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'Borgen,' Episode 3: 'The Art of the Possible'

This episode will be streaming online for two weeks from September 28 to October 12. Catch episodes of "Borgen" that aren't currently streaming via our recaps here.

Previously on "Borgen"

Having secured 91 seats, Birgitte thinks she's a shoe-in for prime minister. However, the other party leaders underestimate her political prowess and end up aligning themselves with either Laugesen or Hesselboe. The tables finally turn in her favor when Laugesen is forced to resign as leader of the Labor Party when one of his deputy leaders, Troels, (in cahoots with Birgitte) leaks his racist emails to the media. With him out of the picture, Birgitte refuses to support the new party leader as PM (Bjørn ends up assuming the post instead of Troels) and advances her own campaign instead. Meanwhile, Katrine finds out she's pregnant with Ole's child. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "The Art of the Possible"

Today's episode deviates from the norm and opens with a quote from Winston Churchill instead of Machiavelli's The Prince. While the quotes from the first two episodes dealt with war and power, respectively, today's quote (like the episode itself) focuses more directly on politics. "Democracy is the worst way to run a country -- except for all the others," Churchill told the House of Commons in 1947. That's Birgitte's (Sidse Babett Knudsen) exact sentiment as she tackles one of the most important obstacles of her political career. "The Art of the Possible" is less suspenseful than its predecessors, but provides new insight into the wheeling and dealing involved in passing bills and legislation in Parliament. It also uses flashbacks to paint a broader picture of Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and Kasper's (Pilou Asbæk) past relationship, which informs Katrine's present baby drama.

Only two months have elapsed since Birgitte took office and her cabinet has already negotiated a budget bill. Or so she thinks. You know something is going to go awry when she utters the phrase "sometimes things just go your way" to a reporter. Just when the prime minister is floating on cloud nine (she has a personal driver, a personal assistant, a posh office), she's abruptly dragged down to reality. While announcing the news of the bill approval at a press conference, she learns that she just lost her already narrow majority because two Labor Party members are refusing to vote. And the person who breaks the news to her is none other than our favorite enterprising journalist Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) -- who now works for Laugesen's (Peter Mygind) tabloid Express. (Side note: Why does Hanne sport a scarf with every single outfit? Was she the inspiration behind Debra Messing's atrocious wardrobe on "Smash"?)

Humbled and humiliated, she scrambles to regain control. But before she has the chance to make sense of the ambush, she hears Laugesen's "Express" interview. The jaded politician accuses the "elitist" PM of caring more about the poor in Africa than the poor in Denmark. "She masters political correctness, but is void of political flare. This isn't a question of gender. she's simply incompetent." Ouch! Now she's PC and PO'd.

After Marrot (Flemming Sørensen) gives them a stern talking to, the two abstainers Parly Peterson and Vagn Fousing resign from the Labor Party and become Independents. Birgitte later meets with them and agrees to devote more funds to pensioners, but refuses to cut back on development aid. The two cabinet members refuse to budge. Instead, they add another item to their list of demands: a motorway to Ringkøbing. After hearing their ludicrous demand, the PM then heads to another ridiculous meeting. Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) and New Right Party leader Yvonne Kjær (Jannie Faurschou) offer to vote for her bill if she changes it drastically, including giving more funding to the police and the military. Birgitte says no automatically. "I won't go down in history as the PM who merely sat in for the liberals," she says. "The alternative might be to not go down in history at all," Hesselboe responds. She's just getting burned left and right today. "Am I a complete idiot?" she later asks Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon). "Maybe," he responds. "But you're the bravest idiot I know."

And when it rains, it pours. Birgitte's trouble at work follows her home. Her hubby and kids visited her at work earlier that day to take her Christmas present shopping. After only allotting an hour to the task, she was forced to go back to the office minutes into the outing. "We're still us, aren't we?" she asks later that night. Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) gives her a kiss instead of answering the question. He doesn't have to answer it though. He calls her PM instead of Birgitte throughout the episode, continually jokes about doing all the hard work at home, and hints that their children are growing weary of having an absent mother.

Meanwhile, Katrine is bogged down by some serious issues of her own. She comes into the office to find that Kasper now works for TV1. As she goes about her business, he grabs a large medical envelope from her handbag. It looks like he didn't learn his lesson from his last snooping spree. Katrine lies and says the envelope holds the results of a routine cervical cancer test. When he keeps probing her for info, she storms off and tells him he doesn't know her anymore. This triggers a series of flashbacks to their relationship three years prior.

After Katrine throws up in between filming live TV1 segments, she heads to the doctor for an ultrasound. She hears the baby's heartbeat for the first time and her pregnancy finally dawns on her -- and the audience. It's no longer just double lines on a pregnancy test, but a living, breathing human being. Kasper later drops by her apartment to check up on her. She invites him to Christmas dinner at her parents' house after he asks her to join his holiday party of one. He then pretends to already have plans with his uncle (he actually spends Christmas Eve alone in a pool hall). Despite her earlier attempts to hide the news from him, Katrine blurts out that she's pregnant. She didn't plan on telling him, but the words just fell out of her mouth. It appears as though she read his lie and decided to be honest herself. She regrets the decision immediately when Kasper tells her she can't handle a baby right now can and can have lots of children later. "Yes, but not with [Ole]," she says tearfully.

Cut to a flashback of Katrine realizing that Kasper's a compulsive liar. She accuses him of lying about his dad's occupation and his mom's burial spot. He talks his way out of it and admits that his mom is buried under an unmarked grave stone. She committed suicide when he was three.

Katrine's mother later guesses that she's pregnant when her daughter visits her on Christmas Eve. Like Kasper, he encourage her to have an abortion. However, she deals with the situation too calmly, just as she did when she found out that Katrine had an affair with a married man who had died. There's no panic in her eyes, no sense of alarm.

The final straw comes when Katrine has an awkward run-in with Ole's wife and two children when she visits his grave on Christmas day. "I know who you are. You shouldn't be here," Ole's wife says, practically chasing her out of the cemetery. Katrine runs away and falls to the ground, remembering her break-up with Kasper. After he postpones their plans to introduce her to his family for the upteennth time, she calls it quits and admits that she no longer trusts him.

Speaking of not trusting Kasper, Birgitte hires a new spin doctor -- Denmark's youngest associate professor of rhetorics (a.k.a. the anti-Kasper). Both Bent and Phillip warn Birgitte that he's inexperienced, but the PM does what the PM wants. His good looks, charm, and support for Birgitte's policies probably helped his case. When their plan to postpone the vote on the budget bill to buy more time to solve the motorway issue gets shot down by the president of parliament, Birgitte's new media adviser recommends leaking confidential information to the media. The PM goes along with the plan, which she would have surely rejected if it had been Kasper's idea. After all, she insisted that she didn't want to compromise her values just the day before.

Her office tells TV1 that one of the abstainers is more interested in spending funds on a motorway than on pensioners, but the shrewd politician manages to weasel his way out of the situation during a live interview. He claims that the new freeway will allow ambulances to reach the pensioners in Ringkøbing faster, thereby saving lives. He also insists that Birgitte should be more concerned with saving the people of Denmark than those in Somalia. Hmmm, that argument sounds oddly familiar. Next up on her list of righteous negotiation tactics? Blackmailing the former prime minister. If Hesselboe votes to postpone her bill, she agrees to vote against the ongoing investigation of his use of public funds. It works, but Kasper sees right through his former boss. He analyzes the quid pro quo tactic and divulges it on national TV.

When Phillip asks his wife why he didn't simply rehire Kasper, she says "he has no morals." This sounds like a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. To make matters worse, the Express runs a story that Birgitte and her new spin doctor are having an affair. Laugesen insists on having a live debate about the article and she foolishly allows her spin doctor to participate instead of Bent. It's hard to believe that someone so intelligent could be so misguided. The doc ends up saying that the Express appeals to the lowest common denominator and implies that he's in favor of curtailing freedom of speech. Well, that's one way to dispel those rumors of elitism.

And just like that, Birgitte fires the new guy and brings back her old one. Kasper comes in to save the day. It somehow takes a media adviser to make the connection that abstainer Parly Peterson is Laugesen's minion -- he's doing his friend a favor for an extra 15 minutes of fame. And as predicted, Parly doesn't budget when Birgitte calls to tell him that the new motorway has been funded. He demands a new hospital now.

Running out of options, Birgitte does the unthinkable and reaches out to the New Right Party. If successful, the move would mark a historic break with "bloc politics." Yvonne is wooed, but her support comes at a cost -- more money for police and military spending. Birgitte decided to spend the money she was going to devote to the motorway to these funds instead. And when she tells Yvonne that Hesselboe said Yvonne's been at his beck and call for the last six years, she decides not to consult with him, after all. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for Danekind.

The episode closes with Birgitte reading the New Year's speech that Kasper wrote for her. As she's talking about the number of children who die in Denmark and Afghanistan, Katrine is having an abortion. "Everyone should be allowed to see their children grow up," Birgitte says. Kasper then calls his ex to tell her he included an homage to children in Birgitte's speech. Katrine says she had an abortion. He wonders aloud why they're never in sync.

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