not in the room!), and a chica who can show up to a major meeting slightly inebriated without losing an ounce of credibility in the process.
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With that in mind, let’s hit on the major highlights of “A Few Words,” where Alica, Will, Diane, Cary & Co. head to NYC for the American Bar Association meeting — and where Julianna Magulies reminds Emmy voters of her worthiness (not only to be nominated, but to win) through multiple layers, timelines, moods and, yes, even hairstyles.
THE SPEECH | The action this week takes place at the ABA meeting in NYC, where Alicia starts the hour freaking out about her keynote speech on op-out moms returning to the workforce, the first draft of which gets a thumbs-down from Cary. His stern advice to write what she knows sends Alicia flashing back to the months following Peter’s indictment (and the era of her sensible/drab suits and un-flashy coiffs) — all roads which lead back to Will’s hand reaching out and grabbing the elevator door of some insignificant law firm. Just as important, though, Alicia knows her speech might make or break her new firm’s ability to attract legal rainmaker Rayna Hecht (Jill Hennessy) to sign up as a new partner. After she finally sifts through her near misses with multiple firms (more on that in a second), and how her flirtatious energy was one of the things that led to her associate position at Lockhart-Garnder — she winds up dropping this knowledge on her audience: “Use everything you have to get the job — and don’t feel entitled.” Plus, she adds, as a woman, no one questions why you opted out in the first place. (Mmmmkay?) Alas, though, when a phrama deal blows up near the end of her speech, hundreds of lawyers looking for high-voltage clientele walk out — leaving Alicia in search of a beer and a burger, and feeling more vulnerable than usual.
THE FLASHBACKS | As Alicia writes her speech, we see her looking backward at some of her initial pre-Lockhart-Gardner interviews. An attorney named Lorraine Joy calls her in as a curiousity — not a real job prospect. She scores a job at her second interview — only to break down in heartbreaking tears when she learns the position is actually for a paralegal, and that her last name is considered a liability. But oh — that hand reaching out and grabbing the elevator door! (Le sigh. Did anyone get shades of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Too much? Fair enough.)
Anyhow, it’s Will — in dapper suit and sneakers (a baby threw up on his shoes) — who happens to be in the same firm Alicia just got her offer, and he can’t quite seem to let their casual conversation end, seeing how they haven’t seen one another since Georgetown. “Call me sometime — Stern, Lockhart and Gardner,” he grins, after offering his sympathies about the scandal with Alicia’s husband. Later, we see Alicia engaging in a flirtatious conversation on the phone — and, while we know she’s signed a lease which she can’t afford, we see her imagine Jackie judging her behavior. It’s not just about trying to raise two kids with her husband in jail, her taunts the monster-in-law of her imagination, “You like nice things, so go be a whore.” But Alicia is so much more than that. In her sexy, $300 dress, she sits down face-to-face with Will, practically tries to talk him out of hiring her, and their sexual dynamics — while a part of the conversation — are hardly the sole consideration. “You’ve always been good,” says Will, remembering the Alicia who wasn’t defined by her marriage. And then, with a line that might as well be her epitaph someday, he adds, “Hey, we all have a past that could hurt us: Don’t let yours hurt you.”
We also see a flashback to Kalinda presenting Will with a background check on Alicia (she was about to be fired before she took maternity leave because “she lacked a killer instinct”) and Alicia (“poor but entitled) and Cary (a “cocky new associate”) meeting for the first time in the LG lobby. And as much as she hates to admit it, Alicia admits she’d have hired Cary over herself had she been in Will and Diane’s position back in the day. (See how hard it is to opt out, then opt back in?)
THE THREAT | Nelson Dubeck shows up in NYC, too, tracking down Will, who’s forced to buy earplugs at the hotel gift shop to ignore his interrogator. (Diane, too sly to miss a thing, sees the start of the exchange and finally gets the truth from her partner.) Will decides to hire Elsbeth Tascioni (Emmy-winner Carrie Preston) to help his defense, and as always, her genius delivers abundant laughs — and plenty of righteous energy.
THE FUTURE | Elsbeth ambushes Mr. Dubeck in her usual goofy fashion, getting him to show the video he thinks proves Peter committed voter fraud (and in which he believes Will is complicit). “What is that? Is it a gif or a jiff?” Elsbeth asks, referencing her favorite, doctored image of a bear on a trampoline falling into a pool. (OMG, amazing.) Dubeck makes the mistake of underestimating his strange rival, admits “it doesn’t matter what the facts are,” insists he’s going to nail another governor of Illinois. And then Elsebeth whips out her hidden recorder, to Dubeck’s rage, and drives home the verbal dagger that “one party consent” is enough for a recording to be admissable in New York. (Ouch!) The scene wraps with the best line of the night: “Oh, by the way, you should look into an anti-Semitic, costumed, furry bear in Times Square.” (And if you don’t get the reference, then I must suggest/insist you go back and watch the episode from beginning to end.)
Three other crucial moments from the installment that point us forward:
* Will accidentally stumbles across Alicia in a diner across the street from their hotel, and the forge something of an icy, beer-fueled truce. “We could never make it work,” Alicia offers. But Will seems to suggest his personal love of Alicia wasn’t necessarily bound to his professional hatred: “You’re linking two things together I never did.” The encounter ends with a handshake — a handshake that, if I’m being honest, shook me down to my ankles and made my inner ‘shipper hope this boat can still sail to paradise (or the Chicago equiavlent of it). When Alicia finally flashes back to the moment of her hiring at LG, she recalls Will’s shrug at her effusive thanks: “When I’m broke and lying in an alley somewhere, do something nice for me.” Let’s hope she remembers that if/when Will takes the fall for her hubby. Speaking of which…
* Peter/Eli’s fixer, Moody, draws a reluctant Will into a corridor at the NYC hotel, but Will warns him off, tells him not to approach him again. Alas, though, Dubeck has caught it all on security cam, and he tells Elsbeth and Will that they’ve got 48 hours to give him the intel he wants — otherwise it’s 10 years apiece in the slammer for Will and Moody for covering up election fraud.
* In a bit of episodic closure, a drunken Elsbeth — at the piano with Nathan Lane’s enigmatic Mr. Hayden, reveals she’s the one who landed a partnership with Rayna — even though her cover of “High Hopes” isn’t all that. Oh, Ms. Tascioni, let this be a reminder to never understimate you! The lesson learned (maybe?) is that a buzzed Elsbeth is a more effective negotiator than a buzzed Alicia. Or at least that’s the lesson I learned!
With that, I pass the mic to you. What did you think of this week’s Good Wife? Sound off in the comments!