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'Borgen,' Episode 2: 'Count to 90'

Previously on "Borgen"

Acting Prime Minister Lars Hesselboe's decision to use a corporate account to pay his wife's sizeable credit card bill drastically shuffles Denmark's political playing field. The Moderate Party's spin doctor, Kasper Juul, finds receipts of the transaction in Liberal Party press adviser Ole Dahl's apartment when his ex-girlfriend, journalist Katrine Fønsmark, calls him in a panic after her lover Ole dies suddenly from a heart attack. Because his own party leader Birgitte Nyborg Christensen refuses to use the dirt he's found to bring Hesselboe down, Kasper turns to Labor Party leader (and part-time scumbag) Michael Laugesen to do the dirty work. However, Laugesen's attempt to publically embarrass Hesselboe by confronting him with allegations of misuse of state funds during the final election debate backfires. The public turns on both of the candidates and instead votes for Birgitte. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "Count to 90"

Today's cryptic quote from Machiavelli's The Prince sets the tone for the subsequent unnerving hour of television: "It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved." As it relates to the show, our heroine is forced to play dirty and turn on her opponents when they take advantage of her political correctness.

The episode opens on a lighter note with Birgitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and her mentor Bent Sejrø, the former Moderate Party leader, (Lars Knutzon) waiting to meet with the Queen to get a mandate to form a new cabinet. It is common practice for the election winner to attend a cabinet-forming negotiation with Her Majesty. After standing around for quite some time, Birgitte grows anxious and wonders if the Queen's trying to buy time. "Look, we've got 91 seats. Can't the b***h count?" she explains as a guard comes in to announce that the Queen is ready to see them.

All goes according to plan and Birgitte is appointed royal investigator and placed in charge of chairing cabinet forming negotiations. While she's on cloud nine, her opponents unravel. Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) resigns after seven years in office and the Labor Party suffers its worst election year thanks to Laugesen's (Peter Mygind) aggressive campaign tactics. Political power is up for grabs. As Birgitte prepares to meet with each party to dole out ministries, she realizes she's in over her head. All it takes is a single negotiation session with loquacious Freedom Party leader Svend Åge Saltum (Ole Thestrup) to shake her confidence. "Everything you stand for I'm against. I am evil incarnate in your little intellectual world," Svend says after scoffing at Birgitte's futile attempt to treat all the parties equally. Svend tells Birgitte that she neither sounds nor looks like a winner. "Take the head of the table when you chair the negotiations," he says condescendingly.

After meeting with Green Party leader Amir Dwian (Dar Salim), who threatens to revoke his support for her as Prime Minister if she doesn't offer him more ministries, it becomes abundantly clear that the parliamentary boys' club isn't taking a female politician seriously. And the icing on the cake? Hesselboe, who Birgitte had seen in the hall minutes earlier, sends a minion to do his bidding, while Laugesen flies the coop. He leaves Parliament abruptly, ditching his meeting with Birgitte. Cue Birgitte's nervous breakdown. "I'm losing control. It's slipped away," she says while throwing a pile of papers off her desk. I guess Beyonce was wrong. Girls don't run the world, after all.

The X chromosome that hampers Birgitte's chances of success in the political realm also informs her public image. "Lots of people would like to f*** the PM if it were Nyborg," a TV1 reporter says. He also refers to the future leader of Denmark as "a babe." Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) -- Birgitte's younger counterpart in the series -- also faces sexism in the workforce. Both Birgitte and Katrine experience a sudden rise to power and are forced to confront gender stereotypes while trying to "have it all": a successful career and a fulfilling personal life. Katrine is asked by her boss Torben (Soren Malling) to cover the Ole Dahl (Claus Riis Østergaard) funeral because she's "f***ing good at emotions." She tells him she'll be attending it instead. The following day she's insulted by Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) for the second time. Hanne asks, "was calling me a drunk enough to get my job or did you have to f**k the head of news, too?" insinuating that a young, beautiful woman can only succeed by sleeping her way to the top.

After surprising her husband Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) in class as he's finishing up a lecture (and dodging a student's advances), Birgitte and the kids take a stroll in the park. Phillip advises his wife to bluff he way to success: "If you show them you're a leader, you're a leader." Later that night she brings up the topic of their deal to take five-year turns focusing on each of their careers. "I'm not going to tell my wife I don't want her to be PM," Phillip says somewhat grudgingly, acknowledging that her new job might "change everything." To thank him, the loving wife then "takes the head of the table" ... in bed.

If Birgitte felt defenseless the day before in Parliament, she's made completely powerless the following morning. Laugesen barges into her office with Labor Party deputy leaders Troels Höxenhaven (Lars Brygmann) and Bjørn Marrot (Flemming Sørensen). The trio shows up early to the meeting -- a power move straight out of Jack Donaghy's book Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business -- and throws a wrench in Birgitte's plans. "Labor and I want to tell the Queen your negotiations have failed so you're proposing me as the new investigator," Laugesen says without hesitation. In fact, he says he's negotiated with the Green and Solidarity parties and both have already agreed to propose him as PM. After kicking her to the curb, Laugesen offers Birgitte a bone. He gives her seven cabinet seats, including the Ministry of Justice, not realizing that he's making an enemy out of Troels by doing so. He then proceeds to tell Birgitte that the Labor Party will form the new cabinet tomorrow, with or without her -- a far cry from Birgitte's own policy of giving everyone "fair treatment."

Later that night a mystery man calls Birgitte and says he has information that could bring Laugesen down. We later learn that the man with a vengeance is Troels, who was promised the Justice Minister post that Laugesen casually offered Birgitte. Feeling betrayed, Troels pulls a Brutus and stabs Laugesen in the back. Troels' great-grandfather was cheated out of the same office almost a century ago. Instead of using a dagger, Troels turns to modern technology for the dirty deed. He shows Birgitte an email correspondence in which Laugesen refers to Solidarity Party member Aicha Nagrawi's (Fadime Turan) head scarf as a "fanatical scarf promoting a medieval anti-democratic religion." Troels offers to leak the emails to the media in exchange for Birgitte's support for him as Labor Party leader and PM. Birgitte passed on the opportunity to dethrone Hesselboe by leaking his credit card receipts just a few days before, but decides to partake in the power play this time around.

Ole's funeral is interrupted the next day by cell phone calls and news alerts that the Labor Party has denounced Laugesen. Troels, who appropriately enough sits directly behind Laugesen in church, looks giddy with joy, while Birgitte and Bent breathe a sigh of relief. Laugesen runs out the door and an oblivious Kasper (Johan Philip Asbæk) follows behind, leaving Katrine alone inside. Once outside, he asks Laugesen whether he told anyone about their collaboration in crumbling the Hesselboe regime. More concerned about his besmirched reputation than last week's bidding, the politician doesn't even entertain the question. In Kasper's absence, Katrine breaks down in front of Hanne while leaving church. The veteran journalist attempts to apologize for her earlier remarks.

Just when you think Laugesen's downfall will have one consequence (like Hesselboe's fall from grace in last week's episode), it has another effect altogether. Bjørn is chosen over Troels as party leader, making him the new choice for PM. A fearless Birgitte therefore decides to withdraw her support for the Labor Party, crumbling the Moderate-Labor-Green coalition. She leaves Parliament that day convinced she's lost all political footing.

As Birgitte and Phillip tease each other lovingly at home (Phillip calls her an "ambitious bitch" and had said earlier that he "had been looking forward to the PM giving me a blowjob"), Hesselboe and his wife put on an act for audiences during a sit-down interview with TV1. "I have no doubt that we've come out of this a stronger couple," Hesselboe says about the scandal. Hanne's skin must have been crawling as she watched the network churn out such fluff.

Upon his insistence, Birgitte meets with Hesselboe the following day and is tempted to accept his offer to join a liberal right-wing three party coalition. Whether naïve or blinded by the delicious cookies he offers, she fails to realize that she's being duped. He had changed the meeting location to his own turf and offered her a new, meaningless ministry. After Bent sets her straight, Birgitte decides to go for blood. Having already played a hand in toppling Laugesen and abandoning Bjørn, the new Birgitte meets with the Labor-Green coalition again to give them an ultimatum. She informs the two parties that she will team up with Hesselboe if they don't support her run for PM. They give her consent. Next up? Pulling a fast one on Hesselboe. She tells the former PM that she is going to run for the office herself, leaving him completely flabbergasted.

Moments after Katrine learns that she's pregnant with Ole's child, she anchors the evening news and announces that Birgitte has become Denmark's first female PM. Half of the cabinet seats were also claimed by women. In turn, the two women's paths diverge as Katrine spirals down to an all-time low while Birgitte soars high. Until the next episode, that is.


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Great show. Wonderful cast. Look forward to each episode.
Thank you KCET!!