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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Wife: "Ham Sandwich"

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Hey, guys. Are you as excited as I am to have The Good Wife back on our screens? I bet you are. And it really rewarded us this week with an absolute stonker of an episode. No, it didn't rest on its laurels at all after the exciting ouster of Derrick Bond and all that; it didn't string out the Blake/Kalinda plot for a bunch more episodes (the election remains an end-of-season tease, but I can handle that) and it even gave us a tense scene between Blake and Kalinda that ACTUALLY WAS TENSE. Plus, there were not one, not two, but three The Wire alums—Pablo Schreiber joining J.D. Williams and Gbenga Akinnagbe this time. Man, if any episode of The Good Wife deserves an A, it's this one.

Let's start with the Lemond Bishop plot, which I was really pleased with. I wasn't at first, because I honestly felt a little spoiled by The Wire (a show that's spoiled me on a lot of network TV). Alicia and David Lee (who, by the way, should be a regular at this point) defended Bishop against divorce proceedings by his wife by both hiding his drug dealing income and subtly threatening the criminal action that could be brought on her head if she keeps poking the sleeping bear. And I thought, well, they're kinda like Maurice Levy from The Wire, the lawyer employed by drug dealers and criminals to represent their illegal and legal interests. And seeing things from that perspective is an interesting angle to explore, except here we are on a network show that has to soft-pedal that.

I guess I forgot I was watching The Good Wife. When Bishop finally consents to a much more generous offer, his wife and her lawyer (an intense Schreiber, who we think is sleeping with her) turn it down, saying he's proven his wealth, and they'll see him in court. "Don't do this," Alicia appeals directly to Katrina, maybe not out of some specific concern but just out of her general knowledge that this is a bad route to take. And, the next day, we find out Bishop's wife overdosed, and Bishop coolly tells her lawyer to shut the fuck up, since the guy is so oblivious to his own self-interest at that point. What a fantastic, chilling moment, and what a way to jolt us back to reality on this guy, who is certainly charming and sympathetic, especially when with his son, but obviously will take whatever brutal methods necessary to keep his head above water.

I just hope that thread doesn't get dropped for the rest of the season, because if anything should be freaking Alicia out, it's that. How tied in that is to Will's dark past is yet to be seen, but considering that Blake (who works for Bishop) is involved, my guess is that the ties are deep. "Ham Sandwich" was so overloaded with plot as ever, that the revelation that Will did some kind of evil deed and had to pay a price for it (with Blake's help) almost got lost in the mix, but it was another well-done scene. Man, everyone on this show is jockeying for leverage over someone else; it's tough to keep up with it all.

Like how we think Childs is gunning for Kalinda, but really, he's trying to tear open Lockhart/Gardner's inner workings for all to see as some final act of spite (towards both the firm that's thwarted him and Peter). Or how Kalinda craftily uses her grand jury testimony to shift blame onto Blake about sleeping with Bishop's wife (a ploy that topped her season one clearing of Peter's name in court). Or how Blake then reveals to Kalinda, in a twist I saw coming but still applaud for its juiciness and supreme plausibility, that he knows she escaped a dull suburban life (much like Alicia's) by changing her identity with the help of Peter, whom she undoubtedly had a sexual relationship with. Hints have been dropped many times about some kind of history between Peter and Kalinda, and given Peter's past, that obviously meant sex, but I'm very happy that they tied that revelation in with the Blake storyline, making the whole thing feel worth it, even with the ridiculous underwear baseball bat scene and what have you.

Hell, even the more comedic subplot about Eli and those meddlin' Florrick kids was about leverage, with Grace deploying Zach's girlfriend without Zach's knowledge to get Eli to shift the campaign away from dog-whistle appeals to "blue collar" and "suburban" voters. I do have to take some issue with this, though, in that there's NO WAY the Florrick campaign for State's Attorney of Chicago would have a Web site filled with happy white families and nothing else. I get that a dramatic point was being made for us but he's running in a city that's, like, 40 percent black, and he's trying to court the youth vote. But I only quibble because this show is usually so on the ball about things like that.


Man, what a rip-roaring episode. The way they played on already-established relationships, like Cary's feelings for Kalinda or Will's poker-faced desire to keep Bishop as a client but not expose too much of their shared history, was really rewarding for a constant watcher of the show who's gotten invested in these characters and their little calibrations. Stuff like the revelation of Kalinda having more in common with Alicia than Alicia might think were the kinds of little twists that really pleasantly surprise, as well as fill in a bit of knowledge we had always wondered about (why did Kalinda pal up with Alicia?). And that the show is this exciting with several more episodes to go this season, well, I think we're in for some wild stuff as we draw to a close.

Stray observations:

  • There definitely seems to be an out for Cary at the SA's office. His salary bump hasn't even taken effect yet.
  • Kalinda has a wicked sense of humor. "You know what your problem is?" "I don't drink enough?" "You didn't get your tubes tied."
  • But Archie Panjabi is also generally fantastic in what would be a clear Emmy submission for the reigning Best Supporting Actress. The way she lets through subtle hints of emotion (especially when she's telling Alicia about how "it's not in my nature to talk") and distinguishes that with her more fake, manipulative emotion at the grand jury? Genius.
  • Zach Grenier needs to be in every episode. "The FBI doesn't dream, Mr. Lee." "Oh really, what were you doing on 9/11?"
  • Pastor Isaiah's conversation with Grace was a nice moment, way more plausible as a way for her to be interested in the church than those dumbass YouTube videos.
  • "The Florrick children just love black people." "YOU KIDS ARE EVIL!"
  • I think this may be last we see of Blake, at least for a while. Bye, Scott Porter. I'm sorry I ragged on you so much and said you looked like a Baywatch Nights character.