Nice little bottle before next week's cataclysm, and a good counterpoint to "The Decision Tree" -- including, fittingly, way fewer Rashomon moments -- as Alicia reviews the circumstances of her hiring at Lockhart/Gardner, way back before the show started, to explain what it is to opt back in.
Concentrated mostly on the variable amount of conscious and unconscious factors in play when she first went looking for work after Peter's scandal, the hour follows Alicia (and, minimally, Will) through their confused and poignant memories of the time. A fresh-faced Alicia, and crushed-out Will, are brought into alignment with the harder, more experienced versions of today. And in the end, a dry and somewhat nasty conversation between their two diner tables brings about yet another attempt at a gentleman's truce.
What Alicia doesn't know, however, is that Will's engaged in a much larger game: The voter-fraud investigation, which this week involves Elsbeth Tascioni going head-to-head with Nelson Dubeck all over the NYC hotel everybody's staying at. While she manages to destroy his faith in the smoking gun video from Marilyn that he's been showing everybody, he comes back twice as hard by sending dumb old Jim Moody in to have a fake conversation that, even in silent security footage format, makes Will look like an active conspirator.
Cary and Hayden spend the episode ham-fistedly trying to leverage Alicia's feminist narrative to attract Jill Hennessey's rainmaker lawyer, Rayna Hecht, to their new firm. She likes the boys, she loves Alicia, but between their vulgar displays and Elsbeth's magical fairy powers, in the end she decides to ditch both LG and F/A and start her own two-woman firm with the ineffable Ms. Tascioni herself. Who wouldn't?
(Diane. Diane is who wouldn't. As beautiful as Will's -- and even Kalinda's! -- adoration of the elf queen is, and Diane is not immune by any means, it's not enough to sway Diane from her suspicion of Elsbeth's innate weirdness. They're here for rainmakers and schmoozing, not the care and feeding of magical creatures.)
And so we return for next week's giant disaster with a smidge of plot development, some great history between Will and Alicia, and even a subtle shift in the future of the two firms' relationship. It's always nice to see Margulies flip between the many versions of Alicia over the years -- and extra points for a shockingly cruel mental version of Jackie Florrick, who's apparently been calling Alicia a whore from inside this whole time -- and even nicer to see how starstruck Will was by his greatest betrayer, and how close that version of himself remains to the surface even after all this drama.
What did you think of this little trip into Alicia's head? For a show kind of defined by her circumspection and stillness, on letting her faces and behavior inform our opinions and understanding of her, it was a little less explosive and harrowing than it might have been. One wonders what an episode like this would have felt like four years ago, before she'd integrated so much of her shadow stuff: I think it would have been a lot darker and uglier, actually. So score one for Florrick on that count, at least.
Watching her grow into herself, equal to the world, has always been a chief pleasure (and sadness) of the show, so it seems fitting to look back now, before everything changes again. Which it will, because that's how life and the show work, but also because this year we have the multiples-of-fives to contend with plus next week is the traditional act change for the season. So, lots of drama we still don't have much information on. I'm just glad Alicia had some time to, and with, herself before whatever happens next.
Alicia Florrick's husband cheated on her with Illinois money and went to jail, so she had to find a job. Four years later, she struck out from that firm to start her own, and now she's been asked to give the keynote speech at an American Bar Association conference.
Alicia pacing the floor while Cary reads her speech; she hangs on every nod and breath. The crinkling is very loud as she pulls an apple out of a gift basket, and finally she can't hold back anymore.
Alicia: "Why did you nod? What are you reading? What is happening in there?"
Cary: "Alicia, please don't make me the Alicia. Let me read and be cool."
Alicia: "It's too self-serving! You hate it! It's boring!"
Cary: "Fine. It is a little dry."
Alicia: "Cary, I spent two weeks!"
Cary: "Yeah, it shows. You should be less of an Alicia about this and more of a Will. Look, they didn't ask you about this because you're an expert on opt-out moms, they asked you because you were an opt-out mom. So opt your ass back in."
Clarke Hayden Clarke calls from a taxi, nearly defeated by the very loud taxi screen blaring De Blasio at him the entire time. Even Cary, who is infinitely patient with Hayden Clarke Hayden, cannot handle him right now. What gets through is that Rayna Hecht, the most powerful lawyeress in the world, is ready for a firm, and she's using this ABA thing to make her call.
Clarke: "Just tell her that we are growing, she is into futures. And gender parity. What I am into is mostly her $60M billing. Also because she's Jill Hennessey, who is awesome."
Cary: "Okay, I love you but whatever your situation is, it's driving me nuts so bye."
Alicia: "Back to me. Why am I having trouble with this speech? I don't ever have trouble doing things, and frankly I wish everything was a speech. I only get into trouble when I speak extemporaneously."
Cary: "That's the problem. You're being asked to tell your story, which is a thing you've spent the last five years assiduously ignoring. How many times does Matthew Ashbaugh have to come back from the dead to explain this to you?"
Alicia: "...Son of a bitch. Look."
Down in the lobby, who is courting Jill Hennessey is, of course, Will and Diane.
Rayna: "I like you guys, I do. And I will decide in 48 hours. I just want a partnership I can believe in. I'm leaving my current firm because they are sleazy..."