It’s tough being Will Gardner these days. Ever since his suspension ended, judges all over Chicago have branded him a liar and thief — but until now, they never held it against him in court. 

But in this week’s new The Good Wife, one judge’s bias may wreck a crucial case, causing Lockhart & Gardner to take drastic steps to stop him. For Alicia, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Besides leading the charge against a popular judge, she discovers her kids are living secretive lives that have drawn them into Peter’s campaign.

Opening Arguments

My take on what you need to know about “Here Comes the Judge” — in three quotes:

“If you go nuclear, don’t leave any missiles in the silo.” This is Diane’s advice to her colleagues on their risky strategy to prove a judge is biased against Will. It all starts when Gardner, facing off against new assistant state’s attorney Laura Hellinger, has to argue a murder case before snarky Judge Creary (Judd Hirsch, of Taxi fame). When Will runs into Creary in a bar after work, the judge makes nasty comments about Gardner’s honesty and legal abilities. And for good measure, he throws in his opinion that Will’s client is guilty. Did I mention Creary is drunk at the time?

After the judge refuses Alicia’s motion to recuse himself from the case, she moves for a hearing to decide if he’s biased. If their plan fails, then they’ll end up back in court in front of a now-angry Judge Creary. Poor Will has to sit through witnesses testifying about what judges around town think of him. But that’s not the point, says Diane — it’s whether those opinions are coloring Creary’s ability to deliver a fair trial.

The team finally detonates the “nuclear option” by bringing in a witness who testifies that Creary drinks himself into frequent blackouts. The presiding judge at the hearing thinks their tactics are despicable, but admits that Creary can’t continue on the case. Will and Diane think they’ll be back in court soon, though Laura notes their client really may be guilty — and they begin talking plea bargains. 

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Okay, that’s not from this episode of The Good Wife; that’s from The Godfather Part III. What Alicia actually says is, “What is going on with my life!?” as Eli shows her a video of Grace cutting classes and hanging out with a boy who’s smoking. The video, made by one of opponent Mike Kresteva’s “trackers” (“so sci-fi,” as Alicia notes), could be used against Peter as a mark against his “family values.”

And in fact, Grace has befriended Connor, a boy who’s become the school pariah after the suicide of his ex-girlfriend (also named Grace). In that spiritual-seeker way, Grace has become fascinated with Connor — musing with him about the existence of God one minute, then planting her first kiss on him the next. So far, we don’t know if the video will do Peter any damage, but for now Alicia is trying to remain open to her smoky-haired daughter’s experiences.

Zach is more willingly involved in the campaign, though on the down-low. He’s working with a group of young volunteers to improve the IT and social media operation, telling his supervisor he’s a student named “Jay.” After Eli learns the invaluable “Jay” is actually Zach, he coaches the boy on how to convince his mom to let him stay on. After all, since the kids are involved in the campaign whether they want to be or not, why not help his dad? By the episode’s end, Alicia seems sold on the idea.

“You need to give it a rest — the whole alpha male thing.” Why, Kalinda, why do you taunt us so? On the one hand, you can say stuff like that to Nick. But on the other hand, you say it to him while sharing his bed. Sigh. Little does Kalinda know, but Nick has become convinced (erroneously) that Cary and Kalinda are an item. It’s clear Nick feels inferior to the lawyer, who wears Calvin Klein suits instead of hoodies. He even queries Cary — during one of their client meetings — about his sexuality. (“I’m okay with gays,” Nick tells the baffled Agos, who has no idea where this is coming from.) When Alicia calls Kalinda with a work request, Nick asks if it’s Cary. She assures him that it’s not — telling him to back away from the jealousy — but Nick hits the “redial” button on K’s BlackBerry. and Cary answers Alicia’s phone in their shared office.

Being a good office mate has severe consequences for Cary, unfortunately. Toward the episode’s end, a thug jumps him in a parking lot, beating him badly. We know the assailant isn’t Nick himself — there’s too much risk Cary would recognize his client — but we can assume Nick is behind the violence. Will this finally make Kalinda wake up and smell the psychopathic behavior? More important, will it finally convince her to get him out of her life for good?

If It Pleases the Court

Compared to some recent Good Wife episodes, “Here Comes the Judge” is fairly streamlined, with no Peter, Mama Florrick, Clarke Hayden or Maddie Haywood in sight. So here are a few things that stand out for me:

  • I’m enjoying Judd Hirsch, this week’s most prominent guest star, play against type. Hirsch made his name playing such lovable mensches as Alex on Taxi and the psychologist in Ordinary People. Judge Creary isn’t a villain exactly; he’s more of a jerk who’s let his recent divorce drive him over the edge into alcoholism. It’s still a bit of a shock (to me, at least) seeing Hirsch play anything less than a nice guy, and it suits him. 
  • I’m also enjoying seeing Laura (Amanda Peet) back for a third week in a row as “the new Cary” from the State Attorney’s office. Even better? Seeing Alicia cheering on her new friend despite the fact they’re now on opposite sides. 
  • When it comes to Grace, I’ve never really known what to think, and that’s okay. Like many a teenage girl, her mood swings and obsessions (remember when she became hyper-religious?) strike me as both annoying and (having been a teen girl myself once) pretty realistic. I’m as bemused by her behavior as Alicia. I just hope she doesn’t do something stupid to damage Peter’s campaign.

Summary Judgment

The best thing about this episode is that the storylines left us with more time for regulars. That includes Cary, who has finally been getting his due in terms of season 4 screen time; Will, who wasn’t having a great week, though not as bad as Cary’s; the kids, who haven’t had much to do since the season premiere; and Alicia, whose demeanor ranged from steely (during her takedown of the judge) to supportive (of new friend Laura’s return to court) to caring (during her heart-to-hearts with Grace and Zach). 

Unfortunately, this also left us with more time for Nick, though his misbegotten jealousy of Cary may at last be the final straw, once Kalinda figures out the truth. Poor Cary — I hope we find out how he’s doing next week, because the previews don’t give a clue. But with Stockard Channing coming on board as Alicia’s mother, I’m more than willing to wait and find out what happens next. 

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV