Depending on when you tuned in to the latest Good Wife, you saw a powerful indictment of the military’s drone warfare policies, a powerful confrontation between Will and Diane–or a comical look at the world of food lobbyists.
In an episode that’s all about accountability, you can hold the writers accountable for both some of the strongest writing of the year so far–and some of the silliest.
The Case in Evidence
Let’s start with the strongest. This week’s episode, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” harkens back to one of Season 2’s best, “Double Jeopardy.” Capt. Hicks, the military lawyer from the earlier case, asks for help in defending a young sergeant accused of murder. The twist: Sgt. Elkins, an unmanned aircraft vehicle operator in Nevada, killed civilians in Afghanistan with a misguided drone attack. She says that warnings to abort the attack came through too late. Her colleagues claim she was under the influence of stimulants that affected her judgment.
Will and Alicia discover to their chagrin that Judge Kuhn, Will’s nemesis from the earlier case, is presiding here as well. The judge is still rough on the non-military attorneys. She won’t allow the defense to make a case that Sgt. Elkins is being prosecuted because she’s a woman or that she’s been singled out for drug use despite the fact that everyone on base takes the same stimulants.
Despite a vigorous defense, however, the jury finds Sgt. Elkins guilty of 12 counts of murder. The young woman stares stoically ahead as Alicia hangs her head in dismay. Outside of the courtroom, the judge asks Alicia if she believes the verdict was unjust. Alicia says yes–Elkins was scapegoated. Judge Kuhn contradicts Alicia’s opinion in a way that bears repeating.
“There are 12 people dead because of her actions–six were children,” she says. “You didn’t ask one word about them during the trial. They are dead. They burned to death. Children like yours. Children like mine. Their mothers are mourning them right now. She may have been pushing buttons, but they are dead and they did nothing wrong. This was a just verdict, and she will serve time for what she did. The problem with scapegoating is that it doesn’t acknowledge that sometimes you have to hold people accountable. That is all that is happening here. That’s all.”
This time, Alicia walks away, with a look on her face that’s part shock of recognition, part shame.
Will starts to become complacent that the investigation against him is going away because Peter has recused himself to avoid a charge of conflict of interest. No such luck. Not only is the investigation continuing, Peter has appointed his old political rival Wendy Scott-Carr to go after Will.
But instead of using Will to get to the Lockhart-Gardner client Lamond Bishop, Wendy is going after Will himself. She’s convinced that Will is part of a judicial bribery case because of his weekly basketball games with several judges. During a drunken tÃ©te-a-tÃ©te, Dana blabs all the details of the investigation to Kalinda, who immediately warns Diane.
Rather than query Will about his guilt or innocence, however, Diane instead reveals what we’ve suspected for a while: She knows all about Will and Alicia. Her speech, too, deserves a replay.
“Stop it,” she tells her startled partner. “Stop sleeping with Alicia. Peter is coming after you because you’re sleeping with his wife. It’s wrong. You are her boss. He is the state’s attorney. Even if it weren’t wrong, it’s not smart. Make it stop now. Do you understand me?”
She walks away from him without waiting for a response, leaving Will to his own “whisky tango foxtrot?!” moment.
Disorder in the Court
Perhaps the writers knew that Eli’s subplot this week didn’t jibe with the rest of the episode–so much so that we first find Eli and Diane in Washington D.C. trying to represent their most lucrative client, the Cheese Board. They’re trying to convince the Dept. of Agriculture to return to the old Food Pyramid. Apparently the new “My Plate” design reduces the role of cheese in the daily American diet. He ends up sparring with another lobbyist, Stacy–played by the always-welcome Amy Sedaris.
Once back in Chicago, Eli vies with Stacy to create different alliances between the cheese, vegetable, fruit, and grain lobbies. Eli ultimately ends up losing the Cheese Board’s business–and he’s royally bummed.
You all know I love my Eli Gold. But, honestly, I couldn’t follow all the ins and outs of this subplot, and mostly I didn’t care. Maybe because of the other, uber-serious, plotlines, this just felt silly. Props to Diane for for her pep talk with Eli, however. She tells him that she’ll give him a night to get weepy and drunk over the loss, then tomorrow they’ll begin plotting how to take Stacy down.
I have to mention one point of lightness that did work in this episode: the vanquishing of Jackie. When Alicia discovers that Jackie has been snooping in her computer, she decides that her estranged husband’s mother has to go. She changes the locks and warns her kids that their grandmother seems to be searching for evidence to use against Alicia in any future custody case.
Not surprisingly, Jackie is stunned, hurt–and possibly vengeful. She accuses Alicia of being a “danger” to her kids. But Alicia will have none of it. “Look at my face, Jackie,’ she says. “You no longer have the power to wound.” Even better, she offers to buy Zach a car so that he can drive himself and sister Grace to their dad’s place, rather than relying on their grandmother.
As you probably surmised by now, I give this one a three-quarters positive rating. That’s how much of the show fired on all cylinders. Unfortunately, the out-of-balance tale of Eli and the antics of rogue food lobbyists just felt off-kilter. Somehow it veered those delicate few degrees over the line.
That said, there was a lot to love this week: Diane dressing down Will, Alicia tossing Jackie out of her life, Kalinda providing a drunk Dana with her thoughts on female-on-female seduction, and–most impressive–Linda Emond’s performance as Judge Kuhn. It took another tough woman to remind our favorite good wife what’s really important in life.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we can be thankful that there are at least two more episodes of TGW to come in 2011. May you have a lovely Turkey Day (and a safe one, if you’re traveling). I’ll be back in two weeks–see you then!