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'Borgen,' Episode 19: 'The Sanctity of Private Life'

This episode will be streaming online for two weeks from June 22 to July 6. Catch episodes of "Borgen" that aren't currently streaming via our recaps here.

Previously on "Borgen"

After days of intense negotiation sessions, Birgitte and her team are able to help North and South Kharun's presidents come to a peace agreement. The PM talks China out of delivering attack helicopters to the North and convinces TV1 not to run a story revealing that the North has been stealing billions of dollars of oil revenues from the South as both would have halted the peace talks. She then uses that evidence to blackmail the North's president into signing the treaty. All in a day's work. But with her work at home neglected, Laura goes over the edge. Her daughter has a severe nervous breakdown after not taking her medication. (Click here to read the complete recap for this episode.)

This week's episode: "The Sanctity of Private Life"

This is the mother of all "Borgen" episodes. Within an hour of programming, "The Sanctity of Private Life" explores every major theme tackled by the series: the relationship between politicians and the press that see-saws between mutualistic and parasitic, Birgitte's never-ending juggling act of her career and family, and the influence of her politics on her personal life (and vice versa). These conflicts build up to a breaking point, ending the episode with a gasp-worthy scene that will leave you jonesing for more drama.

It's only fitting that the PM is pushing a healthcare reform bill against the privatization of hospitals when she learns she needs to hospitalize her daughter. Her anti-Hesselboe policy would cut the tax advantages of private health insurance to prevent taxpayers from supporting private hospitals. But when faced with a 50-week wait time to enroll in a long-term therapy program at a public hospital, Birgitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen) has no choice but to take Laura (Freja Riemann) to a private psychiatric hospital. It's only a matter of time before this becomes press fodder.

When Birgitte isn't watching over her daughter (read: stroking her hair as the pale and life-less Laura sits stoically in silence), the super mom is making concessions for the Solidarity Party. Her one-time friend and mentee Anne Sophie (Signe Egholm Olsen) is still bitter about the bugging incident so she's pushing back. In exchange for her vote on the measure, she wants Birgitte to cut tax advantages twice as fast as they agreed upon.

Meanwhile, Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) and Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) are making leaps and bounds in their relationship. The couple finally goes public with their romance. The PM gives Kasper her blessing, while Torben warns Katrine about the dangers of pillow talk. But he seems to support her, despite the potential consequences of their union. Torben (Søren Malling) then asks her, out of the blue, when she plans on having kids so that he won't be caught off guard by her maternity leave. This turns into a somewhat forced storyline. Katrine jokes about the topic of kids when she chats with Kasper later that day. Kasper, who told his previous girlfriend he didn't want to have children, says they're too consumed with work to be adequate parents at this particular point in their lives. Katrine agrees, but says they're not always going to be busy, hinting that she wants a baby sooner than later.

The most unexpected source ultimately indirectly leaks info about Laura's stay at the private hospital Liseholm to the media. Little Magnus (Emil Poulsen) opens up to his friends about his sister's stay there, one of the kids shares the news with a parent, who it's safe to assume, then sells the story to the Express. This happens at the worst possible time -- Laura seems to be making progress at the facility. She even speaks up during group therapy (Kasper indirectly influences her to do so when he opens up about his own rehabilitation). Laura and the rest of the facility's residents are playing longball (a cross between baseball and cricket) when a paparazzo pops out of the bushes and snaps away. This frightens the teen, triggering another panic attack. When Birgitte learns the news and rushes to her aid, Laura is completely traumatized.

So begins the downward spiral. The media, which was praising the PM mere days before for her role in bringing peace to Kharun, begins to bash her parenting skills. Aside from running their usual slew of libelous stories, reporters camp out in front of Laura's hospital and hound the staff, as well as anyone who enters or exits the facility. The leader of the pack? Ruthless Laugesen (Peter Mygind), of course, who's apparently the show's only character without a single redeeming quality. The former politician takes to his web show to attack the PM for her "hypocrisy." Now more helpless and vulnerable than ever before, Birgitte breaks down in front of Kasper. "I'm minister for the press, I protect them and their rights so they can write their destructive crap and ruin people's lives," she says in between sobs. The episode finds Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) crying sporadically as well.

Kasper masterminds a scheme to take Laugesen down a notch. The spin doctor tells TV1's Ulrik (Thomas Levin) that he can convince Laura's nurse to chat with the station about how the paparazzi presence has dampened her progress in the treatment program. "The Express protects the weak by monitoring the powerful. It's hardly our job to protect the PM," Laugesen says during his on-air interview. He denies that his photographers scared Laura. So Torben ambushes him with footage from an interview with Laura's nurse, who says otherwise. The vile editor-in-chief is left fuming on the sideline.

But Laugesen's public humiliation does little to discourage the press from harassing the hospital. Liseholm's director tells Birgitte and Phillip that they can't legally ban reporters from entering the public park that houses the facility. Because the press presence is affecting the other patients and their families, who can't call to talk to their children because reporters are clogging the phone lines by calling with questions and who can't visit their children in peace without having a mic or camera shoved in their faces, she says Laura has to leave the program. A devastated Birgitte asks for 24 hours time. Although harsh, the director's decision is completely justified. The scenario is still hard to take in though as it would never happen in most countries. It's impossible to imagine Barack Obama's daughter Malia (or even a celebrity child) fist being unable to sidestep a waiting list, then being kicked out of a hospital due to paparazzi attention.

Then comes the kicker. Birgitte's reform package passes, like every other bill she's proposed to parliament, solidifying her already unshakable government. But, after realizing, once and for all, that she can't expect privacy in her position, the PM calls a press conference to announce her semi-resignation. She's obtaining leave and passing on her PM duties to Thorsen (Bjarne Henriksen) in order to focus on her daughter (her cabinet apparently doesn't need to vote on the matter). Her return will be based on the speed of Laura's mental health progress. And with that she calmly walks off, grabs her belongings from her office, and leaves parliament as reporters fire questions at Thorsen. With one more episode to go before the season two finale, next week's episode is sure to be a doozy.

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