Now that we’ve seen a grand total of four episodes of Political Animals, we feel comfortable enough to offer this list of things that will pop up each week.
1) Some kind of international diplomatic crisis will arise wherein Elaine can show the iron-like rigidity of her moral core, while Garcetti reveals what a spineless, pandering coward he is (see Journalists, Iran, and Chinese Submarine, Nuclear).
2) TJ will do a line while crying about how hard his life is and how hard it was growing up in the White House.
3) Susan will offer a completely unwanted impromptu lecture about what “real” journalism is, which sounds uncomfortably like it was written by Aaron Sorkin.
4) Elaine will wear a skirt so high-waisted it’s practically a facelift.
5) Time will flash back and forth in a way that would be completely confusing were it not measurable by the changing nature of Elaine’s hairstyle.
In last night’s episode, “Lost Boys,” the crisis of the week was the White House detecting a distress signal coming from a Chinese nuclear submarine 13 miles off the coast of San Diego. This gave Elaine the chance to reveal how many languages she speaks (Chinese, French, probably a gazillion more), but it also left her fuming when nobody (not the Chinese authorities, not her weaselly but handsome excuse for a boss) seemed to care about the 100 men who were going to get slowly cooked by the radiation from their own nuclear reactor.
Nevertheless, the submarine subplot seemed to be essentially a distraction from the mission of the episode, which opens with Elaine and her family in a flashback from two years ago discussing a congressman from Ohio named Sean Reeves. Reeves, says Nana, has “the best abs on the Hill” (cough, Aaron Schock, cough). But guess what? He’s also having an affair with TJ, and it’s Christmastime, and the pair seem to be basically in love until Reeves’s wife calls him and thoroughly ruins the moment.
In the present (or is it the future, or is it past like The Newsroom? I give up), Doug visits Susan at her sister’s house, and am I wrong or is there chemistry between these two? Until Susan reminds Doug that she has his balls in a vice, that is. He seems very interested in whether she has kids. Anyway, she plays hardball and he plays right back, saying, “You need me as much as I need you,” which may be true because for all her blustering, Susan doesn’t actually seem to have written a single story yet despite all the scoops she’s dug up.
Bud, meanwhile, has a new publicist called Mindy Meyers, whom he’s sleeping with, natch, and Anne has agreed to do an interview with Georgia Gibbons, which we all know is going to go badly because Anne is unstable and Georgia is a bitch. And Bud is now crying on TV, which is supposed to help his numbers by giving him a “tear bump” but isn’t helping him get where he really wants to go, which is Elaine’s pantsuits.
Elaine, of course, is busy doing Very Important Things, although now that she’s back from the world tour Garcetti sent her on (nice postcard montage) all she really wants to do is campaign. But the White House has discovered this submarine with lots of trapped people who will die if no one is brave enough to screw protocol and be human beings (sound familiar?), and the dickish VP is bitchy, and Elaine seems to be the only one worried about the lives, ladies and gentlemen, the very lives that will be lost.
Flashback to two years ago: The horrible VP intends to use knowledge of Sean Reeves’s gay affairs to blackmail him into breaking rank with his party and voting for a bill that gives money to children (the horror!). And Elaine says his tactics “disgust” her, and he says, Think this is disgusting? Your son is also involved, and I will blackmail you, too, if you don’t do what I want (I’m paraphrasing). Elaine, of course, tells TJ, and says that although what they’re doing is low, it’s all Reeves’s fault for cheating on his wife with a man. But TJ, who says he is in love with Reeves and that it’s only thanks to this dysfunctional extramarital affair that he’s been sober for the past six months, for some reason doesn’t seem to agree.
In the future/present/whatever, Elaine tries to get a Chinese official to agree to help by wooing him with her sultry French accent and engravings (really), but like all other politicians, he doesn’t want to do anything that will make his country look bad. And the VP confronts Elaine, saying they all know about her non-campaign and how disloyal she is, and she’s forced to deny she’s running at all, which makes her a big fat liar and as bad as everyone else, really.
Anne, meanwhile, is trying to tell Georgia Gibbons about the sweet 6,000-square-foot home she’s designing for RG III now that he’s a Redskin (top points for topicality), but GG just wants to press her on whether Elaine is running against Garcetti, and Anne melts under the pressure like ice cream on a grill. So Susan has to save the day, as usual, and we get another big long lecture about how Georgia’s silly blog story might get millions of pageviews but people won’t really read it (I don’t understand this either). “Journalism is about quality, not speed,” says Susan, which is absolutely not true. “You’ll be a blogger who broke a headline, not a journalist who broke a story.”
And Georgia, instead of slapping Susan upside the head and saying, HOW CAN YOU BREAK A HEADLINE, YOU STUPID WOMAN? gives in and says, Okay, oh great and powerful breaker of real news, teach me everything you know. And then she blackmails her to get a shared byline, which is the smartest thing she’s done in weeks.
In the episode’s real plot, TJ now has an NA sponsor named Gunnar, who is a gorgeous hunk of Swiss addiction, and is opening his club, which we all know will be his downfall into drugs and doom. Gunnar tries to tell TJ’s family how amazing a job he’s done by touting the guest list, which apparently includes not Henry Kissinger (who doesn’t like clubs much, we hear) but “whatshisname from The Voice and the congressman from Ohio.” Nice job, Gunnar. Everyone flips out that Sean Reeves is back in the picture, and TJ says none of them are welcome to come anymore, and then he goes to his new club, which is in a building called “the Stetson,” and does line after line of coke, and then gets Gunnar to do coke, too, and we all know where this is going.
Elaine goes to the White House to confront Garcetti about the Chinese submarine, and also to tell him that she’s running, and although she’s (a) being massively disloyal and (b) upbraiding him in a way that would make anyone else punch her in the face, he seems to stare at her for hours with what looks like grudging respect. (This is why women should rule the world.) “The President who leaves those men on the ocean floor deserves to be dethroned,” she says, which is a weird thing to say because the President doesn’t actually have a throne.
Bud fires Mindy because he doesn’t want to have sex with anyone but Elaine, and gets dressed so he can go to a club where underdressed coeds will presumably throw themselves at him. And we see flashbacks to Elaine discovering TJ’s barely breathing body two years ago, followed by Doug discovering TJ’s vomit-covered body in a back room at the club in the present day. And Susan tells Georgia, “If you wanna share a byline with me, you’d better be ready to earn it. Every word you type will be true.” Hooray for journalists typing things that are true!
What did you think of last night’s episode of Political Animals? Let us know in the comments.