The First Lady: Season 1/ Episode 5 “see saw” – Recap/ Review

It’s one battle after another as we watch the First Lady deal with the administration and how they wish to control what the First Lady says.

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Gerald, Betty, and Susan getting the public

It’s one battle after another as we watch the First Lady deal with the administration and how they wish to control what the First Lady says.

Aired (Showtime) 5/15/2022
Directed By Susanne Bier
Written By Ellen Fairey, Azia Squire, Zora Bikangaga
Introduced This Episode
Susan Dakota Fanning

This content contains pertinent spoilers.


Michelle – Michelle, Mel, Barack, Susan, Rahm

With the 2010 midterms coming up, the last thing Rahm wants is Michelle getting political, saying things unapproved, and giving Republicans further ammunition, which can be used to make Obamacare into a blight. However, as before, she neverminds Rahm and pursues the Heathy and Hunger-Free Act, with Mel and Susan helping her convince both houses to make it a priority.

Unfortunately, because of Susan making Michelle’s work a priority, it has negatively impacted her marriage. So while Michelle gets the act passed, sadly, she loses Susan the following year. But, with Rahm wishing to run for the position of Mayor of Chicago, at least Michelle has one less headache.

Eleanor – Eleanor, Louis, Hick

Louis is torn between two sides. As part of Franklin’s administration, he has to protect the presidency and Franklin’s tenure. Yet, as a friend to Eleanor, a part of him doesn’t want her brilliance silenced. Never mind, he knows he can’t silence her brilliance, so it is best to guide it. Hence, he advocated for her speaking to female journalists on a regular basis.

Hick, of course, appreciates this since women were laid off en masse after the election was over, and her closeness to Eleanor might have been the only thing that saved her. However, the press secretary seemingly wanted Eleanor to stick to homemaker topics.

Not one to turn down a challenge, Eleanor plays the game of cooking, cleaning, and such, but only to speak on how to get that done quickly to talk about what really matters to American women.

Betty – Susan, Nancy, Gerald, Betty

Susan (Dakota Fanning) worried about her mom
Susan (Dakota Fanning)

The announcement of Gerald pardoning Richard Nixon rocks the Ford marriage, but not for too long. Yes, it makes Betty feel like her thoughts and feelings aren’t valued, an issue earlier in their relationship, but she gets past that.

How? Why? Well, due to getting a mammogram while hanging with Nancy and discovering she has a tumor. This information makes the whole Nixon thing, which has died down by the time Betty gets her mammogram, the only thing that is important not only to her but to Gerald, her daughter Susan, and the whole family.

But alongside dealing with her personal health issue, she also recognizes being open about what is going on can be good for politics. Gerald pardoning Nixon made Betty feel that it could lead to the appearance their family was complicit. So, on her own accord, she sees her diagnosis as a means of showing that the Ford family doesn’t lie or hide things from the American Public.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Is the main reason we get so personal and delve so much into Betty’s past because her husband had less than a full term?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Lesbian rumors for Eleanor
  2. Maybe getting into Michelle dealing with attacks coming from the Tea Party, alongside Obama’s second election campaign
  3. Betty dealing with Gerald’s first election campaign for president


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Betty’s Storyline

Betty in the hospital

What Betty Ford’s storyline, if that is appropriate to call it, gives us is the person. Yes, she advocates for herself and women and has opinions on policy. However, rarely is her storyline written in such a way that she seems consumed by what’s going on. Rather, she seems to exist in a way where she can come and go from the bubble as she pleases and maintain some sense of normalcy.

If not, to put it in a different way, I wouldn’t say Betty’s world revolves around her husband, that she operates despite who her husband is, or is playing a supporting role. Betty exists outside of Gerald, and the show pushes that she has merit and more to offer than being Gerald’s wife. This isn’t to say the other ladies don’t do that, but because they are far more political than Betty, they seem wrapped up in their husband’s work in ways that can make them seem reactionary.

Extending The Public Speaking Beyond The Campaign

It’s a strange thing that, for over 100 years, as Eleanor said, the role of First Lady has not been codified or given explicit duties. Yet, it is common knowledge that becoming a president and single is unlikely to happen. And on top of the expectation to be married, your wife must be seen or heard in the case of Obama, for she is essential to selling you to the American people.

Yet, with no official place in the administration beyond wife but having this notable platform, it seems no one knows what to do? She is powerful enough to influence polls, but to use her to further the administration’s plans is treated as inappropriate. She is given a staff to do things, but meaningful work isn’t expected and sometimes is outright discouraged.

In general, working with or for the government can be frustrating, but imagine the limbo of figuring out how to have an existence beyond your husband while expected to remain in his orbit.

On The Fence

Should We Care About The Absence Of Franklin?

Eleanor in bliss

We’re torn. As established, Franklin and Eleanor don’t have much of a marriage, and their friendship is often rocky. Yet, his absence from the episode is noticeable as we see Gerald and Barack. So, should we just not care about Franklin and his relationship with Eleanor and solely focus on her and her relationships with other people?

[ninja_tables id=”46704″]

Gerald, Betty, and Susan getting the public
The First Lady: Season 1/ Episode 5 “see saw” – Recap/ Review
With Michelle and Eleanor, it is pretty much more of the same, but Betty's storyline, it goes a little deeper. It feels less about politics and more about the person, which benefits the show in potentially unintended ways.
Extending The Public Speaking Beyond The Campaign
Betty's Storyline
Should We Care About The Absence Of Franklin?

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