The Good Wife recap: 'Marthas and Caitlins'
Just when I thought I was all Lockhart-Gardner-ed out, they pull me back in.
After one too many lackluster episodes that dealt more with cases than characters (spinal chord stimulator lady, we hardly knew ye!), The Good Wife‘s writers are finally trading their flyswatters for a bazooka, as Alicia might say. This week’s episode gets my vote for the best of the season so far, complete with all the elements that once made the show so compulsively watchable. The actor Dylan Baker gives another can’t-tear-your-eyes-away performance as the newly-tattooed Colin Sweeney. The always amusing and much missed David Lee returns with some good old-fashioned bluntness. And there’s cutthroat competition in nearly every subplot: Alicia vs. Celeste, Cary vs. Imani, and of course, Eli vs. the world. Plus, with Eli promising to get the Florricks back together, the sparring between Alicia and Eli—which was always entertaining last season—is bound to start up again.
In the meantime, there’s always room for more Happy Hour Confessions. In the wake of the Alicia-Kalinda Cold War, I’ve really missed those after-work liquor shots with the ladies. Any time Alicia gets some tequila in her, things are bound to get interesting. And Celeste’s clearly drinking to win.
But more on that later. First, can we talk a little more about Dylan Baker? He’s been so believable as a pedophile shrink (in Happiness) and a school principal who murders little boys (in Trick r Treat) that it should be hard for him to out-creep-ify his past performances, but he does a masterful job here again as wife-killer Colin Sweeney. Called to testify in Diane’s and Celeste’s case against an airline CEO whose plane crashed, Colin plays Hannibal Lecter to Alicia’s Clarice Starling, often succeeding in charming her—and, no doubt, every viewer who’s watching him.
In a show that favors straight-faced delivery, Colin gets the funniest deadpan lines by far. “Accidentally” showing Alicia his prison tattoo (“Oh, this old thing?”), he quips, “I wanted William Blake’s ‘The Ancient of Days’ but beggars really can’t be choosers here.” And he always brings out some welcome sarcasm in the otherwise-fairly-earnest Alicia. Colin: “Won’t the jury be likely to mistrust the word of a renowned wife killer? I hate irony. I heard America’s been irony-free these days.” Alicia (totally smirk-free): “Yes. It’s been outlawed.”
Of course, Colin wouldn’t be so horrifying if he wasn’t so charismatic. Even when he knows his life’s in danger—as he does when Cary convinces him to wear a wire around a fellow prisoner in exchange for his testimony and subsequent freedom from jail—he’s firing off Oscar Wilde-worthy double entendres. (Alicia: “Don’t get yourself killed, okay? Colin: “Words to live by!”) Colin’s even suave enough to lure a white supremacist drug dealer into a murder confession, which is lucky, because Alicia’s starting to care about the guy, and that’s starting to make her a far more interesting and complicated. More Colin Sweeney, please. Maybe the writers can fix him up with another dog murder or two?
NEXT: Women! If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em… in a united display of tipsiness.
But the very best banter in this episode isn’t even between Colin and Alicia—it’s between Alicia and her secret lover. Yes, I know Celeste is just joking about their “relationship,” but there’s such great playful camaraderie between them in that scene, that I’m almost starting to like her. As Colin says: “If only it were true!”
Celeste is definitely becoming a much more compelling character this week. Back when she and Will were playing poker with Cheerios at the hotel, it was very hard to understand why an attractive, successful lawyer (one who likes to remind us that she hasn’t lacked for male attention) would be so desperate to win back Will, whom she hadn’t dated in ten years. But now Will’s suggesting that Celeste’s motives are far more complex than that. “Celeste will say a lot of things about me just to see if you react,” he tells Alicia. Maybe this is more about Alicia than Will?
One of the many great things about The Good Wife is that it’s so insightful about the nature of female relationships in the workplace. When those relationships are good, they’re better than any other in the office. Alicia and Kalinda used to be such fierce advocates for each other professionally that Alicia seemed less devastated about Peter cheating on her than she was about Kalinda lying about it. (No wonder Kalinda shuts down Eli’s request to have her help Peter’s campaign.) Further up the ladder, Diane has always seemed like a pretty realistic boss in a world where there’s few female partners: She genuinely wants to mentor and promote women, but only when it’s earned, and she’s not above using that advocacy to get ahead herself. (Remember when her mentoring helped her get recognized as a good candidate for the judgeship?)
And yet, for every Diane, there’s a Celeste, the kind of woman who thinks she’s only in competition with other women, so she must drag all the rest of them down. (I believe this is what Tina Fey once called “The Myth of Not Enough.”) Celeste puts up a good show of this, telling Alicia, “I don’t like women,” and negging her relentlessly about Will. But their cutting remarks are starting to sound more like inside jokes between quasi-friends. “You and I should get a drink and trade horror stories,” says Celeste, who pronounces that penultimate word to rhyme with more. “Horror?” says Alicia. “Yeah,” replies Celeste, grinning. “What’d I say?”
Alicia also seems more honest around Celeste. In a way, they’ve got the same problems. Now that Kalinda’s keeping her distance, neither of them have any female friends (or male friends, for that matter). And when Celeste tells Alicia, “I like you,” it’s easy to believe her just a little, even though she’s clearly a manipulative… horror. Maybe Alicia can learn from Celeste, who’s quickly teaching her how not be “a good person,” and how to make her new second-in-command, David Lee’s niece Caitlin, suffer forever. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship based on mutual love of vengefulness?
It’s a very good twist that Alicia, who obviously sees something of herself in the team-spirit-building, French-film-watching Martha, is actually more of a nepotism-using, competition-loving Caitlin in the eyes of Lockhart Gardner. “There was a Martha when we hired you, Alicia,” Will admits. “On paper, she was the better candidate, and you were the Caitlin.” The way Alicia looks at Celeste as she walks out the door, it’s clear what she’s thinking: Is Celeste a Martha? And isn’t that just like a Caitlin, to believe that she’s the only Martha here?
It will be interesting to see what role Alicia takes on with her new underling Caitlin. Will she be a Diane or a Celeste? Or is it true what they say: Once a Caitlin, always a Caitlin?
A few final stray observations:
–The witty teasing between Kalinda and Eli continues to be a highlight of the show. Eli: “I need it
quick.” Kalinda: “Yeah, everybody needs it quick. Ah!” Eli: “That was quick!”
–Nice touch to have Donna Brazile play herself.
–Finally, Grace’s crazy tutor Jennifer has an actual purpose on the show. (Fun fact: She’s played by real-life “street dancer” Anne Marsen, whose work you can see here.) Her conversation with Alicia showed Mother Florrick’s more cynical side: She can’t believe that Jennifer would make YouTube videos for any reason other than making money. And thanks to Jennifer, the usually whiny and annoying Grace finally gets to make a valid point: Her mom scared away her only friend when they only wanted some innocent fun.
–Was Celeste joking about that $45,000 that Will supposedly lost?
Your turn, all you Caitlins and Marthas: What did you think of the episode?
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Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth star in the legal/family drama.