Alicia’s Secret Mission
A GPS voice announces that a black, opaque-windowed car has arrived at its destination. Alicia is waiting on the sidewalk in a very fetching fur-collared coat, and gets in the back of the car with two agent types.
When she arrives at her destination, she sits at a large conference table full of suited men. Alicia is happy to see Terrence Hicks, who most recently appeared in the season 3 episode “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” which introduced Alicia and Will to the vagaries of military court rules. One of the session’s leaders (there are two guys who seem to be about equally in charge, and this one is Oren Cleary, general counsel to the joint chiefs of staff) starts things off with introductions, leaving the suspense as to what is actually happening.
There are two civilians in the group: Alicia and one other man, Edward Janoway, the “fire-breathing conservative to Alicia’s bleeding heart,” as he introduces himself. Interestingly, Alicia doesn’t get to introduce herself; Cleary introduces her himself without letting her speak. Then he announces some strict confidentiality rules. The other, Martin, who’s an intelligence legal advisor “and other things” according to himself, introduces the problem: the executive branch of the government has previously taken flack for a certain decision and now wants more “consensus.” The announcement is so filled with jargon that Alicia obviously can’t follow, but when they open their packets (which Alicia does only after an embarrassing struggle) they find more concrete information.
It’s a photo of a bearded ISIS agent, Massoud Tahan, who hasn’t promoted violence but has recruited a lot of violent terrorists—and their mission is to provide the justification to kill him. As the discussion progresses, Terrence Hicks insists on the distinction that he hasn’t espoused violence, while others insist that if he recruits terrorists to a group whose goal is violence, then it counts. Terrence argues the slippery slope fallacy: what if Putin insists a Ukrainian Youtube star is advocating unrest? Propagandists cannot be enemy combatants.
Finally Alicia comes in, a little nervous to speak until someone tells her to go ahead (nice nod to how gender politics are often subtly at work in these types of discussions–she’s the only woman as well as one of only two civilians at the table, and the power dynamics are such that she’s obviously somewhat intimidated). “So we’re supposed to wait until Tahan plans a successful attack before we stop him?” she says. Uhh, I think the word is “before we kill him,” Alicia. After that she comes up with a better argument: that he’s “materially supported” terrorist attacks by supplying bodies for the bombs. A vote goes around the table. Terrence votes nay, but the ayes carry it.
Next up on the possible kill list is Lance Hopper, a young, white-presenting American who disappeared a long time ago only to resurface in Syria—calling himself Massoud Tahan. Now the whole problem is different. Alicia’s pale with anxiety. “If he’s an American, he deserves due process,” she insists.
Terrence tells her if she withdraws her support for the air strike, they’ll be told more. So she does.
They watch a video of Tahan and then are asked to decide if the three conditions for his being placed on a kill list as a citizen are met. The three conditions are: an imminent threat of an attack against the US, that capture is not feasible, and that it’s conducted according to applicable law. “We are Lance Hopper’s due process,” someone intones for the benefit, presumably, of anyone who hasn’t managed to make that connection because they were busy getting a lobotomy.
Alicia is now fiercely on the side of Lance Hopper. So is another random dude at the table, who argues that the definition of imminent (60 days) is too lenient, and against what the US stands for. They break for the night, but the next morning Terrence Hicks is mysteriously absent. “The captain has been excused from these proceedings,” announces one of the leaders. But Alicia demands to know where he is, and gets some support after Martin tries to shut her down. Everyone unites on the side of justice behind Alicia!
I do like when Alicia’s true character shines through: not the petulant, bitter woman she’s been of late, but the woman who is willing to stand up for her moral beliefs even when other people are trying to shut her up. It turns out he’s being questioned about leaks.
They hold a vote on the conditions. For the first (the Imminent Threat condition) Alicia votes no, and it’s a tie without Terrence, but Cleary breaks the tie by voting yes.
In a momentary break, Alicia is herself accused of being the leak after she goes on a long rant about how Terrence is one of the most honest men she knows, which… really? It’s been four years and they met like twice. But OK. So anyway, our friendly neighborhood NSA goofballs are listening to this through a magical bug in her phone (a “hot mike” that can hear anything within twenty feet) and realize she’s being accused of being the leak. When they tell their boss that the leak may in fact have been internal due to their own activities, they accidentally also reveal that they’ve been listening to some heavy-breathing audio recordings of Alicia having sex with “the investigator.” Oh, gross. On so many levels, gross.
The goofballs are disappointed to be told that they have to stop listening to Alicia. But one of the goofballs doesn’t stop, and he gets dragged off to an interrogation by his boss while listening to another Jason-Alicia escapade.
On the politics of the situation, or rather, on Alicia’s politics: I liked how this question centered on one of the main moral tenets on which Alicia has staked her entire life. In Alicia’s moral world, there are a few grave sins. These include getting divorced, having fun, cheating, and finally: betraying your in-group. Her passionate defense of Lance Hopper when she was willing to put Tahan on the kill list shows how deeply she values loyalty. Due process for American citizens is sacred to her partially because Lance Hopper is in her in-group, and she feels the call of loyalty above almost all else. So I liked this plot line, and it definitely gave this the feel of a classic Good Wife episode.
Elsbeth and her Ex
Eli calls Alicia (who has to ask permission before she answers, because she’s in her limo) to announce that “They’re going after Peter!” in his typical growly urgency. She can’t help, so he runs to Elsbeth, who’s upside down doing breathing exercises. She’s “cursed with high blood pressure,” supposedly, which I feel clashes with her sunny personality.
Anyway, they have an adorable little exchange when Eli says Peter’s in trouble:
Elsbeth: Professional or personal?
Elsbeth: About Peter’s conduct in office, or running for office?
Elsbeth: That sounds serious. Or is it a smoke screen?
Eli: …Or both?
Wow, for someone who’s married to a man, Alan Cumming sure makes me want to marry his character off to a lot of women. (Everyone except Courtney Paige, with whom he had no chemistry whatsoever.) If he can’t marry Alicia, I am now thinking he should settle down with Elsbeth and produce a bunch of extremely cunning babies.
Elsbeth deduces that Eli needs a lawyer to help him figure out why he needs a lawyer. Sounds about like something The Good Wife would come up with!
When Elsbeth visits Peter, she asks him why the FBI is interested in him, trying to figure out if there’s something he “walked right up to the line on.” Peter says no, but Eli kicks her out. In private, he insists that Peter isn’t telling Elsbeth everything. “Anything that I’ve done, you’ve done,” Peter says. “I did not try to fix an election for Alicia,” Eli insists intensely. Great scene.
But Nora interrupts to tell them the FBI has called for her. She was asked who calls for Eli, but she fobbed them off by saying she doesn’t write down names. (“I didn’t say you tell me not to write down names,” she says with asperity to Eli. Heh.) Apparently Judge Schakowsky came up. Now Peter admits that there’s a potential issue. “There always is,” says Elsbeth excitedly. “What’s yours?” “Vote rigging,” Eli says. God, what a terrible dude Peter is. Excited, Elsbeth pulls out her notebook.
When Eli visits Elsbeth later, she’s buried in a sea of multi-colored Post-Its, because of course. She’s wondering about Ruth, and whether she knew about the vote rigging; then about Marissa. They decide to talk to Marissa, who is as weirded out by Elsbeth (who goes on a cereal-related tangent, then a purse-related tangent–apparently Marissa makes purses out of macrame, leather straps, and kewpie dolls. Of course Marissa would make extremely ugly purses.) as anyone else. Eli’s face is like, “Sorry dude,” as his eyes meet his daughter’s. But then, Elsbeth suddenly makes one of her magical connections and leaps up, announcing that she can’t be Peter’s lawyers. She dashes off, leaving Marissa her card so that she can buy one of Marissa’s purses.
Elsbeth refers Peter to her ex, Michael Tascioni. He shows up to the meeting with a dog, which apparently has separation anxiety, because a dog once owned by Elsbeth would have to have some sort of psychological quirk. Michael is a very sweet-faced man with a bald spot that’s about 99% of the way to joining his forehead, and just about the kind of man you’d expect Elsbeth to have married.
And he’s smart: it takes him about five seconds to figure out a way to find out why Elsbeth can’t represent Peter. It’s one of Peter’s rich donors, who’s going to be a client of Elsbeth’s—and he can get Elsbeth’s client list because it’s part of their settlement and the divorce is still pending.
They show up to the court house and request the divorce file. Michael’s still cradling the anxious dog, which Eli pretends is a service dog. Only one client is redacted. “I got an order from a judge,” Elsbeth announces from behind them. She beat them to the punch and has been waiting for her moment to do a dramatic reveal and say hello to her dog. I love it!
Then she and Michael have an exchange almost as creepy as Jason and Alicia’s (more on that later). “I’m coming for you,” he says. “Tell me when. I wouldn’t want to miss it,” she says, breathing as heavily as even Breathing Guru Jason could have desired, while Eli looks on with increasing horror.
Michael brings his dog, and Eli, over to Elsbeth and casually drops that she’s being bugged, since Peter is. She realizes they might be playing her, trying to force her to lead them to her client since she’ll have to warn him in person: “God, you’re good at this.” They once again look like they’re about to pull each other’s clothes off, so Eli, totally squicked out, leaves in a hurry.
Back in Eli’s office, Marissa looks on while Eli and Michael watch a map of a tracker that they placed in Michael and Elsbeth’s dog. She’s left it at a romantic spot to send a message to Michael that she found the bug. “If the op is blown, why do you two look so smug?” asks Marissa, who for the record has not explained why she’s here. “A, one should always look smug,” Michael says (ah, apparently he has the same philosophy as Jason!). And B, this means she won’t realize they have another tail on her.
Jason helps them track her to a diner, where she meets someone named Lloyd Garber who owns dairy. He got Marissa her job. “They’re coming after Peter and one of his donors,” Eli realizes.
This was supposed to be an exciting ending, but I don’t know, it’s still pretty hard to get too worked up when it’s about cheese.
A Female-Led Firm
A photographer is in the offices of Lockhart-Agos-Lee making the lawyers take silly pictures in Diane’s office. He makes them say ABA, and then says, “OK, now just the women” – so the women parrot obediently, “ABA” while the men stay silent. Hee. The photographer clears up that he wants a picture with just the women. The men clear off, and David Lee, always looking for offense, asks Cary what the “spin” is on this article. What if it’s about Diane turning the firm into an all-female firm?
Cary brushes this off, but asks Diane what it’s about anyway. Diane brushes him off, and now he’s all suspicious. So I guess the theory is that Diane’s trying to kick all the men out of the firm, secretly, but has invited a photographer in to openly take pictures of just the women at the firm? How stupid do they think she is? How stupid is Cary for getting all worked up about this just because David has a meltdown? I guess when you start recapping a show it’s a lot easier to notice that some of these plots are major stretches.
So David, intent on figuring out Diane’s master plan, decides the only way to unravel this mystery is to hire a private investigator, even though Diane is supposedly so bad at keeping secrets that she brings in professional photographers to photograph the exact thing that she is making secret plots about.
So David wanders in to Jason’s office, pretending to be his new best friend. “A new on site investigator, very exciting,” he says with the worst attempt at being charming and friendly that anyone, ever, has made. It’s pretty funny. Jason’s like, um, thanks? Then David says, “You’ve kind of got a cowboy thing going on, don’t you?” “Not intentionally,” says Jason calmly. (Is it wrong that I find Jason more annoying than David? David knows he’s evil and vastly enjoys it. Whereas most of the time Jason seems to be enjoying the fact that he’s too cool for school, which is sheer smugness and does not work for me.)
So Jason listens smugly while David explains that he thinks Diane is trying to make Lockhart-Agos-Lee a “fully female-run firm” and needs to know about any conversations Diane’s had with Alicia and other women. This is fairly amusing, because Diane and Alicia fucking hate each other at the moment and their very last thought is about female solidarity.
Diane, a lot less dumb than David thinks, brings Jason into her office. He tries to stay standing, but she makes him sit down. I like that Diane can handle Jason. She quickly gets it out of him that David wasn’t in his office on firm business, and obviously he wasn’t there just to introduce himself. Diane makes the obvious leap that it’s freelance work, though Jason says he obviously doesn’t reveal that. “Did he ask you to investigate me?” she asks. Jason escapes. “David Lee loves to create paranoia and dissension. Don’t help him,” Diane says as a parting line.
These lawyers love their internal dramas way too much! It is actually shocking to me that Stern Lockhart Gardner lasted for so many years before the show started, when none of the firms that have formed since can hold it together for longer than an episode or two. Alicia is like this giant vortex of entropy, causing chaos and disintegration everywhere she goes.
Meanwhile, Cary’s asked Lucca to lunch and he’s trying to suss her out on Alicia. She doesn’t trust him at all, obviously, and tells him he really should ask Alicia. He even mentions that last year there was “an attempt” to make “the firm” a female-run firm, which, really? Even when Diane or Alicia attempts a power grab, it’s not exactly in the name of female leadership. It’s because they want power! I mean, would anyone say that Canning and Lee were trying to make Lockhart Gardner a “fully male-run firm” back when they made that power grab in season 5? Like, kind of, in that they’re both men and they wanted to run the firm, but really it’s an absurd way to phrase it because it obviously had nothing to do with their motivations (leaving aside, obviously, the negative influence of the patriarchy on both of their psyches!).
Lucca escapes lunch and commiserates with Jason about how weird this place is. Alicia, on her lunch break, gets messages from Cary asking her to talk, Lucca saying the firm is weird, Diane saying they need to talk, and Jason saying… nothing.
That night, Alicia, having finished up a hard day of kill-list vetting, is struggling to open a bottle so she can get on to her favorite part of the night. Hmm–when Joey Tribbiani looks at a bra it falls open, and Alicia has surely opened even more bottles of wine than Joey has opened bras. How could she be having this much trouble?
I get my answer soon enough: it’s so that Jason can swan in and pull the cork right out. “Very manly,” says Alicia. Meanwhile he probes about Diane and whether she wants to make an “all-female firm.” Alicia says that Diane might’ve mentioned it a year or so ago, but “a lot’s happened.” (Like that they had a vicious fight last week, maybe?) Suddenly, she asks if she drinks too much. He asks if she thinks she does.
Then things get weird.
Jason won’t let Alicia have a drink. She pleads with him, masking her obvious desperation with a thin veneer of cute flirtation. He insists she doesn’t “need” it and then makes her close her eyes. “Take a deep breath… slow it down…” he instructs her, like a weird gross hypnotist. “If this doesn’t work, do I get the glass?” Alicia asks drily. “Listen to yourself breathe,” he whispers creepily. She still keeps talking, saying that she doesn’t meditate, and then noting that the lights are off because of security.
And then he SHUSHES her.
And then they have sex. On the couch. In Alicia’s office.
I hate this so much, you guys. But at least now it’s obvious he’s supposed to be creepy, since he just finished milking her for information about his investigation when for all he knows they might be on opposing sides of the next office drama, assuming David Lee’s tiny little brain hadn’t made it all up. If this scene was supposed to be the start of some great romance, I would find it even more upsetting. Even so. Who shushes a grown-ass woman?! And what kind of grown-ass woman has sex with a man who just shushed her?!
Anyway, Jason trots back to Cary and David and says that about a year ago Diane hatched a plot to be a female-led firm, but isn’t doing it now. David thinks maybe Diane knew he was investigating and so prevented him from finding out. Jason says he can’t answer that. “I deal in evidence. I don’t deal in states of mind,” he explains, looking amused. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Seriously. How is “prevented you from finding out” a “state of mind”? Why does Jason insist on spouting these aphorisms about himself and, if he does insist on it, why can’t he at least pick one that’s germane to the conversation?
My anti-Jason feelings are growing in strength and may soon rival in intensity my feelings of hatred towards Laura from Homeland, Nora from How I Met Your Mother and possibly even Dawson Leary himself.
Also, David has now escalated to the conclusion that Diane and Alicia “had a deal” a year ago to make the firm female-run. He’s manufacturing drama like it’s the first five minutes of a Gossip Girl episode. And Cary is going along with it because he has apparently lost all powers of critical thinking. I hate seeing Cary dumbed down just to service the B- or C-plot of an episode. He was once such a great character!
Later that night we see Alicia in her office, staring longingly at the bottle of liquor but not touching it because she prefers to get high on oxygen with Jason now. Lucca comes in and they commiserate over how crazy the firm is, but they can’t leave because: money. Alicia asks where Jason is, and covers that it’s because “The three of us against the world.” Jason shows up as if summoned, and he and Lucca tease her about her secret mission.
“Jason, do you have a minute?” Alicia says, and Lucca gets the hint and leaves. Jason closes the door. “Yeah, glass walls. You have to get used to them,” Alicia says. Seems to me like she isn’t too bothered by the fact that you can see through her walls. Anyway, she gets all huffy with Jason because he ignored one of her calls earlier that day, and accuses him of avoiding her because things are complicated. Um, Alicia, I think that’s your thing actually.
Jason actually gets real for a hot second and says he doesn’t like being unclear on the situation—the situation being she’s married to the governor. Alicia insists that’s her problem, and that Peter accepts it. Jason says no one accepts things like that. “I accept it,” Alicia says. Then she utterly undercuts this moment of independence by telling Jason if he doesn’t come to her, she’ll go back to drinking. She promises everything will be simple. “I want you again. Don’t you want it?” Meanwhile I frantically hunt in the Microsoft Word thesaurus for synonyms of “gross” because I feel like I’ve used it too many times.
Grotesque. Bizarre. Disgusting. Foul. Nasty. Abhorrent. Meh, that’ll do. Till next week!