LadyGhosts of TV Past

Retro Recap: “The Thick of It,” Episode 3.02

If Nicola Murray thought that dealing with Malcolm’s baptism of fire was rough, I’d like to warn her that it was only the beginning. With the new minister installed at her post and the department no longer in upheaval, the time is right for another crisis! And what a crisis it is – a large amount of data has been irretrievably lost from the department. What will Malcolm do when he finds out? And what will the repercussions be for Nicola and her staff? Let’s dive right in!

Cast photo for season three of The Thick of It

Episode two of Season Three starts off with Nicola on her way to work. She’s speaking with someone on the phone about more bad press she’s received. Suddenly the car stops and Malcolm barges his way in. As this is happening, papers are being shredded back at the office and Ollie and Glen are trying to figure out who’s going to break the “bad news” to Nicola. In their car, Malcolm tells Nicola that she won’t possibly be sacked so early because that would make the PM look like he’d made a bad choice in making her a Cabinet minister. He dodges the question of whether Nicola is doing a good job and says that she’s coming across as smug.

Ollie meets Nicola and they discuss the bad press and an upcoming lunch they’ve planned with reporters from the Guardian. As soon as they come into the office, Terri rushes up to Nicola and tells her something horrible has gone wrong. So much for subtlety. Glen blurts out a section from the Data Protection Act and, instantly, Nicola knows that something quite dramatic has taken place.

Finally the news is broken to Nicola: immigration data from the last six months has been lost in the computer. Nicola is, understandably, very annoyed because she’s still quite new in this job. Everyone piles the blame on Glen because he’s not very proficient with computers, but Nicola says she wants a list of people who are responsible for this. Nicola also wants to cancel the Guardian lunch, but everyone tells her that will look like something has gone wrong, which it has. As they’re dealing with this crisis, Robyn comes in to announce that Malcolm is on his way over.

When Malcolm arrives, they try to surreptitiously find out if he knows about the data loss already, but he’s inscrutable. He receives several phone calls that involve a lot of his customary swearing, but they still can’t decipher whether he’s come to shout at them. It’s basically like waiting for a time bomb of expletives to explode in their faces.

Eventually, Malcolm finishes with his phone calls and rather than beat around the bush any longer, Nicola simply tells him what has happened. Malcolm didn’t know and his reaction to the news is absolutely priceless. His expression changes from disbelief to surprise, then he chuckles and turns completely terrifying. Malcolm asks what their strategy is and everyone fumbles their way through some ideas as he shouts at them. It’s one of my favorite scenes because it’s so fast-paced and contains some hilarious, inexplicable tennis analogies from Malcolm.

On their way to the Guardian lunch, Nicola announces that she is putting Operation Not Smug, Not Glum into operation. As soon as they arrive, though, she faces a setback: a lift. She declares that she has to take the stairs because if she gets in the lift, she “becomes convinced [she’s] going to die.”

At the lunch, Terri makes sure they’re all off the record for the duration of the lunch. When Nicola arrives from her jaunt up five flights of stairs, the journalists begin to ask about problems at the department. Everyone dances around the latest data loss, trying to project an image of a department keeping on top of their sensitive information. Malcolm arrives and delivers one of my favorite lines, “Don’t get up, I’m not Viagra.” He teases the journalists quite a bit and tries to help Nicola’s image.

When asked about what a trademark Nicola Murray Policy might look like, Nicola goes on a rambly sort of explanation about some plan she has to replace plastic toys with more wooden toys because they’re safer. Malcolm’s face as she goes down this road is absolutely priceless.

Mercifully, the lunch comes to an end and Nicola takes the stairs down rather than the lift. On her way down, she blabs about the data loss because she thinks they’re still off the record. And the journalist she’s speaking to is off the record, but the one behind her is not. Marianne, a freelancer, overhears the news and she was not at the lunch. Instantly, Nicola realizes her mistake. She tries to get Ollie to go over and fix it, but he’s not suited for that.

At the car, Nicola tells Malcolm what has happened and his meltdown is one of epic proportions. When you watch his meltdowns, you have to remember just how many of these idiotic ministers he has to deal with on a daily basis and just how much shit he has to mop up. He, too, knows that Ollie won’t do any good so he goes over to threaten Marianne properly. But it doesn’t quite work.

Back at the office, more blame is slung around and they go through Glen’s list of those responsible for the data loss. But then Malcolm calls and tells Nicola to come to his office, now. She recruits Terri to go along with her, and Terri looks less than pleased.

At Malcolm’s office, he gives Nicola quite the sweary bashing. It’s not as loud or explosive as his meltdown in the car, but it contains all the same venom and annoyance. Nicola says that from now on she will listen to his advice regarding the press and be more careful about what she says to whom. Malcolm’s first piece of advice is that Nicola will have to “eat an entire concrete mixer of humble pie.”

Marianne comes in to receive Nicola’s statement regarding the data loss. The story is out there now, they might as well give their side of the story and try to control it before the press goes mad with it.

At the very end of the episode, Ollie tells Glen that he has found the missing memory stick with the lost data in one of his bags. Glen says they had better destroy it now. The damage has been done and the loss caused Nicola so much grief that she probably wouldn’t be very happy to hear it was found after this debacle.

Stay tuned next week when Nicola Murray will face a new foe: the dreaded party conference!

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