A huge financial company, Tom Skerritt's Paisley Group, is celebrating a forthcoming merger with a lovely brunch. Alicia, as official counsel, assures the c-suite that the venture won't fail simply because of some gay guy somewhere who got fired for trying to sell trade secrets and not for being gay (or for having the wicked gayface that we see him having later). What Alicia can't speak to is the fact that 20 percent of their combined workforce will get laid off in the process.
But instead of having to confront these ugly truths about the human cost of doing business, they just talk louder over the riot forming downstairs and continue laughing about poor people... Right until one of the protestors, undercover, plants a pie right in Skerritt's face. Alicia gets a little of it on her dress, which stresses her out for scenes to come, but it's also an ongoing study in the way the show treats issues of class: Just like with Geneva's game-changing privilege explainer moment with Peter, the show always circles back around to the idea of privilege as something to be aware of, not afraid or ashamed of, because it's the latter kneejerk responses that keep us all from recognizing (or acknowledging) a gamed system for what it is.
The Kings are not the most liberal people in the world—they're Joes, not Mikas—but this is always something they've been able to illustrate in an expert way that doesn't trip the usual switches, for those of us who would rather not consider the human downside to the lives we enjoy. It's important to me, personally, because I think we fall all to easily into thinking the fight is about deciding who is good and who is bad, when honestly everybody is good and nobody is a villain in their own movie, so it's a futile approach to call anybody out when there are wiser, less malicious, more effective ways of explaining the facts. Divining Sheep from Goats is a game you play for your own self-righteous benefit, not to change the world, because nobody ever changed their mind from being called an asshole. But I've found that almost anybody is receptive to discussing and internalizing their own unearned luxuries and social power, if you just talk to them about it the right way. And this show does that.
So you have Alicia, a person who knows damn well what kind of lifestyle she's compromising herself for, having to play up to the ego of this man James Paisley, trying to navigate the mine fields of his entitlement the entire time, even as he is blowing up all around her. She does it with humor, and grace, and aplomb, but she also thinks hard about how it implicates her. Nobody with a brain in their head is going to compare the poor to Nazis, and yet it happens all the time; nobody above the age of fifteen is allowed to talk about Ayn Rand without laughing, and yet motherfuckers do that on the reg. Sometimes I wish this show's craziest things weren't so real.
And because it's this show, the gay ex-CFO is being represented by Canning over at LG, so now we have the chess pieces in motion for a lovely battle of the propagandists, being that Canning has always written his narrative as a populist gladiator—even as he shills for Big Business—while Alicia is forced to put on a happy quisling face about her client's Ayn Rand bullshit, despite being one of the few True Believers still Letting Bartlett be Bartlett in 2014.
They spend the episode bouncing settlement figures back and forth, arguing over particular jurors, always with James Paisley in the background saying more and more fucked up things every time he opens his mouth (and always with Kalinda trying to protect both Alicia's and Diane's interests, which is very different from playing both sides and honestly has more to do with Canning's disrespect for Kalinda's process, which he doesn't understand at all because her kind of radical honesty is the opposite of his entire soul).
Paisley eventually takes it all the way to that "The One Percent is essentially Jews in the Holocaust" place, which sinks the entire settlement, but after a focus-grouped apology (speaking of vile concepts) and a meeting with an actual Holocaust survivor thanks to Alicia, he rights himself mostly. Of course then, while smugging it up as his beautiful famous lawyer, Alicia trips over some technical difficulties and comes off seeming like a straight-up racist, which gives her a tiny bit more sympathy for the Devil: Without a monitor to look at, she keeps calling the two black interviewers by the other's name, which is a lot uglier as it plays than it might seem.
Eli's exuberance about Finn Polmar is unabated even after last week's "dead sister" disaster, especially once an official report absolving Finn of all misconduct in the Jeffrey Grant affair is leaked. The only other skeleton (by Eli's measure) in his closet is that his wife divorced him after she miscarried, which could be construed as him being a dick in some way, so Eli tries to prepare Finn for the worst: State's Attorney Castro is going to come after him with some picture or phone call or something, and when he does, Finn needs to relay it to Eli immediately.
But sadly, it's not Finn that gets the Castro bullshit: It's Peter, who throws not one but two glasses of water in Castro's face after being shown a random picture of Finn leaving Alicia's apartment in the recent past. It's a very welcome window on Peter's psychology for us this week, as we're invited to look at things from his warped perspective: This is a man with the Clintonian ego to be a corrupt politician, not once but like five times, whose mother lives inside his jockey shorts and prayed to his philandering father like a God, but whose magical wife has kept him at arm's length for the entire run of the show, sometimes booty-calling him and sometimes throwing him out of the house altogether and, post-Will, telling him to fuck around all he wants.
So what results, despite Eli's best and most loving efforts, is several affairs being manufactured out of thin air, thanks to the situation the Florricks have created around Peter's male ego: He is all too willing to get jealous about her nonexistent relationship with Finn, while she's just fine with him doing whatever, and you add those things up and you get a sexy intern who is like Becca Part Two. A kind of Eli Kryptonite for which he still hasn't found an antidote. And by the end, Peter's so enraged and confused he just goes ahead and, it seems, recapitulates history with her.
Shout-out, by the way, to #1 Florrick Shipper Eli Gold, who makes explicit this week what's been clear to us for a while: His occupational obsession with the Florrick marriage is indistinguishable from his private obsession with the Florrick marriage—being pretty much in-actual-love with both of them equally—and it also does not matter, because that's the whole deal of Eli: He gets excited about things it's meet to be excited about, he plays whatever role he's supposed to play, and always with zero compartmentalization. He's an ethical chameleon, a phony, but like Holly Golightly he's a real phony, which is more than you can say about most of these dicks.
(Especially Castro. Can I just say that Michael "September from Fringe" Cerveris is killing it as SA Castro? Nothing against John Leguizamo, who is capable of intermittent greatness, but Cerveris was definitely the right choice for this character.)
It's interesting also, after the last couple of weeks of Eli in his element and shining, to see both his favorite charges in open revolt. Alicia, who's been especially indulgent with him lately, straight tells him to go to hell when he asks whether she's sleeping with Finn—although, true to form, the second she figures out why he cares so damn much, she relents. And then over at the SA's Office, Peter meets Eli's strong-arming cockblock tactics with even more petulant rage, shading into actual scary rage, about one more person in his life falling down on the job of offering him unconditional love and support at all times. If he does fuck that intern, it'll be at least 45 percent a fuck-you to Eli, which is just the saddest damn thing in the world.
Big week for Diane, also, as she continues to rely on Kalinda's loyalty in pulling at the Canning and David Lee threads of the not-so-imaginary plot against her. A co-counsel offer from Rayna "Rainmaker" Hecht (who is finding Elspeth a little tougher to deal with than she expected) on a Brockovich class-action buoys her spirits temporarily, until she uncovers the fact that Canning is trying to sign the defendant at the same time, and looking to sabotage her.
Later—but only after an embarrassing frontal attack at the Florrick/Agos offices—Diane realizes that Canning has been feeding Rayna the same Gaslight line about how Will's death has ruined Diane's entire game: He is willing to poison the well at his own new firm to sign this evil corporation, and growing more desperate as his face-off against Alicia and the Paisley Group slips and stutters and stumbles. Alicia, as a witness to all this mayhem, literally weeps for Diane, which is a fantastic way to go out—especially as we see Kalinda, scheming in bed with Cary, is still willing to play for both teams (as long as Canning is the one losing).
Next Week: It's the finale, so a bunch of interesting things will be happening. I wouldn't be surprised if we hit some new kind of plateau with the Florrick marriage, since we kind of have to at this point; the Finn election will be a major plotpoint I'm sure; and many other interesting things will happen no doubt. But mostly, Veronica and Jackie are going to get drunk. So there is a way in which I honestly don't care what happens. What I do know is, now that we've seen 21/22nds of this season, the "best season of the best show on network TV" we were all trumpeting within the first four or five episodes was not a fluke, nor was it premature. My God, Season Five of The Good Wife. How loved you make me feel.