Our memories are tricky beasts. They can hold a great power over us, tingeing the things we see in front of us, the right now, with the hurts and sorrows from yesterday. They can also outright lie to us. Sometimes, this is for our benefit. We can forget the intensity of grief and the urgency of pain over time, so we can put ourselves in the path of grief and pain again. Other times, the lies our memories tell us don’t do us nearly as much good.
“The Decision Tree” is the 100th episode of The Good Wife. Showrunners Michelle and Robert King wrote the ep, and it is glorious. There were a few bumps, but the wit and wisdom of Eli Gold, a delightful, shade-filled stand-off between Jackie and Veronica, and the single most interesting office holiday party in the history of peoplekind more than make up for a glitch or two. The episode doesn’t really support my recap gimmick (the Kings are forgiven), so we’re going to talk about moments.
These Are a Few of our Favorite Guest Stars
Nathan Lane (at this point, do we even care what his character’s name is? Asking this means the answer is probably yes) gets his first shot at cross, and he (eventually) nails it. His transformation from nervous and awkward to his realization he knows the right question to ask is delightful. I hope I never actually meet Nathan Lane, because my first instinct would be to hug him, for this role and all his others, and that would be uncomfortable.
John Noble returns (in flashbacks) as the late Matthew Ashbaugh, who we were introduced to in 4×18, “Death of a Client.” I recently mainlined the first three seasons of Fringe, which solidified Noble as the only actor who could make me cry at a TV show more frequently than my Doctors. His appearance was perhaps a brilliant move on the part of the showrunners to prime all of us to have our hearts broken on a roller coaster of feels.
Mike Colter also returns, as drug dealer with a sexy baritone, Lemond Bishop, in a brief but effective turn as a guest at the most interesting holiday office party in Chicago.
Jordana Spiro is a new, potentially returning guest star. Her character is a cop indebted to Paddy McFurniture, for reasons either not yet explained or I missed while waiting for scenes with other characters. She arrests Kalinda, who’s tailing Paddy, but lets her go when Kalinda charms her with a joke.
Kalinda: What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
Cop Lady: I don’t know.
Kalinda: A stick.
So, of course, they have sex. At least it wasn’t Paddy.
The returning champion in the Judge-of-the-Week spot is Kurt Fuller as Judge Donaway, now downgraded to probate court. He’s presiding over the case-of-the week, which is more or less a MacGuffin Trojan horse meant to lead us to the real stories.
The Case of the Week
The opening scenes, set to spirited Christmas music, show Kalinda racing through the streets of Chicago in an effort to keep up with Paddy, who’s on his way to Florrick Agos. Paddy wants Alicia to sign her exit agreement with Lockhart Gardner, in exchange for the return of her capital contribution of $150k. Alicia is rightly suspicious, so she has Nathan Lane look over the contract for any landmines. He finds one, to the surprise of no one in the audience. LG has discovered that the late Matthew Ashbaugh has a second will, one that splits his assets between a charity and Alicia, to the tune of $12m each. LG is representing Ashbaugh’s widow, who is not even a little tickled that her husband had a second will, which he crafted in magic marker and had notarized by his favorite prostitute. (But not technically while she was on the clock.)
This brings us to the flashbacks, and one of the most interesting details in this episode. Will and Alicia were in the middle of their very photogenically sexy affair while Alicia was representing Ashbaugh, and the pair visited the eccentric millionaire in his NY apartment. In the midst of having sex in front of the NY skyline (as if they weren’t sexy enough), Alicia revealed to Will that Ashbaugh had a crush on her, and she could probably use that to their (Will and Alicia’s) advantage. We see these flashbacks from both Will and Alicia’s perspectives, and that’s where it gets really interesting. When Alicia recalls the events, she sees herself as a much plainer version than we do, and certainly a stark contrast to the way Will remembers her. In the first flashback of the episode, Alicia remembers sitting at the table talking to Ashbaugh while Will stroked her thigh, in her memory, she was wearing a black or navy blue dress. When Will remembered the same conversation/stroking, her dress was red.
Will intends to use Alicia’s declared influence over Ashbaugh as proof that she persuaded him to write her into his will. While he prepares, he imagines Alicia responding to his questions. He hammers at the pretend Alicia until she cries, than berates her for being weak. Since he wasted all his time arguing with Alicia-in-his-head, he’s completely taken aback when real Alicia not only doesn’t fall apart (as if), she spins the pointer of blame right back at LG. She did use her influence to encourage Ashbaugh to change a will, just not the one she was mentioned in. David Lee, family court specialist, had sent her to Ashbaugh to ensure he didn’t write his widow out of his first will.
All of this proves moot at the end of the episode. Ashbaugh had four additional wills tucked into four additional safety deposit boxes, each naming a different woman and different charity as his heirs. All of the wills not giving his assets to his widow will likely be declared invalid.
The Best Christmas Party Ever
The B-plot revolves around the Florrick Agos holiday party that’s supposed to make them look as if they know what they’re doing that has, of course, turned into a giant clusterfuck. Initially, only 30-some of the 800+ invitees had RSVP’d, so Alicia was pushed to invite Peter. Peter had plans to have dinner with Jackie that evening, so he asked if he could bring her along. When Eli couldn’t talk Peter out of attending, he went to Marilyn, who, I might add, spent the entire episode with a baby sound system strapped to her midsection. Marilyn didn’t give any fucks until Eli mentioned that Colin Sweeney, or, as Eli called him, “white O.J.,” was set to attend. Peter pardoned Sweeney in exchange for snitching, so photos of them sharing gossip over eggnog could be problematic. Meanwhile, Jackie rang up Veronica, with the intent of starting trouble. When Veronica learned she wasn’t on the guest list, she went to Alicia and wept her way into an invite. Eventually, after learning the governor would be there, all 835 guests RSVPed. Eli was delighted to learn Colin Sweeney would not be attending, after all, and said, “Thank God. Thank your Christian Jesus God.” That moment didn’t last, however, because Lemond Bishop did show up, and ended up talking to Peter for quite a while, about charities he wanted to start. Lemond Bishop is many things, boring is not one of them.
All of this brings us to the very last seconds before the black screen. Veronica is chatting up Marilyn about her due date, her music contraption, and the sex of the baby.
Veronica: Do you have a name picked out?
Marilyn: I do! Peter.
Eli Gold spit take.
This is the last new episode until January, so there’s plenty of time to catch up with this series while all your regular shows are on hiatus. Netflix this shit, people. You will not be disappointed. I swear on all the unicorns in our stable.