Who can you trust? That’s the theme that becomes prominent in the third episode of  Impeachment: American Crime Story, titled “Not to Be Believed.” This episode stays more consistent with the timeline, set almost exclusively in 1997 save for the prologue, which takes us back to September of 1995. For those keeping track, that’s just two months before the prologue of the previous episode, in which the interns were moved to the West Wing during the government shutdown, kicking off the entire affair between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton.

September 1995 – CBS Studios, Los Angeles

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner) is a manager at the CBS Studios gift shop where a college student is in need of a poster for a project. Looking at a poster of Edward R. Murrow, he tells the student that he’s more of an admirer of Walter Winchell. After work, we see Matt dig through dumpsters on the CBS lot where he finds a crumpled piece of paper that excites him. Arriving at his condo, he boots up his PC and dials up AOL, unfolding the document which is revealed to be a fax announcing that Jerry Seinfeld’s contract has been renewed and he will receive an unprecedented $1 million per episode. He puts on a 1930’s detective hat ala Dick Tracy and starts to type away, pushing the news through to his website, Drudge Report. He sits back and smiles. 

March 1997

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) taps her pen against her coffee mug to the annoyance of her deskmate Susan (Jenny C. Paul), who puts on her headphones. Seeing Monica enter the Pentagon Department of Defense Press Office, Linda stands up but is interrupted by her manager who asks to see her in his office. Linda asks if it’s about the Newsweek reporter and he seems to know nothing of it, telling her that actor Gerald McRaney from Major Dad is coming to Washington and he wants a tour of Andrews Air Force Base while he’s there. He asks Linda to schedule a one-off tour for him, which upsets Linda. On her way out, she swings by Monica’s cubicle and asks her to take a walk with her.

Linda confides in Monica that Mike Isikoff from Newsweek has been contacting her because her old colleague Kathleen has made assault claims against Bill Clinton. Monica’s instincts are to tell Bill about it, but Linda begs her not to, adding that she doesn’t want her name involved. “This is an explosive situation,” Linda exclaims. “I need to think strategically, I need to call Kathleen.” Monica promises she won’t mention it to Bill.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

That night, Linda calls Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser) to tell her about Mike’s request for information. Kathleen tells her old colleague that she’s not sure if she will go on the record or not, but Linda gives the version of events as she claims to remember them: That Kathleen and the President had flirted before and that Kathleen had told Linda how handsome she finds him. That the day Kathleen asked Linda to borrow her lipstick, Kathleen looked like she was on Cloud 9. “Why are you saying all this,” Kathleen asks, stunned. “Because it’s true,” Linda replies. “I don’t know what you want me to tell you.” Another call comes through for Linda and she connects over. It’s Monica asking Linda if Bruce Lindsey ever got back to her. She connects back to Kathleen to disconnect, but makes a mistake the first time, prompting Kathleen to ask “Who is Monica?” Back on the line with Monica, Linda tells her she hasn’t heard from Bruce.

In Long Beach, Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) helps her husband Steve (Taran Killam) rehearse for an audition, but he gets frustrated with her delivery of the lines, blaming her for his mistakes. He goes on a rant about how he gets hounded by the press every time he leaves the apartment and how his coworkers joke behind his back about how his wife blew the President. The phone rings and it’s Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light), who asks to be put on speakerphone and for them to turn on the TV. The news anchor announces that the Supreme Court has ruled that the President is not protected from lawsuits that aren’t related to his official duties. In layman’s terms, Paula Jones can sue Bill Clinton for sexual harassment.

Bill Clinton is inside the Oval Office looking angry when Bob Bennett (Chris McDonald) enters. He encourages Bill to settle the Paula Jones case out of court, but Bill says that wouldn’t be the end of it. He brings up property tax reports in the media that would be brought after him and Hillary and mentions the conspiracy theories that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster (Linda Tripp’s boss who committed suicide in the first episode). Bob tells him the next step will be to go to trial and informs the President that he has people in the field trying to dig up dirt to discredit Paula Jones. “She will never let me settle,” Bill tells Bob. He’s referring to Hillary.

June 1997

Linda Tripp listens to news radio on her way to work, overhearing a story about Hillary Clinton accepting a check for $50,000 from a man in China to post for a photo in the Oval Office. When she gets to her desk, Linda has a voice message from Mike Isikoff (Danny Jacobs) following up on Kathleen’s claims. She’s incensed.

Cut to Linda smoking by the lake where Mike meets her. She scolds him for leaving a voice message on her Pentagon-issued answering machine and tells him she refuses to talk about Kathleen. She does, however, leave the door open, telling the reporter to call her at home if he must speak to her. “If you get my machine or one of my kids, your name is Harvey.”

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) arrives at the house of Laura Ingraham (Kim Matula) with her boyfriend George Conway (George Salazar). She teases him about his crush on Laura, adding that she thinks Laura is a lesbian. Inside, they meet Matt Drudge, who George is a fan of. Ann asks if his outfit is serious (he’s wearing his detective hat along with a matching 1930’s-style suit) and lets Drudge know that George is working in secret at night to help move the Paula Jones case along. Drudge says that’s what he does, too, helps move stories along. Matt asks if any other women have come forward and George lets a little too much slip, saying “If such a woman exists, her claims are highly credible and she’s talking to Mike Isikoff at Newsweek.” Laura interrupts to introduce Matt Drudge to someone else, a friend she golfs with in Palm Springs. Ann gives George a knowing look.

Betty Currie (Rae Dawn Chong) enters the Oval Office to tell Bill Clinton that Monica keeps calling to request a visit and that she has more gifts for him. “She’s a good girl, she’s gonna keep reaching out,” the President’s secretary says. He asks her to come tonight and Monica arrives by taxi, telling Betty she had to race home from work to change and pick up Bill’s present. Inside the Oval Office, Monica gives Bill her gift, which she tells him is a “Beach Read” for his trip to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a copy of Disease and Representation: Images of Illness from Madness to AIDS by Sander L. Gilman and he looks confused to be receiving it. She tells him it was her favorite book in college and that she knows he’s read everything. He unconvincingly calls it great before giving his usual proposal: “You wanna go get a Diet Coke?”

Back in the smaller office where the two have spent so much time together, Bill tells her he wants to talk. “You know this thing between us, I started it back up again when I knew I shouldn’t,” he says. “I couldn’t help myself. The fact is it’s not right.” She interjects, but he tells her this happened before when he was Governor of Arkansas, that he put his marriage and relationship with his daughter at risk and he made a decision then to end things, the same decision he’s making again now. “I committed to my marriage, my family.” Monica starts to cry, telling him that she was so happy when Betty called her today. Bill says he’d like to remain friends and their conversation is interrupted by Betty, who says Prime Minister Tony Blair is on the phone. Bill gives Monica a hug.

Linda receives a phone call from Monica and rushes over to console her. “I’ve only been suffering at the Pentagon because I thought I was going back to the White House,” Monica complains. “They can’t do this to you,” Linda exclaims. “This is the same thing they did to me.” Linda suggests that Monica write Bill a letter pleading her case. A short while later, Monica gets up from her computer so that Linda can see what she wrote. “This is too polite,” Linda tells her friend, massaging it to be sterner. Monica worries about the letter upsetting Bill. “How many times has he upset you,” Linda asks.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Matt Drudge visits Mike Isikoff at Newsweek claiming to be a big fan of his. Mike asks Matt about his voice and look and he tells him about his admiration of reporters like Walter Winchell. He reveals that he didn’t go to college, his family couldn’t afford it, but when he got a modem, the world was suddenly at his fingertips. Mike criticizes his lack of journalism background and refers to his outlet as gossip. Matt asks him about the story he’s working on and Mike is shocked that he heard about it. Drudge tells him it was “Gossip.”

Betty leads Monica to meet Bill in a meeting room, telling Monica “Remember, no tears,” before she opens the door. Bill is holding a sheet of paper in his hand and looks upset. “I have 3 things to say to you.” We only get through the first thing, which is that it’s illegal for her to threaten the President of the United States and that he feels like his trust in her has been betrayed. Monica tells him he lied to her face as she begins to cry, which softens Bill’s approach. “I wish it were different, I wish I had more time for you,” he tells her. Monica apologizes for the tone of the letter, but tells him she’s been waiting for so long to go back to the White House. “I’ll help with the job situation, but no more of this. Are we friends?” Betty knocks on the door to end the meeting. Before Monica leaves, she mentions to Bill that a reporter from Newsweek asked her friend to comment on a story about a woman claiming she was harassed by him. “Is her name Kathleen Willey?” Monica looks stunned and Bill tells her that Kathleen called the White House to tell them that Newsweek was chasing her down for a story.

Linda is in the office stressing over her tour for Gerald McRaney when Monica comes in and tells her not to be mad. “I kind of talked to him about Kathleen Willey,” she says. Linda asks Monica if her name came up and she says no, telling Linda that the White House is under the impression that Newsweek pursued the story and that Kathleen wasn’t trying to go public with it. Linda looks mad as she walks away.

That night, Linda surprises Kathleen with a visit, barging into her house to ask her why she’s talking to the White House. “I know it doesn’t make any sense but Ishikoff called and he knew things,” Kathleen says. “And then later I felt scared and I called Bruce Lindsey. I was just trying to protect myself.” Kathleen accuses Linda of loving the drama and loving that someone from Newsweek was trying to speak with her. “This is exactly where you want to be, in somebody’s business, in my business,” Kathleen tells her old friend. “Because in your own life, there’s nothing.” Linda collects herself before leaving, saying “I feel sad for you, I truly do.”

Betty opens the door to the Oval Office to let Monica in. Bill is at his desk appearing to be busy with some papers. He’s cold towards her. “Your friend at work, is her name Linda Tripp?” Monica asks how he knows that. He doesn’t answer right away, but instead asks Monica is she told Linda about their relationship. “Kathleen called again. Somehow word got back that she’s talking about the Newsweek article. I’m just wondering how that might have happened. Do me a favor, have Linda Tripp give us a call. She can call Bruce Lindsey up in the Counceleor’s Office. Betty will call you tomorrow to follow up on that.” Bill dismisses her. Alone in the Oval Office, he calls Bob Bennett to tell him he would like to settle with Paula Jones.

Monica goes to Linda’s desk the next morning and encourages her friend to call Bruce Lindsey, not mentioning that Bill Clinton asked her to. Linda snaps that she called him before and apparently wasn’t important enough to get a reply. “If they want to call me, they know where I work.” Gerald McRaney’s plane is scheduled to land in two hours.

Mike Isikoff arrives back at his desk from his lunch break to find his colleague showing him his screen, telling Mike that his story is up. “Sorry buddy,” his colleague says as he shows him the headline of Drudge Report, which reads “Willey’s Decision.” He thumbs through his Rolodex and calls Matt Drudge to ask him what he’s doing. “It’s not even a story yet,” Mike insists. “Well, the fact that you’re working on it is a story,” Matt condescends. Mike is furious and hangs up on him when Matt asks why he’s so upset if it’s not a big story.

Linda walks down the hallway of the Pentagon in a maroon tour guide jacket when she passes her boss, who tells her that Gerald McRaney is stuck on the hill and won’t have time for the tour after all. “But thank you for throwing it together, you are a trooper,” he tells her. Linda returns to her desk and snacks on a potato chip in defeat. Her phone rings and it’s “Harvey,” who tells her about the Drudge Report. She pulls it up on her computer as he tells her the story was stolen. “I need to have someone on the record so I can publish now,” he urges her. “Kathleen won’t return my calls.” Linda says she can’t put her name in print, but gets the feeling that her deskmate is eavesdropping. “Let me see what I can do,” she tells him, thumbing through her nearly empty calendar. She tells him to meet her on Sunday at 3:00 pm, providing an address.

Mike Isikoff walks into a salon where Linda is having her hair dyed. He’s reluctant to speak in such a public setting, but she tells him her stylist doesn’t speak English. “The image of that day is crystal clear in my mind,” she dramatically begins. She recounts how excited and happy Kathleen seemed in the wake of the President’s kiss. “This was not a case of sexual harassment and she was not in any way appalled.” Mike asks Linda why Kathleen might feel differently about the events now. Linda tells him that Kathleen is widowed and lives alone and her live hasn’t gone the way she wanted. “She’s reaching out to everyone, she’s inserting herself, she wants to matter. It’s very sad.” Mike closes his notebook and says he’s done. “That’s it?” He confirms it is, telling her the story will publish in the next magazine issue. “There was a question you could’ve asked,” she stops him. “You didn’t ask it.” She tells him there’s a bigger picture, but she will only talk about it off the record.

“He uses women like paper towels,” Linda continues sitting under a heat lamp. She tells him about a story bigger than Kathleen and Paula. “She’s young, younger than I’ve ever known him to go. I’m talking just a few years older than Chelsea,” Linda adds. Mike refers to it as “Sexual harassment,” but Linda corrects him, using the word “Affair.” Mike tells her that if the woman she’s talking about isn’t going to talk, then there’s no story. On his way out, he gets recognized by Anne Farris (Tamra Meskimen) from The Washington Post, covering that Linda is his cousin.

Ann, George, Jerome Marcus (James Thomas Gilbert) and Richard Porter (Christopher Wallinger) watch Bob Bennet speak on the TV from an office, telling America that a settlement with Paula Jones will be “Good for the soul of the nation.” Ann Coulter likens it to watching the Challenger explode. “So the law lets him slide,” she asks. “The press lets him slide?… After this, what kind of flabby conman will see a path to the White House? The corruption, the lies, the hundred million cocktail waitresses he’s groped or worse.” She encourages the team of lawyers to do whatever it takes to stop the settlement.

Linda waives across to floor to Monica as she heads out for a break. She rushes to a newsstand and buys three copies of Newsweek. The cover story reads “The Hidden Causes of Heart Attacks.” In her car, Linda skims the article, finding her name multiple times. She seems pleased, but towards the end of the article is a statement from Clinton’s lawyer: “Tripp is not to be believed.”

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Susan Carpenter-McMillan is in a waiting room with Steve while Paula uses the restroom. He seems content with the settlement decision, but she drops a few nuggets of truth. First, she lets him know that the money they receive will be from an insurance company, not Clinton’s own bank account. Second, if Paula accepts the offer, people will forever presume that she didn’t have a strong enough case to take him to court and whispers about what really happened will persist. Paula enters the room and Susan quickly changes her tone, buttering up her star client with praise.

Inside a meeting room with Joe Cammarata (Emil Beheshti) and Gil Davis (Jeff Elam), the lawyers read off a statement that says Paula Jones didn’t engage in any indecent behavior and that she will receive the full amount requested of $700,000. Paula Jones’s eyes are wide and she smiles, but Susan asks if the money comes from insurers and the lawyers confirm that it does. Steve shakes his head. Susan asks the lawyers if they can have some privacy. They look confused as they leave the three of them alone in the office.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Susan asks Paula what she thinks, but Steve interrupts her, saying there wasn’t an apology in the statement they read. Steve calls it an insult and when Paula suggests they take the money and be happy, he asks her why she isn’t insulted. Paula looks upset as she agrees with her husband to reject the offer. Susan lets Joe and Gil back in and Steve is the one to speak. “Paula and I say no deal. We asked for an apology, where is it?” The lawyers say the President will go to court before he apologizes. They threaten that they will lose the case, but not before Paula’s name has been dragged through the mud. “They want to make sure no woman dares try this again,” Gil concludes.

Next Week

Impeachment: American Crime Story will return on Tuesday, September 28th with the 4th episode, titled “The Telephone Hour.” Here’s the brief episode description from FX.

Monica leans on Linda for support. Linda begins documenting their conversations.

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

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