Episode Title: 'The Woman Problem'
Director: Michael Morris
Writers: Phil Klemmer, Brian Peterson and Kelly Sounders
In a flashback to two years earlier, Bud (Ciaran Hinds) makes some damaging remarks in an interview about Elaine's relationship with female voters. Elaine (Sigourney Weaver) asks Doug (James Wolk) to wrangle his father in.
In the present day, Elaine sits down with Supreme Court Judge, Diane Nash (Vanessa Redgrave) after presenting her with an award. Nash suspects Elaine is running for President and advises her to watch out for Garcetti. At The Washington Globe, there's talk of Elaine's run, but Susan (Carla Gugino) shoots it down as "cocktail chatter."
That night during dinner, Elaine tells her family of her intentions to run. Just then Bud shows up and says he plans to meet with a pollster. Afterwards, Elaine confronts Doug about giving T.J. money for his nightclub.
Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar) talks to Nash about her retirement and says he wants Elaine to replace her. Alex gets word of this from a source and tells Susan who then warns Elaine. Elsewhere, Bud and the boys visit the lake house of Jubel, a pollster who's wife Bud slept with.
In a flashback, Doug tries to talk to his father about an upcoming interview but Bud blows it off. That night Doug does Ecstasy with Anne (Brittany Ishibashi) and T.J. (Sebastian Stan) at a party. He wakes up in the morning to see Bud make another embarrassing comment in the interview. He accuses Bud of destroying the campaign, but Bud says it was her campaign manager's fault.
Elaine meets with Nash to tell her about Garcetti's plans. Nash advices Elaine to take the seat on the Supreme Court, as her ambition will not be received well.
At Jubel's lake house, Doug finds T.J. snorting coke. Concerned about his brother and the money he gave him, Doug warns T.J. to stop using drugs. Afterwards, Doug tells Bud it wasn't his fault his mother lost in her last run. Bud agrees and says it was his fault. Later, Jubel explains that voters only like Elaine without Bud, as he makes her look weak. He tells Doug that Bud acted the way he did with the press so that Elaine, who was going to lose anyway, would save face. Doug asks Bud why he never told him and the two sit down to start planning the campaign.
Elaine tells Nash she doesn't want her Supreme Court seat and Nash agrees to postpone her retirement, despite her partner's ailing health. Later, Elaine meets with Susan and asks her to join her for a walk the following day, before the President sends her on a world tour. She tells Susan she is not running for President. That night, Susan meets with Doug, who asks her to drop the story about Elaine's run. Susan says she will sit on the story, but wants Doug to tell her everything leading up to Elaine's announcement.
As "Political Animals" hits the midpoint of its six-episode run, it's become clear that the show is as much about the politics of family as it is about Washington, D.C. intrigue. Telling a complete story as big as this one is an ambitious goal, but one creator Greg Berlanti is on pace to accomplish.
The better "Political Animals" gets — and it gets better each week — the more bittersweet the show's short run feels. In this week's episode, we learned more about Bud's seemingly disastrous tactics during Elaine's first run for the Oval Office. The character of Bud Hammond is much more than the womanizing Bill Clinton clone he initially appeared to be and Irish actor, Ciaran Hinds steals scene after scene in this role. Unfortunately, we'll only get three more episodes of Bud and his silver-tongued politicking.
But instead of lamenting the show's short run, let's celebrate all that was great about "The Woman Problem." Besides Ciaran Hinds, Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Burstyn had two of the best scenes of the series so far, as Elaine and mother, Margaret have it out over Elaine's decision to reach for the golden ring, once again. And guest star, Vanessa Redgrave was excellent as Elaine's wizened mentor and Supreme Court judge on the cusp of retirement.
As for the men of the family, the show's short run hurts their storyline the most. With Bud such a larger-than-life character, Doug and T.J. pale in comparison. All T.J. seems to care about is his nightclub and getting high, which makes me care little about him. And after the end of this episode, it looks Doug's only role is to play pawn for Susan Berg, who now "owns" him.
With so much ground to cover in so little time, it's not surprising that a couple characters feel a little cookie-cutter. Susan, Elaine and Bud provide more than enough intrigue and drama to carry the hour.
"Political Animals" has now established what all the players want. Redemption for Bud, another Pulitzer for Susan and the Oval Office for Elaine. What's left to find out now is how far they're willing to go to get it. And equally important, who will suffer as a result.