Up until now, if you put a bullet to my head and asked me to tell you who is the main character in Impeachment: American Crime Story, I would have said Monica Lewinsky without hesitation. But after the 8th episode, “Stand By Your Man,” I’m less certain that is the case going forward. Hillary Clinton steps out of the shadows and into the light in this episode and its recap.
Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco) gets out of a car in New Hampshire and enters a building where Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) opens a door for her. The news has just broken that Bill had a 12-year affair with a woman named Ginnifer Flowers. Political advisor Paul Begala (Joseph Mazzello) apologizes to Hillary for making her fly out there, but they need to discuss how to publicly respond to Ginnifer’s allegations. George Stephanopoulos (George H. Xanthis) tells Hillary that she and Bill should go on 60 Minutes for a live interview after the Super Bowl. “I’m not doing that,” Hillary says, adding that she and Bill told the advisors everything about their past before the campaign and agreed that they would never dignify this with a response if it came to light. George adds that Bill’s poll numbers have dropped and that Hillary is the only one who can save them by doing this. She realizes that everyone else in the room has already talked about this at length without her and that the decision has basically been made. She reluctantly agrees. “We are not using the word affair,” she adds. Paul suggests they refer to it as “Problems in the marriage.”
Steve Kroft sits with the Clintons to interview them about the Ginnifer Flowers story. Bill refers to it as “A friendly acquaintance” and when the interview quotes what Ginnifer said happened, he sternly says “That allegation is false.” He adds that the tabloids started offering acquaintances of theirs money to come forward. Hillary speaks up when Steve asks about the problems in their marriage, saying they’re private and adding that “It has nothing to do with our country.” Steve speaks about them as if they’re in a political arrangement and Bill gets defensive. “You’re looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage.” Hillary tells the reporter that she’s with Bill because she loves and respects him, saying she’s not like Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By Your Man.” “If that’s not enough for people then heck, don’t vote for him,” she concludes.
Hillary arrives at an event in Los Angeles and her aide informs her that the public has a negative response to her from the interview, while their approval rating of Bill has gone up. Hillary asks if there’s anything else and the aide tells her a phone recording of Ginnifer with Bill was released. The aide asks Hillary if she’s okay and after taking a deep breath, Hillary tells her she has a high pain threshold, heading into the event.
Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) finishes packing her suitcase in her apartment when the phone rings and she answers. It’s a woman who claims to work in the White House and refuses to say her name. “You’ll have to watch yourself. It’s not just him, it’s her too. Watch yourself. They’re trying to destroy you.” Monica is momentarily stunned, but brings her suitcase out and sees her mom Marcia (Mira Sorvino) and grandma at the table. Marcia is preparing for her interview with the Grand Jury and Monica’s grandma thinks it’s good that she’s getting out of Washington D.C. to visit her father in California. Marcia hugs her daughter, tells her she loves her and asks her not to worry about her. A knock at the door reveals Monica’s lawyer Bill Ginsberg (Fred Melamed), who has come to escort her to California.
Hillary sits down for an interview with Matt Lauer (Jason Cook) on Today about Monica, saying her husband has told her everything and she believes him. She tells Lauer that Ken Starr’s investigation is the biggest issue, which started out looking into a land deal and is now on sexual harassment 4-years later. “This is the great story here for anyone willing to write it,” she adds, referring to the investigation as a “Vast right-wing conspiracy.” Afterward, Hillary goes to the Oval Office to ask Bill if he watched. “You were incredible,” he tells her, adding that now Ken Starr knows that he’s not just messing with him, but with her, too.
Now in California, Monica rides with Ginsberg to her father’s house and asks if he has any updates on her immunity. He doesn’t and she’s worried she’s going to get arrested. Pulling up to her dad’s house, they see press waiting for her arrival and Ginsberg asks Monica to hug her dad in front of them. She gets out and walks up to Dr. Bernard Lewinsky (Rob Brownstein), hugging him as his wife Barbara (Dylan Jones) puts her arms around both of them. Later, they all sit together with Ginsberg watching Marcia’s testimony on TV, but Monica can’t watch anymore and goes to the backyard to lay on a recliner. She can hear her father and Ginsberg arguing over the fact that they don’t have an immunity deal yet.
Ken Starr (Dan Bakkedahl), Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks) and Jackie Bennett (Darren Goldstein) discuss how weird it is that the president has lied, yet his poll numbers are up. Mike says they need to make a deal with Monica, but Ken says he won’t deal with Ginsberg anymore. Mike reminds him that they’ve tried everything, including giving her family and friends subpoenas. He asks what they can do. “We can turn up the heat,” Ken says.
Barbara finds Monica knitting in the living room and compliments her on it, but Monica says she keeps reminding herself that this is temporary and in a decade, she will have a new life with a husband and children. Ginsberg calls and suddenly Monica and her dad find themselves back in Washington D.C., surrounded by press as she enters the FBI. An agent takes a writing sample and Monica’s fingerprints and then releases her. Monica and her dad go directly to a car while Ginsberg tells the press that Monica has once again been subjected to intimidation by The Office of Ken Starr. While Monica’s dad drives her away, she expresses her fears that she’s going to be indicted. Her dad says it’s time for a change.
Ken Starr watches CNN as Bob Ginsberg announces that he is stepping away as Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer. He turns to Mike Emmick and says “Let’s make a deal.”
Monica enters the office of her new lawyers in a blonde wig with sunglasses and a baseball cap on, a disguise that worked at helping her evade the press. Plato Cacheris (Warren Sweeney) tells Monica that this meeting will be quick and painless. “That’s not really how these people operate,” she says. Entering the home of Ken Starr’s mother-in-law, Monica sees a family photo of Ken with his daughters. Sol Wisenberg (Jared Gertner) leads Monica into a room where her lawyer tells the agents that she will agree to tell the truth and testify in exchange for immunity for her and her family. Sol asks about a navy blue dress and her lawyer says if one exists, it will be delivered when they receive the written immunity. They agree and Sol asks Monica to tell them everything, she starts her story back in 1995.
Bill Clinton sits in the situation room following the attack on two U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, both reported to be the work of Osama bin Laden. Bill tells the room that he wants to get rid of him.
On his way back to the Oval Office, Bill is followed by David E. Kendall (Peter Oldring) and Bob Bennett (Chris McDonald), who inform the president that Monica has signed an immunity deal with Starr’s team and he will likely be asked to testify. Bill doesn’t want to be subpoenaed and asks them to tell them he will go voluntarily. Bob tells Bill that they are requesting a DNA sample and asks if he has any idea why they would want that.
In a meeting room at the FBI, Mike Emmick removes items Monica brought in from a bag, all of which were gifts Bill gave her, except for one: a navy blue dress.
Bill is all dressed up and running late to an event because Ken Starr’s people are running behind. Jackie Bennett enters and thanks Bill for agreeing to the DNA test. Bill looks pissed as a nurse draws blood.
Jackie practices his questions for Bill with Sol playing the president. Also in the room is Brett Kavanaugh (Alan Starzinski), who suggests that the questions need to be tougher and more direct, proposing some explicit questions. Starr reminds Brett that they need to be respectful. During this session, a woman enters with the results of Bill Clinton’s DNA test. It’s a match.
Bob Bennett delivers a folder to Bill Clinton and tells him his meeting with Starr’s team is 4-hours, suggesting he talk slow and keep his answers long. David Kendall tells the president that it’s helpful for them to know the full details of his relationship with Monica and he confesses that they did have intimate contact, but that they did not have “Sexual relations.” He is using the definition that Paula Jones’ lawyers used and says under that definition, he’s not lying when he says that. The lawyers chuckle and Bob has to leave. Alone, David asks Bill if Hillary knows the truth. “I just can’t bring myself to tell her. It’s going to be horrible.” David tells him that it’s better if she hears it from him. Bill asks David if he can soften Hillary up for him.
David goes to Hillary and asks how she’s feeling about tomorrow. She says she’s not worried. “What if there’s more to this thing than you know between Bill and this woman?”, he asks. Hillary says that in the 7 months between the news story and Monica signing a deal with Starr, Monica was likely paid off to flip and she doesn’t believe a word she says. “I appreciate you, David. And I am aware of my husband’s reputation. Bill has never lied to me about the things he’s done. He tells me everything. That’s how we survive.”
That night, Bill goes to the bedroom and finds Hillary asleep. He sits in the corner, his hands together as if in prayer. When the morning comes, he’s still in the chair in the same position and when Hillary opens her eyes, she asks if he’s been up all night. “Hillary, I need to tell you something.” Bill says that the thing with Monica was more serious than he previously told her and she sits up. “I slipped up. She came onto me. I let it happen a couple of times.” Hillary anxiously gets out of bed. “I should have told you, but we never had sex.” Upset, Hillary asks Bill where it could’ve even happened and he tells her the office. “You lied to me!”, she yells at him. “How could you? I went out there and defended you in front of everybody the whole time.” She tells Bill that he made her into a liar and a fool, telling him to get out and pointing to the door. Bill walks slowly, but before he closes the door, Hillary adds one more request. “You better tell Chelsea before she finds out on CNN.”
Bill walks like a zombie out of his living quarters and into the situation room with George Tenet (Jeff Marlow), Sandy Berger (Mike Randleman), Hugh Shelton (Chopper Bernett) and Janet Reno (Carrie Gibson). They tell him that there’s intel about where Osama bin Laden will be and it’s an opportunity to strike. “Let’s get him,” Bill says.
Bob Bennett and David Kendall accompany Bill Clinton to his meeting with Kenneth Starr, Jackie Bennett and Sol Wisenberg. A stenographer and a cameraman are present and Bill is put under oath and reminded that the video feed is being viewed live by a jury in a separate room, where Mike Emmick and Brett Kavanaugh also watch. Jackie asks Bill if he answered his questions truthfully during his deposition. “I think I can save you and the grand jury a lot of time if I can read a statement that will make it clear what the nature of my relationship with Ms. Lewinsky was.” Bill produces a document and puts on his glasses, reading a pre-written statement slowly and describing his engagement in “Wrongful conduct” with Monica, but saying that the relationship was not sexual by the definition he understands. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” he concludes, adding that while he will provide the jury with more information, he will not talk specifics for privacy reasons. In response to Jackie’s next question, he says that his definition of sexual relations, as relayed by Paula Jones’ lawyers, is limited to certain parts of the body touching with the intention to arouse the other. Jackie asks Bill to clarify if his statement that he is not in a relationship with Monica that he previously made was a lie and he says “It depends what your definition of is is. He reaffirms that he never asked Monica to lie and describes the Paula Jones lawsuit as “bogus” and that it was funded by his political enemies.
Frustrated, Jackie Bennett turns to Ken Starr and whispers to him in frustration. Starr tells Bennett that he has questions and they switch places. Starr asks Clinton to clarify what “Intimate contact” means and Bill says he did things that were inappropriate, but that didn’t fit the definition of relations. Starr gets Clinton to admit that kissing is not on that list and when he asks if oral is considered relations, Bill says no. “Because there was no intent on my end to arouse,” Bill adds. Starr asks if Monica specifically performed that act. “I am not going to answer that question. I’m going to refer to my initial statement.” The court reporter calls time and Starr asks for a few more minutes, but Bob Bennett says the president has important matters to attend to and whisks him out of the room.
Hillary enters the Oval Office to find Mike McCurry (Scott Michael Morgan) and Sidney Blumenthal (Patrick Fischler) arguing about the speech to the people that Bill is preparing to make. Bill asks for Hillary’s thoughts. “It’s your speech, say whatever you want. You are the president, I guess.” Later, Hillary watches Bill speak to the American people where he confesses that he did have a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. We see Monica watching from her dad’s house. Bill says that this situation is now between him and his wife, his daughter and God. “Nothing is more important to me personally, but it is private. It’s nobody’s business but ours. Even presidents have private lives.” Hillary turns off the TV.
The press snap photos as Bill walks out of the White House with Hillary, who wears sunglasses, and Chelsea (Anastasia Barkow). They head towards a helicopter holding hands. They arrive at their vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard in three limousines with the first dog, Buddy. As they enter the house, Chelsea walks past Bill with her walkman looking frustrated. Hillary wants to go for a solitary walk around the island, but an agent tells her the press are circling the island and it’s not a good idea. She asks him to put Bill’s belongings in the guest house.
Bill talks on the phone in the guest house and gives the order to strike the location that Osama bin Laden is expected to be based on the CIA’s confidence in his whereabouts. He goes to the main house to ask Hillary if she’s ready and she comes down. Bill offers to back out of their dinner plans with Vernon and Ann Jordan. “I honor my commitments, Bill.”
Vernon Jordan (Blair Underwood) and Ann Jordan (Diahnna Nicole Baxter) meet the Clinton’s outside of their house, this dinner is an annual gettogether for the two couples to celebrate Bill’s birthday every year. Separating, Hillary and Ann drink wine in a sitting room and Ann asks Hillary if she’s okay. “Everything’s fine. Really, we’re okay.” She changes the subject to a piece of art on the wall. Meanwhile, Bill and Vernon are in his home office and Bill is more open, saying he doesn’t think Hillary will ever forgive him and adding that his friends on the hill are no longer taking his calls. Vernon calls it a “Tantrum,” but Bill is worried that they will move towards impeachment. Bill apologizes for getting Vernon involved and then asks him if he can speak to Hillary, saying that she trusts his judgment. “Bill, you and I both know I’m not the best person for that job,” he declines.
Hillary is silent and cold during dinner, so Vernon asks her directly when Chelsea goes back to Stanford, asking if she’s having fun there. “You know Chelsea, she’s a very diligent student. Fun is not a priority.” Bill adds “She gets that from her mother,” which Hillary takes as a criticism. He clarifies that he meant about being diligent and shares an anecdote about a time they stopped for gas and her ex-boyfriend recognized her. He said “I bet you’re glad you married the president instead of that guy” and Hillary’s response was “If I had married that guy, he would be president.” The staff brings out a birthday cake and the Jordan’s begin singing “Happy Birthday.” Hillary doesn’t sing and when Bill looks at her, she sips her wine.
Back at the vacation home, Hillary asks Bill to leave her alone, but he follows her and begs her to talk to him. She picks of a vase of flowers and throws it in his direction, hitting the wall behind him. “I am devastated, I am mortified, I am appalled, that’s how I’m feeling,” she snaps. He tells her Monica was just a meaningless distraction, but she wouldn’t leave him alone. He begs her to forgive him. She calls him “Chaos,” saying he disorients people until he gets his way, adding that she was stupid to think she could control it by being a team and sharing ambitions. “I was wrong! I was so wrong! You lit our life on fire.” She accuses him of compromising everything they worked for to get sex, but he says that’s not true. “Just because you didn’t always finish doesn’t mean you didn’t start.” She tells him their marriage now is nothing but an arrangement. “I threw my body in front of yours to protect you.” Bill says that Hillary is the only woman he’s ever loved and begs him not to leave her. She says that both of her options are bad, leaving or staying. “I lose either way because I didn’t invest in me. I invested in us and now you’ve made me look stupid and I hate you for that.”
Bill goes to the pool and cries, his moment of sorrow interrupted by an agent. “Operation complete,” the agent says, adding that they will have more intel about the success of the mission tomorrow. There will be more intel tomorrow about the success of the endeavor tomorrow. The agent leaves and Bill begins crying again.
The next morning, Bill tosses a ball for Buddy in the backyard while finishing his coffee. An agent comes out and tells him that his bags are in the car and Sandy Berger is ready for him. Bill enters the house and heads toward the kitchen to put his empty mug away, but he sees Hillary at the counter drinking coffee. He moves to the door and sets his mug on an entry table as he leaves. Outside, Sandy tells Bill that Osama bin Laden;’s body wasn’t found. They drive away.
“Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette starts playing as Hillary goes to the front door to see that Bill has left, his mug on the table. She walks to the backyard, descends some stairs and looks out at the ocean.
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).