How fitting: It's the beginning of baseball season, and Alicia finds herself in the big leagues. Unfortunately, the "big leagues of politics" are far more corrupt than professional sports. In the appropriately named "Pants on Fire," what's a little steroid use compared to an unrepentantly untruthful political candidate?
In another successful attempt to bury the fond memory of Chandler Bing, guest star Matthew Perry returns as sleazy attorney Mike Kresteva. He's matched in bold badness only by Jackie Florrick, real estate vulture. Lord, help us if these two ever team up!
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The Case Before the Court
Diane and Alicia are defending Lindsay, one of three young girls convicted of murdering a fellow summer camper several years ago. It appears the State's Attorney's Office bungled the original case, using physical evidence mishandled by the crime lab. Despite Cary's best efforts to sway her, the judge vacates the original conviction. However, the defendants must stay in prison until there's a new trial.
Peter orders Cary to get the crime off their books. He offers the three women an Alford plea, which means that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, but not necessarily beyond a reasonable doubt. (Yes, I looked it up.) So the state would release the young women, but not actually clear their names, and they can't sue the state for misconduct. What to do?
In one of those "Oh, Kalinda!" moments, our favorite PI spots something in the evidence folder that no one seems to have noticed in five years. A photo shows marks on the dead girl's leg that prove she was riding a bike when she was murdered. But no bike was found, so this implies the body was moved from the real crime scene. (Wow -- that crime lab really was incompetent. Am I right, people?)
At first, Kalinda thinks a male counselor murdered the girl to cover up an inappropriate sexual relationship, but he's got an alibi. In the end, Alicia and Kalinda realize one of the defendants did, in fact, commit the murder in a fit of jealousy. They work to get the cases separated, and their client, the innocent Lindsay, walks free.
Alicia's nemesis, Kresteva, shows up at her office unannounced (this turns out to be an important plot point) to talk about the blue ribbon panel they served on together. If you'll recall, she recused herself from the proceedings based on a conflict of interest.
Mike tells her the panel has come around to her point of view -- they're going to censure the cops in the case after all. However, the report will also point a finger at Peter's office for covering up the police department's bad actions. He offers to let her sign a minority report giving her side of the story. She refuses again, still citing the conflict of interest (given that she's still married to the State's Attorney).
Imagine Alicia's surprise when Mike shows up on local TV to accuse Peter's department of a cover-up -- and to say that Alicia agreed to that fact on the blue ribbon panel. Even worse, he's decided to run for governor! (He frames his candidacy in the smarmiest way possible, saying that he "woke up" from a life of self-absorption upon learning that his son had cancer.)
She's appalled at the lie and demands that Eli release a statement that she's been defamed. He refuses, telling her that she's in the political big leagues now, with Peter about to announce his own run for governor. If you try to deny it, you'll just make it bigger news, he tells her.
Alicia confronts Kresteva directly -- and falls right into Bizarro World. He not only refuses to retract his lies, he tells her that she invited him to his office to talk and asked him to change the report to make Peter look better (so not what we see happen). His baldfaced insistence on his version of the events leaves Alicia fuming.
Speaking of fuming -- Alicia faces off with Jackie about the elder Mrs. Florrick putting a down payment on the old family homestead. Jackie says she wants the house for Peter and the kids, to give them some stability. And would it be so bad if she ended up living there, too?
Alicia makes it clear she knows exactly what Jackie's up to -- trying to replace her. But you're the one who left, Jackie not-so-sweetly replies. Alicia tells her M-I-L that she'll find a way to stop her; she is a lawyer, after all.
An excellent showdown, but even better is the face-off between Peter and his mother. Jackie thinks he'd be thrilled she's buying the house for him, but he quickly disabuses her of the notion. When she harps that Alicia is "manipulating" him, he reminds Jackie that he and his wife have tried to be adults throughout the last few years, and she's not helping. Being a lawyer, too, he lays down the law: If Jackie wants to be part of his life, she will call the home seller right now and ask for the return of her money.
But the last laugh belongs to Jackie. She ends up in the hospital -- she says it's a stroke, but seems amazingly unaffected to my untrained eyes -- and Peter must rush to her side. Before he gets there, she smarmily tells Alicia, "I forgive you," as if her daughter-in-law is responsible for her medical condition. (There's a lot of smarm in this episode.)
With only two more episodes to go this season, we're in plot wrap-up mode. For example, Eli and his ex, Vanessa (Parker Posey), end up back in bed when he's "consulting" on her state senate campaign. Will they reunite?
Sadly, it's not to be: The local Democratic Party chair, Frank Landau, informs Gold that his former wife needs to step aside -- the party wants to back another person (a man) for the spot. (Maybe next time, honey.) He advises Eli to pick one candidate or the other -- either Peter or Vanessa. To spare her feelings, Eli makes up a story about being stretched too thin. Because she isn't aware of the truth, she naturally thinks that he's rejecting her again and leaves angrily.
At this point, Eli has gambled heavily on whether Peter will actually run. He's not aware that Peter's already had a run-in with Kresteva that's helping him make the decision. When Peter asks Mike to keep families and personal life out of the race, Kresteva admits that dragging the Florrick family through the mud gives him his best shot to win.
"You might be glad you entered the race," Mike says, "but your wife won't be."
So guess what? Peter's in -- all in. It helps that Alicia had gone to see him earlier (before Jackie's "stroke") to give him her supports for his run for office. She thinks he deserves to win.
The episode ends with a rather JFK-sounding Peter announcing that he's running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois. And there's Alicia, looking rather Jackie-like (Jackie Kennedy, not Jackie Florrick!) by his side, her face a frozen mask.
Though I found this week's case interesting, its "only Kalinda could solve this" resolution left me a little skeptical. But I found the use of the controversial Alford plea illuminating, plus the reveal that one of the defendants really was guilty after all. And when Alicia visits Cary in his office to discuss separating the cases, we also learn that there's trouble in paradise. Could Cary be considering jumping ship back to Lockhart & Associates?
The real heart of the episode lay in seeing what people will do to attain their ends. Jackie will step on the mother of her grandchildren to push her out of Peter's life. Kresteva will lie and defame to get elected. And Alicia will put aside her qualms about being "the good wife" to help her husband beat his rivals.
Two more episodes to go? I could watch this stuff all summer.
(Image courtesy of CBS)
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