If you’re like me (and, apparently, like much of the country), you’re happy that Election Day is the first Tuesday in November — in other words, this week. Over in the alternative universe of The Good Wife, though, it’s also November, but Peter’s bid for the governor’s spot is just getting underway. 

At first glance, “The Art of War” seems to refer to this week’s case about the topical issue of sexual assault in the military. But it doesn’t take long to realize that the real war is back at Florrick HQ, between Peter and Alicia’s would-be “friend,” Maddie Hayward.

Opening Arguments

Here’s what you need to know about “The Art of War”: 

Military personnel don’t have the same civil rights. US Army Judge Leora Kuhn (Linda Emond, making her third appearance on TGW) asks Alicia to represent an Army captain in civil court. The catch? Capt. Hellinger (Amanda Peet) is herself an attorney, suing a civilian contractor for attempted rape. The case hinges not only on whether the man, Ricky Waters, actually tried to assault her, but also on whether he was on active duty (as a reservist) at the time. Though Kalinda finds a witness who testifies the attempted rape took place, other evidence proves Waters received orders to report for active duty only minutes before committing the crime. 

Because active-duty personnel can’t be sued in civil court, the judge dismisses Capt. Hellinger’s case. But it’s a hollow victory for Waters. He incurs the contempt of everyone around him, even his defense attorney (played by the great Brian Dennehy). Verdict: though Alicia loses, Hellinger is just glad she had her day in court. 

Nick may be out of business in Chicago — unless he’s not. Alicia and Cary inform their client, skeevy Nick, that he lost his bid for tow-truck business from the city. Mr. Kalinda is furious and demands that Lockhart & Gardner investigate whether the winning bid involved bribery. Turns out there wasn’t any bribery, but the bid could be invalidated on a technicality. If they tell Nick, that is. After all, he didn’t instruct them to look for anything more than corruption. Alicia tells Cary she’ll handle it.

Alicia explains the situation to Kalinda. Although K claims she doesn’t love Nick, she does say she has a hard time keeping away from him. She seems intrigued Alicia could withhold the information about the winning bidder, however, which would probably force Nick to seek work elsewhere. Verdict: the jury’s still out. We don’t know how this will end yet. (Though, please let it end soon.)

Better a con man than a hypocrite. One mystery solved this week: we finally learn Maddie’s game. Though she claims she didn’t plan it, she throws her hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination for governor. She tells a stunned and understandably bitter Alicia that the race needs a woman’s voice, because she no longer trusts Peter to stand up for women’s issues. Speaking of trust … Peter accuses the millionaire of using his wife — befriending her to gain insider info.  Maddie denies it, but he’s not buying it, telling her he’d trust a cynic or a con man before he’d trust a hypocrite like her.

Maddie tries to get Peter to drop out of the race, threatening him with her ability to outspend him. She even offers him the lieutenant governor’s spot on the ticket, which he flatly rejects. It’s clear Peter is more worried about Maddie’s duplicity in regards to Alicia than his own political chances (yay, Peter!). After Maddie slinks out of his office, Peter tells a hovering Eli, “Let’s get started.” Verdict: a victory for Alicia/Peter shippers, and a rare opportunity to see Maura Tierney play a bad guy. (Which she seems very good at, by the way.)

If It Please the Court

A few items of note in this compelling episode:

  • When Josh Charles directs, don’t expect to see much Will. The L&G partner makes only a cursory appearance at the beginning of the episode, apparently so he can withdraw to the director’s booth. He does a nice job, particularly handling the opening scenes, where nearly every major character in the episode passes through the suddenly crowded law offices. 
  • Don’t take management advice from Steve Jobs. When bankruptcy trustee Clarke Hayden starts getting all growly with Diane, she asks Cary to investigate (because Clarke seems to like him). He thinks it’s just that Clarke cares more about the firm, ever since he became involved in the Bishop case. The true story: Clarke is reading the Steve Jobs bio. He thinks being crusty and critical is how you should act. Cary tells Diane he’s seen such behavior before — but don’t worry, it wears off.
  • Never, ever cross Eli Gold. Now that the political blogger has turned the non-story about Peter’s non-affair back into a story, reporter Mandy Post informs Eli her magazine will run it after all. A furious Eli sics one of Mandy’s rivals on her to reveal a conflict of interest in her reporting, one aimed specifically at Peter. The results: the story goes unpublished (again) — and Mandy loses her job for pursuing a personal vendetta. Eli confesses that he’s a little — emphasis on little — sorry for his part in Mandy’s firing. 

And how do we know what month it is in Good-Wife-Land? It’s because the jurist on Alicia’s case, eccentric Judge Abernathy (a returning Denis O’Hare), mentions that it’s unseasonably hot for November. He even throws in a comment about global warming. So if it’s November in Chicago, then this campaign is going to last a while in TV time. 

Summary Judgment

My verdict: no hung jury here — a solid outing. I love it when The Good Wife reveals key information quickly instead of making us wait, wait, wait. We’ve now seen Maddie’s true colors. Despite her protestations, I think she always planned to take on Peter. (Maybe that makes me a cynic.) After all, the truth about the affair (or lack thereof) didn’t dissuade her from announcing her candidacy. 

Despite the compelling guest stars (someone give Amanda Peet a new show, please — maybe with Brian Dennehy), the regulars really shined this week, too. No one does hurt-but-dignified like Julianna Margulies, smoldering ambition like Chris Noth or snarky vengeance like Alan Cumming. And could Jackie Florrick have a bit of a crush on her new nurse, hunky Cuban Cristian? 

By next week, we’ll (hopefully) know who has won the presidential election. But for The Good Wife, the fun is just beginning.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV