‘Old Spice’ maintains The Good Wife‘s delicate balancing act of advancing Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) run for States Attorney and offering a case of the week.
Let’s bitch it out…This week carries over the case from last week as G-man Josh Perotti (Kyle MacLachlan) charges Alicia and Elsbeth’s (Carrie Preston) client with economic espionage. Once again the case is the least interesting aspect of the episode, so much so that I can’t even tell you the name of the client (alright fine, it’s Camilla Vargas, but I only know that because I take notes). In reality everything about the case is actually in service of the continuing bizarro-courtship between Perotti and Elsbeth, two off-kilter characters who The Good Wife writers are clearly infatuated with. I can understand the temptation to allocate more screentime to these people (both MacLachlan and Preston are enormously appealing actors), but for my money their kooky mating habits are better served as accents to the main drama, not the main attraction. Too often during in ‘Old Spice’ I yearned to get back to the real drama, despite (in spite of?) the wacky Ally McBeal style antics.
For my money, the real drama is actually absent here as this episode acts as another filler episode that serves to advance the ongoing narrative threads only tangentially. Thankfully there are several undercurrents bubbling just under the surface, almost ready to erupt, which are keeping my interest. The first is the return of Joy Grubick (Linda Lavin), the pre-trial services officer with the very serious case of due diligence who worked on Cary’s (Matt Czuchry) case back in 6×03 ‘Dear God’. Lavin’s return is a little less effective the second time around – aside from exposing the ridiculous inefficiencies of the bail court system she’s not actually given that much to do.
Her role is unfortunately more of a plot device since the latest wrinkle in Cary’s legal case involves his romance with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). The early scenes at the Harvard reunion suggest that Cary is trying to move on after witnessing Kalinda in action with Lana. These flirtatious interactions also explore how Cary’s damaged reputation now precedes him – much like the adultery scandal and Peter’s political rise has for Alicia. I didn’t even process why Joy zeroes in on Kalinda after Cary’s spot-check reveals he’s violated the terms of his bail by venturing outside the state lines (barely!). It’s not until Joy begins outlining the revised restrictions on Cary’s freedom and Kalinda comes up that it becomes clear. If we really want to boil this down to its simplest form, this latest infraction is another hiccup in a long list designed to test their fledgling relationship. Narratively speaking Cary’s case has cooled off as Alicia’s State Attorney race has gained traction, so this Moonlighting “will-they, won’t-they” romantic struggle appears to be the writers’ solution to give Cary and Kalinda something meaty to play with. While I’m sure it will yield some emotional heft moving forward, I have a nagging feeling that this will only unintentionally ostracize Panjabi from her most prominent storyline.
Speaking of Alicia, her Atheist comments come back to haunt her. Given the lack of prominence of the Florrick children this season, it’s mildly disconcerting that Grace (Makenzie Vega) seemingly only appears on the show to offer spiritual guidance to her mother. Here it’s in service of a forthcoming interview with Pastor Jeremiah (Frankie Faison), whose chat is instrumental for Alicia’s campaign. It’s interesting to watch Alicia struggle to infer a change of heart without committing to a religious conversion – Margulies’ face is an exercise in understated acting, particularly when Jeremiah credits the change to Grace (doesn’t this guy know the kids are off-limits?!). The cracks in this strategy start to show fairly quickly, however, if Grace’s conflicted expressions at her prayer meeting are to be believed. It’s one thing when she and her mother are having confidential conversations about struggles of faith and politics; it’s quite another when Grace’s peers single-handedly praise her for making it happen. Look for a crisis of conscience to happen sooner rather than later.
- While the Perotti/Elsbeth B-plot doesn’t really work for me (it’s simply too much cutesy weirdness), the aftermath of their lotion/Old Spice encounter, which finds Elsbeth sprawled half-naked on her desk amidst a tornado of office supplies, is an amusingly memorable visual. The hand sniffing as they part ways is pretty good, too.
- Side Note: After a few years of laying low, blame Elsbeth for bringing ‘Call Me (Maybe)’ back into the public consciousness. Is it stuck in your head again?
- There haven’t been enough memorable judges this season, so it’s a relief to welcome back Ana Gasteyer’s Judge Lessner back to the show. In my opinion…
- Speaking of returning faces: Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) literally turns up on Alicia’s door to fulfill the role of Alicia’s “body woman”. If that sounds like a bodyguard, Marissa partially describes it as such (joking she’ll ensure Alicia’s food is safe to eat), but in reality it’s plays more like a glorified PA. Something tells me this is more for Marissa’s good than Alicia’s.
- The offending app that nearly does Cary in – Uber – is a real life (rapidly expanding) taxi-alternative app. Way to stay topical, The Good Wife!
- Diane’s (Christine Baranski) crusade to reclaim Lockhart/Gardiner’s space may take a few tries, but she and Kalinda manage to find workable loopholes fairly easily. It seems that we’ll be seeing more of Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler) now that he’s once again proven himself to be an essential pawn in these office power plays.
- For those viewers complaining that the departure of Josh Charles’ Will hasn’t been acknowledged enough this season, that closing scene of Alicia settling into his old office is pretty damn poignant. I especially like how she pauses on the precipice for a deep breath before taking a tentative step – it’s as though she’s transgressing an invisible boundary and needs the pause to prepare herself for those overwhelming thoughts of him again (The same thing happens during the Pastor Jeremiah interview when he raises Will’s death and Alicia looks like she’s been slapped).
- Judge Lessner (struggling with the name of a witness with a challenging name): “You may answer Mr. Lander..trom…nim”
- Maurissa (when Alicia complains she hates lying in interviews): “Really? You’re good at it.”
Your turn: Were you excited by the emphasis on Elsbeth and Perotti or do you prefer them in the background? How long before Grace cracks about her mother’s newfound interest in “listening” to religion? Will Cary run the risk of revoking his bail for Kalinda? Did you choke up when Alicia returned to Will’s office? And when the hell will we get to see Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode) for more than 5 seconds? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS