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'Borgen,' Episode 16: 'Them and Us'

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Previously on "Borgen"

Birgitte's decision to seek a broad compromise from parliament in passing the government's new environmental reform package ultimately causes the Green Party to resign from her cabinet. Amir, their party leader and Birgitte's Environmental Minister, then quits, partly to due to the smear campaign against him that was instigated by information the PM's office leaked to the press -- Amir drives a gas-guzzling Cadillac, which he had shipped from Cuba. The shakeup in her government gives Hesselboe hope that he will soon return to the prime ministry. Katrine briefly steps in as his spin doctor, before she realizes she's too biased against the Labor Party leader to be his media adviser. Torben then hires her to sub in for a TV1 host who's on maternity leave. Meanwhile, Birgitte's daughter suffers a panic attack while away at camp. With the PM out of reach, Philip's girlfriend Cecelie goes to pick her up. The situation is much more dire than Birgitte had anticipated. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "Them and Us"

Leave it to "Borgen" to follow a relatively slow-paced episode with a nail-biter. While last week marked a turning point for Birgitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who vowed to readopt her old political ideology, this week gave Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) his moment of clarity. His decision to share details about his traumatic relationship with his father allows him to make progress in his romantic relationship. Although difficult to watch, Kasper's heart-wrenching childhood flashbacks add depth to the series, taking it beyond the realm of a simple political drama.

The episode opens with the reveal of a lie. Kasper told Lotte (Rikke Lylloff) he was returning to parliament to work overnight, but he actually went to his childhood home to meet with a realtor. With his mom living in a convalescent center, he's decided to sell the house. Just like last season's episode in which his father dies, he tours his own house as objects scattered about trigger memories of abuse. Kasper finds a dagger in one of the drawers and recalls his father's warning against playing with it.

Back in parliament, Svend (Ole Thestrup) proposes a bill to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12. This is part of the party's xenophobic agenda as most of Denmark's juvenile delinquents happen to be foreigners. Birgitte thinks it's ridiculous, but Kasper finds it completely ludicrous. He lashes out at the Freedom Party leader. "All you do is spread hate," he yells. "You're a political parasite." It's pretty easy to figure out the root of the anger, even though it's not revealed until the final minutes of the episode. Despite its predictable nature, it's still captivating to watch the plot unfold. Birgitte hears her spin doctor's rant and forces him to go apologize with a box of chocolates. Kasper ends up giving Svend the gift, but doesn't say "I'm sorry."

Then lo and behold, Svend is assaulted by a 13-year-old immigrant. He couldn't have planned it better himself! Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), who's now back to work at TV1, interviews the politician as he leaves the hospital in relatively high spirits. He's left with a broken arm and sprained foot after being pushed down a flight of stairs. When asked what his doctor told him, he says "hillbillies are tough as nails," while singing his party's theme song. Kasper lashes out on Katrine next. After greeting her gleefully the previous day, the media adviser scolds his ex when he sees her in parliament. He says because she was too frightened to reveal her liberal agenda, she failed to ask Svend the tough questions during her interview. "You used to be so brilliant. What happened?" Kasper asks, cruelly.

Like clockwork, she completely changes her tone that night during her one-on-one interview with Svend. When Kasper barks, she listens. Katrine asks if the Freedom Party benefits from their leader's martyrdom. As expected, this outrages Svend (and the TV1 crew), who proceeds to publicly shame the journalist and the network. Contrary to her efforts, Svend gains even more sympathy from the audience after the TV1 segment. Katrine's "victim" will use the pity card as his ticket to the prime ministry. Torben (Søren Malling), who barely scolds Katrine for veering off-script for the umpteenth time, forces her to apologize to Svend over the phone. Unlike Kasper, she actually utters the words, "I'm sorry." It looks like Katrine is just as hard-headed as ever. However, she slightly redeems herself and maintains balance during a debate between Svend and Solidarity Party leader Anne Sophie. She asks why he was wandering about a neighborhood where he's not welcome at the time of his attack. He counters that he shouldn't be limited in what areas of the city he can visit based on his political affiliation? Without Katrine stepping in to control the conversation, Svend takes the lead.

Birgitte's home life is just as chaotic. During a house meeting with Philip (Mikael Birkkjær) and Cecelie (Mille Dinesen), the pediatrician recommends giving Laura (Freja Riemann) antidepressants to prevent a relapse. "I am not in favor of dishing out happy pills to kids," she says, upset that Phil would even entertain the idea. They agree to disagree and allow Laura to decide the matter for herself. However, Phil and Laura return the following day with drugs in hand. Phillip says the psych prescribed the meds. "Is this you trying to be loyal to Cecelie?" Birgitte asks, outraged by the matter. "Keep your jealousy out of this," her ex-husband says, further enraging her. "I thought we saw it the same way," Birgitte says. "I don't know who you are." Oh, how the tables have turned. It wasn't too long ago that Phillip was confronting Birgitte about having changed. Birgitte later meets with Laura's psychiatrist and learns that her daughter has been putting on a happy face for her. He informs her that the meds are fundamental to her recovery. Laura, who's been trying to be the perfect daughter, sister, and student during Birgitte's prime ministry, is suffering from anxiety.

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The Freedom Party summons the PM to an inquiry debate. Svend will present his bill about lowering the legal age of criminal responsibility and Birgitte will pose counter legislation. Parliament will then choose the bill they favor and the one with the majority of votes will be passed. Drafting her cabinet's bill proves to be harder than expected when she learns that many Labor Party members, including her newly elected minister Holger Brodersen (Niels Weyde), want the age lowered. She ultimately forces a vaguely worded bill down Brodersen's throat. Any disagreement within her cabinet could prove to be fatal. Birgitte also allows Kasper to "influence the media" about the Freedom Party. Given free rein, he goes a bit overboard.

Kasper continues his streak of self-destructive behavior by cheating on Lotte. She finds out (he doesn't try too hard to hide his tracks) and naturally, goes berzerk. "How the hell could you do that?" she asks, after presumably listening to his phone messages from the obsessive one-night stand. She slaps him and he slams her against the door. Unlike their previous fights, it's not proceeded by makeup sex. "I thought we were going to have children," his poor girlfriend says in between tears. "I don't want children," he responds, before grabbing the box his mother had sent him, which he brought back from his childhood home, and leaving. He sits outside the door and examines its contents, including the dagger he dropped in there. Kasper has another flashback about his dad. His friends have come over for a game of poker and he tells Kasper that he's now old enough to play with them. We later learn that he was sexually abused that day because he recalls his father saying "you can never tell anyone what you and I do when mom isn't home." He convinces him to keep his mouth shut by giving him the sword he initially said couldn't be touched. This is the same sword that now rests in the box with the other painful reminders of his past.

Speaking of trauma, Birgitte watches his little girl take her first antidepressant that night. She seems relatively calm in front of Laura, but later loses her cool. In a rare display of intense emotion, she stars sobbing uncontrollably while brushing her teeth. Unable to quietly hold in her tears, she spits her toothpaste on the mirror and cries loudly in the bathroom. This short scene is one of her most powerful performances to date. It's impossible to watch her break down and crumble to the floor without getting goosebumps.

The ad that Kasper masterminded to run in a newspaper disguised as a youth organization's campaign proves to be disastrous. It depicts the Freedom Party as a predator targeting innocent youth. The Labor party is especially upset by the ad. The PM gives her adviser a tongue lashing. She says he's losing it. He verbally attacked Svend, went too far when playing devil's advocate (perhaps airing his own grievances with the PM) to prepare Birgitte for the debate, and orchestrated the libelous ad. She essentially says he's fired if the counter bill fails in parliament.

During the debate, Svend pushes Birgitte's buttons until she snaps. She says he's a bully who's unfit to raise a child. This apparently strikes a chord with the usually tough-skinned politician. He storms out immediately after her dig. She then learns from Hans Christian (Bjarne Henriksen) that Svend lost his young daughter in a tragic drowning accident. He swam after her, but wasn't able to save his girl. It's now Birgitte's turn to apologize. She steps into his office during the recess to say sorry and gets stuck there, forced to "[eat] cookies with the devil incarnate," as Svend puts it best. Protesters could potentially storm parliament so the security guard tells her it's not safe for her to leave. This leads to a discussion that's years in the making. She says he keeps poking people until they snap, which relegates him to play his favorite role as martyr. For instance, your broken arm isn't relevant to legislation, she says. He says it's all a part of politics. "It's manipulation. It's not politics. It's not constructive," she fires back. "There is a Denmark you don't know and which you wish didn't exist," he says, reminding her that there are people in the country who share his views and therefore voted for him to take office.

The conversation seems to lead nowhere, but actually influences Birgitte to amend her government's bill. She calls for a committee to be formed comprising of a member from each political party to decide the merits of lowering the age of criminal responsibility. "We mustn't rob [the kids] of their childhood," she concludes, quoting Kasper. Her bill passes by a single vote.

Katrine visits Kasper in parliament to ask him to arrange a TV1 interview with Birgitte. He says he's been fired by Birgitte and dumped by Lotte. "I love you, Katrine. I've never loved anyone but you," he tells her, out of the blue. One minute he's freezing cold, the next minute he's scorching hot. "If you love someone, you share your secrets with them," she says. She's uttered the exact sentence on numerous occasions. He walks off, but drops off the box of his childhood knick knacks later that night. It contains newspaper clippings and videotaped news reports about his sexual abuse, which began when he was 8. It ended when he was 12 and stabbed his father (it's safe to assume that he used the knife that made an appearance throughout the episode). He wasn't charged, but instead sent to juvie, because he was below the age of criminal responsibility.

If you hadn't already guessed, this explains the reason for his crusade against Svend's bill and his animosity toward the politician. We also learn that Kasper's dad prostituted him to his friends. That poker match he had a flashback about earlier in the episode was apparently more of a gang rape. Katrine is completely shocked. She leaves her apartment to find Kasper, who's waiting outside. The two don't say a word to each other, but stand face to face. Kasper lovingly wipes her tears away and the two just stand there, leaning in toward each other, touching foreheads. The secrets are out in the open. And Katrine, like the audience, has completely forgiven Kasper for all his faults. And the episode closes as poignantly as it began. But on a happier note.

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