FX is giving us another history lesson with a new American Crime Story season, shedding fresh light on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal with Impeachment.
Tuesday’s premiere begins in January 1998, with Monica (played by Beanie Feldstein) preparing to move from D.C. to New York when she gets a page from her pal Linda Tripp. (Hey, remember pagers?) Linda invites her to lunch at a mall food court, hinting that she may have “a solution to our problem.” As Monica arrives, she doesn’t notice that she’s being followed by men in suits. Linda (played by Sarah Paulson) shows up, also flanked by men in suits — and when Monica waves to her, she doesn’t wave back. The men inform Monica they’re from the FBI, and they want to talk: “You’re in serious trouble.” They whisk her up to a hotel suite filled with feds, who begin to shut Linda off in another room, but Monica tells them to leave the door open: “I want that treacherous bitch to see what she’s done to me.”
We hop back to July 1993, where Linda gulps down a SlimFast shake before heading to work at the White House counsel’s office. Her boss Vince Foster is stressed out — “Stop worrying about Whitewater!” a colleague barks at him — and Linda scoffs when First Lady Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco) deigns to use the “communal ladies’ room” alongside her. (She can’t believe Hillary has her own office in the West Wing, either.) Linda brings Vince his lunch, but he’s clearly distracted — and he leaves work, driving out into the woods alone and pulling out a handgun when we hear a single shot. That night, Linda sees on the news that Vince is dead, and the next day at work, her peaceful office has become a chaotic crime scene.
Another jump forward, and we’re in 1994, where Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) lives in L.A. with her struggling actor husband (Taran Killam). He’s upset that a magazine article alleges that Paula went into a hotel room alone with President Bill Clinton, and she tells a lawyer the whole story: Back in Arkansas, a state trooper invited her up to meet then-Governor Clinton, and when she did, she found they were alone, and Bill was “trying to kiss on me.” She pulled away… and then he exposed himself and asked her to, um, “kiss it.” She said no and walked out — she’s a preacher’s daughter! — and she wants an apology from the President. Oh, and a role on Designing Women for her husband, since the Clintons are friends with the show’s creators. The lawyer thinks he can wrangle a settlement… but first, he wants to make sure that Paula is “alright with some attention.”
Linda is contemplating penning a tell-all book, and she meets with literary agent Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale), who shrugs at Linda’s hints about Bill Clinton’s affairs. Everyone has those stories, she says, and Linda would need to put her name on the book to make it sell. Meanwhile, Paula holds a press conference, with her lawyer claiming that Bill Clinton made “unwanted sexual advances” towards her, but insisting she can’t give any details. It doesn’t go well: The reporters poke holes in Paula’s story and laugh at how naïve she is. (She has to ask her lawyer what “fellatio” is.) But conservative commentator Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) sees Paula as an opportunity to get Clinton to lie under oath and endanger his presidency. She and her cronies set Paula up with high-powered D.C. lawyers, who warn her she may have to sue Clinton to get the apology she wants. They’ll need evidence, so she draws a picture of the President’s, um, “area,” and they file a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court.
With a new White House counsel taking over, Linda schemes to get jobs for both herself and her friend Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser) — who’s also had advances made on her by Bill Clinton — but she bulldozes her way through the interview, name-dropping Bush loyalists and sinking her chances. Soon, she finds out she’s being moved to the Department of Defense… while Kathleen is staying on at the White House. (“No one wants you here,” an administrator flatly tells her.) A furious Linda is exiled to a gray cubicle at the Pentagon, and it looks bleak until we fast-forward two years to 1996, when a fresh-faced Monica comes to work in her department. Linda is highly disgruntled and touches base with Lucianne about her tell-all, but she’ll need some fresh White House gossip. So when Monica tells her she just came from working in the West Wing, Linda’s ears perk up.
She invites Monica to lunch and pumps her for information, with Monica offering that she’s “kind of in something” romantically, but he’s “unavailable.” Linda guesses that he’s “someone important,” and she also spots that Monica is counting down the days until Election Day in her calendar, hoping she’ll go back to work at the White House then. She calls back Lucianne, promising her some new “inside” scoop, as Monica gets a phone call at home… and it’s Bill Clinton. “Hi, handsome,” she purrs, as he warmly asks her: “How was your first day?”
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