The political ascent is real. After a disastrous class president tenure that included not one, but two poisoning attempts, Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) is back and looking for redemption in The Politician season 2. He’s running for New York State Senate against Dede Standish (Judith Light), a career politician, who has her sights set on the White House. She really doesn’t think much of her spoiled rich kid competition who is campaigning on one single issue. (Spoiler: it’s a good issue.) Seriously, he’s still living in his NYU dorm. However, they may have more in common than she’d like to admit. After all, Payton’s endgame is the same as hers and with each new season, he gets ever closer to his POTUS dreams. In his mind, Dede is just collateral damage, but his career might be over before it begins if he doesn’t get out of his own way.
In season 2, Payton is struggling to find his authentic self, but the Saint Sebastian gang is back to help. Payton swears he’s now a clean candidate, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play dirty. To get a seat in Albany, he’ll have to get down in the mud. He’ll have to cheat, lie, and say the word “throuple” more times than he can count. Seriously, polyamorous romances are a key plot point this season. Honestly, we’d expect nothing less from the hilarious excess that is the Ryan Murphy Cinematic Universe, a.k.a. the RMCU.
Hopefully, we can help make sense of all the twists and turns this season in the recaps below. After all, a winning rock paper scissor strategy is not as easy to understand as one might think.
Episode 1: “New York State Of Mind”
The sweeping crane shot of New York lands on a “Hobart For State Senate” poster. Surrounded by familiar high school faces, Payton (Ben Platt) is now running to represent the 27th District in Albany. Unfortunately, the polls show his constituents think he might be too inexperienced to serve them. What he is serving is a lewk in that black turtleneck. Some things really never change. His advisor James Sullivan (Theo Germaine) is still the bearer of bad polling news. His other campaign manager McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss) is still splitting hairs, this time between “undecided” voters and those voters with no opinion. And Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton), well, she still looks unenthused over whatever Payton’s doing, which is apparently so much glad-handing that he’s spent “half our campaign budget on hand sanitizer" — a joke that just hits differently now.
While Payton worries about how to get people to vote for him, Astrid puts it into the simplest terms: “It’s all about turnout.” They need to get just a few hundred people excited enough to vote for him so he can unseat career politician Dede Standish (Judith Light). It’s simple, Astrid says, make a few phone calls and you can win.
James isn’t really interested in Astrid’s plan, which is a really good one. He wants Payton to play dirty and reveal that Dede is part of a throuple. After all, it’s the little tidbit that got us where we are now. Without Astrid spotting that three-way kiss, Payton would still be slumming it. But he refuses. For him that’s going nuclear and no one looks kindly on the one who drops the bomb. “I am the ideas candidate,” he says. Still, James believes this is the only idea that will keep Payton from losing. What he might lose, though, is Astrid.
For now, she’s still the best dressed coffee runner (check out that cheetah print coat with those sky blue tights!) being followed by Bette Midler’s Hadassah Gold, Dede's Chief of Staff. Hadassah shows up at Astrid’s SoulCycle class and in the produce aisle until she finally asks her to lunch where Astrid complains about how little they listen to her. And again, can’t stress this enough, they probably should. Hadassah seems to understand her pain and calls this silent treatment “being a woman.”
Who Payton’s team is listening to is their former Saint Sebastian classmate Andrew (Ryan J. Haddad), one name like Cher, who shows up at the candidate’s office to talk about number theory and his obsession with Infinity, Payton’s old running mate, played by Zoey Deutch. But really, he wants to unofficially join Payton’s campaign. Funnily enough, Hadassah wants Astrid to join Dede’s campaign, but also on an unofficial basis. Both are looking to infiltrate the opposing campaign. So much for a clean race.
After those Pepsis are opened (gotta love that sweet product placement!) they lay out their plans. While Andrew is simply doing this to get a date with Infinity, Hadassah is hoping to entice Astrid by drawing a straight line from her toxic relationship with Payton to her megalomaniac dad, who she had sent to prison. She’s ruthless.
That doesn’t work so Hadassah drops her nuclear bomb, telling Astrid that she, not Payton, won the high school election. “The principal told me. They counted the ballots,” she tells her. “You won.” In theory, it should be her who’s running against Dede. “I mean, no,” Hadassah says laughing. “It shouldn’t. That would be insane. But, still.” Astrid walks back in shock. “You were robbed,” Hadassah says, setting up another season 2 battle, Astrid vs. Payton: Part Deux.
“Does Payton know he lost?” Astrid asks. We already know that he does, which makes Payton’s “I’m running a clean campaign” claims rather laughable. Knowing he knew, Astrid says she’ll think about it. James and McAfee don’t even bother thinking, and agree to Andrew’s terms.
We first see Dede at the 92Y debating Payton, a refreshing “single issue candidate.” Her ability to politely backhand compliment him is really something. The conversation loses its civility as Dede questions his eligibility being he’s only been a New York resident for his three-year stay at NYU. However, he swears he’s been a legal resident of New York since 14 thanks to his family’s house in the Hamptons. Certainly, this tidbit doesn’t make him a man of the people, which might make his claims that she’s out of touch with the public a harder sell. What is clear is this whole political campaigning thing is not as easy as it once was for Payton, who is not nearly as confident as he was in his teens. But that spunky kid has some fight left. His comment that the world needs candidates focused on climate change who won’t be dead in 20 years feels political ad worthy.
Still, the problem is, as Dede is happy to point out, his climate change plan will cost trillions of dollars. “That’s thousands of billions of dollars,” Dede says. Basically, she tells him to save it for California, where his mom Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow) is running. She also calls him out for not knowing that she signed a clean energy bill that didn’t cost the taxpayers an extra dime. Perhaps, Payton really is punching above his weight.
He agrees, telling his on-again girlfriend and ice cream sundae peddler Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) he should have brought up the throuple. She is more interested in a proposal, which won’t happen until this campaign is over. She’s also interested in the polling numbers, specifically the ones she’s put together that show his climate change ideas are going over well with new, young voters. You know, the same ones Astrid said they should be focused on. He doesn’t believe they’ll come out since they’re the “white whale of politics.” Young voters are all talk, no action, which means as good as Alice and Astrid’s plans are, he’s got one of his own. He’s going to get Georgina to drop out of her race.
So how did Georgina get into politics, you ask? Well, on a trip to Bhutan, a now divorced and penniless Georgina removed trash from the digestive tracts of dolphins alongside Infinity, who is now “quietly passionate about the environment.” So much so, Infinity thought about changing her last name to “Degrees” to place more focus on rising temps. When she came home, Georgina met a millionaire heiress obsessed with the Game Of Thrones finale who encouraged her to run for governor on the climate change platform. No surprise, the polls showed Georgina was loved by all. And with unlimited funds, she began “sucking up all of the Hobart political oxygen,” according to Alice.
We understand why after watching Georgina debate the other gubernatorial candidates. In response to one white male candidate’s plan to give tax breaks to the rich, she simply says she won’t respond because “he’s a creep and his poll numbers reflect that.” Her calls for voters to “hug a tree” sounds utterly Goop-tastic. She’s the Marianne Williamson of this gubernatorial race, but she’s got an actual chance to win. Even after she says California should secede from the Union and become its own independent country. She might have got some people with that divorce analogy that turns Texas, West Virginia, and Alabama into lame exes. Though, that #letsgetthecaloutofhere hashtag might be a little too long.
It’s why Payton asking Georgina to end her campaign doesn't go over well. “You’re going to need to shine brighter,” she tells him. “Not ask me to dim.” Stitch that on a pillow and put it on Payton’s dorm bed because he really can’t help but dim everyone else’s shine. (Hello, Alice!) Her suggestion? He should try being himself, which is hard since he’s always been a piece of clay molded to the likes of his constituents. Now it’s time to find a mold that feels authentic to him and everyone else. “People don’t believe you because you don’t believe you,” she says.
Payton’s starting to think he’s not good at this. That he had a false sense of confidence thanks to his ritzy upbringing. Honestly, I kind of believe that but Georgina believes he just has to be his authentic self and I’m interested to see who that is. For now, Andrew is playing Dede’s campaign by claiming that they “othered” him because of his cerebral palsy and their hallways are not up to the ADA’s regulations. In the end, him pissing off the receptionist is what helps him get Hadassah’s approval. As we learned last season, this campaign team is behind the times, which makes Andrew’s IT skills a real plus for this okay, boomer team.
But, just as Andrew infiltrates Dede’s campaign, Astrid agrees to be Hadassah’s mole. The condition being when she runs for office, Hadassah must run her campaign. Once she agrees, Astrid brings up the throuple. “Payton knows so you should get on that.” Dede is busy deflecting concerns from the Beto O’Rourke-esque Tino (Parenthood’s Sam Jaeger) that Payton is only ten points behind her. She chalks that up to excited young voters who will not actually go to the polls. But the junior senator from Texas pushes back that this small slice of the electoral pie keeps getting bigger so no one can rest on their laurels, or in this case, poll numbers. Especially, when you’re in a throuple, something Hadassah didn’t know until Astrid told her. She seems more upset that Dede didn’t tell her than the fact that her candidate is in a three-person relationship with her husband Marcus (Joe Morton) and William (Teddy Sears). “What? What? You pushed two queen-sized beds together and daisy-chained each other to sleep every night?” Hadassah says. While Dede believes it’s manageable, Haddasah not so politely disagrees. “Vehicular manslaughter is manageable. This… is batshit!” Deny, deny, deny is Dede’s plan since it sounds as absurd as Pizzagate, which should Hadassah tell her how that ended up or should I?
In Dede’s opinion, the real reason no one will believe the threesome claims is because a woman over 40 having any sexual desires is something that seems far fetched to most voters. Besides, they’ve been getting away with this for a decade, if they don’t have proof they’re none too concerned. It’s really just Astrid’s word against theirs. That’s not good enough for Hadassah, who asks Dede to choose between her or William. Hadassah is ready to shoo William off when Dede tells her she’s the one who has to leave. But the minute she brings up Tino, who will not pick Dede for VP if she’s in a polyamorous relationship, William leaves, choosing her political career over his own feelings.
Back in New York, Payton is trying to be his most authentic self at Infinity’s climate change rally, going after the olds who aren’t taking on the generational fight of climate change. His dystopian concerns for the future resonate with the young protesters. He goes viral and I can’t help but be a little angry at this Astrid erasure! But Dede might be more angry to see Tino chatting up Georgina for his VP. That is if she and Marcus weren't reuniting with William behind Hadassah’s back. So. Much. Backstabbing.
Andrew is once again making moves, bugging Dede’s office and home with little waving cat transmitters. Payton wants no part of it, though Andrew, like all of us, wants him to stop pretending he’s some goodie-goodie. What he learned is that the throuple isn’t really broken up and Dede is on the shortlist for VP. Payton walks in just after Andrew reveals the news. Screw being good, apparently.
So who is Payton? It’s the question he’s always asking himself. Now he’s asking the ghost of River (David Corenswet) who thinks the poll numbers are the real barometer of who he is. He is a politician through and through who wants to do good and when he’s winning is when he’s his true self. River pushes him to stop seeing the world as binary, which Payton admits doesn’t sound much like him. Well, that’s because it’s not him, he’s dead after all. This is just the voice in Payton’s head who right now wants to convince him that being bad will be good for his campaign. Guess who’s now all of a sudden willing to play dirty?
Payton’s brand of dirty includes telling Hadassah and Dede his plan to release the throuple news to Page Six unless she drops out of the race. His suggestion? Her husband fakes a heart attack and she quits while still leaving the door open for a vice presidential run. “You really are an evil little troll,” Dede says through clenched teeth. For him this is really a win-win situation, which is why he calls up Georgina to apologize. Though she might be the one apologizing soon since it appears that her and Tino are taking horizontal meetings. But wait, Astrid’s meeting with Hadassah offers a new wrinkle to his double-cross. Payton has his own romantic secret: He was in a throuple, too.
Episode 2: “Conscious Unthroupling”
As a fully disguised Hadassah so eloquently tells Astrid, they are now “dick-deep in some serious espionage, missy.” Any Friends fan will get a kick out of Hadassah’s “he knows that we know that he knows” routine. But what she knows is that Payton is meeting with a New York Times reporter. Cue their meeting in which Payton promises a big scoop that he can’t reveal right now. But it’ll be a Sunday exclusive that will keep people clicking into Monday. This news he promises will mark “the end of a political icon.” It’s basically an exclusive that no journalist could ignore.
For now, we’re all in the dark about what the story is. Is he going to share one of their secret tapes with Dede detailing her current romantic arrangement? Hadassah also believes this story will be a career ruiner, both Dede and hers. She believes either Payton actually has evidence or he’s just trying to butter up the reporter, which means they might have time to “generate some countermeasures.” Hadassah plans to have dinner with the same reporter and offer her own exclusive about Payton’s throuple. All she needs is some details from one part of said throuple, Astrid. Thing is while she logged it in her diary, she doesn’t have a lot of details of the experience besides date and time. Nerves combined with a martini and a mom’s Xanax would do that to you. To help jog her memory, Hadassah suggests liquoring Payton up and getting him on tape talking about it. It seems this campaign race might become the battle of the illegal recordings.
The “Andrew has dirt” meeting is true to its name. Now down 20 points, Payton’s team is looking for anything that will help him. Andrew’s got the goods and the office to show for it. Well, he’s got tapes with very poor audio quality and a transcript that has Dede telling Hadassah that William is back. “You have wicked-witched me,” Hadassah tells her now that she’s destroyed their chances of winning. Not to mention her love life. “Do you know that I could have married Peter Jennings in ‘84?” Hadassah says. “I gave it up for this life with you, and I never once complained about it.” Well, until now.
What Hadassah realizes is she’s actually the one in a throuple: her, Dede, and Dede’s career. She quits and goes home to watch every Nancy Meyer movie. “Even the bad ones,” Andrew says only to have McAfee defend Nancy’s honor. “What are you talking about? There are no bad ones.” That’s the most accurate thing McAfee’s ever said tbh. To Skye’s point, The Intern is actually pretty great and we all do want to live in those kitchens.
Payton eventually gets them back on track, noting that there is no way Hadassah would really leave. He’s right, she returned with an apology and a Nancy Meyers-inspired plan: “It’s complicated and something’s gotta give,” Hadassah so wisely tells Dede. The plan is they pretend William is dating Hadassah so he can stay close by without anyone knowing the real situation. She’ll come clean about this May-September romance. December is a few months too far for Hadassah’s liking, okay? (Judith Light’s giggle at the end of this back and forth about older women dating younger men makes it even more delightful.) But the point is, if anyone tries to say anything about this relationship they’ll end up looking agist. Honestly, my favorite love story might be Dede and Hadassah’s.
Unfortunately for Andrew, the receptionist destroyed his cat transmitter so that’s all he knows. While he plans to get a Lady Liberty for the office, right now, he can only eavesdrop on conversations at Dede’s house and Hadassah’s. Too bad since Dede is now discussing the terms of the plan with William and Marcus in her office. While she knows it’s the right thing, she finds it humiliating that they have to lie. Marcus agrees. “How many mistresses have been in and out of the White House in the past 200 years?” he asks. William is more open to it for the time being. Dede agrees, they need to just stick out through the election and then they can be together. For now, though, Hadassah is practicing her role as William’s girlfriend which includes bird watching and matching workout clothes. Seriously, Bette Midler is so good.
Once the two are “caught” by the paparazzi we get to see Hadassah’s home, which William thought would be bigger. “Well I’m sorry, I grew up a working class kid in Paramus, New Jersey and I possess a certain trait called thrift,” she scolds. It’s why she likes a place she can afford, thank you very much. It’s fitting that this very practical person would have a very practical home.
You start to see what Dede and Marcus see in William. He’s a good listener who lets Hadassah know that her feelings of betrayal are warranted. He’s also afraid of the dark and can’t use the flashlight on his phone as a nightlight because “it’s like a tiny man staring at him.” It’s how he ends up sleeping in her room and getting to know her. Does this mean we may soon have a fourple?
Listening to McAfee and James fight about dry ice is kind of like watching ice melt. But it’s a larger fight, one that has to do with Payton’s being climate change focused. While McAfee likes that he’s finally passionate about something, James thinks it’s the wrong passion since the voters in his district don’t really care. Before you know it, McAfee’s crying. Not about whether BBQ pizza is good (I’m on Team Hawaiian Pizza, personally), but about something else that requires us to rewind back to a year ago.
While trying to graduate from Columbia early, McAfee was working on her exercise routine and proper socializing. See she had friends and lovers, who didn’t poo-poo all her brainstorm ideas. She had balance, but James, who is surprisingly good at squash, kind of always throws things out of wack. And Skye, who has now found her zen after poisoning Payton, always ends up being the agreeable middle person. The fact that she’s lost that balance is why she’s crying. Well, also because of Kaley Cuoco, who has shown her that she needs to go out and remove herself from this toxic friend triangle that is also like a sex-less, say it with me, throuple.
Speaking of those three-person romances, Astrid is talking to Payton about theirs. They both agree that River was always better than them and they’ll never see themselves the way he saw them. She blames this on her fuzzy memory, an opening for her to ask about their ménage à trois. “Faking it is my superpower,” she says as to why Payton might have believed she was into it. A sad, but true statement since right now, she’s faking this whole meeting, which is not as innocent as it seems. But their threesome was. They did it once with help from shots. They danced to the Psychedelic Furs to loosen up and they kissed as Rivers watched. They really wanted to please him. Astrid ended up locking herself in the bathroom upset perhaps by how close River and Payton were and they left before any of them could actually have sex. Instead, she and Payton ended up in tears because they couldn’t have the intimacy they wanted with River.
Payton admits that threatening to out River, who he didn’t think was gay or even bisexual, still haunts him. He doesn’t want to believe that his threats led to River’s death by suicide, but he can’t shake that they were. Astrid also believes that River’s sexual orientation didn’t need to be labeled, he just wanted to be close to everyone, which is what made them want to get close to him.
Now 37 points down, Payton is resigned to the fact he will lose. It’s sad that this is when he finally decides to ask Astrid what she would do. More shocking may be that now that she has his ear she kisses him. She wants to feel River again, but he’s gone and now so is Astrid, embarrassed by that advance. Somehow Alice in her bright yellow coat, shows up out of nowhere. She saw the kiss and doesn’t trust Astrid, who she’s been following all week. This is the moment when Payton realizes Astrid is a double agent feeding dirt to Hadassah. Alice reads Astrid for being someone whose allegiance is with whomever shows her the most love, which is why Alice proposes they start a relationship with Astrid until the election. Everyone on this show is so horny for throuples!
McAfee is just hoping to have a normal date with someone who’s not a serial killer. Luckily, her Tinder date isn’t one of those. She’s too busy worrying about her friends leaving the text chain to even enjoy that fact. Though, to be fair it’s hard to get away from them if they keep showing up where you are. I’m just counting down the seconds until these three announce they’re also becoming a throuple. For now it’s Alice who’s trying to get Astrid to start one with her and Payton. Astrid agrees, setting a few ground rules: no eye contact, no kissing after oral.
As one throuple begins, another ends. William proposes that he and Hadassah also have sex. By getting to know her he realizes how lonely he is in that other relationship. She also has ground rules that include ample cuddle time and no night light, but they can “leave the bathroom light on and the door open just a crack.”And if we needed anymore evidence that McAfee needs more work/life balance it’s her texting James while thrusting on top of her Tinder date. Seriously, just make this threesome official already.
Tino is not ready to make his VP pick official, but Dede is sure getting concerned that she’s not his only choice. He’s misjudged her if he thinks she can’t help him grab enough electoral votes to win. What she realizes is that her personal life could be a selling point for the younger voters Tino’s trying to court. “The kids now, they’re fluid,” Dede says, but also “women ages 45 to 70 will be saying, ‘You go, girl!’”
Based on her own polling, a woman owning her sexuality is an exciting issue for voters. She’s tired of not being able to be herself and so she plans to reveal her throuple and see what the polls say. “If your numbers are high, you’re in,” he tells her. Too bad her throuple might be old news, just as Astrid’s is. She tells Hadassah she remembers nothing, but the political shark knows she’s lying. Astrid is back with Payton’s campaign, but Hadassah knows she’ll be back. They are bound to let her down again. Not to mention, she knows Astrid’s weakness is attention. “You’re just like your mother,” Hadassah says, “selling it to whoever’s paying.” Way harsh, but she isn’t wrong that like Payton, Astrid’s also searching for herself and until she does she will sell her soul to the highest bidder.
Alice saw this, too. Apparently blondes have more fun at this campaigning thing. Alice has confirmed a dinner with the Times reporter so Payton can drop that throuple bomb. He thinks it makes him the morally superior candidate, which is laughable for so many reasons, but mainly because Dede has found a way to use this to her advantage. Again, she seems one step ahead of this kid politician who is preaching the good climate action word at the Jane Carousel in DUMBO. The “invest in our future” platform seems to be working, but unfortunately, it is nowhere near as viral as Dede’s wine-filled PSA about her love life that leaves Hadassah’s poor jaw dropped. Seriously, Nancy Meyers would kill for Dede’s decor.
It definitely hits back at Payton’s claims that she’s not with the times. In fact, she may be ahead of them. “Maybe it’s time you got hip to what’s happening these days,” she says with a wink in her campaign video. In McAfee’s opinion, this means Dede’s lost this battle, but we all know Dede’s fighting a bigger war, which she believes she will win. I mean, Oprah is texting her, “You go, girl!"
The thing is, William wants out of the throuple that is helping her poll numbers. So they’ll have to pretend to be a threesome in public while Hadassah and William carry on their love affair behind closed doors. A twist that for once Dede didn’t see coming.
Episode 3: “Cancel Culture”
Hadassah gets a package, which doesn’t have anthrax in it, but a ransom style-note declaring, “This person is not authentic. Stop him.” An enclosed photo shows Payton, age six, wearing a Geronimo costume, which shows he’s not as woke as he claims to be. Hadassah delightfully runs to show Dede, who is not all that thrilled with her campaign advisor. Not even after she sees the photo, which, in her opinion, is an unnecessary distraction when she’s already up 35 points. She’s not all that interested in ruining a rich kid’s life either. Hadassah disagrees and thinks sharing the photo with the world is them showing him who’s boss. “We’re destroying him,” she says. “You’ll thank me later.”
A groggy Payton answers the phone to learn the photo is the front page of The New York Post. He was six, but his staff is annoyed he didn’t tell them about the image. “Can’t we just say he’s dressed as one of the Village People?” Astrid says. The problem is the yearbook caption — a clue that the person who sent the photo went to Saint Sebastian — says he’s Geronimo. Alice thinks he should apologize with Skye by his side since, she’s his only non-white staff member. (This is tokenizing, which is categorically messed up.) Skye agrees to the request because it might be the only chance they have to correct the path and she wants to win. But first she makes sure Payton knows what he's done is wrong: “There is a thin line between appreciation and appropriation,” she says. “And you’ve crossed it, Payton.”
The tough love helps Skye get Payton to go to neighborhoods he doesn’t usually canvas, which is shorthand for non-white neighborhoods. This feels like an episode in which Payton, along with The Politician’s audience, learns about white privilege. It should be noted that it's not Skye's job to teach her white boss about race. Payton should be doing the work himself. There are books for that.
Not everyone is interested in hearing Payton’s apology, which has him praising Geronimo as a freedom fighter against tyranny. Again LOL at Payton explaining his grade school intentions with his costume. He argues the photo is appreciation not appropriation. But it does feel somewhat genuine. His “I will do better” promise leaves the crowd speechless.
The Astrid-Alice-Payton thing is not going well. Alice is not being sexually satisfied and feels like Payton is giving too much attention to Astrid. This seems to be a recurring problem with throuples! Balance is what Alice’s looking for and to get that she needs to set her own ground rules: higher thread count sheets, a rewatch of Gilmore Girls, and more cuddle time. Still, I can’t help but feel bad for Alice, who looks unsure even as she gets her six extra minutes of cuddling.
No amount of cuddling can really console Payton, who knows he’s going to lose, but won't give up. It was always a crazy longshot that brought these friends (?) back together. While I am always happy to see people trying to make impossible things possible, I don’t know if I feel all that bad for Payton, who really is very green and not all that well-intentioned. Just me? I mean, he says he’s changed his ways and it’s true he’s not throwing chairs and no one’s trying to poison anyone, but I don’t know if they should be all that proud of what they did. I mean, they wire tapped their opponent and tried to blackmail her. Still, Payton says he was true to who he was, whoever that inauthentic person is, and ran the campaign that he wanted to run. And for that I’m happy for him, even if I think he’s full of it.
While Skye wants to know who sent the photo (and honestly, don’t we all?), Payton wants to just move on and focus on the next campaign. He wants to keep fighting for issues he believes in in ways that other people believe. In short, he just wants people to like him and to be uncanceled.
Andrew just wants Infinity to like him, but she comes to their pre-arranged by Payton date to let him know he’s crazy. Not like romantic crazy. “It’s just crazy-crazy,” she says. And she’s right, texting someone you don’t know that you love them multiple times is not a sane thing to do, which is why this kiss off will be the last time Infinity talks to Andrew. She knows that this is payment for his “freelance campaign work,” which is why she’s here to cancel him for his toxic behavior. Something Infinity knows a lot about. It’s why you can’t help but feel happy for Infinity as she skips out of there. As her voice over explains, it’s nice to say "no" and she first started doing that last year when she breathed the toxic air while in Beijing promoting her book about being the victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. It made her see that she was part of the problem: She was generating unbelievable amounts of waste. That’s when she had her environmental activist awakening.
She decided to live a zero waste life full of metal straws, reusable plastics, and worm farms. She managed to fit her year’s waste in one mason jar. As she tells this to a group of possible Payton voters you start to wonder why she isn’t running. Once again, she’s the best messenger for his message because she is an authentic person. Which is why she doesn’t have a problem calling out Payton’s disturbing rally behavior, which included throwing a plastic dry cleaner bag in the garbage and Skye chewing non-natural gum.
Payton sees Infinity’s complaints as signs he needs to do better, but she doesn’t think he’s doing anything. He is selling his climate change agenda, but does he even believe in it? Once again, a valid question about Payton’s authenticity. She thinks that these mistakes could damage not only his campaign, but the movement. It’s why she wants him to go waste-free and neutralize his carbon footprint or else she’ll cancel him. She may be sweet, but she can be ferocious. Not as ferocious as Payton’s new enemy who has sent another photo to Hadassah that leaves her cackling.
This one is more recent. Payton is in a Native American headdress and a red Speedo. The leaker seems to have access to his phone. Is it Alice? Maybe Astrid showing that she really can play the game? Dede is curious as to who is supplying them with these photos, but Hadassah isn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Skye also can’t, which is why she is pushing Payton to follow all 15 suggestions on Infinity’s list, even cooking and drinking her boiled shower water. Honestly, I’m not sure I could drink my own “booty water,” as Skye so eloquently calls it, but Payton’s inability to even try shows once again that he might not really be down for the cause.
He is down for a meeting with Dede and Hadassah where they show him the new photo. He is also happy to wax poetic about his obsession with Geronimo. These women see right through this routine of him turning his cultural appropriation into appreciation (again). “I think Geronimo would agree that I look awesome,” are some famous last words.
While he threatens to post the photo to Twitter himself because he won’t “live in fear.” Dede just wants him to put a stop to McAfee or the “sherbet Diane Keaton,” as Hadassah calls her, who is digging around for dirt. If he does that, they will rip up the photo. Dede even offers to praise him to help him set up his next campaign. He agrees only to have Hadassah admonish him for thinking too big.
Over in California, Georgina is living it up with Tino. To keep the paps away, she’s hired decoys of them both to appear across the state. That’s almost as wacky as her painting, which would give Britney Spears a run for her money. Georgina’s campaign is going well, she’s 45 points ahead, which has allowed her to “pull a Garbo,” as in Greta, and disappear. Tino is in love with Georgina and thinks it’s time for him to move on from his comatose wife. Does he have no shame?
Payton certainly doesn’t. He thinks he’s being bugged by whoever is sending those photos to Dede’s campaign. Turns out, the mystery of the photo sender is not all that mysterious: It was Payton’s twin brothers. Andrew simply called them to ask and they excitedly admitted it. “People really hate you,” Andrew says because that second photo was sent by someone else, likely someone within the campaign since the photo was really a photo of the photo on his iPhone. Look close and you’ll see Payton’s phone case. Honestly, they should be paying Andrew more for his services!
Payton is now playing investigator as he encourages his employees to admit which one of them sent the Geronimo in a Speedo photo. It’s not easy to get access to his phone since he sleeps with it and showers with it so he believes it had to be the day he saw a rat in the office. He was right, Alice grabbed the phone. She was jealous and was looking for a photo of him and Astrid, who everyone now knows is boning them both. That Speedo photo confused her since it was taken just a few days ago. She sent it to James, who sent it to the rest of the staff wondering if this second Geronimo image warranted an intervention. While they wanted it to stay in-house, McAfee decided to leak it without the others knowing.
Payton gave an impassioned speech about understanding the hurt that cultural appropriation causes and then went and did it again. McAfee was annoyed that he lied and assumed it would come out anyway. Her motives weren’t all that devious. She figured leaking it now would save them from embarrassment later. Payton fires her anyway only to have her go to Hadassah looking for help. She wants to work for someone who appreciates her and Hadassah already supports her ambition and her personal style choices. I love the Gloria Steinem glasses, too. And I love McAfee’s chutzpah for a position on Dede’s team once she makes it to Washington. To show her loyalty she gives up Andrew as the mole. Midler’s impression of that little cat to let Andrew know she knows is purrfect. (Sorry, had to.)
But leave it to The Politician to end with a reveal that once again leaves viewers shocked. McAfee’s fight with Payton was all an act to get her inside Dede’s campaign. Payton’s hoping to shake things up. The Speedo photo was a ruse to make everyone think he had lost it, even his own campaign workers. McAfee has been tasked with digging up dirt and screwing up their campaign in hopes that Payton will get back in the game. They have two weeks to take her down. “You are our last play, McAfee,” he says. “This is our Hail Mary.”
Episode 4: “Hail Mary”
Payton’s Hail Mary plan is officially in play, hence this episode’s title. However, this episode kicks off with Georgina’s sauna campaign briefing. Ninety-one percent of voters love her and think she’s the Beyoncé of politics. She’s pulling in Michelle Obama numbers yet she wonders, “Who are these insane nine percent of people who don’t like those things?” People who want to watch the world burn, her young campaign advisors tell her.
Payton was the politically minded one in the family, but Georgina is starting to understand the appeal. Politics is the rare job, she says, that feeds both the ego and the soul. “It’s vanity without the bitter aftertaste,” she says as her campaign advisor pushes her to use this lead to think up some “normally impossible-to-accomplish policy proposals.” That’s how good she’s doing; her Hail Mary isn’t born of desperation. Her idea? Banning plastics from the entire state of California, which really seems like a tough sell knowing Payton couldn’t even get his ritzy high school to ban plastic straws. Even tougher may be her goal of only being satisfied with a hundred percent approval rating.
Nothing seems to stand in her way until Tino’s wife wakes up from her coma after 982 days. She asks the hospital to call the press, not her husband. “That dickwad can hear what I have to say with the rest of the world,” she twangily says. Now that’s a cold open!
After the opening credits roll, we see Payton pacing his room waiting for McAfee who has noticed that Hadassah’s been different. Not only is she throwing around the finger guns, but she’s wearing red, which, if she was Ron Swanson, would be a total giveaway about her sex life. Since she’s not, it’s not until Hadassah asks her to pick-up spicy lube (yes, she means warming lube) that she realizes her love life is the big change. McAfee decides to spy on her. Not with a device, but just her own ears. Hiding in Hadassah’s formal wear section, she sees William and her go at it. Score one for the spicy lube and for McAfee who thinks they should leak that Dede’s throuple is actually a sham. Showing voters that she’s a liar might gain them a few points for a less brutal loss, but Payton thinks this could push Dede out of the race entirely. Now this is his Hail Mary.
The next day McAfee goes to Hadassah, who wants to share her spicy lube sexcapades, but McAfee just wants to bait her into thinking William is looking to propose at Balthazar. Instead of William, she finds Payton waiting to blackmail her. His proposal is that she gets Dede to drop out to keep her VP hopes alive. With the election four days away, he’s giving her 12 hours to give him an answer before he goes to the press. That turtleneck just makes him look more sinister as he explains how a scandal so close to the election could make the throuple seem like a weird political ploy that could result in her voters staying home.
It seems like Payton thought of everything, but Hadassah is a pro at this so she sees the thing he forgot. She doesn’t tell him what it is forcing him to decide if he’s willing to take his chances that what she knows won’t end his political career before it even starts. There’s another wrinkle in Payton’s plans for the future: Alice is pregnant. Her plan for the child is a politically sound one, natch. She will keep the baby and they will become a young family that looks good to voters both locally and nationally. They will announce the pregnancy and their engagement the night before the election. Payton agrees to the plan before the two even bother talking about how they feel about becoming parents. Hello, he still lives in a dorm room! A teary Alice takes off her sunglasses and Payton understands he needs to play the role of soon-to-be doting husband and dad. “I’m so happy,” he says. Alice is happy too, especially about breaking things off with Astrid.
Love is in the air since Dede, Marcus, and their third are better than ever. “I don’t miss William at all,” Dede exclaims. All I can think is this must be the bit of information Hadassah knows that Payton doesn’t. Dede is still in a throuple so Payton’s Hail Mary will backfire. Unless, this new third party is a mole? I mean I put nothing past this show to double cross us.
For now, Hadassah is freaking out about Payton threatening to go public with her relationship. She says she’ll resign and William wonders if that means he’s back in the throuple only to find out he’s been replaced. “It’s not even a love triangle,” Hadassah screams. “It’s a sex pentagram.” Leave it to Dede to make this an empowering moment for sex after 50 and a moment to really think about what they should do. But now that Tino’s wife, Mary, has woken up from her coma it seems their sex life is old news. Hail Mary indeed.
After the trichinosis survivor tells the youth of America to “never accept a pulled pork taco from someone you don’t know,” she announces she’s divorcing the senator who was way too interested in pulling the plug on her. In their bedside chats, he encouraged her to die in hopes it might help his presidential run. She might have been in a coma, but she wasn’t dead and is now back to tell the world about his affair with Georgina. “Tino McCutcheon is a monster,” she says. “And he is dangerous. I fear for the future of this country.”
This should make Dede nervous. I mean, she put her future presidential hopes on him, but she believes Georgina might be able to drag him out of this. She’s the “most Teflon candidate” Dede’s ever seen. Payton might also have some of that Hobart magic since his plan, which everyone is happy with except James, might help him win this election. Well, until he finds out Tino is dating his mom.
That’s for a different time, right now they’re piling on James, who isn’t a killer like McAfee. He also didn’t show much ambition once he assumed the race was over choosing to forgo signing up Black and brown voters. Not great, James! He’s sorry and they are looking to move forward when William shows up at their door. He doesn’t want to see Hadassah suffer anymore. He doesn’t believe Payton’s apologies that this is never what he intended. (I don’t either.) But he wants to make them an offer. He tells them how Dede is in a new throuple with one of Marcus’ PhD students, something she doesn’t appear to know. William claims Marcus has written term papers in exchange for money. While her husband may be dirty, Dede isn’t. William hopes that Payton will use this info to take out Marcus instead of Hadassah. And with that big reveal William’s gone.
Georgina is coming clean about her affair with Tino and how good she is at sex. “I work unusually hard for a woman as attractive as I am,” she says with a straight face. After sending a “loser, bye” text, it’s over. Well, kind of. That relationship is over, but she’s not looking to hurt his campaign. “You do need a Hail Mary, though.” Don’t they all. His will be announcing his female VP who he’s hoping will be Dede. She can help him gain support from the women he lost. (His male voters are still behind him all the way, go figure.) Dede wants more time. She’s planning a trip to California to talk to Georgina.
Is she debating a double-female presidential ticket? Well, no. Dede is looking to level with Payton’s mom. Him running her out of the race is bad for women everywhere. Especially, if it’s by slut shaming her. Georgina agrees and really just took this meeting to learn more about the throuple logistics. Ultimately, as much as she respects Dede, she doesn’t have control over her son. She doesn’t even really seem to care all that much about what happens with him. When Dede threatens that she is not against hurting Payton to win this election, Georgina starts talking about the menu.
Payton is talking about changing course. Destroying Dede doesn’t feel right. His numbers are going up thanks to his new brand, which is focused on young voters who care about climate change. Smearing Dede goes against this brand, which is built on perceived authenticity. The Marcus Hail Mary (Hadassah Hail Mary is so yesterday!) won’t help them long term, in fact it could ruin things forever. Using the information about Marcus’ college essay cheating could turn him from rising star to young, rich asshole. It’s why they all agree it’s a bad look, but as they all leave the office, it’s hard not to wonder if James is going to sabotage this plan.
The episode closes with us realizing the consequences of a young throuple who aren’t always careful with protection. Astrid is also pregnant. “God my sperm is ambitious as I am,” Payton laments. Alice and Payton will support Astrid whatever she decides and also make her sign an NDA since they still plan to be a happy conventional two-parent family. Knowing that Astrid is once again the third wheel to another Payton threesome, she leaves threatening to have her own press conference to reveal their situation.
James is also offering a reveal to The New York Times because he couldn’t just follow the plan. He tells the writer about Marcus being a ghostwriter and William being a source who is no longer part of the throuple, which now includes one of Marcus’ students. Holy sh—, indeed.
Episode 5: “The Voters”
After that cuckoo bananas ending that included a pregnancy and the biggest exclusive that New York Times writer has ever gotten, this episode starts with the most ear-piercing alarm. It’s 6:30 am on Election Day and “throuple-gate” is officially a thing. Instead of spending this morning with a character we do know, we are introduced to a woman we don’t know yet, played by Robin Weigert. This potential voter is riveted by the news, but her daughter Jayne is more concerned with her mom’s lack of recycling. This is our front row to Payton voter vs. Dede voter. The mom doesn’t care about the throuple while her daughter cares about the lying. The youngster sees Payton as an authentic man who “actually cares about this planet.” Sadly, he doesn’t care enough to drink his own booty water, but sure, he cares about winning so he’ll go full hog on the environment!
This heated conversation shows how a single issue can impassion voters enough to deny anything good the other candidate has done. Her mom tries to show her that Dede has made their lives better and maybe, just maybe, climate change isn’t the only thing people need to care about right now. But Jayne has the perfect mic-drop to the idea that the environment isn’t the single biggest issue. “Okay, boomer.” This back and forth soon devolves into a generational fight. And as anyone on Twitter knows, every generation other than your own is the worst.
This 28-minute episode is dedicated to these voters. Jayne is a volunteer for Payton’s campaign where she’s met with Andrew, who hits on her, a very young volunteer. It’s like #MeToo didn’t even happen in his world. This is also a world where people fight with the doors open. Jayne sees Payton scolding James for playing dirty on a campaign that they’re still likely to lose. As they continue to fight about what this means for their future, we watch Jayne help a voter who didn’t even know it was Election Day find their polling place. She is too good for this campaign, which doesn’t have its shit together. Her passion deserves to be reciprocated by a candidate who is really out to change the world and not just win by any means necessary.
Now that I’m off my high horse, there is something exciting about learning that turnout for this election is way up. Jayne’s mom, Andi, actually works at Dede’s polling place where we see Hadassah trying to half-time this voting experience to keep from being asked about throuple-gate. Watching Hadassah scream "no comment" with regard to the story seems to make Andi uneasy. As they continue to push Dede for answers, Andi screams, “Nobody cares about this” and scolds the media for attacking her over something so ridiculous.
Seconds later, Andi is annoyed that Payton and Alice cut the line. Can’t imagine how she feels that Payton decided to reveal their impending pregnancy as he goes to vote for himself. He does seem like he’s doing a good job of controlling the narrative right now. As Dede gets run out of the polling place, Payton is pulling climate change maps out of his pocket. It’s his way of promoting his climate change rally planned for later that same day.
At this point Andi has also left the building and is talking to Dede about the increase in young voters. Still, Dede tells her not to worry, they’re up by 15 points and they’re going to win this one. Anyone else feel like it’s getting harder for Dede to say that and believe it? While her mom is being invited to a victory party that might never happen, Jayne is building a camping shower. The plan is possibly that Payton takes a cold shower and reuses the water. Oh, if Infinity could see him now! The problem is, McAfee is a little too honest with this starry eyed volunteer and admits this is all just a viral photo op. He doesn’t really believe in all this, but he knows other people do, you know, like Jayne, who looks horrified at the inauthenticity of this plan.
As both Payton and McAfee get annoyed that the outdoorsy looking Jayne doesn’t know how to put this shower together you really see how disingenuous this whole campaign is. Now, most of the viewers know that, but it’s hard to see this young passionate voter begin to realize it. “If doing things like this didn’t poll well, would you still do it?” she asks. He gets annoyed with her, throwing back that of course he cares about “the centerpiece of my campaign.” But as she reminds him, his original platform was built on the subway until he chose to focus on the environment. This is normal, he tells her. Candidates evolve and his views evolved once he started winning. Basically, Payton just said the quiet part out loud. It’s not the environment he cares about, it's the winning. Even as he tries to mansplain his campaign to her, he manages to reveal that he needed young voters and they care about the environment so now he cares about the environment, too. Payton bb, just stop while you’re ahead.
Andi is now at the victory party looking to talk to Dede and Hadassah. While there she gets stuck talking to the receptionist who is drinking out of a plastic water bottle. The cracking of that plastic is like nails on a chalkboard. Worse, she throws it right into the garbage as she goes on about recycling being a scam. Andi was right about the low turnout of older voters and Dede is nervous. And she has a right to be. To these young voters, Andi explains, “you’re some old lady who doesn’t understand what’s important.”
The truth is, Dede’s been fighting for progressive causes her whole career, but the young voters don’t know that. Andi advises her to go down to NYU’s campus and entice some young people who haven’t voted yet. Remind them what she’s all about. “Convince one and they’ll bring ten with them,” Andi says like some oracle.
What we see is that Dede might have trouble convincing them she’s not out of touch. When Andi says they should walk the ten blocks instead of sitting in the car, Dede seems surprised, but delighted by this rather practical suggestion. The problem is Hadassah doesn’t have her walking sneakers, which gets them on a tangent about how entitled and inauthentic Payton is. The thing is, young people want to believe it. “My daughter cares about the health of the planet more than her economic future,” Andi says and I’m left wondering why Hadassah seems shocked by that. Isn’t that her job to know?
The problem is Dede sees these as “selfless unattainable goals,” but Andi’s daughter and others don’t. Hearing Dede’s excuses as to why progress can’t happen makes Andi better understand why her daughter is voting for Payton, who, no matter his intentions, is fighting for change. Payton isn’t a socially progressive candidate, he’s a social media candidate and Andi understands the appeal to vote for someone who isn’t settling for the status quo. But does Andi vote for Payton?
When Jayne comes home, Andi apologizes for ignoring her concerns. She wants to be able to talk to her about their differing opinions. Andi admits that her generation had their shot and now a younger generation deserves to lead. Sadly, they’re left with a mess to clean up, but she believes in them. It’s why she voted for… Payton. Did others make that same choice? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.
Episode 6: “What’s in the Box?”
Fortunately, it’s not what Brad Pitt finds in Seven. With this show, you really never know. Instead, we’re talking about what’s in the ballot box. We’re three days into an electronic recount and still there’s no clear winner for the Payton vs. Dede race. We know that at the end of Election Day, Dede was ahead of Payton by just 23 votes. That’s just way too close to call, hence the recount.
As the news anchor tells us, the Standish and Hobart campaigns are now meeting with election board officials, who tell them it’s a tie. How convenient! Like Dede, we want to know how this happened being that she was up 23 votes. Where did those votes go? Turns out, they never existed, it was just a preliminary tally that ended up being inaccurate. The board very seriously assures both campaigns a discrepancy in the initial count is common. Two machine recounts and a hand recount later, the candidates are still tied and the board is ready to call it and take the next steps.
The options are, and both candidates have to agree on the terms, redo the election in 10 days or flip a coin. If that sounds ridiculous, well, it is actually up to code. Flipping a coin has decided elections in the past, as had picking names out of a bowl to decide a winner. In fact, two candidates can choose whatever they want to decide a race, even a literal foot race.
Since Dede is trending down she’s not interested in another election. The Hobart campaign isn’t confident they could win a re-do either. They got out the vote in a historic way and they still couldn’t win. Now they’d have to hope young voters would come back for another day at the polls. The coin flip is a real crapshoot, but Skye wonders if they can boost their odds by using a weighted coin. Payton is adamant, he will not cheat, but then offers to obtain the commemorative coin for the toss. Hmm. Though, Hadassah is not above cheating either since she’s busy searching, “Can you cheat at rock paper scissors?” Game theorists think you can, which might be why Hadassah suggests a roshambo contest for Friday at noon. The best two out of three. Payton and Dede agree. Democracy at its finest.
Payton wonders if this is a trick. Why would someone so practical choose a game of chance to decide an election? While McAfee thinks they should psychoanalyze Dede for clues. (“She strikes me as a scissors kind of gal.”) Payton wants to analyze the game, not the player, which means they need a rock paper scissors expert. Bring in Infinity’s ex Ricardo (Benjamin Barrett), who is still behind bars where “roshambo is life” and he’s discovered the secret to staying alive.
Before we learn the secret we hear Dede say there is no strategy to winning rock paper scissors. Hadassah disagrees since there is a paper from the China State Key Laboratory for Theoretical Physics that looked at how people make decisions and they found there were patterns. Ricardo, similarly, has cracked the code by doing his own study, watching others play to learn their styles. His findings aren’t all that different from the scientists who also found that men are more likely to start with rock. Turns out, rock paper scissors is a battle of wits. Ricardo, like the study, found that when someone wins they tend to play the same play the next round. If someone loses two times in a row, the study found “they switch to the thing that will beat what just beat them,” according to Hadassah. In this case, both Dede and Payton want to do the unexpected, which means, and stay with Ricardo here, if they win the first round they “switch to the thing that would win against the thing that you played the first time.” Got it? No? Well, in layman's terms, if you win with rock, play scissors because your opponent is likely going to throw paper which would have beaten rock. If you lose with scissors, play paper because your opponent will likely throw rock again since they won the first time. You have to keep your opponent on their toes when playing the most important rock paper scissors match of your life.
That’s not all Payton is contending with. Infinity has given him a stolen ballot box, which is still locked, meaning there are votes still to be counted. Oh, and she stole it and is very proud of herself, which is weird since, you know, it’s a felony. But she really doesn’t want Dede to win and thinks stealing the box is what helped make the election a tie in the first place. Also, let’s be happy she didn’t go with her other plan, which was assassinate Dede. She stole a ballot box from “a polling place with the highest percentage of old voters” and she did it by distracting their old brains with a mime routine. Pretty diabolical to prey on the silent generation with silence, don’t you think?
With a possible 300 votes uncounted, it’s likely Dede would win handily. Payton knows this is bad, like worse than lying about Infinity having cancer bad. Infinity believes this was the only course of action to save the planet. To her it’s not a crime, it’s self-defense. Whatever it is, it could mean jail if they don’t come up with a plan. Ideas like leaving the ballot box at the police precinct or having a truth-telling press conference aren’t cutting it, so James, as a way to regain Payton’s trust, offers to babysit the box.
While shopping for baby clothes, pregnancy frenemies Alice and Astrid have a heart to heart. An apologetic Alice admits (say that five times fast!) she’s not ready to share custody of a child with Payton. Politics has changed them and not for the better. Astrid argues Payton has always been this way. Well, Alice thinks she’s changed into a selfish cheater, but once again Astrid believes she just found a career that compliments her “particular moral and ethical skill set.” Read them for filth, Astrid!
Still, Alice feels like she’s being used. She is the brains behind the operation. She’s the one who told him to run on climate change. The one who encouraged him to play fair. “I’ve deferred my entire life to him,” she says through tears. She’s serving his dreams and ego. We’ve all watched her do it. It’s hard to believe it took her this long to realize it. Astrid always knew and suggests she just run away from it all and start over like she did. Look how great that’s working out! Jokes aside, Astrid says she wasn’t running away from her past, but running towards her future. That concept seems to delight Alice.
Hadassah is also delighted to see Marcus’ stuff in a box to the left. While Dede feels bad for Marcus, Hadassah couldn’t care less. He’s fine, she says, he has tenure. “He could be murdering cats on the internet and he’d still keep his teaching job,” she says. He’s a liar who was going to drag Dede down anyway. Still, Dede is just tired of the game. Like Payton, Dede is not feeling her most authentic either. She loves the governing part of the job, but hates the campaigning. This experience with Payton is just highlighting just how hard that part has become. “Since AOC, no incumbent is safe,” Dede says, a sign that, like our voter from the last episode, she knows the writing is on the wall for career politicians. Even if she wins, Dede realizes that she will never run unopposed again. The reason the idea of running for VP was so exciting was that it was unlike anything she’s done before. It’s the upper echelon. To be the first female VP is to be closer to the presidency than any woman ever. Now, that’s exciting.
As of now, Hadassah is fighting more for this senate job than Dede is. She sees the future and it is bright. “Look at those old farts in Congress,” she says. “Nothing but big, swollen prostates and Brooks Brothers suits. You don’t see them walking away because they’re tired.” She wants her to hang on to the power she has and fight to get more, but Dede swears she’s done after this race. She still wants to win, but sees an opportunity for Hadassah to continue without her. She can find a new candidate to inject all her passion and knowledge in. Hadassah might want the Thelma & Louise ending, but it’s time for them both to move on. It’s the saddest breakup The Politician has ever seen, watching these two women, who clearly care about one another, say goodbye to what they had.
Alice is also ready to say goodbye to Payton who always seems to believe he’s getting the raw end of the deal. Nothing is ever his fault, it’s just “thrust upon him.” He didn’t tell Infinity to steal the ballot box, but he was willing to make a fake coin to win or pretend to care about zero waste to get some young voters. He is part of the problem and Alice knows that. They created an “environment of moral ambiguity that made [Infinity] think that doing that for us was okay.” It’s why Alice has to leave. “I think maybe we are bad people,” she says, not even looking Payton in the eye as she does. She then corrects herself, “I think I am a bad person,” especially when she’s with him. Payton isn’t bad so much as “indifferent to morality and ethics.” It’s a chicken or an egg scenario. Has Payton always been this way, which made politics a good goal for him? Or did he become this way because he thought that would make him a better politician? Does it even matter at this point? Alice explains that he only makes the right moral choices when they serve him, it’s not his natural inclination. His moral compass is broken.
However, he sees his lies as political allowances that the voters expect. To her, they’re a sign of something much worse. “There’s always a rationalization for everything,” she says. These are the reasons why people think they can do bad things for him. It’s been going on since high school and it doesn’t appear he can stop. She’s worried she won’t be able to either if she stays with him. She has been doing this for his dream, but she doesn’t even know hers.
Payton fights to keep her, promising to help her find a dream that they can work towards together. I was left wondering why he wants her to stay. Does he really love her or does their burgeoning family speak better to voters? Does he believe he needs her support or does he just need her political savvy? When she refuses to settle for him helping her when it’s convenient, he turns on her. “You’re no better than I am,” he yells and she calmly responds, “You’re right” and leaves.
A good choice since Payton is too focused on the election to care. He tells Georgina he’s never had such a moral dilemma as the likes of the stolen ballot box. Or is it ethics? He always gets the two mixed up and that may be his biggest problem. “Does doing the right thing actually matter to me?” he asks. “Who cares?” Georgina says. Payton realizes what he does next will be the defining moment of his career and that scares him. His crossroads has him choosing between doing whatever it takes to win or doing the right thing, which could mean he loses. “Am I ethical or am I moral?” he asks. “Or neither?”
For Georgina, it’s about being able to live with your decision. Ethically, he should give in the box and face the consequences. Morally, he can choose to do whatever he wants with the box. He can throw it in the East River, but can he live with that choice? From what Georgina tells us about a young Payton, he probably could as long as he doesn’t get caught. He’s always liked the high he gets from doing bad and getting away with it. It’s why she believes Payton knew what he was going to do with the ballot box the minute he saw it. He is who he is and at this point Georgina believes he has to accept that. She clearly has accepted who she is and it helped her win her election. Say hello to Governor Hobart.
There is no cliffhanger where Payton and the audience debate what he’ll choose. Honestly, most of us probably already knew what he was going to do. Nothing, he’s going to do nothing about the box. “All I have left is my career,” he says. “And my dream, so I will make it to the White House.” Some men just want to watch the world burn. We just learned that Payton is one of them.
Episode 7: “Election Day”
Sheep teat. That’s how this episode starts. Perhaps, this is a wake up sheeple kind of thing? At the Gynerations Commune in Saratoga, NY, Astrid is milking a sheep as a way to get closer with her pregnant body. Alice is also there sorting grains of buckwheat into a pillowcase as an exercise in maternal patience. Not everyone is feeling the calming vibes here at the commune for expecting mothers who are expected to parent all on their own. Reignbough — “reign” as queen, “bough” as in branch of a tree — is a lot to handle no matter what trimester you’re in. The experience of this commune, which is a little too Midsommar for my taste, has made Astrid realize she can’t be a mother right now. Watching Alice support Astrid’s decision is a nice change for these two women who were at odds over Payton. It’s hard to believe he won’t later feel the political consequences of this decision, which was never his to make.
For now, Payton is getting his roshambo on. Again, let’s just bask in the ridiculous glow of this story arc, shall we? This election will be decided by a rock paper scissors competition. While he’s working on strategies, Dede is still searching the “interweb” (her words, not mine) for the correct rules. Do you shoot on three or four? She might want to get an official ruling on that or it could mean a lost senate seat. As Dede struggles not to overthink, Payton has his game face on and that black turtleneck. Honestly, everytime he wears that he seems to get his mojo back. Dede is getting a drink because after all the times she lost to Hadassah, things aren’t looking good.
While these guys play their games, Astrid and Alice are dealing with something real. Astrid is getting an abortion. She asks Alice if she knows anyone who had one and Alice’s answer is both a sad and comforting one. She tells her, as you get older, you find out that those “who you never knew had one actually had one.” For too long it’s felt like something shameful to talk about, but that is changing. Episodes like this prove that. There is also no shame in a woman not wanting to have children. Astrid has known this about herself for a long time, but she gets to proudly say it out loud for everyone to hear.
Not wanting to be a mom doesn’t make her any less of a woman, she says. She knows Alice will be a good mother, though, by the way she always babied Payton, making him feel better than he ever deserved to. Astrid knows that having an abortion means she can start a new path towards what she wants for herself and she thinks Alice deserves that same opportunity. She deserves a chance to choose what her future looks like and not have it chosen for her. Alice still loves Payton, but that conversation is interrupted. Astrid’s name is called and the two walk away together hand in hand.
Hadassah and Dede walk into a piano bar where they find Payton singing “Run Away,” a Ben Platt song being sung by a character played by Ben Platt. He looks happier than we’ve ever seen him before and even Hadassah and Dede admit he sounds really good. (He really does!) He sings about not running away, the same message he gave his team when he decided not to turn the ballot box in. This moment shows his humanity to his opponent who has always seen him as nothing more than a spoiled child. In actuality, he is someone who has been through the ringer.
“You should be on Broadway, not politics,” Hadassah said, which could be seen as her pushing him out of the race, but feels like a genuine compliment. Especially since she follows it up by complimenting his campaign run. He does the same, but in a way that Dede can see right through. Dede sees him as the bullshitter he is, but she seems to appreciate him for it. He understands the progress Dede has fought for, but knows she also pushed out a fellow progressive to get where she is now. It’s the circle of political life, which is why Dede admits she would have advised Payton to release the throuple news, too.
The two then talk about his first hundred days, what he plans to do if he wins. He wants to start with the seawall to protect from another superstorm, but she tells him it ain’t going to happen. He knows that. It’s his way of currying “favor with the local construction union” to help solidify his reelection chances and pushing the bar so he can get solar panels, which is far less costly, but still a start in his fight to save the world. Dede and Hadassah are impressed by his political savvy and by his encore, which is dedicated to them, his “enemies.” As he sings, “Corner Of The Sky” from Pippin, we see that he is a showman at heart. Combined with his ability to do whatever it takes to win, he might end up being a good politician. As Payton sings about wanting something to call his own, a “corner of the sky,” Dede is left in tears. Is she going to lose on purpose to allow someone else to lead?
The day of the rock paper scissors senate decision is finally here. Payton looks ready. In fact, he’s practicing his throws with reckless abandon. Hadassah worries that this is the end, but Dede assures her everything will be fine. She looks calm, cool, and collected as they prepare for the match, which will be using the Jacobian scoring rules, in case anyone was wondering. Dede would like to speak first, which they didn’t agree upon, but she doesn’t really care. She gets up and waxes poetic about bionic listening, a must for a politician because it forces you “to hear what no one else does.”
“The strongest political wind,” as she calls it, “can be heard long before it blows down old politicians and ideas.” She is a great listener and hears the young people who are angry over what is going on in the world. She also hears Payton, who is fighting for those young people who came out in droves to vote when no one thought they would. He did that by inspiring them and it’s why she conceded the election to Payton. “It’s not a trick, not a trick,” she says and I believe her.
Payton is now a senator and he’s writing his acceptance speech when Alice walks in to congratulate him. She agrees that not turning in the ballot box was right for his political career despite being wrong in the ethical sense. “I envy you,” she says. He knows who he is and what he wants. She’s still figuring that out, telling him she wants to go to medical school or start a lifestyle brand. Either way she’s going back to Harvard. She also is interested in being with Payton, but their relationship needs to change significantly. Think “a little more George and Amal and a little less George and Martha.” He agrees, asking her out to dinner. For once he chooses her over his career, ditching his acceptance speech for an immediate future in which he talks about medical schools. It’s a nice change, but is he doing this because the election is over? What happens when he goes back into politician mode, does Alice get pushed to the side again? Those are big questions for later.
Since production was halted due to COVID-19, the episode includes a bizarre FaceTime call between Georgina and Dede. After winning 98 percent of the vote, Georgina is none too happy to be living in Sacramento for work and only plans to serve a year of her four year term. Why? Well, she’s running for president, of course. Instead of keeping with her plan for California to secede, she plans to turn the rest of the country into California. Might be a tough sell, but she wants Dede to be her vice president, who would really run everything. The actual governing is the part of the job Georgina isn’t interested in, which means Dede would get her wish of not having to run a campaign, but getting to run a country. Hadassah would be Georgina’s chief of staff and Dede could run in four years since Georgina doesn’t plan to serve a second term. This is Dede’s second act, but Georgina’s plan would also mean Payton wouldn’t be the first Hobart for president.
Before Dede can answer, we’re watching Infinity deliver a rousing speech to welcome Payton to the senate. We’re back to the usual look of The Politician, crisp, polished, definitely not filmed over FaceTime. A very on brand Payton is freaking out about his victory speech, which really wasn’t a victory, but a tie. But McAfee has something to tell him, he won. Like, really won. The ballots in that box gave him the victory, but no one will ever know that. Still, knowing a majority of the nursing home vote went for him — he won by 23 votes, the amount that Dede allegedly won by, which um, weird? — is a big deal. People are behind his message of change. This wasn’t a generational race because he didn’t just win along generational lines, it was ideological ones. More people want to fix the environment than not. More people want to work on making things better than keeping things the same. This win, he says, humbled him. He wants to be a leader for all his constituents, not just the ones who voted for him. In fact, he says to those who voted for Dede, “I get it.”
He plans to stand up to the forces who are against him, who don’t want meaningful environmental change to come. It’s during this part of his speech that he gets louder. It is his bread and butter after all. He sounds strong on his single issue, and asks his voters to hold him accountable. If he doesn’t do these things he speaks of, vote him out. You wonder if he will regret saying that since he knows his fight is long and arduous. He might not get rapid results, which might hurt his base. Perhaps, though, he realizes that to be the kind of politician he really wants to be, he has to force people to keep him accountable because he can talk himself in or out of anything. As the balloons drop and the crowd applauds, Payton has Alice, whose hair is now much closer to God, by his side. “Thank you,” he repeats with tears streaming down his face.
Flash forward two years later, Payton is talking about his biggest accomplishments and they’re all environmentally sound. McAfee has found a fiancé and work/life balance. Alice is becoming a doctor while Payton brings their son, Archie, to work. This Election Day is different from the last one we saw. He’s running unopposed thanks to the fact that he kept his promises. A win in his eyes, but not his team’s. They want him to think big, announce his next campaign, but he’s happy where he is as a husband (yes, they got married!) and a father and a politician who is really putting in the work. He’s learned that ambition isn’t the end all be all for him that he once thought it was. He realized that he really was down for the cause and wants to keep fighting for it. So a toast to that, and oh, yeah, Georgina is about to be elected president? Sure! Clink those glasses!
That isn’t the real end, though. As Payton jogs, he is brought to a clandestine Central Park meeting with Dede. The vice president elect is happy to see Payton doing things she never thought possible. She made the right decision to concede to him, which is why she asks Payton to be her VP when she runs in four years. He won’t be 35, the legal age to run for president, so Dede plans to change that. Georgina’s got a plan and it includes a song that I hope we get to hear at some point. She’s trading in one Hobart for another, but Payton seems unsure until he sees a winking River jogging by. It’s the first time we’ve seen River since the premiere and it becomes his sign to get back on that ambition train headed towards the White House. Season 3 should be interesting.