LadyGhosts of TV Past

Retro Recap: “The Thick of It,” Episode 2.02 & Episode 2.03

Welcome to the final recap of The Thick of It before season four of the show is released. There has been a lot of buzz in the past two weeks regarding photos from the new season and more details about what will happen in the episodes. I hope you’re as excited as I am. Since the new season is coming so quickly, I only have time to finish up recaps for season two and then start recaps of the new episodes. So, let’s finish season two, which ends with a cabinet reshuffle in the government and some major scandals.

Season 2, Episode 2 

At the very start of this episode, we are introduced to the “8:30 meetings,” which are just daily briefings run by Malcolm. As Robyn heads off to the meeting, Hugh asks if she can get some information about the reshuffle. The reshuffle – which just occurred in the Real Life British Government – will be the major component of this episode. A reshuffle is basically when the Prime Minister shuffles around his Cabinet, promoting some people and demoting others. The 8:30 meeting is a bit of a boys’ club and Malcolm is very cagey about any reshuffle information, saying they both “can’t and won’t” give any details.

During the meeting, we are introduced to Julius Nicholson – a senior adviser in the government whose policies clearly clash with Malcolm’s methods. Malcolm provides a polite, official line on Julius and then immediately belittles him and his “blue sky thinking.”

Following the meeting, Hugh goes to see Malcolm in an attempt to get information about his standing in the reshuffle. In this scene, Malcolm gives his iconic line: “come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off.” Malcolm maintains ignorance on the reshuffle when speaking with Hugh, and then Julius comes in. He says something in jest about “abolishing” Malcolm, which makes it seem as though Malcolm might not come out well in the reshuffle. As soon as Malcolm is made to feel inferior, he lashes out and tells Hugh that the PM’s wife doesn’t like him much. I think it’s interesting that Malcolm has to make someone else feel bad when he’s feeling off kilter.

Hugh – who wants a promotion in the reshuffle – is now concerned that his poor opinion in the eyes of the PM’s wife will threaten that. He comes to the conclusion that the department will hold a party for some journalists to get his name out there favorably. Elsewhere, Glen drops the bad news that Julius has cut their department out of the 8:30 meetings, which is a bad sign for how they’ll fare in the reshuffle.

Next we see Julius coming to get Malcolm’s approval for some discussions he needs to have with ministers. Malcolm shoots down every single thing Julius requests and they end up butting heads and dueling about who has more sway with the PM. Julius goes on about needing more office space for his task force and says he might use Malcolm’s pantry for his 21-man team. Malcolm is hilariously protective of the pantry, though it probably has more to do with him not wanting Julius gaining any more power.

Hugh has his party and it’s a dreadful failure because the Treasury ended up having a party on the same evening. All the important people are clearly at that party and Hugh is stuck with rather unimportant journalists and bloggers.

The penultimate scene is one that I still marvel at and absolutely love in a perverse way for its tactical malevolence. Malcolm has convened Hugh, Ollie, and Glen because he wants to basically screw over Julius. Malcolm has them all call their mates and tell them they’re hearing Julius might get the position of Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle. The news makes its way around, as rumors do, and Malcolm eventually gets a call about it. He says, “I don’t know where that’s coming from!”

Malcolm then calls the PM, who is shocked to hear that this news is going around. Malcolm says that Julius is probably the one having his friends put this news around, and the PM agrees Julius needs to have his “wings clipped a wee bit.” Everyone present looks on in amazement and slight terror, as I imagine the audience does as well. We’ve seen Malcolm do some pretty shady things, but this is our first time having an inside look at the manipulation taking place, play-by-play.

The episode ends with the reshuffle having taken place and Robyn being reinstated in the 8:30 meetings. The department has now become the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, and perhaps this expansion was a favor called in by Malcolm after they helped him take Julius down a peg.

Season 2, Episode 3

The new Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship has been moved into a new building. As Terri tells Hugh at the start of this episode, the email system is not working yet. This is an important crux of the episode. The other important crux is that Hugh is scheduled to appear before the Education Select Committee regarding a bill that will close down schools for kids with special needs. It is revealed here that Glen has a child with special needs and that makes Hugh uneasy on the issue, not wanting to close these schools.

One of the exciting tidbits this new building affords them is being able to watch Malcolm yell at other departments. As they look on, Hugh says, “I don’t know which is worse, watching him slowly rumble toward you like prostate cancer, or him appearing suddenly out of nowhere like a severe stroke.”

Malcolm does eventually rumble toward them to discuss this “Super Schools” bill. He and Hugh argue about the bill and the opinions of experts Hugh has spoken with. Eventually Malcolm tells Hugh that he will call in another expert, one who will, presumably, toe the party line.

Hugh and Glen meet with Malcolm’s expert and, in the course of this meeting, Glen gets an email on his Hotmail, not his departmental email, because it’s still not working. Hugh takes advantage of this and pops over to Terri’s computer to send Glen a rather sweary email making fun of the expert.

As Hugh is leaving to meet with the PM, Terri comes in – utterly panicked – to tell them a young girl, whose name is also Glenn Cullen (just with two “˜n’s) got a rather sweary email…the email the Hugh thought he just sent to Glen…and it was traced back to Terri’s email account.

When Hugh and Glen return from speaking with the PM, the office has descended into chaos as the story about the sweary email has been spread around. Terri gets Hugh to admit that he was the one who sent the email, but Hugh tells her he can’t publicly admit it because that would be disastrous.

At the Education Select Committee, in front of the rather intimidating Clare Ballentine, Hugh tries to explain why he’s made a u-turn on the Super Schools legislation. He hasn’t made a u-turn, of course, he’s only doing what the government told him to do. Ballentine questions him heavily on his use of only one expert, and he is forced into lying about it.

Back at the department, Malcolm is around telling Terri that she has to give a press conference regarding the email she “sent.” Terri bristles at this, understandably, and Malcolm tells her she has to make the minister look good, so she must take the fall for the incident.

Hugh tells Malcolm about lying to the Select Committee, and Malcolm is unfazed until Clare Ballentine’s office calls, wanting to see departmental diaries from the last couple of weeks. Clearly, they want to check whether Hugh did, in fact, see more than one expert. Malcolm tells Hugh that he must go back to the committee and apologize. As they’re returning to the committee, Hugh tells Glen how touched he was to see Glen’s son play the trombone at his special school and that this incident is why he believes in the “Super Schools” and hates to go against them.

At the committee, Hugh bumbles his way through an apology, using the excuse that he simply forgot about the first expert he consulted. At one point, he says, “I categorically did not knowingly not tell the truth.” Now that Ballentine knows he had two opposing opinions from experts, she accuses him of backing the bill simply because the government wants to push it through as legislation. Of course, this is the truth, but Hugh can’t just admit that.

Instead, he resorts to using the story about seeing Glen’s son at his school, but uses it to support his change of mind. Hugh says this incident made him believe regular schools could work for kids with special needs. This is the ultimate betrayal because Glen is sitting right beside him as he tells this lie and Glen looks completely crestfallen.

The episode, and thus the season, ends with pretty much everyone pissed off at Hugh for one reason or another.

And that’s the end of season two! I do intend to return with recaps of the hour-long specials and the show’s third season, but first, let’s see what Malcolm Tucker has in store for us in a new season that includes a coalition government.

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