We start with... No, hold up. We start with this.
We start the episode itself with Eli's spit-take from last year's final episode, Marilyn Garbanza admitting that her child's father is named Peter. Eli hustles her from place to place at the F/A holiday party trying to get the real story, but in the end it's so bizarre and funny that all he really does is piss her off. After Kalinda tracks down Marilyn's high school boyfriend, it's finally revealed that the father of the child is none other than Peter Bogdanovich, as in The Last Picture Show. Because it's Marilyn, who gets more charming and strange each week, this is hilarious and not just bizarre and dumb, like it sounds. (And yes, he is wearing a cravat when we meet him. Not that you had to ask.)
Less funny is the coinciding (and hour-ending) revelation of a newspaper's proof of the ballot-box hijinx from last year's finale, which threatens to bring down not just the Governor but practically everyone on the show. I kind of forgot that whole thing happened, so I was almost as shocked as Eli, who walks out of the episode like he's headed into a zombie attack. (I can't even see Will going that far, although he was the only person who knew about it, right?)
Good old Kalinda, when she's not creepin' around the edges of Marilyn's confusing life -- specifically to protect Alicia, which Eli somehow knew was the only way to get her involved -- she's nailing that hot cop lady, whose friendship with the minorly threatening Damian Doyle is still fairly troubling for Kalinda. Nothing hugely new happens there, but it's nice to see different sides of Kalinda and this "desperate to actually connect with people, against her every instinct" is a particularly compelling one. There's also something about this lady that commands my sympathy, but who knows how long that'll last.
Diane is still pissed about Damian's hiring, of course, but only leads a charge against Will once he decides to open a branch in LA to go with the NY branch he's also opening. Because the case of the week has Will going out of his mind anyway, that stuff was pretty harrowing, but luckily it ends on an up note: She pours him a scotch, tells him she wants them back on the same page, and then agrees that he's owed the chance to try and lead LG to these greater heights, considering she had only just come back to the fold when Alicia abruptly left: She was the one that walked away, leaving him to carry the firm, and now he'll be damned if she won't let him use his Alicia rage powers to do just that.
Cary, on the other side, has some great scenes with the case of the week, which pits Alicia against F. Murray Abraham's LA attorney Burl Preston over a fairly uncomplicated case about music rights. (A phenomenal) Matthew Lillard's hipster guitar YouTube cover of a rap song was in turn covered by essentially Glee, leading us into a thicket of "transformative works" and satire in copyright law that means we get to hear three irritating versions of an irritating song for about 85% of the entire episode.
Preston shows up at LG looking for Alicia, and by the time he's done Will has hitched himself to the wagon, hoping to "get" Alicia by facing her in court, but after a wondrous pep talk from Mr. Agos, Alicia flips the script on him, getting twice as dirty as her former lover in the process: By the time she shows up in court wearing the same dress as the first time he quote "banged" her, just to get in his head, it seems pretty clear she's cruising for a breakdown of her own, just under the degree and sheer quantity of his bullshit.
While a certain amount of sexy love-hate is enjoyable, this left-turn into outright hatefulness is only as satisfying as it ends up being because it arises from such a basic-level irritation at Will's drama queen antics. "You need to get over it," she says, as an afterthought, and then spends the rest of the episode trying to force him to do just that. The fact that F/A (presumably) wins the case only proves her point. Robyn Burdine does some magic, Matthew Lillard hands out liberal amounts of hugs, and Alicia's sitting pretty... For exactly as long as it takes her to find out about this ballot-box thing, which makes next week's Springsteen-inflected episode (the last one until March) look like a pretty intense powder keg.
What do you think? It was an interesting case, and Alicia getting nasty about things was kind of exciting, but it seemed like a lot of pieces getting moved around otherwise. I hate, always, the scheduling of this show -- When does it even come on? Nobody knows -- but this month-long break is going to be tough, especially if things go as horribly next week as it seems they might. Do you think Will is the anonymous leak? Do you think Eli will go insane or change in some way as a result of the DNC's grody vote tampering? Do you feel cheated by the pregnancy fake-out going to such a weird place? Do you wish Kalinda had better taste in ladies or do we still like this one? Do you still believe Marilyn Garbanza is pregnant with Wendy Scott-Carr's demon baby? Because I still kind of do.
Florrick/Agos was feeling just big enough for their britches that they threw a big holiday party in their squalorrific office spaces, inviting everybody from drug kingpins to Donna Brazile to the new Illinois Governor and his very pregnant Ethics Commandant, Marilyn Garbanza, who bears within her the fruit of a dark new age: Three months in, she knows it's a boy and she knows the name will be ... Peter!
Eli spits everywhere! And then drags that lady right out of the pleasant conversation she's having with Veronica Loy, and into a small alcove to yell at her about getting knocked up.
Marilyn: "Even though I see phantom ethics violations everywhere, I'm oddly unable to understand why being the hot ethics manager of a philandering public official, and naming my baby after him, would cause anyone to spit-take."
Eli: "Are you serious that you don't understand my issue here? After I got you fired once for being hot already?"
Marilyn: "Sometimes it's just a coincidence! Is a thing someone might say that I would call bullshit on, and yet hear myself currently saying."
Eli: "Fine, who is the father?"
Marilyn: "It is a secret."
It's cheap and dumb to a certain extent, so I will tell you right now that the father of her child is famed director Peter Bogdanovich, who made The Last Picture Show, which is the best movie of all time. However, the cheap-and-dumbness of this (already overused) thing ends up elided in the last minute of the episode into a larger issue from half a season ago, so it's actually a red herring in service of major plot developments, which means however bad it tastes it's still contributing to your nutrition, so to speak. Good thing Marilyn Garbanza is already a known quantity of wackiness (and wackness) or I would feel personally wronged, but as things stand I don't mind the fact that this storyline cannot manage to put its arms through the arm-holes of the jacket it's wearing.
Alicia: "Eli! Marilyn. Why are you in this nook and not at my party, where I've been drinking?"
Marilyn: "I frankly have no idea!"
Alicia: "I gotta pay the band before I get too drunk to remember to pay the band. Where are they?"
Eli: "Just somewhere else that is not this casual nook where we're just chatting in a casual way."
Jonathan Coulton is a novelty singer, which is not my bag at all, but he did a cover of "Baby Got Back" that contributed greatly to the YouTube scourge of white people doing indie-folk covers of rap songs, which is what a white person who doesn't consider himself a racist does when he's feeling just a little blind to his situation. "Isn't it funny that you and I are different from black people?" goes the joke, and it's a hearty one, and it is to guitar boys what that fruity awful Bessie Smith voice is to boring girls with nothing else going on. (PS, do not mention this to white people who don't like to consider their privilege, because they will wolf out on you, and you are not doing it for valid reasons anyway.) Now it's everywhere and not just rap songs, and not just straight white guys, so it's a little less creepy, but still creepy.