TV Recap: “Impeachment: American Crime Story” Episode 2 – “The President Kissed Me” (FX)

“The President Kissed Me.” That’s not just something Monica Lewinsky says in the second episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story, it’s also the title of the episode. Taking place primarily in late 1996 and early 1997, this episode gets into the weeds of the affair as Paula Jones’ legal case gains new traction. And for Linda Tripp, she makes a power play that puts her at the center of the chaos that’s about to ensue. Here is a detailed recap of the second episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story.

November 15th, 1995 – 2 Days into Government Shutdown

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) arrives at work with a Starbucks cup to find all interns pulled into a meeting. Because of the government shutdown, all non-essential employees were sent home and the interns will be working from the West Wing to fill in. As she walks down a hallway with her fellow interns, the President of the United States strolls by mid-conversation. Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) sees Monica and smirks. She is assigned to Leon Panetta’s office to answer calls for the Chief of Staff.

While at the water cooler, someone hands Monica a folder and asks her to bring it to George Steffanopolis’ office. She leaves it in a tray on the secretary’s desk and Bill Clinton is in the adjacent office, stepping out to introduce himself to the intern and complimenting her sweater. He invites her in, opening a mini-fridge and handing her a Diet Coke. Bill tells Monica about his internship for Kennedy and how he felt so far from home. Monica tells him she’s from Los Angeles and is far from home, too. Bill is impressed when Monica tells him she lives in a condo at The Watergate, but she explains that she lives there with her mom who is moving to New York City. During their flirtation, Monica confesses to being nervous because she has a crush on Bill. “That’s really flattering because you’re beautiful, you light up the room,” he tells her. Bill moves in closer, picking up the lanyard around Monica’s neck that has an “I” on it for intern. “This could be a problem.”

That night, Monica arrives at her condo and wakes up her mother (Mira Sorvino). “The President kissed me,” she whispers. Her mom thinks she’s joking and goes back to bed.

October 30th, 1996 – One Year Later – Six Days Until Election Day

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

In the Department of Defense Press Office at the Pentagon, Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) is once again furious at her cubicle mate Susan (Jenny C. Paul), marching over to Monica’s desk to complain about her. Linda changes the topic to Monica’s mysterious boyfriend, learning that Monica hasn’t heard from him for 22 days and it’s the longest they’ve gone without talking. She tells Linda that her friend Cat is in town and they are going to do something tonight. Susan yells across the floor at Linda because her phone is ringing. Before Linda returns to her desk, she tells Monica that she wants to take her antiquing this weekend.

It’s a rainy night and Monica’s friend Cat (Sarah Catherine Hook) has brought takeout for dinner. Cat thinks it’s strange that Monica didn’t want to go out to eat but soon learns that Monica doesn’t want to leave her apartment in case Bill calls (Cat already knows all about the affair). Cat tells Monica that this relationship is unhealthy for her. “But I’m in love with him,” Monica explains herself. Cat asks if Monica has ever said this to Bill and when she says yes, she asks what his response was. “He said that means a lot to me.” Monica is also not eating dinner in an attempt to lose weight because she will soon be back in the White House when Bill is re-elected. Cat asks Monica if anybody else knows about the affair. A former intern friend of Monica’s named Ashley is the only other person, but Monica tells Cat about Linda, saying she doesn’t know who Monica is talking about. Cat reminds Monica that things could get bad for her if this gets out.

It’s the weekend and Monica is at an antique shop with Linda. Monica talks about how she can’t wait until Tuesday because her boyfriend promised to call her that night if Bill wins. Linda is drawn towards a section of Christmas decorations where she picks out a Bavarian metal tree. The girls sit at a table at a little cafe within the antique shop, but Monica isn’t eating anything. For a change, Monica asks Linda to talk about her love life. “The best thing about my marriage is that it gave me Ryan and Allison,” Linda says about her kids. She also shares that the best part of her day is when she sits down to a microwaved potato at night to watch the NBC Nightly News. Linda tells Monica that her maternal instincts are the reason she’s so worried about her. Monica tells Linda she’d like her to meet her mother, but Linda doubts that she will have anything in common with someone from Beverly Hills. Linda tells Monica that she has a lot of strength and can make it until Tuesday.

Monica goes to a salon in the mall and watches footage of the election coverage on the TV in the mirror. She arrives home with several bags of new clothes, rushing to turn the TV on to watch the coverage. Later that night, she watches as he gives his victory speech.

November 6th, 1996 – Morning After Election

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

We see Monica get into a taxi outside of The Watergate. Linda Tripp arrives at the office and notices that Monica isn’t at work. Cut to the President’s return to the White House, Bill moving down the line shaking hands. He reaches Monica and we see the point of view of live coverage on CNN. They hug and he whispers something in her ear.

Monica is wide awake before her alarm goes off at 5:30 am. According to the news report that starts playing as her alarm, it’s been two weeks since the election. There’s a plate of candy wrappers on the nightstand. While Monica gets ready for work, her phone rings and she rushes to answer it. The call is from Cat, asking Monica if she’s coming to Portland to visit her, suggesting that she needs to stop torturing herself by waiting around for Bill to call.

Linda finds Monica in the cafeteria and joins her for lunch, asking where she’s been and when her start date is at the White House. Monica is visibly sad, shaking her head no. Linda asks if her boyfriend is back in D.C. and Monica tells Linda that it’s not happening. Linda continues to ask questions and Monica eventually tells her that her boyfriend was Bill Clinton. She opens up about how she was infatuated with him, seeing him at public events, which is how the flirting began. “When that man focuses his attention on you, the world stops,” Monica says before adding that she never thought anything would happen. But during the government shutdown, things quickly escalated. “I just couldn’t help myself.”

Through flashbacks, we see examples of how Monica and Bill’s flirtations grew to the point where she was asked to deliver a pizza to him in the Oval Office, from which he led her through a door and asked “Do you want to get a Diet Coke?” Alone in a smaller office, Bill tells Monica about how he gets lonely and she confesses to having a hard time meeting men. He tells her he’s often alone in the office on weekends and if she stops by, his secretary Betty (Rae Dawn Chong) will let her in. Bill tells Monica that she makes his day better as he leans in for their first kiss.

“It was incredible, except for the whole him being married thing,” Monica continues as we come out of the flashback. She also tells Linda about how the two lovers would exchange gifts. “It was the best 9 months of my life,” Monica reveals that after she was moved to the Pentagon on April 5th, Bill’s phone calls grew more and more infrequent and she feels like he lost interest, but just wanted to keep her quiet through the election. “I feel so stupid,” Monica confesses before telling Linda she’s going to visit Cat in Portland. Linda tells Monica about what she witnessed with Kathleen. “We both know there are 10 women in that building who have had something with him, they’re all still there. Do you want to know why? Because he doesn’t care about them.” She urges Monica to stay in town, telling her she has a feeling that Bill is going to call her.

Sure enough, as Monica sits with a packed roller bag debating whether or not to go to Portland, her phone rings and it’s Bill. Linda sits at home watching TV with a microwaved dinner when Monica calls her to tell her she was right and asking Linda how she knew. “I have a gift, Monica. It’s just no one sees it.”

Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) and Steve (Taran Killam) arrive for a meeting with lawyers Joe Cammarata (Emil Beheshti) and Gil Davis (Jeff Elam), but with a third party in tow. Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light), president and founder of the Women’s Coalition, tells them that she is there to protect Paula’s interests and during the meeting, she goes against their desire to keep Paula out of the media, saying that the public pressure will help the case move forward.

Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) enters an office where Richard Porter (Christopher Wallinger) and Jerome Marcus (James Thomas Gilbert) sit with Ann’s boyfriend George Conway (George Salazar). Ann reveals that she’s just been fired by MSNBC and wants to help the Paula Jones case. George tells Ann to help stir the pot and she tells them what she wants is impeachment for the president.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Paula is in Susan’s living room where she plays her an interview she recorded for Reverend Jerry Falwell, saying she wants to get it on TV. Susan gives Paula a backhanded compliment, telling her that she has a “Rural Arkansas look,” which city people don’t love. “They want to believe you, we just need to help them along.” In the next scene, Susan has brought Paula to Nordstrom where she tries on a gray suit and is shocked by the price tag. Susan buys it for her, along with a scarf and bracelet, taking Paula out to lunch to celebrate afterward.

Monica delivers a gift to Betty outside of the Oval Office, who won’t admit her in to see Bill. She asks Betty if she’s heard anything about her being moved back to the White House and she receives a runaround answer. Monica leaves frustrated.

Linda visits Monica at her Watergate condo for the first time, admiring her place. Monica invited Linda over to give her feedback on a dress she bought and while she slips into it in the next room, Linda pokes through some of the items on her desk, finding a photo of Bill Clinton signed to Monica in a keepsake box. While Monica gets dressed, she tells Linda about the gift she gave Bill, an inside joke about a frog. Monica steps out in a red dress and Linda tells her she looks gorgeous. The dress is what she will wear to the Inauguration Ball, but Monica confesses to feeling stupid going, recalling a time when she took a train up to New York City for Bill’s birthday and stood in heels outside of Radio City Music Hall for 6 hours just to say hi.

As Monica continues to moan about how Bill hasn’t asked her to visit or offered her job back, Linda asks if she can smoke. Linda is surprised by the precision of Monica’s memory, her ability to recall specific dates that each event occurred. “Maybe there’s a pattern,” Linda suggests, using Monica’s computer to create a spreadsheet based on the information Monica feeds her. Linda quickly spots the pattern, Bill calls her within 2 weeks anytime he sees her.

January 20th, 1997 – Inauguration Day

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Mike Isikoff (Danny Jacobs) is on the phone at his cubicle at the Newsweek Magazine office in D.C. saying that he’s establishing a pattern of harassment on Bill Clinton. His editor is displeased with the length of time he’s been spending on the story and tells him that she’s going to reassign him to campaign finance if he doesn’t have something soon. He tells her about a new lead, an intern who says the president kissed and fondled her in the Oval Office in 1994.

Linda Tripp sits down to watch the Inauguration Ball on TV with a frozen dinner. She watches as Bill and Hillary dance to “Unforgettable.” Bill’s eyes look directly into the camera and Linda seems momentarily under his spell. At work the next day, Linda is once again annoyed by her deskmate Susan, this time her repeated stapling is driving her crazy. Monica approaches Linda to tell her that Bill whispered to her from the stage that he liked her dress and that he called her that morning to invite her to his radio address on Friday. Linda tells Monica not to expect much, which annoys Monica, who doesn’t feel like Linda is excited for her.

Paula Jones sits for an interview with CNN in the new suit Susan got her, her teeth now being straightened by braces. The reporter tries to throw Paula off, but she stays on message. Afterward, Susan tells Paula that she’s never been more proud of anyone.

It’s Friday and Bill Clinton is preparing for his radio address by playing solitaire at his desk. Betty comes to get him and escorts him to a room full of observers in chairs, with Monica in the front row. Bill addresses a woman named Susie but doesn’t say anything to Monica. However, right before he goes live on the radio, he glances at her, looks down and smirks. After the address, Betty leads Monica into the Oval Office. We see a man recognize her and look on with suspicion as the door closes behind her.

Bill leads her through a door to the same smaller office they had their first kiss in, telling her that he missed her smile and thanking her for the gifts. He opens a desk drawer and hands her a few. The first is a hatpin because he thinks she looks cute in hats. He tells her to open the other one later, but she can’t wait. It’s a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (the one we saw her reflect on while packing in the first episode). “It’s really special to me and you are really special to me, I’ll never forget that,” he tells her. Monica says it’s been hard not being able to see or talk to him. He

She tells him it’s been hard not being able to be around him or talk. He talks about the campaign and how people expect him to be soft, but that he really loves a fight. He was disappointed that his opponent didn’t give him one and tells her that he wanted to go for a walk in Miami but couldn’t, so the Secret Service drove him around and he passed a bookstore and saw  Leaves of Grass in the window and thought of her. He tells her that he doesn’t want to get addicted to her and vice versa. “Too late,” Monica says, adding that he shouldn’t worry about breaking her heart. “We have to be really careful,” Bill says before they kiss.

Mike Isikoff visits Linda’s desk at the Pentagon. “I wanted to ask you a few questions,” he tells her as she gets up and leads him to the alley where she takes her smoke breaks, lighting up a cigarette. She assumes that he’s doing an expose on her program, but he asks her about Kathleen Willie (Kathleen was her friend who took her job when Linda was moved to the Pentagon, the last words we saw Linda say to Kathleen were “I will get you for this”). Kathleen told Mike that Linda can corroborate her story about the president’s unwanted advances, which could add more weight to the Paula Jones case. Linda refuses to confirm her story, telling Mike that she needs to talk to Kathleen first. Back inside the hallways, Mike turns to leave when Linda stops him: “There’s a bigger story,” she says. “Much bigger than this. You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Next Week

Impeachment: American Crime Story returns on Tuesday, September 21st on FX with the third episode, titled “Not to Be Believed.” I leave you with the description of next week’s episode.

Tensions rise between Monica and the President. Paula is offered a settlement. Linda begins to feel that she has a target on her back.

You can rewatch episodes of Impeachment: American Crime Story the day after airing on Hulu.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).