This penultimate episode begins with Laffer’s primary opponent – the rugged, gun-toting Tea Party candidate, Al Hickok (Ted King) – being interviewed by a TV crew. Filming is disrupted by a disgruntled husband accusing Hickok of having sex with his wife, and Hickok resolves the situation in the only way he knows: by shooting the man with a high-powered hunting rifle. Naturally, Hickok surges ahead of Laffer in the polls, with Hickok quipping: ‘I’ll ‘stand my ground in Washington, too.’ Laffer dismisses Hickok’s killing a man as ‘pandering’.
Laffer meets with a group of disgruntled showgirls from his home state, who are threatening to go on strike if their working conditions don’t improve. A union rep reminds Laffer that a strike would not sit well with the Watt Brothers: wealthy Las Vegas casino owners who are benefactors of Laffer’s. The Watts inform Laffer that if he sides with unions, they’ll switch their support to ‘the homicidal rancher’. After his triumphant rebuttal, Guzman is being photographed for Vanity Fair, but he has yet to win over the influential Benito Lopez, who describes him as ‘inauthentic’, and the photo shoot ends up going in a strange direction.
Biggs is in high spirits, despite the fact he has become a pariah amongst his party for ‘recognising himself again’. While dining alone, he notices that Senator Armiston is also by herself, and ‘in the spirit of comity’ decides to join Armiston at her table. Biggs and Armiston share anecdotes, but Gil John’s good mood is destroyed when Armiston informs him that a video of him attacking a solider with a steel chair in Afghanistan – seen in episode four – has surfaced online. In crisis mode, Tammy and Maddie decide that Gil John needs to soften his image by appearing on the popular morning show, ‘Live with Kelly and Michael’.
This episode lays the groundwork for the big primary showdown, and makes some interesting observations along the way. The Watt Brothers – played with foul-mouthed gusto by Lee Wilkof and Todd Susman – are a wonderful synthesis of the Koch Brothers and a pair of Mafia hoods, cleverly drawing a parallel between the two with their crass, threatening demeanours. Brooke Bloom has been one of the understated gems of the series as Laffer’s aide, Julie; subtly mocking Laffer throughout with gentle barbs. The discovery that Julie is gay has the potential to be hilariously awkward, but it feels like a retread of Katherine’s revelation in the previous episode, which wasn’t followed up on at all here.
Bettencourt flits in an out of this episode, appearing mainly in his capacity as the senate ‘love doctor’; the ramifications of his decision to befriend Obama are only briefly alluded to, which dampens its dramatic impact. John Goodman and Cynthia Nixon are great together in the scene they share; their exchange serves to make the obvious but persuasive point that co-operation is not capitulation, a point that seems to have been lost in the current political climate. Though it doesn’t quite hit the heights of last week, this episode succeeds in lampooning the macho posturing that has consumed US politics, and the extent to which the political process is beholden to the 24-hour news cycle. The show now seems to have a voice of its own, and it will be interesting to see how everything is resolved.
Best Scene: Rosalyn reminding Laffer to limp from his ‘war wound’.
Best Political Reference: “If they do strike we’ll just fly in Mexican scabs, put ‘em in blonde wigs, no-one will know the difference.” Saul Watt’s solution to the potential showgirl strike.