The case: An entitled bajillionaire mountain-climber with, as it turns out, a penchant for looting the bodies and supplies of other mountain-climbers. The titular Death Zone lies above the 26,000 feet where oxygen stops being able to support life, but the metaphor is solid: at some point in your rise, you are going to have to do things you never thought you'd do, in order to sustain yourself. The law of the mountain.
How they get there is very twisty: There's a book coming out that alleges these things, and within the first minute of the episode, Alicia gets a libel suit thrown out. But then -- thanks to Eddie Izzard's quick use of Amazon to buy copies of the book for British use -- the whole case comes back up in UK court. Much like the NCIS episode last year, it involves a shy lawyer with experience of the realm of British law that Alicia eventually comes to respect, etc., but mostly it's just a great way to get Eddie back on our TVs again.
Meanwhile, Eli gets a possible new client that he's not allowed to know about, managing a crisis that he's not allowed to know about, for a political candidate whose aspirations he's not allowed to know about. Enter Kalinda, who works a brilliant case and fascinates Eli exactly as much as you would've hoped. They solve the wrong case, but in getting the wrong answer they find the right one: The operative who approached Eli is actually hopping to a GOP candidate and didn't have the money to vet him himself, so he set up the investigation as a way of testing Eli's skillz. Or, in our version of reality, as a way of introducing Eli and Kalinda to each other so that the foundations of the world might tremble.
Finally, Peter's office approaches Diane with an offer: Lockhart, Gardner will be the State's Attorney's civil representation (things like hospital suits or whatever) -- as long as they submit to an internal audit. This is couched as being an issue because of Lemond Bishop (who apparently is still an L/G client) but really it's about fucking with Will and Alicia.
Will and Diane decide to keep Will out of it, of course, and Diane swims with those sharks alone -- but an after-hours visit to Alicia's house confirms her worst fears: She and Peter have split, and Alicia's hiding it. What was last year's greatest advantage -- Alicia's connections -- might be turning into a toxic asset. And worst of all, Will gets pushed into a corner where he not only keeps mum about the affair, but promises to side with Diane against Alicia if things go south.
Lots of yucky, but that comes with the territory at this point. The image of Alicia (or any of them) looting corpses on a career-path K2 is pretty horrifying, but as long as it leaves us with Kalinda and Eli falling, naturally, into mutual obsession...
Next week: The Edelstein approacheth [Bobbi Bernstein/Dan Rydell reunion! -- Ed.]. Alicia helps Will fight one of his many bitter exes in court-ordered mediation, while Eli and Diane clash over the best way to handle a dairy industry crisis of some kind. Ha! So edgy. And you know it will be, too. Only on The Good Wife would you be like, "Man, the public relations issue that dairy's going to have next week looks motherfucking tight."
Robert Lambros was a mountain-climbing guide who died 28,000 feet up Everest, in a spot known as Hillary Step. His brother Danny -- Alicia's client -- wrote a book about the tragedy alleging that a man named Oliver Cardiff, climbing with a British team, came upon his body and ganked his oxygen before continuing.
The witness on the stand, a documentarian who was friends with the Lambros brothers, nonetheless testifies that Danny's book is wrong, and thus libelous, because Cardiff was below them with his British team of climbers while Danny was even further down at basecamp. So the film guy is the only person, maybe, who knows what really happened. He's the Jon Krakauer, if you will; it's not about him.
Alicia stands, apologizing in advance for taking down her client's buddy, and brings up the big theme of the episode: The Death Zone. That's the area above 26,000 feet where oxygen no longer supports life, and perceptions are not to be fully trusted. This is an issue because it gives the episode its name and forward thrust, narratively, but also because the documentarian in question has a problem with canned oxygen: He thinks it's destroying the sport, so he doesn't use it, so his perceptions at the Hillary Step can't be trusted.
For an American libel case, Cardiff needs to prove not only that Danny's book is incorrect, but that he knows it's wrong. And since the plaintiff's case is based on this film guy's Death Zone perceptions, the judge pretty much throws it out within the first three minutes of the episode. Danny and Alicia are both stunned, but happy; Cardiff's over there conferring with a British attorney that you know is going to matter because he's played by Eddie Izzard. If this were all the law we needed to practice in this episode I'd be happy, but not even this show can cheat CBS's procedural quotas that hard.
Alicia: "Hi, Eli!"
Eli: "Where are you? The meeting's in ten minutes."
Alicia: "And what meeting was that again?"
That's Alicia's idea of a joke! Funny little lady. Eli is not amused; another funny little lady, honestly.
Eli's brought in -- by way of secret stairway jiggery-pokery -- a fellow fixer, Mickey Gunn (played by awesome Michael Kelly, who was one of the greatest parts of Generation Kill) for some kind of very secret meeting.
Will: "Who was that?"
Diane: "No idea."
Will: "Do you ever get the feeling we're losing control here?"