By Ken Tucker
Updated November 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

The Good Wife is so good, it can do the sort of stunt casting that makes most other shows look as though they’re begging for viewers and pull it off with whatever passes for integrity in the world of law firms. By which I mean, if you had no idea that guest star Miranda Cosgrove, playing a Disney Channel teenybop idol, was a Nickelodeon teenybop idol (iCarly), you probably just thought this young woman was a good actress in a clever plot.

Cosgrove’s Sloan Burchfield was an actress-singer trying{C} to “climb out of the Disney ghetto thing.” To make her image hipper, Sloan went to a nightclub, drank too much, and subsequently was accused of hitting a car, injuring a woman, and found herself on trial for attempted murder. Alicia’s firm defended her.

As always, the series layered in small details that gave the story an authoritative air. Having Alicia’s daughter, Grace, read Paris (Perez?) Hilton’s tweets about Sloan’s courtroom underwear was a nice touch, as was the portrayal of Sloan’s mom (played by the fine New York stage actress Laila Robins) as a shrewd variation on a Dina Lohan-ish stage mother.

As always, there were at least two equally important subplots to this hour. In the first, Chris Noth’s Peter, by way of his campaign manager Eli (Alan Cumming), sought the endorsement of his spiritual adviser, Pastor Isaiah. In the second, an arrogant member of Alicia’s law firm — Zach Grenier’s David Lee — unsettled Michael Ealy’s Derrick Bond sufficiently that he’s decided Lee and Christine Baranski’s Diane are plotting against him. (Indeed, they seem to be.) I wasn’t quite clear how David Lee became such a powerhouse in the law firm (I know, they said he pulls in a lot of money, but that guy was really rude to Bond), but I’m willing to see how this power play plays out.

The episode was studded with terrific actors. David Paymer reappeared as a huffy judge, and Frankie Faison exerted his effortless authority as the Reverend Isaiah’s father. Anika Noni Rose continued her guest arc as Peter’s political rival, with her Wendy Scott-Carr trying to steal Eli from Peter.

When the hour ended, my mind circled back to the opening scene, in which Alicia is given the results of her peer review and is found by some in the office to be “standoffish.” I like the way The Good Wife plays with the way Julianna Margulies can seem reserved when she chooses to do so. More unusual was the way Alicia reacted to the information. Rather than toss off the criticism as mere backbiting, she asked the creepy David Lee to put in a good word for her. Why? Because the new peer-review method, as unfair as it may be, is tied to her future compensation, and Alicia has decided she both wants and needs her job.

Once again, by grounding itself in the tough reality of the workplace, The Good Wife ended up revealing much about its human characters.

Did you watch?

Twitter: @kentucker

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