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October 25, 2011 / mandalaymai

Marthas and Caitlins

My initial reaction on viewing last night’s The Good Wife was, “Why isn’t there more Kalinda?”  It’s a totally valid question, because Kalinda is the bomb and, IMO, waaay more interesting than watching Lisa Edelstein do this female version of House that you can tell she’s kind of been dying to do for YEARS.  My second reaction was to wonder about the episode title, ‘Marthas and Caitlins.’  The title refers to the C plot in last night’s episode, a minor storyline that might have even been a pointless time-waster and kind of an odd place for Alicia to spend a good chunk of this episode.  Martha and Caitlin are the two finalists for a first-year Associate position at Lockhart Gardner and Alicia is a little too excited at the opportunity to hire and then mentor the winner.

Alicia or Celeste? or Martha and Caitlin?

But, after the episode was over, I realized why the episode was titled that way. See, Martha and Caitlin are two very different types. Presumably, they are in all academic respects equal, otherwise they wouldn’t be neck and neck for the coveted job. As we see snippets of their interviews, we get to the heart of the matter: the real difference is one of personality and style.
Martha is a veritable Good Wife 2.0. She looks professional and sober, serious and put together in an understated way. Her hobbies are foreign film (Fellini, anyone?) and her answers were all interview-proof and perfect. She can work on her own, but is happy to be part of a team. The perfectly balanced answer to show a prospective employer that you can take initiative, but you do work well with others and you are not a credit-hog, glory-hound.

By contrast, Caitlin is bubbly and seemingly immature. Her interview answers were good, and she was also put together very well, attractive and professional. But, her persona was a little chipper and over-friendly. Her hobby was something involving skateboards without wheels and
trampolines. She used vernacular phrases like, “cool” and said that litigation “turned her on.” You can practically see Alicia thinking, “Really? THAT’S how you wanted to say that?” in the stilted way she then asks Caitlin, “The University of Chicago – what ‘turned you on’ there?” Trust me, the quotes were there in the way Alicia said it.You can see where this is going right? Alicia wants Martha, only to realize that some nepotism is at play and the decision was never really hers to make. Enter Caitlin.

What’s interesting is that the Caitlin and Martha dynamic to an extent pervades the other female-female relationships in this episode. Diane
and Celeste (the aforementioned Lisa Edelstein), and Alicia and Celeste are both set up to show Diana and Alicia as the Marthas, while the irreverent Celeste is meant to be the eccentric and odd Caitlin. It does seem a little forced, especially in the way that she tries to be cool and maverick-like. I particularly rolled my eyes when Celeste went off on one of her rants about not being able to be friends with girls (I was half waiting for her to say, “Because, like, all other girls are so JEALOUS of me!”) and boldly announcing her desire to interfere in Will and Alicia’s relationship.

But, the Martha and Caitlin dynamic shows up in another place as well. It shows up in the relationship between Alicia’s daughter Grace and her
tutor, Jennifer. Jennifer is way more of an odd duck than any other character that I am talking about here. A college student whose hobby is making Youtube videos where she basically assaults people with her dancing…I don’t even know what it’s called. But eventually, over the past few episodes, Grace has warmed up to her. Alicia doesn’t care for it when Grace shows up in one of the Youtube videos and asks Jennifer to stick to tutoring Grace and leave it at that. The parallels between the two conversations is apparent as Alicia carries the exact same look on her face, as if wondering WHY anyone would choose to spend their time dancing on Youtube or skateboarding on a trampoline. She only gets to ask Jennifer that question aloud, and Jennifer doesn’t really have an answer.

All this is pretty straightforward until the turn at the end. Alicia confronts Will about why he chose to go over her head and hire Caitlin, along with the rest of the hiring committee. Will owns up to the fact that he owed someone his vote because, “There was also a Martha when we hired you,
Alicia.” In that instance, he was the one pressuring his people to go with the more eccentric candidate, the less obvious choice. It’s a nice turnaround, because throughout the episode, we have been set up to believe that Alicia is the Martha. She is the straight down the middle, proper and appropriate choice and instead we are made more aware that a determination like that is almost always based on your point of view. And, as Will says, “The Caitlins often surprise you.”

P.S. – I also figured why there was no more Kalinda in this episode. Because this episode was about Caitlins and Marthas. Kalinda is always, only ever Kalinda. Thank god and the makers of leather knee boots!


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