‘The Good Wife’ Recap 7×09: ‘Too Many People of Color’

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Alan Cumming in The Good Wife. (photo: CBS)

I take back everything I’ve ever said this season about things in The Good Wife moving slowly, because this is the episode where things finally start to happen. In Season 7, Episode 9, called “Discovery”, here are the main plot lines to keep track of.

Is ChumHum racist?

Is Alicia Florrick rehabilitated?

What is the deal with Jason Crouse, no seriously.

Keeping things pretty streamlined this week, which is good because this ChumHum case is dense and involves three firms, basically, so almost the whole main cast. Let’s just jump right into it.

Basically ChumHum is being accused of latent racism, by Monica Timmons (Nikki M. James), the young black attorney who published the video about racism at Lockhart, Agos, & Lee after two white men were hired over her. Monica is now coming to the firm to ask them to represent her friend Divya Feldman (Nilaja Sun), whose restaurant she says was run out of business by none other than…drum roll, please…ChumHum. They’ll be defended by Louis Canning, and he wants Lucca Quinn on it too, since it’s a racism case and she’s a person of color. Sigh.

The issue is in ChumHum’s Chummy Maps feature, which has default filters that divide the city’s neighborhoods into safe, borderline, and sketchy. Divya’s restaurant was inside the sketchy section, where businesses aren’t shown, and because of that, she says she lost business and had to shut down. Problem is, it’s not actually an unsafe neighborhood, it just has “too many people of color”, in use Monica’s own sardonic words.

Obviously, Spencer Harman (Michael Chernus) from ChumHum denies that the filter is racist, saying it’s purely about math, so Alicia steps in with a potential solution: ChumHum will admit no wrongdoing, but they’ll give Divya $50,000 to open a new restaurant, an offer that the other side scoffs at that, considering the company is worth $300 billion. But their stock is down 22% since Harman took over as CEO, which Cary Agos points out, leading to the first instance of weird flirty eye contact between himself and Lucca.

Speaking of forced relationships! Courtney Paige and Eli Gold are having dinner, and I’m being given zero reasons to believe in this match-up, as she’s complaining about how much he’s been talking about Alicia, asking Eli if he’s in love with her. Perfect. And then things get even more romantic, as Courtney writes a $50,000 check for Divya to start her own restaurant. No I’m sorry, it’s for Eli to run a focus group to see if Alicia has been rehabilitated or if she’s still tainted by her scandal.

If she is, it would pretty much serve her right, because Alicia couldn’t be more wooden as she’s making a video for the housewives of Iowa, being coached through by Ruth Eastman, with whom she’s getting along pretty well. (Watch your back, Eli.) But then Jason comes in, to come clean to Alicia about also freelancing for Lockhart, Agos, & Lee, and that’s all out the door. With every bit of eye contact, hair-tossing, and arm touching, Ruth’s eyes get narrower and narrower; the Flirt Police are here, and you two need to come on down to the station.

In court, Diane Lockhart is making the argument that ChumHum’s software interferes with black businesses, but Lucca rightly points out that interference requires intent, and calls Harman to the stand to prove it’s absent in this case. Harman testifies that the filters are compiled out of math and user data, so ChumHum themselves couldn’t interfere even if they wanted to. Which is true, except there’s a little problem: COS useres (I mean we’re really going whole hog on the iPhone and Google comparisons, here) have a big racial disparity that almost certainly plays into this: they’re 71% white and just 11% black. So with that pool of users, Judge Michael Marx (Dominic Chianese) rules that ChumHum should’ve known the data was generated largely by Caucasians, and therefore problematic, and refuses to dismiss the case. Instead, he approves partial discovery for the prosecution, covering all racist references in Chummy Maps.

Meanwhile, Eli’s going to get his focus group, as he’s sitting down for some nice desk slapstick with Brooks Volk (Kevin Kilner), asking him to secretly find out what housewives think of Alicia running for Senate, without her finding out about it. Eli also gets pulled aside by the Flirt Police, who are very concerned about all the arm-touching that went on between Alicia and Jason, but more importantly in front of a bunch of strangers with cameras, and promises to do something about it.

For limited discovery, everyone’s poring over ChumHum documents, deciding whether they’re responsive or non-responsive forms of racism, when Alicia comes across an email from coder Kip O’Neil (Kit Williamson) asking his superior why they include home-ownership rates. They didn’t ultimately do it, but they talked about it, which could be an issue, because it would disadvantage poorer neighborhoods. Not great. But when they go to the very cool and granola-filled ChumHum offices, Alicia and Lucca are reassured that they have nothign to worry about: 100% of the data comes from the hands of the users, because they want to avoid another ominous-sounding “Animal Incident”. Which FA LA LA LA LA LA Alicia and Lucca don’t want to hear anything about, because it doesn’t have to do with Chummy Maps LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

In the LA&L offices, Monica is going over discovery and ribbing Cary about the associates “Biff and Skippy” that he hired instead of her. Cary asks if calling them those stereotypically white names is reverse racism, and she (again, rightfully) points out that harm is necessary for racism. Neither is finding anything too racist in discovery, but they do notice that they each have different banner ads — Monica has soul food, and Cary has skiing, which means the ads are mining their personal data, and they might have a foothold to expand discovery. And since ChumHum is using their entire user suite to pull data for the banner ads, Judge Marx rules in favor of Cary and Diane’s request, granting full discovery, not just limited to Chummy Maps.

Meanwhile, Eli is showing up at Alicia’s to talk to her about Jason, presumably driven by the desire to destroy every relationship that has more chemistry than his own. But Alicia isn’t there, so he talks to Jason instead, grilling him on his romantic life and accusing him of getting close to Alicia. Jason, of course, is as ice cold as always, saying these are questions for Alicia, not for him, and taking his glasses off and repeating himself to drive the point home. Okay up, works for me! Tire iron not necessary, thanks!

A little while later, Alicia gets home, and Eli tries his same line of questioning on her, asking what’s going on there. She’s trying to cut through it, asking Eli what he’s trying to say, and dropping this doozy: “When I sleep with Jason, you’d rather I keep it private?” Damn girl! But actually, it sounds like he’d rather she keep it nonexistent, giving her rules like no touching in public, always have a chaperone, and no going to bars or hotels. And Alicia vaguely resembles her old self for a second, telling Eli that even if she was sleeping with Jason, this conversation couldn’t be taking place, because she wouldn’t let it. He wants to make sure she heard him, though, and she’s like, “I didn’t hear you, I won’t hear you.” But you know who can? Jason, through the French doors. And he’s acting pretty cold all of a sudden; doesn’t even accept the offer of a drink from Tequilalicia!

The next day, going through full discovery this time, Lucca comes upon an email to ChumHum customer service about their search platform autocompleting his name to something racist. You type in “Jamal”, it autofills with “…stole my car”. Woof. But Canning says it’s still non-responsive, since those autocompletes come from user searches. So they’re not racist, but their users are. Wonderful. Also, since we’re in full discovery, the “Animal Incident” is on the table now. It turns out to be an incident where the photo-identifying software had tagged a black woman as an animal. Which is, yeah, a pretty huge problem.

One place we apparently don’t have a problem is in Alicia’s rehabilitation, because Eli and Courtney are looking at footage of a focus group on her, and they apparently love her. So that’s a little nugget I’m sure we’ll come back to later. Eli also has a mission for No Last Name Nora, and the response that the writers have given her to say is, “Sounds very…mission-like.” Someone get this girl a storyline. Please.

Back at LA&L, one of the White Law babies discovers Kip O’Neil was mugged a year before creating the software, which is an issue because if his mugger was African-American, that could provide proof of racial motivation. And we also get a more appealing look at Cary when he quips, “Pretty good work by Biff!” Okay, I like that.

Across the city, Alicia and Lucca are back at ChumHum to talk about the Animal Incident, and Alicia was expecting Jason to be there, but he told Lucca he assumed she’d want him to limit his hours on this one. Cue some Joey Tribbiani-patented “smell the fart” acting from Julianna Margulies. Coder Josh Shelby (Noah Robbins) is here to explain how it happened: three years ago, the system really struggled with light and shadow, which led to it not being able to tell the difference between an animal and a black person. Gah. He wants to be clear that it got a lot of other stuff wrong too, just nothing that ever involved mistaking a white person for an animal. He keeps saying he didn’t give it enough examples, which makes sense when you look around the ChumHum office; it’s all twenty-something white dudes. To Alicia, this suggests an implicit bias, because these people just code what they know, and she wants to label it responsive, but Canning says no, because the software has been corrected. Lucca agrees he’s wrong, but points out he’s paying them, so they term it non-responsive. That can’t possibly come back to bite us in the ass!

Back at Alicia’s apartment, Nora is at the door, so her mission was apparently to spy on Alicia and Jason. And perfect timing, here’s Jason now! And Lucca’s going to meet up with Cary, so they’ll be alone together! Whomp whomp. At the meeting, Cary basically only wanted to talk to Lucca about the 2013 mugging, and to see if she’d ask her client about the race of the assailants, but she gets pissed and says he should’ve asked Alicia to come next time as well. And back at home, Alicia is having a very awkward conversation with Jason about whether Eli talked to him. Which cues Jason to go into this really quietly intense explanation of how he didn’t use to like his life, and now he keeps things simple and doesn’t do anything that makes him uncomfortable. Honestly can we just get this guy an Emmy? I’m obsessed with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance on this show so far. Nora interrupts their conversation, however, to make sure they’re not doing it, and Jason goes on his way, to find out the race of the mugger or muggers.

And he’s back! Turns out they were white, but, Kip O’Neil sent some racist jokes to his coworkers a few weeks before launching Chummy Maps, which is a problem! He claims that they’re “meta jokes”, jokes about jokes, that he and his coworkers sent to unwind while they were working 100 hours a week. So Canning elects to include those emails in their discovery, but also include every racist joke on the internet that’s turned up by ChumHum’s search engine. Which leads them to provide a discovery for LA&L that’s five times the size of the Library of Congress. Classy.

Meanwhile, Nora is refusing to go back to Alicia’s, because it’s embarrassing. Kudos to you for putting your foot down. Speaking of embarrassment, that’s what I feel after Eli and Courtney’s quick, chaste kiss on the lips in this scene, before Ruth pulls Eli into her office. She has a file on Jason, and she wants Eli to give it to Alicia, which he’s saying he won’t do, because it won’t work. “Alicia doesn’t scare,” he says. But Ruth disagrees. All women scare, and he’s gonna have to use it. WHAT DOES IT SAY?

At LA&L, Biff, whose real name is Brian Carter (Brian Muller), but we might as well embrace it, has been looking at the algorithms, and located a patch ensuring that the word “animal” can never be used in a photo tag. So instead of fixing the actual problem, he just fixed this particular instance of it and tried to hide the evidence. This comes up in court, obviously, where Judge Marx wants to know if this photo was included in discovery. She says no, and he’s pissed because the firm included 50 terabytes of other data that were responsive, and excluded this. She gets found in contempt of court, and has to pay $5,000, even though it wasn’t her idea. Nobody cares, you still effed up!

Back in Machoworld, Eli is meeting with Jason, who is pretty fed up with his questions at this point. So Eli just hands him the file and says the campaign wants him to give it to Alicia. Jason isn’t worried, because Alicia knows all about his arrest record, but Eli’s like oh yeah, what about this? “Why are you investigating Alicia?” OH DAMN HERE WE GO. Now we’re finally getting somewhere. Jason says he looked into her when he was going into business with her, but Eli doesn’t believe him, and I’m left wondering — in a battle of Jason and Eli, who wins? I don’t think I know.

In order to settle the ChumHum case, the defense is offering to fire Josh, change the safe filter default settings to opt-in, rather than the filters showing up all the time, and change it so the business icons in “sketchy” areas don’t switch off. Butttttt no money. And that’s because Divya’s restaurant was apparently already failing before the maps were instituted, which they know from looking at her business records, which she stored on the cloud and gave ChumHum full access to them when she signed up for the free service. Ouchies.

Cary wants to go celebrate with Lucca, which explains their weird eye contact earlier, and I’m excited to see how this complicates the relationship between Alicia and…everybody.

And finally, in the last scene of the episode, Eli comes to Alicia’s door with the info, and gets it all out, including the part where Jason’s looked into her past, only to have the door slammed in his face. So we have no idea what direction Alicia’s gonna go with this. Talk about a cliffhanger! (I bet they still bone.)

‘The Good Wife’ Recap 7×09: ‘Too Many People of Color’