Imagine a Cinderella story in which the elegant protagonist starts out in that castle on the hill, but eventually winds up scrubbing floors in her stepmother’s house. Would you blame her if she made a pact with the Devil to get some of her power back?
That’s essentially the predicament faced by The Good Wife‘s Alicia Florrick in the show’s Season 7 premiere.
Forced from her State’s Attorney perch by a voter-fraud scandal (with which she had nothing to do), Alicia is suddenly a brilliant legal mind without a firm to call home. Her reputation is toxic, her sham of a marriage to the Illinois governor only slightly less so, and she’s been reduced to working (or, more accurately, getting humiliated) in bond court for $135 per client*. (*Or for bupkis, should she forget to have them check the little “payment” box on the court’s intake form. Ouch.)
Of course, even with a potential wicked stepmother entering the picture —in the form of Margo Martindale’s cheerfully ruthless political operative Ruth Eastman — it’s not as if Alicia is living like a scullery maid. Sure, her home office isn’t as vast as her former digs at Lockhart-Agos, but she’s still decked out in Bergdorf’s finest, and her hubby thinks he’s got a legit shot at the Vice Presidency. (You’d think the latter would count for something, no?) And lest we forget, it wasn’t so long ago Alicia and Cary were operating out of a former warehouse space with a homeless man squatting in the bathroom, so she’s not exactly revisiting rock bottom.
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That said, underdog has always been a good color for Alicia. You can practically hear L.L. Cool J’s voice booming in the background — “Don’t call it a comeback! I been here for years!” — when David Lee drops a pearl of condescension in her path, or those mean kids at bond court won’t let her sit at the lunch table, or when Ruth makes the grave mistake of giving her a withering, “let me tell you how this is going to go” edict.
Ruth’s not only made an enemy of Alicia, but Eli, too. (More on that epic bitchery in a moment.) If Peter’s new campaign manager can somehow get on Diane’s bad side — side note: I’m going to need at least 30% more Christine Baranski in all future episodes — she might wind up disappearing to whatever landfill or construction site that swallowed up Kalinda’s ex-hubby. Tread carefully, lady! Alicia-Eli-Diane is a serious
Bermuda triangle of power!
My favorite part of Sunday’s hour, though, turns out to be Alicia’s nascent friendship with scrappy bond attorney Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo). At first, the women eye each other as warily if they were both wrapped in yellow police tape. Lucca’s carved out her niche in the 10-minutes-or-less world of bail hearings and she hardly needs a legal A-lister siphoning off her business. But she’s clearly got an innate decency that doesn’t like seeing Alicia get punished by the bond court judge just because — and hey, knowing the scandal-to-rebirth window in the U.S. is getting shorter and shorter, maybe Lucca also senses a hidden opportunity in latching on to Mrs. Florrick’s empty bandwagon. At the same time, while Alicia perhaps didn’t spend as much time as she should’ve in researching bond-court protocol, she’s also savvy enough to understand that there’s nothing like insider intel. Bonus points: Lucca makes a good stand-in in probate court — and she’s down for happy hour hijinks. (Another request for showrunners Robert and Michelle King: Could Alicia and Diane please please please have another messy martini powwow between now and the new year? All good if Lucca is there, too. Thank you.)
As you toast to that idea — come on, it’s a good one – I’ll get going on recapping the action from “Bond”:
FEMALE BOND-ING | As I mentioned earlier, Alicia and Lucca meet awkward in bond court. “I voted for you,” says Lucca. “Sorry about that,” replies Alicia, flatly. But there’s not a lot of time for small talk in a system that has 350 cases per day to process — and as the judge tells Alicia, he doesn’t have time for newbies who’ll slow the process down. “The last thing I need is Marie Antoinette,” he eye-rolls, just as a limo pulls up and the driver asks Alicia to hop in. It’s Lucca who finally holds open the door just enough for Alicia to stick a foot in, arm-twisting the judge into giving her scrappy (well, as “scrappy” as an Illinois first lady can be) new acquaintance five cases — then talking her through some (though not all) of the basics. “We’re not in the miracle-working business,” Lucca says when Alicia begins to huff about the broken system they’re in, of the limited work they’re allowed to do. Things take an interesting turn when Alicia, as a favor, agrees to cover Lucca’s bond court shift — but when Lucca can’t get back in time for Alicia to make her probate case, they switch spots… with surprisingly not-terrible results.
RUTH-LESS PEOPLE | Eli wants Peter to be a strong second in Iowa — the better to get on Hillary’s veep radar — and so he sets up a meeting with rock-star national election specialist Ruth, who after one hour in a room with Peter, winds up taking Eli’s job. (Ouch!) Mr. Gold, naturally, goes ballistic over the betrayal, noting he stood by Peter even while the Governor was “banging your freakin’ ethics coordinator… I was the one freakin’ set of footsteps in the sand!” Peter’s blood pressure barely rises during the exchange — his pragmatism really makes him douchey sometimes — but when the men’s grievances are aired, it’s clear Eli is not interested in staying on as Peter’s chief of staff at the state level. “You just lost your greatest asset — and made your worst enemy,” Eli rages, before going home to sit in his gorgeously appointed apartment, drink beer and watch zombie movies. Alicia is appalled when she learns what Peter has done — but her husband has a point that she can’t live her life totally separate from his political aspirations, then swoop in and pretend she has a voice (or even the right to scold him).
It looks like Eli has painted himself into a corner — and out of the Good Wife universe — when Alicia stops by his place to check how he’s doing, and he replies with an ice-cold, “I was never your friend — I was just a political operative. I was the help. And I need to be done.” But after a badly needed haircut and a little cooling-off period, the most comically dangerous player on CBS’ Sunday night lineup pitches himself as chief of staff for Alicia — selling her on the idea that he can protect her from being “rehabilitated” in the media as nothing more than a wife. She’s totally down with the idea, and in fact delights in telling Ruth that she’s hiring Eli and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
When Ruth seethes that the campaign — not Alicia — is paying for the position, Alicia reminds Peter’s new right hand that as a first lady, she’s nothing more than a volunteer… with the implication that she can pull her support at any time. Eli, not one to keep his feelings to himself, pays Ruth one more visit just so she knows exactly what time it is (vengeance o’clock): “I plan to use Alicia’s rehabilitation campaign to undercut you and eventually destroy you. [Laughs] I may even destroy Peter in the process. I’m not quite sure about that yet.” And the plot thickens!
CASE OF THE WEEK Alicia gets a walk-in client off her web site — a woman from a working-class family whose mother happened to own one item of value: An $8 million Chagall painting. It’s a lightweight court proceeding — with Jane Curtin presiding as judge over a series of increasingly absurd-sounding expert witnesses — but Lucca scores the final TKO punch when Diane and David Lee’s client teams up with the housekeeper to try to grab the prize — and Lucca points out that a caregiver for an invalid can’t inherit more than $20,000. Yep, a 50-50 split is the final outcome — justice prevails for once, even if the reputation of Post-Its take a hit.
AN OFFER SHE CAN(‘T) REFUSE? | Remember how Season 6 ended with Louis Canning asking Alicia to come work with him — and most of us were kinda like, “Ummmmmm… dude is better in small doses”? Well, he keeps up his pursuit throughout the hour. Alicia tells him he’s the devil — not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that — and adds that, “For the first time in my life, I don’t answer to anyone.” (Looking back over the last six years, methinks she exaggerates a tiny bit.) Canning, cunning as ever, turns to Milan Kundera for backup, pointing out that when any two people collide in public, there’s one who says “I’m sorry,” and one who says “Watch it.” He wants her to be the latter. Oh, and it turns out he’s the one who hooked Alicia up with the probate case — and she doesn’t object to the idea of him keeping that big-money business rolling into her one-woman firm. Is she really going to dance with the devil in the end? Time will tell.
OUT WITH THE OLD | Cary starts hanging with the young attorneys at Lockhart-Agos — the gray-haired woman with the tissues up her sleeves and the napping Howard Lyman are just 1-800-t00-much — and learns that folks are beginning to see their firm as less than hip, and possibly downright stodgy. Cary gets one dapper young (male) lawyer a meeting in front of the partners to present a new computerized operating system, and while Diane & Co. are all “Hated it!” the kid thinks he and Mr. Agos are having a moment that’s not entirely platonic. Cary assures him he misunderstood — but there’s an electricity in the air when it happens, and I wonder if the Kings made this a momentary amusement or are planting the seeds for something deeper.