Way back when the fourth-years jumped ship, there was a very ugly adoption case in which—correct me if I'm wrong about the details—basically David Lee targeted Alicia for malpractice by having Howard Lyman offer a bribe to the Chippewa Tribal Council even though she was the attorney of record. Then that one guy who was always bitching about bonuses ended up taking the hit, after lying under oath about her involvement.

Now that case is back, with Christian Borle's wonderful family lawyer Schmidt suing both firms over a complicated telecom system that eventually, after much sniping—but I'm sorry to say not a lot of time for Schmidt's particularly arch delights—leads to Carey "with an E" Zepps listening in as the creepsters Louis and David Lee plot against Alicia and Florrick/Agos once again, hoist on the technological petard as these people so often are. (Points off for explicitly comparing this episode-length plotpoint to my beloved NSA boys, though. We get it, kids! We were already there!)

Carey and Clarke get into a serious (-ly adorable) brawl over turning the thing off and notifying the other firm of their mistake, which turns into an all-hands debate over the ethics of the situation. Alicia sides with Hayden, of course, until her name comes up—and vague hints that something they're planning to do might destroy F/A in the next 24 hours. What that is, we spend some time figuring out, but basically it comes down to David Lee playing his ace, Mrs. ChumHum (whose philanthropic stuff he garnered way back during one of the big "capital contribution" fights, I think?), against Alicia... And eventually Diane herself. The idea is that he and Canning can make a move to remove her as managing partner, and then push her out entirely, if she's focused on saving Alicia's bacon from their nonsense.

Meanwhile, Diane and Kalinda are obsessively counting votes to make sure the firm doesn't fall into their evil hands, which means when it's time to depose Alicia on this adoption thing, everybody's got an agenda. Diane invites Howard Lyman—the one undecided partner—to question her, knowing the whole thing is bullshit. Meanwhile Alicia offers to meet at L/G, so they can get the partners talking about their schemes once she's left the room. This eventually involves a kind of sad moment where she remembers to keep them in there, and feints discomfort at taking the conversation to Canning's office, where Will was: It's both, it's neither, it's a trick, it's a trick that ends up feeling real, etc. An Alicia specialty.

Once she's left them to their machinations, several more terrible things happen. Diane—showing bluster in the face of her enemies and also signaling her trust in Kalinda—offers to send her on a recon mission to fuck information out of Cary... Which Cary overhears, and we're treated to about a ten-minute dolly into his beautiful face as first his heart, and then his goddamn brain, both go crick-crack into a million pieces. Before you know it, he's walking the line of enthusiastic consent, angry-fucking Kalinda—"I'm not one of your women," he grunts hatefully—against her express wishes (and a very serious verbal warning) until he's grossed even himself out. (And thank God, because that was awful.)

Which puts him in a bad spot when Alicia suddenly starts making overtures and suggesting a vote about folding back into LG, in the hopes that it'll protect the firm (and herself) from the $6M liability of this trumped-up adoption case (which again, is not even the bad thing the bad guys are doing, but nobody knows that yet). After some ugly fighting in front of the F/A kids, he drags her ass out into the street in their rough neighborhood, heartbroken that she's lost faith in their partnership—I'm just tired! she hollers—and ends with almost an agreement to dissolve the firm, once Cary accuses her of still being in over her head about Will's death. (He's right, he's wrong, it's a trick, etc.)

(While not quite as much hay is made this week about the whole "we need walls, we need doors; I'm in a bubble, you're walled off" stuff from last week, it's still remarkably present, and all about how porous Florrick/Agos's transparency ethic remains: To me, that was about what's at stake when we become our enemy, or give in to our enemy. At LG, Cary says darkly, they have doors, and walls. The implication being that those were meant to keep people out. He is imagining a firm so next-level ethical, so 2.0 Millennial, that not even Alicia can really see it, which sometimes really destroys their conversations on a frustrating, fundamental level. And then there's Kalinda, who is nothing for Cary so much as a series of walls, painted by the Roadrunner to look like wide-open sky.)

Meanwhile, Diane and Alicia's plates are stacked high with a bunch of other bullshit. In the Peter corner you've got Finn, whom Eli is now commanding to leave the State's Attorney race altogether after some more dirt—namely that he traded lesser charges, as an ASA, to ensure leniency in his dead sister's drug arrests—arrives via Eli Spies. Alicia halfheartedly encourages him, but basically opts out for her other B-story (Zach's graduation and all the grandma-drama that comes with it), and then Eli turns his attention to Diane: Peter is in love with the idea of supporting her candidacy, and Eli's excited about having already vetted her for that bullshit with the State Supreme Court.

Of course, this is complicated by a direct threat from Canning that, as a partner, he has the right to dissolve the entire firm if she doesn't resign as managing partner and give him the vote. So after an awkward meeting at the Governor's office—to which Diane totes Kalinda, ignorant of the history there—they discuss her current options: She can stay and fight and watch Canning kill her firm, she can let them start the slow process of pushing her out, or she can run for political office. (PS, obviously there is a fourth option. We'll get there.) Also this:

Diane: "I'm just tired! If Will were here..."

Kalinda: "I'm here."

And she means it. She's meant it for a while, but it's Kalinda. You have to keep checking. There's a difference between her feral brotherhood with Will, and this new decision: It's like she took her devotion to Alicia, and her devotion to Will, and forged them together into a bright new thing.

Over at Alicia's apartment, Veronica is fucking everything up for everybody like usual: She cancels the caterer and starts cooking, then invites Jackie Florrick over for some day-drinking and increasingly nasty one-liners. They get some of their stuff out—nothing we didn't know, but it's cool to see old ladies drunkenly sniping at each other in Alicia's beautiful kitchen—but once Peter arrives, the whole thing goes to hell. Glorious, wonderful, terrifying hell.

At one point—how to accurately describe—Veronica says something so out-of-bounds that Jackie bucks at her, starting into "Bitch [I know you did not just say that]," as Peter pulls her back. I watched that part at least eleven times. She sounds like she is literally reaching up to remove her earrings as she says it. "BITCH..." So good. So plentifully good.

So now Alicia's firm is dying, she and Cary are at each other's throats, her best friend of the moment Finn is acting more and more suicidal, and she's on the hook for $6M—which is when Diane shows up for a solemn meeting, pissing off Cary and Carey, until she reveals she's not there for a merger at all: She's there for option four, where she seeks asylum with Florrick and Agos, and bringing along her $38-goddamn-million a year in billables. Turns out the oddly undiplomatic offer from Eli did nothing to set her cheeks aflame, and she's in the mood to go rogue on all these motherfuckers.

I can't say it'll fix everything between Cary and Alicia—there was blood on the dancefloor by the end of that one, not to mention Diane's first lieutenant has managed to create incredibly intimate weirdness with both named partners—but it does seem like the first real step toward healing the giant hole Will left in all of them. Alicia spends the hour in the middle of sixteen cyclones, but the night nonetheless belongs to Diane, who's tossed around like a ragdoll so busily that when she abruptly stands, rooting herself in the ground, you can hear thunder. It's wonderful—and her delighted/nervous/affectionate/hopeful demeanor in this meeting is just the last and greatest bit.

Confident that she can hit pause—and wondering what those old bitches have done to her house and if it's still standing—Alicia makes it to Zach's graduation just in time to see him walk, then home for the party, sees him off earlier than she'd planned, and takes a seat in the dining room with Peter and Eli.

Which is when Eli, dejected from Diane's explicit rejection of his offer, lets his gaze fall on Alicia's face for a long time before—tossing Finn Polmar over his shoulder like a handful of salt, on his way down to one knee practically—asking if she's ever thought about running for office.

Homegirl: "...WHAT?"

And that's a wrap on Season Five.

Now, you may know that I've held since about S2 that the show wouldn't be complete until Alicia entered politics—since pretty much exactly when Eli got his first q-rating boner about her, it seemed like the obvious terminus—but I have been saying that for so long it came as a genuine surprise! Who knows what S6 holds, in the Fall, but I do dearly hope that's the trajectory. Now that Diane's safe, presumably, and Cary's basically a full-grown man, we can add not just politics but prosecution to the agenda. Because while Cary took to the SA like an entitled white boy to a yacht, Alicia's a completely different kind of person: I can't even see her offering a plea, for starters, and that's like half the job. On the other hand, at least she can keep Finn around, bribery accusations be damned.

So that was great, yeah? Best season of the best show on TV, no argument. While the big shocks were big and shocking, and the every-five-episodes thing made every month of the show an event, we also got so much insight into Alicia, as she begins to verbalize what she's been learning all this time, and even helping others over the hard parts and speedbumps. We can mourn St. Alicia—although not as much as she does—but what's being born, especially after F/A, just keeps shining brighter and brighter. And we can mourn Will Gardner—not as much as she does, not as much as they do—because what's coming next burns even brighter.

[Image via CBS]

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