Episode Nine begins with the footage shot by Angie upon finding Gil John ‘playing hooky’ on a beach in Ruby Shoals. In the video Gil John explains that Republicans used to believe in opportunity, and they built things to create it: Eisenhower created the highway system and Nixon created the EPA. Gil John laments that the modern party no longer believes in climate change, or maintaining infrastructure, or background checks, or college loans. He asks rhetorically whether people remember the Gil John who didn’t vote to shut down the government, wreck the country’s credit, suppress voting rights and compare people to Hitler; then closes by stating that the old Gil John is back.
The Biggs Video becomes a sensation; we see it being discussed favourably on MSNBC, and Gil John quips that he’s getting credit from liberals for being a conservative. Bettencourt is preparing for his appearance before the ethics committee, with his defence being that he would never accept mohair suits because he is allergic to mohair. Laffer provides Bettencourt with his ace in the hole: a scarf that is 100% mohair. Laffer returns to work to find Lola working as in intern in his office; her secret relationship with James is reaching dangerous levels, and has embarrassing consequences for Laffer. As Guzman prepares for his response to the State of the Union, Bettencourt reveals he has been visiting the White House as part of an advisory group on the immigration reform Guzman is rebutting.
Gil John’s opening speech is executed with John Goodman’s customary bravura, articulating the frustrations of many moderate Republicans at the direction their party is taking with the Tea Party at the reins. It will be fun to see the new ‘maverick’ Gil John in action, and how his campaign machine will respond to this fresh twist. Owen Campbell makes an impression as Dilly DeSantis, a socially awkward wunderkind statistician brought into the Guzman camp by Talbot; Campbell makes Dilly’s every gesture and utterance seem hopelessly gauche. Katherine’s exasperation at the moral vacuum around her is deftly played, and the discovery that she is gay will make things delightfully uncomfortable for Guzman. Amy Sedaris plays Louise with a lightness of touch that doesn’t make her many eccentricities feel cartoonish; she dives into the role with such sincerity that her responses feel credible.
This is a packed episode that manages to juggle multiple story strands without feeling jumbled or truncated; this is the model for the show that should be adopted henceforth, integrating each of the main characters into the other’s storylines. The pitch of the writing is also much improved, succeeding in being consistently funny without sacrificing the show’s narrative flow, and creating a genuine sense of anticipation as the series nears its close. Though the reference points are familiar to politicos, this episode expands upon these scenarios with a highly developed sense of mischief, pushing them to the threshold of absurdity for full satirical effect. The laughs come thick and fast and the character dynamic has finally settled into a groove, which bodes well for the final two episodes.
“I want you to think of yourselves as tall, muscular ranch hands.” Laffer’s bizarre advice to his staff
Best Scene: Gil John’s impassioned opening speech
Best Political Reference: “I don’t care, John, I’m the new maverick now.” Gil John on the phone to John McCain