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Monday, October 10, 2011

"Get a Room" for The Good Wife

     In last night's episode of CBS's The Good Wife, "Get a Room," Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Will (Josh Charles) are forced to mediate with a former girlfriend of Will's, Celeste (Lisa Edelstein, House, American Dad!). Celeste tries to use what she knows about Will to gain an advantage, while Alicia agrees to play dirty to help their side. The mediator does side with Alicia, but she feels bad when he calls her out on her sneaky tactics.

      Alicia is a "good girl," as well as a good wife, when the series begins. There has been a slow transition in her character to someone who can be a bit naughtier. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, she finds some moral grey area where there wasn't any before. But it also makes her seem like a freer, happier, more well-rounded person. Whatever else her relationship with Peter (Chris Noth) is, it is a bit suffocating for her. Seeing Alicia being truly happy, even if that means stepping on a few toes, is worth the price.

     One can credit Will with much of the change. Finding pleasure in his arms, she loosens up sexually. Alicia may seem a bit prudish and repressed to most, but she is not that way when flirting with Will, as evidenced by the fact that she offers to dress in costume for him; an American Revolution costume, no less. Will is allowing Alicia to find her sexiness, and they seem to enjoy each other's company. It's really a win-win situation for the couple.

     That is, it's a win-win unless Will is in love with her. Alicia's brother, Owen (Dallas Roberts), keeps trying to get Alicia to talk about her new lover, but she refuses. This leads Owen to figure out that Alicia is just using Will as a fun release, not because of a deep emotional connection. Sure, Alicia and Will are old friends, but she isn't fancying him for the role of husband number two. instead, he's a secret that she keeps just for herself, and that makes it even more tantalizing, but not so important.

     Might Alicia be, at least in part, trying to figure out what causes Peter to stray? Knowing all the things he did, maybe her affair with Will is her way of living out some of that fantasy life and better understanding her husband. Or, maybe she just wants to get even. They are separated for now, but the circumstances of Will and Alicia's current arrangement open the door for a possible reconciliation later on. Both Alicia and Peter will have to find a way to forgive and move on, making the split two-sided instead of one.

     The problem with that scenario is that Alicia may choose to work with Peter against the firm, intentionally or not, as she eventually tries to repair her marriage. Diane (Christine Baranski) is already worried about such a conflict, and has secured Will's blessing to sack Alicia should that occur. This is a very real possibility with the path Alicia is currently walking.

     The major B plot in "Get a Room" involves a bunch of school kids puking their guts up, possibly because of the cheese that they eat. The cheese people come to Eli (Alan Cumming) for assistance with their image, and he convinces them to retain Lockhart / Gardner as counsel. This leads to a major conflict, as what is in Eli's clients' best interests for public image does not necessarily gel with what is in their legal interest. Diane and Eli fight for control of the situation, even in front of the client.

     It's a very exciting battle of wits between Eli and Diane. Both are very strong characters who are not often challenged by equals. That's because they have few equals. Yet, in this case, both are extremely intelligent and well matched; and both are completely correct in their respective approach, as per their business. This makes the struggle for power between the two of them not only entertaining, but complicated and intense. Pitting the two against each other is a stroke of genius for The Good Wife, and one that will hopefully crop up again.

     Eli is involved in another struggle at Lockhart / Gardner, this one more of a longer arc. He discovered Kalinda's (Archie Panjabi) skills last week, and continues to make good use of her in "Get a Room." While it's cool to see the two interact, and for the audience to experience yet another character impressed by Kalinda's mad skills, this presents a problem. After all, the rest of the firm already relies pretty heavily on their sexy investigator. With Eli pulling her time and attention, she's spread pretty thin — Will and Alicia have to wait for evidence for their mediation while Kalinda looks into the cheese situation. This balance cannot last long, and will soon erupt into another (probably juicy) showdown.

     The Good Wife thrives in subtlety, as well as conflict. Kalinda and Cary (Matt Czuchry) make or may not have had a relationship, but he'd certainly like to. That's obvious because of Czuchry's wonderful acting, and the tension the two build in multiple scenes and a passionate kiss. In "Get a Room," Cary actually calls out Kalinda on said tension in a mostly unsatisfying way. Was there once a relationship there? Might there be in the future? Did she break his heart, or lead him on? Surely Kalinda didn't mean to hurt one of the few people she is close with, but apparently nothing serious ever blossoms between them. Shame, that.

     A couple of final random tidbits... Now that Zach (Graham Phillips) knows that it's Peter's fault that Alicia kicks him out, how might Zach's relationship with his parents change? At minimum, he will no longer treat Alicia as the bad guy. Also, will Grace (Makenzie Vega) ever stop being so easily influenced by others? Might Jackie (Mary Beth Peil) begin to better tolerate Owen, and vice versa?

     And, how will Celeste working at Lockhart / Gardner affect Will and Alicia's relationship? Might Will be inclined to go back to someone else when he learns that Alicia isn't ready for something meaningful with him? Celeste could at least be a good rebound/comfort for him.


     Watch The Good Wife, as outstanding as ever, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. If you DVR it, be sure to check and make sure it starts on time, as CBS's NFL runover can push the show back, an inexcusable offense, in this reviewer's opinion.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

     To buy The Good Wife DVDs, please click here.

Article first published as TV Review: The Good Wife - "Get a Room" on Blogcritics.

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