‘The Good Wife’ recap: Power grabs

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When we last saw Will two weeks ago, he was on his way out of the office on a six-month suspension and his future was tantalizingly uncertain: Just how would this alpha male survive without the day-to-day challenge of practicing the law? It looked like Will had an interesting, soul-searching journey ahead of him, but, thanks to a miraculous exception granted by the bar disciplinary committee — and Will’s intrusive sisters — he’s back at the office in little over a week. So much for that.

As the episode begins, Will’s hanging out in his palatial bachelor pad, looking comfy and relaxed and generally enjoying his mandated time off more than he thought he possibly could. I was expecting (and hoping) that we’d get a story about what Will does during his suspension — volunteering at a local school, maybe, or perhaps just binging on “Downton Abbey’ and several pints of Ben & Jerry’s. You get the gist. “The Good Wife” rarely shows any of its characters enjoying their downtime, so when it happens, it feels strangely voyeuristic. Remember the episode in which Alicia tried to relax while the kids were away with Peter? Or when Diane, on a solo outing to the art museum, met Bryan Brown’s rugged process server? So, as frustratingly brief as it is, the chance to see Will hanging out in his stocking feet is still enjoyable.

But two things ensure that Will’s hiatus will be short. First, in his absence, an internecine war erupts at Lockhart & Associates, as Julius, then David Lee and finally Eli make a play for Will’s office — and his position as the firm’s named partner. Julius perhaps puts it best when he says, “Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does our letterhead.” Diane clearly doesn’t want to deal with the infighting and begs Will to return to the office. She explains that, because Will is a name partner, he’s allowed to physically access his office — an awfully convenient exception, if you ask me. (But then again, I’m far from a legal expert.)

Will is less threatened by the power grab than he is by his overbearing sisters, who arrive unannounced on his doorstep in a kind of crisis intervention. There’s Aubrey, who’s younger and more Bohemian, and Sarah, who seems older and more authoritative. One of the things that consistently amazes me about “The Good Wife” is how the writers are able to draw such fully realized characters while withholding the most basic biographical information from the audience. To wit, here we are, near the end of the show’s third season, only just learning about Will’s family life. Just as Owen’s arrival last season made Alicia seem more three-dimensional, seeing Will with his sisters is also something of a breakthrough. We find out that he’s the overachieving only son, pushed into a law career by his father and fawned over by his loving — if intrusive — sisters.


They’re both worried about Will’s career, but what they’re really, really concerned about is his love life. They’re not convinced by his claim to be taking a break from dating, and when Kalinda shows up at Will’s apartment, they assume she’s the mysterious “woman on the phone” — a.k.a. Alicia. Although we know the truth, the series has been teasing a romance between Will and Kalinda for some time now, and I can’t help but think that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. What a mess that would be, right?

Driven mad by his sisters’ incessant badgering, Will ultimately decides to return to the office, shattering David Lee’s real-estate fantasies in one fell swoop. One thing I’m unsure of, though, is whether Will’s physical return to the firm will secure his position as named partner, or whether the three-way power grab will continue in the coming weeks. After all, Will’s still forbidden from consulting on any cases brought to the firm, so there’s certainly a void that needs to be filled. I’m also curious to see if Will’s new policy of moral rectitude can last once he’s back at the office. You get the sense that his resolve is strengthened by his physical distance from work and that by agreeing to return he may be headed back down a slippery slope. I certainly hope not; I was growing rather fond of the kinder, gentler new Will.

Because of their shared romantic history with Alicia, Will and Peter have always been obvious foils for each other, but one of the most interesting things about this season has been the realization of just how much these two men have in common. They’re both ambitious, hyper-competitive males with a history of morally dubious professional behavior, and this week Peter, like Will, struggles to maintain the high road. He and Eli meet with real-life operative Donna Brazile about the possibility of giving the keynote at the Democratic convention. She likes Peter but is concerned about his lack of fans within the party. (Weird, isn’t it, how willing Brazile is to appear in an episode that makes her look like such a party apparatchik?) At Brazile’s urging, Eli sniffs around and finds out that, in an attempt to “stay clean,” Peter has failed to reward his supporters.

As usual, the show takes a balanced, nuanced look at the phenomenon of political patronage: Peter’s efforts to run a clean administration are understandable, but so are Eli’s frustrations over his client’s unwillingness to play the game. After some hand-wringing, Peter caves in and offers a job as assistant atate’s attorney to a friend, Horton Baker. He leaves Cary with the thankless job of “rearranging” things at the office, which means that Geneva gets reassigned to another desk. It’s the second time in as many episodes in which we’ve seen Cary doing his boss’s dirty work for him; interesting how quickly he’s become Peter’s lackey.

The case of the week is a lawsuit against a filmmaker whose documentary allegedly inspired the suicide of a troubled young woman. It’s an interesting case, one that forces a conversation about technology — one of this show’s favorite subjects — but also aesthetics: Is it morally acceptable for a filmmaker to make suicide look and sound pretty? (“We tried ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ but it was too expensive,” explains the film’s editor in the funniest line of the episode.)

But the case is really most notable for the way it morphs into the “Battle of the Blonds.” The faux-naïve Nancy Crozier is back once again, eliciting eye-rolls from the filmmaker with her shallow knowledge of Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre (“He did ‘Hugo,’ right? I love ‘Hugo.’”) Facing a judge who’s apparently hostile to women over the age of 30, Alicia decides to break out her secret weapon, Caitlin, who’s proved to be at least as adept as Nancy at the whole feigned innocence thing. It’s her first attempt at litigation, and she aces it, grilling Kara’s bereaved boyfriend about her obsession with “Ethan Frome” and Kurt Cobain. Diane is impressed with Caitlin’s performance and promptly promotes her to full litigator, and Alicia is clearly not thrilled by the development. I’m willing to guess that there’s further tension in store for these two, especially now that Alicia has crossed the ruthless David Lee, but then again, “The Good Wife” is always full of surprises. A middle-aged woman on television actually getting along with her pretty, twentysomething colleague? Now that would be shocking.


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— Meredith Blake