Well. I HAVE THOUGHTS, you guys. This episode had the makings of something really great, but it fell flat in some extremely strange ways.
As you may remember, Peter has flat-out lost the presidential race, so Alicia’s back home, and still angry at Eli for that whole thing where he deleted the Most Important Voicemail Ever from the love of Alicia’s life. Also, even earlier this season, Alicia became a bond court lawyer and got “taxed” by a blue-eyed, garlic-souled judge named Judge Schakowsky who imposed higher bail on her clients whenever she pissed him off.
Can You Sue a Judge?
Yes, it turns out, if he knowingly violated a defendant’s civil rights—but only if you can convince another judge to break the ranks and allow you to do so.
Alicia poaches a client from the large, slow-moving man who she once knew from bond court, Bernie. When Judge Schakowsky, who’s moved on to run a court on a higher floor, is handling some overflow from bond court and a throwaway Alicia/Lucca case that we learn almost nothing about, a man that Alicia once represented on her first day at bond court turns back and whispers, “Help me,” to Alicia.
Saint Alicia she may no longer be, but Alicia takes the bait. It turns out the man, Clayton Riggs, has been in prison for months for disorderly conduct, trapped by a $150,000 bail that was instituted to “tax” Alicia. When Alicia finds this out, she’s shocked. The poor guy’s had three different lawyers since Alicia, and no one asked for a speedy trial—and he was originally arrested for disorderly conduct even though he himself was being robbed at the time.
As soon as Alicia finds this out, she decides to sue the judge.
This goes poorly, since as we know from many previous episodes, judges like to stick together. Lucca doesn’t seem too thrilled about it at first, but the more they learn about the injustice faced by Clayton Riggs, the more passionately she seems to care. Plus, Schakowsky is pretty much the worst judge, who makes every other judge look bad simply by sharing a title, and Alicia and Lucca drum up enough terrible evidence to make even the judge who presides over their case look openly disapproving. But even so, Judge Mata rules in favor of Schakowsky.
But Clayton Riggs still wants to sue someone, Bernie explains when he stops by Alicia’s door that night. So he’s suing Alicia. Alicia’s been served, literally. Bernie makes a funny little snapping motion with his hands as he walks away, having handed Alicia her envelope.
Lucca and Alicia hire Cary to represent Alicia, of course. “So the plaintiff is now the defendant, the witness is now Mr. Riggs’ attorney; there seems to have been a round of musical chairs when I wasn’t looking,” the judge recaps. Thanks for helping me out there, Judge Mata.
Cary shows his mettle pretty quickly by getting Clayton to admit that Bernie wasn’t any better than Alicia. Then Judge Schakowsky testifies, while also coaching Bernie under his breath on how to examine him because Bernie is incurably incompetent, that Alicia is unprofessional. To try to save this, Jason gets the court reporter to give him the tapes of Schakowsky’s courtroom, but Schakowsky somehow gets this thrown out. From what I understand, the law in Illinois doesn’t require two-party consent, but Judge Schakowsky declared that in his courtroom he did require it, and somehow this makes it law. Either it’s an instance of incredible corruption on Schakowsky’s part, or it’s rather unclearly written. Then Lucca testifies that she’s changed her mind and thinks Alicia is a good lawyer.
But after all this, the judge denies the motion to dismiss the suit against Alicia, and Bernie won’t settle for less than $1.5 million. He tells Alicia she’s not well liked, and people think she’s rich because of Peter, so he might even get more at trial. He walks off like a big jerk, and Alicia gives one of her throaty laughs like a crazy person.
They realize they probably can’t even afford Cary anymore. But Cary has an idea for how to solve it all: Alicia’s being evicted from her home office and she’s about to get sued, while he has lost his associates. Alicia’s horrified by the idea of coming back as an associate, but Cary says she can be a junior partner. (What about Lucca?) “You guys fired me,” Alicia eye-rolls. Cary says it was Dipple, not them, and jaunty music plays in the background, telling us Alicia’s about to be convinced.
“Come home,” Cary urges her. And Alicia bursts into inappropriate laughter once again.
Well, I’m nakedly thrilled about this, no matter how clumsily it was executed. We need our main characters under one roof again. Long live Lockhart-Agos-Florrick-Quinn!
Diane Continues to Metamorphose Into a Republican
Diane represents Imogen, the young (and, from appearances, white) daughter of a rich client who wrote an editorial that touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by arguing against the enforced labeling of West Bank-manufactured products. Now the student newspaper is under the threat of defunding by the school board at the behest of social justice activists on campus.
The defunding of the newspaper happens quickly at the board meeting, despite Diane’s efforts, so they enter arbitration, led by the same ponytailed guy-next-door that also ran arbitration between Alicia and Lucca’s client and the slimy college from “Payback.” Representing the college is the jilted Martha, who lost out to the perkier, more connected Caitlin (played by the peerless Anna Camp) for a spot at Lockhart Gardner in season 3’s “Marthas and Caitlins.”
Something I really enjoy here: Martha appears in this episode as a much more confident, ruthless arguer and advocate. Her character development has gone on offscreen, but I can imagine her taking a similar path as Alicia: starting off naive, scared, and soft, but growing into a formidable opponent as the world of the law has buffeted her around a bit. I like it! She’s a round character with only a few minutes of screentime spread out over five seasons.
Diane starts out by arguing that the college is violating its own handbook by censoring the paper. When that doesn’t work, Jason gives Diane a hint: an old case, Evans v. Newton, where a company town was declared a “state actor” and therefore subject to the First Amendment because it had taken on so many public functions. Diane, excitedly, asks Jason to work at Lockhart Agos (part of her pitch is, “Lunch is brought in”—are they working at Google or something?) but Jason fobs her off temporarily, concerned about Alicia.
At one point, a student testifies that the reason his rights were violated by the editorial is that the disturbance on campus turned physical; his roommate was attacked. Imogen scoffs that the disturbance has already died down, which is a little, like, “Hey, only one kid got physically attacked, everyone calm down!” Maybe you’d sing a different tune if you’d been shoved to the ground, Imogen! But the upshot of it all is that the defunding is reversed, and Diane gets to smile smugly while having absolutely no effect on any of the other plotlines in the episode.
I was very disappointed by the way this storyline was handled. I think there are valid arguments to be made on both sides of a conflict like this, but the episode placed all the validity on Diane’s side, sparing little sympathy even for the kid who was the victim of a physical, racially motivated attack. For example, the head of the board declares that they don’t wish to protect “diverse viewpoints,” but “diverse people.” This is obviously an illogical statement and Diane, rightly, looks highly amused at it. But it basically turns the entire position of social justice activism into mockable posturing.
There could have been two legitimate sides in this case, both with serious arguments to be made: the side that believes free speech must be protected even in situations like this, and the side that believes the link between Imogen’s speech and violence or oppression is strong enough to be worth restricting. Instead, what we get is a completely lopsided debate where Diane and Imogen recycle all of the most “common sense” arguments in favor of preserving free speech, and their opponents are reduced to garbled parodies of what right-wing listeners tend to think social justice activists are saying. Even Imogen’s dripping-with-privilege dismissal of anti-Arab violence on campus is made sympathetic because she’s portrayed as the real victim whose newspaper is shut down.
Diane actually says as much, arguing that this consequence is more “permanent” than the racial upheaval caused by the editorial. It’s framed as a dramatic, conclusive moment in the arguments, which disguises the fact that it’s legitimately offensive. Yes, the consequences for Imogen are severe and by most commonly accepted American civic standards undeserved (and that’s another way that this episode weights things in favor of free speech; I’ve never heard of an incident where a campus’s entire newspaper was defunded over one of these controversies, and it’s too extreme a response to be rationally defensible); but to say that the other consequences aren’t important simply because Arab students aren’t actively facing violence day to day anymore is breathtakingly oblivious. The fact that they faced violence at all is serious. On any other day, Diane would recognize that.
It is possible to write an episode that genuinely explores the real conflicts between both values—that of free speech, and that of overcoming racism and oppression—and to write an episode that explores such conflicts intelligently, even if it does come down on one side of the debate or the other. But this episode, in my opinion, makes no genuine effort to do so. It’s a kneejerk reaction to recent social developments that resists an honest, fearless exploration of the merits of both sides in favor of shallow mockery; and I would expect much better from both The Good Wife and from Diane Lockhart.
Alicia Loses It
Jason’s back from California. This makes a lot of female fans swooningly happy, but not so much Alicia. “Oh, hi,” she says when she sees him—breathy, but not in the I’m-turned-on kind of breathy, more the: “Oh, so I have to deal with this now?” kind of breathy. He even gives her oven mitts that say “I took a bite out of Silicon Valley,” so like, I guess he got the memo that she’s a (Good) Wife and therefore must love to cook? Since he got himself a beanie, and he supposedly objects to those, shouldn’t he have switched the presents?
Alicia, still obsessing over the revelation about Will’s voicemail, goes to visit Eli and makes him tell her what the voicemail said. Everything the voicemail said. It’s heart-rending. Eli tells her the first part—that Will loved her, that he’d loved her since Georgetown. Alicia presses for details: where was she supposed to meet Will to discuss their plan? When? Finally, backed into a corner, Eli admits that the last part was Will saying that if this didn’t make sense to Alicia, she could just ignore him. As Eli knew would happen, Alicia figures out that when she didn’t respond, he thought she just didn’t agree with his message.
Eli is completely in ignorance of the fact that Alicia once outright told Will that she didn’t get his second message. (If your memory has faded, she overhears a wiretapped conversation where he refers to “pouring his heart out” in a second voicemail; she tells him she didn’t get the second voicemail; and he says that it was nothing, but spins around to look at her as she leaves.) At the time, I interpreted this scene as Will’s realizing something huge about their relationhip, and Alicia’s thinking that he just didn’t want to admit what he’d really said. Her face in that season 2 scene, to me, looked like the face of someone who knew she wasn’t getting the whole truth, but also knew that pushing for the truth would show her hand too much.
Now, I think it’s possible to reinterpret the scene. Maybe she really believed Will when he told her the second message was basically the same as the first; maybe she thought that what he’d referred to on the conversation she overheard as “pouring his heart out” was just an exaggeration, and the voicemail wasn’t that earth-shattering. I doubt it, but it’s possible.
Nevertheless, she knows perfectly well that he didn’t die thinking that she got the message but didn’t return it, so she doesn’t need to be that dramatic about this part. But I see why Eli does not relish telling her about it, being unaware of that nuance.
Anyway, as the episode goes on, Alicia gets more and more erratic: rolling her eyes at Schakowsky in court, outright scrapping with him in the halls, and even lying to Lucca about having seen Jason. When Lucca calls her on it, Alicia storms into the laundry room to put her whites in the dryer; after all, playing the good wife has been an excellent refuge for her all these years whenever she didn’t want to show her feelings.
But then when Lucca follows her, she loses her shit in the laundry room, yelling at Lucca that all she wants to do is drink, that she was in love and he died, that she didn’t get his voicemail, that she doesn’t know why she does any of it, that she’s disgusted by her life, and that she wants it over. It’s not new information but it’s a brave scene, which Julianna Margulies performs with aplomb despite the fact that it, by necessity, careens wildly over the boundary to melodrama and back.
(Side note: In the middle of this, fabulously, Alicia asks if the whole point of her life was to raise two kids that she’s NOT EVEN SURE SHE LIKES ANYMORE. I mean, I see where you’re coming from with Grace, Alicia, but Zach is a devoted, humble, upright, beautiful specimen of an almost-man and you obviously have to like him or else you’re even more insane than you look.)
Then Lucca hugs her and declares that Alicia should get up in the morning because of Lucca. Like, OK, I understand that they are drinking buddies, but this rings true on exactly zero levels of their friendship. This would have made more sense with Diane, with Cary, hell, even with Jason, since at least a lot of people seem to find the practice of living for their next hot sexual encounter reasonably doable. Even with Eli, who has a relationship with Alicia that’s a thousand times deeper and more real on screen than Lucca’s.
Anyway, Lucca goes on and on about how she’s thirty and has no friends, but wants to be Alicia’s friend. And Alicia sort of smiles and clutches at her and stops crying. Lucca tells her to “choose me.” Whatever. Lucca checks that Alicia hasn’t got a gun in the house, and then they hug again. I care approximately this much: .
Later, when Jason returns to help Alicia with her case, she chases him out into the hallway and says she wasn’t herself before. He gives her a long, weird speech about how he’s always fine. I’m sure that’s very flattering to Alicia, that he won’t be upset no matter what does or doesn’t happen between them. But whatever she thinks of it, she chases him out to the elevator and plants a big kiss on him, since it is her favorite place to make out. “Are you still fine?” she asks. “Yeah,” he says. Shut up, Jason. She walks away, looking a little dizzy.
Then Eli shows up to argue his case, that she got to be with Will in the end, so he didn’t stand in the way of them, and that “you can’t control fate.” Oh, not this again! But it’s a sweet scene; Eli tears up, and when Alicia says she forgives him and smiles at him, he looks completely unsure of how to even handle his emotion. His face is covered in incredulity: Is this I, Eli Gold, criyng in a hallway?
So, to recap, Alicia loses all interest in life because of the Will revelation, but learning that a lawyer she met six months ago who she has had drinks with a few times, wants to be her friend, cures her enough that she can kiss Jason and forgive Eli.
Later, right after Alicia’s laughing spell, Jason arrives and Lucca beats a hasty exit. Jason explains to Alicia that he has a job offer, and that he didn’t want her to think it was about them. Why would she, Jason? YOU’RE ALWAYS FINE. She tells him, with joking condescension, to make the decision by seeing which number is higher. They start making out, as you do, but are interrupted by Cary’s call.