Political Animals Season Finale Recap: 'Tell Me Exactly How You Thought This Would End'

The following recap, by the very definition of the word “recap,” contains spoilers from the season finale of Political Animals.

USA Network’s Political Animals wrapped its “limited summer event” run with a flurry of twists and turns that the real-world presidential election cycle can only wish it delivered.

RELATED | Political Animals: Could Buzz Offset Soft Ratings and Beget a Season 2?

Titled “Resignation Day,” the finale opened with Elaine handwriting her resignation letter — with quite impressive penmanship, for today’s computer age, hitting all the right buzz words (“honor,” “deeply grateful,” “profoundly changed me”) and also letting the record show that President Garcetti’s values “as of late” are not ones she could support, ergo her decision.

No sooner had Elaine run the letter by Douglas than he leaked a copy to Susan Berg, declaring it the end of their backroom deal. Susan assured Doug that even though he had betrayed his mother and screwed around on his fiancée, “You’re still a good guy — and I haven’t met a lot of those.” Susan went on to share the letter, “against her better judgement” indeed, to Georgia, but reminded the blogger that they were sitting on their story until Elaine formally announced her run for the White House. Funny thing about that….

Meeting Garcetti on the tarmac before his flight to the GDC in France, Elaine presented her resignation — but he was reluctant to accept it, at least not until he had her decision on a request he wrote on the back of the letter: Please run with me. “Say yes this time,” he implored Elaine, alluding to his original run for the presidency. “It’s the right thing to do.” The tarmac tete-a-tete also left Elaine aware that Garcetti had no idea that Collier blackmailed TJ’s lover Senator Reeves, and that Bud in turn clocked the veep. All in all a simply terrific scene that made my eyes well up on both viewings.

Back at home, Margaret was packing up her liquor in a bid to offer sympatico sobriety alongside TJ. (“Margaret and I fixed up your room,” Anne told her brother-in-law-to-be, leaving out the part where they got stoned off their gourds.) Later, Doug confided in TJ that he “had mistakes too…. We’re not that different.” They also reminisced about the tutor they both slept with, the same summer that TJ came out no less!

Elaine read in Bud on Garcetti’s offer, which left even the master politico surprised. (“If you say that you planned this, I swear I’ll strangle you,” she warned him.)  Bud saw how Elaine might and should consider joining Garcetti on the re-election ticket. “That’s your lot in life — you see the goodness in flawed men,” he noted. “That’s why you married me!”

Back at the Globe — surprise, surprise! Except not — Georgia snitched to Alex that they had the Secretary of State’s resignation letter, eliciting this superb condemnation from Susan: “You would burn down this building if it advanced your career a half an inch. You stupid little girl.” Susan loops in Doug on the Globe possibly running with the letter before the announcement — which unbeknownst to Doug would be a quite horrible thing, since Mom might run for veep instead!

At the Barrish home, TJ tries to duck out for some “errands,” but grandma stops his coke run cold, saying that he has so much potential to put his demons behind him, “but you have to fight for it.” Great stuff between Ellen Burstyn and Sebastian Stan.

At the State Department, Doug comes clean to his mother, that he had leaked her resignation letter, as well as other details about her presidential campaign, to Susan. “Tell me exactly how you thought this would end,” Elaine wondered to her son. Doug admitted that he had no faith in her White House bid at first, but “I have zero experience saying no to you…. I’m 30 years old and my worst nightmare is letting my mother down!” Later, Doug interrupts Anne’s yapping about some decorating gig/harpsichord conundrum to ask her to elope.

Elaine arranged a meet-up with Susan at the elephants, where she confided in her “not as a reporter, but as a human being,” that she is scrapping her White House run for a ride on Garcetti’s second term ticket. “I have one son who has nearly died twice. My other son, there is a conflict and anger there I’m just starting to see,” she explained of her decision. “I am a mother first.” Alas, Alex is still determined to publish the resignation letter — until Susan discloses that Doug slipped her more than confidential documents, ifyoucatchmydrift. Now Alex can’t run the letter, lest he risk landing the Globe in an ethics scandal. In the end, Alex took the bullet for this call, as Georgia ratted him out to their publisher, who promptly canned the EIC. And though Susan offered to cop to her own role in the mishegas, Alex was an upright guy for once and didn’t let her.

And then there was the accident.

Air Force One, which was transporting POTUS to the GDC, crashed into the drink on approach to Paris, with no survivors immediately found. After Skyping with the president of France, Elaine learned that Collier was jumping the gun by having himself sworn into office. “If you take this oath and Paul Garcetti turns up alive, we’ll have two presidents,” she explained to the VP, “and that presents a constitutional problem.” Collier came to his senses and accepted the automatic and temporary transfer of power, and invited Elaine to stay on board — in the name of “unity.” Weasel.

The intense, twisty finale lightened things up a bit in its final act, as Elaine got wind of the elopement then hurried the fam to Grandpa Hammond’s farmhouse, where the happy couple naively hoped to trade vows in private. Instead, Bud took over as officiant and finished the ceremony. Later, Bud and Elaine had a nice reflective, semi-romantic moment… which eventually turned to politics, as Bud said that Collier represents “the worst of the Democratic party” and is not the “strong, confident, resilient leader” the country needs now.

“Fred is not that man, but you are that woman,” he said. “Say that you’re going to run.” Elaine’s answer, gradually: a smile.

And I in turn leave you with some quotables and observations:

* “I put please down there so you didn’t think it’s an order. But I am ordering you to think about it.”

* Because it bears worth repeating: “You stupid little girl.”

* “You must have developed quite a bond with [Douglas].” “Yes, a professional one.”

* “If you’re not sick of the plane…you’re welcome to join me.” (Love the friendship these two women have.)

* “All this Japanese stuff you keep throwing on Anne — it’s racist.” “Good thing I didn’t bring my kimono.”

* “You were a little freer with your other organs.”

* The powerful Hammond-Barrish machine couldn’t have the Ogami family picked up and rushed to the wedding as well?

* FYI, Elaine’s resignation letter read “…entered this job” but her narration said “…accepted this job.” Also: The letter was dated July 17, 2012, which for a show that otherwise set itself in a variation on our current timeline (referencing past presidents and such) didn’t jibe with Garcetti’s mid-term situation/Elaine’s timetable.

* And last but not least: “Thanks for the invite, you little s–t.”

What did you think of the Political Animals finale? Do you hope USA Network orders a Season 2?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Mariel says:

    This show was so good. Did not expect for the twist of killing off the presidency now forcing Elaine to run. Gosh I hope that they renew this because leaving fans like this is like the scene into black of the sopranos or the horrible lost ending. We need to see Elaine barriesh’s campaign. Can she kick the veep a.. Also what will have with the triangle between doug/Annie/Susan. Please USA extend this “limited run”. And by the way don’t make us wait till next summer,,

  2. Liam Tait says:

    I really hope we get more of this, I’m not done with the Barrish family yet and I can’t wait to see her go head to head with the new guy.

  3. RenewIT says:

    I enjoyed it. Ellen Burstyn RULES. And the rest of the cast is good, too. I hope it gets renewed!!

  4. Krissy says:

    I enjoyed this show so much and I am hoping USA renews for a season 2.

  5. Jon says:

    I expected the VP offer from Garcetti, but the plane going down was a complete surprise. Yes, I want to see it continue again next January, and then more in the summer. Like all the other USA network shows.

  6. Ron says:

    I liked the finale and the “cliffhanger”, and would love it to continue only IF they keep up the quality. The way to do that is keeping it as a 6 or 8 episode season, like most british series do.

  7. Christina Lynn-Craig says:

    I LOVE this show too! The writing and the acting are top flight. It is inspirational and on topic. PLEASE have a second, third, fourth, “limited series” seasons!

  8. Pamela says:

    Fantastic show! Keep it!

  9. Jonathan says:

    I called Air Force One crashing the moment I saw Garcetti’s son and wife (who was in a Jackie O get-up) huggin him goodbye on the tarmac. They focused on that moment a bit too much for it to not be important…

    • Jonathan says:

      Oh, and I forgot to mention that I friggin LOVE this damn show!!! I liked Commander in Chief w Geena Davis, but so far Political Animals is blowing that outta the water!!! :)

    • Matt Webb Mitovich, Editor-at-Large TVLine.com says:

      Yeah, on second viewing, I noticed that too (in hindsight). A touch too lingering.

    • Irishgirl says:

      Yeah, I had an inkling they might kill him off, and it was that scene that sealed the deal. They’d spent too much time re-building Garcetti as a person Elaine would like, and I couldn’t see them killing off her kids. I thought maybe they’d have Doug in an accident, but then that just seemed too cliched to have him in an accident after a fight with Elaine right after TJ overdoses after a fight with Bud. So it was that scene that sealed the deal…the long linger on him hugging his kid.

    • Jessie says:

      Me too! I shouted it at my tv. Just the thought of that actually happening made me sick to my stomach, though.
      I really have enjoyed this show. Sigourney Weaver is unbelievably awesome and Ellen Burstyn and Sebastian Stan are stellar together.

  10. Siria says:

    I don’t get the timeline. TJ tried to kill himself on December, 22. The show started 6 months later, ie in the summer. Then in episode 4 they decorated a Christmas tree, Grandma Barrish even wore a Santa’s hat. Elaine also announced in that episode that she was going to resign in 48 hours. Then how can it be July in episode 6??? And more importantly: How the hell did TJ get the club ready to open that fast?

    Anyway, I just can’t believe it is over already. I just loved every minute of it. The finale was great, although IMHO there was just not enough TJ.

    • Siria says:

      I forgot something. In the promo there was a shot of the Secret Service guy telling Elaine that there was an accident and then TJ getting out of a car, wearing his leather jacket, sunglasses and a WTF expression. Did I miss that scene?

    • Irishgirl says:

      The episode you are referencing was a present day episode with flashbacks. The suicide attempt and Christmas tree scenes were flashback. The resignation announcement was present day.

  11. Mrs. Peele says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the finale. I also did not expect the plane crash which I wonder if it was truly an accident. They didn’t find the President’s body yet so maybe he didn’t actually die …The VP is an idiot….I’m glad Douglas eloped and that his brother knew where they would be…Elaine must definitely run now!

  12. Josh says:

    Season 2 can’t come soon enough!!!

  13. David Platt says:

    We absolutely need a Season 2 (and 3 and 4). I was a fan of Commaander in Chief and this series is even better. Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Burstyn are both fantastic and the rest of the cast is pretty damn good too.

    This is better than 90% of the other series on TV, especially the vast majority of reality shows – Bachelor Pad, Glass House, Big Brother, etc. – all crap compared to Political Animals.

    • Sandra Peters says:

      I just wish I liked the characters more. There is no one here I really like or have any feeling for. I, too, do not understand why her family was not at the wedding, and why this not upset the bride.

      • stacey says:

        The powerful Hammond-Barrish machine couldn’t have the Ogami family picked up and rushed to the wedding as well?

        YES. All I thought about at the end, seemed so weird for them to not be there. Especially since they mentioned she called them

  14. Janey says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed both the series and the finale. There have been some standout performances, particularly from Sigourney Weaver, Ciaran Hinds, Sebastian Stan and Ellen Burstyn. I didn’t see the plane crash coming, although now I’ve read the other comments about the lingering shot on Garcetti’s family, it seems perfectly obvious. But I love what they did – it makes a second season (God willing) so much interesting than if she had been running with Garcetti for VP. This woman was made to be president!

    I agree about them picking up Anne’s family though; I kept expecting them to surprise her and say “Look who we brought along!” I would have been so annoyed if I was Anne!

  15. oz1967 says:

    Sigourney Weaver shines!!! Season 2 is a must…

  16. Cathie says:

    I LOVE this show. We need more like this (note to CBS, ABC, NBC…) This finale took me by surprise like everyone else. Cannot wait until it comes back. Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Burstyn are the best actors on TV. Thank you for a great show,

  17. Wendy H says:

    Lets hope that this show makes another short run again and again and again

  18. Andie says:

    It’s absolutely fantastic finale and it’s no doubt a fantastic show that got me hooked since the first episode. USA must renew this show as it’s the best show on TV!

  19. Shawn says:

    I really came away impressed from this show. until the plane went down I was thinking that oh maybe it really is only 6 episodes and no renewal and it’s going to end with Elaine saying she will run as vp but then have her whole story get out and her career be over .

  20. Sarah says:

    I love the show! Disappointed Anne and Douglas eloped I was hoping for something to happen more with him and Susan. Anne is cold, an affair more than a one time fing between Susanand Dougls would have been great! Just sayin….

  21. CJ says:

    It caught me by surprise just how much I enjoyed this show. I really hope it returns for another run next summer (or whenever!)

  22. cuius says:

    Good contrast to The Newsroom. These two shows have kept things going through the summer

  23. MM says:

    Terrific show. Well written, good characters, and beautifully acted. Not as partisan, and ideologically slanted as The Newsroom.

  24. Is it comng back? It is great!!

  25. davej says:

    I was actually planning to NOT watch this series based on its promos. I then recorded the first episode on the second or third night it aired and I fell in love with it.

    Did not expect that finale. I would love another season of it. A few thoughts:

    – Bud has really grown on me. he started out as a caricature and ended up being an aunthentic person.

    – Ellyn Bursten was perfect as grandma.

    – Sigourney Weaver was great in that I never noticed her. She WAS the character and I never thought, “this is Ripley in the White House” or thought about her other roles the way you sometimes see other actors being the same person in whatever role they play.

    Plot points:

    – if there is a season 2, how soon does Anne find out about Doug and Susan on the airplane?

    – I would think that all Elaine has to do is make her note from President Garcetti about being the next Veep public and she wins the Democratic nomination easily.

    • davej says:

      Sorry, forgot to add that I could easily see Susan resigning from the paper and going to work on Elaine’s campaign as the press secretary.

  26. Lauren says:

    LOVE this show! I like that….in addition to political drama, there’s also family drama and there’s some levity in it.

    And I think I spotted Rittenhouse Sq. in the scene with Doug and Susan last night?

  27. aril2 says:

    Seeing the President get on the plane, complete with the whole “happy family” scene made me think about him dying, but I didn’t really believe that was where they were going with the whole “accident” preview. I thought Douglas or Ann would die. In retrospect, POTUS’ death did set up the “necessity” for Elaine to run. The VP is such a complete whack job that I don’t think any fan will question Elaine’s decision to oppose a sitting President for the nomination. It’s fiction, so I don’t have any problem with the date on her letter. In this show’s alternate universe, perhaps the election is in 2014. I like that this show is all about the Democrats’ in-fighting, no Republicans are demonized. Although, given his “values,” the VP cetainly seems to have joined the wrong party…

  28. arial2 says:

    After watching the “Americanized” Planet Earth, I would have no problem listening to Sigourney Weaver’s Elaine deliver presidential addresses. The timbre of her voice can be nearly musical, almost hypnotic. : )

  29. katrina says:

    Fairly Legal is a better show, imho.

  30. J.R.Roberts says:

    The President will survive…Air Force One was just partially submerged – they will find him.

    • Jeff says:

      nah…if there is a second season, he’s dead. Adrian Pasdar is a series regular on “The Lying Game”

      • Martin says:

        No he’s not, he was never a series regular last season and the only person promoted was Charisma Carpenter.

        Plus his character is in prison for murder, might guest star in a few eps of that but won’t be a focal point, so technically he could do this show WHEN it gets renewed.

  31. Bobbi says:

    I really hope this show gets renewed!! Any idea when we might know?

  32. Cathy says:

    I really hope that this series is renewed. I liked the season finale, but worry that the energy might not be as good in a second season. I do, however, wonder what wardrobe was thinking when they put Elaine in the sundress.

  33. Ram510 says:

    I like how this episode they toned down crude language. It seem to help the dialog flow better

  34. nikki says:

    Fantastic show! I am crossing all my fingers and toes for season 2!!!!!!

  35. Todd says:

    I agree with the earlier comment about Elaine’s wardrobe. There have been a number of questionable choices, I think. The one thing I haven’t figured out is Bud’s accent. Apparenly he grew up on a farm close enough to D.C. to be easily reached by motorcade, but he’s picked up a deep southern accent somewhere along the way. Did I miss that explanation?

    I do hope the show is renewed. Great writing, great acting.

  36. pamlany says:

    I absolutely love this show! It is intelligently written and well acted. Sigourney Weaver’s part was written for her and Ellyn Bursten shines in her part. I love the relationship between Susan and Elaine. I find it sad that when quality programs like this come along, they don’t do well, because the average American would rather watch reality TV. USA, please bring Political Animals back!

  37. Mary says:

    This show is Great!! I want more Political Animals..looking forward to season 2…Please USA brings us a season 2!

  38. Pearl says:

    Well… I believe that the Hammond Barish cam make a last minute travel to a farm anywhere in the country (jets are there for it) and find the time, even if you work in the White House. I don’t know if Anne’s parents would have the same choice to go anywhere anytime… And, they can also be angry with their daughter, because they were so proud of her perfection, and elope is not “perfect”.

    I do find strange that Ellaine was supposed to fly to France, but she is with Bud in the farm at the night she was supposed to do this.

    I realize that Potus was gonna die when I saw the promo with the Agent telling that there was an accident. I was kind of hoping that the Veep would be with Garcetti, and Elaine would become the President. But, instead the gave us the jerk president, that was sad. x.x

    I hope Garcetti is found alive, after she resigns. That way she would have to face Garcetti in the election, what would be even more fun. Or, he turns up alive and decides not to run again, and support Ellaine, against the Veep.

    The idea of Susan living her jop to be the head of Ellain’s campaign would be so good. After all, Ellaine doesn’t know about her night with Douglas, so to Ellaine could sound a good idea to put Susan in comand with her son, and Susan would never let an opportunity like that pass.

    I don’t like Anne.

    Sebastian Stan did a great job on this art, and he looked amazing in Once Upon a Time. I’d love to see him in a leading art anywhere. Imagine what he could do in Good Wife *_* Maybe try to sleep with Alicia at the same time he wants to become a partner on the firm. Would be amazing.

  39. VC says:

    Add me to the chorus of people who are hoping for more shows! Excellent ensemble acting and absorbing plots. What more could a network want?

  40. BJD says:

    What an absolutely AWESOME show this is! MORE PLEASE!!

  41. dh says:

    Love this show. But does anyone know what song was playing in the beginning of the episode. It was haunting and really set the tone. In the words of Bud…Thanks Sugaah.

    • Icey M Bowie says:

      I want to know the name of that song, too and who the artist is. I’ve been trying to Google it, but am not having any success.

  42. T. GUCCI says:


  43. Serrano says:

    They better not pull the plug on this. This show is freaking great it’s what we call MUST see TV. It’s contagious ! Season should be longer

  44. Jean Westmacott says:

    We LOVE this show, Political Animals. Great cast, great acting, exciting scripts (and often so relevant to current events) and the perfect Sunday evening entertainment. Please, please have a Season 2 ++++. The best new series we’ve seen.

  45. Sarah says:

    This is quickly becoming my absolute favorite show. PLEASE keep it on the air. Six episodes is not enough!!!!!!!!! I can’t get enough of this show. SEASON 2!! :D

  46. Daninmd says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE BRING BACK A SECOND SEASON! It certainly gave us all in-depth look at the “personal” politics in our nation’s capital. I look forward to another season(s).

  47. tina huddleson says:

    Please bring back this show political animals. Very good show.

  48. Adrienne says:

    the TV news reporter who was reporting on the Air Force One Tragedy didn’t seem all that broken up about it- a little disconcerting . . .

  49. sam says:

    thanks this

  50. Angila says:

    Please keep this show on the air!!