The line between what’s real and what’s not gets seriously blurred in everything from money and identity to friendship and loyalty on this week’s new Good Wife. 

If last week was mostly about Alicia and Diane, “Bitcoin for Dummies” is a gratifyingly Kalinda-centric episode. Even so, I must take a moment to tell Julianna Margulies that she was robbed at the Golden Globes (which aired at the same time as TGW.) Sure, Claire Danes is good on Homeland, but no one pulls off that special combination of angst and dignity like our Alicia. 

The Case in Evidence

You want ripped from the headlines? This week’s episode explores the potential monetary ramifications of the very real online currency, Bitcoin. (You can look it up!) The show revolves around a lawyer, Dylan Stack, who approaches Alicia for help dealing with the Treasury Department–something Alicia is quite familiar with. Apparently, Treasury, led by Alicia’s old nemesis Mr. Higgs, claims that Bitcoin is a real currency and therefore illegal.

Stack says he’s protecting the anonymity of Bitcoin’s developer–Alicia calls the mystery man “Mr. Bitcoin”–and revealing it would compromise attorney-client privilege. (FYI, Bitcoin’s actual developers list their names on the homepage.) After some discussion about taking on the government again (and after a look at Stack’s stack of cash), they agree to defend him.

What follows is a clever and complicated case involving identity, cryptography, and the meaning of the word “currency.” The government’s case hinges on proving not only that Bitcoin is a possible threat to U.S. legal tender but also that Stack is himself Mr. Bitcoin, which the L-G team denies. Without proving who created the code, the government can’t charge anyone.

Secret Testimony

Kalinda saves the day by leading the Treasury agents and Higgs on a merry chase to a cryptography convention (where a possible “Ms. Bitcoin” is giving a talk) and to the hotel room of a young Chinese programmer (a third possible suspect). In the end, just the fact that Kalinda can show the court that Higgs didn’t believe Stack was the only guilty party is enough reasonable doubt for the judge to throw out the case.

So who’s telling the truth? Everyone–and no one. Using her magical sleuthing powers, Kalinda confronts the now off-the-hook Stack with the knowledge that there are three “Mr. Bitcoins”–Stack, the woman, and the Chinese student. He won’t admit it, but her satisfied smile as he boards the elevator is enough for us.

Okay, so in real life such a case would be big news and stretch on for weeks, maybe even months. But there’s a reason they call it dramatic license. Let’s face it–actual trials aren’t as much fun, and aren’t usually brought to a close by a clever PI in tight leather skirts.

Hostile Witness

In the other major plotline, Will’s not out of the woods yet–not by a long shot. He and his attorney Elsbeth agree to a meeting with Wendy, Cary, and Dana to see if he’ll give evidence against corrupt judges. Using her “I’m just a flake” routine, Elsbeth tricks Wendy into revealing exactly which three judges they’re going after–at which point Will has sudden memory loss about his dealings with them.

Realizing they’ve been had, Wendy tells Dana to turn up the heat on Kalinda. Dana agrees to it, though she seems genuinely reluctant. She shows Kalinda a document from last week’s episode that may have been forged. If Alicia forged the papers and then perjured herself during a deposition, she could be disbarred. Kalinda faces a choice: deliver incriminating evidence against Will or Wendy will go after Alicia.

Will tells Kalinda he never bribed or did favors for the judges in question back during his gambling days. But–a big “but”–his bookie did forgive an old debt for $8,000, and it might look like it was payback for introducing him to the judges. Only one case in front of the courts from that time might strike the State’s Attorney’s office as suspicious. Kalinda believes Will, but it comes down to a question of which friend–Will or Alicia–she’ll choose to protect.

When she hands the possibly damaging case file over to Dana in a poorly lit bar, it appears she’s made her choice. But has she? With no more information to go on, I’ll say this: Nobody puts Kalinda in a corner. Dana had better be careful about what she does with that file. 

Legal Briefs

A few quick hits:

  • In an episode that centers on everyone manipulating everyone else, special kudos to Zach. When Alicia expresses concern that her son is moving too fast with girlfriend Nisa, the boy invites his gal-pal over to Peter’s place instead (thinking the apartment’s empty). But who should be there but inimitable snob Jackie. She also suggests that he slow things down–after all, Nisa is in public school (heaven forbid!), and he’s at that tony prep school now. A clever Zach lets that tidbit from Jackie slip to Alicia. Suddenly, Alicia is all about having Nisa in Zach’s life, as much as he wants. 
  • Speaking of Zach: By showing his mom how Bitcoin works, he gets to play the “explainer” role for the audience as well. Alicia admits that she feels kind of … “dated.” Later, after the judge dismisses the case, Alicia tells Stack that she went online and bought a Bitcoin. But she didn’t like the experience because it didn’t feel “real.” Ah, says Stack, “Real is going to change.” Given all the secret identities, hidden agendas, and messages buried inside millions of lines of computer code in this episode, “real” apparently never stops changing.
  • Besides bringing back Bob Balaban as the cranky Higgs, we also got treated to the great Michael Lerner as the–let’s just say “quirky”–judge, plus a cameo from the “mad man” of CNBC, Jim Cramer. (Only TGW mixes real-life TV personalities in a fake case about an actual online phenomenon.) And how charming was Jason Biggs as Stack? Shouldn’t he have his own sitcom or something? How many sequels to American Pie can there be? (Oh yeah.)

Summary Judgment

TGW’s current season, which lost some of last year’s momentum during its first few episodes, just keeps getting stronger. Last week, the show put Alicia in the throes of an ethical dilemma. This week, it’s Kalinda’s turn. The legal case may be amusingly twisty and up to the minute, but the real (there’s that word again!) story is whether Kalinda has betrayed Will to protect Alicia. 

Too bad the whole L-G team can’t use a few Bitcoins to buy their way out of this situation. But that would deny us the pleasure of seeing what happens next. Stay tuned (in two weeks)–previews show that Wendy confronts Alicia about her relationship with Will. How “real” will Alicia choose to be then?

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV