"‘The Good Wife’ Open Thread: Alienation Of Affection"
By Kate Linnea Welsh
The Good Wife returned from its holiday hiatus last night with an episode that focused almost solely on the firm, rather than Alicia’s personal life, while losing none of its usual stakes or tension. The case of the week involves a couple called the Huntleys who are suing Lockhart/Gardner for alienation of affection when they represented the wife in their divorce two years earlier. David Lee, the head of family law, claims the case was straightforward, but it soon comes out that he, or maybe Kalinda, hired a stripper to get Huntley drunk and caught in a DUI sting so that his wife could get full custody of their daughter. He didn’t tell the client that he did this, and now she’s claiming that David hired a stripper to seduce her husband so that they wouldn’t reconcile. Alicia assisted with the case in her first year with the firm, so she’s put in the middle of things: in her deposition, she is first accused of using the events her own personal life to create false rapport with Mrs. Huntley and convince her not to reconcile, and then she comes dangerously close to perjury when she’s asked whether David hired the stripper. Alicia neatly skirts this: she can truthfully say that David did not hire the stripper to seduce Huntley, because he in fact hired the stripper to get the man drunk. The fact that Alicia is both willing and able to thread that needle illustrates the way she’s learning to play the game without completely abandoning her principles.
Alicia is more directly involved, though, when the Huntleys give up on the alienation of affection suit and instead accuse Lockhart/Gardner of fraud. David got one of Huntley’s companies for Mrs. Huntley in the divorce, and Julius’s department later helped her sell it in a way that resulted in the firm ultimately making more from the deal than the client did. This shouldn’t be an issue because there’s a standard rider that clients sign in divorce cases like this that waives this conflict of interest – but no one can find the rider, and Alicia is on record as the one who filed the final paperwork. Alicia tells Kalinda that she can’t actually remember filing it – and then David appears, claiming to have found it misfiled in Cary’s old paperwork. Alicia, to her credit, immediately goes to Diane with her suspicion that this is a new piece of paper that David had slipped in with some other paperwork so she’d sign it unnoticed. Diane tells her to stick with her “best memory,” which is of signing the paper, and insists that “testimony isn’t about right and wrong.” The Huntleys’ lawyer is suspicious too, and when he’s unable to break Alicia, he deposes Cary, assuming bad blood between Cary and his former employers. But Cary offers a full-throated defense of Alicia and the firm in general, as Alicia appears equal parts surprised and touched and Diane looks on like a proud mother. Afterward, Alicia expresses her surprise to Cary, who just says, “Wow. Things change.” When they worked together, Alicia was identified as the naive idealist and Cary as the amoral striver; neither was ever really that extreme, but now they’ve all but met in the middle. And when Cary, in seeming good faith, publicly pronounces that Alicia has a level of integrity that Alicia herself questions, it’s another reminder that on this show, it’s dangerous to assume that our guys are the good ones and the other side is all bad. Indeed, Diane ultimately wins not through proving the firm’s innocence but by producing more pictures of Huntley with a woman not his wife.
Eli, who became an equity partner just a few months ago, is astonished – or at least plays astonished – that he (and the rest of the partners) would be expected to pay equal shares of the damages awarded were the suit against David Lee successful. While he claims to be worried about the money, he’s clearly more unsettled by the chaos that overtakes the firm; Eli is constitutionally incapable of being a true team player. His knee-jerk reaction is to get rid of the source of the chaos – David – and he enlists Kalinda to help him. While Kalinda, who is not a partner, doesn’t have an obvious horse in this race, it seems inevitable that she throw her fate in with Eli, as neither of them have any time for interpersonal nonsense or the clumsy machinations of less talented schemers. (The only thing better than watching Eli and Kalinda team up will be watching them, at some point, actually put effort into tearing each other down.) Eli accuses Diane of holding “the failed romantic notion that what [she's] running here is a family,” and to some extent that’s true, but again placing Diane in the maternal role gives her the mother’s superpower of seeing through her children’s bluster. David won’t leave because no other firm will give him as much freedom as she does, and Eli won’t leave because he’s just killing time until the gubernatorial campaign gets going. And so Mom lays down the law: “So stop bickering, and stop pretending like you’ll leave. I won’t have it.” They stop. I love that the show includes this specifically feminine form of power in Diane’s impressive stable of skills, both because it avoids the “powerful women must act like men” trope and because it models a path for Alicia’s future that is consistent with her past and present.
While the firm is dealing with that lawsuit, Will is trying to prepare himself for his next, more serious, legal issue: the judicial corruption investigation. He tries to give Diane an out – “If this starts impacting the firm, we’ll have to talk” – but she barely lets him finish the sentence before insisting that they’ll never have to talk about that. Eli would say this is another example of her trying to run her business like a family, but I think both Diane and Will know that they’re far stronger together than separate. He takes her at her word, for now, and starts interviewing lawyers. After dismissing one who insists that the investigation is no big deal, he’s shaken by another who thinks the best Will can hope for is two years in prison and permanent disbarment. He goes to Alicia but can’t ask for comfort, as he’s still determined to keep her out of things; instead, she recommends her lawyer, Elsbeth Tascioni, and warns him to look past first impressions. When Will meets with Elsbeth, her ditziness is in overdrive, and it’s a credit to both Will’s judgment and his faith in Alicia that he takes her seriously. And Elsbeth immediately proves her worth: Before Will even technically hires her, she’s leaked a rumor that Wendy Scott-Carr is investigating the three most honest judges in the city, which makes it practically impossible for Scott-Carr to get anything done and prompts her to stop her fishing expedition and go ahead and indict Will whether she’s ready or not.
Personal lives are on the back burner this episode, but the process server finds almost all the lawyers during interesting moments, and this set up plenty of opportunities for the rest of the season to explore. Diane is at an art museum and thinks the process server is trying to pick her up; later, he is, and she seems to be attracted to him for some of the same reasons she liked Gary Cole’s rough-and-tumble ballistics expert. David is in the middle of a Gilbert and Sullivan performance and shows up at the office in historical military costume, and if this were an Aaron Sorkin show, that would mean something about duty, but in this case it’s probably just an easy laugh (Diane: “So, David, not to pry, but did you enlist?”) and a reminder that David takes himself very seriously while everyone else thinks he’s ridiculous. Alicia is delivering her children to their first day back at private school, so we have pressure on Alicia to keep her job (that tuition’s not cheap!) as well as a reset on the countdown to Grace’s next implosion. And Will is dancing at a wedding, claiming he’s seeing someone off and on and deflecting the suggestion that he needs to settle down while trying his best not to look completely heartbroken. Well, at least next episode, he’ll have his indictment to distract him.
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