Happy 2012, Good Wife fans! I hope you all had a great holiday season and are ready to get back to some quality TV. Fortunately, it looks like the writers made a resolution to return from the break with a trim episode lacking any hint of holiday excess or bloat.

In “Alienation of Affection,” a lawsuit that might destroy Lockhart-Gardner forces Alicia to come uncomfortably close to violating her own ethical code. As Diane notes: Remember when we went into law as idealists and to do the right thing? Did Alicia do the right thing? 

The Case in Evidence

Apparently only a few states still have the old concept of “alienation of affection” in divorce cases, but Illinois is one of them. This is important because when Alicia was a young pup of an associate, her occasional mentor–family law expert David Lee–handled a high-powered divorce for a couple named the Huntleys. Now, more than two years later, the Huntleys have reconciled. Their attorney, Preston (played by Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham), accuses L-G of actively pushing Mrs. Huntley to get a divorce so they could profit from it. Hence, the alienation of affection charge.

Worse, and potentially more damaging, it turns out that L-G litigator Julius set up the sale of a company that became Mrs. Huntley’s property in the settlement. The now-reunited couple claims L-G made more money from facilitating that sale than Mrs Huntley took home in the settlement, and now L-G owes them $44 million in lost profits. (Um, no, I couldn’t quite follow how it worked either.) 

The alienation of affection charge ends up going away–Mrs. Huntley really wanted the divorce at the time–but there’s still the issue of the $44 million. Whether L-G is on the hook hinges on the existence of a standard rider about conflict of interest. (That is, handling the sale of Mr. Huntley’s company as well as the divorce.) If they can’t find the rider that shows Mrs. Huntley agreed to the two forms of representation, they’re sunk. In fact, all the equity partners would be liable for a share–as much as $1.5 million each. The financial loss could force L-G out of business.

Questionable Testimony

Things look dire when Alicia and Kalinda can’t find the all-important document, which may or may not exist. When Alicia expresses doubt over having actually signed the papers, Diane reminds her that she can only go forward with the best of her memory; she shouldn’t be doing Preston’s job for him. Alicia puts on a steely face for the opposing counsel, saying everything they did was on the up-and-up.

David fortuitously produces the rider, saying he found it among Cary’s files in storage. Everyone–including Alicia–worries that it’s forged, and Preston even accuses L-G of committing fraud. But then two things happen. Cary, under questioning by Preston, says that he has no reason to think the document is forged; his and Alicia’s files got mixed up all the time in those early days. And Kalinda produces photos proving that Mr. Huntley is currently having an affair. Oops!

End of reconciliation, end of lawsuit! 

A Law Unto Herself

While Alicia and company worry about the Huntley case, Will has the State’s Attorney’s office on his mind. Convinced he’s going to be indicted by a grand jury because Wendy Scott-Carr says he bribed judges, he starts interviewing lawyers of his own.

In a case of “Goldiwill and the Three Attorneys,” he first finds one lawyer who takes the case too lightly. The second is too pessimistic, fearing the best Will can do is turn state’s evidence against Peter and take a short jail sentence plus disbarment. But the third–Alicia’s seemingly flaky ally, Elspeth Tassione–is juuust right.

She figures the way to handle Wendy is by putting her on the defensive. Wendy won’t tell Will exactly which judges he supposedly bribed, so Elspeth says she might have to let it slip to the media that the State’s Attorney’s office is looking into three specific judges. Unfortunately for Wendy, each of them has a reputation for scrupulous honesty. If it looks like Wendy is going after honest judges, Elspeth knows Wendy will have a hard time finding any judge in Chicago who’ll be interested in hearing her case against Will. 

Wendy isn’t sure if Elspeth is bluffing. But just in case, she tells Cary they need to indict Will immediately. By episode’s end, Will has been served with a summons. 

Legal Briefs

Like many of the best Good Wife episodes, this one was mainly about the legal cases. But the personal moments provided many of the highlights as well:

  • Oh, Diane and her macho men! Throughout the episode, sexy process server Copeland (Australian stalwart Bryan Brown), brings the summons to the L-G folks, including Diane. Because he takes a shine to her, he also tips her off that Mr. Huntley happened to sign the paperwork at an apartment with a woman other than his wife, This tidbit allows Kalinda to get the lawsuit-ending photos. With Diane eyeing him like her former beau, ballistics expert Kurt, I think we’ll see Copeland again.
  • Eli and David go one-on-one, each daring the other to leave the firm. Eli thinks David’s cavalier approach to niceties like legal paperwork makes him a liability. David thinks Eli is a short-timer who doesn’t have the nerve to force out a rainmaker like David. Diane, playing the exasperated mom, scolds them both and makes them get back to work.
  • Cary and Alicia share a moment, when she thanks him for sticking up for the firm’s honesty during his deposition. Things change, he says. They do, she admits. And when he says he likes working for Peter, she returns the compliment, saying that Peter likes him, too.

Summary Judgment

With a focus on the legal, rather than the Will-Alicia dramatics, “Alienation of Affection,” continued the upward trend of the last several eps. Loved seeing Kalinda and Alicia on the road to friendship again, and it was even a little touching that Cary really may have moved past his history with Lockhart-Gardner. (We’ll see if that lasts!) Plus, we got the return of the quirky-but-crafty Elspeth Tassione and the hint that Diane has found a new beau.

The new year is promising to be a good one for The Good Wife. And unlike most resolutions, I’m hoping that the show keeps this one in the months to come.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV