Lockhart/Garder sues the NSA on behalf of Chumhum; Stockard Channing returns as Alicia's mom

By Breia Brissey
Updated March 02, 2015 at 07:48 PM EST
Craig Blankenhorn/CBS

Another Sunday. Another great episode of The Good Wife. I really love that instead of jumping right back into the thick of things with the first episode, the writers are really laying the groundwork for the inevitable explosion of drama (see: Florrick, Agos, & Associates). Perhaps the writers learned their lesson last season. Remember how excited we all were for Kalinda’s mysterious husband to make his debut? Then Nick showed up in the season 4 premiere, and we all hated him and that story line. So I’ll gladly take some drama that seems well thought out and certainly better executed than last year’s Kalinda/Nick flop. But enough about last year…. Let’s dive into “The Bit Bucket.”

“Thank Edward Snowden. Everybody’s cracking down now.” That was a line uttered in the episode, but also a nod to the case of the week. Because you can thank Edward Snowden for the NSA-centric story that fueled “The Bit Bucket.” Two NSA employees, Tyler (Tobias Segal) and Jeff (Zach Woods, a.k.a. Gabe from The Office), were tasked with monitoring the firm’s communications. The surveillance was deemed necessary by the NSA because a former Lockhart/Gardner client, Danny Marwat. He’d been accused of collaborating with the Taliban, and Lockhart/Gardner defended him in season 3.

Back at Lockhart/Gardner, Alicia & Co. were working with Chumhum’s Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey) on a case involving the (you guessed it!) NSA. The government had repeatedly asked Chumhum to provide user information from the company’s many social networking sites. Gross and Chumhum had refused, and wanted to reassure their users that they weren’t complying. But a government-issued gag order had made it impossible for him to deny anything. The lawyers at Lockhart/Gardner came up with a game plan to sue the NSA for prior restraint. Unbeknownst to our favorite lawyers, this was a particularly tricky issues since the aforementioned NSA employees, Tyler and Jeff, were listening in on phone calls and overheard the firm’s plan to sue. It was complicated. But nothing a goat screaming like a human couldn’t fix! (Tyler and Jeff — and many of their fellow NSA employees — were quite fond of this Internet meme. And on that note, The Good Wife writers might want to be careful with their phone calls from now on.)

Anyway, Tyler and Jeff wondered whether or not their warrant restricted them from listening to a law firm in active litigation with the NSA for a non-terroristic action. Good question, guys. To me, this seems like an obvious conflict of interest. But apparently, it’s no big deal. Listen away, NSA, and bleat like a goat all you want! The powers that be at the NSA had no issue with the pending lawsuit, but they did request that Frick and Frack Tyler and Jeff find a more recent terrorist connection in their surveillance to warrant listening in on the governor-elect.

NEXT: Peter and Eli try to secure Diane’s Supreme Court nomination

Back in court, with Jeffrey Tambor’s Judge Kluger presiding, Lockhart/Gardner had to change its approach in the Chumhum suit since prior restraint wasn’t applicable. This time, they accused the NSA of selectively enforcing its gag orders. And they used the testimony of Patric Edelstein (Jack Carpenter) to prove it. So the NSA called a brief SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) where they could discuss with the judge classified information. As with Alicia and Cary, we weren’t privy to that discussion. But whatever AUSA Hortense (Brennan Brown) said behind closed doors was enough to convince Kluger to rule in favor of the government.

Their final option was to sue for money. They asserted that Chumhum’s forced association with the NSA had cost the company $3 billion in damages. Lockhart/Gardner tried to link Chumhum’s sizable loss of users with the Edward Snowden leak earlier this summer. But AUSA Hortense countered with evidence of an organized boycott of the site that was unrelated to Snowden on the same day. But Kalinda turned up Chumhum’s involvement with North Korean Freedom Fighters. This warranted another visit to the SCIF, this time for the Lockhart/Gardner team. The North Koreans backed out of the deal because they were afraid of the NSA, which cost Chumhum $14,000 in damages. It was significantly less than the original $3 billion they were seeking. But it was substantial enough for Judge Kluger to make his final ruling: The NSA’s gag order would remain in place. Chumhum was, in fact, damaged in the amount of $14,000. And there was a gag order on any and all discussion of damages. Neil Gross was able to use these terms to his advantage when he was able to tell his users that he won a major court victory. He couldn’t discuss the terms of the judgement, but they were pretty happy with the result. It made it look better than it was.

Meanwhile, Cary, Alicia, and the other fourth years were trying to secure office space for their new firm. But they ran into problems with their bank loan. The bank wanted to speak with their current employers, but since Will and Diane don’t yet know of their plans to leave, that was out of the question. The fourth years would have to come up with $140,000 or lose the $60,000 they’d already put down.

In other news, Peter and Eli were trying to get Chief Justice Ryvlan (Jeffrey Demunn) to support Diane’s nomination for the vacant Illinois Supreme Court spot. Unfortunately, Ryvlan took issue with Diane’s continued support of a “corrupt” Will Gardner. The meeting with Ryvlan took us on a little side story when Eli couldn’t find the engraved gavel the Justice had gifted to Peter. The assumption was that a former intern stole it and was trying to sell it online. But when Eli set up a meeting with the seller, it turned out to be Zach’s old girlfriend — and Eli’s former teenage nemesis — Becca (Dreama Walker). Eli asked Alicia to talk to Zach, but Zach made it clear that he’d moved on from Becca and his ex, Nisa. This, of course, didn’t explain where the gavel came from. But a cutaway shot showed Grace Florrick video chatting with Becca. So oddly enough, Grace is the likely connection that led to Peter’s stolen gavel. (If you’re reading this, Grace, don’t be friends with Becca! She’s bad news!)

NEXT: Stockard Channing returns as Alicia’s mother

Eli put his drama with Becca on hold to convince Diane to do an interview with reporter Mandy Post (the returning Miriam Shor). He hoped Diane would be willing to put her past behind her — specifically the issues with Will — and speak against Will’s past behavior. Eli made it clear that it was the only way she’d be able to get the support of Justice Ryvlan. But during the interview, Diane refused to betray Will and actually praised her partner for helping the firm survive bankruptcy. Eli obviously wasn’t pleased.

With his back against the wall, Peter had to put on his big girl panties and tell Justice Ryvlan that he had to keep his concerns about Diane to himself. Peter said he would make his choice, whether he liked it or not. All it took was a firm hand, and had Peter and Eli known that, we could have all avoided what’s coming up next: Eli called Diane to let her know that she wouldn’t have to give the interview again, that everything was fine. But instead, he caught her secretary. Diane was otherwise occupied…in a meeting with Mandy Post. This is one of those times where I actually yelled at the TV because, presumably, Diane spoke out against Will thinking it was her only option. In her defense, that’s what Eli led her to believe. It’s not gonna be pretty when Will finds out. (Just watch the previews for next week’s episode, where Will attempts to orchestrate Diane’s exit from the firm.)

Stockard Channing made her return as Alicia’s mother, Veronica. And she sufficiently grossed me out as she continued her awkward/possibly flirty relationship with David Lee. He was giving her estate planning advice and letting her snack on his M&Ms, which thankfully is not a euphemism for anything. The pair really did share the candy. Veronica also bonded with Grace by taking her shopping and buying her clothes that Alicia would definitely not approve of. Even Zach was hesitant about his sister’s new wardrobe and questioned, “What happened to Christian Grace?” (Full disclosure: Upon my first viewing of this episode, I heard, “What happened to Christian Grey?” And that seemed pretty appropriate considering they were talking about slutty/rape clothes. But I digress.)

Alicia’s mother wasn’t just on hand to get financial advice and drive Alicia to drink with her clothing purchases. Cary called Alicia to thank her for giving them the $140,000 they needed to secure their new office space. Alicia had no clue what he was talking about, but soon realized it was her mother who’d given the money. Veronica had overheard Alicia talking to Cary about the money earlier in the episode, and decided to give Alicia a loan. Alicia was obviously uneasy about accepting such a large sum from her mom, but it was nothing margaritas couldn’t fix. (The drunk pair even had a mini therapy session! Just drink, cry, and hug it out, ladies!)

NEXT: The NSA hears all! And the episode’s best moments…

Unfortunately, Alicia didn’t have the foresight to realize that David Lee would be tipped off to Veronica’s big spending. And when David Lee was notified of her commercial real estate investment, he was immediately concerned. Veronica then had to do some damage control to make sure he wouldn’t figure out that the money was for the a firm’s offices. At least one crisis was averted this episode!

All of the drama with the NSA surveillance culminated with Tyler and Jeff making a more-recent terrorist connection to the firm: The two discovered 12 calls from the number of a Hamas sympathizer to Alicia Florrick’s home. This person left multiple messages on the machine. But it’s all just a big misunderstanding because those calls are coming from a heartbroken Nisa. But basically, it gave the NSA enough reason to expand their surveillance to a three-hop warrant. I’m pretty sure there’s no way for this to have a happy ending. So while the NSA keeps on listening, we’ll sit back and wait for it all to come to a head.

Other memorable moments from “The Bit Bucket”:

++ “The absence of bad news is not good news!” —David Lee, to Diane and Will, on his concerns about the fourth years leaving the firm

++ “Tingles, counselor. Tingles.” —Judge Kluger, complete with hand motions

++ Jeff wore a “Bazinga!” T-shirt throughout the episode, which is a nice network cross-promotion nod. We see your subliminal advertising, CBS!

++ “Her father said it looked like a young man’s rape fantasy.” —Veronica, to Zach and Grace, about an outfit Alicia wore when she was younger

++ “Now, now. Jesus has no problem with Grace looking her best. That’s what Jesus believed in.” —Veronica (who else?)

What did you think of episode 2? Do you agree that Kalinda was once again underused? How do you think Will will react to Diane’s interview? Judging by the previews, it’s not going to be pretty. When will the fourth years finally leave? And most important: Why was Veronica calling David Lee “Mr. Liebenbaum?” What have I missed?

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