By Ken Tucker
March 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
  • TV Show

In a season characterized by more twists than a lesser drama goes through in its entire series run, The Good Wife upped the stakes pretty amazingly — and riskily — with this week’s episode, titled “Ham Sandwich.”

The episode was humming along at its usual brisk pace. Drug lord Lemond Bishop asked Lockhart/Gardner to handle his divorce, surprise news leading to some initial eye-rolling within the firm, a kind of preemptive skepticism to prevent us from saying, “Come on — we’re supposed to get emotionally invested in this guy?” But one of the strengths of The Good Wife is that it forces you to, yes, become invested in characters you may have thought were types you’d seen before (in this case, the evil Pusher-Man, to use Curtis Mayfield’s musical phrase), and I did find it interesting, at first, to try and gauge just how much Bishop wanted to save his marriage or his profits in a possible settlement. Of course, by the end of the hour, Bishop went over to the dark side irrevocably (“I think I’ve just been cured of love”)… and in a way that tied in with the night’s bigger development.

“Ever get the feeling something bad is going to happen?” Kalinda asked Alicia as a grand jury was in the process of investigating her. “All the time!” chuckled Alicia, still able to be light-hearted… but not for long.

Blake’s grand jury testimony placed Kalinda in hot water (a possible two years in jail); called to the stand herself, Kalinda took the Fifth, until it suited her purposes not to do so. “I’M NOT THE TARGET,” she scrawled on a piece of paper to Alicia, who served as her counsel. Later, she gambled that she could scare off Blake and the State’s Attorney’s office by dropping a strong hint that it was Blake who was having an affair with (everything ties together in The Good Wife, doesn’t it?) Bishop’s wife, Katrina.

Having backed down, Blake and Kalinda met in the show’s ritualistic place of secrets revealed, an underground parking garage, so that Blake could shatter Kalinda’s grand-jury triumph with his own game-changing switcheroo: He revealed what he’d discovered about Leila, Kalinda’s real name. That it had been changed with the help of Chris Noth’s Peter Florrick, when Kalinda had done work for the State’s Attorney’s office then under Peter’s reign. That Peter helped her cover up her past. And that she’d slept with him.

Pow! Why, it was like being hit upside the head with a baseball bat, wasn’t it?

Tying Kalinda to Peter shakes up the series. The friendship between  Alicia and Kalinda will be, ah, strained. It brings up Peter’s history as a serial cheater again — which makes sense for dramatic realism. As much as some of us may have wanted Alicia and Peter to enter a new phase of marital bliss, it was likely that another sexual adventure would surface. It’s just that we couldn’t have foreseen it would involve Kalinda. In terms of the series, The Good Wife has created enormous good will in its audience for Kalinda (the righteous! the sexy! the ballsy!) and the closeness and comradeship she shares with Alicia.

To be sure, Alicia is a substantially different person — stronger; more open to the complexities and gray areas of human behavior — than the wronged good wife she was at the start of the series. But are Good Wife fans similarly transformed? How can this new plot development not alienate some (many?) viewers from Kalinda? Of course, we don’t yet know the circumstances under which those sexual favors were granted, from either of the people involved…

Good Wife notes:

• Not one, but two three, former cast members of The Wire appeared: JD Williams (Bodie!) re-occurred as a bookkeeper in Bishop’s drug organization, and Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris!) as Pastor Isaiah, while Pablo Schreiber (Nick Sobotka!) was the lawyer representing Bishop’s alienated wife, Katrina. Non-Wire guest star Bill Irwin was terrific as an utterly ineffectual divorce mediator.

• “A Chicago grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,” said Alicia, invoking the old adage that gave the episode its title. To be fair, the saying usually applies to any grand jury, not just a Chicago one.

• How about Eli finessing Pastor Isaiah out of the picture because polling suggests that Peter needs to reach out to “blue collar and suburban voters”? The pastor knew what was up instantly, and left with dignity intact, while Alicia got to make the point dear to people who detest pollsters: “You just make this stuff up” to suit your preconceptions.

• “The Florrick children just really love black people.” Ah, Grace, where would The Good Wife be without your combination of true beliefs and adolescent smugness?

What did you think of this week’s The Good Wife and its startling new developments? How do you think Alicia is going to react when she inevitably discovers the truth about her husband and her close pal?

Twitter: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth star in the legal/family drama.
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