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'Borgen,' Episode 17: 'What Is Lost Inwardly Must Be Gained Outwardly -- Part One'

This episode will be streaming online for two weeks from November 10 to 24. Catch episodes of "Borgen" that aren't currently streaming via our recaps here.


Previously on "Borgen"

Svend proposes a bill to lower Denmark's legal age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 in pursuit of the Freedom Party's xenophobic agenda (most of Denmark's juvenile delinquents happen to be foreigners). He challenges Birgitte to an inquiry debate, which determines through a majority vote the passage of Birgitte's counter legislation over his bill. Meanwhile, Kasper is outraged by Svend's legislation. We later learn that this is due to the fact that he stabbed his father as a child. After four years of sexual abuse at the hands of his dad and his dad's friends, he tried to kill his father to escape. The then 12-year-old wasn't charged because he was below the age of criminal responsibility. To act out, he cheats on Lotte. He then runs back to Katrine, who he finally decides to reveal his secrets to, after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Additionally, Birgitte's daughter Laura begins to take antidepressants to control her anxiety. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "What Is Lost Inwardly Must Be Won Outwardly -- Part One"

This episode makes it abundantly clear that Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) will go down in Danish history as the Prime Minister of war. After keeping Denmark involved in the War in Afghanistan, Birgitte decides to put an end to a war her country in uninvolved with in Africa. It's unclear whether she's motivated by humanitarianism or the potential image boost, but her actions could make or break her career, regardless.

The episode (part one of two) opens with the return of Joachim Chrone (one of several blasts from the past). The big businessman tries to convince the PM to take on the role of EU mediator between Africa's warring nations in Kharun. Fierce fighting between the Islamic North and the Christian South has already caused 250,000 people to flee Kharun. Of course, Chrone (Ulf Pilgaard) would stand to benefit from the government's involvement as his company has an entrepreneurship deal to build oil refineries in the country. "The interests of Denmark's largest corporation can't dictate my policy," she says firmly. When Chrone wonders what happened to the visionary woman he met at the beginning of her Prime Ministry, Birgitte answers "I just prefer my visions to be my own." She's evidently just as visionary and just as feisty as ever.

The war begins to directly impact Birgitte's government when Kharun's refugees flee to Denmark in high numbers. The Freedom Party doesn't pass up the opportunity to attack the PM, blaming her relaxed immigration laws for the uninvited guests. She agrees to debate the issue in front of a live audience for TV1. With her and Hans Christian (Bjarne Henriksen) in one corner and Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) and Svend (Ole Thestrup) in the other, the leftists and rightists, respectively, discuss whether Denmark is obligated to help the refugees. Katine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), who's moderating the debate, asks Birgitte if the country can afford to be idealistic, considering its economic woes and international debt. Birgitte says they can't afford not to be. As a first-world country, they're morally obligated to help the refugees whose own nations are crumbling before their eyes. Once an idealist, always an idealist.

Svend's words that Birgitte is naive in thinking little Denmark can make a difference in the conflict resonate with her as she sets out to prove him wrong. She decides to stop the war. Kasper (Pilou Asbæk), who's still Birgitte's spin doctor, despite his antics during Svend's proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, says it's a lost cause. But the PM has already made up her mind. She turns to two of her former allies, whose political careers she played a hand in ruining, for help. Bent (Lars Knutzon) is now out of the hospital and back in Birgitte's corner. The misunderstandings that occurred before his cerebral embolism are now water under the bridge. The veteran politician agrees with his former mentee that change is needed; their foreign policy has been passive for far too long. However, a Western woman can't just barge into Kharun (especially the Muslim North) and demand change. They need a Muslim negotiator.

So Birgitte pays a house visit to the man who resigned from politics altogether thanks to information that she leaked to the media. That's right, her former Environmental Minister and Green Party Leader Amir Diwan (Dar Salim). Amir (echoing Kasper's sentiment) says negotiating peace between the warring nations is a doomed project. He doesn't miss the chance to take a few jabs at his former boss, saying that she's acting out of desperation and self-interest. "You're just out to boost your image. And I'm the nice Muslim and political lever in your prestige project," he says, not mincing his words. "I'm asking you to go with me into a burning house," Birgitte says, after assuring him that her efforts have nothing to do with gaining prestige. "Sorry. It's not my burning house," he responds

To make matters worse, America and England don't want to pressure South Kharun into negotiating with the North, while China and France don't want to pressure the North. So Denmark is all alone. Birgitte starts to feel helpless until Bent resumes his role as cheerleader and convinces her that she has the power to make a difference, she just has to exercise it properly. "It's going to be the hardest thing you ever set out to do," he warns her, albeit reassuringly. With no other country in her court, Birgitte strikes a deal with Chrone. She'll sign on as EU moderator if he publicly supports her decision. And if she fails, he needs to go public with his support the very next day. He has to also convince his friend Hesselboe to commend her on the initiative. This is one of the divisive issues the show brings up. Is this unethical symbiotic relationship between Denmark's most powerful political leader and business leader excusable if it leads to peace in a war-torn country? Do their questionable motives hamper the potentially positive outcome?

Amir ultimately decides to swallow his pride and put aside his personal issues with Birgitte for the greater good. Birgitte considers flying to Africa to personally conduct the preliminary negotiations, which Amir thinks will lend respect to the peace project. The president of North Kharun finally agrees to meet in the capital so Birgitte and her team, which includes Bent -- after much begging and pleading -- head to Africa.

Back at home, Birgitte is growing increasingly concerned about Laura (Freja Riemann). Her daughter, whose chopped locks already signal trouble, wants to stop taking her anxiety medication. Although she was initially against the "happy pills," Birgitte insists that Laura continue taking the drugs, despite their side effect of sleep interference, in order to prevent a relapse. Like most familial troubles, she's not able to properly address the issue because of work conflicts. She has to leave the country for a few days so she asks Philip (Mikael Birkkjær) to stay with the kids and make sure Laura's taking her meds. He watches her like a hawk, but Laura's able to hide the pill she takes under her tongue.

Kasper is supposed to keep the trip under wraps until both parties are on their way to Denmark to negotiate -- a challenging task for someone dating a reporter. Kasper and Katrine are officially back together again. They both seem happier than they've ever been, but the some old problem of their conflicting careers continues to creep up. Kasper lies to Katrine, and everyone else in the media, about the PM's whereabouts. When Katrine learns that Birgitte is not in France, after all, she takes Kasper's fib to heart. Her and Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) have been investigating corruption in the region's oil industry. They interview Niels Mikkelsen, a Chrone associate who doubles as a Kharun expert, and deduce that the company has an economic interest in securing peace in Africa.

Katrine, who apparently hasn't learned anything from her on-and-off-again relationship with Kasper, snoops through his briefcase for evidence of the PM's actual location. She finds documents that indicate Birgitte is in Kharun, but she's unable to use them. When she grows outraged that Kasper misled her, Hanne calms her down. She says he didn't lie, "the spin doctor threw the reporter off the track." She tells her not to pursue the story because it will hurt her relationship with Kasper. She would also have to explain to Torben (Søren Malling) how she stumbled upon the information. The PM's office might then be informed about her relationship with Kasper. Aside from agreeing to take him back, the episode doesn't address how Katrine dealt with the information about Kasper's childhood trauma. Just like he was never able to state the problem aloud, they may have chosen not to discuss it after Katrine found out about his past.

The trip seems doomed from the get-go when North Kharun's president's adviser says there's been a misunderstanding. The president is supposedly away on a trip and won't be able to meet with Birgitte, but an adviser from the oil ministry can talk to her in his place. "I only negotiate on the same political level. I will not negotiate with a civil servant," the PM says as she walks off confidently. Amir ends up saving the day when he tells the adviser in Arabic that Chrone Industries wanted to give their head of state an expensive gift, which now can't be offered in the president's absence. The possibility of losing out on the gift causes the president to miraculously arrive in Kharun and agree to meet with Birgitte.

The president starts off the negotiation talks by saying that there's no need to negotiate. The PM's trip was in vain as their troops have practically beat the south. There's no reason to make concessions, he insists. At this point, the two leaders are speaking through Amir, their translator, even though the president is fluent in English. The PM is then overcome with boldness. She delivers one of her signature blunt, improvised speeches that inspire action. She says the West sees the president as a war criminal, not as the respected politician and Cambridge fellow that his people regard him as. She adds that both their countries could profit from a change in the international opinion about their nations (Denmark is seen as anti-Islamist). Instead of being insulted by her audacity, he agrees to talk ... in English, no less.

With the first round of talks a success, Birgitte and her team (with the addition of Niels Mikkelsen, who's advising Birgitte, and sans Amir, who doesn't think he'll be welcome in the South) head to South Kharun. The warrior leader is much more open to negotiating for peace. "Your country's cry for freedom and peace has been heard," Birgitte says. "Everybody in South Kharun is entitled to equality and freedom, except homosexuals, of course," he says, in the episode's most awkward moment. Niels had warned Birgitte about the nation's homophobic culture so she was prepared for the remark and able to maintain a straight face as the president told her that there were no homosexuals in South Kharun. They go on to discuss the territorial dispute.

They leave the country having essentially sold the same piece of land to both the North and the South at too high of a price, but it's a step in the right direction. Both leaders agree to fly to Denmark for peace talks in Copenhagen. Kasper tells Katrine the news as soon as he finds out, unaware that she already knows about the PM's location. Unlike before, it's blatantly obvious that he was uncomfortable about hiding the information from her. Next week's episode promises to be one of the most intense to date, especially if Svend interacts with North Kharun's president.

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