Today we focus on the second part of the second special of The Thick of It. If you remember, the first special, "The Rise of the Nutters," showed the climate surrounding Government as the Prime Minister was preparing to resign. Everyone seemed to want to know when he was departing so they could make peace with the new leader, change their allegiance, and retain their positions. No one wanted this more than Malcolm, whose every action seems to be motivated by his need to stay relevant in the new Government. The first part of this special, which we focused on last week, was all about clearing the way for Tom — the potential new Prime Minister. We left off with Tom losing followers after a story about his antidepressant intake was leaked. How will this play out? Let’s find out now.
Last time, as Tom was hemorrhaging followers, Malcolm fed Nick the idea of inviting Clare Ballentyne to be Tom’s potential replacement. Clare comes in — though it’s three in the morning at this point — and seems very confused. She’s bombarded by the entire Tom cabal, Malcolm, and Jamie, who proceed to explain the situation to her. Clare seems to be a smart politician because she can sense the desperation in their choice of her and she says "no."
At this point, Jamie takes her aside, saying that this must be a private matter. When he emerges from his short conference with Clare, Jamie says that she has had a problem with online poker and used her own name. Presumably, this kind of scandal is not something they want attached to a candidate for leader, so it buries the idea. I’m still not sure if what Jamie says is true or if he’s somehow trying to help Malcolm by exposing how bad this idea is.
Meanwhile, at the newspaper, Adam and Angela are feeling rather annoyed because now the Ballentyne story is old news. Malcolm calls Adam to feel out his take on the antidepressants story. Adam says that he’s not going to run with the story and Malcolm is, obviously, pleased by this. But he threatens Adam for good measure, just to make sure he doesn’t even think of running the story.
Nick comes in and Malcolm tells him that Adam is running with the story, though we’ve just heard that he isn’t. Malcolm wants to make Nick worried about Tom’s position still, and it works. Malcolm tells him they need a plan B and lets Nick toss out a name on his own this time. He comes up with Ben Swain and Malcolm says it’s up to him, he wants to make sure that Nick is fully to blame for this one.
With Nick’s go-ahead, Malcolm calls Ben in and pitches to him the idea of standing for the leadership. Ben is clearly very flustered, but he agrees once Malcolm has sold it to him. Ben then tells Ollie and Ollie is, naturally, excited about this because he’s already friends with Ben. If Ben gets the leadership, Ollie would most likely be in a position of power.
Elsewhere, Glen reveals to Jamie that Julius is the source of the leak. Jamie, with his trademark rage and vengeance, storms off to find Julius and do something horrible to him. Glen runs into Ollie and they have a bit of a row about Glen being irrelevant and Ollie having no respect for his loyalty to Hugh. After they run into Julius, though, they huddle away with him and some take-out.
After a suitable amount of time, Malcolm meets up with Nick to say he’s killed the antidepressants story. We know that it never needed to be killed, so we know that Malcolm is playing Nick for a fool at this point. He then asks Nick to make sure Tom knows who killed the antidepressants story. He says that if Nick tries to take credit for it, Malcolm will be sure to let Tom know about this situation with Ben Swain thinking he can stand. Now we see the extent of Malcolm’s planning and manipulation. To secure his own position, he had to make Nick look like a threat to Tom.
Malcolm joins Glen, Julius, and Ollie and says their next fish to fry is Dan Miller. Where has he been throughout all of this and what is he up to? Jamie shows up and unleashes his rage on Julius for leaking the immigration story. When Malcolm realizes what he’s shouting about, he begins tossing food at Julius and soon everyone is pelting Julus with cheese and chow mein.
The night cleaning woman comes in then wanting to simply do her job. The cleaning staff have been shown several times in this special as they’ve had to work around these idiots pulling an all-nighter. Ben shouts at the woman and Malcolm has to clean that up as she threatens to go to the press.
Glen goes to check on the phone situation because, he says, Hugh hasn’t called him in a while. Robin tells him that Hugh called and wanted to speak with Ollie. Yes, Ollie, who has not been loyal to Hugh all evening. Glen is understandably upset by this because he’s the one who’s had Hugh’s back throughout this whole mess. Glen, quite honestly, proceeds to lose his shit. It’s been a very long night and he shouts about being irrelevant now and his career going down the tubes. The whole scene is partly tragic and partly very hilarious. Malcolm doesn’t say anything throughout this scene, but I like to think that he sees a possible trajectory for himself in Glen’s meltdown.
Just then, Terri gets a call telling her that Dan Miller is in the building. At last, he’s broken his silence so everyone rushes down to meet him.
Dan Miller shows up clean-shaven, well-rested, and completely cool in contrast to everyone meeting him. Dan says that he’s simply going to announce his support for Tom on "Today," and that they came to an agreement an hour earlier. Especially knowing now that Dan Miller will rise to power, it says a lot that he was able to make them so nervous without even being there.
Nick is upset that Tom didn’t inform him of this development and it’s clear that he is now out of the loop. Dan says that Tom told him to liaison with Malcolm (not Nick) regarding press, and Malcolm receives a call inviting him to a breakfast meeting with Tom. The triumph and relief that Malcolm feels is palpable and visible on his face. He succeeded in clearing everyone else out of the way to remain the head press guy for the leader of Great Britain.
As the episode comes to a close, it’s revealed that the press have the story about Ben shouting at the cleaning woman. Things return to normal as Malcolm goes around the circle trying to figure out who leaked the story. He seems to think that it was Jamie, though Jamie denies it, and we’re led to believe that he excommunicates Jamie from his inner circle after this. This is probably true since we don’t see Jamie again in the series. It’s a pity because Malcolm seemed to have a genuine friend in Jamie.
Glen says that he did it, that he leaked the story, and he probably did but no one takes him seriously enough to believe his admission. Interestingly, Malcolm defends Glen in this instance and says that Ollie is useless. At this point, Malcolm probably feels more of a kinship with Glen after his meltdown and is simply annoyed with Ollie. Now that we know Ollie basically becomes Malcolm’s successor, I wonder if he said these things to get Ollie’s ire up and make him work harder to come back from this crazy night.
What can we take away from this episode? I think that it shows the extent to which Malcolm is willing to sell out those around him in order to keep his place of importance. I think it shows that these people will jump on anyone’s ship as long as it looks like they’re going to be powerful. I think it shows a rather disturbing relationship between journalists and the press handlers for politicians. Most of all, I think it shows us that politics is a game, and the spoils go to whomever can learn the rules. In this case, it’s most definitely Malcolm.
Up next, season three begins! And, at long last, we get a female lead character who isn’t afraid to spar with Malcolm Tucker.