This week, The Good Wife tackles the complicated algorithms that guide our digital lives and the emotional algorithms that guide our hearts. In both cases, those algorithms are messy and problematic, and somebody’s bound to get hurt.
The case of the week involved Chumhum, yet again. Monica Timmons (who, you’ll recall, wasn’t hired at Lockhart, Agos, and Lee in favor of three white guys) calls in a favor from Diane on behalf of a friend whose restaurant was run out of business by Chummy Maps. The maps automatically provide safety ratings of neighborhoods to tell users which parts of cities should be avoided. The restaurant was in a neighborhood designated as dangerous, and the owner wants to sue, arguing that the safety ratings are racist codes for minority neighborhoods.
Alicia and Lucca get involved when Louis Canning brings them in to defend Chumhum, and the judge first orders discovery on anything involving Chummy Maps and race and then expands it to every facet of Chumhum’s operations. So the Canning associates are given the daunting task of reviewing Chumhum’s hard drives and deciding if each occurrence of a depressing lists of racially insensitive words is responsive or nonresponsive to the discovery request.
At Lockhart, Agos, and Lee, Monica and Cary settle into an uneasy work pattern, sniping at each other about the white male hires and reverse racism. They’re smiling so hard as they talk to each other, but you know those smiles are covering up the seething resentment they both feel.
Meanwhile, Alicia and Lucca arrive at Chumhum HQ to talk with coder Kip, and he mentions “the animal incident.” The women shut him down immediately, not wanting to be ethically obligated to disclose whatever that means. But eventually it comes out: Three years ago, the algorithm that auto-sorted photos into categories would tag photos of black people under the heading “animal.”
Clearly, this isn’t good for Chumhum’s “hey, we’re not racist!” argument, particularly when the coders say it’s because the algorithm wasn’t given enough photos of minorities. Lucca asks if the algorithm ever mistook a white person for a polar bear, then looks pointedly around at all of the white male employees, who only coded what they know.
Canning, ever the slippery ethical eel, tells Alicia and Lucca not to include the animal incident in the discovery but does suggest that they include every racist joke that Chumhum’s search results would turn up. In the end, Diane and Cary receive a 50 terabyte hard drive of discovery, which Cary describes as the largest document dump in legal history.
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However, one of the eager white guys hired in place of Monica earns his keep by uncovering the animal incident, which Diane brings up in court. When the judge finds out that Alicia knew about it but didn’t include it in discovery, he blows his top and holds her in contempt. Man, Louis Canning really is the devil.
In the end, Chumhum and the restaurant owner settle out of court; the photo coder is fired, and Chummy Maps’ safety filters are changed to opt in. Furthermore, Alicia provides proof that the failed restaurant was struggling even before the safe filters went live — proof they found because it was stored on Chumhum’s cloud service.
NEXT: Eli tangles with Jason Crouse
Did you pick up on a spark between Cary and Lucca prior to this week? After they wrap up their case, Cary asks Lucca if she wants to celebrate, so she takes him to a nightmare of a dance club. At first Cary hangs back, but he finally dives onto the dance floor with the pixie-haired opposing counsel. Oh, I ‘ship it.
Next, Courtney Paige and Eli are still making kissy faces, but more importantly, they put together a hush-hush focus group — secret even to Alicia — to see if they can resurrect Saint Alicia and possibly put her up for a Senate seat. The focus group goes well, and we’ll clearly circle back to this later in the season.
And finally, to Alicia’s personal life: Ruth Eastman notices Alicia and Jason Crouse’s scorching chemistry and badgers Eli about whether the two of them are having an affair. Eli, clearly blindsided, denies it and then, in true Eli fashion, makes things worse.
First, he awkwardly asks Jason, “She’s getting close to you, isn’t she?” Jason tells Eli that he needs to ask Alicia those questions. So he does, tracking her down and describing Jason as “very strong, a man of few words.”
“Yes. I’ve gotten over words,” she says, then cuts to the chase: “You’re telling me when I sleep with Jason, you’d rather I kept it private.” Eli can’t tell if she’s kidding, and her Mona Lisa smile gives nothing away. Alicia finally admits that she’s not sleeping with him and tells Eli she won’t discuss this with him again. However, Jason was in the next room during this conversation, and he beats a hasty retreat, leaving Alicia to wonder how much he heard.
And then, oh, so awkward. Eli sends his assistant, Nora, to chaperone Alicia and Jason in her home. Alicia pulls Jason into her office, worried that Eli made things uncomfortable between them.
Jason grits out that he used to have a very different life, an uncomfortable life that he didn’t like. “So now there is nothing I do that makes me uncomfortable. Nothing. Even if I want something —”
And then Nora-the-chaperone bursts in, interrupting the flow of his words. She leaves, and he concludes, “I like things simple. Work simple, home simple, life simple.”
“And isn’t it?” Alicia asks. “It was,” he smolders at her. Gah! This is how you do sexual tension, people.
Ruth hasn’t been sitting idly by, however. She gives Eli a file on Jason that shows that he’s been investigating Alicia. When Eli confronts him, Jason says he wanted to know about his prospective employer and tells Eli to back off. Did everybody’s “maybe he is a sociopath” alarm go off just a little bit in these scenes? Jeffrey Dean Morgan brings an incredible edge of menace and unpredictability to his scenes; you’re always waiting for those dimples to disappear in a burst of violence.
Finally, Eli rings Alicia’s doorbell to tell her that Jason’s been investigating her. In response, she slams the door in his face. We zoom in on Alicia as she regroups in her kitchen and, stony faced, closes her eyes. Is she making a decision? If so, what? Is she really done with words? Is she going to follow through on her promise of when she sleeps with Jason? Her face offers no hint, and we’re left wondering.