By Kate Linnea Welsh
“Bitcoin for Dummies” was one of those episodes of The Good Wife that revolves around everyone manipulating everyone else. Unfortunately, since Will is facing the very real prospect of jail time and Eli isn’t in the episode at all, the machinations are grim, without the undertone of playfulness this show often gives even cases involving serious issues. To make up for that, though, we get double Kalinda, as she plays a central role in both the case of the week and in Will’s legal woes.
A lawyer named Dylan Stack, who has Treasury agents literally following him around, comes to Lockhart/Gardner because of Alicia’s past dealings with Treasury. (This show is one of the best around at remembering to let previous cases affect new ones.) The Treasury department is after Stack’s client for supposedly creating a new online currency called bitcoin, and they’re after Stack because he won’t tell them his client’s identity. At first, Will is understandably reluctant to take on a possibly quixotic and high-profile case against the government in the middle of his own tussle with the State’s Attorney, but the representative of the brave new world of virtual money has arrived with piles of cash, and we know that Lockhart/Gardner needs cash. Judge Sobel quickly rules that Stack doesn’t have to give up his client’s identity, but since we’re still in the first half of the episode, that can’t possibly end things, and it doesn’t: Gordon Higgs, the same Treasury lawyer Alicia dealt with a few episodes ago, promptly arrests Stack for being the creator of bitcoin himself.
Perhaps characteristically, Will wants to go on the offense where Alicia and Diane are inclined to defense. They try to argue that bitcoin isn’t a currency at all, so it doesn’t matter whether Stack created it. But after some back and forth, including a fun cameo by CNBC’s Jim Cramer as an expert witness, Sobel rules that bitcoin is a currency, basically because it’s transferable and you can buy things with it on Amazon. I wasn’t entirely convinced – Cramer made some good points about bitcoin not having many of the characteristics of currency, including a central regulating bank, and another witness’s comparison of bitcoin to frequent flier miles seemed apt – but at least this outcome meant we got to spend the rest of the episode watching Kalinda run around a cryptography conference in pursuit of the real inventor of bitcoin.
Kalinda eventually figures out that bitcoin is three people, not one: Stack and his two partners all accuse each other in hopes of leading both Kalinda and the Treasury agents in circles. The most interesting element of this is that one of the partners is a beautiful young blond woman, and Kalinda astutely points out that the woman could use her gender and looks to deflect suspicion: Everyone assumes that the inventor of a revolutionary tech product must be male, and it’s satisfying to see a woman turn this discrimination on its head and use it to her advantage. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter that Kalinda is being manipulated, because she doesn’t need to have the true answer as long as she can play Higgs the way she wants, and no one on this show – with the possible exception of Eli – can manipulate like Kalinda. She sets up (and “accidentally” records) a meeting with Higgs at which she promises to unmask the real inventor of bitcoin, and this proof that Higgs doesn’t really believe that Stack is the inventor leads the judge to dismiss the case. At their last meeting, Alicia tells Stack that she bought one bitcoin, but that it didn’t feel real. Stack responds with unexpected words of wisdom that could be the tagline for the whole show: “Real’s gonna change. Just watch.”
Will’s storyline this episode starts when Wendy Scott-Carr – with Cary and Dana in tow – meets with Will and his lawyer Elsbeth and makes yet another attempt to get information out of Will before actually starting legal proceedings. Will and Elsbeth neatly play her, acting completely cooperative while giving her no information at all. Elsbeth is being weird, of course, but at this point it’s barely remarkable – except to the people who aren’t used to her yet. And I think this is one component of her strength: in addition to her ditziness making people underestimate her legal skills, her bizarre behavior keeps strangers distracted, so they’re automatically at a disadvantage when they negotiate with her or her clients. As the State’s Attorneys leave, Cary can’t resist rubbing it in to Wendy that Elsbeth played her, and so Wendy orders Dana to use her leverage with Kalinda to get something solid. Cary looks sincerely concerned at this turn of events, and I’m left wondering whether Wendy just hasn’t noticed that Cary is one of Kalinda’s few real vulnerabilities, or whether she’s waiting to use that against them later.
Speaking of vulnerabilities, Elsbeth insists that she and Will have a conversation about his, but he claims not to know what they are. (This made me wonder whether Elsbeth knows about his relationship with Alicia yet.) He comes up with one pretty quickly, though: When he quit gambling, his bookie forgave his debt of $8,000; this bookie was a friend and Will later invited him to join his notorious judge-filled basketball games. Will realized that Wendy will paint this as a payoff for introducing the bookie to the judges, and try to find a case that a judge supposedly threw for Will in return. This is exactly what Wendy’s doing, and since everyone knows that Kalinda is basically a investigative superhero, both sides ask her to find the case that would best fit this scenario. She produces a case for Will (who claims that “Sometimes the ball just bounces funny”) and then gives the files to Dana – who is threatening to go after Alicia for fraud (in regard to the possibly forged document from last week) if Kalinda doesn’t help her. Since Kalinda is Kalinda, it’s not at all clear what she’s up to; I think she’s basically on Will’s side, although even that could be questioned. Did she in fact find the most incriminating case, or is she sending both sides in the direction of an accusation that will be easy for Will to refute? Did she doctor the file before she gave it to Dana? And how does the threat to Alicia figure in? Is Kalinda still trying to make up for sleeping with Peter – and to win back one of her few real friendships – by protecting Alicia at Will’s expense? Will doesn’t know about the threat to Alicia, but if he did, he’d probably protect her as well. After years spent coping with the fallout of Peter’s misdeeds, it’s finally something questionable Alicia herself did (since even if she was tricked into it by David, she went along with it in the end) that may have huge ramifications on the futures of the men in her life.
And there’s manipulation on the home front as well, as Alicia hears Zach and his girlfriend Nisa say “I love you” to each other and quietly freaks out about her baby growing up. When she suggests that the young lovebirds slow things down and see a little less of each other, Zach immediately asks if it’s because Nisa is black, hoping that his mother will be so horrified by the suggestion that she’ll bend over backwards to make it clear that it’s not true. Alicia sees through this one immediately: “You know it’s not that, so don’t try to pretend.” But Zach gets a break when, to get out from under Alicia’s supervision, he takes Nisa to Peter’s apartment – where his grandmother is waiting, as apparently she has nothing to do but lurk around hoping to catch other members of the family doing things of which she can disapprove. Zach can barely hide his glee when Jackie expresses concerns about his relationship in almost the same words that Alicia used, and he takes the first opportunity to tell his mom that his grandmother agreed with everything she said. It works, of course: turning into a mother like Jackie is one of Alicia’s biggest fears, so she immediately reverses her position and the restrictions on Zach and Nisa’s relationship are gone.
CBS is airing a repeat next week, so I’ll catch up with you in two weeks, when, if we’re to believe the previews, Wendy will ask Alicia under oath whether she has ever slept with Will. Fun times!
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