Retro Recap: The Thick of It, “The Rise of the Nutters — Part Two”

As you may remember, last week’s recap took on the first half of “The Rise of the Nutters,” an hour-long special episode of The Thick of It. This week we return to that episode to see how Malcolm is faring with positioning himself for the change of government, how Ollie is faring with his girlfriend, and how Peter Mannion is faring at the immigration office. If you’ll cast your minds back to last week, remember that the PM is expected to resign quite soon and Malcolm is desperate to learn the date of his departure so that he can ingratiate himself with the new man at the top. In this second half of “The Rise of the Nutters,” we see that may be more difficult than he first thought.

Cast photo for season 2 of The Thick of It

Thanks to Emma’s stolen policy, Peter Mannion visits a local immigration office to sort out some problems in the system. When he reports back to Stewart, Peter tells him that there is a crack in the computer system causing immigrant applicants to come flooding in. Stewart says they’ll deal with this properly, but for now he says that the nasty comments on Peter’s blog are probably coming from Malcolm. Stewart feeds this story to the press and, the next day, we see a newspaper with Malcolm Tucker’s name in the headlines.

As we know, Malcolm strives to not “be the story,” so he’s quite upset about this coverage he’s getting in the paper. Jamie comes into his office and points out the story, only making Malcolm angrier. Malcolm doesn’t want to the focus to be on him, he doesn’t want the behind-the-scenes operations of government to be brought out into the light. He feels his position is being threatened.

Malcolm goes for a walk (which is, apparently, uncharacteristic of him) and meets up with Julius, who is getting lunch. Julius jabs at him for being in the papers and says that Peter Mannion’s reports from the immigration office are going to accelerate the PM’s plans. Julius says that the PM has recently given him a “surprising” date for his departure and will be announcing his legacy – the independent immigration service – quite soon. This, of course, makes Malcolm anxious because he needs to get his ducks in line before the PM leaves.

Malcolm corners Ollie in the bathroom and explains to him that guys like him and Ollie need time to make certain alliances. They need time to “ease the transition” from one regime to another. To this end, he tells Ollie that he wants the Opposition to announce the independent immigration service – the PM’s legacy. Malcolm is hoping that if the Opposition get ahold of this first, it will screw up the PM’s plans for a legacy and force him into departing much later, giving Malcolm the time that he needs. It’s clear that he’s thinking only of himself in these turbulent days.

Although Ollie protested at first, he does go to see Emma to feed her the policy. He attempts to be delicate about it and even tries to mend the fence from when they seemingly broke up in the first half of this episode. Emma sees right through him, of course, and just asks for the policy.

All of our principle players are present at the book launch for Ben’s tome on politics. Julius corners Peter and asks him why he has booked the media center to make an announcement. Peter is cagey at first, but then admits he’s going to announce a move to hand immigration over to an independent service. Julius panics, of course, because this is the PM’s legacy and Julius has been working on this for a very long time. He relays this information to Malcolm, who pretends to be completely ignorant about how Peter must have gotten this idea. Julius tells him that the PM will just have to announce his legacy first thing tomorrow to beat the Opposition to it.

This does not bode well for Malcolm, who still needs to buy himself some time. First he tells Ollie that Peter needs to announce his policy sooner, but Ollie waffles and says he can’t get him to do that. Malcolm, desperate now, grabs Ben and tells him that he’ll be announcing the legacy on Newsnight that very night.

Everyone convenes in Malcolm’s office where he tries to tell Ben that he’ll do well on Newsnight. Eventually, Ben agrees to make the appearance and Malcolm calls someone at Newsnight to arrange the interview. Suddenly, Julius comes in and Ben tells him exactly what’s going on and what he’s going to announce on Newsnight. Of course, Julius panics. He tells Malcolm that this was a top secret policy and that he’ll be talking to him seriously about this breach of protocol.

Now, in this moment, Malcolm could easily fly off the handle, undermine Julius, and go ahead with his plan anyway. But Malcolm knows how tenuous his current situation is. The current PM, who apparently likes him, is on his way out and he’s unsure of whether he can keep his position with the new guy in town. What he doesn’t need right now is Julius telling anyone that he’s leaking top secret legacy policies. Being mindful of this, he tells Ben that he needs to listen to Julius and that he can’t mention the policy on Newsnight. But he has the spot, which Malcolm used his considerable media ties to attain, and he has to use it.

Malcolm is in a spot of trouble here and the panic on his face is apparent. He orders everyone out of his office and calls his contact at Newsnight. He tells her that he will come on the show rather than Ben. I don’t know what Malcolm was trying to achieve by making that phone call, but it’s clear that just judgment was clouded. He didn’t like it when he was a headline in a newspaper, he must not want to be in the spotlight of Newsnight. He backtracks, of course, calling back and saying that he can’t come on. His contact then wants to make that a story, that Malcolm even called up saying he can’t be the story.

Julius returns and tells Malcolm that, because of his chaos surrounding the legacy project, it has now been pulled. Malcolm seems to relax, glad that the legacy is off the table and he will likely get more time because of this. Ben ends up going on Newsnight and, with the legacy project completely scrapped, he simply talks about the release of his book.

The next day, Peter Mannion is at the media center to make his announcement. Just as he begins to speak, though, the journalists gathered there begin getting up and hurrying out of the room. Some big news has broken and, as we soon learn, that big news is that PM has resigned.

With this announcement, everyone is sent spiraling; Stewart bolts into action to get a media strategy up and running, DoSAC are trying to find a television so they can watch the news unfold, Glen is telling Hugh over the phone that this might be good for him, and Peter is furious that he wasted so much time at the immigration office. Ben is happy about this because he is a “Nutter” (a supporter of the new guy), and Ollie seems to want to forge an alliance with him to get in good with the likely new PM, Tom.

This surprise announcement is not good news for Malcolm. All the time he was angling to buy himself has been wiped away in an instant. The PM is leaving and the vultures will begin to swarm. When they do, Malcolm needs to make sure he’s chummy with those vultures and now he’s not sure if he has the time. Julius seems quite unhappy as well because this was not the date he was given.

As the episode ends, all the characters know that this is going to result in a flurry of rival candidates standing against Tom, people trying to hurriedly make alliances to remain relevant in the Government, and a whole lot of spinning of facts, of course. We’ll pick up that mess in “Spinners and Losers” next week.

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