A day in the personal and political lives of the Hammonds is guaranteed to never be boring. And being a working mother is even harder when you’re Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver), U.S. Secretary of State, trying to avert an international crisis turning into a nuclear disaster while coping with the reality of a drug-addicted son in the hospital for an accidental overdose.
As the Hammond family – former President Bud (Ciaran Hinds), ex-wife Elaine and their other son, Douglas (James Wolk) – gather in T.J.’s (Sebastian Stan) hospital room while he is unconscious, the conversation is not like any typical family. Douglas counts off the number of witnesses who can leak to the press about the reason T.J. is in the hospital while Bud considers hiring a fixer to deal with the political fallout.
As a woman who, unfortunately, is well-accustomed to making sure a personal crisis doesn’t become a public scandal, quickly asks Douglas to contact political reporter Susan Berg (Carla Gugino) to deal with the publicity side. She then asks her soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Anne (Brittany Ishibashi) and her former Vegas showgirl mother, Margaret (Ellen Burstyn), to prepare T.J.’s room to bring him home for his recovery. Turns out this preparation involves more than just making sure there are clean sheets on the bed as the pair turn every piece of furniture and its furnishings inside out to make sure there are no hiding places for drugs and alcohol.
In a short period of time, Susan has gone from being one of Elaine’s most vocal critics to being her frenemy as the two trade off stories and exclusive deals. As much as Susan refuses to be Elaine’s personal publicist, her ambition to prove she deserved the Pulitzer she won at the start of her career means she prints what she is asked in exchange for the exclusive ride-along with Douglas to San Diego where U.S. Navy divers are about to launch a rescue mission to save a hundred Chinese sailors stuck at the bottom of the ocean in a submarine.
There are a lot of rather unusual pairings in “16 Hours” that expose the truth behind the perception we have of each character. For the most part, I have thought of Bud as such a caricature that I wondered how he was ever elected as a two-term president. But in the sixteen hours that transpires between his discovery of his troubled son slumped unconscious on the floor of his new nightclub and the end when T.J. wakes, I have a new-found respect for the man, despite all his womanizing flaws.
Then there’s the Douglas-Susan dynamic that has been building up for a while, ever since he made that covert call to her to break the story about his mother deciding to run for president against the current POTUS. But the most interesting pairing of “16 Hours” is that of Anne and the no-nonsense, sassy Margaret, who proves that one can never ignore her street-smarts. It seems that amongst all the political correctness and ambitions, Margaret is the one person who sees the truth for what it is.
A few minor spoilers/teasers:
- High and drunk seem to be de rigueur if you know a Hammond
- There’s a lot of sex that goes on on the Secretary of State’s plane – at least for one particular person
- Someone gets punched in the face – and I cheered
Political Animals “16 Hours” airs on USA Network, Sunday August 12 at 10/9c
Guest Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Dylan Baker, Dan Futterman and Roger Bart