‘The Good Wife’ Season 3, Episode 13, ‘Bitcoin for Dummies’: TV Recap

Although a fairly low energy episode, requiring far too much attention to tedious detail, “Bitcoin for Dummies” delivers a big payoff: In a surprising twist, Kalinda is forced to betray either Will or Alicia. Her decision has the potential to bring one lawyer to ruin.

Bitcoin Casino

But first, the court case: The drama opens to the ominous beat of what turns out to be Timbre, Timbre’s “Magic Arrow,” signaling a gun fight. Dylan Stack (“American Pie’s” Jason Biggs) sits alone, anxious but defiant, in the Lockhart, Gardner waiting room. Soon enough, two Federal Treasury agents show up, warning, “This isn’t a game, Mr. Stack.”

Alicia, stunning in a shirred jersey dress I believe we have seen before, comes to his rescue. Stack has contacted Mrs. Florrick because of her own successfully resolved troubles with Treasury. He practices digital law in New York; the Feds want him to give up the name of a client who invented “bitcoin,” a new currency traded and spent online. Stack has promised his client anonymity, but the FBI says it’s a violation of federal law for individuals to create currency systems. Confronted with the prospect of 18 months in jail if he doesn’t submit to questioning, Stack tosses wads of cash on Alicia’s desk and asks her to represent him. “I’m putting on a good face,” he says. “Actually, I’m terrified.”

Yes, but you still have to pay by cashier’s check, says Diane, happy to have such a clearly solvent client.

Simultaneously, another showdown is shaping up at the semi-demolished office of Will’s ditzy attorney Elspeth Tascioni. “They found asbestos in there,” she explains to the special prosecution team, offering something to drink and “blankets if anybody’s cold.” Wendy Scott-Carr wants to know if Will saw judges placing bets with Jonathan Mead, the bookie at Gardner’s games. But as usual, Elspeth gets the better of her opponents, this time by forcing Cary Agos to “narrow down” the names of the judges the SA is investigating to three: Winter, Dunaway and Parks. Will, meanwhile, says he remembers nothing.

At home, Alicia (wearing minimal makeup—a nice, realistic touch) gets her kids to explain bitcoin (an even more realistic touch). When she overhears Zach and his friend Nisa say “I love you,” she stops in her tracks. Later, she tells Zach he’s moving too fast; he asks her if the real objection is that Nisa is black. “Zach! You don’t believe that,” she says. It’s just that they’re both young, there will be other people, blah blah blah.

In court, Treasury attorney Gordon Higgs (Bob Balaban) is searching for “‘Mr. Bitcoin,’ what we’ve come to designate the mysterious creator of this new internet currency. We believe this unregulated currency is being used in a digital black market, guaranteeing anonymity to money launderers, drug dealers and child pornographers.”

There’s a lengthy debate about whether Stack is legally required to reveal Bitcoin’s identity, concluding with Judge Sobel declaring, “een, meeny ,miney mo—that’s a joke, folks—the government’s motion is denied.”

That doesn’t stop Higgs from arresting Stack “for being Mr. Bitcoin. We’ve come to realize he is Mr. Bitcoin and the penalty for creating a currency is 10 to 30 years.”

When Alicia objects, Higgs counters, “Occam’s Razor, Your Honor: The person signing the checks, incorporating, and becoming the public face of the company is the company.”

A self-confessed “sucker for Occam’s Razor,” the judge grants Stack bail and says he’ll hear arguments the next day.

Back at the office, Diane, dazzling in a dusty rose jacket, points out the difficulty in proving a negative—how can they show Stack isn’t Bitcoin when they don’t know who Bitcoin is? Stack refuses to give them information on his client, which Kalinda interprets as a go-ahead for her to dig. Meanwhile, Will, rallying to the case, suggests they “play offense, not defense. Bitcoin isn’t a currency but a commodity, and there’s no crime if bitcoin is a commodity, just something to be traded like a bushel of fruit.”

Kalinda, after pointing out that Stack could indeed be Bitcoin, walks down to the parking garage with Will. “I am vulnerable,” he tells her of his own legal situation. “It’s innocent but it looks bad. When I stopped gambling, this friend, my bookie, Jonathan Mead, he forgave my debt…$8000…it could look like a payoff for setting him up with these judges. My guess is Wendy is trying to tie it to a case we won. They’re looking at three judges: Winter, Dunaway and Parks. Could you look at our cases before them? I want to anticipate which ones they’ll hit.”

Will is clearly feeling the stress. “I don’t want to go to jail,” he says. “Up until this week, I never thought I would.”

“It’s making you more human,” Kalinda says.

Will laughs. “That’s not much of a trade-off.”

In court, Alicia calls CNBC’s resident loud mouth, Jim Cramer, as a witness for the defense. He testifies that he doesn’t consider bitcoin a currency: “There’s no central bank to regulate it, it’s digital and functions completely peer to peer.”

When Treasury attorney Higgs gets belligerent in cross-examination, bringing up Cramer’s abrasive TV persona, Judge Sobel intervenes, asking him to be more cordial; Sobel then apologizes to the “Mad Money” host, adding, “I’m a great fan.”

In a throwaway line that amuses nonetheless, Cramer says that no apology is necessary: “Was it Montaigne who said, ‘How many valiant men can survive their own reputation’?” Jim Cramer, fourth Musketeer.

Kalinda—and aren’t we happy to see her back in action!—hits a cryptography convention in search of Mr. Bitcoin and follows a female big shot into the ladies’ room, leading to one of the best put-downs ever.

“Elaine Middleton, MIT,” the woman introduces herself.

“Kalinda Sharma, St. Mary’s High,” says our girl, adding, “I did a linguistic match on the bitcoin manifesto and guess what popped up?…Everybody’s looking for Mr. Bitcoin, when it’s Mrs. Bitcoin.”

Maybe not; Elaine points her finger at a Chinese “econophysicist,” Bao Shuwei.

They’re interrupted by a call to Kalinda from ASA Dana Lodge: “I’m staring at a document you might be interested in.”

When they meet, Dana (under Wendy Scott-Carr’s direction) tells Kalinda she needs help with the Gardner case. “You have a choice to make.”

“People always say choice when I think they mean ultimatum,” Kalinda says.

“We need to decide which case makes him most vulnerable,” Dana says, handing her a piece of paper. “That is Alica Florrick’s signature on what we believe is a forged document recently sent to us by an attorney in a divorce case against your firm. That’s felony, forging a document and perjuring. We prove this, Alicia gets disbarred. Will or her. We want Will Gardner.”

Crumbling the document and tossing it back, Kalinda leaves.

Back at the never-ending hearing, there are some funny bits where a guest and manager at the Priority Inn testify on Stack’s behalf. The guest paid for his room, and apparently an in-room porno movie, with bitcoin. The manager accepted bitcoin as he would Frequent Flyer miles. After a lot of legal hair-splitting (this stuff is boring enough to watch, let alone recap), even the judge has had it: “You know I’d love to hear more about this saga at the Priority Inn in Crestview,” says Sobel, “but I’m ready to rule. Bitcoin is a currency.”

That decided, they will return tomorrow to determine if Stack is the creator of this illegal tender.

Back in teenagers in love territory, Zach, after promising Alicia he’ll ease up on Nisa’s visits to their apartment, takes her to his dad’s apartment. (Clever boy.) But instead of absolute privacy they get…Jackie!

The senior Mrs. Florrick is none too thrilled at this continuing relationship, undoubtedly for all the wrong reasons. But like Alicia, she tosses out the “very young” and “other people” arguments, with the added fillip of “you have such different experiences, now that you’re in [private school] Capshaw, and you don’t want to be driving across town.” Surprised to hear that Alicia also thinks Zach is moving too fast, she tells him, “Your mother is probably right.”

This sets up Zach for a great adolescent moment, where he manipulates Alicia by confiding that Jackie agrees with her, adding that Jackie’s objection isn’t a matter of race, but because he is in private school, Nisa in public school.

Five seconds later he’s on the phone: “Hey, Nisa? Come on over. My mom says it’s fine.”

Back at Cryptcon or whatever it is, Kalinda finds Bao Shuwei, who says he had identified Elaine as Bitcoin, and that’s why she’s now fingering him (sheesh! Could this plot get any more convoluted, and not in any good way?). He tells her to check out a new embedding in the bitcoin code, a statement that says Stack is innocent.

This allows Alicia to argue that her client was in court when it was embedded, so he couldn’t have done it. (Except of course for that delayed release thing, as Higgs points out.)

Kalinda returns to Bao and asks him to find out where the encryption came from. Surprise!

“It was embedded from here?” says Diane. “So we think it’s him?… Well, he’s still our client and we need to represent him.”

Diane also asks Kalinda to keep her informed about Will’s case, so she can help if needed.

Any such help will be tricky. Meeting with Will and Elspeth (and you can imagine how much patience Kalinda has with that attorney’s dithering), the investigator tells them that their worst case is “the McDermott product tampering.” The bench trial with Parks resulted in an $8 million windfall for the firm, even though the evidence wasn’t there.

When Kalinda tells Elspeth “there’s stuff in the file that could make Will look bad,” his lawyer says, “Good to know. I’m going to go now.” That gives Gardner the chance to tell Kalinda, “Get rid of it.” Will she? If yes, she’s going to flip Alicia to the SA, if no, Will.

But wait! Before she can decide, there’s still more work on the Bitcoin front.

Doing a deeper analysis, Bao discovers that the “Stack is innocent” statement was embedded on Kalinda’s own computer, so now she has to be interrogated by Treasury. Alicia tells Higgs that it was ghosting, but “to deny that Ms. Sharma did it is not to say that Mr. Stack did it.” Any one of Kalinda’s suspects could have ghosted her computer.

Now it’s Elaine helping Kalinda (will this story ever end?). “Whoever ghosted your computer wanted to be found out,” she says, adding that this person also did a search of addresses she’d recently accessed.

Smiling, Kalinda says, “I know who it is.”

Meanwhile, Diane, smart enough to stay as far from this incredibly uninteresting case as she can, advises Alicia to prove that Higgs is still looking for Mr. Bitcoin, which means he doesn’t really believe Stacks is his guy.

When Kalinda again confronts Bao, the cryptographer says he can’t talk in front of the Feds, who are conspicuously watching him; she should meet him later in his hotel room. She alerts Higgs, but when they enter the room, Bao’s gone. Only a note remains, confessing that he did indeed invent bitcoin and adding that he is dropping his obsession with Elaine in Kalinda’s favor: “I love you.”

When Alicia calls Kalinda to the stand, she is surprisingly demure in a lovely knit dress (omnipresent black tank underneath). She innocently testifies that “Mr. Higgs said he believed I was on the right track in finding Mr. Bitcoin—Bao Shuwei.”

When Higgs objects that this is “hearsay,” she counters, “No. I recorded it. By accident. I just got a new phone and I didn’t know how to turn it off.”

Back at the firm, Stack gives Alicia a cashier’s check and thanks Kalinda, who tells him she’s decided “there is not a Mr. Bitcoin. There’s three—Elaine wrote the manifesto and Bao wrote the code. You were hoping to lose the Treasury in a round robin.”

Gunfight music booming, he departs, and the “Magic Arrow” lyrics play—“ghastly vision, your magic arrow flies precision,” and various other images I’ll let you guys decipher—as Kalinda meets Dana.

“What do you have?” the ASA asks.

Kalinda pulls out the big brown SLG-McDermott file that incriminates Will and shoves it toward her.

“Thank you,” says Dana, grabbing her hand.

Giving her a disgusted look, Kalinda exits, emotionally exhausted.

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