Before we jump into the episode, bad wigs and all, how about a funny-sad story? I was at the gym last Monday and saw the promo for this episode in HD for the first time on one of the tv’s there, and upon seeing this face of James Wolk’s I nearly fell off the cross-trainer. I think this means both that I am a female Sorkin character (which I can live with) and that Jame Wolk’s face is so damn attractive that it is literally dangerous.
Alright, now that that’s out of the way (just kidding, we’re going to talk much more about James Wolk’s face) let’s talk 16 Hours, which I think was probably the best episode of the series since the Pilot. People who previously had no purpose got to hang out and reveal things (Ann and Granny Lush), people who are usually annoying actually became characters instead of caricatures (Bud), Sebastian Stan’s beautiful face was seen but his cliché storyline not heard, Elaine got to be awesome, a douchebag was punched in the face and two incredibly hot people got drunk and had sex on a plane.
I would have been happy with just that last one, but altogether? Awesome.
And I’m not just saying that because I totally called Douglas/Susan.
On to the episode! Let’s start with the flashbacks, by which I mean the Susan ones, not the “16 hours ago…” ones, since this episode started and ended with the sub rescue, with the time between TJ’s overdose and the lead-up to the rescue in between (does that make sense?).
In 1997, Susan Berg was still trying to break into writing opinion pieces for the Globe. Also, it must be noted she has THE WORST HAIR EVER. Seriously, I didn’t think they could find a wig that was worse than Elaine’s flashback hair, but they managed. Wow. She’s also wearing a pin-stripe vest over a t-shirt.
Her editor at the time derisively reads Susan’s column, saying that why it’s “very clever”, but it’s also “very mean”, and “not opinion” but judgement. Let’s review for a second what Susan wrote:
“President Hammond is a dog, and only a fool would fault a dog for rooting in the trash. But a First Lady, wielding an intellect, drive and individuality unlike any before her ought to know better. What sort of example does she set, standing by her dog husband with a sculpted smile, responding to the parade of finger-pointing bimbos with her craven trill of ‘no comment’ after ‘no comment’?”
I’m biased, because I agree with it, but I don’t know. Susan thinks that she’s not being printed due to sexism, that a female opinion gets different scrutiny, while her editor claims that it’s just not worthy enough writing. Susan also claims that “all the men in this town are afraid to write the truth about [Elaine] because they don’t want to be labeled anti-feminist”. EXCUSE ME. Where is this mythical town and how do I get there? Seriously, in what world are the male journalists (or “journalists”) at the major news outlets afraid of being “anti-feminist”? I can’t with this. Anyway, Susan went above her editor’s head to someone else and convinced them to run her piece on the first page of the Op-Ed, earning her her own office. She even gets all Virginia Woolf quote: “all a writer needs is a room of one’s own.” Actually, the original quote is “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”, which actually makes that more interesting (though I don’t know if it was intentional).
She is giddy-excited, but her mom (played by Blair Brown!) is, much like Elaine’s mom (and mine!) sort of very terrible. She pulls that passive aggressive ”I’m happy for you” bullshit, which Susan calls her on, and then criticizes her for being mean to Elaine just to get ahead in her career. Also she’s not allowed to have an opinion about married people because she’s “still in her twenties” and “not yet married” because once she’s learned how much work marriage takes she’ll be less judgmental. Bullshit. Blah blah, Susan thinks Mom is resentful of Susan’s career success because Mom gave up her work to have a family. Mom is a bitch and only ‘scheduled’ a 1/2 hour for their lunch before planning on meeting Liz (Susan’s sister?), so Susan says “hey Mom, screw you”. I feel you, Susan.
On to the future! Or the past, sort of. What happened after the end of the last episode! TJ’s in the hospital, not dead, but sedated until all the cocaine is out of his system. Doug is starting to get calls about the story, but instead of hiring a fixer (like Olivia Pope!) Elaine’s idea is to call Susan. Elaine gets Susan to file a story about TJ having an allergic reaction to antibiotics that Susan knows is bullshit, but in exchange for the fake article, Elaine breaches national security and gives Susan exclusive access to cover the submarine rescue. She also gets to fly on a private plane to San Diego with Doug. Sold!
This means that they get to eat great food, snark at each other, get drunk and flirt. Susan can’t help but be (or at least sound like) a reporter and just keeps asking Doug questions, and Doug can’t help but hang on to the resentment for what she wrote about his parents and think she’s a shark. But later, once he gets tipsy, Doug admits that he liked some of what Susan wrote, especially since it drove Bud “batshit crazy”. Susan gives Doug some info on her mom to level the field, including that she died a few years ago of breast cancer.
They proceed to get more and more drunk, share playlists, share romantic woes, like Doug’s ecstasy-high proposal and Susan’s shitty, cheating editor ex-boyfriend. Doug also confesses that while he loves Ann, “it’s like you put on this expensive, tailored suit and everybody tells you how great you look in it, but it doesn’t really fit quite right unless you stand perfectly still.” And then Susan talks about sexism and society and how “having it all” is just another lie they sell women in order to give us yet another thing to feel like we failed at.
“You’ve never settled. That takes courage. You’ve never compromised in your writing, so why should you compromise in your personal life?”
“Ah, but there’s a flip-side no one tells you about. You wake up one day and you realize that while you were busy being brazen making a name for yourself everyone made a life. And then you’re not uncompromising. You’re just sad.”
“Bullshit. You are gorgeous. You’re smart. You are-”
“A bitch that makes a living ripping other people’s lives to shreds in public?”
“Yes! And sexy. I wish that I had some of your courage.”
And then this happens…
Damn, look at that sexy lens flair! And then they sat across the plane, sneaking awkward looks at each other while watching the sub rescue.
While all that’s going down (…ahem), Dougie’s fiance is helping out Grandma Lush, getting TJ’s room ready for when he gets out of the hospital, which really means “find and get rid of all the drugs and booze”. They find his stash and flush most of it, but the weed they decide to smoke. Ann complains that Elaine doesn’t approve of her, Granny talks about “different kinds of love”. It’s the most likable either of them have ever been.
Granny tries to help Ann out by telling her that she needs to insist to Doug that she (Ann) be #1 over Elaine. And then after their munchies binge, Ann hops off to purge, but Granny calls her out. Grow up, Ann, bulimia’s so ’87. She still tries to bluff her way out of it, but Grandma actually really seems to care and asks that even if she won’t come clean there, to admit it to Doug and let him help her.
The last good plot was Bud, who stayed at TJ’s hospital bed-side the whole time. He shares this beautiful story, and I remember that Ciarán Hinds is such an amazing actor:
I remember that first year in the White House was the worst year of my life. Everything I always dreamed of, the job I coveted ever since I was a young man, I finally had it and I was miserable as hell. Fourth of my term had passed and I hadn’t accomplished a single thing that I’d set out to do. I used to walk the halls at night, stare up at the faces of my predecessors and think every one of them is a better man than me.
And then one night, out of the East Room, I hear this most glorious sound. I poked my head in and there you are, 8 years old, playing some kind of classical piece so effortlessly. You turned around when you heard me, and you let out a crazy laugh and you went skipping off down the hallway. And after that, I used to hide around the corner from the East Room just to listen to you play.
Something so simple, but it brought me so much peace, and I don’t know why I never told you that. These hands, they’re not my hands TJ, they’re yours.”
And speaking of hands, Bud gets Elaine to admit to what we learned in the last episode, that TJ’s original suicide attempt was catalyzed by Vice President Collier’s blackmail. While at the time, the Veep claimed President Garcetti was on board with that plan, it turns out, not so much. So Bud makes a quick trip to the Oval Office, rats out the VP to the President and punches that douchebag Collier in the face.
Which explains why the VP is icing his black eye in the Situation Room as the powers that be watch the rescue operation (looking a lot like this). There was some drama going on about how the Chinese Navy was trying to pull a dick move power play (in order to protect their technology) and order the downed sub to release the nuclear material if the rescue mission continues. The VP tries to weasel out of the rescue, but both Elaine and Garcetti say screw that and tell the Chinese Navy they aren’t going to be bullied. Garcetti addresses the nation with a speech Elaine helps him write, and they both recognize how important this event is and that it will effectively define his presidency. I guess that’s optimistic.
The rescue is successful and they get a message from the submarine and Elaine (and I!) get to show off our Mandarin Chinese skillz. The message is “XIE XIE”, alphabetized Chinese for “thank you”. Applause, happy tears and hugs all around.
Bullets Points and Quotes
- When I checked IMDB, I noticed that Blair Brown (Susan’s mom) played Jackie Kennedy in the 1983 Kennedy mini-series. I know that there are some comparisons between the fictional Hammonds political dynasty and Camelot. Also Martin Sheen played Kennedy and, of course, was the best fictional president on TV, Josiah Bartlett.
- “Mother. Like I don’t have enough anxiety just with the overdose.”
- “Did someone film you dancing to the Backstreet Boys before you were old enough to realize tuxedo shorts weren’t cool?”
- “I think it’s best if we want to make it to San Diego without some sort of double homicide situation to declare your mother off-limits.”
- “Hold on a minute. You actually have a Backstreet Boys playlist?”
“I don’t know if anybody told you, but ‘Backstreet’s back, alright!’ I still got those dance moves. I might even have those tuxedo shorts somewhere.” (Oh my god, I wish I could find a gif of this).
“You should wear them to your wedding!”
- (About TJ’s pills) “These look like they have little signs on them. Are those bunnies?” “I think they’re unicorns.”
- “I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in here he hasn’t hidden a go-go boy.”
- “I haven’t smoked since college, I’m not doing it now with my fiance’s grandmother.”
“You know sometimes after the show somebody would give us a tip of a couple of reefers. Us girls would stay up all night drinking, smoking, sexually experimenting.”
“This is a terrible idea.”
“Ann, sweetheart, you could stand a couple of terrible ideas.”
- “You know most people, when they get high, they get the munchies. I get the drunkies.” When don’t you have the drunkies, Granny Lush?
- “You wouldn’t know honor if it sucked your cock and stroked your balls.”