We’ve come full circle in the sixth episode of Impeachment: American Crime Story. Titled “Man Handled,” viewers arrive at the moment that started the series where Monica Lewinsky meets Linda Tripp for lunch at the food court in Pentagon City and is apprehended by the FBI. Here is a recap of every heart-pounding moment.
January 16th, 1998
It’s 7:00 am as Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) lays out clothes on the bed to determine her outfit. Her phone rings while she listens to the news and makes her diet shake. It’s Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks) telling her that everything is set and they’re waiting for her to confirm that she’s made contact with Monica Lewinsky. Linda immediately calls Monica and gets her voicemail, paging her and looking stressed out.
Kenneth Starr (Dan Bakkedahl) gets off the elevator with Mike and Jackie Bennett (Darren Goldstein), confirming that Janet Reno has expanded their jurisdiction to include Monica Lewinsky. Jackie is bitter that Mike is taking the lead today because he was told he’s too tough. They’re calling the event “Operation Prom Night,” which Mike explains is because they’ll be spending a “Half-hour with a girl in a hotel room.”
Linda finishes getting ready as Monica (Beanie Feldstein) returns her call. Monica missed it because she was working out. “Monica, I have good news,” Linda tells her. “I may have found a solution to our problem.” Monica agrees to meet Linda at the food court in Pentagon City.
Mike arrives at room 1012 at the Ritz-Carlton adjacent to the mall. An agent at a desk goes over some info, informing Mike that Monica has a lawyer, Frank Carter, and Mike says they need to prevent her from having contact with him because she got him through Vernon Jordan who is connected to the White House. Linda calls to let Mike know she’s running late. “Who runs late to a sting operation?”, Mike asks the room.
Linda arrives at room 1012 and seems apprehensive, so Mike asks if everything is okay. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says, following two agents to the elevators where she hesitates before getting in. On the way down, she asks them what she should say to Monica. “You don’t have to say anything,” one of them says. She proceeds down the escalators, the two agents right behind her. She sees Monica seated at a table, who waves up at her friend. The agents introduce themselves and Monica looks panicked. “Linda?” She’s confused.
Cut to Linda sitting on the bed in the side room, Monica seated at a desk with Mike, her eyes tearing up. Mike informs Monica that she has committed multiple federal crimes including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and conspiracy, all of which are felonies and could lead to a combined 28 years in prison. The doors close and Linda can no longer see or hear what’s going on.
Mike produces Monica’s signed affidavit and tells her he knows it’s a lie and that she as manipulated into the situation. “I want to get you out of this and the way I can do that is if you agree to cooperate with the investigation,” he says. Monica asks to speak to her lawyer and Mike tells her she can, but that it’s easier if it stays between them, which allows him to give her more information. The plan is to take Monica to the office where she will describe every interaction she’s ever had with the President, followed by three phone calls that will be recorded for evidence to Betty Currie, Vernon Jordan and Bill Clinton. “No, I can’t,” Monica freaks out. “I will not do that, you can not make me do that.” Mike pulls out a folder and a cassette player, showing her photos of her and Linda exiting the Ritz Piano Bar and playing the audio the FBI recorded when Linda was bugged. Monica hyperventilates and begs him to turn the tape off, looking at the closed door behind which Linda sits. “I don’t understand why this is happening.” She suddenly realizes what this means and screams: “LINDA, WHAT DID YOU DO?” Monica is in a state of panic, feeling like she will throw up and pacing around the room. She begs Mike to make it stop and not tell anyone. “My dad, my family, oh my God, Betty. What’s going to happen to Betty?” Mike asks Monica to calm down but she can’t.
“My life is over,” Monica says. Mike tries to help Monica calm down by taking her to a side room that’s quieter and telling her that being in shock is normal. “I will get you through this, I will make sure you’re okay, I promise,” Mike says. Monica looks out the window and asks “What if I kill myself?” Mike tells her the case wouldn’t go away if she did. “I want to talk to my lawyer,” Monica says again. Monica gets a page from her mom and asks if she can call her back. Mike says she can from the office. “It’s just a short drive downtown.” Monica asks to use the bathroom but an agent rushes in to pull the hotel phone off the wall before admitting her and she is made to empty out her pockets first. Inside, she looks around for a possible way out, but there’s just an air vent.
Linda, who has been waiting in the other room this whole time, is dismissed. She looks a little insulted as she exits the room, pausing in the hallway to look back at the door to room 1012 with concern before walking towards the elevator.
Mike calls Kenneth Starr to explain that Monica is refusing to come to the office, so he calls for Jackie, who soon arrives at room 1012. “Where is she?”, he asks before being shown to the bathroom. He knocks and tells Monica to follow him, sitting her down and telling her that he’s heard all of the tapes. She asks how many, but he interrupts her. “Excuse me, I speak, you listen. That’s what’s happening here. Mike has offered you a way to save yourself but we need to hear from you right now. Do we have a deal?” Monica repeats that she doesn’t know what to do without talking to her lawyer first. Jackie belittles Frank Carter, saying he will be useless to her as he is a civil attorney and this is a criminal investigation. She defends her decision, saying he can refer her to another lawyer who could help. “No, Ms. Lewinsky, listen to me very carefully. You have taken part in a conspiracy. We know Frank Carter and Vernon Jordan were both involved. Now, if you think it’s a good idea to call up a co-conspirator right now, go, be my guest.” Monica brings up her mother again, asking to speak to her and saying she will call the police if she doesn’t hear from her. Jackie agrees, but won’t give Monica privacy. He will let her say hello and that she is alright and that’s it. In the room where Linda had waited, an agent hands the phone to Monica, his finger on the cradle to end the call if she deviates from Jackie’s allowed script.
Marcia Lewis (Mira Sorvino) sits in a high-end New York City suite with her mother and friend discussing which Broadway show to see when the phone rings. Monica sticks to the script, telling her mom that she’s okay and telling her she’s at the mall. At the end of the call, she adds “Wait, mom. I love you.”
Hanging up the phone, Jackie asks Monica what her decision is and she says “I can’t go to jail.” She adds that she doesn’t want to trap Betty and Vernon, which angers Jackie. “TOO BAD! THAT’S WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU!” Jackie threatens her with federal prison. “You’re 24, you’re a smart girl, you don’t need your f—— mommy to decide.” In retaliation, Monica says she’s considering not cooperating and Jackie adds that he’s considering prosecuting her mother as well, suggesting that she knew everything. Monica begs him not to get her mom involved. “Well, a jury can decide that. Either way, we’re going to make the next year of her life a living hell.”
Monica turns to Mike and asks for permission to go downstairs to call her mom privately, promising that she will come back upstairs. Mike gets Jackie to agree to 30-minutes. “Your mother is not to share anything you tell her with anyone,” Mike cautions. “If she does and word gets out, you’re in this on your own. Understood?” Monica agrees and exits. She is paranoid on her way down to the mall, feeling watched by the elevator surveillance camera. As she enters the mall, she sees two agents trailing her. She runs down the escalator and opens her backpack while moving to pull out her phone card as she reaches a row of payphones and makes a call.
“Mom, it’s bad, I’m in trouble, I don’t know what to do,” Monica tells her mother. She explains that she’s in the custody of the FBI. “It’s Linda. She told them I lied.” Her mom tells her to call her lawyer and freaks out when Monica tells her they haven’t let her. Monica says she wants to call Bill and Betty and her mom tells her not to. “You tell them that I am coming and you tell them to wait,” Marsha says. Monica lets out a scream of frustration as she hangs up the phone. On her way back to the escalator, she sees Linda, her arms full of shopping bags. Linda looks down and Monica proceeds past her without saying a word. Linda looks ready to cry.
Linda arrives home, sits in her living room and lights a cigarette. Allison (Emma Malouff) runs downstairs to ask if she can borrow the van but realizes something if wrong with her mother. “What’s going on?”, she asks. “Nothing,” Linda tells her daughter that different attorneys are coming over that afternoon to ask her questions. “You look like you’re about to cry.” Linda gets defensive. “Allison, go back upstairs please.”
Dr. Bernard Lewinsky (Rob Brownstein) is preparing to present at a convention about prostate cancer in Los Angeles when his cell phone rings and his ex-wife Marcia tells her that the FBI has their daughter. Shortly after, Bill Ginsberg (Fred Melamed) arrives in a taxi to meet with his client. He has glasses of alcohol delivered, asking Dr. Lewinsky to self-medicate as the first step, with the second being to let him take over as the lawyer on behalf of Monica. “I can handle this thing easy,” he brags, saying he’s never heard of someone going to federal prison for lying about an affair. “I’ve been your lawyer for a long time. I love you man, I love you like a brother.” He asks Marcia to call him when she gets to D.C. “I swear to you, I am going to fix this.”
Monica returns to room 1012 to the surprise of the FBI agents and announces that her mother is taking a train from New York City, expected to arrive at 8:40 pm. She refuses to do anything until her mother gets there. Mike shows Monica to the other room where she can wait. Out of earshot, Jackie argues with Mike, calling this whole situation a plot to delay the investigation, accusing Monica of knowing that they have a short window of time to perform the monitored phone calls before Bill Clinton’s deposition. Jackie calls Mike an idiot for believing that Monica’s mom has a fear of flying, saying she somehow got from California to New York. Mike throws back that all Jackie has done is make Monica cry.
Mike goes to check on Monica and tells her they will wait for her mother. Monica thanks him and apologizes. Mike asks if Monica wants anything and he orders coffee for the room. Monica tells him that her mom thought it was weird that she wasn’t allowed to call her lawyer. Mike gets defensive, saying he explicitly told her she could call her lawyer. He checks the clock and it’s 4:45 pm. “You want to call your lawyer?” Monica nods her head.
The agent at the desk calls the office of Frank Carter. We hear the other end of the call, but Monica doesn’t. Frank has left the office for the day, but the receptionist offers to page him if it’s urgent. The agent says no and hangs up and Mike tells Monica her lawyer probably wanted to beat the Friday afternoon traffic, handing her the business card of a public defender. “I think I’ll stick with Frank,” she says. Mike turns on the TV and flips through channels, with a news segment about Bill Clinton testifying tomorrow causing Monica’s ears to perk up. Monica asks if they have to stay in the room.
Escorted by Mike and another agent, Monica shops around the mall, starting with Crate & Barrel. A conversation over a decanter causes Monica to think of her grandma, saying “My grandma’s going to be so disappointed in me.” Mike seems inclined towards sympathy, but suppresses that urge. Monica next leads them towards Macy’s where she announces she needs to use the restroom, racing ahead of them. The other agent wants to follow Monica, but Mike tells him they have to be careful about that. “She’ll come back,” he argues.
Monica arrives at a payphone outside of the Macy’s bathroom and tries to call Betty at the office, but gets her voicemail. She tries her at home, too, to the same result. Turning around, Monica sees a woman breastfeeding on a bench and questions if she’s a plant for the FBI. Monica and the agents go to dinner at TGI Fridays where Monica asks Mike to break down the 28-year prison sentence again. “I’ll never have kids,” she realizes out loud. “No one’s ever going to marry me.” Mike is clearly affected by her statements. “Monica, it’s only 28 years if you face it without us and that’s not going to happen. I know it may not look like it now, we are on your side on this. We are.” Monica wipes a tear away as the agents eat.
It’s nighttime at George Conway’s (George Salazar) hotel room when his doorbell rings. Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) barges in with wine and a bag full of copies of Linda Tripps tapes, with Richard Porter (Christopher Wallinger) behind her. She wants to listen to all 20 hours of the tapes together and celebrate. “We’re living a page in a US history book,” she says, forcing George to cancel his plans.
A car pulls up to Linda Tripp’s house and lawyers Jim Fisher (Teddy Swears) and Wes Holmes (Brandon Bales) introduce themselves as attorneys representing Paula Jones. Inside Linda’s living room, she shows them a box of items from her desk at the Pentagon, which she had a colleague box up for her. “It’s only a matter of days before the President learns about all I’ve done.” Jim and Wes are doing the interview with Bill Clinton in the morning and they want as much information as possible. Linda begins to ramble about Bill wearing ties Monica gave him on TV as she smokes and paces the floor. “She’s a kid. She needed someone to save her. Were it my own daughter, I would’ve done the same thing. I can’t expect her to understand that now, but that’s how she is. She’s entitled, it’s how she was raised. I have to accept that.” The lawyers interject that they don’t have much time and just need a list of items they can ask the President about. Linda mentions a book and they ask for the title. She continues to ramble about how Bill Clinton has disgraced the sanctity of the Oval Office by using its power to pursue a young woman. “And then boy did he make her suffer,” she pauses, before finally giving the lawyers what they asked for. “The book was Leaves of Grass. See what he has to say about that.”
Marcia arrives at room 1012 and agents let her in, Monica rushing to hug her mom, sobbing in her arms. Mike introduces himself and Marcia asks for a private place to talk to her daughter. They are led out into the hallway where the FBI has another room ready for them. When the door closes, Monica rushes to the phone to try and call Betty again, but Marcia stops her. “Listen to me sweetheart, this ends right now,” she says. Monica blames herself for the whole situation, but Marcia says Bill is at fault, too. Marcia opens the door and addresses Mike, asking to speak to him as Monica asks to use the restroom.
George, Ann and Richard are bored to tears listening to a tape of Monica and Linda discussing food. “I’m completely captivated and all at once understand why in some cultures they drown their female infants,” Ann says. George wants to stop the tapes, saying there’s nothing there since there’s no talk of a quid pro quo. He argues that the president having an affair is not a high crime or misdemeanor. The doorbell rings and Jerome Marcus (James Thomas Gilbert) enters, sharing the news that the FBI has Monica and plans to flip her tonight.
Marcia sits down with Mike and Jackie, the latter being condescending towards her. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t sitting ready for the FBI to descend upon my daughter today,” she snaps back at Jackie when he gets upset about the length of time her travels took. She tells them that Monica will cooperate but that she needs a guarantee of her immunity in writing. Mike says that’s contingent on Monica answering their questions and doing the monitored calls. Marcia asks what if Monica agrees to answer questions but refuses to make the calls. Mike tells her that the calls give them evidence, which is a necessary part. Marcia agrees to explain that to Monica if they can get the guarantee of immunity in writing. Mike asks Marcia to go talk to Monica and with her out of the room, he tells Jackie that Starr will agree to immunity, but won’t be able to get it on paper tonight.
In the bathroom, Monica tells her mother that she won’t do the calls and if they make her, she will purposefully mess them up. Mike knocks on the door and Monica and Marcia follow him to the sitting room. He makes excuses for being unable to get a guarantee in writing tonight, saying they don’t have a typewriter, it’s 11:00 pm, and asking them to accept his verbal promise. Marcia suggests that they call Monica’s father and let him be a witness to the verbal agreement, but Mike tells her that nobody outside of this room can know what’s happening. “He already knows, I’ve called him.” Mike and Jackie are pissed.
Dr. Lewinsky’s phone rings and William Ginsberg is in the room with him. Mike Emmick introduces himself and Dr. Lewinsky asks to talk to his daughter. Once Monica is on the line, he connects her with Ginsberg who asks if she’s in custody. He asks Monica to pass the phone back to Mike and he says “This is William Ginsberg, I’m Monica’s attorney.” Mike looks anxious as William uses proafane language to accuse the FBI of unlawfully detaining Monica. He instructs Mike that his client will not be cooperating until her immunity is in writing, adding that he’s stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City and knows for a fact they have a business center where he can not only put her immunity in writing, but also fax it to him. He surmises that the real reason it isn’t in writing yet is because Mike and the other agents don’t have the authority to grant it. He asks for monica to be put back on the line. “They should never have held you there and they know it,” he says, telling her that nothing will happen if she walks away right now. “I swear to you on my life, they cannot stop you.” Monica turns around and says “Mom, get your coat, we’re leaving.” Jackie blames Mike for this and Mike asks Monica if this is her final decision. “Yes. Thank you, so much, for everything.” Mike says goodnight as Monica leaves.
Monica brings her mom to her apartment where Marcia makes tea. Monica sits in a corner and proposes that they drive to Canada tonight. “Honey, they would stop us at the border. They’re the government.” Monica wants to call Betty and Marcia stops her again. “You have to look out for your own life now, honey. Your own future.” Monica decides to take a shower, blowing off her mom’s attempt to hug her. In her bathroom, Monica contemplates a couple of bottles of pills and nail scissors. Marcia goes to the bathroom door when she hears her daughter sobbing inside, breaking into tears herself.
Impeachment: American Crime Story returns on FX on October 19th with “The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky.”
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).