Let’s Take the Politics Out of This

Political Animals Episode 4, “Lost Boys,” Review and Recap

In this week’s fourth installment of the USA miniseries, our animals become a lot less political, and a lot more personal. Plot-wise, we actually didn’t cover a lot of ground. Elaine finally told Garcetti she was running against him, TJ backslid (again), and Bud gave up womanizing. Character-wise, this episode was all about TJ and, surprisingly, Georgia. She became an actual character this week, not just a device so that Susan could feel what it was like to get cheated on. Let’s dive in.

We open with Doug, Susan’s new pet monkey, recapping the last few weeks of Hammond family life, for Susan and for the viewer. Garcetti has sent Elaine all around the world to keep her from campaigning, TJ got a “sober partner” to keep him, well, sober, and Bud got a Hollywood publicist and did a tearful interview expressing his love for Elaine. Again, plot wise, not that earth shattering for a show with only two episodes left.

Elaine’s big hurrah was a security crisis in the form of a Chinese submarine sinking off the coast of California and disagreeing with Garcetti about how to deal with it, again. Eventually, after Vice President A**hole confronts her about it, Elaine tells Garcetti that she is running against him. She visits him late at night while he’s with his son to tell him that she’s running and she’s going to resign after he saves the Chinese men. I actually thought it was really interesting to show Garcetti with his son. This episode reminded us that that the Hamonds aren’t the only family in politics, and what they do can have ramifications against more than just their political rivals. But this was as political as the show got this week.

On the journalism front Georgia interviews Anne about her interior design business. Fascinating stuff. Until Georgia slips in a question about Elaine’s campaign and Anne confirms without meaning to. Anne has now moved up from the most useless character to the stupidest! I didn’t think anyone could out-dumb our pretty brunette blogger but, by Georgia, Anne did it! And here we see Georgia have some depth for the first time. Susan told her to take herself seriously, and she did. After Doug turns to Susan for help and Susan confronts Georgia, we see Georgia hold her ground and demand a shared byline with Susan on her story. When Susan says no and tells Doug this, he reveals something about Susan to herself: she wants Elaine to succeed. Not just professionally, but personally. This has been clear from the first episode, that Susan’s initial hatred of Elaine came out of jealousy and idolization. And now Susan knows it to. She bites the bullet and takes on Georgia as a partner.

But the real focus of the episode was TJ. Last week’s Doug flashbacks were replaced with TJ flashbacks, to right around the time he tried to kill himself. It’s the happiest time of his life. He’s sober, and he’s in love, with a closeted Republican congressman who is attempting to pass a bad bill. The Democrats find out about the affair and want to blackmail the Congressman into dropping his bill. When Elaine confronts TJ and tells him what the Dems are going to do, he says something I think about politics all the time: “we’re supposed to be better than them!” But Elaine is a realist, and knows they’re going to do it no matter what. TJ tries to convince Congressman Gay that the blackmail is a good thing, because he can finally come out. Unfortunately, Congressman Gay isn’t having it, he wants his career and his family and his power, and not really TJ anymore. He calls him a “national punchline” and dumps him. And now we know why TJ tried to kill himself. And we see him try it.

Back in the present, Bud is with his publicist, clothes off, talking shop. She informs him that he can’t go to TJ’s club opening, because he would appear sleazy. It’s not lost on Bud, or us, that he is sleazy, but hey, politics is all about how everything looks. When he tells TJ he won’t come, it turns into a family fight. Bud refuses to admit that he won’t go for himself, and blames TJ’s bad decisions. Elaine gets involved and soon the whole family’s arguing. TJ leaves for his club opening alone (well with his sober buddy).  For some reason said 24-hour sober buddy leaves him alone long enough for him to get free cocaine from one of his partners and then to snort it. When he finds TJ high, instead of taking him home, he lets TJ to convince him to get high and then allows TJ to OD. This guy should probably think of a different career path. The episode ends with Bud, having dumped his publicist both personally and professionally, rushing to the club and finding TJ passed out on the floor.

I suppose this does count as motion in the TJ storyline. We at least learn why he is the way he is, even if he’s not changing at all. I admit that it is probably incredibly hard for people like him to change, but change is what stories are about, and he is in a story. We’ll see what happens next week, and find out whether the OD (I assume it’s an OD, he took a bunch of drugs and then passed out) was intentional or not. And possibly we’ll get a little more politics in this political show? Nah. Sex, drugs, and intrigue are way better.

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