This post contains spoilers for CBS’s legal drama, “The Good Wife”, up to Season 4 Episode 7 – Anatomy of a Joke.
The case of the week started out promisingly enough. Christina Ricci as the wise-cracking client. F. Murray Abraham back as opposing counsel. Passing traffic conveniently bleeping out risque words. Stabs at NFL overruns and network censorship.
However, it went rapidly downhill. The best thing about the case was Diane insisting that Cary accompany Alicia to babysit their rather self-destructive client to petition the FCC.
As with Kalinda, I have been trying to piece together Cary’s backstory with small clues he dropped over the past three years. But this week, we get a sudden dollop of information in the form of his father, Jeffery Agos, played by John Shea.
During their first meeting, in an attempt to rattle her, Cary told Alicia that he interned at the Innocence Project because his father’s best friend was Barry Scheck. He also said that like Alicia, his mother was thinking of re-entering the workplace at a late age.
Shortly after, while interviewing students at a prep school, Cary mentioned that it reminded him of his own high school. When there were rumours of Stern retiring, Cary told Alicia that when his father’s firm lost a partner, it was like “Dawn of the Dead”, colleagues turning against each other.
In the second season, in a stroke of brilliant continuity, the actual Barry Scheck called Cary and asked him to help out with a death-row case. During the call, Cary was showing his younger cousin around universities in Chicago. Incidentally, this was the first time we ever saw anyone from his family.
And after a dearth of anything significant on Cary’s personal life for over a year, he runs into his father at the FCC. And by their painfully formal greeting and awkward catching up, it was obvious that this was the first time they were meeting in years.
From the bits gleaned in the past, I had always thought that Cary led a privileged life. Rich family, preppy education and socialite parents. Perhaps he wanted to strike out on his own, carve out a career without his family’s help or connections.
But this threw all my assumptions out of the window. His parents are divorced. Cary asks after a Martha, who I presume is his step-mom. Father and son seemed to have to have not spoken since Cary was in law school.
We also learn that his father is not a lawyer in a law firm, but rather a lobbyist. Also, his father kicked him out of the house when he was eighteen and have not since provided him any money nor concern. This explained why Cary mentioned before that he needed the job at Lockhart-Gardner because he had student loans to pay.
This also meant that he probably had to work during college, because he had to pay his own living expenses. He was also probably living on his own since college, having minimal contact with his family.
When he realised that his father reached out to him, after years of neglect and disinterest, only to ask for a favour, Cary finally stood up to the older man and kicked him out of his life.
The best part of the episode was the interaction between Cary and Alicia. They have a beautifully evolving relationship.
They spent the better part of the first season in a snarky rivalry. In the course of playing their game of one-upmanship, they developed a grudging respect for each other and their work. Halfway through the season, while stuck in an interrogation room, they admitted that they did not want to see the other lose and that they kind of liked each other.
However, whatever budding friendship that might have developed was shattered when Alicia pulled strings to retain her job, which led to Cary losing his. The first part of the second season saw Cary, bitter with resentment, going head to head with Alicia as he threw himself into his new job as Assistant State Attorney.
But when Kalinda was summoned before a grand jury, they joined forces to protect her from an impending indictment. During a phone conversation where Cary informed Alicia that Kalinda was no longer in danger of being indicted, there was this sweet moment of silence. They both leaned into their phones as the silence stretched, before Alicia gently broke it by asking, “How are you, Cary?”
“I don’t know, may be tough sledding here for a while.” he answered, without his usual rancor. “Well, good luck.” Alicia said sincerely. “Thank you.” he responded, equally sincere. This was the real breakthrough in their relationship.
The irony was that just as these two were getting back on an even keel, Alicia’s friendship with Kalinda suffered a devastating blow, fracturing the one strong link they still have with each other.
But as the two women slowly mended their friendship, Cary developed a great working relationship with his new boss, Peter. This newfound state of wary cordiality between Cary and Alicia not only survived the many ups and downs of the third season, especially the painful process of Will’s attempted indictment, but became stronger.
So much so that when Cary was demoted from Deputy State Attorney, Alicia recommended that Lockhart-Gardner hire him back as a litigator. And in season four, when she was made to share her office with Cary, Alicia was mostly just bemused.
This led to another delicious interaction between them. In this latest episode, they had that wonderful drinking session at the hotel, where they talked about how much the other had changed: “You’re tougher now. Smarter about things.” Cary shared. “I thought you were a jerk.” Alicia returned.
Then shortly after, back at their office, Alicia was on the phone with Peter and agreed to talk to the press about the birthmark rumour. She followed up by asking her husband to consider hiring Laura Hellinger (Amanda Peet) as an Assistant State Attorney. “It’s a deal.” said Peter.
The look of disbelief and outrage that Cary shot her, after she put down the phone, spoke volumes. And the way she met his gaze unflinchingly, a little abashed but not apologetic at how she had deftly exchanged favours.
It was like they have come full circle. In the first season, Alicia pulled strings to get, as well as to retain, her job. But only under huge pressure and after a lot of internal struggle and guilt. Now in the fourth season, she does the same thing, but without the attendant anguish.
“It’s not wrong, it just is.” said Alicia, as she matter-of-factly told Laura that it is all about connections. She has come a long way from where she was when the show started. They all have. Let us see what they have in store for us next week.