So it looks like we've got one more sweeps episode of The Good Wife after this one and that's going to be the very serious and dramatic episode where Diane and Will stage their coup, and Derrick makes his power play or whatever. Now, I don't know if the writers of the show even realized this, but this episode could have been the one where the election is held, considering that Rahm Emanuel was elected Mayor tonight in the real Chicago election. But I guess that'll be held over for May sweeps. Anyway, instead we got the other kind of sweeps episode. Guest stars! Some fun comedy! General wackiness! Granted, it's The Good Wife, so it was good, but after last week's Kalinda vs. Blake batfight, and with next week's war on the horizon, it felt like a bit of a breather, just to settle everything down.
Plus, there was some nice drama and good acting in one of the guest star turns, in America Ferrera's performance as illegal alien nanny Natalie Flores, who Eli first gleefully, then reluctantly, used as a weapon against Wendy Scott Carr, who employed her. Now, Natalie was so sparkly-shiny (only country she knows is America, she's some sort of economics whiz, and she's months from citizenship) that the whole thing could have just been a Mary Sue situation, where the writers are making some obvious point about using these women for political purposes. And yeah, that's definitely going on here. But Ferrera is a damn good actress, and her character had such delightful little quirks like her boyfriend who left her for the circus that she felt enough like a real human being.
It's also just great to see Eli given a real storyline, as opposed to his usual mix of conniving campaign comedy, because Alan Cumming is an equally talented performer, and he did a great job not overselling Eli's anguish at the whole situation. Meeting his daughter at first seemed to underline some sort of parallel between her and Natalie, but there's obviously a more romantic component to it as well, a bit of a risky move for a network show to be taking, which is always nice to see. I'm sure she's going to return again because there was just too good a connection between them to dismiss this as a one-off plot about Eli's conflicted ideals. One problem with the story, though, was that Peter wasn't involved. I'm sure that's because Chris Noth was off doing something else or was budgeted to show up later, but a leak this big feels like something Peter would be involved in and probably have strong feelings about.
Another funny thing about the whole situation (and the fact that Emanuel was elected Mayor tonight) is how quickly things really do move in politics. When Eli's character first cropped up in early 2010, he was an obvious spoof of Emanuel, the leg-breaking, Jewish Chicago pol with a hint of malice about him. Since then, Emanuel's left the coop at the White House, campaigned as a much more mellow man, and won the mayoralty. I think Eli Gold should do the same! Or maybe get a spinoff! Eli the Mayor, with occasional appearances by a glowering Glenn Childs, an icy Wendy Scott Carr, or a gregarious Peter Florrick, depending on who wins the election that will obviously never happen.
Let's flip over to our next guest star, the estimable Gary Cole, honestly one of my favorite working actors today. He was back as the Sarah Palin lovin', gun-totin', mustache havin' Kurt McVeigh, who showed up three times in season one as a ballistics expert whose chemistry with Diane was as great as their politics were opposing. Both then and now, the writers didn't exactly aim for canny satire—the political give-and-take largely boils down to "I like Sarah Palin!" "Well I like Barack Obama!" "Will we ever get along?" *They make out.*
But their chemistry is pretty undeniable, and it's very nice to see sexy relationships between two consenting adults on TV. Because his dalliance with Diane was at the forefront, the case was a little less interesting and got backgrounded a little too much to really have an impact. Alicia was involved but not for any real reason other than to keep her in the frame for the episode. A cop killer got off scot-free at the end, which is in line with The Good Wife's general cynical tone, but it almost got brushed off (Diane pissing on some whiny liberal lawyer was really the point of that revelation). And Jerry Stiller was a marvelous sleepy judge, but apart from being sleepy, he didn't do much at all, and the judges on this show tend to do a lot. Hopefully, he'll return.
There were some cute details to the case, though. The wise Asian ballistics expert who does everything short of stroking a Fu Manchu beard while delivering his testimony was a funny idea. McVeigh's reasoned testimony about the Tea Party was a good moment for the generally left-leaning show to acknowledge a little bit of balance (and at the same time, jab at the Tea dudes for thinking George W. Bush would cut spending). And Cary, for once, was not on the other end of the courtroom but was grudgingly helping Lockhart/Gardner with their work because the State's Attorney was also implicated. Finally, he got a scene in the same room with Alicia, and it wasn't fraught with tension because Kalinda immediately burst his bubble and told him to bury the hatchet. "What hatchet? I was considering Mrs. Florrick's fine question," he protests.
The C-plot of the episode involved Grace (who, with her brother, has been missing for a while) and seemed like another wink at the audience about the writers being a bunch of wine-swilling Jews (maybe I'm projecting a little there about myself) who are creeped out at the mention of Jesus. For some reason, Grace, who is obviously the most suggestible person in the universe, has watched some YouTube videos and decided that Jesus is "not a cause. He's a source of causes." Also she wants to know why Alicia hates Jesus. Alicia replies that Jesus isn't really a part of her (very, very complicated!) life. "I think you either hate Jesus, or you love him," Grace retorts.
Alicia really had nothing to do in this episode apart from this, but Margulies handled the material brilliantly, balancing Alicia's desire to not dismiss her daughter with her desire to completely shut down some ranting talk about Jesus and drink a couple more glasses of wine. She knows that forbidding Grace from going to church is going to make church seem like the most awesome thing in the world, but that doesn't mean she has to like it. Oh, what fun! Tune in next week for very serious stuff.
- Eli's daughter wants to go on a kibbutz. "Unless one of the tractors blows up, I'll be fine."
- Gary Cole is so good at one-word sentences. Diane says he should have called. "You're right. Should've. Sorry." His offer to move to Costa Rica was equally blunt/sexy.
- I liked the poor principal of Grace's school sobbing as Alicia threatens her with legal action. God, the parents she must deal with.
- That YouTube video sure went on for a while. Is The Good Wife secret Jesus indoctrination?
- Alicia likes wine. "Just taking another hit off the crack pipe."