If CBS is only going to give us one new Good Wife in all of February, at least they gave us a doozy. In between all the Super Bowl, Grammy and Academy Award pre-emptions, the powers-that-be dropped in one of the strongest episodes of season 4. 

In “Red Team/Blue Team,” the focus is squarely on Alicia, as she has to make one of the biggest decisions of her life — whether to choose friendship over ambition. And are things really over between her and Will?

The Case Before the Court

When the manufacturer of an energy drink named “Thief” faces a wrongful death suit from the family of a dead teen, Will assures him they can win in court, so why settle? The client, however, wants certainty, which Will can’t promise. So Mr. Thief ponies up $100,000 to pay for a mock trial. 

Everything will be as real as possible, with Will and Diane as the “Blue Team” (the defense) and Cary and Alicia playing for the “Red Team,” or plaintiff’s side. With cameras rolling to record the proceedings, it’s Red v. Blue. Will and Diane think they’ve got it in the bag, since they’ve had months to prepare compared to Cary and Alicia’s one day.

But they’ve misjudged their younger colleagues, who come ready to win. Witness by witness, Cary and Alicia take down the client’s case, until the “jury” agrees that if this were a real courtroom, they’d award the dead girl’s family $50 million. Not exactly what the Blue Team was shooting for. The client agrees to settle for $12 million to avoid the risk of an actual court battle. 

More Money, More Problems

What makes Alicia and Cary so eager to best their bosses? It could be because they began the trial giddily thinking they’re about to become equity partners themselves, but learn midway through that their offers have been delayed a year. Nothing puts fire in your belly like a bit of betrayal. 

Even worse, the current equity partners make the decision based on good old greed. Following a successful run of cases — including ones that Cary and Alicia helped win — the firm is now out of debt. So far out of debt that they’re showing huge profits, and the partners don’t want to share. Since none of the fourth-year associates who were offered partnerships have made their equity payments yet, the others vote for the delay. 

When David Lee bears the bad news to Cary, Alicia and the other fourth years, they rebel, and not just in mock court. The group meets at Alicia’s place to plot against the partners. They come up with a plan to take the firm’s top clients (hello, Colin Sweeney!) out to lunch to see if they think L&G is doing a good job. But they know the partners will suspect they’re actually trying to steal them to form a new firm.

And what would be so bad about that? Cary puts the idea on the table that he and Alicia really should break away on their own. He envisions it as Florrick, Agos and Associates — even offering her top billing. She’s not so sure but agrees to think about it. 

Disorderly Conduct

Between rounds in the mock trial, Will confronts Alicia about her courtroom tactics. She’s made it clear that she and Cary are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens, especially now that their offers have been withdrawn. He insists he was against that move, but also warns her she’s on thin ice, because they could lose Thief as a client. 

Alicia will have none of it. She tells him maybe he should just fire her and Cary if they’re so much trouble. Will looks aggrieved and asks if she thinks she’s the injured party here. 

“Yes, I am!” she shouts back. (That sound you hear is Alicia yelling — not a common occurrence, although it occurs twice in “Red Team/Blue Team.”)

Suddenly, with their anger rising, they kiss. Not just a peck, but a real clinch, followed by two shocked people staring at each other, realizing they’ve crossed a line. Alicia runs out, down the hall, berating herself.

They later agree to never be alone in a room together, at least for now. We’ll see how that goes. 

Hostile Witness

Eli’s legal troubles continue, which is good for us in the audience, because that means more Elsbeth Tascioni (the delightful Carrie Preston). She takes him to see the federal agents who want him for trading discounted services for donations to Peter’s campaign. 

Agent LaGuardia, who started the case, has been joined by a senior Justice attorney, Josh Perrotti (played by Kyle McLachlan, channeling an odd mixture of his signature roles as Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks and Trey from Sex and the City). 

Perrotti takes a shine to Elsbeth, offering her biscotti (instead of Cooper’s favorite, pie, but it rhymes with Perrotti — get it?). She’s not so fond of him, however, because he has damning wiretapped conversations to use against Eli. She manages to prove Perrotti requested the wiretap illegally, but he ignores her evidence, even going so far as to tear it up. (Fortunately, it’s a copy.) He asserts that he must be right, since he’s the one sitting on the Justice Department’s side. But he’ll let Eli go if Gold will wear a wire to catch Peter taking a bribe. Eli angrily refuses, but things look bad for him.

He changes his mind after Jordan makes him believe Peter is losing faith in him. He calls in Elsbeth, who allows the feds to wire Eli up on one condition: he will get evidence against Jordan, but not Peter. Good enough from Perrotti’s end, until he learns that Eli actually wore the wire to trip up Agent LaGuardia into admitting the original wiretap was ordered up illegally. 

Oops, says Elsbeth to the now not-so-enchanted Perrotti — you’ll have to throw out that evidence. It’s fruit of the poison tree. 

Partners in Crime

Will, Diane and David are suspicious that the fourth-year associates are up to something, which is exactly how Cary and Alicia planned it. Although Will wants them to make good on their offers of partnership, he’s overruled. He comes up with an alternate idea: break up their solidarity and offer partnership to only one of them. But which one?

We learn very quickly which one. Surprise — it’s Alicia. David tells her she has 24 hours to come up with her equity contribution or the offer goes to another fourth year. She’s delighted and conflicted at the same time. Will assures her that she’s earned it and should take the opportunity. 

She even talks to Cary, who’s a good sport and agrees she should do it. She lamely tells him she can argue with the equity partners for … things. (Poor Cary! So much for Florrick, Agos and Associates.)

Conflicted or not, Alicia takes the offer, becoming the newest equity partner at Lockhart & Gardner. As Diane hugs her and Will congratulates her, we see Cary looking forlornly through the glass of the conference room, talking to Kalinda and keeping a forced smile on his face. 

Summary Judgment

So what did we learn this week? The firm’s out of bankruptcy and rolling in the dough. Alicia and Will still have some unfinished business. Eli and Elsbeth make a formidable team. Alicia and Cary make an even more formidable team — but when offered her dream job, Alicia is unwilling to defer it, even for friendship. She’s come too far to give up now. (And really, do you think Cary would have rejected David’s offer?) 

My verdict: The Good Wife is guilty of giving us great entertainment. We won’t know the fallout of Alicia’s decision (or that kiss!) for a few more weeks (Oscars next Sunday, you know), but I’m looking forward to finding out if Alicia is happy with her choice. Knowing The Good Wife, the answers won’t be as simple as black and white — or red and blue.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV