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'Borgen,' Episode 29: 'Sense and Sensibility'

This episode will be streaming online for two weeks from August 31 to September 14. Catch episodes of "Borgen" that aren't currently streaming via our recaps here.

Previously on "Borgen"

The New Democrats' popularity plummets after Birgitte is forced to sign a joint manifesto with the opposition. The policy contradicts everything their party stands for, but they have no choice other than to quietly comply. If they don't work with the Labor Party, they won't have a true reason for existing; they won't stand apart from the Moderates. This task proves to be even more daunting when Birgitte and Katrine realize that someone from their core group of council members is leaking information to Kruse, who is copying their policies. Nete is found red-handed and immediately let go from the party. Birgitte later scores big with the bold decision of breaking ties from Labor and disassociating the New Dems from both of the leading parties. (Click to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "Sense and Sensibility"

With seven days left until Borgen's series finale, "Sense and Sensibility" opens eight days before the election. Thanks to Birgitte's (Sidse Babett Knudsen) zero-hour decision to disassociate from both the Labor and Liberal parties, the New Democrats experience a spike in the polls. They could win five parliamentary seats come election day, but five seats are insignificant in the grander scheme of things. What her party needs to do in order to exercise any influence is set itself apart from another political group: the Moderates. This mission brings back a theme addressed earlier in the show as Birgitte struggled about whether to sling mud during her prime ministry. Now dirtied by Jacob Kruse, she considers stooping down to his level of personal attacks in order to rise above the competition.

After weeks of treatment, Birgitte finally completes her radiation therapy. Her doctor says there are no signs of the disease and bids her adieu with stern advice to take care of herself. Despite the milestone, Magnus (Emil Poulsen) is more concerned than ever about his mother's health. He sees her rubbing ointment on her breast and interprets it as a sign that she's still ill. The curly-haired cherub stays up at nights browsing the internet for information on breast cancer and worries during the day about her lack of sleep and poor diet.

At TV1, time has almost stood still for the last few months. Alex (Christian Tafdrup) is still pressing Torben (Søren Malling) about improving ratings by presenting content in an essentially dumbed-down format. Following TV2's ratings gold in the form of a handball game style debate (or, as Torben calls it, "journalistic trash"), Alex and the network execs propose a countermeasure: a political game show with scoreboards, flashing lights, special effects and a studio audience that will vote for a winner. This strategy is meant to draw in viewers who aren't necessarily interested in politics. Instead of waiting for Torben to take action, Alex sets the ball rolling on the competitive format.

Meanwhile, the perennial workaholic Torben now lives at the office after his wife kicked him out of the house in the last episode. She's kind enough to drop off their kids for a brief visit. Watching Torben interacting with them, completely void of any affection or intimacy, is almost as sad as watching him cry on Ulrik's (Thomas Levin) shoulder. He eventually holds their hands, which is a sign of progress in his book.

Birgitte announces her grand plan of attacking the Moderates and their leader to her staff. Although no one supports the idea, the former PM insists that it's necessary to convince the electorate that Jacob Kruse (Jens Jacob Tychsen) has betrayed centrist values, veering far right toward the Freedom Party. This is the only way to obtain a decisive influence in parliament. Kruse, who's busy highlighting their parties' similarities, is completely caught off guard during the debate. He accuses Birgitte of being a power hungry Moderate who was forced to create her own party in order to keep herself relevant when not welcomed back into her old one.

Birgitte disagrees, to say the least. "The party I belonged to no longer exists," she says, reading aloud the Moderates' environmental, human rights and children's rights policies that Kruse has ignored during his term. These include voting on eight bills subsidizing heavy polluters and postponing the introduction of CO2 quotas. In an even more dramatic gesture, she rips out pages from the party manifesto that Kruse doesn't support, based on his voting record. As expected, Birgitte's fighting words spark war. The Moderates, in cahoots with Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) and the Express, launch a full-fledged smear campaign.

Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) has the perfect solution for Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), who's now officially dating Søren (Lars Mikkelsen). He has evidence that Kruse was convicted of drunk driving in 1999 when he crashed his car, injuring his mistress who had come along for the joy ride. Birgitte, the unwavering idealist, wants to take the high road. "We are political, they are personal," she tells her team time and time again. So Kasper suggests leaking the information without Birgitte's permission. Katrine can't bring herself to make the drastic move, especially when Birgitte tells her she "doesn't want to be morally responsible for the victims."

She finally cracks when her children are targeted. An Express reporter bombards Laura (Freja Riemann) as she steps into their apartment building. He asks how she feels about the fact that her mom jumped the queue at the hospital in order to get surgery ahead of people who had cancer. When Birgitte suspects that Kruse is behind it, she orders Katrine to run the negative ad.

Later that night, Katrine spills the beans to Søren. The finance expert is toiling away to identify holes in the Moderate Party's financial plan. He doesn't condone the negative campaigning. Katrine tells him he don't understand the game. Despite all signs pointing to the contrary, the spin doctor ultimately vetoes Birgitte's decision and doesn't follow through with the leak. Birgitte, who was hot-headed and rash the day before, appreciates her judgment call. Søren also seems thrilled by her moral uprightness. This indicates that Kasper no longer has a hold on Katrine. She used to blindly obey every order he barked, but those days are long gone. She has a new man in her life now. Moreover, this scene stresses Kasper and Søren's distinct personalities: Kasper is still conniving and secretive, while Søren is morally upright.

Jeremy (Alastair Mackenzie) pays Birgitte another surprise visit. The politician seems happier than ever to see her boyfriend. Although she usually practices restraint, she greets him this time by jumping on him and showering him with kisses. Pia (Lisbeth Wulff), on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum. She runs into the bathroom crying after Torben lashes out at her as she tries to comfort him. The news producer tells Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) that she wants Torben's marriage to end so the two of them can officially be together. "I know it's silly. But I am so crazy about him," Pia says in between sobs.

The regular TV1 debate set has transformed into a cheesy soundstage -- a.k.a. the Power Game. Dressed in a ridiculous leather getup, Hanne, in classic fashion, losses it when a newbie tries to give her direction. Torben has a change of heart the following day. He nonchalantly disobeys executive order and decides to ditch the entire setup at the very last minute. "I sacked it, Alex. I didn't like it," he says when his boss wonders what happened to the game show set 40 seconds before the broadcast. It's safe to say that Alex is not impressed.

Birgitte redeems herself tonight after her pathetic performance during the first debate. In fact, she pinpoints (thanks to Søren's findings) the inaccuracies in Kruse's budget, focusing on specific figures, which she had flubbed during the first go-around. The Moderates promised $12 billion in welfare, but only have $3 billion to spare. They also already spent $7 billion of the proposed $10 billion tax cut. Her plan to provoke the giant works perfectly and Kruse snaps on live TV. He says people will only be voting for her out of pity. And with that, Birgitte regains her crown.

Just when you think we're in the clear, headed for the second happy ending in a row, Birgitte thinks she feels another lump in her breast. The episode closes with her putting on ointment and telling Jeremy she thinks she has another tumor. Just the day before, she had sworn to Magnus that she was completely cured. In all likelihood, it's probably a false alarm. The series can't end with her being diagnosed with cancer. Then again, maybe that's the show's somber solution to her workaholism. Maybe the series will end with her by her family's side as she's forced to endure more surgeries and radiology, thereby unable to continue the hard life of a politician. We'll have to wait and see.

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