‘The Good Wife’ recap: Why is Jason investigating Alicia?

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

“Discovery” Review: Everything’s a Little Bit Racist Sometimes.

Alicia Florrick’s sexy investigator Jason Crouse has been at the heart of “The Good Wife” drama this season. We’ve had lots of different cases involving this huge company over the course of this show, but this was definitely the most racially charged case they’ve ever had. But first, the attorney, whose husband Peter is running for President, makes some ads with his campaign manager Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale) before Jason interrupts. We can all agree that Colin Sweeney is a murderous and deranged maniac, and while he obviously deserves a legal defense, everyone also agrees it’s gross that he can afford such a good legal defense and be consistently free from incarceration. Monica Timmons (who, you’ll recall, wasn’t hired at Lockhart, Agos, and Lee in favor of three white guys) calls in a favor from Diane on behalf of a friend whose restaurant was run out of business by Chummy Maps.

The opening of “Discovery” felt like one of those, only instead of learning how glass bottles get made, we were exploring…well, I’m not exactly sure what we were meant to take away from a montage of ones and zeros, cell phone apps, GPS systems, and computer solitaire. And the characters on the show acknowledge that it’s less than ideal that they defend him while still doing it, mainly because of the legal issue but also because his billable hours are insane. The case of the week: Monica Timmons returned to Lockhart/Agos for their help in taking on Chum Hum over a map option that labeled “problem” areas…that also seemed to be black neighborhoods.

Later, Ruth asks Alicia’s Chief of Staff Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), “Are they having an affair?” Eli denies it but Ruth says Alicia touched Jason’s arm and “was smiling at him like a schoolgirl.” Ruth notes that Peter’s fragile presidential campaign for the Democratic nomination, “wouldn’t withstand the fallout” of Alicia being caught in a compromising position with Jason. The restaurant was in a neighborhood designated as dangerous, and the owner wants to sue, arguing that the safety ratings are racist codes for minority neighborhoods. After much back and forth and some really racist discoveries—Alicia tried to bury one at the behest of Louis Canning and ended up getting found in contempt of court and ordered to pay $5,000—it looked like Alicia was finally going to lose. Defense attorneys are often an amoral (and occasionally immoral) bunch on TV, so we don’t bat too much of an eye at them getting murders off by any means necessary, whether it’s by Plan B-ing (I miss you, The Practice) or by simply finding some inspired loophole or technicality. Alicia and Lucca get involved when Louis Canning brings them in to defend Chumhum, and the judge first orders discovery on anything involving Chummy Maps and race and then expands it to every facet of Chumhum’s operations.

As the case covered everything from the commenter-driven map app to photo tagging software to offensive jokes being sent via email, Alicia also encountered some drama at home. So the Canning associates are given the daunting task of reviewing Chumhum’s hard drives and deciding if each occurrence of a depressing lists of racially insensitive words is responsive or nonresponsive to the discovery request. Every time an episode centers around computers or the internet, though, viewers are constantly distracted from the story by how unrealistic everything looks. Ruth was quick to catch onto the chummy vibe between Alicia and Jason, and she didn’t like it, so she sent Eli in to squash their budding relationship. From the cheesy ChumHum mascot to the poorly designed pop-up ads to the oversized icons, each scene that involves a screen feels like it’s straight out of 2007.

But whereas Diane was positioned as the single honest liberal in a hive of liberals too wrapped up in the culture war to care about principles, no one came out of “Discovery” looking all that good. Mostly, “Discovery” was a sizable follow-up to “Lies,” the episode that Monica first appeared in, and we were granted insight into casual and institutional racism that ran through LAL.

I’m not really a fan of her character overall, which is unfortunate because I’m a huge fan of hers from Book of Mormon and I was pumped to see her on my TV. We saw Cary, Diane, and David Lee engage in racially-based assumptions about Monica on account of where she was from and what school she went to and whether or not she was the right “type” for the firm.

But eventually it comes out: Three years ago, the algorithm that auto-sorted photos into categories would tag photos of black people under the heading “animal.” Clearly, this isn’t good for Chumhum’s “hey, we’re not racist!” argument, particularly when the coders say it’s because the algorithm wasn’t given enough photos of minorities. Lucca asks if the algorithm ever mistook a white person for a polar bear, then looks pointedly around at all of the white male employees, who only coded what they know. She claims her restaurant was shut down after ChumHum released a version of their mapping program that categorized streets and neighborhoods as safe or unsafe, with non-white neighborhoods most frequently deemed “unsafe.” After Divya’s street was designated “unsafe” (a.k.a. “primarily African-American”), her business folded, so she’s suing ChumHum. They couldn’t see outside their own little world of cereal, in-house-produced almond milk, and jokes about jokes that weren’t meant to offend, really. Incidentally, Divya is brought in by the young African-American attorney who, after the firm turned her down for a summer position, leaked unflattering video of their hiring processes.

Look, I don’t want to get too deep into the whole “race well” here, but I guess at the end of the day I’m glad the case ended the way that it did. It seemed a little silly that this business owner was trying to blame her business troubles on this “racist” software by Chumhum, so I was glad that she didn’t end up getting any money.

She was totally not having it and said probably the most Alicia Florrick thing ever: “Yes, I’ve gotten over words.” Because this is a TV show, Jason overheard the conversation between Eli and Alicia. There’s obviously a lot of racism all over the internet (as evidenced by the hilarious 50TB worth of racist jokes), but I don’t see how that’s the fault of the people who provide online services. Furthermore, Alicia provides proof that the failed restaurant was struggling even before the safe filters went live — proof they found because it was stored on Chumhum’s cloud service.

Racism was germane to the team at ChumHum that designed the program — and also the designed photo-sorting software that identified a photo of an African-American woman as an “animal.” This isn’t the loud, hateful racism that’s easy to identify and criticize, but a far more commonplace type of subtle, insidious, internalized racism. It’s why it was satisfying to see Alicia get hit with a contempt citation from Judge Marx: this kind of thing shouldn’t be rewarded in our legal system, and Alicia, in an ideal world, wouldn’t be representing Chumhum in this matter, let alone trying to bury clear examples of racist behavior within the company. Also, Sunday’s episode marks the return of Monica Timmons, the African-American lawyer who challenged Lockhart, Agos & Lee earlier in the season when she was interviewed there, then posted undercover video she had made of the lawyers asking seemingly racist questions. But it wasn’t just Alicia’s occasional stabs at trying not to tap into her inner-Louis Canning about Chumhum’s pattern of racism that drove the episode.

While I’m not thrilled that Cary spends a large portion of the episode trying to claim that reverse racism exists as a real and insidious thing — such a classic white dude move — I’m glad we actually get to see him practice some law, something he hasn’t done much of so far this season. Of course, Monica also went right after Lucca being biracial and representing a racist company (and we got to see how thoroughly unamused Lucca was with everything around her while Monica did not), so no one was free of any racially-charged behavior this week. At one point, Monica laughs to Cary that she hopes “Biff and Skippy are working out well for you,” and Cary charges her with “reverse racism” for using country club names for his new lawyers. Next, Courtney Paige and Eli are still making kissy faces, but more importantly, they put together a hush-hush focus group — secret even to Alicia — to see if they can resurrect Saint Alicia and possibly put her up for a Senate seat.

Through nine episodes, so far we only have details like “enjoys color-blocked dresses” and “practices law.” Watching her and Cary dance together at the club she chooses — hell, watching Cary dance at all — was a really fun moment. I don’t know why everybody was getting all bent out of shape over the “racism” in the episode, because the sexism on display in this storyline is way worse.

In a settlement meeting, Alicia tells Diane, Cary, and Monica that ChumHum’s photo coder had been fired—but offers their client nothing because the reason her restaurant failed was that her own business practices were shoddy. Eli says he’ll handle it, though I was a little surprised to not hear him offer up, “No, it’s cool, I walked in on the Florricks doing it like a week ago,” as an easy appeasement. It didn’t offer much of a solution beyond firing some coders and changing some default settings on the app, but, sadly, it’s probably how it would work in our reality, at least on some level. And the episode managed to pit Alicia against her old firm with Cary and Diane looking like a bunch of morons like they did in “Driven,” so it’s a win.

I’ve gotten over words,” she says, then cuts to the chase: “You’re telling me when I sleep with Jason, you’d rather I kept it private.” Eli can’t tell if she’s kidding, and her Mona Lisa smile gives nothing away. Don’t taint this with boredom!” But, here I am, already a bit bored by the ins and outs of this because Eli had two scenes with Jason with both of them being all alpha dog-y to one another—notice how Jason gets really into Eli’s personal space—and I suddenly didn’t care about how this was going to play out, nor was I all that intrigued by Jason investigating Alicia, even if it was just to look into his potential employer.

Jason grits out that he used to have a very different life, an uncomfortable life that he didn’t like. “So now there is nothing I do that makes me uncomfortable. Jason tells Eli that he’s been honest with Alicia about his past, and Eli asks whether Alicia knows “what’s on the last page” of the file he’s handed over. “Why are you investigating Alicia?” Jason’s explanation seems legitimate: he wanted to know who he was working for before he took the job, and investigators investigate. Whoo boy. – I loved the (intentional or not) meta-ness that instead of having John Benjamin Hickey reprise his role as Neil Gross, we got Michael Chernus as Chumhum’s COO. The opening as we pulled out of code and through various smartphones montage into a POV shot for Monica was classic Good Wife—it loves using that POV tracking shot and having the characters address the camera as the character—but that zoom from Eli’s arched eyebrow through the peephole into a pretty tight close-up of Alicia?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan brings an incredible edge of menace and unpredictability to his scenes; you’re always waiting for those dimples to disappear in a burst of violence. I’d also discuss the slightly elevated and occasionally canted angles that Canning would get framed in, but it’s almost 1 a.m. and I have to be up in 5 hours.

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