A day in the life of U.S. Secretary of State, Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver) is never dull or boring. True to her promise to President Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar) that she would be resigning from her post so that she could start her campaign for presidentcy, Elaine delivers a hand-written letter of resignation before POTUS boards Air Force One to France. But wouldn’t you know it, Garcetti won’t accept her resignation and makes her a counter-offer instead: he wants her to be his running mate in the next election, effectively pushing out Fred Collier (Dylan Baker) from his current role as VP. SPOILER ALERT: minor spoilers
For weeks, Elaine’s son and chief of staff, Douglas Hammond (James Wolk) has been leaking secrets relating to his mother’s plans to run for president like a sieve to ambitious Washington Globe political reporter, Susan Berg (Carla Gugino). To complicate matters further, their little dalliance on the government plane makes the line between reporter/confidential source even blurrier. Knowing that publishing the resignation letter before the president even has it would jeopardize Douglas’ career in politics, Susan has to choose between her own career and that of her longer-term relationship as the Hammonds’ “go to” reporter.
Meanwhile, Douglas’ troubled twin brother, T.J. (Sebastian Stan) is finally leaving the hospital after his accidental drug overdose (disguised by the PR spinners as an allergic reaction to meds), escorted by his father, former POTUS, Bud (Ciaran Hinds) and their army of Secret Service agents. For all his faults as a husband to Elaine, Bud’s tough love approach towards T.J. is finally becoming one of simply unconditional fatherly love.
Before Elaine has a chance to make up her mind about accepting Garcetti’s offer, a national crisis happens when Air Force One crashes on its landing in France, with all aboard presumed dead. As search and rescue workers comb the scene of the wreckage for signs of life, the VEEP wastes no time in claiming the top job. As if this latest news is not enough on Elaine’s plate, after telling admitting to his mother that he is Susan’s White House source, Douglas decides to elope with his fiancée, Anne (Brittany Ishibashi).
I have a lot of favorite scenes from this episode, most of them involving T.J.:
• Bud leaving the hospital with T.J. as the proud and loving father of a talented and troubled son;
• T.J., with his twin brother in his old bedroom in his mother’s house, questioning how they shared the same womb but Douglas inherited all of their mom’s good qualities while he inherited all of their dad’s vices;
• Grandma Margaret (Ellen Burstyn) breaking down in tears as she asks T.J. how he turned from being the happy child he used to be into the troubled young man who has stopped fighting for the life he deserves;
• Elaine confides in Susan, just as she did in the Pilot, meeting at the zoo, in front of the elephant enclosure, once again reiterating that her love for her children outweighs everything else in her life
POLITICAL ANIMALS is a limited series on USA Network. At the time of writing, no renewal for a second season has been announced, although I hope this will be remedied soon because it is a great drama that deserves to be played out. The season finale “Resignation Day” airs on Sunday August 19 at 10/9c.
Additional Guest stars: Dan Futterman, Roger Bart, Meghann Fahy