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'Borgen,' Episode 15: 'Plant a Tree'

This episode will be streaming online for two weeks from December 21 to 31. Catch episodes of "Borgen" that aren't currently streaming via our recaps here.

Previously on "Borgen"

It was only a matter of time before Laugesen threatened to publish the compromising photos of Troels caught with his pants down. When he informs Troels about the pictures, the new Foreign Minister's political career (complete with ambitions to become PM) flashes before his eyes. He commits suicide at the end of the episode. Meanwhile, Katrine and Hanne quit their jobs at Express when they discover that their boss set up the photo op of Troels' sexual dalliance. Birgitte, on the other hand, unsuccessfully (and delusionally) tries to win back Phillip. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "Plant a Tree"

Tonight's episode of Borgen was free of bells and whistles. There were no gut-wrenching, heart-pumping, or throat-lumping moments. But the season two half-point marker is pivotal in determining the course of the series. Yet another political shakeup helps Birgitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen) realize by the episode's end that her motivations for taking office are no longer reflected in her political policy. She changed somewhere along the way -- as a PM, as a parent, and as a wife. It's now time to change back.

The Cabinet is developing a new Danish welfare, education, and environmental reform package. While working on the environmental plan, Birgitte decides to seek a broad compromise from parliament instead of just passing the policy, which would mark the most groundbreaking change in the country in the last 20 years, within her coalition government of the Moderate, Green, and Labor parties. After meeting with Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) and Yvonne (Jannie Faurschou) (the Liberal and New Right Party leaders, respectively), she decides to cut industry and agriculture some slack in meeting the environmental plan's CO2 emission and pesticide requirements. But by approaching the opposition for votes she doesn't need, she loses one of her allies. Amir (Dar Salim) declines to support the unambitious, watered-down new plan. "Our policy is almost non-existent in the package," he says. So to put the squeeze on him to be a team player and approve of the amended policy, she asks Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) to leak the news that the Green Party Leader and Environmental Minister has a passion for vintage cars. In fact, he shipped an old, gas-guzzling Cadillac from Cuba.

Back at home, Birgitte's daughter Laura (Freja Riemann) seems to be moodier than usual. Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) tells her when he comes to visit the kids before leaving for Boston that Cecelie (Mille Dinesen) thinks Laura's become increasingly stressed and introverted. The teen has been nagging Birgitte about not going to camp. She snaps at her mom that night when Birgitte answers a phone call mid-conversation and bawls unexpectedly the following day when her mom asks why she hasn't packed for her trip. She insists that Birgitte is always angry with her. Birgitte comforts her, but still takes her to camp.

Meanwhile, Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) has an awkward run-in with Kasper and his girlfriend at a cafe. When she's alone with Kasper at the counter, he asks why she's pulled away. She says she's merely following his orders to keep her distance. He insists that he didn't exactly ask her to do that. He tries to arrange a date, but she doesn't take the bait. Kasper then, completely out of left field, says he wants to kiss her. For a skilled spin doctor, he sure likes to send a lot of mixed messages. Katrine leaves the restaurant before he does anything rash.

Aside from Kasper, she's also being courted by another man -- Hesselboe. The Liberal Party Leader wants the journalist to be his new spin doctor. And she seems to be falling for him. Katrine tells the former PM "his party could use a young woman who looks like she holds leftist views." When Katrine implies that she doesn't want to vote for him, he says she doesn't have to, as long as she convinces others to do so. He also butters her up by telling her that he plans to distance the Liberals from the Freedom Party. With a hefty salary and benefits, as well as a free car, phone, and travel, Katrine is forced to accept the offer.

The media proceeds to kill its darling Amir; he's grilled and bashed by every major news outlet. He tells TV1 that he keeps his Cadillac in the garage, only driving a couple of hundred kilometers a year, at most. Leave it to Laugesen (Peter Mygind) to prove that the rate is much higher, to the tune of 2,000 km last year. Birgitte and Kasper didn't anticipate how huge the scandal would get. Amir tells his boss that this is the worst experience of his life; his kids are bullied at school because their dad is a hypocrite and a liar. Someone even put a note in his little girl's backpack that read "all Pakis are polluters." The PM seems to feel remorse for her actions, but doesn't fess up just yet. The conniving politician tells Amir that supporting the environmental plan's broad compromise will earn him positive PR and put him back in good standing with the press. Now that's spin! The minister reluctantly complies.

It seems as though Kasper becomes more and more detached from Lotte each time he runs into Katrine. He comes home that night having forgotten about having invited guests over. Lotte says it's not fair that she hardly sees him and has to keep changing their evening plans. "I'm sorry, but a dinner date doesn't mean that much compared to being outvoted in parliament," Kasper yells, unprovoked. He really is a ticking time bomb. He's seconds away from leaving when a sobbing Lotte asks, "Why don't you come and hold me?" He stays. They try to have makeup sex, but he's unable to perform. Poor Lotte wonders if their apartment is the blame for the bump in the relationship. It might be making him feel like he moved into her old relationship, she says, over-analyzing the situation. Then the phone buzzes and Kasper runs off, mid kiss. He has to go back to parliament. He tells her he might pull an all-nighter there. What else is new?

The next morning Amir publicly announces that the broad majority of parliament is in favor of the green growth package so the government can pass the first part of the reform budget. He says his party can live with the concessions. "At the end of the day, politics is getting the best compromise possible," he tells the press, halfheartedly. He regrets his decision immediately afterward. The next morning, he tells the PM he spent all night trying to explain to his party why they keep giving way on key issues to be in the government. You escalated the War in Afghanistan, you let the industry keep polluting, he says. And with that, the Green Party resigns from Birgitte's government.

Birgitte has 24 hours to compile a new cabinet. As she meets with Hans Christian (Bjarne Henriksen) -- the new Labor Party Leader -- and Pernille (Petrine Agger) to choose four new ministries to fill Green's vacant seats, Hesselboe meets with Yvonne and Svend (Ole Thestrup) to prepare for a potential election. His new media adviser, Katrine, suggest demanding an immediate election. However, she doesn't want the Freedom Party to be part of Liberal's coalition. Svend says his support comes with a price. He demands more money for pensioners and for the underprivileged, as well as tightening of refugee and immigration laws. Katrine gets into a brief argument over a racist comment he makes then later quits. If you're keeping track, this is the third job that she's quit within a year. "I'm not cut out to make you PM because I sincerely don't think you should be PM," she tells a whiplashed Hesselboe.

While Birgitte was meeting with the Labor Party, Laura called her office repeatedly from camp. Her personal assistant informs her about the call after Hans Christian and Pernille leave, but it's too late by then. Laura suffered an anxiety attack at camp and Cecelie went to pick her up. Birgitte rushes home to find her daughter asleep. His ex-hubby's girlfriend says Laura's teacher described her as tired and sullen. She didn't participate in any activities and complained about a stomach ache during her stay. She then locked herself in the bathroom and bawled uncontrollably. Birgitte, who no doubt feels guilty about the ordeal, stays up all night watching Laura sleep. She apologizes for not being there for her, for not hearing her when she said she didn't want to go to camp. Laura then explains what caused her breakdown. "Suddenly, I was just afraid of everything. Afraid of the others. Of dying. Suddenly I couldn't breathe," she said. To make matters worse, Birgitte's assistant kept saying the PM was busy and didn't want to talk to her whenever she called. The severity of the situation finally sinks in and Birgitte realizes that she let her own child down.

The usually elitist Katrine accepts a gig as host of a TV1 talk show (an emotional porn show, as she calls it) about reuniting families. Thanks to Laugesen, she and Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) have been blacklisted by news outlets. Torben (Søren Malling) shows up to set during filming and offers her a temporary job to sub in for a host who's on maternity leave. She gleefully accepts, but has one demand -- Hanne must come back too. Her boss ultimately gives in and says yes, but tells Katrine to keep her mentor sober. It's unclear why Torben allows Katrine to walk all over him or exercise any power in the first place. Maybe she reminds him of his younger self. It looks like no matter what Katrine does, she's able to find a job at the end of the day.

The PM confronts her assistant, asking why she didn't tell her that Laura called 10 times or that the school called the previous day. "This is the PM's office and not a kindergarten," she responds. Birgitte proceeds to fire her. And what's worse? Well, just about everything else. Now that Hesselboe has a chance to get back in office, he's no longer interested in the broad compromise for the reform package. "I can't see clearly anymore, Kasper," Birgitte says. "My compass is off." Yes, way, way off! The old Birgitte would have never leaked information about Amir's big carbon footprint to the media. It ended up blowing up in her face.

Amir then resigns as minister and party leader to leave politics altogether. To clear her conscience and convince him to reconsider, Birgitte admits that the Cadillac story came from her office. "That just goes to show I made the right decision," he says. "I don't belong here." He says they aren't the same people they were when they started the job. So Birgitte rehires the incompetent, but socially skilled Sanne back as personal assistant "to be reminded of when (she) first took office." Hopefully, doing so will save her family and career.

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KCET site editor, movie over-analyzer, TV binge-watcher.
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