Elections are always a state of high tension, but The Family, “Election Day” takes it to a different level! The episode has several things going on that day which have nothing to do with the election. In fact, the election is the least important thing happening! Here’s the ABC story breakdown:
Willa reveals a terrible secret to Claire right as the Gubernatorial election results are announced. Back in the cellar, Agent Clements tries to convince Jane to set him free, resorting to desperate measures. Ben shares some shocking news with Willa, who is now determined to get him out of the family. Meanwhile, Bridey ponders whether to use all the information she has on the Warren family in order to make the front page with her story and discovers a missing piece of the puzzle to guarantee her success. Nina is determined to get a confession from Doug, while, in flashbacks, we see how Hank went from beloved co-worker to social pariah.
In Greek mythology, Tartarus is a special level of hell where the punishment is supposed to fit the crime. For instance, it’s there that we’ll find Sisyphus forever rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down right before the top. The Family, “Election Day” is full of this kind of thing. It’s an episode where we see desperation at work, as well as “evildoing.” The road to hell is paved with good intentions also comes to mind.
One of the things that makes ABC’s The Family so complex is that it’s near impossible to paint most of the characters as completely good or bad – except for Doug (Michael Esper). Of course, Doug told us back in episode three that he was a monster – and proud of it. Maybe that’s the point of things? Everything that is occurring has been set in motion by his original actions. Like ripples in a pond or that one bad apple in barrel, his evil heart hast tainted everyone else.
Hit the Highlights
Nina, Doug and the Warrens
The Family, “Election Day” begins with Detective Nina Meyer (Margot Bingham) doing a voice over while getting ready to question Doug – who turned himself in at the end of last week’s episode. She talks about that while some stories have a predictable ending – this one doesn’t.
Doug obviously has a plan. He lets Nina interrogate him for hours and hours. She hammers him about Clements, taunts him about having to think of a little boy to get Jane pregnant. The only thing that may have registered at all is when she spins a tale about his childhood and suggests that a, “Mark” – one of his mother’s boyfriends – molested him as a child. I say may, because it could be he just found it boring and tedious. Being that sociopath are more nature than nurture I’m inclined to think the latter.
Doug then turns the tables on Nina and points out all the ways she’s failed with the case in the past – which is why getting him now is so important. (This is becoming a theme for Nina…)
You’ve given up your whole life, to be in this room, for this one moment with me. Is it everything you hoped for? …We’ve an hour left detective. How you wanna spend it?
In these moments Doug is truly scary, because he’s talking like the monster he is, one who knows he’s smarter and going to get away with everything. That’s because he and Ben/”Adam” (Liam James) have put together a plan.
As the title says, it’s election day. The Warren family, including “Adam” have all gone to vote and are surrounded by the press after having just cast their ballots. John Warren (Rupert Graves) gets the call from Nina that they have a suspect in custody for “Adam” to identify. When Doug steps out from the line-up and says the given phrase, “Bracelet. Key.” it’s clear that he’s shaken by this – he almost id’s Doug. The two stare at each other – even though we know Doug can’t actually see “Adam” through the one-way mirror.
With no id, Nina has to let Doug go. Nina thinks “Adam” – whom she knows is Ben – is lying, but she can’t prove it. As you can see, both Claire Warren (Joan Allen) and John are upset by this – but for different reasons.
Afterwards, John is waiting to confront Nina alone in the back parking lot as she’s leaving the precinct. He’s furious that she’s put “Adam” through this again. Nina tells him that Doug is the guy, but she can’t tell him that “Adam” is really Ben, because she doesn’t have the solid proof and she’s got enough problems with Claire as it is. John does have a moment where he senses there’s something Nina isn’t saying – there’s still that relationship connection there – but then he brushes it aside and tells Nina to stay away from his family.
As for Claire…we’ll talk more about her a bit later. The reason Nina was in the parking lot was to get into a car and follow Doug. She’d put a tracker in his jacket before he left, because Nina’s convinced Doug has Agent Clements (Matthew Lawler) somewhere. Why else would he have abandoned his home? Unfortunately, Doug is on to her and disappears into an arcade. The flashing lights and zany music make the perfect fun house atmosphere as Nina tries to track him. When Nina finds, “him” Doug had paid a kid forty dollars to wear the jacket and is long gone.
Hank – The Flashbacks
The flashbacks in the episode are all around Hank Asher (Andrew McCarthy) and the day he got caught at the park. He’s doing well at his CPA job, and the other guys rib him about his dedication and focus. His boss is really happy with his work and promising to give him more opportunities.
The guys, for all their teasing, are friendly. They invite him out to lunch and mention that one of the servers there are hot for him. Hank smile and says he’ll have to take a rain check.
Why didn’t Hank go? He’s probably asked himself that a billion times. The choice Hank made was to have lunch by himself, in his car, parked on the street by a field where young boys are playing sorcerer. He’s the picture of longing and self-loathing…. This is the day he got caught at the park. He’s been in his car masturbating while watching the boys play. Even before he’s caught he’s crying and looks miserable.
Hank already hates himself, but in the next flashback we see him with his lawyer explaining what’s going to happen to him. The charge is indecent exposure & public lewdness. At first Hank is defensive.
Hank: I was in my car.
Lawyer: Getting off in a park filled with kids. It’s a class 1 petty offense.
Hank is resigned. There’s a class he’ll have to take, and a fine he’ll have to pay. However, he didn’t know about having to register as a sex offender – and that it would be for the rest of his life. He shocked & baffled.
No, the world doesn’t see it that way and I can’t say that The Family has swayed me completely on this point. Hank being miserable about his problem doesn’t make it any less wrong. The fact that any kid could have run by and seen what he was doing is not cool. Would it be different if it had been a park full of women laying out catching some rays? I would say no, and in many states the answer is no because the sex offender registry isn’t just for pedophiles. Depending on the state, flashers, soliciting a prostitute, public urination – as well as all the violent sexual offenses – can put you on the list.
Where things get murky aren’t so much around the registration part. The last flashback is Hank being called into his boss’s office. The police had sent the employer a notice about Hank’s arrest and being put on the sex offender list. Hank says he’s not a bad person, and his boss sort of gives him a chance to say something in his own defense.
Boss: What are you, Hank?
If Hank could have in some way denied that he’d been looking at children, and was not a pedophile, one gets the feeling the boss might have let it go. Since Hank, at this point, isn’t a liar, so he answers honestly.
Hank: I don’t know.
You can see that Hank despises this thing that he is because it doesn’t fit with his own moral code. When the boss tells Hank that legally he can’t be fired, Hank gets the picture and quits. As he’s walking out the office his boss quietly thanks him.
Hank: I made a terrible mistake.
Boss: My nephew’s the same age.
Once again, the truth hurts. Who wants their child near someone who thinks about their kid like a sex object? What Hank desires – even if he’d never physically touch a child – makes him a social pariah.
Hank Hits His Breaking Point – Present Day
All of the flashbacks are juxtaposition to things we see Hank do on election day. Becoming a hero is, in Hank’s mind, the only thing that can fix his life. If he is shown to be the one to help catch a violent sex offender, he thinks the world will then associate him with that and not his past.
At noontime Hank gets more and more upset as he clicks through the TV newscasts for some mention of his role in catching Adam Warren’s kidnapper and torturer. When there’s nothing mentioned about it at all, he calls one of the news channels! Hank tells them that the police have caught the man who really took Adam Warren – and that the tip came from a Hank Asher.
With still nothing on the news that evening he goes down to the police station to ask Nina what’s going on. When he learns Nina had to let the guy go because, “the kid said it wasn’t him” his reaction is that “Adam” is wrong. He taunts Nina over her incompetence and then tells her he just wants the right person caught. Nina sees right through him. In a blistering retort she says that even if Hank cured cancer he couldn’t change his past.
Nina: Nothing you do, for the rest of your life, will make it go away.
Hank: Everyone makes mistakes.
Nina: We just made bigger ones than most people.
Hank really picked the wrong day to dig at Nina about her mistakes in the case. She never denies Hank’s words about her. She’d been getting that all day, and like Hank, she’s convinced that Doug is guilty of taking Adam, and now Clements – but she’ll never be able to prove it. The anger that’s coming through her isn’t solely directed at Hank. Still, her words may prove to have a devastating effect on him. After one more encounter with Claire (again, we’ll get to her) we see him listening to a voicemail saying he’d missed his shot appointment. Hank angrily deletes the message and storms away from the phone.
Is Hank deciding to go off of his shots? On election day, every hope he’s had of getting back to where he was before that fateful day has been taken away from him. His only support system was his mother – who’s now dead. I can see him thinking that if everyone’s going to treat him like a monster anyway what’s the point in putting himself through all of those drugs. I hope that’s not the case but, it certainly might be.
Clements and Jane – Bloody Hell!
This one is short, but not sweet – plus onscreen it takes many scenes of watching the back and forth between Clements and Doug’s girlfriend, Jane (Zoe Perry).
Doug is still gone, and the delivered baby is presumptuously in his nursery. Jane is trying to find something to cut through the thick chains connecting his shackles to the wall – because Doug has the key for them. Clements tells her it’s not working. Jane says they’ll just have to wait for Doug and that, “maybe she can talk some sense into him.” …Jane…your boyfriend kept a boy in a dungeon for ten years. Really?
This is when Clements sees some kind of sharp pliers (Sorry, I don’t know much about tools.) and has an idea about how to get his hands out of the cuffs so that they can escape. He wants Jane to cut off his thumbs! Now, Clement does have a plan about how to do this. It’s not just to take the pliers and have at him. Still, it’s going to be a bloody mess. The logical is truly biblical: Matthew 5:29-30 is where it says it’s better to lose a part of body than to keep all of it and burn in hell. …Or, there’s always the Saw movie franchise. The bottom line is that Clements wants to go to heaven – back home with his husband and their bees…. the thumbs have to go.
Jane however, is too squeamish to do it! Like, for Pete’s sake, woman! Then it gets worse. She finally gets up the nerve to do one of them, but when Clements regains consciousness she’s only done the one! Honestly, I’m having a harder and harder time with Jane every episode.
However, Jane does get one thing right. Before she can do the other thumb she hears something and freaks out because she knows it has to be Doug. She leaves Clements with his one bandaged hand and runs up to the house.
Doug finds her sitting at the kitchen table and she is mad at him for being gone for two days (Nina held him for 36 hours). However, Doug is suspicious about the blood on the counter, on her face and all over her hands. He starts pushing her and saying that she must have been trying to help Clements escape. It’s not looking good….
Doug: Where you trying to get him out?
Doug: Then, what’d you do?
Jane, eyes wide and glaring at Doug, stands up.
Jane: I had the baby.
I actually applauded! Jane’s move is a brilliant cover for the blood and frazzled appearance. She plays the angry girlfriend forced to deliver a kid on her own very well…. Actually, she was forced to deliver the kid on her own. Clements couldn’t physically help her at all! Still, that’s not where the blood on her comes from. Hopefully she’s more concerned about Doug not finding out about the thumb!
The good news is that Doug seems to have bought Jane’s story. The bad news is that when Jane comes back down to the cellar she tells Clements that in order for Doug to not kill Clements he has to make everyone stop looking for him.
In other words, Clements must, call and quit his job, and call the love of his life (which we’ve heard all about) and convince him that Clements has deserted him. Nevermind, that this seems like an easier way for Doug to kill him later. After all if no one is looking for him, then no one will care that he’s permanently disappeared. I think he’d just rather be shot than have to make that call.
Ben, Willa and Claire – Election Day
In the very early morning of the election Willa Warren (Allison Pill) finds Ben sitting in her room. He wants to know how the Catholic rite of confession works. Willa explains it, but also sees where he’s going with this. She tells him it doesn’t work for everything. (She’s gonna have to go to confession for that!) A dejected Adam walks out and Willa quickly locks the door behind him.
Claire is doing well with Ben as “Adam” – and it’s driving Willa nuts! John actually tells Willa that “Adam” might even be more like Claire than Willa is! It’s all going well for Ben…until the lineup at the precinct. When they go back home, Claire asks Ben if he’s sure he didn’t see the guy – because Nina was so sure….
Ben: She’s been wrong before.
That afternoon the Warren house is filled with campaign workers. As Willa walks through it seems like everyone is doing cold-calls asking people if they’ve voted yet – even her parents are doing it. Danny Warren (Zach Gilford) is busy as well. He’s happy, sober – and on the phone ordering pizzas for all the campaign workers. Willa seems dazed in the middle of all the activity. That’s because all she can hear is Ben’s voice as he’s making calls that start with, “Hi, I’m Adam Warren.”
It’s Danny teasingly calling her a slacker that snaps her out of it. When Claire asks for more call sheets, Willa takes Ben with her to get them. Once alone she tells Ben that if he wants to make up for killing her brother he’s going to say that he’s overwhelmed with the politics and go to a boarding school in California that “specializes in trauma recovery.” It’s a plan that has him becoming less and less involved and connected to the family. Ben doesn’t want this and the first thing he says is that “Mom” won’t let Willa do this. In his last-ditch effort he tells Willa that he’ll give her back the 10 grand she gave him to disappear.
Willa: Is that what my brother’s life was worth?
Ben: Mine was.
Willa has nothing to say to that, and the realization seems to give Ben courage.
The next time Willa sees Ben he’s asking a thrilled John about what life will be like for them in the governor’s mansion. Willa asks her father where Claire has gone – it’s a silent communication that Willa is moving forward with her plan – only Claire’s gone out for some air. Willa decides she needs some air as well and asks Danny to come with her. This scene is so sweet!
Once again, Danny has no idea what’s really on his sister’s mind – and Willa doesn’t know how right Danny is – but it’s all good! Willa’s giddiness at coming out to her brother is delightful. I love when Danny tells Willa, “she can do better” than Bridey. …I wonder if he’ll still think that when he learns, “Adam” is really Ben? I hope so!
While all of this has been happening Claire has been over to Hank’s place. It’s an awkward visit. Hank goes into automatic pilot for a house guest and offers her a drink – but all he has is water.
Claire wants to know why Hank was so sure that Doug was the right guy. Hank explains his reasoning about Doug being at the house and then at the park that day. Claire sees that as circumstantial, but then Doug explains how Doug’s routine would have allowed him to watch Adam run for the school bus every day. That makes more sense to her, but she still wonders how he can be so sure.
Hank: Because I watched your son, too.
Although she doesn’t like the answer, it infuriates her for a moment, you can see there’s an appreciation for the honesty. For one, it’s confirming what she’s suspected – but didn’t want to believe. Ben lied about recognizing her son’s kidnapper.
Willa returns home as the final votes are being tallied in key counties. It’s close, but it looks like Claire is going to win. She finds her mother alone in the kitchen and gives her the good news – but the election isn’t what Claire wants to talk about. At first she’s rambling about how ordinary a “monster” can look – because she knows the man Nina had today was Adam’s kidnapper. That throws Willa over and she barely manages to ask how.
How Claire knew is interesting – and shows how sharp she truly is. Remember the upset look on Claire’s face when Ben said the guy wasn’t the kidnapper? Unlike John, who was horrified at Adam being put through this, hers was because she recognized a “tell” that Ben does when he’s nervous. That’s how she knew he was lying! She didn’t want to believe it, but she had to look into it based on what she saw. Hank simply confirmed what her heart knew.
Claire: Can you believe I know my fake child so well?
However, Claire still needs Willa to tell her why Ben lied. Both actors are amazing in this!
The levels of betrayal – and self-betrayal that Claire has to be feeling when she learns Ben killed Adam are mind-boggling to think about. Claire’s allowed Ben to get close to her. She’s hugged him, made him a special birthday dinner, given him a family watch that should have been Adam’s…. She’s won the election – but lost everything that matters. Not only didn’t she keep Adam from being taken, but she’s sheltering his killer.
Still, Claire has won the election and there’s an acceptance speech to give. All of her volunteers and supporters are gathered around the Warren’s front porch cheering as Willa – with her father standing by her side – is thanking them on behalf of her entire family for this great victory and all of the “help and support” over the last few months. If it sounds a bit like the speech Claire should be giving, that’s because it is….
Willa then tells the group that with all of the excitement Claire has lost her voice! It doesn’t go over well, but Willa keeps plowing on.
My mother is honored and thrilled to be elected governor of this great state of Maine…and she will give her acceptance speech just as soon as she’s well.
The crowd is stunned and silent as Willa and her father go back into the house. Obviously the news about Ben killing Adam was too much for Claire. An acceptance speech is the last thing on her mind!
It’s Another Bridey Escapade
Bridey Cruz (Floriana Lima) continues to be a real piece of work! The media does not fare well in The Family as Bridey proves, once again, her willingness to lie, cheat and deceive to get the story. At least this time it doesn’t require sleeping with anyone. It’s disconcerting that Bridey and Doug seem to be the only people on the show who remain unphased and unscathed. What does that say about Bridey?
The way ABC framed Bridey’s plotline in the The Family, “Election Day” is sneaky – which is good.
Meanwhile, Bridey ponders whether to use all the information she has on the Warren family in order to make the front page with her story and discovers a missing piece of the puzzle to guarantee her success.
So, throughout the episode, we see Bridey at this trucker’s diner, supposedly to work on the story about the Warren family and Ben/”Adam.” It’s a little odd that she’d go to the middle of nowhere to do it, but she’s using the flash drive with the contents from Willa’s computer, so maybe she actually doesn’t want wi-fi and is a little paranoid? At any rate, it’s not enough to raise a ton of suspicion about things.
Bridey strikes up a running conversation with her waitress Sally (Rachel Bay Jones). The two become chummy and as a viewer I’m starting to wonder if this is going to be yet another conquest for her. (It is, but not sexually.) For a while it even sounds like Bridey has some misgivings about doing the story on the Warrens.
Bridey: What if I’m just grabbing a headline, Sally?
Sally: Isn’t that the point?
Bridey goes into how unimportant a headline is in the scheme of things and tells Sally she’d even “slept with a brother and sister” to get the information for the story. The advice Sally gives her is solid.
Sally: If you’re gonna regret it, don’t do it. That stuff can stay with you.
Yes, it can, but only if, as Doug once mentioned, if you have a soul to begin with. Does Bridey?
The Wrap Up
For Clements there is one ray of hope. Back at the police station Nina is alone in the interrogation room where she’d held Doug. She drops some papers, but upon stooping down to get them she notices a small clump of dirt under the table. (Dirt that’s markedly different from what one would normally find on that super clean police precinct floor.) Nina carefully sweeps up this possible new evidence. The dirt could be from Doug’s shoes and once analyzed could give her an idea of where he’s moved to. However, with all of Nina’s misses, will anyone believe her?
Bridey & Claire
If you believed that Bridey had some second thoughts about what she doing – well no. She’s still the scheming woman “chasing a headline” – even if it’s something people will quickly forget about. For Bridey, there is no such thing as just being open and sincere. You’ll always a find a self-serving reason behind what she does. In this case, it’s confirming that Ben is Sally’s son. Does Bridey even bother telling Sally that she knows where Ben is? Of course not. She doesn’t give a damn about Sally – or anyone. As Danny told his sister last week, Bridey is “super-shady.”
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Certainly once upon a time, Claire, Willa, Nina, Bridey were trying to make things right in some way. Claire’s wanting justice for Adam has ultimately landed her out of her mind and sitting unresponsive on her bathroom floor. Clements is where he is because he wanted to protect Jane from Doug. Hank just wants a second chance – which is what Jane gave Doug…. As for Doug, he’s the one that made the road that they’re all paving. Nina’s ending tagline about not knowing how this story’s going to end is spot on!
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