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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Televangelist: 'The Good Wife,' Season 3, Ep. 13

If I just sit here quietly, maybe they wont ask me what bitcoin actually is ...
  • If I just sit here quietly, maybe they won't ask me what bitcoin actually is ...

Bitcoin. A Kalinda-centric episode. Zach's love life. The End.


"The Good Wife" inserted another one of its "ripped from the headlines" stories this week by focusing on bitcoin, which I'm positive that 95% of "Good Wife" viewers have never heard of and will unlikely think of ever again. The only reason why I have a passing familiarity with it is thanks to an engaging New Yorker piece from a few months ago (only the abstract is available now online, but there are plenty of bitcoin articles commenting on it if you employ some Googling), and even then I'm still not entirely sure what it is or if I should care or not. What "Bitcoin for Dummies" taught is that, in the eyes of the court and the U.S. Treasury, bitcoin is considered a currency rather than a commodity which makes it illegal. Though the New Yorker may have come as close as anyone to uncovering who the creator of bitcoin is, his or her true identity is still not officially known. "The Good Wife" uses some Micky Mouse investigatory work by Kalinda - by that I mean she just walks into a convention and says, "did you create bitcoin?" to varying degrees of success - to create the possibility that bitcoin was created by a triumvirate that includes a chippy lawyer, a hot geek woman and a Chinese university professor. It sounds more like a CBS comedy than the plausible creators of the world's most mysterious online code, but what do I know?

The bitcoin court case was minimally engaging, and included yet another "quirky judge" who, like most of the quirky judges, seemed to mostly side with Alicia and the defense and not Mr. Hicks and the stuffy U.S. Treasury. That is, actually, exactly the formula that Wendy Scott-Carr is attempting to suggest proves that Will - through a bookie friend - is friendly with these judges in a totally illegal way. It's typical in crime shows and courtroom dramas for the characters around whom the show is built get all the luck, and I actually really like the meta-commentary that "The Good Wife" in engaging in that basically says "isn't it a little weird how Lockhart-Gardner win almost all of their cases?" Yes, it is. But is it criminal? The more interesting moments of "Bitcoin for Dummies" involved the several twists and turns of Wendy Scott-Carr's investigation of Will, and the very best moments were when Wendy went up against Elsbeth.

Before I go any further, I have to note that I find Mr. Stack coming to Alicia because of her success against the Treasury department to be a misplaced triumph for Elsbeth. Had it not been for Elsbeth's guidance and strange (but successful!) approach, Alicia would not have had any hope against the Treasury, and yet it is Alicia who gets the fame and the clients who carry around thousands of dollars in cash in their pockets? Talk about good fortune. But Elsbeth has not been idle - protecting Will Gardner from his past and from himself is a full time job. She successfully punks Wendy at her own game, and gets from it not only a great scene of dialogue but also the names of the three judges that Will is alleged to have illegal ties to. The twist, which was a great one, came a little later when Dana barters Alicia's freedom for Will's with Kalinda. Dana has possession of the forged document from last week's case (which harkens back to a Season One case, which makes these twist three layers deep!), which could put Alicia in jail, or at the very least get her disbarred. The scenes with the dossier were a little hard to follow, but here is my take on what happened: essentially, Elsbeth knew that the file contained evidence that could be used against Will had to be destroyed, and that Will had to ask Kalinda to do it, which is why she left the room. Will, unable to legally ask Kalinda to destroy the file, simply stares at it, and she gets the hint. But, after some soul searching and a meaningful look at Alicia from across the office, Kalinda gives the entire folder to Dana, and looks pained doing so. Dana told Kalinda that she had to make a choice - not between Dana and Will, but between Will and Alicia. Are we to take from this that Kalinda threw Will under the bus to save Alicia?

Elsewhere, Zach reminds us that he is still dating Neesa, not Eli Gold's daughter ("she's in college," which reminds me of the tone a 21 year old used with a friend of mine recently, "you're like ... 28 or something!" He said it was the "or something" that got to him), and we are treated to two awkward conversations between Zach and Alicia, followed by Zach and Jackie, in which Alicia and Jackie essentially say the same thing. "It's not about race! It's not about race!" It's worse - Neesa goes to public school! They're from two different worlds! It can never happen! That is, until Alicia discovers she somehow accidentally agreed with Jackie and called the whole thing off. I honestly think that if Alicia adopted a puppy and Jackie said she loved puppies, that puppy would be put out on the cold streets of Chicago to freeze to death. Just saying.

Ultimately, the Kalinda-centric episode falls flat because Kalinda is no longer an interesting character, she is merely a robotic collection of well-worn traits and tropes. Hey look, Kalinda flirting with an attractive woman! Hey look, Kalinda getting what she wants and using people! Hey look, a guy Kalinda met two seconds ago is in love with her! Hey look Kalinda just punked that Treasury guy because she played dumb! Hey look, Kalinda wants to be friends with Alicia but doesn't know how to show emotion other than hurting someone else! Over it. Somewhere early in Season Two Kalinda's character started being done a terrible disservice by the writing staff. I'm not altogether sure it can be repaired, but keeping her out of the limelight would probably help. In the end I'm left with this: no episode of "The Good Wife" is terrible, but its unevenness can be frustrating.

Next In Two Weeks: Two weeks ago CBS said it would air four episodes of "The Good Wife" without breaks. Oops. In any case, when it returns it looks like Alicia is put on the stand and must either bring her affair with Will to light, perjure herself, or run out of the courtroom. Apparently she chooses the latter which pretty much just confirms the first point.

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Where is Grace? Did she get kidnapped again?

— "I have a complaint about my Susan B Anthony coin. It feels like a quarter!" - Judge Sobel

— "You mean Decode-a-con is not on your social calendar?" - Diane

— "Only in American is greater abstraction preferred" - Mr. Stack

— The cryptography jokes were kind of funny, simply because they were about cryptographers: "Cryptography jealousy is the worst kind of jealousy." "There's nothing like a bunch of drunk cryptographers!"

— "Do you get a lot of dates? Why do you care about this?" - Judge Sobel

— Oh, uh, hello Jim Cramer from "Mad Money"? What a strange cameo. He's your expert witness Alicia, really?

— I thought the show handled all of the techno mumbo jumbo pretty well, even obscure concepts like "ghosting."

— "Real's gonna change" - Mr. Stack.

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