In this universe, Fringe has left the air. But in the universe of The Good Wife, John Noble returns as one of Alicia’s more eccentric clients, and it’s great to have him back.

If we didn’t get the Good Wife/Fringe crossover episode of our dreams, we still have one of the best episodes of an extremely strong season 4. Besides a stellar roster of guest stars and a chance to hear Alicia compare a political rival to Hitler, we may even have learned who’s won Alicia’s heart once and for all.

(Law)Suit Yourself

Following last week’s change-of-pace case at the coroner’s inquest, this week’s “Death of a Client” takes us on a different path as well — a trip down memory lane. 

Picking up directly from the last episode, Alicia, Peter, Eli and the gang from Lockhart & Gardner are enjoying the political intrigues of the Shamrock Dinner when the police ask Alicia to come to the station house. Someone has murdered one of her clients, the wealthy Matthew Ashbaugh (Noble, speaking in his native Australian accent). Though the police have a transit system surveillance tape of the killing, they can’t identify the murderer and need Alicia’s help. 

In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Ashbaugh was — as Alicia puts it — “very litigious.” She was in the middle of handling 18 lawsuits, many over minor issues. He never wanted to settle, ending up with a list of enemies long enough to fill out a sheet of legal paper. As the police push Alicia to give up information about their client, she gets worried that she’ll violate attorney-client privilege. 

Laura shows up from the state’s attorney’s office to help, but Alicia is wary of giving out any improper info. Suddenly, the women learn that the killer’s car has been found — and its GPS was set for Alicia’s address. Alicia calls her apartment, and learns her mom, Veronica, has stopped by. Get the kids out of there! 

Because her life may be in danger, Alicia can now tell the cops more. She reveals that Ashbaugh had been threatened by a Chicago police officer over the death of a drug dealer. She becomes convinced that the cop may have been involved in Ashbaugh’s murder, but leave it to Kalinda to figure out the truth hidden in the surveillance tape: she spots a clue that points the finger of guilt at another one of Ashbaugh’s lawsuit targets — a dog lover that Ashbaugh sued over his pet’s continuous barking. 

But before she leads them to the likely killer (we never do see him arrested; that happens off screen), Kalinda figures out that the whole “Alicia’s family is endangered” panic was nothing but a ruse concocted by the cops to get her to cooperate more fully. Not so nice, Chicago PD! Just because Ashbaugh was also suing you for harassment doesn’t mean you should frighten his attorney half to death.

A Judgment, a Judge and a Jerk

Things are no less suspenseful back at the Shamrock Dinner. Several threads here:

  • The Catholic leader of Chicago, Cardinal James, will likely give his blessing to either gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Peter or Republican Mike Kresteva. Eli tells the Florricks that you can tell what’s happening depending on whether the Cardinal shakes your hand or gives you a hug. You want the hug — it’s worth thousands of Catholic votes in the city. 
  • Peter wants Diane to put her name forth for the now-vacant seat on the state supreme court (another reference to “Invitation to an Inquest”). She has only a few hours to decide, or he’ll have to name someone else. She’s understandably overwhelmed, but not so much that she can’t start brainstorming alternate names for the law firm if she has to step down. 
  • Mike Kresteva seems to be going out of his way to make himself as hated as the litigious (and now dead) Ashbaugh. Besides getting into a dust-up with Alicia at the start of the evening, he lies to the Cardinal about Alicia’s whereabouts (saying the police came to talk to her about Zach and a drug arrest), picks a fight with Eli (over lying to the Cardinal) and ends up in a one-sided fistfight with Peter for the same reason. Though that might seem to be a campaign ender for Peter, our man Florrick denies he threw any punches — that would be crazy, right? Better yet, he convinces everyone, including the Cardinal, that the non-drinker Kresteva had a bit too much whiskey in honor of St. Patty’s Day and fell down in the men’s room.

Of the three threads, the only one we see resolved is the question of the handshake or hug: the Cardinal shakes the hands of both men, which means he’s undecided on who to endorse. Eli’s ecstatic — we’re in “anything goes” territory now!

Friends of the Court

The real heart of this episode of The Good Wife lies in, well, the heart. 

When Will finds out that Alicia’s in (faux) danger, he rushes to the police station to help. (She doesn’t want to tell Peter just yet, knowing he needs to work the room back at the dinner.) She’s feeling especially vulnerable, since many of her flashbacks to working with Ashbaugh occurred during her fling with Gardner. (Some of her memories are hot, hot, hot!) 

She realizes that they need to move on from the past. He says they’re fine; they just have a little “residual something or other.” In a moment of clarity, she says, “No. I’m being selfish. Even talking about it here, I’m being selfish. I’m back with Peter now ; this has to end.” When he asks her if she can just decide that, she replies, “I can. I have to.” 

A call from Grace interrupts their talk. Veronica has spilled the beans on two Florrick family secrets: Alicia and Peter married after she learned she was pregnant with Zach and the pregnancy that resulted in Grace was unplanned. Oops — a little too much “truth telling” from Grandma.

As Alicia heads out from the station, it’s no doubt she has mixed feelings when she sees Laura, who earlier had confided in Alicia about her own feelings for Will — talking with the now-available Gardner. Can she really move on?

And the answer seems to be … yes. Because after meeting up with her kids and Veronica at the dinner, she reassures Grace in a way that bears repeating: “You were not an accident. This isn’t about responsibility — this is about love. I loved you before you were born. I loved Zach before he was born. And I love you even more now.”

What about Dad? Grace asks. Alicia pauses, then smiles and says, “I love him.” In an episode where everyone from Kresteva to the cops has lied, this feels very honest.

The only sour note on the love front comes when Alicia calls Kalinda for her help. At that moment, Kalinda’s chatting up a sexy (female) massage therapist in a bar. Cary may have reason to worry, especially when Kalinda brushes his hand away after he tries to sneak in a quick grope at the Shamrock Dinner. Poor Cary! (Why do I have to write that so often?)

Summary Judgment

Right off the bat, you could tell this was a Good Wife classic. As with so many of the best episodes, this one came from the pen (word processor?) of show creators Robert and Michelle King. Who else would have “Saint Alicia” call out Mike Kresteva for his lying ways by saying he “does Mein Kampf proud”? Or have her tell him, “Well, this has been fun. Die choking on your own blood, please.” (A foreshadowing of Peter’s punch in the nose, perhaps?)

Plus, the guest stars overfloweth:  John Noble, Stockard Channing (as Veronica), Northern Exposure‘s John Cullum (as Cardinal James) and Matthew Perry (as Kresteva), plus semi-regular Amanda Peet as Laura, who grows on me every time she appears. My only complaint is casting the wonderful John Noble and then killing him off. No return visits ever, despite Ashbaugh’s quite sweet crush on Alicia. Wait — maybe there’s an alternate universe where Ashbaugh’s still alive! A girl can dream, can’t she?  

Speaking of return visits … Dylan Baker’s back as did-he-or-didn’t-he wife killer Colin Sweeney next week. And he wants to remarry. I’m sure Alicia will have plenty to say about that.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV