The Good Wife, Episode 11: Tick, Tick, Boom
Taking a breather after last episode’s fireworks, “Goliath and David” delivers more muted fare—until the final bombshell.
A ripped-from the headlines case with quirky clients: this isn’t exactly new territory for The Good Wife, but the episode handled this iteration reasonably well. Small-time musicians Rowby and Marshall discover that the Glee-esque TV show Dance Camp has ripped off their recording off “Tricky Trick,” which in turn parodies an original hip hop number. (Remember when Jonathan Coulton accused Glee of stealing his cover of “Baby Got Back?” Well, I didn’t, because I don’t care about Glee, but apparently it was A THING.) When Will realizes Florrick Agos has taken the case, he talks the TV network’s attorney (played by F. Murray Abraham, because this show has the best recurring guest actors ever) into letting him serve as co-counsel.
Rowby and Marshall are a classic straight guy/funny guy routine. Rowby talks a blue streak and has so much fun watching Alicia and Will’s legal repartee that leaps to his feet in court to tell them about it. Marshall’s statements remain brief, practical, and sotto voce. When Rowby and Marshall learn that Robin’s sleuthing has won the case, Rowby pulls her into a bear hug. The viewer expects that to be the scene’s button. Instead, the camera switches to show Marshall tentatively begin to embrace an oblivious Cary—then shrink into his chair as he loses his nerve. It’s a small moment, but offers a flash of comic insight into Marshall’s diffident psyche.
Dueling expert witnesses: each legal team brings in its own expert witness to opine on the originality of Rowby and Marshall’s “Tricky “Trick” rendition. The two experts (one male, one female) use their time in court to take potshots at each other. They serve as Alicia and Will’s doubles. Their bickering (“Bite me, Liv!” “Give it up, Douglas!”) underscores the pettiness of the protagonists’ attempts to sabotage each other.
The Marilyn’s baby storyline hadn’t been working for me; the prospect that Peter Florrick could be the father was such an flagrant red herring that I couldn’t understand why the writers had bothered to create the subplot in the first place. But while obvious, the misdirection paid off this episode. After having learned at the end of “Decision Tree” that Marilyn is planning to name the baby Peter—after the father—Eli spends “Goliath and David” fighting escalating panic as, with Kalinda’s help, uncovers what appears to be evidence of Marilyn and Peter’s affair. His panic culminates when a reporter calls Eli to tell him she has received an incriminating video tape—a tape that Eli believes shows Marilyn and Peter checking into a hotel together. In fact, the tape reveals something far more damaging—Florrick campaign workers unloading stuffed ballot boxes on election night. I’ve been waiting all season for the stolen ballots to reappear, and I freely confess that the video tape revelation still took me by surprise. I knew the tape wasn’t going to be what Eli imagined, I was sufficiently distracted by the intensity of the episode’s Marilyn focus that I failed to consider the full range of possibilities.
Also, the father of Marilyn’s baby turns out to be Peter Bogdanovich.
It’s a clever solution to the narrative problem Marilyn’s baby has presented. Once Eli sees the video, the red-herring status of Marilyn’s baby becomes official, and the subplot has served its purpose. But ince question of the father’s identity has been dragged out for ten episodes, if the writers don’t answer it, they leave the viewer hanging. The problem is that any answer the writers come up with is likely to be anticlimactic—if the dad turns out to be some character the viewer’s never met before (or who was introduced in a bit role three episodes ago), the viewer is not going to care. When Peter Bogdanovich appears on screen, you can practically see the writers winking at viewers–they know the game is up, so why not end with a meta punchline featuring a semi-famous film director?