‘The Good Wife’s Quiet Bombshell: Alicia Learns The Truth

The Good Wife (CBS)

The Good Wife (CBS)

Last night’s episode of “The Good Wife” marked the end of  Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) illusions that she could ever go back to being the good wife. It began with a scene that encapsulates the dichotomy of her life. At Peter’s (Chris Noth) behest, Alicia went to look at a house in the suburbs, a McMansion he wants to move into if he wins the election. Peter is absent, as he is throughout the episode that focuses on his election and his infidelity. During the tour, Alicia keeps getting interrupted by phone calls from work. She ultimately abandons the dream house for what has become her true passion: her job.

The case of the week is bizarre. A dispute between two oil companies over some rigs in Venezuela grows complicated when the country’s leader, dictator Hugo Chavez, decides to nationalize the companies and take over. His voice, as impersonated by an actor, is heard on conference calls ranting about American injustices, including Courtney Love not receiving an Oscar. This brings up an interesting real life legal conundrum: is it libel to mock a real political figure in a work of fiction? Could “The Good Wife” get sued by the real Hugo Chavez? Natalie (America Ferrara) turns into a bit of a Mary Sue. While temping at the law firm to bolster her chances of becoming a U.S. Citizen, she manages to catch a translation error in the contracts, comes up with a viable legal strategy based on her day trading experience, and ends up translating during the actual deposition. It’s improbable enough when Alicia, the low lawyer on the totem pole, always cracks the case. Natalie hasn’t even been to law school.

Watch Alicia’s Breakdown:

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But the real point of the case is the two symbolic stand-ins for Peter — Chavez and his counsel, a lawyer turned actor turned lawyer again, played by Fred Thompson, a real life attorney/actor/politician. Like Peter, both men are corrupt yet convinced of their own righteousness. Alicia gets to observe them, but ultimately has little say in the case because Diane (Christine Baranski) insists she take the afternoon off. It’s an apt metaphor for her marriage to Peter, a relationship in which she rarely is given the opportunity to express her opinions.

Meanwhile, idealistic stay-at-home Dad turned investigator Andrew Wylie keeps calling Alicia in search of information about what Blake might have told the grand jury.  She has no interest in speaking to him, but he is determined. Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) tells Cary (Matt Czuchry) that she is considering confessing to Alicia about her one night stand with Peter, rationalizing that it happened before she knew Kalinda. Cary points out that Alicia is unlikely to see it that way.

Diane is acting at the behest of the democratic party chair, not Eli (Alan Cumming) as Alicia suspected. As a mea culpa to Eli, Alicia agrees to appear on a local talk show in support of Peter’s campaign. Apparently, an earlier appearance by the husband of Peter’s rival, Wendy (could their names be an allusion to Peter Pan?)  has tipped public sentiment in Wendy’s favor. It’s up to Alicia to save Peter’s campaign. During their preparation for the interview, Alicia asks him why Peter will do a better job than Wendy. Eli’s answer sums up this episode: “The world chews up idealistic people.”

Alicia is pitch perfect during the interview, sincerely saying that she has forgiven Peter for his indiscretions with the prostitute. If only she knew that he had also slept with her best friend. The interviewer thinks Alicia would make a great politician herself. Remember what Eli just said about idealistic people? Will (Josh Charles) watches her on TV, clearly still enamored of her. Kalinda suggests that Will tell her how he feels, clearly thinking that if Alicia and Will got together, Alicia would no longer care about Peter and Kalinda.

Peter wins the election. Alicia has a celebratory glass of champagne at the party, only to be intercepted by Andrew, who has tracked her down to let her know that there was a rumor that Peter slept with a coworker that turned out to be false.  Peter was accused of sleeping with a woman named Leela, who does not exist. Alicia, aware that Kalinda used to go by that name, instantly realizes what happened. Andrew’s motives are ambiguous. Did he really think that he was giving Alicia piece of mind, or was he aware that he was outing Kalinda, perhaps as some sort of payback from Glenn Childs?  Whatever his reason, Alicia’s world is shattered. Margulies has her Emmy reel, as she wordlessly conveys Alicia’s devastation without going over the top. She walks down a hallway alone, crying, aware that she has been betrayed by her husband and her best friend, and perhaps by her own lack of cynicism. Eli is right. The world chews up idealistic people.

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