On January 13, 2015, Peter Laurence was in Washington, D.C., trying to privatize the United Kingdom’s National Health Service via his connection to a think tank. Or, he was in New York with his wife—it depends on whom you believe. Legally, however, he has been cleared of being in D.C., having won a libel case against the newspaper that reported the D.C. meeting and alleged he used his political office for financial gain. After the reporter Charmian Pepper changed her story before the jury, they decided in favor of Peter, who is now the transport minister for the Tory government. Nonetheless, even Peter’s lawyer, Rochelle Madeley, believes he’s guilty—not that it matters to her.
It does matter to Charmian. Called into a meeting with her editor, Joe Lapidus, and the paper’s owner, she praises Joe for standing behind her, believing the damage from the case is only reputational. But the paper’s insurance was conditional, and because Charmian changed her story, the paper is now liable for 1.5 million pounds. No matter that Charmian only recanted because Peter’s diary has been altered, and she couldn’t reveal how and when she had seen it due to confidentiality. She’s fired.
It seems that Peter might be sacked, too, by Prime Minister Dawn Ellison. Dawn asks her aide Julia Blythe to look into Peter’s background and his relationship with some sketchy-seeming think tanks. MI5 is already keeping an eye on him. When Dawn summons Peter to a meeting, she says his decision to sue for libel was “foolhardy” and asks if there are any other potential scandals. He doesn’t want to answer in front of Julia, but eventually says he won’t sue again. Apparently satisfied, Dawn tells him she’s planning a government reshuffle and promises Peter a great promotion—he suspects Foreign Secretary, given that the current Secretary is unpopular—but he must keep it a secret.
Peter’s good at secrets. He has just come from a visit to a women’s prison where someone is claiming to be his daughter. He meets with a woman, Steff, but she says she’s just representing his daughter, feeling Peter out for her. Peter wants to leave, but his aide Duncan Knock insists he stay—Duncan has had a preliminary conversation with Steff and is worried about how much she knows about Peter. After speaking to Steff, Peter admits to Duncan that he slept around a lot when he was younger, but doesn’t believe he has another daughter.
He still sleeps around: at the end of the day, he ditches his official car and takes a taxi to a woman’s apartment. She asks about the libel case; he demurs. Later, in bed, she tells him she got a job at a library in Austin—he seems disappointed that he might lose her. In turn, he tells her about his meeting with the Prime Minister. She asks if he’s told his wife and daughter. He hasn’t.
He will probably be talking to his daughter Lily soon. At a club, she does drugs and makes out with several men. Someone takes photos on their phone; they end up in the possession of Joe Lapidus. He decides to run them in the paper.
Joe’s out to get Peter in other ways, too. Charmian has returned to the paper, threatening to sue for gender bias in her firing—Joe did say that her short skirts helped her as a reporter. Using that as leverage, she tells Joe that she needs to go to D.C., on the paper’s dime. She will figure out a way to prove her case against Peter. Joe reluctantly agrees.
Charmian decided upon this bold strategy with the help of Luke Strand, one of Peter’s lawyers in the libel case. She ran into Luke at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting—she’s recently sober—noticing him as she spoke about her life being ruined by a powerful man. After the meeting, he apologized and asked her out to coffee, telling her he thought the libel trial was unfair. She brings him home instead, and they sleep together.
After her successful meeting with Joe, Charmian calls Luke and thanks him. She knows exactly how she’s going to take Peter down, she tells him.
Other people might do it first. A woman named Margaret has called Rochelle, Peter’s other lawyer, offering essential evidence against Peter. Intrigued, Rochelle calls her back. Margaret, who’s working as a server at some fancy event, tells Rochelle that Peter has a sinister past—she should look into it.
How would Margaret know? Perhaps because of her acquaintance with Sydney, Peter’s driver. At the end of an evening, Sydney passes Margaret in a stairwell, speaks to her, and gives her a kiss.
Sydney’s not the only person with dirt working for Peter. After Peter points out a stain on his assistant Joy Pelling’s shirt and she goes to change, Duncan says that Joy is getting worse at her job. But Peter can’t fire her, Duncan says. She knows what you—“we”, Duncan corrects at a look from Peter—did.
Duncan himself knows a lot. When Peter is finally called to Downing Street after a day of waiting for his promotion—the Foreign Secretary caused some holdup in the reshuffling by trying to leverage a possibly indiscreet holiday he once took with the Prime Minister—the PM surprises him. Peter won’t be Foreign Secretary; instead, he’ll be Minister of Justice. A riot has started in the prison Steff is in, and the PM needs someone decisive to take care of it and reform the prisons.
After Peter leaves, confounded, Dawn gloats to Julia about Peter’s shock. Whoever your informant is, they were right, she tells Julia.
It’s a good guess that it’s Duncan. He rushes to an apartment and begins taking off his clothes. As a TV report on the riot plays, Julia throws him onto her bed.
Peter refuses to tell the press what his new government position is; he’ll leave that to the Prime Minister. When he finishes his regular radio show on which he answers questions from listeners, the host asks him if he’s upset about the promotion. “I’m angrier than I’ve ever been in my bloody life,” Peter responds.