It’s time to rename this show — I’m thinking they should call it The Feisty Wife. Over the course of a few days, Alicia faces an ethical dilemma, confronts the person harassing Kalinda and learns the outcome of her house bid, forcing her to channel her righteous anger into productive energy.

As Diane reminds her, she’s gaining more responsibilities, which means every choice she makes has consequences. All I can say is, “You grow, girl!”

Panel of Experts

Instead of a standard jury trial, Alicia serves on the “Blue Ribbon Panel” of the episode’s title — filling a spot originally offered to Diane. The panel must investigate a police shooting that left an innocent man dead on a train platform. Did the undercover officer just make an unfortunate mistake? Or are there larger forces at work, including a possible cover-up by the police and the State’s Attorney’s Office to avoid stirring up racial tensions? (The police officer is white; the victim was black.)

Alicia is the only woman on the panel, clearly taking a token role (similar to that of an African American pastor). The others, including two judges and several other lawyers, are led by attorney Mike Kresteva, guest star Matthew Perry. Kresteva rapidly sets himself up as Alicia’s adversary, expecting her to sit down and shut up. 

Unlike the other panelists, Alicia won’t just let the witnesses off without questioning them. Her insistence on finding the truth seems to be at odds with Kristeva’s goal of clearing up the case fast. The other men treat her relatively junior status and gender disdainfully — one even calls her “honey.” Word of advice, gentlemen: You might have gotten away with that a few years ago, but Alicia Florrick is nobody’s “honey” anymore.

Minority Report

Alicia begins to make headway in proving that the officer placed a “drop gun” — a piece of evidence from an earlier crime — on the victim to make it look like he posed a threat. As she digs deeper, she even starts to sway others to her side. Unfortunately, the panel also learns that the State’s Attorney’s Office investigated the shooting, and Peter chose not to prosecute. 

Much to his delight, Kristeva realizes Alicia is now in a bind. He can turn in what he calls a “compromise” report (she just calls it a lie) that absolves the police officer of any culpability. Or he can report that there may have been a cover up by Peter, designed to quash a possible racial controversy before his run for governor. Either way, she loses. 

Realizing she’s stuck, Alicia recuses herself from the case. She’d be accused of conflict of interest regardless of which report Kristeva releases. Kristeva — could he be any more pompous? — gloats as she leaves the panel room, thwarted. 

Opposing Counsel

This episode could have easily been called “Alicia’s Busy Week.” Besides serving on the panel, she’s trying to buy her old house and represent Kalinda before the IRS. Shortly after learning she’s been outbid, she accompanies her once-and-future friend to discuss a settlement on her back taxes. They’re both surprised when the IRS won’t negotiate with Kalinda — she’s not actually charged with a crime.

But Kalinda tips Alicia off that they were being watched by a laptop camera throughout the meeting. The whole thing was a ruse for someone else’s plan. Alicia storms back into the meeting room, leans into the camera and demands that the games end.

Imagine her surprise when it turns out that the mystery person is Special Agent Lana Delaney (Jill Flint from Royal Pains). Back in season 1, Lana invited Kalinda to come to the FBI with her, also hinted at wanting a personal relationship. Apparently, she never got over the PI’s rejection, and she’s now on a fishing expedition about Kalinda’s activities. 

Rather than cave into the blackmail, however, Kalinda turns the tables. The two women meet at the FBI’s Chicago field office for coffee. In front of dozens of other agents, Kalinda embarrasses Lana by putting the moves on her in the open. (I guess Lana isn’t out at work.) Frustrated, Lana walks out, her plan derailed — for now.

Partners in Crime

Meanwhile, back at Lockhart and Associates, Julius, Eli and David vie to replace Will as a name partner. There’s pressure on Diane to take Will off the letterhead and restore stability to the firm.

What to do? Just when it seems that Julius may get the much-sought-after name partner spot, Diane and Will offer a surprise solution. In a move reminiscent of the ouster of Derrick Bond, they vote in the oldest of the equity partners, Howie, to serve in Will’s stead until his suspension ends. All Howie wants is an office closer to the men’s room, so he’s happy to step up.

Surprise Witness

Despite Alicia’s raise, she still can’t swing an offer big enough to win back her old house. Her real estate agent, Marina, suggests she write a heartfelt letter to the current owner, asking her to consider a lower bid. Throughout the episode, Alicia reminisces about life in Casa Florrick — both the good times and the bad. (Julianna Margulies has rarely been better, and that’s saying a lot.) The letter does the trick, buying her some time to come up with extra down-payment money.

But it’s a no-go financially — she just can’t do it. Imagine her surprise when Marina calls to congratulate her for making a deal for the house. She at first thinks Peter went behind her back to kick in the extra money, but he denies even knowing the house was on the market. 

Suddenly, it hits her. There’s one more Florrick out there with the wherewithal to buy the house: mother-in-law Jackie. And she’s got some explaining to do — in the next episode.

Bits of Evidence

Lots of great dialogue in this episode. A few highlights:

  • “I lost my house — I’m using it!” — A testy Alicia to Kalinda, just before returning to the IRS meeting room to confront the person using the laptop camera.
  • “Nothing is simple.” — Alicia to Kresteva, after he presents her with the choice of reports. His reply: “Candy Land is simple.” 
  • “Well, it’s up to you. You have a seat at the table. That means more responsibility — and consequences. Can they hurt your career? Yes. You have to weigh that.” — Diane to Alicia, when discussing whether bucking the standard way of doing things at the panel could be harmful to her future as a lawyer. 
  • “Oh, come on — you flipped a coin or something!” — David to Julius, who has just commended Eli for dropping his own bid to become partner to instead back Julius. How did David know?
  • “I’m no longer a Deputy State’s Attorney — I’ve been demoted.” — Cary to the blue ribbon panel, while discussing Peter’s choice not to prosecute the police officer. I’m not sure, but I’d swear that Alicia looked proud of him for his honesty and dignity. 

Summary Judgment

Despite the jam-packed number of storylines, in “Blue Ribbon Panel,” everything flows together into one seamless whole. Kalinda gets Lana flustered. Will and Diane pull one over the Eli-David-Julius troika. Alicia learns some hard, Spider-Man-like lessons about “with great power comes great responsibility.” She gets her house. And Jackie’s back!

I’m a fan of the “let’s focus on one thing” episodes, such as the great “Nine Hours.” But there’s a lot to be said for cramming in a ton of plot, too. Maybe the producers are just tying things up before the end of the season (only three more new eps to go after this one), but somehow they pulled it off. Blue ribbon television, indeed.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV