Every once in a while, shows do a reset that marks a turning point for a character. But rarely does it occur in such a slow-burn, dramatic fashion as on The Good Wife. Without exaggerating, it’s fair to say they’ve been building toward this episode for years.
As an aside, recently I was fortunate to see Alan Cumming perform his amazing one-man show. Even better, I got to meet Eli Gold in person afterward! And he told us this episode would have you saying … well, I can’t repeat it on a family website. So let’s just go with OMG — and the man did not lie. Two words: Game. Changer.
Where Did Everybody Go?
We start with a mystery — and not just with the episode title, “KSR.” No, something else. It’s early morning at Lockhart, Agos & Lee. Cary, expecting to find an office full of associates pulling an all-nighter, finds an empty office. Everyone who’s taken a hike worked on one of billionaire Reese Dipple’s cases. Worse, they took all the research with them.
Cary tracks down all the (young, white, male) associates. They claim they never actually did any research, so they didn’t steal anything. They’re all frustrated by life at Lockhart, Agos and have accepted offers from (surprise!) Louis Canning.
In happier news: it’s confirmed! Eli and Courtney Paige are an item! And she wants to help her new man out, especially out of that broom closet of an office. So when Ruth asks Courtney to help with the Jason “issue” (i.e., get him out of Alicia’s life), she pitches in by offering the PI $50,000 to do a job for her — out of town.
Meanwhile, Alicia and Lucca have a new client, a well-known pediatric heart surgeon named Portnow, who is charged with a criminal conspiracy to commit rape. Unfortunately for Alicia, the judge is the corrupt Don Schakowsky. He’s clearly got it out for Alicia, which she picks up on right away. In chambers, she accuses him of bias — she knows he was almost caught in a bribery sting, but Eli warned him off. Rather than relent, however, Schakowsky throws Alicia out of his office.
As Portnow’s trial commences, we learn that he actively participated on a website for people with “dark sexual desires.” Really dark. The doctor posted a picture of Lucy, the mother of one of his patients, and said she was a prime candidate for “KSR” — kidnap, sedate, rape. (I could have gone my whole life not knowing that, actually.) It’s a conspiracy because the doctor made contact with another member of the site to carry out the plot.
Alicia admits that Portnow wrote some upsetting things online, but it was all fantasy. Nothing ever happened. But the jury’s skeptical, and even Lucca calls their client “skeevy” to Jason. The new partners ask him to investigate the website and see if anyone on it actually committed a crime. He also tells her about the offer from Courtney, and she senses that Eli’s fingerprints are all over it.
Monica Returns, Jason Prepares to Depart
Desperate to pull together the Dipple case (we still don’t know what it’s about at this point), Diane offers a job to Monica — the young woman who lost out to all the white, male associates. Now who’s skeptical? Nevertheless, she takes the job.
In court, Lucy, the potential victim, testifies. She reads some pretty scary stuff from the website but also admits that Portnow never did anything improper with her. Was it all really a fantasy after all?
Jason reports to the two women that no one on the website has ever committed a crime connected to it. But the man who was supposed to help Portnow with the KSR will be testifying for the prosecution. Before Alicia can process what that might mean for the case, Jason asks to talk to her.
He’s leaving town for two months, and he will understand if he doesn’t have a job when he comes back. But she asks him to call her, and they share rueful smiles. Is Jason really gone? Will we see him again soon? Why did they cast him on The Walking Dead?! (Oh, sorry — got carried away there for a second.)
At L, A & G, Monica’s working away and she’s good. Because of the shortage of associates — and the importance of Dipple’s business — the partners are all in. But it’s not enough. If Cary can’t round up more help, they’ll miss an all-important filing date. Still don’t know what it’s about yet.
For Some Reason, Alicia Doesn’t Believe Eli
In court, the co-conspirator, a long-haul trucker, testifies. He’s a convicted sex offender, which doesn’t help Portnow. What does help is that his work manifest shows that he was out of town during the planned assault.
Jason runs into Eli outside of Alicia’s apartment. Eli seems surprised when Jason says he’s heading out of town. (Can’t tell if Eli’s reaction is for real or not.) The PI also tells Eli that he left something behind for Alicia. Gold takes the bait and searches Alicia’s offices, coming up empty. Courtney calls and they make a date. Very cute.
Alicia walks in. As Eli explains why he’s there — to discuss Jackie and Howard’s relationship — Alicia finds Jason’s “gift.” It’s a note attached to a book about sexual obsession. And, apparently, the author is none other than Portnow’s wife.
She doesn’t care about Jackie and Howard. Moreover, she doesn’t want Eli in her business or her life at all. Despite his protestations, she believes he’s the reason Jason is off to Northern California. Without Jason, her work is much harder, and she probably won’t be able to afford him when he returns. And, for the record, they weren’t sleeping together. (Sorry, Jalicia ‘shippers!)
He tries to convince her that Ruth talked Courtney into hiring Jason, not him. But she kicks him out of her apartment. Is this the end of Alicia and Eli?
It was Fun While It Lasted
Cary tries to persuade the runaway associates to return. He basically offers them the law firm equivalent of the moon. But they have to come back to work right away or they can’t meet Dipple’s deadline.
Lucca and Alicia interview Portnow’s wife, the psychiatrist. She seems completely at ease with her husband having the icky fantasies; they’re a psychological release for a high-pressure career. But they’re only fantasies, not real. Her utter calm makes her seem even more creepy than the doctor — cold and clinical. Not a helpful witness.
Cut to … Eli and Courtney in bed. Sheets mussed, pillows on the floor. They agree that it was “amazing.” Her phone rings — back to work. The workaholic politico is getting a taste of his own medicine.
He’s disappointed that she has to leave. Then he realizes she really has to leave. To go home. To the Bay Area, for a year. He knows it’s over between them, even though they both confess to be in like (not love, but it’s still something). He does manage to confirm that the plan to get Jason out of town was Ruth’s idea and Ruth’s alone. Courtney’s genuinely surprised that Eli didn’t want the same thing.
He asks her to stay or at least come back soon. But just as he’s passionate about politics, she feels the same about her business. “I loved every moment of our being together — know that,” she says as she kisses him goodbye.
He walks to the hotel hallway, choking back tears. Yes! Eli in tears!
Everything’s Turned Around
In court, Alicia’s got Portnow on the stand. He admits to writing the icky posts on the website but insists that he would never have hurt Lucy. Alicia argues that the jury can’t convict a man for his fantasies. The jury retires to deliberate.
Back at Lockhart, Agos, Cary looks like a Pied Piper being followed by a bunch of young lawyers. They’re excited to get to work. Cary explains the highlights of the case (involving patent infringement). In fact, he tells them just enough so that they now have a conflict of interest if they help Canning on it. And then he and Diane fire them — every one. Burned! Cary and Diane high-five each other.
Back in court, the jury returns in only 15 minutes. They find Portnow guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. But how can he be convicted of something he didn’t do? As Alicia is telling Portnow that they’ll appeal, Judge Schakowsky shocks the courtroom by vacating the verdict. He accuses them of failing to deliver an impartial opinion based on the evidence. He enters a judgment of acquittal. Portnow is free to go.
Alicia goes to Schakowsky’s chambers. She wants to know if she and Lucca earned that verdict or if it was related to their earlier argument. He serenely tells her to just thank him and let it go. He seems like a different man, all calm and reasonable. She doesn’t know what to think.
A Shocking Blast from the Past
Back in the broom closet, Eli listens to a goodbye voicemail from Courtney. Over and over. He looks bereft.
He shows up at Alicia’s apartment. She’s not happy to see him but knows there’s a campaign to run. He apologizes, saying he didn’t know about Jason leaving town. They share drinks, and he admits that he cares about Courtney. It’s not something he usually does, and now she’s gone. His happiness has left for California.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this, Alicia,” he says, “but I want you to be happy. Call Jason. Don’t let the campaign get in your way.” When she tries to tell him (yet again) that Jason is just her private investigator, he drops a bombshell.
Six years ago, when she was about to join Peter on stage during his campaign for State’s Attorney, Eli was holding her cell phone. He heard a message for her from Will. Gardner loved her and would give up everything to be with her.
“I listened to the voicemail and I erased it,” he says. “I never let you hear it, and I’ve been sick about it since. I never want to get in the way of your happiness again. And that’s why I’m sorry.”
She reaches across the table and takes back his glass of whiskey. “Get out,” she hisses.
Wow. Alan Cumming was right on about this episode (even if I still can’t quote him directly).
That, people, is how Julianna Margulies gets a SAG nomination and Alan Cumming earns a Golden Globe nod. It’s not yelling or crying; it’s anguish and history and grief. (And congratulations, you two!)
And it’s worth repeating: Alan Cumming was right on. What does Alicia do with this revelation? Back then, before Peter made his big political comeback, she could have left her husband for Will. Everything would have been different. Maybe she’d be happy. Maybe he’d still be alive. Or maybe not. But now she’ll never know what might have been.
Where does Alicia go from here? Will she find it in her heart to forgive Eli? Will she walk away from Peter for good? Or will she swallow her anger and unhappiness to help her husband run for president? What would you do?
Talk about your mid-season cliffhangers! Season 7 of The Good Wife returns after the winter holidays. Something tells me that answering all these questions will take some time.
The Good Wife returns Sunday, January 10 at 9 pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)