Will Gardner may be plotting to become king of the legal world, but you didn’t actually think The Good Wife would let Florrick, Agos and Associates go down without a fight, did you?

A lot of folks are fighting for what they want in this week’s episode, “The Next Month.” Alicia and Cary fight to save a client’s life, Robin fights for her job and Eli fights for love. You heard that right — the world’s most cynical political operative’s in love!

Out with the Old

Will proudly tells the partners that it’s no dream — the firm will open an office in New York within three months. As part of his plan for world domination, he also announces there’s no more “Lockhart & Gardner.” From now on, they’ll be known simply as “LG.” Very trendy.

Things continue to look up for “LG.” Anthony, the rat who fled what seems like the sinking ship of Florrick, Agos, tells Will and Diane that other associates plan to defect, too. Even better, the F-A team’s new offices are in an old t-shirt factory in a dicey part of town. The LG folks gloat at the new firm’s downfall. They’re so busy gloating that they forget the fact that former intern Natalie Flores (played by the returning America Ferrera) wants to meet with them.

Old coot Howard takes the meeting instead. Natalie needs LG’s help — a friend faces deportation as an undocumented immigrant if he won’t snitch on the head of a gang. Howard’s ham-handed attempt at ingratiating himself with her by talking about how sexy he finds Mexican women drives Natalie into Alicia’s new offices. 

Though Alicia’s sympathetic, she’s hesitant to take on pro bono work. The “other Carey” tells her to take the case. He’s learned Natalie’s boss is a powerful lobbyist who’s looking for Chicago legal representation. After high-fiving one another for getting their first new client, Alicia’s off to court to negotiate on Tomas’ behalf.

Lawyers in Love, Part 1

You know who else is high-fiving? Fans like me who wanted to see what would happen if Eli ever got the chance to meet Natalie again. The last time didn’t go so well, since the lovesick politico learned that she had a steady boyfriend. 

Things are looking up for Eli, though. On a visit to Alicia’s new digs, he spots Natalie across the room and runs after her. They literally bump into each other on the street. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that Eli was tongue-tied, but he manages to convince her to have dinner with him. (The boyfriend is history.) They both beam at each other — a positive sign for Mr. Gold. 

Later that day, Alicia successfully gets the US attorney to arrange a coveted S visa, the kind reserved for snitches, for Tomas. Before he can testify, however, the gangster, Lalo, flees custody and heads for Mexico. This should be the best of both worlds — Tomas doesn’t have to testify against a murderer and he receives a visa. Unfortunately, Immigration expedites Tomas’ deportation and puts him on a bus that’s heading straight for the same town as Lalo. When that bus crosses the border, Tomas is a dead man.

Natalie gets the call about Tomas’ plight during her dinner with Eli and has to run off. Darn duty coming first! 

Robin to the Rescue, Part 1

Cary, Carey and Alicia spend the next day running from one kind of administrative hearing to another trying to get their man off the bus before time runs out. When they learn that Tomas only ended up back in custody because Immigration confused him with another Tomas Ruiz — a known con man and criminal — their only hope lies in finding him and rectifying the error.

But who can find him in such a short time? Robin vows to do it, though the F-A team is skeptical. What they don’t know is that she earlier heard them discussing laying her off, strictly as a cost-saving measure. They also don’t know that she went to Kalinda for advice. 

Though Kalinda told Robin she can’t return to LG — that ship’s sailed — she has to make herself indispensable. That’s what she learned when Peter fired her all those years ago. “You have to take control,” Ms. Sharma recommends. “Nothing changes you like losing a job.”

Robin sets out to become indispensable. Using distinctly Kalinda-like tactics, such as pretending to be con man Tomas’ baby mama, she finds her man. Cary congratulates her on the excellent work. When she says she’s just doing her job, Cary makes it clear that he expects her to stick around. 

Personal or Political? 

Natalie stops in to see Eli to apologize for running out on dinner. He says he understands — maybe they can get together next time she’s in town from New York. Just as she’s leaving, he comes to his senses (well, that’s how I see it anyway) and says they must have dinner. They both lead busy, complicated lives. If they don’t have dinner, he has a feeling they might never see each other. (He’s so cute when he’s flustered.) She agrees to make reservations.

The only one unhappy about the date is the very pregnant ethics chief Marilyn Garbanza (like the chickpea, but with an A). She’s worried Eli’s making political decisions for Peter based on his personal feelings for Natalie. When she tells Peter her concern, the governor-elect queries his chief of staff to make sure his advice isn’t colored by anything but what’s best for him. Eli reassures him — then tells Marilyn to back off his personal life.

Back at court, it looks like Alicia and Cary don’t have the resources to free Tomas before it’s too late. Natalie agrees to a client meeting with LG. (Will can’t stand the idea that Alicia might get the lobbyist boss’ business.) He and Diane prep Howard to apologize for his inappropriate behavior. 

After Howie graciously apologizes, Natalie introduces her boss, who happens to be African American. Howard greets the man with his version of a “soul handshake,” much to the chagrin of Will and Diane. Suddenly, the fact that Florrick, Agos is a small firm doesn’t seem to be the biggest drawback in the world.

Robin to the Rescue, Part 2

Despite F-A’s best efforts, it looks like Tomas is doomed. The Immigration case worker who might give them a break says the man is still an undocumented immigrant. What’s the point of calling off the deportation, even if the expedited proceedings nabbed the wrong man? 

Leave it to Robin — again! This time, she convinces an employee at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to consider turning back Tomas at the border. After all, he’s a con man and criminal; and the Mexican government doesn’t have to take him back. Unaware she’s telling them about the other Tomas Ruiz, the Mexican officials reject the good Tomas at the border. He’ll be able to return safely to his family in Illinois, where his position as an otherwise law-abiding resident will give him a chance to prove he deserves to stay. 

A seriously happy Natalie waits expectantly at her table in the restaurant when Eli calls. This time, he says he has to work — Peter needs him. What she doesn’t know is that Eli’s watching through the restaurant window, looking stricken. She says she understands about his work and gets up to leave. Suddenly, Eli runs in to stop her. 

“That was just me being stupid,” he says. “I lie 24/7 on the job. In fact, in my line of work, it’s a gift. But lying to you just gives me a stomachache.” They beam at each other — and he draws her in to a big kiss, adding, “I had to do that.” 

Apparently, Natalie agrees, since she draws him into an even bigger kiss.

Lawyers in Love, Part 2

Back at the factory-floor offices of Florrick, Agos, our gal Alicia unveils her fancy new desk chair. (Since the firm will probably be getting a lot of work from Natalie’s lobbyist boss, I’ll bet she can even afford a desk soon, too.) We hear an elevator door open, and in walks Peter with Marilyn and some interns. Ms. Garbanza has decided the interns can help unpack the First Lady-elect’s office without violating any ethics regulations.

Peter proudly tells Alicia that she’s going to take over the world from here. She looks happy and triumphant — maybe this band of scrappy upstarts will make it after all.

Summary Judgment

We’re more than one-third of the way through season 5 of The Good Wife, and it keeps getting better.

Just when Lockhart & Gardner — excuse me, LG — seems unstoppable, their cross-town rivals bring in the big win they need to keep afloat. Even better, the writers manage to keep us guessing about who we should root for. One week, our sympathies lie with Will and Diane, who seem genuinely hurt by Cary and Alicia’s defection. The next week, we’re pulling for Alicia and her team to succeed despite the long odds against them. 

And come on — Eli and Natalie! Finally! Their chemistry from two seasons ago finally paid off. Sure, she works in New York, and he’s in Chicago. Plus, there’s an age difference. And she’s an idealist and he’s a cynic. But you’ve gotta love these two star-crossed legal eagles. (Besides, they can’t be any more of an odd couple than Diane and Kurt.) This week at least, they’re the ones I’m rooting for. 

The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm (barring football overruns) on CBS.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV