Closing Arguments

CBS kept promoting this week’s The Good Wife as the episode in which Alicia and Will would bare their souls — at the very least — after that cell-phone message miscommunication so long ago. What we got was both a little less than that and a lot more.

The legal case was the show’s twisty take on Mark Zuckerberg’s spin-control publicity during The Social Network‘s release. Here, the Zuckerberg stand-in was a 25-year-old computer whiz (Jack Carpenter) who wanted to punish the movie studio for presenting him as a lonely jerk — but only because his mom‘s feelings were hurt: The Good Wife‘s Zuckerberg, called Patrick Edelstein, was a sweetie pie. Zuckerbergian arrogance was transferred to the movie studio’s smug “lead studio lawyer” Hannah Vetters (a very fine Anne L. Nathan) and, to a lesser degree, guest star F. Murray Abraham as the attorney representing the studio in this defamation case. Abraham was clearly too much of a catch for episodic TV to make him just another shark, so he became a smart, almost friendly shark. (The show also got a residual frisson of TV self-referentiality with Josh Charles’ Will questioning the film’s screenwriter, a callow version of The Social Network‘s screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin … who of course created a show in which Charles costarred, SportsNight.)

In a rare instance of The Good Wife squandering a guest star, Rita Wilson was consigned to a couple of brief scenes as an old friend of Diane’s — a lawyer letting Lockhart Gardner in on her case for a week and subsequently accusing Diane of trying to steal the case away from her permanently. Wilson was so bristlingly precise, I would have sacrificed a few things in this hour — such as the reappearance of the Mr. Mom investigator Andrew Wiley, much as I enjoy Tim Guinee — to see more of Wilson in action.

Where was Alicia in all this? In a comically bad hat, driving with her brother through Oregon. Dallas Roberts is always a welcome sight as brother Owen (although every time I see him, my heart aches all over again over the cancellation of Rubicon). He was there to tease his sister, blow pot smoke at her, and advise her to talk frankly to Will. In other words, he was a stand-in for us, the audience.

The Will-Alicia chat, teased frequently in the past, actually occurred this evening, and it was the thoroughly exciting letdown that had to occur. The only weak spot in The Good Wife‘s concept as it proceeds is that it’s pretty clear that Alicia can never leave or betray Chris Noth’s Peter unless he does something naughty again — the show has gone too far down the road to bringing them back together. Thus the will-Will-and-Alicia-do-it tension is dissipated, and thus it was inevitable that Will would say that the message he left Alicia was that she’d “made the right decision” in standing by her man. (That was Will thinking fast on his feet, switching up his story to suit what he thinks is best for their relationship now.)

It turned out, however, that this episode titled “Net Worth” reserved its steamiest scenes for Kalinda. First, her FBI gal pal Lana Delaney (Jill Flint) tried to play footsie with her and get the investigator-in-boots to “come work for me.” (Question: Would you quit your job to go work for someone who wanted you primarily for sex? Agent Delaney seemed a tad overly touchy-feely to be an agent this country could trust, and should have known Kalinda doesn’t go for the hard sell.)

Then there was the soft-core version of the “May I have a moment of your time?” moment Alicia had with Will — I’m talking about Blake’s “we’re adults” discussion/interrogation/seduction of Kalinda just as she was emerging from the hotel room, having left Agent Delaney all hot and bothered. Scott Porter’s Blake and Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda got a room in every sense, somehow managing to make their pre-discussion pat-down look like an outtake from Last Tango in Paris (Netflix it, kids).

Blake and Kalinda have both been under investigation for the beating of Dr. Booth some weeks ago. Now Blake wants the two of them to share information to keep the jackals at bay, but it’s a pretty one-sided info-dump. Kalinda said she didn’t hack into Blake’s computer to plant an incriminating e-mail about the drug lord Bishop, while Blake spilled that he’s not just a PI but “a fixer” for Derrick Bond, and that he is also working for Will because he used to do some unsavory stuff for Will at the latter’s previous law firm. What set off Kalinda, however, was when Blake called her by her real name, Lela.

Kalinda stopped all the heaving and touching that had been going on while they stood thisclose to each other. She fetched her bat from Blake’s bag and hit a hard right-field single into his rib cage. Gasping for breath, he croaked out, “I found your husband.” Kalinda looked as close as she ever comes to shock.

And in turn, The Good Wife came as close as it ever comes to going over the top — without quite doing so.

What’s your verdict: Hot, or a bit much? The faux-Zuckerberg case: Did you buy it? Me, I liked the movie case as satire, and almost don’t want to know about Kalinda’s past, but that’s the way it goes with first-rate episodic TV — it pulls you in directions you don’t think you want to go, and then shows you how foolish you were to resist the ride.

Twitter: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Closing Arguments
The Good Wife

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

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