As a kid, I loved this random Judy Blume book called Just As Long As We’re Together (it’s about coming of age, changing friendships, etc.), in which the main character Steph put a poster of Richard Gere over her bed — she renamed him Benjamin Moore, after the paint, because she thought it sounded hotter, and she’s actually sort of right — and fell asleep every night gazing up at him. I mention that because you may want to adopt the same technique with this:
Okay, it’s a weird angle, and actually, I have concerns that Matthew Goode’s face was pasted onto another person’s naked torso. It just seems off. But beggars cannot be choosers, and I have been asking for Bedroom Finn Polmar for WEEKS now, so — even if the circumstances were entirely imaginary (DAMN YOU PEOPLE) — I suppose I need to accept this piece of cheese and hope it’s not sitting in a mousetrap.
Moving on: I’m doing this week’s recap as a Winners and Losers list instead of as a ranking, because the show got drunk on its own fancy and did a boutique-y episode that made the regular format too hard. A couple times earlier in the season, Alicia would imagine people talking to her, in an attempt to give her an inner life. Apparently The Good Wife liked that new toy, because most of this hour takes place, as the title suggests, in Alicia’s mind’s eye. The plot is laid out for us at the start of the hour:
1. Alicia has an interview with a newspaper’s editorial board, seeking an endorsement (I never caught which paper), but has lost her voice and was told to stay inside and rest it — all so the show can employ a clumsy double-meaning about how she’s finding it again.
2. Louis Canning is suing Florrick Agos Lockhart for wrongful eviction from the building, asking for $20 million but willing to settle for a “reasonable” $4 million — and as leverage, he threatens to hijack the last week of the election by drawing Alicia’s name through the mud on this in the papers.
3. Yes, you read that right. It’s a week until this election storyline is OVER. Of course, then we might be stuck with a plot about Alicia in politics. Which could be a worse kind of limbo.
4. A wiretap allegedly caught Lemond Bishop saying, “Don’t worry about an arrest. I just bought the new State’s Attorney,” and I hope he kept that receipt. Also, did he say it? Did he not? We don’t know. It’s just tossed in there as something Alicia can think about a whole lot so that she’s not just staring off into space wondering what 3-Across in the Tribune crossword is.
5. Alicia might be about to climb Mount Elfmanjaro. And that’s fine, I guess, as long as she doesn’t stop there and cease trying to scale Mount Finnerest because COME ON ALICIA. MAKE ONE GOOD DECISION.
Losers: Dream Wardrobe.
Presumably to create a visual language for the fantasy realm versus the real world, everyone in Alicia’s imaginings is clad in grey or black. Diane isn’t even wearing a necklace. It’s all very simple, very blotted out; everyone there is just wallpaper in her psyche as she tries to work through these scenarios — for example, arguing every possible corner of the Louis Canning case, or gauging how honest she can be in her Editorial Board interview about the depth of her entanglement with Lemond Bishop. Who, by the way, is the MOST victimized by this format.
There are muted hints of SOMETHING here, but this is as bland as you’re ever going to get with Lemond, and it’s just wrong. A travesty. A betrayal of the highest order. That wretched criminal hunk of man-bliss would NEVER sacrifice his pop of color. Not even in Alicia’s dreams. Honestly, if her subconscious were REALLY in charge, he’d render only in shades from the brightest parts of the damn wheel. He would be made of Skittles and introduce himself as Roy G. Biv, which is how we’d find out that despite his evil-doing, her subconscious is paying super close attention to the wardrobe that you KNOW she has noticed on a conscious level as well. I’m almost surprised he didn’t show up in the part I’m referring to as Sex Montage. She HAS to have thought about it. She is human. He is a vicious and shady piece of cake indeed. One notices these things.
Winners: Real Wardrobe
Comparatively, everyone in real life was wearing something in the crimson family: red, maroon, burgundy, pink, whatever.
“I REALLY wasn’t wearing a necklace in Alicia’s mind? Has she not been paying ANY attention to ANYTHING?”
“Tell me about it. She totally got my taste in ties wrong.”
Also, if this were a ranking, these two would be last AGAIN. Because yet AGAIN, these two smart and accomplished people were just kind of dithering about everything. I’m tired of them being used as props for Alicia’s legal brain, and would love a show where Alicia shows up to work one day and they’re like, “Oh, hi there, we just brought in a hundred million dollars in new business and won six cases with our hands tied behind our backs. How are you?”
Winners: Half the cast
Copious people showed up just to peer into the camera and bark one line. One day of work, max. Half of them didn’t even have to speak to Julianna Margulies in person. They lose a little from the unflattering camera angle, but gain a rich and fulfilling life in which they could spend a week… well, in Alan Cumming’s case, probably doing Cabaret. Which is hardly a holiday. But you feel me. I bet they all enjoyed a light week.
Loser: Robin Burdine
She didn’t even show up to hand Alicia a piece of her mind. WHERE IS ROBIN? I hope she’s in bed with Finn. SOMEONE SHOULD BE.
I assume Jess Weixler is just off having a film career, but Robin is a delight, it’d be a shame to lose her. And on this tip…
Loser: Taye Diggs
Why hire him if you’re not going to use him? Why is this show squandering hot people with velvety voices? Then again…
Winner: Taye Diggs
He’s probably paid by the episode, but since even in those hours he had little to do… money for nothing is the kind if work I would heartily accept right now.
Loser and Winner: Louis Canning
Dream Louis meets Alicia’s arguments convincingly enough that Real Alicia orders Diane and Cary to settle with him. He also gets an earful from Alicia about how he constantly yaps about being on the verge of death, and his failing kidney, and all this other yada-yada designed to inspire pity in whoever his opponent is. Which would have DELIGHTED Real Louis, because…
… in the ultimate Up Yours to Alicia, Louis in fact does end up in the hospital, and he’s not expected to live through the night. I couldn’t show you a grab of that, because the sight of Michael J. Fox in a hospital bed is not one that any Back to the Future fan is emotionally ready to contemplate unless he is only there because Crispin Glover’s father ran him over and he’s wearing purple Calvin Klein underpants. Which, for the record, need to be re-released by CK whenever the worst DOES happen. Hopefully in no fewer than eighty years. ALSO, Real Louis in this shot is TOTALLY wearing the color scheme of those underpants. I hope that was intentional. It almost certainly wasn’t, I guess, but… whatever, go put on your pants, Calvin. They’re over there, on my hope chest.
I am torn. On one hand, it seems very callous to plop a popular recurring character on death’s lanai during an episode that’s designed to sideline everything except Alicia’s feelings about HERSELF. On the other, a maudlin farewell set to Linda Ronstadt’s “Goodbye, My Friend,” is so NOT The Good Wife’s style, and Alicia pretending she’s folded into eighths by the force of her grief would be disingenuous (in fact, she at one point rolls her eyes behind Canning’s wife’s back, because her vision of him as a hero so clashes with Alicia’s experience). Obviously, Louis could bounce back — it would ALSO be very him to get everyone to commit to his inevitable demise and then rise like the Phoenix — but if he doesn’t, this goes down as a very strange, almost offhand disposal.
Winner: Louis’s Wife
If the suit still exists, and Florrick Agos Lockhart has to press forth with the settlement, she will get a lot of millions from them. Also, she seems nice. Also also, she’s played by Susan Misner, who is recurring on The Americans as Noah Emmerich’s wife. She’s in favor with some good casting directors, basically.
Alicia apparently thinks Zach is going to be a homeless vagrant because his girlfriend got an abortion that one time. Dream Zach even tries to protest that he doesn’t understand why he has to be a loser in this scenario, given that he’s at Georgetown and doing very well. Alicia eventually apologizes to Dream Zach, but when she calls Actual Zach, she punts and doesn’t leave a message. And of course he misses the call by thirty seconds, because for some reason despite being at Georgetown he was NOT out at The Tombs getting blitzed on those little rainbow-colored test-tube shots (assuming any of those things still exists).
This kid can’t win. When she was hooked into religion, Alicia tried to understand her, but still seemed to condescend to her. And now that something mysterious has rocked Grace’s faith (which Alicia learns because of some text-message contrivances), Alicia is afraid she will come home one day and see this:
“I’m sniffing glue,” Dream Grace tells Alicia, beaming, before feeling her baby kick. It was a funny visual, but… let’s get this straight: Grace believing in God made her pathetic, but then forsaking her faith would turn her into a pregnant drug addict. I’m now developing the theory that Alicia hates Grace altogether and would prefer to sell her to the highest bidder.
The Lady Florrick falls down a horny wormhole, and while she’s discussing political strategy in her head with Elfman, he is undressing her and kissing her while she rolls around in ecstasy. Later, another Subconscious Lecturer in Alicia’s brain refers to Elfman as someone she plans to sleep with, and she doesn’t even fight it. She basically, in fact, acknowledges it, and then gazes moony-eyed at Real Elfman in the car later while he’s talking about what a bang-up candidate she is — and while I didn’t mean that as a pun, Alicia would’ve heard it that way.
In the midst of all this, Alicia rolls over and suddenly Finn is underneath her. AND SHE ACTS SURPRISED. You cannot be surprised, Alicia. Your erogenous zones have been crying out for this. HAVEN’T THEY?
Sadly, Finn does not get referred to as her Sexual Destiny, or even as her Sexual 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. I maintain that it’s because it would COUNT with Finn and Alicia doesn’t think it would mean anything with Johnny Elfman. But I’m fanwanking that probably. And ever since I read the rumors that Julianna doesn’t like Archie Panjabi, and that it’s what pushed Kalinda off the show, I’ve become worried that she doesn’t like Matthew Goode somehow and Finn will simply go quietly into the night like a firecracker whose fuse was a dud.
Winner: Alicia’s Cleavage
However: If you’re lying around in bed with someone in your dreams, have you really turned your sheets into a mosquito tent?
Loser: Will Gardner
A random Internet video featured a spokesman whose voice reminded Alicia of Will’s.
Suddenly, she’s reliving sex with “Will,” and talking to “Will,” and walking out on to a balcony wrapped in a sheet and leaning over some shadowy figure who is supposed to be Will. But even though they got Josh Charles’s voice (cheaper!) or just cobbled together his lines from old episodes (more difficult, so unlikely), they hired Some Weak-Ass Substitute to fill his boxers, lying around bathed in darkness while Alicia earnestly yearned for him. It ended with Alicia saying goodbye to Will, while he cooed platitudes to her about how strong she is — all of which, of course, is Alicia’s own psyche stroking her own ego — and it would’ve been so affecting if they’d even found a way to use old footage of Will’s face to drive home the point. Damn the cost. I would’ve really felt the gut-punch of Alicia realizing she hadn’t yet let go of Will if the show suddenly showed me Josh Charles giving her that lazy grin of his. Or kissing her in the elevator.
It’s one of Archie’s few scenes in her last run of episodes, and it was mostly in silhouette. THANKS. Also, we’re meant to think that Alicia is still holding it against Kalinda that she slept with Peter an ETERNITY ago, before their friendship was even a glint in the milkman’s eye. It implies Alicia is still actively WOUNDED by this. Which seems out of character to me, especially given the circumstances of Peter’s infidelities and how far they’ve all come since then; yes, Kalinda participated in something wrong, but the grudge reflects on Alicia in a petty way somehow, and I think part of that is because Peter is such a complete dink that viewers can’t imagine why Alicia even cares.
My annoyance with Alicia about Kalinda (which I fully accept may be motivated by how I like Archie) means that I found it satisfying when she imagined Kalinda and Peter hissing banal sweet talk at each other before he turns to her and snarks, “You know we don’t talk this way.” Score one for Petey.
Winner: Julianna Margulies’s face.
Hard to argue with that.
Loser: This shot.
Dream Elfman is talking politics with Alicia while her disembodied hands start removing his shirt. It’s so cheesy. I half expect six other pairs of hands to show up, one of which slaps him, before we learn it’s an ad for Axe Body Spray.
Winner: This graphic
The website that broke the Lemond Bishop wiretap story used this graphic of Alicia. It made me laugh. I love that she looks like she’s holding a bouquet of money at her own City Hall wedding. To THE MOB.
Winner: Niles Crane
Basically, Niles handles his interview — which is somehow available on the Internet — with the utmost in class. I think I am rooting for him to win. And then prosecute someone for the murder of a brittle harpy named Maris.
Loser: Religious Debate
I don’t know about you, but I tuned out during the long scene between the pastor and the atheist scholar, all about Christianity and why Alicia seems to think it might keep her children in check even when she doesn’t subscribe to it herself. Frankly, all these things felt like snapshots of debates the writers kind of wanted to put into the show, but couldn’t justify beyond the episodes that have already chewed on this topic at length. So, almost Bunheads-style, they hijacked one segment of the episode for a digression. This was all more interesting content when it was framed by how Alicia presented her beliefs in the course of her campaign, or as a parent. We’ve been here, and we’ve done it, and the one-act plays in her brain aren’t adding anything more to the conversation.
Less of a Loser: Dream Alicia
She is infallible in her own mind — well, except in the sense that she couldn’t argue her way out of Canning’s lawsuit, but even that, she gave up on because she realized a) David Lee was covertly working against them in Canning’s favor, and b) they probably couldn’t win it in court, because he could too convincingly argue that he lost clients because he was trying to find new offices amid his raging kidney failure. Oh, and c) that they actually did evict him mostly out of pettiness and then hired Howard Lyman as a way of creeping around the law. Let’s not sugar coat it: They may not be guilty, but they’re also not innocent.
Dream Alicia also got naked with three men — more than Real Alicia has managed. And, I just remembered that it’s either the pastor or the atheist who refers to Elfman as Alicia’s future shagging partner. Dream Alicia snaps that she wants them to stop throwing around the good-girl label as a way of making her feel guilty for… well, anything. She is also challenged to tell the truth about Lemond, and how she knew he was funding her PAC even though she’s not supposed to have any collusion with PACs at all. When her response is, “If I do that, I won’t get elected,” the answer THAT gets is, “How do you know that?”
Indeed, through this, Dream Alicia very nearly convinces Real Alicia that she shouldn’t lie if any questions about Lemond came up in her Ed Board interview. Dream Alicia has some scruples left. Dream Alicia still wants to fight the good fight. Except for when Dream Alicia then lets herself get baited into rolling over into the mud.
Loser: Real Alicia, Saint Alicia, Horny Alicia, and Ultimately, Dream Alicia
She’s about to be out some cold cash in the Canning settlement, if it comes to pass. She may loathe her daughter and assumes both her children are going to grow up to be losers. And despite Dream Alicia’s early efforts, she’s about to start down the slippery ethical slope. As they drive to the Ed Board interview, Elfman tells her that the need to come clean about Lemond pales in comparison to the greater truth: that Alicia losing the election is wrong and bad for Chicago. He coaches her on how to sidestep a direct lie, and/or just smile and say what needs to be said in a way that isn’t likely to explode in her face later and burn off her eyebrows.
After unfurling her tongue in his direction for a second, she zones out, and is transported to an argument with Niles Crane wherein he protests that words have to mean what they say, or else you could just start making things up out of whole cloth. He doesn’t think language should be a movable beast. He must be apoplectic about “literally” being added to the dictionary to mean its exact opposite as WELL as its original meaning. “How can we be civilized?” he protests. Niles, you and I should have a drink and toast the Oxford comma.
“Would you lie if you were State’s Attorney?” Alicia asks Dream Niles. He would NOT. “Then I don’t think you should win,” Alicia tells him in her head. And so Dream Alicia crosses to the dark side and takes Real Alicia with her. Never mind that this is Dream Alicia manipulating what Niles is saying. Would he actually say that? Is she just imagining the convenient scenario that supports and justifies her doing a faintly dirty deed?In a way, Niles’s principles here and in the last few episodes almost embody what I imagine Season One Alicia would have been like if she’d run back then. But she’s not that person anymore, for better or worse.
Unfortunately, Alicia’s decision to sidestep the Bishop truth — to take his money, but pretend she doesn’t know anything about it — feels motivated at least in part by the fact that Elfman is complimenting her effusively and in very… pregnant… tones. It has the effect of making Alicia seem as if she’ll say whatever the boy she likes WANTS her to say, if he’ll sit next to her at lunch. I am okay with Alicia when she’s messy, but only if it’s with the courage of her own convictions, and not fueled by the pretty words a boy is whispering into her ear. I mean, in this hour, she asks Grace to pray for Louis Canning, because Alicia feels too hypocritical to do it herself. Then she turns around and swans into her meeting with the Ed Board, high on her resolve to stifle the truth in the name of winning the election and then hopefully make up for that karma dent later.
“Your voice sounds better,” Elfman says to his laryngitic client. “I’m finding it,” Alicia says, before going into the room and — as the episode ends — presumably arming herself with an arsenal of half-truths and oratory feints.
I understand the Mind’s Eye format as a way of letting certain cathartic things happen without actually having it mean anything. Like Alicia having sex fantasies, or saying exactly what she means to Louis Canning about his habit of using his medical condition for personal gain. But it also feels horribly manipulative — like assuming you can throw your hungry fans a bacon-scented air freshener rather than an actual sizzling rasher — and as if we’ve spent the entire hour running in place.
I also do understand it being too pat and quaint to have her Stand By Her Morals all the time, as if Saint Alicia is real, when any human in the world would be tempted to tell the tiny lie in service of what they believe is the important truth — that being, Alicia’s superiority as a candidate. In fact, on Nashville, I’ve been begging for Rayna to make mistakes, as long as her reason was justified and I felt she believed in it. What’s keeping me from latching onto this as a bold storytelling choice, or even just as a realistic choice, is that I am not sold on the fundamental concept that Alicia WOULD be a good state’s attorney. Because she IS taking money from Lemond Bishop, and she is NOT dealing with the potential consequences of a massive, massive, omnipotent criminal thinking he has her in his pocket. So it’s hard to feel GOOD about her “finding her voice,” when her voice seems to be carrying her down the same path that presumably led Peter into a corrupt administration, where one size of lie becomes acceptable, and then you become inured to it, and then the slightly larger lies don’t seem like a big step, and so on, and so forth, until they’re insurmountably huge and yet demand to be fed regularly. That Alicia didn’t see this coming, even after seeing how Peter spun out and living as a political wife for so long, seems hopelessly naive. Acting like Lemond is just a fly she can shoo? Even worse, I think.
And frankly, the other problem is that all roads here led to and through Alicia. I was weary of her by the end of the episode. Her Mind’s Eye wasn’t even that exciting a place to be. It didn’t satisfactorily see her delivering anyone a piece of her mind. It was all debates about religion, and some lawyering, and some tepid kissing, and none of her storming into a room, throwing anyone onto a table and getting her freak on, or even being like, “Shut up, Peter, you gnarly sex pig.” If we’re going to be in Alicia’s brain, couldn’t it have been cathartic and fun? And shouldn’t it have made me feel like I know her better? Instead, I still don’t know why she’s running — or if she even believes in the cause, or just did it because the flattery of poll numbers and the potential thrill of victory won her over before her rational mind got a vote. In short, I feel like I spent 43 minutes inside a cool, calculating deep freeze — even the sex scenes had an antiseptic chill about them — and like I stepped in through a revolving door that spit me back out exactly where I entered, having gained nothing.