Look, I enjoy a bit of courtroom flirtation as much as the next red-blooded American, but this episode was a whole lot of confusion for very little reward. Maybe this wasn’t Kyle MacLachlan’s last appearance on the show; perhaps there’s another twist due in his relationship with Elsbeth (Carrie Preston, so wonderful). Or perhaps the idea was that Elsbeth isn’t the kind of lady who considers courtroom battling akin to foreplay—her curt, but polite shutdown of Josh (MacLachlan) is a triumphant moment for decency when characters on this show often have very little. I just wish I could have enjoyed the case of the week a little more.
Before I go any further, let me curse my luck that I missed out on reviewing the last episode, which was a real barn-burner but fell on second opinions week (just my luck, sigh). Even though we’re out of sweeps month, this episode was technically a big deal—it finally resolved the whole investigation of Eli and reunited him with his true love, running Peter’s campaign, with some serious stiff-upper-lip dude love moments (I assume T.R. Knight is out of the picture at this point).
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was also the episode that wrapped up the Peter vs. Maddie race. At the beginning of the episode, Peter’s on the ropes and fearing some serious heat from Maddie on Eli’s corruption scandal; to prepare for their upcoming debate, Jordan tells him to play it cool and not rise to Maddie’s aggression, lest he seem like a bully or a hothead. It’s bad, simplistic advice (Peter even notes Obama’s first debate but gets waved off), and it exists only to set Eli up for a hero moment late in the episode where he reminds Peter that debating usually involves both candidates talking.
On Jordan’s advice, Peter is just sitting and banking time while Maddie wails on him, prompting concern from Alicia and phoned-in advice from Eli to go after her, just without getting in her grill and coming off as a creep. So Peter unleashes a barrage of criticism about Maddie’s business practices, outsourcing jobs to Mexico and trying to bust unions and the like. Now, we don’t know in-depth details about this fake campaign, but come on. If Maddie was outsourcing jobs it’d be the core of Peter’s campaign. So it again seems simplistic to have him pull it out of his back pocket and catch her completely off guard.
Perhaps I’m nitpicking; it just felt like a lackluster conclusion for a plot that never really got off the ground. I suppose it’s not the writers’ fault; they had a big juicy villain set up for this campaign plot, but then Matthew Perry had to go and get cast on Go On, and they had to scramble to replace him with Maddie. I love Maura Tierney, but she was too sympathetic as a villain, and disappeared as a character once she ran against Peter. By the end of the episode, when Peter brings Eli back on board, Eli’s worrying that Kresteva is going to hit Peter on the hiring, not Maddie. Since Peter won the debate and primary season doesn’t go on forever, it’s increasingly implausible that she poses any kind of a threat.
Concurrent with this is Eli finally wriggling free of the Department of Justice. Elsbeth uses every single legal trick known to man to get info out of the extremely coy Josh, who has flipped DNC jerk Frank Landau; eventually we finally understand what votes Eli supposedly bought. He gave some old people’s home a discount on consulting services in exchange for them busing out some seniors to a straw poll vote. Alicia acts shocked, but really, that’s it? Eli didn’t even do the consulting work for free, he just gave them 25 percent off? This is usually a show with a harder edge than that.
It was definitely fun to see Preston and MacLachlan spar in court, in front of a calm Federal judge (played by S. Epatha Merkerson) and the returning, still extremely grumpy Michael Marx (Dominic Chianese). I liked the use of Jackie, whom Eli assumes is out to get her but turns out to be a very useful witness (in that she’s so unreliable). But the whole thing was tough to follow and tougher to care about once you realized what a piece of shit case the DOJ was running. The “twist” of Diane Lockhart being used to testify against Eli at the end was pretty weak. Maybe that’s why Elsbeth turns Josh down in the end: his bark was just way bigger than his bite.
In the department of Will and Alicia kissing: They both caught colds. Better than catching mono, I suppose. Aside from that, and one terse elevator conversation, there isn’t much fallout yet; Will is perhaps deliberately diverting his attention towards the comely Laura Hellinger (a returning Amanda Peet), who plays hardball with him when he pitches his firm for the State’s Attorney’s office’s civil cases. Alicia takes a little more prompting to pay attention to Peter, but nonetheless, it’s not like she’s totally disconnected. She’s just got other things to worry about, too, like Eli Gold and cutting Cary’s hours (another convoluted plot that wasn’t interesting enough to justify the dramatic weight put on it).
This may just be one of those transitional episodes, and if so, fine. But it still feels like there’s plot cobwebs to shake off and that’s crazy, considering how far we are into The Good Wife’s fourth season. I’m still not invested in half the stuff that’s going on here. That’s not true for every episode—like I said, last week was good stuff—but color me nonplussed.
- Josh flirts with Elsbeth. “I can’t wait for you to take me to court. I love the shape of your lips.” “You leave my lips out of it.” “I can’t. They’re so pillowy.” I love Carrie Preston, but I don’t know if I’d call her lips “pillowy.”
- “A seder is a dinner.” Jackie knows her Jewish stuff.
- By the way…Eli wants to get Peter to WASHINGTON? Please don’t have a man who slept with a prostitute run for President and expect me to believe that, Good Wife.