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‘The Good Wife’ midseason finale recap: ‘The Trial’

Cary and Kalinda (Jeff Neumann/CBS)
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“The Good Wife” is frequently chilling and never for the reasons you would think. For example, did you know that an unfit jury member might make it to the trial just because the judge forgot to buy an anniversary present for his wife so he needs to get to the concert venue by 5:30 p.m. to buy Neil Diamond tickets and he doesn’t have time for crazy things like “motions” and “valid reasons to disqualify jurors”?

Well. It can happen. At least in “The Good Wife” universe, where the much-anticipated trial of Cary Agos gets off to a spectacularly bad start with Judge Cuesta in a horrific mood. Both sides are desperately pulling out all the stops here: Assistant State Attorney Geneva Pine, because her boss is outgoing State Attorney James Castro and he despises the Cary/Alicia camp with every fiber of his being, and Diane, because she doesn’t want to see her partner go to jail. The stakes could not be higher.

Things do not look good for Cary — Geneva offers a plea deal of 10 years at the start. Judge Cuesta, still in a bad mood because he was on hold so long for his concert tickets, advises Diane to take it: After all, she has a “loser case” and everyone knows it. Diane coldly requests that he recuse himself if he really feels that way, but the judge ignores her and orders Geneva to sweeten the plea deal. Geneva offers six years if he pleads guilty, which everyone knows really means three.

[RELATED: Matt Czuchry of ‘The Good Wife’ talks Cary’s big decision on the most ’emotionally taxing’ season ever (Q&A)]

Cary says no, for many reasons. First, he’s innocent. The most damning evidence, the wiretap that features him advising Lemond Bishop’s crew about how to avoid arrest by smuggling $1.3 million worth of heroin, is deceptively edited. Second, if he does plead and go to jail, not only will he not be able to appeal the case, but he will also be labeled a felon and lose his law license. Cary can’t deal with any of it, especially after his brief time behind bars when he was arrested earlier this season. “I can’t go to jail again,” he says.

Frustrated, Judge Cuesta is forced to allow the trial to proceed. (Spoiler alert: He gets out in time to get the tickets and has “Sweet Caroline” stuck in his head the rest of the trial.)

Cary is basically a dead man walking and everyone knows it, particularly when the wiretap is played and the jury hears him laughing and joking with Bishop’s crew about the drugs. The only way out of that one is to find one of Bishop’s crew members and get them to refute the recording — only they’re all conveniently dead or missing.

Diane and Cary do catch a break, however, when we see that Geneva is having an affair with the narcotics detective that she put on the stand to discuss the Cary wiretap. Geneva’s husband walks in while the detective is on the stand, which completely throws her off her game. Then, Diane does a fantastic job grilling the detective about the fact that Trey Wagner (in Bishop’s crew) called the state attorney’s office and said that Cary was being framed because the recording was edited — they just needed someone to take the fall for Bishop.

Geneva argues hearsay, but Diane points out that the “recording” is also hearsay since no one can verify it. Diane also helpfully reminds the detective that Trey Wagner was killed 48 hours after he made that call to the SA’s office. Hmmm, that looks suspicious. It’s a big blow to Geneva’s case, and she gets two unpleasant visitors afterward: The detective, furious that she was just using him for information, and her boss, Castro, who threatens that she better not lose this case.

Then everything completely falls apart. It’s especially painful because it’s due to the one person that Cary always thought could help him: Kalinda. Desperate, Cary asks Kalinda to track down Dante, the one member of Bishop’s crew who is still alive and can verify that the tape was edited. Kalinda proceeds to do this by showing up at Bishop’s house with some photographs (helpfully provided by former ASA Finn Polmar) that show drug dealers leaving the house. And even though Bishop isn’t in the photos, they were taken around 3 p.m., when Bishop’s young son Dylan is home from school. Kalinda could make a call to Child Protective Services and… well, you know the rest.

Bishop flips out and pretty much threatens Kalinda’s life. But the plan appears to work at first, when Dante appears at the trial the next day. Diane and Cary are thrilled — until Bishop walks into the courtroom looking meaningfully at Dante on the stand. Suddenly, near his drug dealer boss, Dante’s story changes: Why yes, Cary was advising them on how not to get arrested for transporting drugs. No, the tape was never edited. Bishop whispers to Kalinda that she should know better than to threaten him or his son.

After that, it’s basically over. There’s no way out, especially when the one juror sympathetic to Cary (the one the judge should never have let in anyway) is booted from the trial because he’s hiding a disorder that makes it difficult to hear when he’s under stress. Geneva offers Cary another deal: No jail time if he flips on Bishop. Cary obviously refuses, so she makes a final offer: Four years in jail time, which means two with good behavior. (Don’t do it Cary! We saw what happened to Piper Chapman!)

Everyone is on the verge of tears, especially Alicia when they have an emotional conversation in her office. Matt Czuchry for an Emmy, anyone? He absolutely kills it with a look of terror and devastation but sympathy for his law partners, as he recognizes that Diane and Alicia are crushed by this as well.

He does have one other option, but his loyalty to Diane and Alicia hold him back. While on a walk contemplating his very sorry life, Cary is approached by a smug-looking Bishop, who invites Cary into his car. Bishop says he’s impressed by the way Cary hasn’t flipped, and would like to offer him a deal as Bishop’s overseas associate in Europe, working out of an apartment in Barcelona. Bishop says he can get help Cary sneak away, and all it means is that he can never return to the United States. Oh, is that all? Cary points out that if he skips town, Florrick, Agos and Lockhart won’t get the $1.3 million they put up for his bail. Bishop reminds him that he can send them a check later, and disgustedly asks if Cary is really going to risk prison time because of his buddies at the law firm.

Suspense. Meanwhile, the writers pull a classic “Good Wife” move and have a ridiculous sideshow in the B story. In this case, it’s Alicia’s problem and probably a result of her having a few too many glasses of wine during her favorite guilty-pleasure show, “Darkness at Noon.” (The amazing parody of a low-budget AMC drama.) When Alicia found out that Grace’s gym teacher made her run in class even while she was sick, she jokingly wrote an “excuse” note to get Grace out of gym along the lines of, “If you don’t let my daughter out of your class, I’ll gut you with a knife.” (It’s something the hero on “Darkness at Noon” says — you would get it if you watched!)

So when Alicia gets a call from her mother-in-law Jackie — who always shows up at the best/worst times — asking if she threatened to murder Grace’s teacher, she has no idea what’s going on. She is quickly reminded when she’s met with an angry-looking principal (and even angrier gym teacher), who show her the note. Alicia explains that it was just a joke from “Darkness at Noon,” but the principal is not amused and gives her a lecture about the seriousness of threatening school violence. Grace is mortified as well, especially since she knew her mom was joking — so much that the only reason she took it to school was to show her civics teacher when they were discussing satire as free speech. And the civics teacher, lacking a sense of humor, took the note to the principal.

Alicia leaves the office with a stern warning and thinks the matter is settled, and heads to her campaign headquarters, where Eli and her campaign manager Johnny are arguing about whether she should release a statement about Cary’s trial. That’s put on the back burner when they get a call from a reporter asking, um, did Alicia Florrick threaten to murder one of her daughter’s teachers and watch him bleed out like a pig?

Eli and Johnny laugh at the hilarity of that until, oops, turns out it’s true. Horrified, they start brainstorming the best way to spin this. Alicia is so protective she would kill for her daughter? It was just a joke because who would suspect Saint Alicia of doing such a thing? They panic, especially when Buzzfeed picks up the story and Frank Prady is caught on camera saying he would obviously prosecute a woman who threatened to knife a teacher.

They order Alicia to get the note: It’s the one possible saving grace, since no one knows about the specific knife joke. But Grace’s civics teacher demands to meet with Alicia first. The teacher sweetly blackmails Alicia, saying she would love to give the note back, but first she and her husband — who works in the teacher’s union — noticed there’s been a decrease in the state’s attorney’s office about the attention paid to school crime. Would that be something Alicia would be able to fix?

Alicia refuses to play games, even though Eli and Johnny urge her to just deal with it. Eventually, he realizes she doesn’t have any control over her campaign. The note is leaked online. Peters steps in and gets the angry teachers seats on the Illinois Safety Commission. The teachers film a video saying how much they love Alicia, and that the note was just a joke. Meanwhile, Eli and Johnny leak the Frank Prady opposition research, which says that he’s in the closet.

Frank angrily confronts Alicia since he thought they both agreed they wouldn’t play dirty — with no time to argue, she reminds him that he made that crack about prosecuting her. Frank says he had no idea that the reporters were referring to Alicia, but it doesn’t matter. Now they’re even in the polls.

Through all the madness, Alicia gets one salvation: An adorable date with Finn Polmar. It’s an accident, since they have decided to remain just friends and start going to greasy diners instead of bars. But the power goes out while they’re having dinner over pancakes and the waitress brings over a candle — a dude starts playing an acoustic guitar in the background, and suddenly it’s a very romantic meal. They both laugh and Finn discreetly slides over the photos of the drug dealers at Bishop’s house as a way to help Cary. Can they just get together already?

Unfortunately, the sweet gesture with the photos backfired. And all we see in the final moments of the episode (the last until January) is Cary saying the worst thing he’ll ever say to the judge: “I would like to plead guilty.”