The Good Wife: “Blue Ribbon Panel”
B+

The Good Wife: “Blue Ribbon Panel”

B+

The Good Wife

“Blue Ribbon Panel”

Season 3, Episode 20

“THERE’S ANOTHER FLORRICK!” Who knew you could say that line with the tone and conviction of, say, “The call’s coming from inside the house”? But Alicia certainly can and with good reason—the devious Jackie Florrick, whom we haven’t seen much of recently, went and bought Alicia’s old house out from under her. No doubt she had honorable intentions and hopes Alicia and Peter can get back to playing house once again, just in time for his gubernatorial campaign. Still, it was that classic, passive-aggressive, “What, me?” Jackie style that no doubt irritated Alicia to the point of answering Peter’s question of “Where are you going?” with “TO BUY A GUN!”

Good times. I guessed the Florrick twist pretty much the instant Alicia thought Peter bought the house—since there’s no way he could do that on a government salary. I don’t know if Jackie’s background has ever been made totally clear, but it wouldn’t exactly stun me if you told me she was a lady of means. I can only imagine that this will taint the house further for Alicia, but, as we saw in flashbacks that came off a little hokier than usual for The Good Wife, she does have some fond memories of the place.

Those flashbacks were really my only problem with the generally strong “Blue Ribbon Panel,” which finally made some headway on the season’s remaining plot elements (the power struggle for Will’s seat, the investigation of Kalinda, Peter’s possible gubernatorial campaign) and gave us another clever spin on the usual case-of-the-week by presenting it through the titular panel, investigating a cop shooting that Alicia quickly learns is not as simple as it first appears.

While one guest appearance was pretty much wasted (I enjoyed your two minutes of screentime, Charles S. Dutton!), we did get an intriguing drop-in from Matthew Perry as Mike Kresteva, a high-up lawyer chairing the panel, who wants Alicia to steer clear of any controversy, particularly since the case involved a white policeman shooting an innocent black man (and possibly planting a gun on him to make the shooting appear justified).

Perry’s character was bullheaded, conniving, and charmless—a welcome diversion for him—and he rose to the challenge, I thought. Kresteva first tries to head off Alicia’s interest in the case, then refocuses the controversy on the State’s Attorney’s Office in the hopes that Alicia will back off. As we know, Peter’s weak point in a gubernatorial campaign could very well revolve around race relations, and the revelation that he made the decision not to pursue an investigation with Eli Gold in the room was a clever, effective twist.

Alicia, of course, has been wrestling with cynicism all season and really since she started working at the firm. Kresteva tries to get her between a rock and a hard place, proposing he either write a white-wash report that clears the cops of wrongdoing or a report that points the finger squarely at Peter Florrick. What he doesn’t know, of course, is that Alicia has profoundly mixed feelings about her husband running for governor. I don’t know that she’d ever make the cynical decision (she’s gotten tougher, but this call still feels like a no-brainer), but we’re handed a cliffhanger of sorts: She recuses herself from the case, a logical move that postpones Kresteva’s final decision until the next episode.

I can only assume he’ll be coming back, because he seemed to have a real glint in his eye about taking Peter down. He’s a strange character, in a way, since he’s presented entirely without context—from the sound of it, he’s a partner at a fancy law firm, but any other ulterior motives, if they exist, aren’t clear. On a show where everyone’s trying to leverage everyone else, it was weird to not know exactly what Kresteva is up to. So credit to Perry for successfully playing him as a foreboding character—there was a veneer of charm, but a pretty thin one.

Speaking of ulterior motives, the long-discussed IRS investigation of Kalinda makes more sense now, since apparently the IRS is a stalking horse for FBI Agent Lana Delaney (Jill Flint), whom you might remember from seasons one and two as one of Kalinda’s sexy friends. Honestly, she barely jogged my memory—there’s a lot of men and women in Kalinda’s past who keep cropping up, and it’s hard to keep them straight. Which is why I was perhaps a little let down by this twist—Kalinda’s just being probed by a jilted lover? No puns intended, honestly.

This is a well The Good Wife goes down with Kalinda a lot, and it’s really become a case of diminishing returns. I liked Kalinda using pillow talk as a weapon against Lana (who’s being listened in on by the feebs) to prove how biased the case is. But Kalinda plots seem to come down to flirty talk and allusions to past intimacy all too frequently. I get that she needs something to do on the show besides the PI stuff, but digging up an old flame for her to butt heads with isn’t what I had in mind.

The matter of Eli, Julius, and David’s challenge to Will’s partnership status also came down to a rather surprising guest appearance this week—the return of Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler), whom you might remember from season two’s “Great Firewall” as the old coot David and company brought back from retirement to prevent Derrick Bond from taking over the firm.

Will, cunning bastard that he is, ends up proposing Lyman as a compromise candidate to replace him as partner, arguing that his seniority makes him a perfect pick. It’s a twist I didn’t see coming, even though the return of Adler was pretty surprising. But I like that The Good Wife has a deep roster of guest stars to dip into for situations like these. Yes, I understand the irony of me complaining about boring old Lana’s return and then praising the drop-in of Jerry Adler. But there’s dramatic sense to the latter twist—in the funniest moment of the episode, David dismissed Lyman from Diane’s office with a curt “Right, take two steps that way.” Little did he know his old tactic would be used against him. Ah, hubris!

Stray observations:

  • Kalinda dashing out to ask Diane about the “firearms training” was very un-Kalinda of her. Rare to see her run anywhere.
  • The return of Kurt Fuller and Peter Reigert (playing two judges accused in the past of of being too close to Peter) was very welcome and apt.
  • Lyman wants Will’s corner office mostly for its proximity to the bathroom. “Know any good porn sites?” he asks Will.
  • I’d pay good money to watch a show in which Jackie discusses current events with her hairdresser.