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The Politician centers a bored, disaffected audience surrogate in "The Voter"

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The entire concept of the Saint Sebastian election is ridiculous. It’s a high school presidential election, for a role that is, at best, ceremonial. (If I’m remembering correctly, the most important consequence of the student government elections at my high school was that the winner got suckered into planning reunions for the rest of their lives.) Though an election is ostensibly about imbuing the people’s power into their chosen representatives, the students at school don’t really have much power at all. Faced with the obvious fact that teachers and administrators are the ones making the shots, why not tune out of the election entirely to play video games on your phone and vape in the bleachers?

Enter Elliott Beachman, one of the few undecided students left on election day, and the title character of “The Voter.” Played by Russell Posner, Elliott is a far more typical high school student than any of the other heightened characters on the The Politician. He spends most of election day trying to find a quiet space to jerk off at home or at school, dodging the annoying try-hards who keep trying to get him to vote one way or another, and otherwise drifting through life. The camera often floats over to the many girls at school, who easily distract Elliott and command his attention. The members of each campaign often float in and out of the background, as they escalate their attempts to win his vote.

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This starts with individual operatives—Kris from Astrid’s campaign and James from Payton’s—making individual, incredibly obnoxious pitches that ring obviously hollow. Theo Germaine really gets to play the asshole here, describing Elliott as “some wood shop loser” and trying to bribe him with friends and a “cool” party experience. Elliott responds by punching him, which makes sense.

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Later, Elliott gets dragged into an assembly where the candidates are making their final pitches to the student body. Skye really sticks the knife in, absolutely throwing Astrid under the bus while claiming that Payton’s campaign is now that campaign of the marginalized. (She has a longer-term plan to become president, right?) Astrid, in turn, has replaced Skye with Pierre, who rides in to the campaign and announces that Drake is coming to come do a show at Saint Sebastian. This is a good joke, and probably the most true-to-life thing that has happened on this show. Like sure, why not overpromise?

Over the course of the rest of the episode, the news that Drake is part of Astrid and Pierre’s platform coalesces into a serious campaign issue, culminating in a lunchroom argument between two of Elliott’s friends. (On one hand, Payton cares about gun violence. On the other hand, Drake.) When that fight ends, both Astrid and Payton end confronting Elliott at the same time, leading to a public admission that they did, in fact, have a threesome. This is an entertaining way for the show to confirm that this happened, but it still feels weird that we’re at the end of the election cycle and have barely seen Astrid and Payton interact, let alone seeing how they acted during their most intimate moment with River.

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Eventually, The Politician tips its hand: Payton is the rare politician who really does care, and who deserves Elliott’s vote. Earlier in the day, Payton rebukes James for insulting Elliott. He doesn’t want any student at the school to feel isolated or unimportant, the way so many of them do. And when he goes to visit Elliott in detention, Payton gets his classmate to actually tell him what he wants out of a student administration: private bathrooms and cheaper peanut M&Ms in the vending machines. Ben Platt’s delivery of Payton’s reply about the bathrooms“It’s not very cost effective, but I do understand the attraction.”—is very funny, and manages to totally elide the actual purpose of having the private bathrooms. Even these incredibly horny rich teens have underestimated just how horny everyone is all the time. (And how hungry they are for peanut M&Ms.)

By the end of the day, the election machinery is at full throttle, and it seems like we’re on a course for the climax of the season, with three full episodes left. Even though the votes are in, no one seems sure who won the race. (Elliott didn’t hear, if they did actually announce the results.) And in one last scene at the Beachman family dinner table, we learn what happened: After all of the effort Kris, Payton, Astrid, James, and every other canvasser, volunteer, and administrator put into winning him over, Elliott still didn’t vote. Can you blame him?

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Stray observations:

  • “The Voter” is written by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy, and directed by Brennan.
  • Elliott’s sister doesn’t know that Apple Pay is real money, and is in the process of going vegan. His mom is very loud and rude about asking him not to make a mess when he jerks off. His dad reads the Metro section.
  • Infinity attempts to disrupt the assembly with a megaphone, yelling about how Payton used her for her cancer (even though she doesn’t really have cancer) and Astrid slept with her boyfriend. No one seems to care. 
  • I briefly thought that Georgina’s brief appearance would spur Elliott to vote for Payton on a “hot mom” platform. Wouldn’t have been a huge surprise.
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