The Good Wife "A Few Words" Review: She's Got High Hopes

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 17, 2014

The Good Wife S05E14: "A Few Words"

I have... reservations about where The Good Wife is potentially going with all this, and I'll tell you exactly where those reservations are coming from:

"Alicia, when I'm broke and lying in an alley somewhere, do something nice for me." "Okay. Promise."

That was too significant of a line to just rattle off after Alicia and Will had seemingly achieved a détente of sorts in the diner/coffee shop that serves beer to have it NOT come back and influence Alicia's behavior in some way, though I currently have no idea how it will. Does Florrick/Agos take Will in if he's pushed out from L.G.? Does Alicia hand over the tape and say she had it all along to spare Will from Dubeck's assault on Peter? 

Of course, I could be reading too much into this and projecting significance; but I could also be veering toward the worst possible situation, one that would undo or undermine a lot of the show's progress over the course of Season 5. It's something I don't want to see happen, even if I have been half-expecting Diane to end up at Florrick/Agos by the time the season finale rolls around.

I suppose it's an issue of the degree to which I think Will and Alicia can/should re-establish a relationship. I do think they can settle into a quasi-friendly rivalry, along the lines of Alicia's interactions with Louis Canning—though with more history, obviously. That's the sort of thing that their magnificent conversation at the dinner hinted at. My worry, then, is rooted in whether or not this hypothetical good deed that Alicia would do for Will would draw the narrative back into the two of them being romantic partners, thus re-starting the "Peter versus Will" thread that I don't think The Good Wife can revisit without also repeating itself in uninteresting ways. But this may all be unnecessary handwringing; it's too soon to tell. There's still one episode left in this so-called "event" arc, so we'll see if it all wraps up in a productive manner.

Putting all that aside, "A Few Words" was a low-key hour of The Good Wife. Sure, we had some Elsbeth goodness with her recording Dubeck and then feeling hurt and offended by an anti-Semitic bear in Times Square. And I enjoyed watching Clarke deal with a never-ending video of Mayor Bill deBlasio telling him how wonderful New York City is in a taxi cab video. But those moments were just little asides from the flashbacks—or as the producers of the show call them, "memory-pops," a term I rather like given how The Good Wife presents the past—that Alicia, and later Will, experienced throughout the episode.

The decision to focus on that particular time in Alicia's life at this point in the story initially felt odd to me. We've gleaned little details from it throughout the series, most noticeably that Will owed David Lee for getting Alicia her job (a fact that Will's flashbacks ignored), but never anything as expansive as this. Plopping it here, in the middle of a big investigation into the voting-fraud plot, felt like a distraction. But the more I mulled it over, the more its timing seemed appropriate.

Prior to now, Alicia's life was consumed with competing with Cary, dealing with Peter's ups and downs, having a tryst with Will, becoming a partner, making sure Grace didn't accidentally destroy her life (because Grace would totally do that), and then leaving to start her own firm. She's currently at a turning point with just about everything in her life, and in the flashbacks, we saw her at different turning point, complete with upper-class suburban Chicago mom clothes (present-day Alicia would not be caught dead in that baby-blue jacket). Alicia's speech and her role as a keynote speaker at the American Bar Association's convention signified that she's arrived and that she has the time and luxury to reflect on where her life is now. 

Alicia realized those two things by the end of the episode, when Rayna asked her what she wanted and Alicia's reply was, "I want a happy life. And I want to control my own fate." This might as well be Alicia's mantra, as many of her actions since Peter's incarceration have been about achieving these things, however many stumbling blocks and obstacles have gotten in her way. Now she finds herself in a position where both the happy life and the control over her own fate are possible in very real ways, and yet the two main men in her life are constantly putting her goals at risk.


– Hello, TV Crush Jill Hennessy! You were always my favorite ADA on Law & Order, and I probably watched more episodes of Crossing Jordan than was healthy. And now you'll have to excuse me while I begin working on my Rayna and Elsbeth spin-off spec script. Spoiler alert: It's the best show ever.

– "I'm trying, but the mayor won’t stop talking!"

– "The problem you have, Mr. Gardner, is that voter fraud is an ongoing crime, a conspiracy. If you’re protecting the governor, you're just as guilty. That's why you’ll talk. The governor is not your friend. No one, no judge or disciplinary body, will blame you for breaking attorney-client privilege." "I'm sorry. I can't hear you." Heehee.

– "Just write anything down." [Alicia types 'Anything.'] How many times have I done that?

– Wine bottle but no corkscrew: Truly, it is a circle of hell that Dante neglected to mention. 

– That memory-pop back to Cary and Alicia meeting for the first time? Terrific. Also: I just adore how much their relationship has changed and how different both of them are as individuals and as a pair. There's so much respect and trust between the two them that it's nice to be reminded they weren't always like that with each other.

– Choice Elsbeth stuff this week: "I want everybody to close their eyes and picture a pillow. A big pillow, the size of this room, and you're lying in the middle of it. Now, take off your shoes." And "Did you hear that? That bear just called me a dirty Jew." To Dubeck: "Oh, by the way, you should look into an anti-Semitic costumed furry bear in Times Square." And, then finally, Elsbeth singing "High Hopes" without caring that she has, to quote Clarke, "an awful voice."

– And since Elsbeth brought it up: How do you pronounce .GIF? With a hard G, or do you go with Steve Wilhite's proclamation that it's "JIF"? I still go use the hard G myself.

The Good Wife hasn't engaged in an overt discussion of feminism for a while now (I think the last time the show dealt with it in any explicit fashion was with Caitlin), so it was nice to see it make some gestures via the idea of opt-outs/opt-ins and Cary and Clarke encouraging Alicia to up-sell the feminine empowerment aspect of her personal narrative to lure Rayna to the firm. I'm curious to know how that played for all of you.

What did you think of "A Few Words"?

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  • NasiaVoulieri Mar 19, 2014

    I'll probably comment sometime in the next few days but I had to let you know that although I prefer (because I've gotten used to it) the pronunciation "jif" for the word, all the major dictionaries (cambridge, oxford, merriam webster) go with the hard "gif" one!

  • noviembrita Mar 19, 2014

    That spin-off? The greatest show ever!
    The episode? I really liked it. Not just because of Elsbeth genius (everything she says and does is golden) but mainly because it got me thinking about the evolution of the events and characters in the last 5 years. The mention of Alicia's lack of "killer instinct" and the reminder of the hard times Jackie used to give her showed how much evolvement and strenght has taken her to this point. If these events surrounding Peter's campaign transparency cause another scandall, I doubt she would be that same nice woman she used to be, and it would show how much she's grown in those years.
    Will was also great, how he reacted when Alicia mentioned him in her speech, their conversations past and present, it was nice to have a break from the courtroom battles between both firms. It will be interesting to see how she pays him back for that old favor.

  • Gonzai Mar 18, 2014

    With regard to Alicia helping Will when he's down and out...hasn't she already done that? She supported the heck out of him through his scandal and suspension, without her he would have been disbarred. I think the karmic balance between them is close to even by now.

    Love, love, love Elspeth, but I think she should be kept to a recurring character lest her weirdness wear out its welcome. 5-6 eps a season would be great.

  • creativeopinion Mar 18, 2014

    This is currently my favorite show on television. Why? Because every word matters. It's like you know you can look at your phone or do something but then you're gonna miss something important so you're not doing it, you don't want to miss anything. Every single character is interesting as much as 'main' characters and it's so great! I was so happy when i heard about the renewal. Hats off for the writers!

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 18, 2014

    great episode and great review

    question: If that guy who cornered Will in the hallway says that Dubeck put him up to it then wouldn't that go in Will and Peter's favor~support a set up that would not be a surprised based on what Elspeth recorded

  • Locutus-of-Borg Mar 17, 2014

    The creators of the format pronounced GIF as "Jif" with a soft "G" /ˈɪf/ as in "gin". Steve Wilhite says that the intended pronunciation deliberately echoes the American peanut butter brand, Jif, and CompuServe employees would often say "Choosy developers choose GIF", spoofing this brand's television commercials.

  • ben45tpy Mar 17, 2014

    I liked this episode and not just because Jill. I appreciated its quieter rhythms and character focus and Elspeth. I was surprised how low key the episode was after the craziness last week and most of last week's subplots weren't continued this week either. All we really had was a less than compelling crackdown on Will and the NSA angle was ignored - I guess they've decided they can kram a lot of stuff into next week's episode.

    I also considered the possibility of Diane joining F/A at the end of the season but that's becoming increaslingly unlikely given how Diane has basically been persona non grata of late.

    Finally there wasn't really a case this week. Is this the first time ever?

  • ludoTV Mar 17, 2014

    Great review! - This season has been brilliant and I am just elated that, in spite of the mediocre ratings, CBS renewed TGW. My favourite arc at present is the whole NSA spying and the parallel thing Cary mentioned last week where they use NSA-obtained intelligence for non-national security issues and this is creating a huge storm for Alicia and those around her. I missed the NSA guys this week... The ploy of using Peter's dirty ballot pusher to get a video of Will talking to him seemed a bit thin and close to entrapment... But whatever... if that gets us more Elsbeth I do welcome it!

    I do not dislike the flashbacks but sometimes it feels as if TGW uses them to re-write history a little bit... Still it was nice to see Cary with more hair gel, Alicia looking all demure and Will more smiley than his current grumpy pants...

    I also did notice the 'save me from the ditch' comment and it definitely felt like very deliberate foreboding... Still of all the people involved in the vote rigging scandal, he seems amongst the least vulnerable

  • MarlboroMagpi Mar 17, 2014

    I agreed this was a quieter hour of TGW in comparison but it was still good. First we have Carrie Preston, my favorite guest star of TGW and this show had so many guest stars that it is not easy for her to be the favorite. Then we had Nathan Lane and her doing duet. How awesome is that?

    Her character is one of the most well written on TV. She always has a way to solved problems that pleasantly surprised us.

    I honestly do not think Alicia and Will will be involved romantically again unless some major issues happened with Peter or if there is a life and death situation. I doubt the writers would go there.

    I never saw anything on the show that suggest Diane or Will will join Florrick/Agos unless you (Noel) have future information about the shows we don't.

    "Alicia, when I'm broke and lying in an alley somewhere, do something nice for me."

    The only thing I read from this is likely Alicia will one day keep her promise and help Will in some capacity.

    TGW do not use flashbacks often which is a good thing and when they finally do like in this episode, it was relevant and interesting. We get to see how difficult was it for Alicia to get back to her career which we never saw before. We also get to see Will helping her though I think he was already smitten by her then.

    And since you mentioned David Lee, whatever happened to him? We see so much of him in the earlier episodes and none of him in the last few. Is the actor off to another series?

    Rayna and Elsbeth spin-off would definitely be awesome !

  • noelrk Staff Mar 17, 2014

    No future information. Just hypothesizing where things could go. Like I told JT below, I think a lot hinges on what happens with Josh Charles's contract this year.

    And David Lee is a series regular now, but, yeah, he's been missing for a bit since the show came back from the December break. He may have had other obligations /they just don't need him. Given that he does family law, it's a little harder to find juicy, Good Wife-y twisty cases for them to have him do in court. (Have we even seen David Lee in court? I can't remember.)

  • MarieLaureDep Mar 17, 2014

    I really loved this episode. It didn't really move along the story, but it was still very interesting. And I might be the only one, but I wouldn't mind Alicia and Will getting back together, even if it seems unlikely.

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