By Kate Linnea Welsh
Lockhart/Gardner goes up against the U.S. government this week in “Executive Order 13224” as they represent Danny Marwat, an American of Afghan descent who was arrested while working as a translator for a defense contractor in Afghanistan and is now suing the government for torturing him. The various government witnesses keep claiming that they can’t answer questions because of the Classified Information Procedures Act, and Diane repeatedly uses this to her advantage by getting the judge to agree that if the government says information about something is classified, they can’t also claim that it never happened in the first place. Diane is enthusiastic about the case because it’s “the right thing to do,” even if it means, as she says, “poking the bear,” but Will isn’t convinced that it’s right at all. His pragmatic worry that going after the government could make life hard for the firm is combined with his belief that Diane is “fighting an old war.” “Rumsfeld and Cheney are gone. They’re writing books,” he tells her, but she’s firm in her conviction that the government should be held liable for torture anyway. When they discover that Marwat has been lying to them about his connection to a suspected terrorist, though, Will and Diane agree to drop the case. But the Justice Department uses evidence uncovered in that trial to bring criminal conspiracy charges against Marwat, and Lockhart/Gardner is back in, this time to defend Marwat. Diane uses a similar tactic: A military officer refuses to answer questions about an interrogation because the information is classified, so the judge agrees that evidence from that interrogation is inadmissible, and throws out the case. Much of Lockhart/Gardner’s work on this case involves reading through redacted transcripts from secret military trials, and the show made very effective use of bleeping techniques during imagined reenactments of these trials to illustrate the extent of the redaction.
When the case begins, Glenn Childs invokes the titular executive order. Diane says it is designed to help investigate charities who are funding terrorists, but Childs says it also applies to terrorists who hire lawyers. The judge agrees with Diane that it’s a violation of attorney/client privilege, but concedes that it’s the law, so a representative from Lockhart/Gardner must meet periodically with Gordon Higgs, a monitor from the Treasury Department. Diane assigns this task to Alicia, and though Higgs assures her that there’s a Chinese wall between Treasury and Justice, Alicia immediately feels as though Higgs is trying to make her investigate on his behalf, especially when he asks her to report back if Marwat ever mentions the Badula Qulp region of Afghanistan. Marwat later mentions Badula Qulp, so in her second meeting with Higgs, Alicia tries not to answer the question, and Higgs threatens her with a large fine and jail time. He also advises her against getting a lawyer – not something a government representative is supposed to do. Alicia decides to fight back, “poking the bear” – the government – from yet another side. Will offers her a high-powered lawyer who is experienced in cases like this, but Alicia wants some distance from the firm and instead goes to Elsbeth Tascioni, one of the lawyers who worked on Peter’s case. Tascioni first comes across as scattered, a little ditzy, and almost amateurish, but she then uses these behaviors that are generally coded as “feminine” and ineffective to run circles around Higgs. Even Alicia doesn’t realize what Tascioni is up to as she gets Alicia to agree to help her with a case involving an insurance company – and then reveals that this insurance company covered Marwat’s company, so Alicia can’t answer questions about Marwat without it breaking the insurance company’s attorney/client privilege. She even throws in a hilarious bit about how the Supreme Court is very into corporate personhood recently and wouldn’t “take kindly” to Higgs infringing on the insurance company’s rights.
Peter is still cleaning house over at the State’s Attorney’s office, where he’s dropping any long-term investigations from the Childs era that don’t involve drugs or homeland security. We finally learn the details of the mysterious $45k in Will’s shady past as Peter and Cary discuss whether to drop the RICO investigation into Will’s activities. Fifteen years ago, when Will had a gambling problem, he took $45k from a client’s account, planning to put it back, but was caught, and Blake Calamar – that creepy investigator from last season – was “tasked with” covering it up. (An aside: Is the timing coincidental? Assuming it took him a few years to hit bottom, this implies that Will’s problem started around the time Alicia married someone else.) Cary argues against keeping the case open: it’s old, took place out of their jurisdiction (in Baltimore), doesn’t involve drugs or homeland security, and is “too fraught” given Cary’s employment history and Alicia’s current employment. Dana thinks they need to pursue the case in order to get Lemond Bishop, and Peter is clearly torn. He and Cary argue over whether they’d pursue it were Will “anyone else,” and Peter decides to go ahead so it won’t look like he’s giving his wife’s boss special treatment. Interestingly, if Will and Alicia’s relationship were public knowledge, that might tilt the scales the other way: Peter wouldn’t want it to look like he was going after his wife’s lover for personal reasons. Will is confronted by a reluctant Cary and an enthusiastic Dana, and though he more of less laughs at them for trying to intimidate him, he’s shaken enough to go confront Peter on the courthouse steps. I can’t quite decide how our metaphor of the week shakes out here: Peter is poking a bear by going after Will in the first place, but both men are very powerful, and Will is instigating in turn by taking things to a more personal level. Will tells Peter that he’s not buying new clean image, and insists that Peter’s still down in the mud with the rest of them. They then play an incredibly tense game of chicken as Will more or less dares Peter to accuse him of sleeping with Alicia, and I started hoping that they’d actually get into a fistfight, because wouldn’t it be great to watch Eli try to spin that? Alas, there are no fisticuffs or actual accusations regarding Alicia. They have to leave something for the midseason finale, I suppose.
Back at Lockhart/Gardner, Diane begins to poke the bear of Will and Alicia’s relationship as her plausible deniability slips away. She and Kalinda have Will on speakerphone when they hear Alicia’s distinctive ringtone of Grace saying “Mom, pick up the phone” – because Alicia is in bed next to Will. (I actually wasn’t sure why this incident was such a smoking gun. They both tell Diane they’re at lunch, so couldn’t Diane have heard Alicia’s phone because she and Will were eating lunch together?) Instead of confronting Will, Diane brings in an insurance company rep to talk about their coverage for sexual harassment accusations and lawsuits regarding bosses sleeping with subordinates. When she asks what Will thinks, he doesn’t quite crack, but says, “I think I trust your judgment, Diane. As you trust mine.” We’ll see about that. At least for now, Diane isn’t backing off – she makes everyone watch a video about sexual harassment. While this ploy is clever and pretty hilarious to watch, I think it slightly misses the mark. I can’t come up with a scenario in which Alicia would sue Will; the real threat seems to be claims of favoritism by others in the firm and/or retribution from Peter’s office. Will comes into the video screening late, walks by half the firm to sit with Alicia, and talks to her during the video, which is not exactly the most subtle behavior – unless he’s trying to give the impression that the busy lawyers don’t have time for this nonsense. He doesn’t seem to tell Alicia that Diane’s on to them – Alicia certainly acts like she’s confused by Diane’s cold behavior – and also avoids telling her about the investigation into him. Is he protecting her or himself?
And that phone call from Grace that tipped Diane off? It was to ask if she could go to a Bible study, which is exactly the question every mother hopes to get while she’s spending her lunch break in bed with a man who isn’t her husband. I like the way the show has stuck with this thread of Grace’s religious exploration, and shown that online video and other media are used in evangelism the same way they are in politics. This week, the video Grace watches accurately points out that, in the Bible, Jesus condemns divorce but never mentions homosexuality. While it’s heartening to see the liberal Christian position on homosexuality represented on television – too often, religious characters are one-dimensional and super-conservative – the video goes on to suggest to its teenage target audience that “your divorced parents” are the ones going to Hell. We’ve always known that Grace is particularly impressionable when faced with destabilizing influences, and sure enough, by the end of the episode she’s poking the bear of her family’s tenuous status quo. She asks Peter if he and Alicia are getting divorced and says maybe they shouldn’t, but she doesn’t tell him about the video, which perhaps leads him to think she’s suggesting Alicia might be open to reconciliation. When he points out that it’s not necessarily up to him, she says her mother just wants to be happy. Peter tells Grace that sometimes he doesn’t know what the right thing to do is, and she says that he should just ask her – which leads Peter to some sort of revelation. He repeats “Ask you…” and then immediately absents himself from the case against Will, but tells Cary to go ahead with it. It’s unclear whether he does this because he’s decided it’s the morally correct decision or whether Grace’s words made him think of some new strategy involving asking someone something. Anyone catch something here I missed?
Now that all of these bears have been poked out of hibernation, where do you think everything’s going? Some sort of epic confrontation or revelation seems inevitable, presumably on the last episode before the holiday break. Will suddenly-calm Cary temper angry Dana’s enthusiasm for the case against Will? Will Diane and/or Peter make their suspicions of Will and Alicia explicit? Will Grace get in the middle of things and blow it all up in some spectacular manner? Will Kalinda finally get some quality screen time? And will Eli please come back soon?
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