What distracts you? In the process of writing this review, tons of stuff distracted me. The Internet, obviously, but more specifically Twitter, Reddit subforums, Amazon, Facebook, Wikipedia, checking other people’s Good Wife reviews, biting my nails, Shazam-ing the song from the opening scene (“Oh, it was used in Finding Forrester.”), wondering about candy, eating candy, regretting candy… to name a few. “Shiny Things” is all about distractions, those titular shiny objects that pull attention from the matter at hand, a phenomenon most obviously represented in the return of everyone’s favorite legal savant, Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston).
As the episode begins we’re treated to a brief glimpse into the neural firings that constitute Tascioni’s cognitive process, a progression that entails scads of unrelated images bouncing around like so many balls in a bingo hopper until something vaguely ingenious pops out. It’s filmed ingeniously and is so entertaining that if CBS were smart it’d be hard at work trying to woo Preston into a full-time gig of her own, anchoring one of those unconventional detective series that the network is so fond of.
As fun as watching Elsbeth’s mind work is, she eventually realizes that her gift is also her liability, something Alicia proves in spades by rattling Elsbeth’s process with pictures of penguins (Elsbeth doesn’t even like penguins!) and surprise appearances by Kyle MacLachlan. With time, she’s able to recognize her weakness — her fleeting attention span — and work to overcome it, becoming master of her distraction as opposed to a slave to it. But how did everyone else in the episode fare with their distractions?
Poor Kalinda didn’t fare quite as well as Elsbeth, I’m afraid. In the wake of news that Archie Panjabi was leaving The Good Wife at the conclusion of the season, in addition to the strange reminder that Kalinda and Alicia haven’t been in a scene together since late in Season 4, there was definitely a heightened interest in what Kalinda might be up to this episode. The answer was, sadly, nothing we haven’t seen before. In order to free the office from the grips of an aggressive ransomware (more on that later) Kalinda calls on her good friend Dana Lodge over at the FBI to help her out with information in exchange for sexy sex. Dana is originally resistant but eventually gives in because Kalinda is just that good at the sexy sex, apparently. Dana then tries to open up in the afterglow about coming out to her mother and the conflict she felt in the wake of her death but Kalinda was having none of it and shut down faster than a robot in rain. See, it’s not human emotions that distract Kalinda; it’s the strenuously attempts to avoid these emotions that does it. And because of that she ends up isolating herself even further on her lonely, sexy, Kalinda island. All of which would be fine and good if this was any new ground for the show to cover but we’ve spent years watching this character be tough as nails and sexy as hell and relentless and conniving, and that’s great but if the show can’t find some different level to it all then maybe it’s best that we say goodbye to Kalinda Sharma.
What about Diane? She’s always rock solid and never wavers in her focus. Except, you know, when she does. This episode she had a hell of a time, set upon on all sides by things that were unfamiliar and, quite frankly, frightening. It began with a single click on a malware ad that sent the office’s computers into full lockdown mode by Russian ransomware. She was so naively out of her element in this moment, like a little baby bird trying to use Internet Explorer all on her own, all furrowed brow and oversized glasses. It was a rare misstep for Diane, the first true sign of her age belying her expertise and suggesting that maybe her assets were also a liability. Sadly, Diane was also distracted by her leaky office and an particularly unpleasant cockroach, issues made all the more pointed by a necessary visit to the old (beautiful) Lockhart/Gardner offices. A woman of means, Diane is distracted by suddenly having her office housed in an overgrown frat house of an environment and by episode end it seems clear she’ll have Florrick/Agos moved back to the old building by season end, regardless of whether it’s a wise move for the firm. She’s distracted by the comfort of familiarity and while in this episode it nearly cost the firm $50,000 and all their files, who knows what it may cost them in the future?
Meanwhile, Alicia found herself embroiled in the first of many inter-campaign conflicts. After being assured by Finn that he would love to endorse her in her run for State’s Attorney, Eli informs Alicia that Peter is having none of it and that if she insists on Finn’s endorsement at the event than Peter might just nope on out of there to his Governor’s convention. She hems and haws before insisting on Finn’s involvement which leads to another rip-roaring Peter/Alicia showdown. The thing about fighting with someone you’ve known for most of your life is that you don’t have to dance around the pleasantries and can cut right to the reminders of prostitute threesomes and examinations of marital obligations vs. gubernatorial favors. Seriously though, Alicia calling Peter out on the fact that he still needs her alliance as much, if not more, than she needs his was enervating. Doing so in a fashion that implies that his allegiance is mandatory lest she become a distraction to him in the press is significant. And then it ends on oral sex innuendo! Brilliant!
But as brilliant as the fight may have been (and it was) it’s representative of a struggle Alicia will have throughout her campaign — and has had throughout the run of the show: the entanglements and egos of men are distractions. In truth, I’ve always been a big Good Wife shipper but am increasingly coming to see that the only way this series can end is with Alicia standing on her own two feet, finally free of the men who complicate her every choice. We can only hope she, and the rest of the characters on the show, can steer clear of all those distractions hoping to waylay them.
- “If I fall, you’ll catch me?” “Nah, I’ll be plummeting with you.” OH MY GOD ALICIA AND FINN, JUST SMOOCH ALREADY!
- Speaking of smooching, we got both Kalinda/Cary and Kalinda/Dana scenes this episode. Fun for everyone!
- I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to work around Alan Cumming’s Broadway schedule but they really need to be more consistent with whatever is going on with his hair.
- This week’s trial was very shades of Jill Abramson and The New York Times. That, coupled with the return of Jill Hennessy, made me wonder if Dick Wolf was underwriting the episode.
- Opening credit appearance: 10:02.