The B*tch is Back

Political Animals Episode 3 Review and Recap

Holy political tactics, Batman! The characters on Political Animals are sure upping the stakes and what they are willing to do to get things done. In the third episode of the miniseries, aptly title “The Woman Problem,” the show tackles a problem head on that they’ve only subtly dealt with up until this point. Why would people vote for a woman? Why don’t people vote for a woman? Did Elaine lose two years ago because she is a woman? What does it mean to be a woman in really any profession? I don’t know if they really answered these questions fully, but they certainly took a big whack at them.

The episode centered on last episode’s big reveal, that Elaine would challenge the sitting president in the primary. But where last time the show focused on the familial ramifications of that decision, this time we get to look at the political side of Political Animals. Somehow, the rumor that Elaine is going to make this primary bid has reached President Garcetti, and his response is to attempt to get liberal Supreme Court Justice Diane Nash (Vanessa Redgrave, a delight as usual) to step down so he can appoint Elaine. Shrewd move Garcetti! But the most interesting aspect of this was Redgrave’s character, supposedly a openly gay US Supreme Court Justice. I love the optimism of this show. Elaine is loved for her independence and her divorce, and a gay woman is on the Supreme Court. I want to live in that world. It’s also a great move of the writers, who give their characters plenty of time to hash out the woman problem, but give us the woman solution I talked about in my review of episode 1 with the facts of life in their fictional world. It’s an impressive strategy.

However, this episode is really all about Doug. As Camp Barrish gets the wheels in motion for a run, he’s still not thrilled about the whole idea, and says so. But he still agrees to go away with his father and TJ on a Potemkin fishing trip to visit a pollster and find out Elaine’s odds. In the episode we get two campaign flashbacks that help explain the dynamic between Bud and Doug and between Doug and Elaine. We also learn that Doug isn’t quite as straight edge as one might have surmised. There are also two pointless Anne cameos. She is the flattest of flat characters and we’ve had no word on her bulimia since episode one. I wonder if she’s there only to create family events that Bud and Elaine have to attend at the same time. Doug’s development in this episode had nothing to do with her. It was really about him forgiving his father, and realizing that he’s not entirely a villain. Their reconciliation at the end of the episode was great, and made me for the first time not hate old hammy Hammond.

In other news the TJ-can’t-stay-sober-but-he-wants-to-run-a-nightclub drama continues. I’m getting a little tired of this storyline if only because nothing ever changes (but I did just notice over the weekend that Sebastian Stan played Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger, talk about mind-blown).

Over in the land of journalists, everything is changing. Susan is hot on the trail of the story that Doug gave her last episode. She’s even lying to her cheating ex-boyfriend/editor about it, to keep it a true exclusive. When the Garcetti Supreme Court plan gets leaked to the paper, Susan turns tactical, telling Elaine about Garcetti’s plan so she can outmaneuver him and Susan’s story can be saved. When you think about the actual ramifications of this, Susan is potentially changing the outcome of a presidential election so she can get a good story. That’s kind of a big deal. But she didn’t bat an eye. In a side-story, homewrecker Georgia is sad because her new boyfriend shot down her serious news story. When Susan finds her crying in her office, she delivers my favorite line of the episode: “Don’t shit where you eat and then cry about it.” She’s back in form, over the hurt we saw last episode. We learn this in full when Doug meets her again to beg her not to publish the story about his mother, because he’s changed his mind. She agrees, and he breathes a sigh of relief…until she reveals that when she publishes after the announcement she’s going to use everything she already has, and everything she’s going to blackmail Doug into giving her.

Conniving? Maybe. But it is a total microcosm of what the pollster said was Elaine’s problem in the debates of her first run: when she held back she seemed meek and womanly, but when she attacked, she seemed like a vicious bitch. The Woman Problem, in a nutshell. If Susan had taken a dive on a career-making story so that Doug could feel better, she would have seemed like an emotion-driven woman. Her tactics may seem harsh and yes, “bitchy,” but they were the right thing to do from Susan’s perspective. Glad to see that things are finally heating up.

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