"‘The Good Wife’ Open Thread: Playing Parts"
By Kate Linnea Welsh
The Good Wife is all about image, innocence, and blaming the victim as half of Lockhart/Gardner, including Will and Alicia, are stuck in a hotel for a court-ordered mediation—with the defense lawyers are led by Will’s ex, Celeste. The show gets into issues of regulation and patent law as Lockhart/Gardner negotiate on behalf of a woman disabled by pain caused by the malfunction of an unapproved medical device of her doctor’s own invention. He didn’t tell her the device had not been FDA approved, and the patient thought he was using her as a test subject without her consent. Celeste first tries to blame the victim by claiming that the problem would have been recognized before permanent damage was done if the patient hadn’t been overmedicating, but when that fails, Celeste turns to a defense that centers on the device’s regulatory status. She claims that the device is a minor modification of an existing device, and therefore doesn’t need to be approved by the FDA, but Kalinda finds a patent application made in which the doctor says his device is original work, not a modification. In this case, regulation and governmental oversight of medical technology is presented as an unqualified good.
Lockhart/Gardner win this case on the facts – the mediator says as much – but the techniques they use to get there offer some insight into what the firm, and especially Will, will and won’t do to win. He will neither sleep with Celeste nor bet the outcome of the case on a card game with her – he insists he’s grown up – but he will use that game to figure out what the defense is willing to pay. And when he realizes that Celeste plans to play Alicia by making her jealous of Celeste’s past with Will, Will and Alicia gleefully use this supposed jealousy to play upon the mediator’s sympathies. After two seasons of Alicia’s public stoicism in the face of Peter’s infidelities, it was delightful to watch her play-act storming out of a room in a jealous huff. The mediator knows he’s been played, but he seems to admire Lockhart/Gardner for it, rather than hold it against them, and says he’d hire them himself if he needed representation. Once again, virtually everyone in the world of this show expects everyone else to be operating in a moral gray area, and it’s refreshing that the show doesn’t waste time on people getting unrealistically outraged about these things.
While Will and Alicia are stuck in mediation, Eli takes on the case of the Wisconsin State Dairy Guild, whose cheese is implicated in a listeriosis outbreak in a Chicago elementary school. Eli makes the Guild hire Lockhart/Gardner as temporary counsel so that they can speak under attorney/client privilege, but he gets more than he bargained for when Diane insists on actually getting involved in the case. Eli, exasperated, tells her that she was just supposed to be “window dressing,” which he should realize is not something you ever say to a woman like Diane Lockhart, who has given up so much in order to get into her current position of power and to pave the way for other women to follow. Her legal advice contradicts Eli’s PR advice, and since one of the defining characteristics of this world is that Eli always sees what others can’t, the language Diane tells the cheese company’s CEO to use comes across just as badly in the press as Eli says it will. And the CEO does his own version of blaming the victim by repeatedly asking what else the ill children might have eaten.
Eli and Kalinda finally met and realized they were kindred spirits last week, but this week, the fundamental difference between them becomes obvious: Kalinda deals in facts, while Eli uses facts as tools to affect the higher truth of image and perception. When Kalinda’s investigation shows that the cheese company’s culpability is far from clear, Eli is frustrated, and explains that it’s not that he wants their client to be guilty – it’s that he wants it to be over so he can pick up the pieces, fix things, and move on. And when Kalinda goes to Cary for information on the mediation case, he finally calls her on the way she uses people’s feelings for her to further her investigations. Cary sees through Kalinda’s manipulation of others’ feelings, but he has obviously bought into her illusion of having no feelings herself. That one is going to really blow up in her face one of these days.
A plot strand involving a reporter serves as this week’s reminder that the disparate cases on this show take place within the same world. The reporter has a possible leak that will affect the mediation case, but she doesn’t really care about that and uses it as leverage to make Will to leak to her about Eli and the cheese case. In return, she tells Will that the investigation leak is actually not from the FDA, but rather the State’s Attorney’s office – they’re siding with the doctor rather than prosecuting him for fraud. There’s never any overt suggestion that Peter himself is behind this, or is doing it for personal reasons rather than political, but the possibility lingers, as it must any time Lockhart/Gardner and the State’s Attorney’s office go up against each other.
Back at home, Alicia’s brother Owen is babysitting while she’s stuck in mediation, and he does his own version of blaming the victim – though not in a wholly disapproving way – when he assumes that Alicia finally left Peter because she was sleeping with Will. Alicia, interestingly, doesn’t correct him, and it’s Zach who eventually mentions that the actual reason for the split was another affair that Peter had. Image and innocence are again juxtaposed as Owen calls Alicia “the most prudish wanton woman I know.” Meanwhile, Jackie, never the biggest fan of Owen, shows up at the house looking suspicious just as he happens to have his boyfriend over – what’s she up to, and how much does she know about the state of Peter and Alicia’s marriage? At the end of the episode, Alicia assures Owen that she doesn’t love Will. Do we believe her, or is she falling into Will and Kalinda’s trap of repressing her feelings by insisting that they don’t exist at all?
Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn’t involve dead animals.) She’s a senior editor at TheTelevixen.com, on staff at Vampire-Diaries.net, and writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog (http://katelinnea.blogspot.com). She’d love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea