From humble beginnings great stories flow. In this week's new episode of The Good Wife, we learn that long before the big-name cases, the tumultuous love affair and the fiery breakup, there was just Alicia Florrick, a mom in need of a job.
The Queen's Speech
However, before I get into the plot of "A Few Words," I'd like to say a few words about the wise folks at CBS who just renewed The Good Wife
for a sixth season: thank you very much!
Alicia's come a long way in less than five years, and the members of the American Bar Association want to hear about her experiences as a former "opt-out mom." She's slated to give the keynote address at the ABA convention in New York City -- but she's so tangled up in nerves that Cary dubs her draft "dry." It's back to the drawing board. Or in this case, a blank computer screen.
Faced with starting over, Alicia thinks back to another time when she started over: looking for her first job after Peter's Hookergate scandal. After being away from law for 13 years, she's a tough sell to prospective employers. Her husband's negative press doesn't help, either.
Back in the now, Clarke Hayden's on the phone, telling her that she and Cary have to hightail it to the lobby to meet with Rayna Hecht, a high-powered Chicago attorney looking for a new firm. By the time our duo get to the first floor, however, Hecht's in the midst of discussions with ... guess who? (Alicia's right -- she can't get away from those two!) Hecht seems interested in Will and Diane's overtures. She even blows off her interview slot with Cary and Alicia, much to their chagrin.
When Elsbeth Met Nelson
But if Alicia's upset, imagine how Will feels when Nelson Dubeck approaches him. (Is the guy a stalker? They're in New York, for heaven's sake.) Will refuses to testify, but Dubeck says he's patient. Will knows he's in a jam.
Gardner confides in Diane about his dilemma. Does he give evidence to Dubeck (and possibly be disbarred for breaking attorney-client privilege) or does he clam up (possibly ending up serving time along with Peter)? A ray of light shines on them when they discover that Elsbeth Tascioni's on that day's roster of speakers. They enlist their old ally's help in the fight against Dubeck.
Elsbeth advises Dubeck to stop harassing her client. He says Will would be smart to cooperate in the voter fraud case -- one way or another, Peter's going down. She wonders why he's so sure Peter's guilty, to which he snarkily replies, "Because he's the governor of Illinois." (Let's face it, that state does have a history of legally challenged chief executives.)
She pokes at him more, threatening to make him prove in court that the smoking-gun video of Jim Moody isn't a fake, but Dubeck seems unphased. He says he knows Peter is a criminal -- he'll find the proof. He's pretty sure of himself.
Sure or not, maybe Dubeck shouldn't have said that stuff about Peter's guilt out loud. Elsbeth reveals she's been taping their conversation without Dubeck's knowledge, which is legal in New York, since only one party needs to know about it. Is Will off the hook?
Back on the Market
Back in the hotel room, Alicia's still suffering from writer's block. It doesn't help that Clarke says Rayna's going to give Florrck, Agos another chance to pitch her -- if she likes Alicia's speech. Apparently, she's looking for a more woman-friendly work environment, so Cary reminds Alicia to focus on that. No pressure!
Alicia remembers her first few interviews after the scandal broke. Based on her prim hair and primmer suit, it's hard to believe that she's the same woman we see now with sexy haircuts and sexier heels. She loses out on one job because she's been out of the workforce too long and wouldn't be right for a beginning associate's job (despite her protests to the contrary). She then gets an offer from a firm, but heir boss must downgrade it to an internship because of Peter's bad reputation.
One good thing comes of the rejection, though. Alicia runs into old law school buddy Will Gardner in where else but an elevator. (Those two and their elevators!) When her job offer falls through, she takes him up on the offer to call him at his firm. This time, she preps for the job by wearing sleek hair and a sexy outfit -- sexy enough that she imagines mother-in-law Jackie calling her a slut for wearing it to an interview.
The interview goes well, but Diane tells Will that the hiring committee doesn't want anything to do with the Florrick name. Will fights for her, which surprises Diane. (This is nearly five years ago, remember.) Weirdly, even though we know how this ends, it's still suspenseful. Will Alicia get the job?
Why Do You Hate Me? Let Me Count the Ways
Back in the present day, Alicia's introduced in a ballroom full of attentive lawyers. Despite the nerves and the writer's block, she seems to be on a roll with the audience. One by one, however, people start leaving the room. She's rattled. What has she done wrong?
Nothing, we learn. There's been a hostile takeover at a pharmaceutical firm, and all the attorneys want to get in on it. But Alicia thinks she's bombed and heads across the street to a coffee shop that conveniently also serves beer. It doesn't help her pity party when Will comes in for a bite and gets seated at her table -- the only empty spot in the joint.
He gives her a hard time about all the lawyers walking out on her speech. Finally having enough, she asks, "Why do you hate me?" Really, I would think that answer is obvious, but she's been drinking, so I'll cut her some slack.
Will makes it clear he feels betrayed that she planned for weeks to leave the firm without telling him, scheming to take clients with her. Though she says that it wasn't her idea to do that -- she wanted to leave right away -- he doesn't really care. When she says that "We could never have made it work," he says, "You're linking the two things together, which I never did." (As if!)
Rather, he makes it clear this isn't personal to him, it's about competition. So she should expect L-G to keep fighting F/A for "every client, every case." He also compliments her by saying she's up to it.
"Well, that's something," Alicia says, and offers him a handshake, colleague to colleague, competitor to competitor.
Captain of Her Fate
Back at the hotel, a now tipsy Ms. Florrick has a last-minute meeting with Clarke, Cary and Rayna Hecht. She apparently loved Alicia's speech and wants to know more about F/A. She's especially interested in Alicia's POV as a female partner.
In this case, Rayna asks the questions. Or I should say, question. All she wants to know from Alicia is this: what do you want? Alicia thinks for a moment, then says, "I want a happy life and I want to control my fate." Rayna smiles and leaves. Did they just get a new partner? They can't tell.
Meanwhile, Jim Moody -- he of the stuffed ballot boxes -- tries to get Will to talk to him about Nelson Dubeck's investigation. Will won't talk to him, period. Unfortunately, the relentless Dubeck later shows Will the hotel security footage of him talking to Moody. It's audio-free, so despite Will's protestations that he was turning Moody away, Dubeck says it looks like they're conspiring. Now Will's really in a jam, but Dubeck reminds him that he's after Peter, not Will. So maybe this would be a good time to cooperate. Elsbeth says they'll think about it.
Later on, though, things don't look so good for Peter: Elsbeth's in a cheery mood. With Clarke at the piano in the hotel bar, she sings "High Hopes" (very badly). Why is she so happy? It seems she's about to start a two-woman firm with a new partner -- Rayna Hecht! Clarke looks a bit forlorn. Apparently, Alicia's answer about taking charge of her own fate was a little too effective.
Finally, one last memory. In the present, Alicia runs into the woman who turned her down for a job years ago. She knows Alicia's got her own firm now, but if she's ever interested again ... Alicia thanks her, then thinks back to Will telling her she's hired at Lockhart & Gardner. An overjoyed Alicia thanks Will profusely.
He tells her to go study up on contracts law. She gives him a great big smile. It's probably a good thing neither of them had any idea of the ups and downs to come.
This episode had an interesting, somewhat contemplative feel to it that I enjoyed. I loved seeing the evolution of Alicia from slightly dowdy former homemaker and mom to smokin' hot head of her own firm. I was especially interested in how Alicia saw herself back then. In her memories, she questions whether she set out to "seduce" Will into hiring her (as the Jackie in her head believes) or whether (as she says in her speech) she just did what she needed to do.
I also liked seeing relations with Will continue to thaw, as they did in the last episode. She may think he still hates her, but taking it down a notch to plain old competition is actually a big step forward for the former lovebirds. She'll need a more cordial atmosphere when the hammer comes down on Peter, as it now appears likely.
And of course, it's always wonderful to have back Elsbeth Tascioni, played by the inimitable Emmy winner Carrie Preston. It takes a special actress to pull off a character who's flustered by an anti-Semitic performer in a bear costume one minute (you had to be there), then faces off against an intimidating member of the Illinois Office of Public Integrity the next. I wasn't surprised that guest star Jill Hennessy (of the original Law and Order -- how appropriate) didn't end up at either L-G or F/A. But I was surprised she's opening a firm with Elsbeth, and I hope we'll see her again.
For next week, CBS still promises the "can't miss!" episode of The Good Wife. My advice? Don't miss any of them.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm on CBS.