This week, the show is back from Opposition and we’re focusing once again on the Government side of things. The episode starts off a bit sleepily, but a crisis is barrelling straight toward everyone and how they deal with it is somewhat different from the old days of Malcolm’s party. Let’s dive in to episode three!
As the episode begins, Peter, Emma, and Stewart are all in a car on their phones. Peter is speaking with his wife, Emma is telling Phil what to do while they’re away, and Stewart is asking to be kept in the loop. It becomes apparent that they are all going to a “Thought Camp” to brainstorm ideas for the party. Again, they are talking about Mr. Tickle, who – it turns out – is set to be evicted from his home that day.
As a refresher, Mr.Tickle has been spoken about in passing in the past two episodes. If we gather what was mentioned in those two instances, we know that Mr. Tickle is an annoyance to Peter Mannion, he’s an unemployed nurse for the NHS who is being tossed out of his home, and Malcolm refers to him as a clinically depressed man who has been harassed by Peter Mannion.
The department is dark when Glen and Phil arrive and they both ask each other why they’re at work. Phil says he requested not to be included on the “away day” and will be acting as Peter’s surrogate while he’s gone. Glen says he has some work he wanted to finish up. Then Adam shows up, saying that he’s going to have a meeting with Fergus, which Phil demands to be included in. Adam says it’s party business, not ministerial, but Phil still thinks he should be included since Peter is away.
As expected, the retreat ends up being a load of Stewart’s touchy-feely techniques to connect with voters and get to the core of what they, as a party, should be focusing on. Peter is incredibly annoyed at being there and asks why he’s the only Senior Minister present. Emma tells him that J.B. – party leader and current Prime Minister – is punishing him for the mess-up with Silicon Playground in episode one.
With Phil deferred, Glen now tries to be included in Adam’s meeting with Fergus. After all, Glen is supposed to be working with Fergus and his party, but Adam keeps him out. Fergus soon arrives with a young woman named Tara, whom he declares to be an economist. Their meeting begins and they appear to be discussing something to do with micro-finance. Basically, Adam and Fergus are looking to start a community bank, which is a huge decision that should probably not be made without Peter present.
Meanwhile, Emma has begun a presentation back at the retreat. She’s giving a rundown on the contenders for the Opposition leadership when Nicola goes, which they are presuming she will. Emma zeroes in on Dan Miller, saying he is the biggest threat. Since we’ve seen what the Opposition are planning, we know that Emma is right – Malcolm wants Dan to be the one to step in after Nicola goes down. Peter states the obvious: if it’s Dan Miller they choose, then his party is “fucked.”
Phil and Glen do a bit of research on Tara and when they realize what exactly she handles, they’re both alarmed. Glen realizes that the meeting taking place is all about Fourth Sector stuff, which is supposed to be his area of expertise. Phil, on the other hand, is worried about the meeting taking place without Peter there.
Phil goes to try and stop the meeting, but suddenly Glen shouts out some terrifying news. Mr. Tickle is dead. He has killed himself. Instantly, the office goes into panic mode with everyone seemingly on a different page about the issue and not knowing what to do. In sharp contrast, everyone at the retreat is sitting in a circle, tossing a ball and suggesting policies like “24/7 parliament,” and responding with “yes and ho!”
Everyone is in a tailspin, with Phil saying he was instructed not to do anything and that Peter should make the actual statement. Fergus says they need to get Peter and Stewart back to the office, which will be difficult because they’ve abandoned their phones at the retreat. With the crisis that is unfolding, the department needs to get rid of Tara. To do so, Fergus jumps the gun and quickly agrees to her community bank idea.
Back in the “thought circle,” the ball finally gets tossed to Peter and he gives a real, concrete idea about reducing the deficit with spending cuts, but that’s not what Stewart wants to hear. Peter is so angry with the whole situation that he leaps up and suggests doing away with Stewart because his bullshit was amusing when they were in Opposition, but has no place now that they are in power. At this dramatic moment, the receptionist of the hotel they’re at comes in with a message from the office, requesting that Stewart and Peter need to check their phones.
Suddenly Emma’s phone rings and Stewart is disappointed that she kept it with her against his instructions. Then he is gobsmacked when she tells him it’s a hotline to Number 10. Yes, Emma has a hotline to Number 10 and Stewart does not. This revelation coming after Peter’s suggestion that they do away with Stewart is probably a bit too much to handle.
Once they retrieve their phones, Stewart and Peter are told that the only place to get good reception is at the top of the slide in the children’s playground. So, what follows is a completely ridiculous – but hilarious – scene with two grown men perched at the top of a slide, trying to listen to their messages. Emma appears and takes charge, saying Phil is coming to pick them up. Terri, too, is in a whirlwind back at the office as she tries to contain the situation, acting the most professional and efficient I’ve ever seen her.
As Peter returns to the department, journalists bombard him with noisy questions and he gives a rather good and measured response about how a man has just died and there’s no time for shouting questions. Stewart gathers everyone together and Fergus lets them in on the second bit of bad news – they have bought a community bank. Peter freaks out about this because, as the Senior Minister, the decision will be pinned to him, and everyone thinks it’s a completely bad idea. This shows the interesting juxtaposition between Peter’s party’s level of experience against Fergus’.
Peter is hurrying to get more professional trousers on so he can give the statement, but is stopped dead when Phil announces that a golfer has tweeted a photo of Peter and Stewart on the kiddie slide. Stewart goes absolutely mental at this, throwing Phil’s phone against the wall. Say whatever you like about Malcolm Tucker, he never threw someone’s phone at a wall. Indeed, Stewart seems to be dealing very badly with his first crisis. Malcolm always went into a steely and stoic mode when hit with these difficult situations, but Stewart has a complete meltdown.
Emma says the PM has seen the photo and doesn’t want Peter making the statement. Instead, it’s up to Fergus to go out in front of the journalists. It’s interesting that, although Fergus made a very bad decision regarding the community bank, he now gets to make the statement for the department because of a silly photograph of Peter. Stewart and Peter watch Fergus’ statement on the television, seeming to join forces in apathy as they make fun of him.
Well, it’s all come to a head with the Mr. Tickle situation now and it will probably be the reason this season ends up with a government inquiry. Personally, I can’t wait to see how this all goes down.
Season four of The Thick of It will be broadcast on BBC2 at 9:45 on Saturdays, and then on Hulu the following day for American viewers. It can also be seen online on the BBC’s iPlayer.