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.

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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?