What if a risque prank could cost you every cent you have? What if a salacious rumor could cost you an electoral victory? Leave it to The Good Wife to explore the body politic from both sides.

In this week’s episode, “Anatomy of a Joke,” Lockhart & Gardner take the case of a female comedian who gets naked for a cause on national television — but the network’s Standards and Practices Division isn’t laughing. Thanks to TGW’s tradition of equal time, however, it’s not just breasts under scrutiny — Peter’s body parts receive unwanted attention, too.

Opening Arguments

Here’s what you need to know about the episode: what if you told a joke and nobody laughed? In this week’s case, Lockhart & Gardner defends a Sarah Silverman-like comedienne, Therese Dodd (Christina Ricci, making a rare television appearance), against a $2 million lawsuit brought by a major network. At issue: on the night she stripped off her blouse and showed her breasts on a talk show, was it impromptu or was it planned? She claims she wanted to raise awareness about the cancer that claimed her mother’s life. The network wants to convince the court she did it to raise awareness about her soon-to-be-published book.

The network’s attorney, Burl Preston (Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham) says they’ll drop the suit if she can convince three FCC commissioners to drop the fine they intend to levy against the network. Therese agrees to go to Washington with Preston, Cary and Alicia. Unfortunately, her self-described “potty mouth” and inability to be serious about the most serious of subjects makes every meeting a disaster. (9/11 and rape — always funny, right?) Fortunately, Preston makes the error of telling one of the commissioners that the American public must not be too offended, since ratings for the talk show have gone up since Therese’s appearance. A canny Will uses that tidbit against Preston in court, saying the network apparently can’t prove any damages. Case dismissed.

No Hallmark moments for Cary. Ever notice how Cary never talks about his family? Now we know why. His dad, a government communications guy, gets in touch while Cary’s in DC. His father, Jeffrey Agos (played by John Shea), apparently kicked out Cary when he turned 18 and has barely made contact since. (He was trying to toughen him up, you know.) At Alicia’s urging, Cary agrees to have breakfast with Jeffrey. Things seem to be going well — Jeffrey apologizes for being so absent from Cary’s life for so long. Cary even begins to worry about his dad’s health because of the sudden change of heart, but Alicia interrupts the reunion with case-related business.

Cary soon discovers he shouldn’t have bothered worrying. Apparently, not-so-good ol’ dad just wants Cary to put in a word with Diane to help him get a new political job. He even throws Cary a bone, offering to speak to the FCC for him. Cary thinks about it, then decides that he’s no longer impressing his father by trading favors. Too little, too late.

This isn’t carnival time in Rio. In an episode full of talk about breasts, there’s an equal amount of chatter about — let’s just say the male member. Indira Starr, the former Florrick campaign aide making phony claims of having an affair with Peter, now claims that he has a birthmark in the shape of Brazil on his … you get the point. The claim may be ridiculous, but Eli isn’t laughing (though Alicia is). He sends out Kalinda and his other P.I., Jim, to find any dirt he can on Maddie Hayward, figuring he’ll fight fire with fire. The investigators discover that Starr’s car has been seen in front of Maddie’s house daily for more than a month, meaning Peter’s opponent may be responsible for the entire affair rumor to begin with. More on this to come.

The upside of the possible scandal? Alicia agrees to help Peter with the press, while Peter in turn agrees to consider the job application of Laura Hellinger, who’s left the military since we saw her in last week’s episode. Alicia’s recommendation is enough for him — Laura’s hired! In this case, trading favors works out for everyone (except maybe Maddie).

The Best Evidence

We’re up to season 4 of The Good Wife, and you’d think that things would have calmed down for the firm of Lockhart & Gardner, but you’d be just as wrong as Cary is about his dad’s intentions. Besides everything described above, this episode also includes such gems as these:

  • Clarke Hayden tries to sell the firm to attorney Preston’s LA-based firm — right out from under Will and Diane’s noses. Preston’s really after their family-law business, led by the always sardonic David Lee (Zach Grenier, one of TGW‘s unsung semi-regulars). The partners pull a fast one, giving Lee a new contract that will release him from L&G if the firm gets bought. Without Lee’s family practice, Preston withdraws his offer. This leaves a fuming Clarke to threaten Will and Diane with the equivalent of “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
  • Alicia and Cary get intimate — in a good way. Sitting in a DC hotel room (on separate beds, watching TV — get your mind out of the gutter!), Alicia counsels the younger Agos to make peace with his dad. (This is before we learn what dad’s really up to.) She says Jeffrey’s probably changed; people do. They share a wonderful moment as Cary tells her she’s certainly changed: she’s tougher than she used to be. And she says he’s different, too: He’s not the jerk he was during their first year.
  • We’re treated to the rare sight of Alicia laughing at least three times, all related to the “Brazilian birthmark.” In fact, the only time Alicia actually finds the rather off-putting Therese funny is when, after her case ends, she starts telling jokes about being with her lawyers and trying not to comment on Brazil or male body parts. (She doesn’t say “body parts,” by the way, but BuddyTV is a family website, okay?) In any case, i’s nice to see Alicia having fun for a change.

Summary Judgment

More an episode of little moments than big reveals, “Anatomy of a Joke” satisfied on many levels, from the jokes about anatomy (get it?) to the heart-to-heart between once-and-future rivals Cary and Alicia. And where but on The Good Wife, with its amazing guest stars, is it bigger news to have indie darling Ricci than Oscar-winner Abraham? (Granted, he’s making a return appearance.)

I also loved the fact that when Alicia traded favors with Peter, she was returning the favor Will did for her when he hired her after she’d been out of law for 13 years. Now she’s in a position to help another woman attorney make a new start. It confirms that Alicia may be tougher, but she’s still empathetic. And previews for next week show we’ll also get more of Amanda Peet’s Laura, an added bonus.

Create your own watch-list (including The Good Wife, of course) with the new BuddyTV Guide app on your phone today!

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV