TV Recap: FX’s “Clipped” Episode 1 Introduces Donald Sterling and his Infamous Racist Rant

In 2014, sports headlines were dominated by a major scandal when audio recordings of the owner of the L.A. Clippers were leaked, which contained racist remarks. The story was well documented, not only in print, but also in the hit ESPN 30 for 30 podcast The Sterling Affairs. In a post Fox acquisition bit of synergy, FX uses the podcast as its source of inspiration for a series adaptation of these events, Clipped, which had its double-episode premiere today on Hulu. Now that you’ve experienced the drama on screen, relive every moment with this detailed recap.



Episode 1 – “White Party” – Written by Gina Welch

In a brief flash forward, we see a flurry of activity as characters react to the release of an audio recording, and event that comes to fruition at the end of Episode 2.

Doc Rivers (Laurence Fishburne) arrives in L.A., greeted by an Uber Driver (Aiden Cardei) who is also a fan of his career. The driver asks why a championship coach like Doc would take a job coaching a losing team like the Los Angeles Clippers. “I like a challenge,” Doc tells him. When he gets to the Clippers office, team president Andy Roeser (Kelly AuCoin) welcomes him, apologizing they didn’t have a ride ready at the airport. Doc is introduced the the team’s executives, who largely brag about their longevity at the organization. It makes Doc mad, considering the team has never won a championship in any of their time there. “No offense but you guys are the worst organization in sports,” he tells them.

The big boss arrives – team owner Donald Sterling (Ed O’Neill), accompanied by his assistant V. Stiviano (Cleopatra Coleman). In a lunch meeting with the boss, Doc Rivers explains his strategy to spend $30 million recruiting JJ Redick. V. asks Doc if he plans to trade DeAndre Jordan, something the previous coach was about to do. Doc asks her not to butt in. Andy pulls Doc outside for a talk, telling him to address Donald as “Mr. Sterling.” Doc says he will do that once Sterling refers to him as “Mr. Rivers.” Doc says he doesn’t have time for this and leaves to work on negotiations with JJ.

JJ Redick (Charlie McElveen) seems apprehensive over dinner with Doc Rivers. Doc offers to match any teams offer to sign JJ and promises that with JJ, the Clippers will win a title. Doc further intices JJ by promising that he will be the missing ingredient to winning a championship, an opportunity he won’t have on any other team.

Doc lands in Orlando, getting in his car to head to his family when his phone rings. Donald Sterling found out that JJ Redick is white and no longer wants him on the team. Doc is understandably angry and pushes back, getting chewed out by Sterling. “I’m your owner!”, Sterling rants, which is the last straw for Doc. “I quit!” he shouts, hanging up the phone. He takes a few deep breaths and then his phone rings again. “JJ is approved,” Andy announces. Doc asks Andy what that was all about and he says that’s just how Donald Sterling is. “Don’t make plans for Labor Day, we’ll see you at the White Party.”

A Marilyn Monroe Impersonator (Jessica “Sugar” Kiper) welcomes Doc Rivers to Donald Sterling’s White Party, an oceanside soiree to kick off the season. He meets Shelly Sterling (Jacki Weaver), Donald’s wife, who offers her assistance in finding the coach a condo and housekeeper. Soon after, Doc finds himself standing on a small stage with the team as Donald Sterling introduces everyone. He introduces Blake Griffin (Austin Scott) as the team leader before introducing Doc.

Donald Sterling leads Blake Griffin around by the hand, forcing him to meet and greet with his VIPs. JJ Redick and Chris Paul (J. Alphonse Nicholson) talk at the bar and Doc joins their conversation, upset by the way Donald is treating Blake. As they pass, Doc tries to introduce Sterling to JJ, but his only question for the players is why they’re not hitting on all the pretty girls at the party. “Because I love my wife,” Chris scoffs back, an idea that seems foreign to Sterling.

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

With Blake no longer attached to Donald’s hip, Doc asks Blake if he’s okay being treated that way. “When he does it, I just pretend like my hand is someone else’s hand and drift away,” he confesses. Doc asks Blake if there’s any tension on the team that he should be aware of. “Nobody can stand Chris’ voice,” Blake tells him. Doc finds Andy, frustrated that nobody warned him about the in-fighting between Chris and Blake.

Shelly works to keep the White Party running smoothly when a red Ferrari pulls into the driveway and V. steps out. Shelly and her friends talk about the younger generation of girls, who seem obsessed with the Kardashian lifestyle and expect the world to just be handed to them. Her friends ask how V. became Donald’s assistant. “They met at a Super Bowl party,” Shelly shares, looking at the way her husband watches V. dance with the Clippers girls.

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

As the party winds down, Shelly stands at the front door saying goodbye to the guests. She thanks V. for coming, and for helping Donald over the past few years. “Our lifestyle can be a lot of fun, but the White Party, that’s work too,” she says, adding that the Sterlings expect a certain image to be maintained. V. tells Shelly that she’s been working with Donald on his consistency. Donald steps out and Shelly goes to him, asking how V. can afford a Ferrari. “You said you wanted her to have nice things,” he defends himself. “I said if she’s going to be your assistant, she can’t dress like a hoochie,” Shelly corrects him, adding that she doesn’t like the way V. looks at him. She asks what V. means by working on Donald’s consistency. He dismisses it, saying she’s just keeping an audio record since he’s forgetful. “She’s taping you?” Shelly asks with alarm. This frustrates Donald, who says he has to get back to his condo in Beverly Hills, getting in V.’s car for his ride there.

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

Alone in an empty mansion that moments before was bustling with activity, Shelly pulls out her phone and looks through V.’s Instagram profile. She sees numerous pics of the pretty young woman on her husband’s arm. And then she reads a comment: “Is your hand on his wallet or his dick?”

The next morning, Shelly goes to one of the Sterling condo buildings on Rodeo Drive, calling the elevator in the lobby. When the doors open, she’s surprised to find Donald and V. inside it together. V. is taking Donald to a dentist appointment and to a meeting with grant candidates. Shelly reminds Donald that they have dinner that afternoon with Tommy Lesorta.

While V. waits in the car outside of the dentist’s office, she calls her sister to ask about the school transfer application for the two foster children V. is working to adopt. Her sister reminds her that without the duplex, the transfer request is moot. V. says she and Donald are going to meet with the realtor next. Donald finally emerges from an appointment that ran long due to a cracked filling. V. begins recording their conversation, in which Donald says they no longer have time to go to the duplex.

Back at the Sterling mansion, V. dyes Donald’s hair in the backyard, upset that they have time for this but not for going to the duplex. Donald says she doesn’t need her own place anyway, and V. pouts about not getting to go to dinner with Tommy Lesorta. Donald calls Andy to get tickets to that night’s Dodger’s game, promising to go with her after dinner.

With her boss out with his wife, V. arrives late to the duplex showing, telling the Real Estate Agent (Tina Morasco) about the two kids she’s in the process of adopting. She takes a selfie in the living room and texts it to Donald with a message: “Wish you were here.”

Meanwhile, Doc Rivers visit Blake Griffin and Chris Paul at two of their separate promotional gigs to talk about their feud. Doc reminds them both that they’re on a team, not playing for themselves. Later, Blake and DeAndre Jordan (Sheldon Bailey) visit a pet store to get companions for their travels.

V. watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians in the Sterling living room, all dressed and ready to go to the Dodgers game. Andy calls to let her know that Donald has to back out, saying she can still go and can bring a friend. V. takes her best friend Deja (Yvonna Pearson), venting her frustrations over the duplex. Deja reminds V. that she just needs to keep Donald horny and he will do whatever she wants. As Magic Johnson walks by, V. comments about how much Donald hates him. Magic Johnson walks by, V tells Deja that Donald hates him. “Daddy is insecure,” Deja observes. “If I were you I’d use that to my advantage.”

The next morning, Donald is back in the Dentist (Paul Haitkin) chair having already cracked his new crown. Making small talk, the dentist asks about last night’s Dodger’s game. Donald is confused, so the dentist pulls out his phone and show’s him V.’s most recent post – a selfie with Magic Johnson at Dodger Stadium.

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

“Why are you taking pictures with minorities?” Donald scolds V. at his house. They get into a fight over it, but we only see snippets of the fight at this time. “If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl,” Donald concludes. Later, we see them make up. Donald asks if the picture with Magic Johnson was punishment for missing the open house. “You can’t be anyone in LA if you don’t own a piece of it, you taught me that,” V. boosts his ego, giving him a foot rub. Cut to V. at the duplex signing the paperwork.

Doc Rivers eats a lonely meal in his condo, listening to a voice message from his wife. As he washes his dish, he lets a call from Donald Sterling go to voice mail, listening to the owner rant about Chris whining to the refs, and then talking about how Rhianna came to the game without a bra on. Doc goes to the condo’s fitness center, relaxing in the sauna when a familiar face walks in – LeVar Burton (played by the actual LeVar Burton). After exchanging introductions, Doc talks about his NBA career playing for the Clippers in 1991. “You thought you could come back and win a crown for the clown,” LeVar tells him. Doc talks about how good things were for him in Boston, but that winning there didn’t feel like enough.

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

(Kelsey McNeal/FX)

During team pracitc, Doc motivates the team by talking about how people believe the Clippers are cursed and that everyone expects them to fail. He says the only curse they have is their owner. “Our team is different, you can feel it,” he concludes. “A Cinderella story with no Fairy Godmother.”

As the Clippers win their first game of the season, we see tension between Shelly, who sits on Donald’s right side, and V., who sits on the left. When the team wins, V. stands up and spins around, cheering dramatically. Shelly asks Andy to move V.’s seat for the next game.

During game two, V. sulks in the VIP box with her friend Deja, saying she feels like she’s been put in solitary confinement. After the game, V. goes to the press room, interrupting Shelly’s conversation with Jada Paul (Lindsay Diann) to compliment Chris’ wife’s purse. Jada compliments’ V.’s back. “Thanks, Mr. Stirling gave it to me,” she says in front of Shelly.

The next day, as a Podiatrist (Emil Beheshit) tends to Donald’s feet, he scolds V. for going to the press room. “You’ve had other girls,” V. defends herself, asking for proof that she means more to him than they did. Donald tells V. that he’s not ashamed to be seen with her, adding that he loves her.

At the next game, V. is once again seated with Donald courtside, wearing a full-length gown to celebrate her birthday. Doc Rivers rolls his eyes at the amount of attention V. is drawing on herself, mad at Donald for allowing it. Shelly sees the performance from her TV at home, immediately calling Andy to complain.

After an other undefeated victory, the Clippers freshen up in the locker room when all of a sudden, the door bursts open. Donald and V. lead a parade of season ticket holders into the locker room, with most of the players in the midst of showering and changing. Donald touches Blake’s cheek, referring to him as the next Antonio Banderas. Donald talks down to Deandre about his wingspan. Doc Rivers runs to the lockeroom as soon as he hears what’s going on, furious with Donald. He kicks them all out, but pulls Andy back. “I have never seen anything like this in my life,” he says, sharing that this is not normal post-game behavior.

Shelly and Donald sit on the couch in the aftermath of Christmas morning gift opening, while their housekeeper Gladys (J. Rene Peña) tidies up. Donald’s phone vibrates with a call from V. “Tell her it’s Christmas,” Shelly asks him, saying they need to sign their updated trust before the kids get back from the movie. Donald doesn’t understand why they’re updating their trust, but Shelly thinks they need to safeguard their wealth from anyone who might try to take advantage of them. His phone vibrates again and Shelly asks Donald to put it on silent. He snaps at her, yelling that it is on silent. He frantically signs the paperwork and storms off. Left alone, Shelly notices that the gift Donald got her is too large.

Entering the store to exchange the gift, Shelly is surprised to hear Donald’s voice. She goes to a sitting area to find her husband watching as V. and Deja shop. “We’re shopping for you,” V. lies when Shelly makes her presence known. “I don’t believe you,” she responds, accusing V. of robbing from them. “What would your mother think of you?” Shelly asks V.” “Don’t talk about my mother, witch,” V. claps back. Shelly looks at Donald, who stays silent. She asks her husband if he’s going to sit back and let V. threaten her. “I don’t need to threaten you,” V. speaks for Donald. “Mr. Sterling loves me. I’m going to be the next Mrs. Sterling. You’re history.” Donald just shakes his head. Shelly puts the gift down on the couch and leaves the store.



Later, Shelly drinks wine at an empty table in a restaurant when a waiter places a charger down with a red t-shirt with “Team Shelly” written in white letters. She turns to find her friends have arrived, all wearing the same shirt. Shelly vents about V. to her pals, telling them about how she hired a private investigator who found out that Donald bought V. a house. Sharon (Valerie Wildman) claims to have a friend on that street who describes it as a “party house.” Nancy (Gigi Bermingham) says V. is likely an alias. Shelly talks about how she and Donald built their empire together, but at the end of the day, it’s his name on everything. Justine (Harriet Sansom Harris) points out that if she’d been born twenty years later, it would be her name on everything.

At the next game, V. is once again in a suite instead of courtside, but this time there are other people there. She brags to a Red Bull Manager (Michael Andrew Baker) about the philanthropic work she’s helping Donald Sterling with. A courier (Mar Sudac) hands V. an envelope. She peeks inside and her face drains of its color. She rushes to a bathroom with it, hiding in a stall. Her hands are shaking as she pulls out her phone to call Donald. He doesn’t hear his phone buzzing as he and Shelly congratulate the team on another victory in the locker room, to Doc’s chagrin. Donald tells Shelly that he needs to find V. because she was his ride tonight. “I took care of V.” she tells him.

V. cries in the stall looking at a lawsuit drawn up against her by Shelly Sterling.

The story continues in episode 2, “A Blessing and a Curse.” Click here to continue to the next recap.

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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).