TV has been a bit too topical lately, hasn’t it? This was another episode that I wasn’t sure it would be a great idea to recap, after the tragedy at Planned Parenthood. In case any of our readers haven’t been entirely deadened to mass shootings and might find reminders of that event upsetting, please consider this a warning, and an apology if it seems tactless.
The Free Speech Defense
Surreptitious cell-phone video makes a second appearance this season. A woman is shown on a shaky phone-cam video eating frozen yogurt and talking casually about “harvesting” a “product.” The product, it eventually becomes clear, is specifically parts. Fetus parts. For the price of $100. Ethan, showing the video to Diane, is up on his high horse about this, but Diane argues that it’s for “preserving, packaging and delivering,” not selling, baby parts, and that the video is just propaganda. Ethan argues that Americans only support abortion if they don’t have to face the facts about it. Then they have this mystifying exchange:
Diane: The majority of Americans only support anything if they don’t have to face the fact of it! How the hamburger ended up on their plate…
Ethan: Except this has a face. It’s not an appendix. It’s a human being.
Um… What exactly does Ethan think a hamburger is? A grilled appendix on a bun?
Anyway, he argues that these are human beings; Diane doesn’t believe that, because Diane is a second-waver all the way. She thinks it’s gross that he got the video from a radical anti-abortion group who pretended to be a bio-engineering firm needing human tissue. Ethan says they’re going to sue the organization. Diane suddenly yells, “NO.” Um… did you not see where that was going before, Diane? Ethan wants to know how Mr. Dipple can sue. “He can grow a uterus,” Diane advises. Heh.
Diane says that he will need a woman who had an abortion, was lied to, and suffered as a result. Lucky for Ethan, he has a great candidate named Stacey Groom. Ethan wants Diane to cross-examine her to see if she’s ready for court. Diane stalks off and hits him with a folder, and he laughs, because Diane loves nothing better than to flirt with Republican men.
Outside her office, she asks Jason if he can “start today.” Ooh, Lockhart-vs-Florrick competition for investigators as well as clients! She also looks quite flabbergasted when he asks about the cap on hours. It’s a funny moment, but a little unrealistic, since Jason’s been around the block and almost certainly knows that a firm like Lockhart Agos is a lot less likely to have a cap.
At Stacey Groom’s practice cross-examination, she says that she was tricked, and that the doctor flipped the baby into breech position. She cries all the time now, can’t eat, and can barely sleep. But Jason shows up mid-cross with a file on Stacey, and it’s got to be good because Diane, impressed, offers him lots of money to be exclusive with Lockhart Agos on the spot. (He refuses, saying money isn’t everything.)
Diane goes back and nails Stacey on having signed these forms and on the side effects having started when she saw the video two weeks ago—which is also when she happened to join the Church of God In Christ. Stacey says she doesn’t know what Diane means by “join,” and Diane gives her a droll look and asks, “Well—did you accept the Lord as your savior two weeks ago during an altar call at the Church of God in Christ?” Then she whips out a pro-choice quote in a newspaper from Stacey just before she joined the church. Ouch. Ethan drops the case, saying Diane’s made her point. “Wouldn’t it be odd if the person who respected you the most was the person you agreed with the least?” he asks, channeling Meredith Grey. He announces he’s going to put the videos on the internet and try to get attention for them that way. “Well, that was easy,” Diane announces to herself. It’s nine minutes into the episode, so her hubris is obviously going to come back to bite her in approximately half an act.
Sure enough, Ethan comes back to Diane to tell her that the doctor, Hallie Fisher, is suing to take down the undercover video. “And?” Diane says coolly. “And that’s bad,” says Ethan witheringly. Diane thinks it’s no biggie, since it’s “prior restraint” on free speech and will never succeed—but a judge has already granted an emergency hearing. “This isn’t about abortion anymore, this is about the First Amendment,” says Ethan, knowing where to hit her. Diane parries, even more witheringly, with, “Which you’re using to attack women and medicine and choice.” Ethan argues that “the test of the First Amendment is standing up for things we hate”—a quote from a speech Diane once made to Emily’s List. “Why do I have to be so damn convincing?” Diane mourns to herself.
Watching the episode the first time, I found the whole thing slightly unbelievable. For one thing, pro-life is not exactly such an unpopular concept that it needs a crusading lawyer to ignore her own moral qualms while championing the silenced cause. But on second watch, I do see why Diane is swayed. If you believe, truly believe, in the legal system the way Diane does, then you believe in everyone’s right to adequate counsel, and in having the chance to duke it out in court—and she obviously believes that the First Amendment must be balanced with other important rights, like the right to bodily autonomy. So I guess it’s consistent, although I don’t see why she doesn’t just fire the client based on sheer selfishness: She can either keep this one Republican client, or she can keep the entire base of liberal clients and allies that she’s amassed over the years.
Diane, with Cary in tow blathering about the constitution, shows up at a courtroom full of booing protesters. A smiling, smooth-coiffed woman greets Diane, then takes a second to retort viciously at a protester who wants her to stay away from her uterus: “We don’t WANT your dirty uterus!” Hee! When you start slut-shaming people’s uteruses, you’ve pretty much lost your grip, I think. The Heidi, the client, snaps back into Stepford politeness and blesses Diane for showing her support. “I’m not here to show anything,” Diane says brusquely.
The opposing lawyer, a blonde woman with a mystifying, supposedly Bronxian, accent starts her arguments, and the judge orders all of the protesters’ signs be removed. Diane argues that a suit for damages should be favored over prior restraint. But Hallie’s lawyer is arguing that the taping was without consent. There follow some shenanigans where Cary plays the tape to show there was no reasonable expectation of privacy, then Hallie’s lawyer argues that there were only children around and that doesn’t count, then Cary arguing that an adult joins them later—and every single time, the disappointed protesters have to exit the courtroom every time a snippet of video is played in case the video is declared illegal. Meanwhile, Heidi keeps blessing an irritated Diane. (Side note: At one point, Hallie declares, “We’re not Planned Parenthood, we’re the 8th Street Clinic.” A tad worried about libel issues there, are we?) The judge finally declares that the recording was not illegal, but Hallie’s lawyer has a new motion up her sleeve.
“Bea” from the National Council on Women’s Rights, played by the ever-welcome Kelly Bishop, shows up to see Diane (thank you, Ethan, for helpfully expositing where she comes from). She in turn informs Ethan with some asperity that she recognizes him from the congressional hearings on defunding Planned Parenthood. These second-wave ladies don’t mess around. I like it. Diane defends herself to Bea: “It’s not about choice, it’s about the First Amendment.” Bea thinks this is insane, but Jason comes out of the elevator just then with more evidence, and Diane basically forgets all about Bea.
The evidence is an NDA that both participants in the conversation signed at a conference, from which they left to go to the yogurt shop where the infamous video was taken. Hallie’s lawyer, not content with arguing the NDA is legal, also keeps saying that her mother told her “sneaks can’t be rewarded for being sneaky,” which… thanks, but what section of the criminal or civil code was your mommy referring to, exactly?
Soon enough, Diane is watching Cary through the glass walls of Lockhart Agos, pleading with more angry-looking clients. Watch closely if you’re a Cary fan, because silently miming an argument is the most excitement Matt Czuchry gets all episode. Meanwhile, one of the new crop of white male hires comes up behind her and offers help with anything, calling her “Mrs. Lockhart.” She corrects him icily that it’s Miz Lockhart. Then he offers to carry stuff and kill spiders for her, so, I don’t think he got her message. Diane shoots fire at him out of her eyes, and he somehow manages to get away both alive and unaware of having offended.
Cary tells Diane that the people from the Justice Center are leaving the firm. Diane can’t understand why, when it’s a First Amendment case. “I know that and you know that, but they don’t know that,” says Cary. Diane pretends not to get this, so Cary finally has to point out that there’s no neutral ground on abortion. “On the First Amendment!” Diane protests, so deep in denial about being in bed with the Republican establishment that she apparently can’t even admit the obvious truth that when something relates to abortion it remains about abortion to people no matter what the legal issues at hand are—a fact that is true on both sides, and is a major facet of the American political landscape that she would be perfectly aware of if she let herself be.
The next battle in the court case is whether the NDA applied to the frozen yogurt shop. Everyone has to leave again so that the video can be played, showing that the conversation started at the conference and is continuous, therefore putting the conversation under the NDA. Diane… of course… has another motion. Cary whispers, “Let it go,” but Diane’s too stubborn.
Sexist new hire Brian wants to use the whistleblower statute, momentarily forcing Diane to acknowledge his existence by being moderately useful. Diane goes back to court arguing that the video maker is a whistleblower, since the clinic takes government money to do what they do. The judge says, “We need to talk. This is not ex parte, but we need to talk.” This reminds me of when Michael Scott stood in the middle of his office and yelled “Bankruptcy!” Does saying something is “not ex parte” make it not ex parte?
In his chambers, he calls Diane out on the fact that the supposed whistleblower didn’t notify a court, the SA, the attorney general, or the FBI. Diane argues that posting the video online satisfies the spirit of the “notice requirement,” but the judge says it’s too much of a stretch and that he doesn’t see why she’s pursuing it so hard. “It’s not your case,” he says. Diane acts shocked, saying, “Are you saying that I shouldn’t pursue this case because of my politics?” It’s rather beautiful, the way she navigates the complications in her life by simply refusing to admit that they exist, and acting convincingly shocked every time someone brings up the obvious consequences of her actions.
He says it’s not about politics, it’s just not her. Diane says this is about free speech, “and you know it,” in this very quiet, shocked voice. The judge says that they (“we”—he knows what side she’s really on) need to make sure the videos never see the light of day. Angry, Diane comes out and says to Ethan that they’re going to put Stacey Groom, the witness last seen getting eviscerated by Diane in a practice cross, on the stand.
Diane brings up Stacey as a witness, arguing that she’s a whistleblower because she is going to report the harm done to her, to the court. The judge is displeased, but tells her to proceed. Diane, wearing a magnificent brooch, elicits some damning testimony from Stacey. But Stacey’s PTSD was just diagnosed yesterday, and she only knows about the babies being moved into a breech position because of the video, and then the opposing lawyer brings up the church she just joined. So, all of that looks pretty bad.
Diane is objecting at every step, but the judge overrules her consistently. Finally Diane asks him to recuse himself. Just in case anyone has gotten to season seven of this show without figuring out what recuse means, the judge yells, “You’re asking me to remove myself from this case?” Cary looks worried while Diane argues with steel in her voice that the judge displayed his bias in their private conversation. He shouts over her that he’s made his ruling, and that she can proceed with her case. So Diane sits down and says she’s a liability, and should withdraw.
She exits looking like she’s taking a breath of fresh air. As they walk Cary murmurs, “Nicely played. You found a way out without backing down from anyone. Kudos.“ “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she says, but as soon as he mentions getting their clients back she interrupts, “I’m on it.” Oh, Diane. She has so many layers, it’s hard for me to interpret this scene—she really seemed to believe that the First Amendment was a valid defense for these people, and to believe she wasn’t wrong for taking it on (which, I entirely agree). So why then manipulate the judge into making her “a liability”? My guess is it’s pure Machiavellianism—she’s a star lawyer with the progressive set and that’s how she makes her money, so she finally decided not to let this case drive away any more of her clients.
The question is, is she dumb enough to believe that she can keep Dipple as a client without suffering for it in the same way she did in this episode, over and over again?
Client Solicitation: Or, Grace Outshines Someone At Something
Alicia and Lucca don’t have enough revenue coming in—and Jason, on his way into their “office,” which is still also known as “Alicia’s living room,” overhears this. Lucca says they can’t keep living “DUI to DUI” and says they should ration investigator hours, which Jason takes pretty calmly. Lucca also wants to start an “eat what you kill” policy, i.e. they get two-thirds of the business they bring in, while Alicia’s idea is to cancel their Westlaw subscription but not ration investigator hours. But you’re going to, what, guess on your legal research? Will the magical powers of Jason’s smile also make you able to clairvoyantly divine legal precedent at will?
Lucca meets with Louis Canning, who says he’s a “fan.” He calls her “scrappy” and “aggressive” and guarantees her $120K a year, plus a percentage of her new business. Lucca doesn’t want to be bait for Alicia, and won’t come unless he proves he wants her. This will turn out to be a ploy later, so kudos to Lucca for distracting Louis with a realistic amount of hesitation.
Grace has resumed her life of being Extremely Weird by saying to Alicia that she’s worried and asking what she can do. In a way, this is a poignant reminder that Grace and Zach never had a childhood where they got to say selfish things like, “If you don’t make money at your job, how will you buy me an Apple Watch?” and instead are always watching out for trouble, and taking on some of the family burden that their own parents can’t shield them from. But in another way, it is simply a thing Grace does because she has no life of her own. Alicia off-handedly tells her to do cold calls, such as to “mid-level insurance companies.” Grace wants a percentage of what she brings in, so Alicia gives her half a percentage point. Grace tries to negotiate, but Alicia is not having it.
So Grace googles on ChumHum (yup, I went there) looking for companies. The results are overwhelming, so she calls Eli instead. But he is way too busy, because this call is interrupting his important task of standing on a chair and eavesdropping on the hot donor played by Vanessa Williams, Courtney Page, through the sound-carrying vent in his tiny office. (More on this later.)
Grace, now cold-calling in one of the world’s most hideous striped sweaters—seriously, the color scheme could best be described as watermelon and puce—figures out that she should pretend she’s calling from a multi-city firm (“The Midwest offices of Florrick Quinn”), and then that she should pretend she’s calling from a busy multi-city firm (she Chumhums “office background noises” to play while she calls, and I can’t believe I’ve already caved and started using Chumhum as a verb). She gets a bite pretty quickly, and is transferred to no other than Bea the Feminist, who is looking for new counsel. As soon as Bea hears the name Florrick, she agrees to switch. Feminists in the Good Wife world sure love a woman who stands by her cheating husband—first Maddie, now Bea.
Lucca is meeting with Canning again, but looks a lot more positive towards him this time. This was alarming, but luckily it was a convincing con—although I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually Lucca was tempted; she’s enjoying sparring with Louis too much to be entirely safe from his wiles. She wants him to make his pitch for her, and he gives her a bunch of portfolios of the clients he’d give her—including a client called Inner Heart Hope, who performs heart surgery on high-need patients.
Lucca comes back to the office and Alicia says excitedly, “So?” Then Lucca tells a long joke about a confessor getting names of slutty women from his priest. Alicia deduces excitedly that she got names from Canning, revealing that she knew exactly what Lucca was doing, although apparently didn’t have a lot of faith that she would actually succeed. They cheers each other with two water bottles, although Alicia’s is probably filled with tequila.
Just as Alicia is preoccupied with this new wrinkle, Grace comes to announce excitedly that she’s gotten Alicia a client. If you needed any more evidence that Grace is sad, this is it: her own mother is too busy patronizingly telling Grace she did a good job, to find out that the client is a huge, important organization. But can you blame her? It’s Grace (who has now seen fit to don a gray sweater with blue leopard print on it). As soon as Alicia leaves, doing all but patting Grace on the head, Grace gets a call from the Justice Center saying they want to move to Florrick Quinn too. They have two million dollars of business a year.
The next day, Alicia and Lucca meet with their clients in Courtney’s shiny conference room. They’re TERRIBLE at every single part of it. They lie (Lucca claims they have six partners when they don’t, which… what? How did you think that would actually work? “I was thinking futuristically,” Lucca claims), use the wrong firm name (Alicia gets confused and calls it Florrick Agos, which to be fair I accidentally typed earlier in this recap), mix up their clients (Alicia says they love corporate work when she’s talking to a charitable organization), and basically fall on their faces.
Meanwhile, Grace’s cold-calling is interrupted by the fact that her fake office sounds are interrupted by a popup of a horse video. She lies that one of their lawyers is working with horses. This has to be some sort of fraud. It’s so sketchy! What does she expect Alicia to do, hire actors to play the rest of the firm when these people actually come in?
Alicia and Lucca get calls from everyone they met with today, declining their offers of representation. Shocking! When Grace comes in to brag that she got four new clients, Alicia actually rolls her eyes and says with irritation, “That’s great, honey, I’ll be in in a few minutes.” Poor Grace. But she insists this time on reading out all of the names of the new clients, and Alicia and Lucca get dollar signs in their eyes. “Excuse me?” Alicia says after the commercial break, so that Grace can repeat the names. Lucca grins and is totally impressed, while Alicia, still a little bit shocked that Grace isn’t an entirely useless human being, stutters, “How did you get all those firms?”
Alicia and Lucca toast to Grace’s achievements, and Jason comes in. He joins the celebration, and Grace brings Alicia aside to tell her what 0.5% of the billable hours she brought in works out to $34,000. “Cash or check is fine.”
Hah! But don’t tell me you’re going to pay Grace before you bill any of these hours, Alicia. Pride goeth before a fall… and I think Diane wants her clients back.
Eli in Love
Eli stops Courtney as soon as he hears through his creepy vent that she’s on her way out, and awkwardly asks her to come into his office. There follows yet another slapstick scene about how tiny Eli’s office is, only this one involves a lot more of Eli physically climbing over that little corner chair. Courtney says he looks serious, and he says he’s improving: he told one joke yesterday. He wants to talk to her about the salary floor of $75,000 she’s planning to give to all her employees: it’s socialism. Gee, someone’s been reading the papers—is this Law & Order? Courtney argues that she likes her employees, and it’s her money. “It’s not bad for your employees, but for Peter,” Eli says, since now Peter looks like a socialist sympathizer. Courtney gives him this look that basically says, “You’re cute, so I’ll pretend to entertain this, but no.”
Finally, Eli asks her to get a second opinion on her plan. When he shows up at Alicia’s door to talk about this, Alicia is immediately defensive about her defiance of Frank Landau. Eli is puzzled, as am I, because that plotline was so irrelevant I had literally forgotten it happened. He decides to “file this one under ongoing disasters” and announces that he’s giving her a billionaire client. But the one condition is that Alicia has to talk her out of her plan. “I know, I know, you can’t promise anything, that would be unethical… It is in her best interest, both legally and politically, not to do so. Also, it hurts Peter! That’s just my opinion. I’m not telling you how to advise, you want to encourage her to chase socialism through the graveyard of history, be my guest!” he says at approximately a thousand words a minute while nervously giggling and backing out the door. Alan Cumming is an amazing actor—I have said this before, but the mix of campy theatrics and genuine emotion in his performance is always amazing. At this moment it seems to be some sort of hysterical cross between “Wow, I’m so in love with this woman PLEASE DON’T FIGURE IT OUT PLEASE” and “Please don’t hurt Peter, I care about him way too much even when I’m trying to sabotage him!”
When Courtney comes to visit Alicia, she is obviously trying to get information out of Alicia about Eli: his divorce, what he’s like. “He’s a good guy… for a political animal,” Alicia says grudgingly. Courtney asks perfunctorily for the legal side of things, since she’s basically just doing this in the hopes of getting closer to Eli, at the peanut-like price of a few hours of Alicia’s billing rate. “Shareholders may feel devalued, and clients may feel insulted,” Alicia says, equally perfunctorily, because she’s just doing this so she can get some sweet sweet cash. Alicia thinks that people might sue because new hires are making as much of senior employees, which… you can’t really sue for that, but OK. Courtney quotes the Bible, saying that the first shall be last. Alicia loses patience pretty quickly with this, saying that Bible stories aren’t exactly good business advice. But it is Courtney’s money. “Amen,” she says.
Eli hounds Alicia about a suit against Courtney. Alicia immediately calls Jason to ask him to look into Courtney’s husband. “Larry Oliver!” Eli bellows into the phone. Jason agrees to this, but just then Diane comes up to ask him to look into something else—and Alicia recognizes Diane’s voice. She does not look pleased. It’s funny: after all of Kalinda’s talk about not being exclusive with Lockhart-Gardner, we never actually saw her working at another firm, so I’m vaguely surprised that Jason’s similar talk actually resulted in this.
Soon enough, Eli, Alicia, Courtney, and Courtney’s husband are in a meeting, with Courtney’s husband complaining about the salary floor, saying she’s screwing him out of what’s his. He argues that he’s filmed in bunches of cities. “Squandering my money on making experimental films that nobody has ever or will ever see!” Courtney calls it. Eli suggests unlimited sick days instead. Alicia is paying no attention to this; she just wants to rent Courtney’s conference room for her other client meetings.
Late at night, hanging out in Courtney’s office, Eli asks if she’s decided what she wants. “What are you doing here?” she asks. He fumbles a lot, and she says, “It’s important to understand motives.” You know, like when Alan Cumming stays in your office for hours because of The Sex. But actually, what she means is that changing from the universal salary floor to unlimited vacations, as Eli is advocating, is “cynicism disguised as benevolence.” She says that employees often use less vacation when their vacation is unlimited, which… yes, but aside from that, it’s basically a feel-good band-aid when you’re not paying people living wages.
“That was not my intent,” Eli says. They neatly wheel into a discussion of the sexual tension between them instead: “You’re in my office, the door is closed… you still trying to help me?” she asks. He starts going into a self-deprecating schtick that hovers between endearing and unsettling: “You’re beautiful… and um, well I have my moments. My office is the size of your bathroom and I don’t have the money you have…” But she just tells him to come here, and he stands over her, and they kiss tepidly.
The whole scene makes me kind of miss America Ferrera’s character. Eli was charmingly off-balance around her too, but she didn’t condescend to him about it—they just connected anyway, and I thought their chemistry was way better.
Does literally nothing. It almost makes me root for Logan to get a part in the Gilmore Girls revival, because Matt Czuchry’s considerable talents cry out for better use.
And that concludes the recap. We’re a little behind on The Good Wife, but I’ll be posting two more this week to catch us up! I have found this season a little bit light on real emotion, except in brief moments where Diane and Cary have reconnected with Alicia. The humor is usually quite good and the new characters are worth watching, but I think the intensity is lacking and I’d really like to see it ratcheted up in the coming episodes.