Episode 2 of Impeachment: American Crime Story begins with a shutdown of the federal government during Bill Clinton’s first term. History has unintended consequences. Many have asked, “How did an intern get unprecedented access to the leader of the free world?” The answer is quite simple. As we have seen in current times, work doesn’t go away when things shut down. In this case the White House interns filled in the gap.
This is a crime show and it’s a crime of opportunity. When Monica Lewinsky makes herself available, Bill Clinton’s calls and invitations follow. Perhaps Clinton would never have met Lewinsky in such an intimate setting if hundreds of staffers had been there. This is also a story through an intern’s eyes who also happens to be the producer. By including Paula Jones, this is about a greater pattern with Bill Clinton and the many women who have come forward in the public and tell their stories. The producers of the show make an important point. There was no “vast right-wing conspiracy” as Hillary Clinton claims. No one put Lewinsky in the White House West Wing in Leon Panetta’s office as bait for the President. Fate put her there. Sometimes crime is premeditated and sometimes crime is a matter of opportunity. ACS is claiming that this was a crime of opportunity.
The fateful meeting relationship between Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton begins with a stare in the hallways as the President gets the first glimpse of Lewinsky. He pauses and stares at Lewinsky. Later in the day, as Lewinsky assists Leon Panetta, the Chief of Staff, Bill Clinton sees Monica alone and dropping off paperwork in an adjacent office. It’s there where the real relationship begins. He invites her into a side office where she admits that she has a crush on him. He then says, “It’s really flattering because you are beautiful. You light up the room.” He takes her badge which gives her access to him from the sweater that she is wearing and holds it in his hand and says, “This could be a problem.” An out of breath Lewinsky runs into the condo she shares with her mother, wakes her up, and says, “Mom, the President kissed me.”
Linda Tripp, who in a flash-forward scene a year later, uses the word “moist” twice while complaining about her cubby mate, notices a sad Lewinsky stating that it has been 22 1/2 days since she has heard from her “boyfriend. Tripp reminds her that the tail end of any election which will be held in six days is crazy for any senior staffer. It’s not clear if Tripp knows who is Lewinsky’s boyfriend but she knows it’s a good story and one she can sell and make money.
This show is from Lewinsky’s perspective and it’s amazing to see how she looks back at these events. For example, her girlfriend comes into town and they talk about the relationship. It’s clear the girlfriend knows it’s President Clinton. And what’s more, is that her friend did not go to the Press and write a book. One can only hope to have friends like her. She also rightly tells Lewinsky about her patterns, “You get involved with an unavailable guy and he takes away more than he gives you and you end up in a really bad place. He’s the most unavailable man on the entire planet. Somehow you have outdone yourself.” If there was a tagline for this episode, it would be that.
In the next scene, Linda Tripp takes Monica Lewinsky antiquing. While there Tripp tells Lewinsky, “The highlight of my day is baking a potato in the microwave and eating it in front of the NBC Nightly News. Tripp tells Monica that she worries about her and that she is very maternal. Monica is fooled into thinking she can confide in her.
The Comeback Kid
Paula Jones and the Media Circus
The circus has interesting characters and so does the media circus surrounding ACS Impeachment. Paula Jones’ lawyers meet with her to discuss strategy for the upcoming Supreme Court in order to argue that Presidents are not immune to lawsuits such as Paula’s. In comes her new girl boss, Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light) to advocate for more media interviews. In the next scene, “fired from MSNBC again” Ann Coulter, comes waltzing in the lawyers’ room. She is now available to bring in her expertise to the Paula Jones case. Cobie Smulders, who plays Ann Coulter, might win the best doppelgänger in television history. I almost forgot it wasn’t Ann Coulter.
Where is the Crime?
I am thinking we do not have a crime at this point in the story. Where is the crime worthy of the previous seasons that covered famous murders? Ann Coulter states the crux of the crime as she foreshadows the event, “When do we get to the part where he is deposed and he lies?” That in essence is the crime of the series. What makes American Crime Story unique is they take the unsexiest crime, a politician who lies, and they pair it with the story that is the sexiest story in American politics. As Ann Coulter states, “This isn’t about justice. It’s about impeachment.”
The irony of the story ACS wants to tell us is that the true plotting is done by Linda Tripp. I almost spilled my drink as I heard Monica Lewinsky tell Linda Tripp, “Do you want to see the dress?” Again the writers are playing with us. It’s not “the dress” that’s blue and gets admitted into evidence in the Impeachment investigation. It’s an inaugural ball red dress. Linda realizes that Monica is remembering events with precise dates and tells her to look for a pattern with Bill Clinton in order to analyze where her relationship stands. This couldn’t be a more Washington solution to a relationship problem. But just like Washington, that’s the surface reason. The real reason is Linda Tripp is plotting to write down all of the accounts in order to sell these details for a book deal.
Through Linda Tripp’s discovery of the pattern that Bill Clinton sees Lewinsky and then calls for an encounter, Lewinsky goes to the inaugural ball in the red dress. She is invited to a weekly Saturday radio address where ironically The President talks about drug addictions and kids. After the address, and under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, Betty escorts her into an office with Bill Clinton. He talks about the election, admits that he thought about her, and gives her the hat pin and the first edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Then Clinton says before they embrace, “I don’t want to get addicted to you and I don’t want you to get addicted to me…we have to be really careful.” It’s too late to be careful. With the characters in Washington, it’s only a matter of time that their affair goes public and we are looking forward to the next few episodes when it does.
Watch Impeachment: American Crime Story on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT on FX!