LadyGhosts of TV Past

Retro Recap: “The Thick of It,” Episode 3.08

We have now reached my final recap of The Thick of It. Since I’ve already recapped the fourth season when it was actually airing last fall, this is the final episode that needs to be recapped. As you might imagine, episode 8 of season 3 is rather emotionally charged because of what occurred in the previous episode. Let’s jump right in and see how the third season closes and what happens to these characters.

Cast photo for season three of The Thick of It

The episode picks up right where the previous one ended – Malcolm is heading home and is bombarded by journalists in front of his house. He shoves his way past them and tells them to mind his hedge. Back at DoSAC, they’re all experiencing some mixture of shock and relief. At Opposition headquarters, Stewart is herding everyone into an orderly response to this rather large development in the Government.

Fleming appears at DoSAC and says that the regime is being “re-jigged,” what with Malcolm leaving. Fleming is completely creepy as he describes the transition and tells them all it’s time to get back to work on staying in Government. If this is his rousing speech, it seems that everyone in DoSAC finds it lacking, and I can see why. Fleming teeters between a creepy calm and outbursts of anger that don’t exactly inspire confidence.

While the gears turn without him, Malcolm sits at home with someone who appears to be his agent, who is pitching him ideas of what to do now that his political career is over. Malcolm hates every option (a politically themed restaurant, a children’s book, etc.) and just looks dejected.

Meanwhile, Fleming takes Nicola aside and tells her that Dan Miller has formed a cabal of ministers looking to resign and jump ship from Tom’s regime so that Dan can rise to power. Clearly, there is a rift in the party that must be what’s causing their decline, at least in part. Nicola is just concerned as to why Dan’s cabal hasn’t contacted her.

Frustrated with his agent’s recommendations, Malcolm shows up at the BBC. Presumably, he’s looking to turn to television now. But as the producers pitch their idea, we can tell it’s not what Malcolm had in mind. He fakes a phone call and just leaves the building.

Elsewhere, it seems that Nicola is ruminating on other career possibilities as well. When she arrives back from lunch to a landslide of new shit related to the department, she asks Ollie to look up information on a think tank at Yale University in America.

Malcolm is back at home, laying on his couch and tossing snacks at his television, when he receives a call from Julius Nicholson. Next, we see Malcolm sitting with Julius and some takeout food, pretending that he’s doing just fine. Julius explains that there is a bit of a situation going on at Number Ten. Malcolm’s departure has caused some Ministers to decide they’re going to resign. The long and short of it is that they want Malcolm to come back –  just to “advise” – to convince Dan Miller’s cabal to remain in the Cabinet and to salvage Tom’s last vestiges of dignity.

Malcolm, never one to do something for nothing, says the only way he can return is if he knows that he’ll come out alright in Julius’ report. Although Julius says he cannot divulge the contents of his report, he says in a roundabout way that both Malcolm and Steve Fleming will emerge relatively unscathed from this inquiry.

The next day, Ollie comes in to work to find Malcolm there as well. He has Ollie help him set up a pseudo office there in the DoSAC building and, while the printer’s being hooked up, Malcolm gleans the information that Nicola has a possible job offer in America. Since Malcolm’s mission is to stop Ministers from resigning, he immediately tells Ollie he doesn’t think this is such a good idea.

In addition, Malcolm does something very important. He lets it slip that he thinks Fleming is going to get a death sentence in Julius’ report. We know from his conversation with Julius that this is simply not the case, but Malcolm has his reasons. Mainly, he knows that Ollie will blab about what Malcolm has said and he must want this information spread around.

Ollie tells Nicola that Malcolm is back in the building and, initially, Nicola is scared to face him because he asked her for help when he was being sacked and Nicola ran away. But when she realizes that Malcolm’s been back for five minutes and is already pulling political strings again, she barges in to speak with him. Malcolm tells her firsthand that she should not resign for the Yale job, that if she does, it will cause “political fucking Jenga” among the Ministers.

Steve Fleming, seemingly having heard the rumor that Julius is going to shaft him in his report, sidles up to Julius in the park and tries to get some more information. It’s interesting that Julius won’t give Fleming the tiniest bit of information when he did sort of tell Malcolm about the report.

The next day, we see that Fleming’s little meeting in the park was a poor choice. Some journalists have gotten a photo of him talking to Julius and are theorizing that a collusion is taking place and that Julius will go soft on Fleming in the report. Did Malcolm have something to do with this? Everyone at DoSAC seems to think so, and he certainly was spreading around the rumor that prompted Fleming to speak with Julius. Malcolm, of course, denies any involvement.

Back in his old office, Malcolm has his feet up on the desk and is indulging in a read of Julius’ report. Julius comes in, enraged about what Malcolm allegedly did to frame Fleming. He says that because it looked like he would go soft on Fleming, he instead had to go even harder on him to protect his own reputation for fairness.

Fleming appears and he looks fit to burst, clearly aware that he has been fucked by Malcolm. Though Malcolm undoubtedly returned because he had nothing better to do and because this job is all he has, a part of his decision to return had to have been the opportunity to take revenge on Fleming. And he got his revenge, but Fleming resigns to join Dan Miller’s cabal and this causes the resignation landslide they had all feared.

In the space of just a few days, Malcolm is already back on top at Number Ten. He’s shouting orders and Sam brings in his crisp suit to replace the “snuggly fleece” he was wearing. When Nicola comes in to his office, Malcolm tells her that the Prime Minister is going to call the election in just a few hours. The end has come. For some reason, Malcolm convinces Nicola not to resign. I’m not sure why he did this because there was no longer a need to hold back the resignation landslide, and keeping her on only leads to the catastrophe of her as party leader that we see in season four.

At the Opposition’s headquarters, everyone is thrown into overdrive with news of the election being called. Instantly, they’re all working on election strategy until Phil announces that “the Fucker” is in the building. This is Cal Richards, who is apparently Stewart’s boss, but his management style is far more similar to Malcolm’s in terms of shouting. As soon as he shows up, he takes over from Stewart and starts running their campaign strategy. Interestingly, we do not see Cal Richards again. I wonder if, in season four, he works in Malcolm’s capacity at Number Ten.

At DoSAC, on the other hand, there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming election madness. The office is nearly empty, those who are left are simply milling around and discussing what might be next for them.

At Number Ten, though, Malcolm is giving one of his best speeches of the series. He has everyone completely enraptured as he describes the fight they have ahead of them and what they need to do to win. He is, essentially, rousing his troops to battle and here we see that his skills in this capacity are vastly superior to Steve Fleming.

As everyone leaves the office, Terri says, “See you, Nicola. Or not.”

And we are left in suspense to find out what the election determines for our characters. Or, at least, we were until season four came out. If you’d like, you can watch season four on Hulu and read along with my recaps here on Persephone Magazine. Thanks for listening to me prattle on about this obscure, British political satire.

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