“Old Spice” is a weird episode.
Weird of course because Elsbeth Tascioni and her eccentric personality are around to work alongside Alicia in facing a federal charge, brought by Kyle Machlachan’s Josh Perrotti. But also weird because it just feels off. There are a lot of spinning plates, and while The Good Wife has managed to balance a lot of them this episode doesn’t handle them well. And it doesn’t help that at least one of these plates is just…weird.
Elsbeth is fan favorite, and one of my favorites, but this episode wasn’t good to her. Hers and Perotti’s flirtation has never been all that endearing, since Perrotti is far too creepy for that (finding a baby lotion scent erotic is weird). Considering how the episode spends so much time on it, eventually ending with the two of them having sex on her desk, it’s just….weird. Elsbeth, who’s usually in fine form despite her wackiness, could almost be described as stupid this episode. She’s apparently so enamored with Perotti that she gives him little hints to help him in court when he flounders (Alicia’s wtf-face deserves an award). It’s just not like Elsbeth to sacrifice a case for the sake of something person, but seh’s not twitterpatted enough to allow Perotti to get by with destroying evidence, as she breaks out her trusty recorder and threatens to expose him with it, leading to the charges being dropped. It only makes the whole thing slightly better, but it’s also confusing because Perotti is still really annoying (on a good day) and creepy (on a bad one).
In another corner, Alicia’s forced to confront the specter of religion in her campaign. Since announcing that she’s an athiest isn’t going to help her win, she’s encouraged to suggest that she’s in the midst of some kind of conversion. Of course this would come up, since Alicia is going to have a myriad of things to explain to the public, but The Good Wife‘s seemed to dwell so long on Alicia’s lack of religion that it feels trite at this point. And it doesn’t help that the show’s only way of involving Grace is to make her the centerfold of Alicia’s religious “journey”. Sometimes I wish the show would go the boarding school route with her, and just let her fall down the same rabbit hole that Zach has since that would be preferable to watching Grace at church meetings with her friends and fielding questions about helping Alicia convert.
It is interesting however to see how much politicking Alicia’s doing now. She’s in the middle of a campaign, the part where she’s going to have pretend the most. She’s somewhat uncomfortable with it, but she does it with ease lying to Pastor Jeremiah about being open to “listening”. Whatever Alicia’s values and opinions, she’s very good about ignoring them when the situation calls for it. She’s done it with all of her clients including Lemond Bishop and Colin Sweeney. Alicia’s not without scruples, but she’s very good at ignoring them would not doing so would prove inconvenient.
Then there’s Cary who things just refuse to get better for. I’ve no idea where this season is going to take him, but right now it’s nowhere good. If he’s the new Will, then The Good Wife is really taking that designation seriously. He has Will’s legal issues and Will’s abundance of sexual partners, and he even has Will’s screentime (which means good things for Matt Czuchry, who’s always been neglected in the show’s makeup). Cary’s arc this episode begins confusingly, at a Harvard get-together where he puts off a woman with his legal issues but attracts another one who accompanies him home. It’s only when their fun is interrupted by the appearance of Joy Grubick (Linda Lavin) that it makes sense. She has to have Cary arrested for crossing state lines and violating the terms of his parole, reminding us just how dire Cary’s circumstances still are. He doesn’t have to go back to prison, but he does have some tighter restrictions including not being able to see Kalinda (who Grubick deems “dangerous”).
When Cary suggests taking a step back from the firm, Alicia refuses to let him. Their relationship has been so strained lately that small moments of partnership and support are especially endearing. They haven’t been working together as well recently, constantly in conflict to the extent that Alicia is unaware of him being re-arrested until Kalinda tells her. Alicia telling him that “We’ll do this together” offers a small glimmer of what we’ve been missing among all their fighting. But unfortunately, the show has distanced itself away from Alicia and Cary starting out on their own. The show’s pacing so far has been excellent, but it quickly took Alicia and Cary through their start-up trials only to have Diane included and to have them return to Lockhart/Gardner’s building and tossing Cary in David Lee’s office. I love Diane, but I would have loved to see Cary and Alicia in those offices, facing each other as Will and Diane once did. But Diane sliding into the driver’s seat Cary once occupied only further hammers home how far Cary’s fallen while Alicia’s star is steadily rising.
And Alicia’s rising star takes her right back to Will’s office. Will is a much larger presence in this episode than it has been all season, the shooting being floated as a possible catalyst for Alicia’s religious conversion. Pastor Jeremiah asking her about it is highly uncomfortable, and Alicia’s expression afterward is just as icy and awkward. Will’s absence lingers over the whole show, but The Good Wife hasn’t felt the need to remind us every episode of what that empty space means for the characters. Alicia’s and Diane’s return to the offices is a perfect opportunity to touch on how they’re each recovering. Alicia sinking into Will’s chair is a somber but hopeful note on which to leave the episode with Diane watching anxiously from her own office to see if Alicia can handle being there, and Alicia giving her a teary head nod.
- Elsbeth used to be married? To who?
- Cary: “This is stupid.”
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