By Kate Linnea Welsh
“Live from Damascus” begins with a party at Lockhart/Gardner, as Will officially gets the word from Cary that the State’s Attorney will not go after him again. The celebration is short-lived, though, as Lionel Deerfield arrives with the news that the state bar association is pursuing Will’s disbarment – not because of judicial corruption, but because of the money he “borrowed” from a client in Baltimore fifteen years ago. Will ready admits that he’s guilty and seems ready to give up – “It never ends, does it? Once they have you in their grasp, they never let go.” – but Diane insists that he fight, and she’s the one who pleads for leniency. Because of Lockhart/Gardner’s pro bono work (which Will, of course, didn’t want to do in the first place), the board offers him six months’ suspension in place of proceeding with a disbarment hearing. Diane thinks he should keep fighting; she’s convinced that six months away from the law will kill him, which sounds a tad over-dramatic to me. Perhaps she actually means that she thinks it would kill her, or that she doesn’t know how she’ll function without him. Will decides to talk it out with Alicia instead, but Alicia barely has to say anything – Will decides to take the suspension as he’s telling Alicia what’s going on. When Alicia weirdly claims that she can’t imagine giving up the law for six months, Will points out that she gave it up for a decade, and this is a nice reminder that what’s seen as a cataclysmic event for a single man in this position is barely acknowledged as difficult sacrifice for a married mother.
Will’s final case before his suspension begins is against Neil Gross (last seen in “Great Firewall”), whose company made the software that the Syrian government used to decrypt emails and phone calls between protesters. They used that information to capture, torture, and kill people, and Lockhart/Gardner’s clients are the families of three dead American protesters. The judge keeps talking about his sympathy for Occupy Wall Street, and Gross’s lawyer Viola Walsh claims this must mean he won’t be objective, which is an interesting follow-up to the fake judicial corruption story. Much of the trial is spent going back and forth over whether Gross knew that the software, which was sold through a wholesaler, was headed to Syria, and Walsh distracts everyone with a picture that supposedly proves that one of the victims, Sara, is still alive. Will, who thinks he has nothing left to lose and, as Diane puts it, wants to “hit a home run with [his] last at bat,” is determined to get Sara back, and Kalinda uses her contacts and a little blackmail to find Sara’s location. Meanwhile, Will realizes that they key to the case is tech support: the Syrian government registered their software licenses but had to get help before actually using the software, so Gross’s company had to know what was going on and deliberately help them. By the time the dust settles, Lockhart/Gardner has won the case and Sara is safe at a US Air Force base in Germany – but Kalinda’s contact in Syria has vanished.
As is so often the case, Lockhart/Gardner’s motivations are less lily-white than they claim: the case was brought to them by software mogul Patric Edelstein, the firm’s top client. Neil Gross is his competition, so a case that damaged him would be theoretically good for Edelstein. Alicia seems to regress a bit as she once again is shocked and troubled by the idea that her firm might be doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Right after she expresses this to Will, Edelstein asks them to settle, because the case is bringing attention to all overseas software sales and he’s worried Congress will interfere in his business. Will takes the moral high ground and refuses: even though Edelstein instigated things, the victims’ families are actually the clients in this case. Alicia is worried about the firm potentially losing Edelstein’s business over this, but Will is fatalistic about everything at this point, and really, Alicia, you can’t have it both ways.
The State’s Attorney’s office must also deal with the aftermath of its failed grand jury case, and the way the show gives us both sides of this adds shading to the world in which the characters live. Cary, because of his promotion, is now his former peers’ boss, and serves as Peter’s stand-in as he announces that the office will be making some changes and focusing on “new priorities.” He half-heartedly denies that the changes have anything to do with the grand jury case, but doesn’t really pretend it’s a coincidence that he’s removing Dana from court cases and sending her off to collect child support. Dana protests that she was only following Wendy Scott-Carr’s orders, and that Cary was working Will’s case as well, but while that’s all true, it’s also true that Cary – having a better idea of what he was up against – kept himself a step removed from most of the intrigue, while Dana fell for Kalinda’s manipulations.
Eli barely notices the various uproars consuming the rest of the firm as he’s embroiled in his own personal/political drama. He completely ignores the fact that Kalinda is talking to Samir in Syria when he calls to ask whether she spoke to Stacie Hall about his ex-wife Vanessa, and this oblivious single-mindedness is both what makes him so good at what he does and what makes it impossible for him to sustain good personal or working relationships. He confronts Vanessa about hiring Stacie, assuming it’s somehow all about him: first Eli assumes that Stacie approached Vanessa in order to destabilize him, and then when Vanessa insists that she was the one who approached Stacie, Eli thinks it was a ploy to get him back on board with consulting for her campaign. He claims he doesn’t want to work on the campaign, but can’t keep himself from getting involved, especially when Stacie does things like ask Kalinda “How’d you find out she slept with Bin Laden?” in the middle of a crowded room. Vanessa asks Eli flat out whether he’s obsessed with her or Stacie, and then lays down the law: “Do me a favor. Either stop caring, or officially get on board.” He gets on board, so we can anticipate at least a few weeks of people exclaiming “But she slept with a Bin Laden!” at every opportunity. Eli and Vanessa clearly have unresolved feelings for each other, and Eli and Stacie might or might not hate each other but also might or might not keep sleeping together, so obviously this situation should be drama-free for all. I had wondered why Eli and Vanessa’s marriage didn’t work out, since they clearly like and appreciate each other, but what she says about working with him explained it all in seven words: “Win or lose, this will be nice.” Eli doesn’t want things to be nice. He wants to win.
Will’s suspension officially begins at the end of the episode. He and Diane decide to change the firm’s name to Lockhart & Associates, and although Diane assures Will that his position will be waiting when his six months are up, he doesn’t even reply. He and Diane give a mysterious, secret case involving Kalinda to Alicia to handle, which is yet another reminder that Alicia is on a different level than the rest of the associates and even most of the partners. At the same time, though, she joined the firm as Will’s protege, and his last words to her as he leaves underscore her ever-precarious position: “Follow Diane’s lead, Alicia. You’ll do fine.” Will she?
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