TV Recap: “Impeachment: American Crime Story” – Episode 10 – “The Wilderness” (FX)

Impeachment: American Crime Story reached its emotional conclusion in “The Wilderness,” the tenth and final episode. The titular moment has arrived, but fans of the series know that the show has never really been about Bill Clinton, but the women in his orbit. Here, we see where all the pieces land at the end of the chaos.

September 1998

Marcia Lewis (Mira Sorvino) enters a hotel suite in New York City and after getting settled, she calls he incognito daughter Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) to give her the all-clear to head up. Sitting down together, Monica tells her mother that not many publishers are interested in a book deal, except for one. Marcia is concerned that a publisher will want the tawdry details of the affair, but Monica tells her this one wants her to tell her story her way and has offered to pair her with Andrew Morton, who wrote the bestselling biography with Princess Diana. During their conversation, it’s revealed that the book deal is just a means for Monica to pay for her lawyers, but she also hopes it shows people who she really is.

Karin Immergut (Lindsey Broad) enters a meeting room at Kenneth Starr’s office where the report is in a frenzied state. She is visibly annoyed as she hears Brett Kavanaugh (Alan Starzinski) and Sol Wisenberg (Jared Gertner) argue over which explicit details go in their sections. Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks) is the voice of reason, asking how these details matter. Jackie Bennett (Darren Goldstein) enters and yells that none of this matters, the report is going to print right now. “Boys and girls, this is it,” he grins.

Lawyers and paralegals load printed copies of the report into bankers boxes as Kenneth Starr (Dan Bakkedahl) makes a speech about how their efforts were viewed as a partisan witch hunt, but their hard work shows that no president is above the law. Mike and Jackie follow some of the boxes into an elevator, but Jackie backs out and tells Mike he will meet him downstairs. We follow him back to his office where he calls Lisa Meyers (Amy Pietz) at NBC News to give her the tip that the report is on its way to the Capital. She asks her administrative assistant to call for Tom Brokaw and a producer as she leaves to head to the Capital. Before she goes, she makes a call to David E. Kendall (Peter Oldring) to ask him for a comment, breaking the news to the White House that Starr’s report is on its way to the Capital. Jackie and Mike get out of a van surrounded by security and media in front of the Capital as the boxes of reports get loaded into the building.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) paces in the Oval Office with a cabal, asking what’s in the report. The White House hasn’t received a copy of it yet and Bill asks Sidney Blumenthal (Patrick Fischler) when they will have it.  “Very soon, like everyone else,” Sidney says, informing the president that congressional leadership decided to put the complete report online.

Marcia gets a phone call and tells Monica to turn on the news. That’s how Monica learns that the Starr Report is not only ready, but that the full report has been made available to the public. She pulls out her laptop, connects to AOL, and tries to pull it up. Marcia gets a call from Monica’s dad and Monica begs her to tell him not to read it as she gets the report to load.

Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) and George Conway (George Salazar) are also glued to the news. George pulls up the report and sees on the table of contents that the titles of each section are very revealing. He flips right to November 17th, which is marked as the first sexual encounter. George begins to share details with Ann, including about the cigar. She questions if she’s high or took LSD. “No, it’s real,” he tells her. “This is a real report to US congress.” As they read on, George is increasingly shocked by how little of the report is about grounds for impeachment and how much of it is about sex, believing this will take the focus away from the real issue. Ann thinks that Bill Clinton will have to resign in shame over it.

Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner) is racing to cover all the details on his website when his internet clunks out. He calls to yell at somebody who manages the servers, but the internet issue isn’t unique to him.

Students at the Stanford library are actively reading the report when they lose internet access. One student has downloaded it and everyone crowds around her monitor to read it. Elsewhere on campus, we see Chelsea Clinton (Anastasia Barkow) on a computer looking upset.

David informs Bill Clinton that the GOP are drafting articles of impeachment. “Of course they are, they were always going to,” Bill says. Sidney tells him the report is too personal and that can be used to make an argument against it. “Well, go make it,” Bill orders him. Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco) heads towards the door as the group disbands and Bill asks her to wait. In private, he asks if she’s read it. “I haven’t read it. I won’t read it. But Chelsea has.” She leaves the Oval Office, closing the door behind her.

November 1998

Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) meets with her lawyer Anthony Zaccagnini (Christopher Redman), getting snickered at by the security guards when she signs in. “We have a serious problem in Maryland,” he tells her, informing Linda that they’re preparing to indict her for taping phone calls with Monica. “No, that’s not possible. I have immunity from prosecution.” He tells her she has federal immunity, but not state immunity. She demands that he call Kenneth Starr, saying that his report only exists because she handed over the tapes in exchange for immunity, but he tells her this is a legal gray area and that popular opinion in Maryland is that she should be prosecuted. He adds that if there’s a trial, Monica will likely testify against her. Linda tells him how hellish her life has become, with multiple government investigations into her, being locked out of her job, scorn from the public and trouble sleeping over concerns for her safety. “I tried to do the right thing. I trusted our institutions to protect a person like me but instead, I’ve been abandoned.” She doesn’t understand why she is portrayed as the villain of the story.

Monica is staying with her dad again in California and she turns off the news when she hears on the news that the tapes of her phone calls with Linda Tripp will be broadcast soon. She turns off the TV to make coffee where she sees her father (Rob Brownstein) in the kitchen. He tells her that he didn’t read the report.

Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) is living in Beebe, Arkansas with her mom (Jeannetta Arnette). She has been unable to get a job anywhere, so she is using her name as a telephone psychic. A call comes in from a woman saying her name is Ginger, but it’s actually a prank call and a male voice does an impersonation of Bill Clinton on the other line. Paula complains to her mom that she only gets prank calls, saying that she only gets paid if the call lasts more than 5 minutes. As Paula’s mom goes to take care of her grandson, Paula pulls an envelope out of her purse from Penthouse.

Monica pleads with her lawyer Plato Cacheris (Warren Sweeney) to let her release a short statement before the world hears her on the tapes, but he reminds her that she’s under a gag order and the only way Starr will let her speak is as a testimony. As the tapes get ready to broadcast, Monica prepares some sleeping pills, planning to sleep through the day when her friend Cat (Sarah Catherine Hook) shows up to surprise her.

Cat tells Monica that she didn’t read the report as they walk along a nature trail overlooking downtown Los Angeles. She tries to paint an optimistic view of the future for Monica, who mentions that she is the top-selling Halloween costume this season and that it comes with a cigar. On a serious note, Monica tells Cat about having to listen to the tapes to sign off on them and how bad some of the conversations were, just a way to kill time. She admits that looking back, she seemed lost and desperate, but also that it’s obvious now that Linda was recording the conversations. Cat convinces Monica to go see You’ve Got Mail with her. When Monica gets home that night, she briefly turns on TV, but turns it off when Dr. Joyce Brothers (Jean St. James) says “Can you imagine your son coming home and saying I’m going to marry Monica Lewinsky?

Linda sits alone in the dark watching TV, looking like she hasn’t slept well in days. After hearing the tapes played on the news, we see her face as political commentators mock her voice and attack her character.

Two men working for Congressman Lindsay Graham are working on the impeachment documents when one of them notices a confusing appendix in the Starr Report about “Jane Doe 5,” but the source isn’t listed. They go to the archive to take a look at the revised affidavit of Juanita Broaddrick and happen upon the rape allegation that was omitted from the full report.

Juanita Broaddrick (Ashlie Atkinson) comes home to voice messages from Lindsay Graham’s office, the National Enquirer, and NBC News. The next thing we know, her home has been invaded by cameras and lights and she’s being prepared by Lisa Meyers for an on-camera interview in her living room. Juanita asks the reporter for clarification that the interview won’t air until after the impeachment. “I have every reason to believe it will,” Lisa tells her.

December 1998

Sidney reviews the way members of the house are planning to vote in the impeachment trial with Bill Clinton and it looks like he’s going to be impeached. “The whole goddamn party is going insane,” Bill exclaims. Sidney suggests that Hillary make personal phone calls to some of the representatives on the fence because she’s popular in their districts. Bill asks Sidney to coordinate it with Hillary’s staff.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

In her office, Hillary receives a call from Congressman Charlie Rangel, who tells her that a senate seat is opening up in New York and she’s the top choice for it. She smiles.

Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light) calls Paula Jones and tells her that she heard that she’s being flown to California by Penthouse. “Paula, this is the worst thing you could possibly do,” she tells her. Paula tells her it’s just an interview about her experience in the case, but Susan asks about the photos. “They said it was a few tasteful photos,” Paula says, but Susan isn’t convinced. “It is cowardly to lie to yourself about what this is and what men use this magazine for.” Paula starts to break down, saying that she’s having legal and tax problems that she doesn’t understand. “Don’t try to blame this on the many generous people who have helped you,” Susan scolds her. “Nobody is around anymore and I can’t get a job here, so I don’t have a choice,” Paula sobs. Susan tells her to back out, but Paula tells her she already signed a contract. “I need the money.” Susan hangs up on her.

Annie Leibovitz (Kasha Fauscett) and photographers from Vogue arrive at the White House to photograph Hillary Clinton in a black dress. Stylists smooth down any flyaway hairs and the entire photoshoot oozes class and sophistication.

Somewhere in L.A., Paula Jones arrives at a tacky mansion, having her hair teased high by a stylist who asks her if she really did hook up with Bill Clinton. She is first photographed on a banister in ripped jeans and a mesh top. “Alright we got it, let’s do the nudes,” the slimy photographer says. Paula is led to the backyard by the pool and she hesitates when she’s asked to take off her top. “You agreed to the nudes, remember?” She asks him for clarification that they will be tasteful and he says yes as she is made to disrobe, looking uncomfortable as she is asked to smile for the camera.

It’s a stormy night outside the Oval Office as Bill Clinton gets an update on how the impeachment trial is shaping up. Even more Democrats have flipped on him and David asks Bill if he knows Juanita Broaddrick. “I know who she is. She was a campaign supporter in the 70s. Why are you asking?” He tells Bill that there’s new evidence and while he hasn’t seen it, he’s heard that it suggests that Bill assaulted her. Bill gets angry and yells. “They take these women and they hound them and they scare them. 20 years they’ve been working on her.” He calls it a lie and he gets even more upset when he hears that Juanita is going to appear on Dateline.

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

Linda Tripp reconnects with Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale) at a book release party. Linda tells her about the state of Maryland prosecuting her and that she believes it’s because Hillary Clinton made a few phone calls. Lucianne reminds her that the silver lining is that she’s now too famous to be on a kill list. She breaks the news to Linda that Monica has signed a book deal and is working with Andrew Morton. “Well, she finally has the attention she has always craved,” Linda says. “I bet she is absolutely loving this.” Lucianne tells Linda that because the Starr Report has all the juicy details, there’s no longer any interest in a book from her. “This was never about a book for me,” Linda says, which catches Lucianne by surprise. Linda takes a hotel elevator down after the party where she is recognized by someone. Before the elevator doors close, a man yells at her: “You did a hideous thing.”

Hillary finds Bill on the night before the impeachment trial looking pensive. “History will savage them, Bill,” she says, adding that they will keep fighting. The next morning, Bill wakes up before Hillary and looks at her before getting dressed. He sits in a room with some of his closest team members watching the live coverage. He turns off the TV after they pass the first article of impeachment. “Want to hear a joke?”, Bill asks. “There’s this guy caught on a cliff in a storm, the wind and rain raging. He’s trying to hold onto a branch, it’s about to slip out of his hands, he’s about to fall, he looks up and he says why me God? And God looks down on him and says I just don’t like you.” He grins, nobody laughs. Bill leaves the room and goes to find Hillary. Later, they walk through the halls side-by-side.

February 1999

Matt Drudge is hosting his new show on Fox News with Ann Coulter joining him. They talk about how Monica Lewinsky is back in Washington D.C. to testify before moving on to Paula Jones’ appearance in Penthouse. “She was our Rosa Parks, she was the hero in a David and Goliath conflict,” Ann Coulter says. “Turns out she was the trailer park trash they said she was.” After the show, Matt asks Ann for advice on how to be as comfortable and confident as she is on TV, congratulating her on her new bestselling book. On the TV, they see Monica getting hounded by press in front of a courthouse and Matt says she must hate this. “She’ll be fine,” Ann says. “If there’s one thing we know she loves, it's being in a room full of old men.”

Monica meets with Republican members of congress who just repeat questions she’s already answered multiple times. She asks them to keep this short because it’s costing her a lot of money to pay her lawyers and it all comes out of her own pocket. Afterward, David E. Kendall approaches her with what he says is a message from the president. “He just wanted to express how sorry he is for everything that you’ve been through.” She looks stunned. “Is that it?”, she asks. David says that he is also sorry for what she experienced, but she clearly expected something more.

Paula Jones visits a local convenience store and goes to the counter to checkout. While waiting for the cashier to ring her up, she notices the adult magazines behind him, featuring her on the cover of Penthouse. He smiles at her and she looks anxious as she grabs her purchase and leaves.

Linda and Allison Tripp (Emma Malouff)  watch the news, which projects that Bill Clinton won’t be acquitted following his impeachment.“It was always going to end this way,” Linda says. Allison reminds her that she once told her that Bill Clinton would have to resign over this. “Do you know why I never told you about my father?”, Linda asks her daughter. “Because I didn’t want to let my child know how completely fantastic life tends to turn out for liars.” She describes her father as being a likable man who had multiple affairs behind her mom’s back and eventually left the family for another woman. She says everyone in town, even other kids at her school, knew about this, but nobody told her or her mom because they liked her dad more than them. “He was a cheater, he was a liar and nobody held it against him. That’s the truth. Men like that, men like Bill Clinton, they ruin lives and they get away with it. They just do.”

Monica and her mom pack up the last remaining items from Monica’s apartment in D.C. As Monica empties her computer desk, she finds the acceptance letter from the White House internship program. She tells her mom that she can’t stop thinking about Bill’s impersonal apology. “I would have done anything to protect him and I did because that’s how much he meant to me. But him? Every single chance he had to help me, he chose to do nothing.”

Juanita Broaddrick’s interview airs on TV. In it, she describes how Bill suggested that they continue their work from her room and she didn’t feel threatened until he started kissing her. She tried to get him to stop and he bit her lip in the process. “I just was very frightened,” she cries as she recalls the details of her rape. She says that afterward, Bill calmly put on his sunglasses and before leaving the room, said “You better put some ice on that” regarding the wound on her lip. We see people in a bar barely paying attention to the news story, treating it as yet another Clinton woman.

Monica Lewinsky’s book is sweeping the nation and she’s settling into a new apartment in New York City. She talks on the phone with Cat as she gets ready for a book signing. “It’s nice here, sometimes people leave me alone.” At the signing, a publicist coaches Monica in a back room, saying that people in line have already been told that she will only be signing copies of the book and that they can only ask “Nice questions.” Monica peeks out and is nervous by the size of the crowd.

Linda Tripp had cosmetic surgery on her face, a generous gift from Lucianne and her friends. She’s in New York City and walks past a bookstore with large posters for Monica’s book and an announcement that there’s a signing today. She pauses for a moment, peering inside, before continuing on her way. She goes to a fancy restaurant where she meets with Collins (Dan Pfau) from George Magazine. He comments on her new appearance before pulling out his tape recorder for their interview, the first she’s done. “I made a horrendous mistake. For a long time, I didn’t think it appropriate to come forward but that allowed other forces to shape the conventional wisdom when it comes to Linda Tripp.” She adds that she hopes that her enhanced appearance changes people’s opinions of her. “Until all this happened, I didn’t know how ugly I was.” Collins asks if Linda has read Monica’s book and she says she read parts of it. He asks about the last time she spoke to Monica, the day the FBI took Monica into custody at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. “What would you say to her now if you saw her? Would you ever try to reach out to her?” Linda responds: “Oh, I don’t think that would be welcome.”

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

(Tina Thorpe/FX)

The crowd cheers as Monica Lewinsky enters the bookstore to begin the book signing. She smiles as she signs the first few books. An overwhelmed fan in the crowd tries to rush at her and is tackled by security. Monica tells the crowd that she needs a moment and retreats to the back of the store.

“I know in a million years she’ll probably never understand,” Linda says to Collins. He asks her to clarify. “I know it looks horrible, I know it looks like a betrayal, but she was his victim. He caused all this. He did. I just wish she could see that I saved her.” Linda Tripp clears a lump in her throat.

The publicist at the book signing asks Monica if she’s okay as she takes some deep breaths. “I just need a minute. I’ll be okay.”

Impeachment: American Crime Story doesn’t end with an epilogue on what happened to these women next, but you probably more or less know the rest of the story. Monica Lewinsky serves as a producer on the show and is a cyberbullying activist. The state of Maryland dropped its charges against Linda Tripp who remarried and ran a year-round Christmas store called The Christmas Sleigh until her death in 2020 from pancreatic cancer. Paula Jones remarried in 2001.

FX has a fourth season of American Crime Story in development that will tell the story of Studio 54.

All 10 episodes of Impeachment: American Crime Story are now streaming 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).