It’s time for the first round of the election, and Simon is hedging his bets.
Too determined for Deleuvre not to win to be all that invested in who actually does, he’s apparently contemplating working for Marjorie if La Visage doesn’t make it to round two. And why not? It’s not as if Anne is remotely inspiring. She spent episodes 1 and 2 crying and falling over, and 3 and now 4 making long touchy-feely speeches which should be heartening and inspiring but for some reason make me want to roll my eyes instead.
Maybe it’s because having the only female candidate be the one talking about love and togetherness, while the nasty male one bashes on about security and fighting and whatnot, is such a stereotype. Or maybe it’s because we’ve seen how la saucisse is made; Simon and the appalling Valentine are writing the words and pulling the strings, and Anne, Social Welfare Minister or not, comes across as more of a vacuum than a viable leader with any solid ideas of her own, so how can I possibly buy what she’s selling, no matter how palatable her message might be?
In fairness, this week’s episode does try to give her some agency and personality of her own, I suppose. She refuses to attack the Greens, she tells Simon off for the Mali escapade (of which more later). But she’s so wishy-washy as a character that we’re under no illusions as to who’s really in charge and it’s very clearly a man in the shadows, not the woman in front wearing the skirts he’s told her to.
With Anne being as commanding as a croissant then, and Deleuvre being straight-up evil, at this point even I’m contemplating joining l’équipe Marjorie. Although I wouldn’t be stupid enough to tell Valentine that.
While Anne smiles beatifically and says “Ensemble” every twenty seconds, Valentine is weirdly confused that Ludo actually used the information she gave him, but doesn’t let it trouble her for too long; there’s an uncomfortable, but well-played scene where a particularly brutal Ludo cruelly (but not inaccurately) reminds her that he and Simon share everything, but all it takes is a few stern words and she’s back in his bed again, spilling secrets faster than a speedboat zooming up the Seine.
On one view, of course, it’s Gregory Fitoussi and he sells the hell out of that scene, so I get it. I really get it. But FFS, Valentine. How about you take Jed’s advice and maybe try for a bit of self-esteem? And maybe try not to out your secret relationship with the opposition while standing right next to your boss at a live TV debate. Idiote.
While Anne and Valentine are in thrall to the men in Paris, however, Apolline is in getting arrested in a poorly-considered stunt by l’équipe Deleuvre that involves locking her up in Mali but doing nothing to stop Jamie returning to France. This seems an odd priority for a mission designed to, er, stop Jamie returning to France, but it does means Apolline can spend a bit of time being a metaphorical martyr in French tv’s idea of a Malian police cell, Jamie can become an actual martyr back in Saint-Etienne, and Apolline can get all righteous and angry and have a practice tantrum about state falsehoods and whatnot at the airport (which no one seems to notice bar Simon – passengers? Security? Anyone?) before she goes for the jugular at a Deleuvre press conference.
Simon’s reaction to this is both hilarious and ironic. “Your mum really messed things up,” he tells daughter Juliette. “She was clumsy.” Really, dude? She’s not the one who told the MOLE he’s sleeping with about the Mali trip and the witness in the first place, is she?
Not a great episode for the ladies, then, and I’m disillusioned by the fellas as well. The utter hilarity of Simon’s friends and family giving him a car for his birthday – “You don’t need a license,” Anne says. Um…. vraiment? – and it lying outside gathering parking tickets aside, Simon has a somewhat bland week, although his finally realising the MOLE’s identity is a step in the right direction. Ludo has taken a break from being layered and complicated, in favour of wholeheartedly embracing the Dark Side of the Force. And poor Jamie is unceremoniously shunted aside in order to let the Caucasian folk bring down the conspiracy instead, which is somewhat ironic, since Ludo’s comment on how “a black guy who dies doesn’t make news” suggests Spin’s writers do want to say something about French race relations and the media, but have somewhat proved their own point.
Sigh. Maybe I’m not being fair. In 2012, all the discussion about debate positioning and tactics might have seemed fresh and interesting instead of a little obvious and patronising to a politically-aware, tv-literate audience which has spent years seeing these ideas covered more subtly elsewhere. But in 2016, too much of this episode fell some way short of making the impact it should. I enjoyed Palissy kicking Guenelon into touch, I liked Simon’s “Gotcha!” moment at the end and, after weeks wondering where the hell all the tech was, I was overjoyed to see AN ACTUAL LAPTOP at the press conference, but rather than the main men fighting by proxy through a number of less exciting intermediaries, “The Witness” needed a proper confrontation between Ludo and Simon to really get it going, and without it, it never really did.