By Kate Linnea Welsh
In “Death Row Tip,” everyone’s digging up the past as Lockhart/Gardner become tangentially involved in a death row case because Ricky Parker, the convict in question, gives information to the police (and a documentarian) about a gang murder. When the police dig up the body, they find the body of a missing young woman as well, and Lockhart/Gardner represents her boyfriend, who is arrested for her murder. They’re convinced that, instead, her murder is related to the gang killing, even though a 14-year-old gang member confesses to the latter. Parker suggested to the documentarian that he knew who really committed the crime, but he’s scheduled to be executed within hours. Lockhart/Gardner therefore agrees to help the defense attorney with Parker’s appeal in return for access to him. They do eventually solve the murders and exonerate their client, but that’s almost incidental; what the show cares about is the death penalty issues the case raises. No one really thinks Parker is innocent, so their appeal rests on testimony from his mother that she neglected him and testimony from his priest that he is actually a good person – and all of it is blatantly untrue. This prompts Alicia to examine her feelings about the death penalty, and, somewhat surprisingly, the show decided to make her one of the characters most in favor of it. The defense attorney and the priest both argue that it’s morally acceptable to say whatever needs to be said in the appeal because the death penalty is always morally wrong, but Alicia isn’t buying it, partially because the girls that Parker raped and murdered were Grace’s age.
It would have been interesting to have Will more involved in this case, because I’m not sure how his constant internal conflict between pragmatism and idealism would have shaken out in this situation. But he was distracted by being investigated by Cary and Dana, who now seem to suspect him of buying off a corrupt judge. He knows that Diane is watching him and Alicia closely, and suspects that Peter is going after him because of Alicia, but when Alicia shoots down his idea of “pausing” their relationship, he certainly doesn’t fight very hard. He still doesn’t seem to have told Alicia much about the investigation, and I can’t decide whether he’s trying to protect her or trying to keep her from discovering something about his past. In Alicia’s absence, Will’s main ally is Kalinda, which in turn calls into question Kalinda’s actual motivations in her escalating love triangle with Cary and Dana. Kalinda spends much of the episode flirting with Dana, and Cary is blatantly jealous, possibly of both of them. But after they have a close call when a suspect starts shooting, Cary and Kalinda finally kiss – and then he gives her a weird look and walks away. I suspect that Kalinda is actually letting herself feel things for once, but Cary has no reason to think she’s not playing him, so this turn of events should play interestingly into the investigation into Will.
Eli’s subplot this week has an almost disconcertingly lighter tone, as political consultant Mickey Gunn returns to get Eli’s help with the mystery candidate they had discussed a few weeks ago. It turns out that the candidate is former congressman Robert Mulvey, and the dirt Eli and Kalinda dug up was a picture of the candidate simulating oral sex on a Santa statue as a college prank. Gunn and Mulvey don’t think it’s a big deal, but Eli, of course, gets to the heart of things: “You fellating Santa. I have to be blunt, sir, because that’s how TMZ is going to report it, FOX is going to repeat it, and Jon Stewart is going to finish it. Here. Comes. Santa.” Mulvey swears it was a one-time thing, and as usual, Eli’s strategy is to get out in front of the story: “It’s coming out either way. The only thing you can control is when and what it means.” Gunn and Eli go right to Chris Matthews (who actually appears on the show) and try to spin the whole thing as a think piece about “the problems of the Facebook era candidate,” and they almost get away with it, until Matthews produces photos of Mulvey engaging in similar pranks – including one involving a statue of George Washington – so it’s game over for Mulvey, at least for now. Some day, these people will learn that lying to Eli never gets you anywhere.
Meanwhile, Eli’s computer issues are continuing, so he gets Zach in to deal with them (Has someone – Will? – officially approved this, I wonder?) just as his daughter Marissa happens to be visiting. Marissa is there to protest the idea of her mother running for office, and really, as Eli’s daughter, she would know just how awful this could get for herself and her family. But Marissa is more than happy to latch on to Zach, if only to make her father uncomfortable, and Zach clearly sees in Marissa an ideal candidate for one of the vaguely inappropriate relationships he semi-consciously orchestrates in order to explore his feelings about his father’s behavior. As Zach and Marissa are wandering around Alicia’s bedroom discussing the benefits of manipulating guilty divorced parents, Jackie shows up to look scandalized and snoop around in Alicia’s underwear. Will she find something incriminating? Is there something nefarious going on with the computers, or is it just a device to get Zach involved at Lockhart/Gardner? Which is more dangerous to the firm, Will and Alicia’s relationship or Kalinda’s involvement with the enemy in the person of Cary Agos? And what will Peter do if and when he’s finally confronted with evidence about his wife that he can’t ignore?
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