It may have taken Lockhart-Gardner suing the United States government to do it, but The Good Wife‘s back, baby! After a couple of less-than-riveting legal tangles, this week TGW returned to its sweet spot: a mixture of the legal, political, and personal.

Though Will accuses Diane of fighting “yesterday’s war,” this week’s case seems very much up to the minute, with possibly life-changing consequences for everyone involved.

The Case in Evidence

The week’s episode revolves around Diane and Alicia’s client, Danny, an American-Muslim translator who formerly worked for the U.S. military. Several years before, he was arrested and tortured in Afghanistan to reveal information he claims he didn’t have. Despite the U.S. attorney’s attempt to quash Danny’s $6 million civil suit, the judge lets it go forward.

Just then, Alicia’s old nemesis Glenn Childs (boo! hiss!) comes forward to offer his services for the plaintiff. He also asks the judge to invoke “Executive Order 13224,” which also happens to be the episode’s title.

In practical terms, the executive order means that the Treasury Department–supposedly to derail financial support for terrorist organizations–can query the attorneys about what they see and hear during cases involving suspected terrorists. Diane and Will designate Alicia as the unlucky soul who has to handle Higgs, the Treasury Department’s investigator. (More on him later.)

A Short Recess

Meanwhile, the government reveals evidence that casts doubt on the innocence of the Lockhart-Gardner client. Although Diane still believes that Danny didn’t support terrorists, he did lie to them–and that’s enough to get L-G to drop the civil suit. The government then turns the tables and indicts Danny on criminal charges.

Fortunately, when the government dumped all its boxes of files (full of redacted documents) on the L-G team, it left behind clues as the (secret) identity of the man who ordered Danny’s arrest in the first place. And of all people, it’s young Caitlin who figures it out.

In court, Danny’s original arresting officer, Lieutenant Curt, must keep the details of Danny’s arrest secret for security reasons. Without being able to prove why they’re accusing Danny of treasonous acts, the judge has no choice but to dismiss the case outright. For the first time in weeks, we finally get a case that’s engaging enough to show the outcome.

Hostile Witnesses

As the designated Executive Order 13224 guinea pig, Alicia must deal with Higgs, played to perfection by Bob Balaban. She realizes his questions veer uncomfortably close to violating attorney-client privilege. But if Alicia won’t cooperate, she risks a huge fine. Worse, she faces eight years of jail time. This lawyer needs a lawyer!

Though Will and Diane offer Alicia representation of their choice, she instead hires Elspeth Tassione, who successfully defended Peter against corruption charges. The seemingly scattered and flighty Elspeth uses her very real legal smarts to confound Higgs’ maneuvering. Alicia sits in wonder as Higgs storms out of the room, simply saying to Elspeth, “I want to learn from you!”

When the court drops Danny’s criminal charges, Alicia dodges the bullet outright.

Statute of Limitations

Back at the State’s Attorney’s office, Dana–Cary’s new flame–brings Peter a case she worked on with Matan Brody. Even though she’s supposed to be leaving to take a private-practice job, she wants to make sure it stays alive. She and Matan were investigating ancient charges of theft from a corporate account against Will. (He replaced the money almost immediately.) Her “reliable source” was none other than Blake Calamar, the man that Kalinda once held batting practice with.

She and Cary convince Peter that this points to a pattern of corruption. Anyway, what they really want is get to L-G’s client Lamont Bishop, the drug dealer. Peter tells them to go for it.

Things don’t go so smoothly, however. A play by Cary and Dana to get Will to cooperate with them flops badly. And Peter and Will end up in a confrontation where Mr. Gardner accuses Mr. Florrick of coming after him because of Alicia.

Ultimately, Peter realizes that Will may be onto something; the right thing to do is recuse himself from the case. But he tells Peter and the “oops-there-was-no-new-job-so-I’m-staying” Dana to keep after L-G.

Legal Briefs

So many good moments in this show, despite the limited Kalinda time and complete lack of Eli. To wit:

  • When Elspeth Met Higgs. There’s no love lost between the Alicia’s perky attorney and the buttoned-down Treasury guy, unless you count their shared love for fancy cupcakes. And bravo to Carrie Preston (True Blood’s Arlene) for playing Elspeth as though Arlene had gone to law school–and I mean that as a compliment.
  • Sexual Harassment 101. As Diane grows more and more suspicious of Will and Alicia, she decides to take matters in her own hands by insisting everyone in the firm take a sexual harassment awareness course. The chance to see the visible awkwardness between our lovers as they sit in the dark watching a laughably obvious DVD is better than free popcorn.
  • She’s Baaack! After a few weeks of being shunted off to the sides, Diane Lockhart takes the reins again–in the courtroom and the office. When an angry Will asks her why they’ve taken Danny’s case–he still has strong memories of being in Washington on 9/11–she just says it’s the right thing to do. That’s our Diane!

Summary Judgment

It’s great to see The Good Wife back in fighting form. With a realistic case born of the craziness of our 9/11 world (as Diane would say) and our main characters facing cloudy futures, the episode with the hard-to-remember title also proved to be the most memorable of the season so far.

What did you think? Did you enjoy the legal case or would you rather they skipped the courtroom entirely? Should Alicia quit Lockhart-Gardner and join forces with Elspeth? Are you looking forward to seeing more Dana or would you just like her to go away? And for those of you complaining that TGW got off to a slow start, did “Executive Order 13224” restore your faith?

Photo AlbumThe Good Wife – 3.07 – “Executive Order 13224”

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV