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July 08, 2021
Edith!
Fall in Winter

In This Episode

“Do you think they’ll ever stop calling it New Mexico? You know, when it’s been around for a while?”

After weeks of rumors about the President’s health, a cowboy Senator stops by the White House to see for himself. Unluckily for Edith, he isn’t the only surprise guest today.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript

 

[loc. White House South Lawn]

 

Edith, voice over: People say history is written by the winners, but they’re wrong. History is written by the biggest losers imaginable: historians.

 

Edith: You did it before. You can do it again. Step, Woodrow, step.

 

Dr. Grayson: Edith, I can’t hold him for much longer. All this weight is on me.

 

Edith, voice over: They come up with these narratives, digestible to America’s mental stomach. Myths about the moral triumphs and failings of men like their Lincolns, their Roosevelts, their Johnsen’s—some of them are solely dedicated to the Johnsons.

 

Dr. Grayson: Edith! Oh God, I’m losing my grip.

 

Edith, voice over: But history isn’t some lofty Greek tragedy. It’s a bunch of people putting one foot in front of the other, trying to trip each other up, flailing wildly as they fall.

 

Edith: First snow of the season. It’s beautiful, isn’t it, Woodrow? Pristine.

 

Edith, voice over: It had been weeks since Woodrow woke up in the middle of the night and walked across our bedroom. He hadn’t walked since.

 

Dr. Grayson: I’m sorry, Edith. Edith, I can’t. I can’t.

 

Edith: Fine, put him down.

 

Edith, voice over: The only progress we’ve made was realizing that the new rolling chair we ordered for the Oval Office worked pretty well as a makeshift wheelchair.

 

Edith: What a joke.

 

Dr. Grayson: It was worth a shot.

 

Edith: OK, honey, what do you say? You want to go to the room and rest a bit?

 

Woodrow: What a joke.

 

Dr. Grayson: Did—?

 

Edith. Woodrow! Oh, my God, oh, my God.

 

Dr. Grayson: The President just spoke! The President spoke!

 

Edith, voice over: You see? Can be a little messy, not always in a straight line, but that’s history: someone deciding to finally take a step.

 

[loc. Senate Office]

 

Lodge: We both know Edith is a problem.

 

Lansing: Yes, well, Henry. I, I, I’m just suggesting that you go public since I can’t.

 

Lodge: Well, I can’t either. I already I took the fall on Dalmatia. I’ve been hammering Woodrow for months on the League of Nations. It’s going to look awfully suspicious when I go out there and accuse the first lady of committing a goddamn coup.

 

Lansing: Well, someone has to. That, that woman is playing puppeteer with a great man, his legacy, our democracy—it’s all at stake.

 

Lodge: [laughs]

 

Lansing: What’s so funny?

 

Lodge: What we need is a ‘Fall’ guy.

 

Lansing: A ‘Fall’ guy.

 

Lodge: Come on, Lansing, you went to Amherst. Follow my train here.

 

Lansing: [laughs] A ‘Fall’ guy. Christ. A ‘Fall’ guy.

 

[loc. New Mexico Campaign Rally]

 

Singer: Fall, Fall, Fall is our guy. The Las Cruces prosecutor who can handle a six shooter, mighty as a thick, red cedar, our big-hat fella’s quite a leader! From the flattest of the mesas to the grandest of the rios.

 

Bass singer: From the depth of the reservoir in Red Bluuuuuf.

 

Singer: Other men need not apply, for Fall, Fall, fall, is our guy.

 

Senator Fall: Thank you kindly, boys. I am Senator Albert Fall, and I’m proud to call myself a New Mexican. Good night.

 

Edith, voice over: Lansing’s conspiracy theory had whispered his way from mustache to mustache like the Spanish flu.

 

Lodge: Hell of a spectacle Albert.

 

Senator Fall: Senator Cabot Lodge. What brings you out west?

 

Lodge: Manifest Destiny. That, and I need your help. How’d you like to do something to serve your country?

 

Edith, voice over: It was only a matter of time before someone officially said it on the record.

 

Senator Fall: How do you mean?

 

Lodge: Well Al, it’s about the president’s health.

 

Edith, voice over: I just didn’t think it would be someone as—and I hate saying this—formidable has Albert fall.

 

Newsie: Read all about it. Showdown on Pennsylvania Avenue. Senator Fall believes the president is in dire health. Cowboy senator to storm the White House gates.

 

[loc. White House President’s bedroom]

 

Edith, voice over: But like always, I had a plan.

 

Edith: Woodrow, focus, please. I know you can repeat things and I need you to try. “It’s good to see you, Senator Fall. It’s good to see you, Senator Fall” Can you repeat that? OK, plan B.

 

[loc. White House Oval Office].

 

Edith: Let’s go over it one more time.

 

Tumulty: We anticipate Fall will arrive with press to wait outside for news right after.

 

Trudie: My job is to greet Senator Fall, find some topics we have in common, bore him with small talk, and then, and as you put it, pretend to be a dumb little hummingbird.

 

Edith: Yep, that is exactly right. Just be Trudie.

 

Trudie: I was born to be Trudie. Well, actually, I was born to be Samantha, but my dad overruled my mom and now I’m Trudie.

 

Tumulty: And then, according to your itinerary, at 2:45, 3:10 and 3:30, I will bring updates of different emergencies the president has been pulled into: League of Nations, prohibition, Mexican hostages, in that order

 

Edith: All the while, I’ll make sure the president is never in one room for too long. And voila, Fall is convinced the president is so healthy and active he doesn’t even have time to see him.

 

Trudie: Wow. This is a great plan, Edith. When I think about how great your plans are, I always think to myself—

 

[voice] Oh Shit!

 

Trudie: You know, that’s actually pretty close to what I was going to say.

 

Edith: That was from Woodrow’s room.

 

Tumulty: But that wasn’t Woodrow.

 

Edith: Fuck.

 

[loc. White House President’s bedroom]

 

Edith, voice over: My mind was racing. Fall was a smart guy, so I thought I had prepared for every single possibility. But I didn’t prepare for him to be so insane, he’d just show up early and—

 

Edith: March into my bedroom without permission?! How dare you!?

 

Edith, voice over: But luckily Fall was not insane enough to do that. The man second in line to the presidency was.

 

Edith: Vice President Marshal!

 

Marshall: Edith, please, tell me this is some kind of decoy president, and real Woodrow is stashed away in some bunker eating raw eggs, working on a medicine ball.

 

Edith: Marshall, I, look, I know, it’s, it’s—

 

Marshall: Because, because if he’s this sick, that means . . . I have to be president!

 

Edith: What the hell are you doing? Let go of his hand!

 

Marshall: Mr. President, if you can hear me, give me a firm handshake. Firm handshake, Mr. President. Firm handshake.

 

Edith: Stop it Marshall! Don’t rough him up like that.

 

Marshall: Oh, it’s no use. I mean, the man has no squeeze. There is no squeeze in him. This is just like in my nightmares.

 

Edith, voice over: He wasn’t kidding. He’d been having literal nightmares.

 

[loc. Flashback to Marshall’s bedroom]

 

Marshall: Oh! Ah! [yelling] Oh, oh.

 

Marshall’s wife: It was that nightmare again, wasn’t it?

 

Marshall: We were eating breakfast, in the nook, and the Secret Service were at the door to inform me that, that . . .

 

Marshall’s wife: Come on sweetie, you can say it.

 

Marshall: That the president was dead, and they needed me, the Vice President, me! To take the oath of office and become [sobs] become [cries].

 

Marshall’s wife: It’s OK Tommy, you’re not president and you never will be.

 

Marshall: It’s just that I fight and struggle, but they force by hand on that damn Bible. And the Bible had teeth! All I can do is scream, but I don’t follow politics, oh, I don’t follow politics.

 

Marshall’s wife: Sweetie, repeat after me: it’s just a dream.

 

Marshall: It’s just a dream.

 

Marshall’s wife: It’s just a dream.

 

[loc. White House, President’s bedroom]

 

Marshall: It, it’s, it’s just a dream. But it wasn’t a dream, Edith, at all.

 

Tumulty: Madam First Lady. Mr. Vice President, what are you? Never mind, I don’t care. Mrs. Wilson, I hate to be this person all the time—

 

Edith, voice over: I’ve started to suspect he secretly loves being this person.

 

Tumulty: Buuuuut.

 

Edith, voice over: Did you hear how much you just love saying that?

 

Edith: But, what is it Tumulty? Is the East Wing on fire? Was Lansing found with a box of matches nearby?

 

Tumulty: Worse. Fall has arrived early. His car is pulling up now.

 

Edith: Same plan. Send Trudie. I’ll deal with Woodrow. Marshall, look at me. If you don’t want to be president, I need your help right now.

 

Marshall: Yes, ma’am.

 

Edith, voice over: Turns out I was actually lucky that Marshall showed up. There’s no way I could have gotten Woodrow in that rolling chair or down to the Oval Office as fast as I needed to.

 

Edith: Woodrow, honey, I’m so sorry to do this to you. It’s completely unacceptable

 

Marshall: What happened to him? Did he find out W.E.B. Dubois exists? What’s the rush?

 

Edith: You don’t follow the news, do you?

 

Marshall: Of course not. Why should I?

 

Edith, voice over: Heartbeat away from the presidency?

 

Edith: Albert Fall is on his way to check on the president’s health.

 

Marshall: Fall? Fucking Fall. Are you serious? We’re done.

 

Edith: If I can handle lancing a lodge, I can handle Fall.

 

Marshall: Oh, like hell. Back in 1890s, some New Mexican opposition party sent a man to kill Albert Fall, and that night Fall fired three shots. Yeah, and the first grazed the man’s scalp, the second shattered his left elbow, and the third blew his hat right off.

 

Edith: So he’s going to shoot me?

 

Marshall: No! That that’s not the point. Albert Fall, isn’t a wet piece of paper like Lansing or Lodge. When he aims for you, he hits.

 

Edith, voice over: Meanwhile, to her credit, Trudie was doing exactly what I asked her to do: playing dumb.

 

[loc. White House Foyer]

 

Trudie: Senator Fall. What a pleasure it is to greet you.

 

Senator Fall: Ma’am. Pleasure’s all mine.

 

Trudie: Oh! You know, I’d heard you always wore a big black Stetson and I’d seen it in newsreels, but Lord, now that I’m wearing it, it is so much more hat in person.

 

Senator Fall: [laughs] Thank you kindly, ma’am. If you don’t mind, may I have my hat back? Thank you. Say, is the first lady, or your doctor of a husband around?

 

Trudie: I uh . . . Oh! Do you think they’ll ever stop calling it New Mexico? You know, when it’s been around for a while?

 

Senator Fall: Ma’am, I don’t mean to be impolite, but are you stalling.

 

Trudie: What? Um. No! Um. Oh! Got your hat!

 

Senator Fall: Yes. It seems as if you’ve taken it a second time.

 

[loc. White House Oval Office]

 

Edith: Jesus! Be careful with him.

 

Marshall: I am! There. Now Woodrow’s behind his big desk and I helped. Now let me get the hell out of here before that bastard Fall ruins my career too.

 

Woodrow: Firm handshake.

 

Marshall: Oh God!

 

Edith: Yes Woodrow. Great. Yes! Firm handshake. What else? Keep going.

 

Woodrow: March into my bedroom without permission.

 

Marshall: Wait, you didn’t tell me he could speak.

 

Edith: What else Woodrow? You can do it. What else you want to tell us?

 

Tumulty: [barges in] Madam First Lady, Senator Fall is here. Trudie needs help.

 

Edith: OK, new plan. I handle everything.

 

Tumulty: This way ma’am.

 

Edith: Marshall! He can walk when he wants to, he can talk when he wants to. He is recovering, and if I can get through today, everything will go back to normal. But if not, this is your oval-shaped hell.

 

[loc. White House foyer]

 

Trudie: Senator Fall, if you wouldn’t mind pausing right here, I could show you this painting or, oh, this one, it’s also good, if you like men sitting in chairs. Wait! Stop!

 

Senator Fall: Now, please don’t touch me, little lady. I don’t like being touched.

 

Trudie: What?! Like all touching, like even hugs?

 

Senator Fall: No, I’m not fond of hugs. A handshake or a good nod always does the trick.

 

Trudie: We have nothing in common.

 

Senator Fall: Thank you.

 

Edith: Senator Fall. How nice to see you.

 

Trudie: Oh, thank God.

 

Senator Fall: Mrs. Wilson, likewise. Your little guard dog here keeps stealing my hat.

 

Edith: It’s a dangerous country. Got to keep some muscle around here.

 

Senator Fall: [laughs] Well, my Republican colleagues and I’ve been praying for your husband.

 

Edith: Oh, really? Which way Senator?

 

Senator Fall: [laughs] I heard you were funny. You know, historically, both our families were on the same side.

 

Edith: The Confederates.

 

Senator Fall: I met Democrats.

 

Edith: Right. We said the same thing. [both laugh] The president is currently a little tied up, but our friend Trudie could give you a short tour of the garden.

 

Trudie: It’s winter, so most of the trees are dead, but some of the sticks are pretty.

 

Senator Fall: Sorry, ma’am. Don’t mean to be rude, but I’d hate to tell those journalists hanging around on Pennsylvania Avenue that all this waiting felt medical in nature.

 

Edith: I well, no, that’s not how I—

 

Marshall: Fall! You son of a very nice lady.

 

Senator Fall: Oh, Marshall, what are you here for?

 

Trudie: Yeah. What is he here for?

 

Marshall: Uhhhh, Just asking a little favor of the president. And let me tell you, you know, that man knows how to say no. Strong as a bull in heat. I’ll tell you. Hurt my hand with his shake. [whispers] Got to be honest, wish he wasn’t as well. You know, get a little of this free rent.

 

Senator Fall: Is he indisposed?

 

Marshall: Nope. Nope. Uh uh. Quite disposed, actually. Right after Woodrow punched me in the stomach as a show of strength, he got pulled into an emergency conference on prohibition.

 

Trudie: [whispering] What’s happening?

 

Edith: [whispering] Marshall is a good this.

 

Marshall: But all talk about prohibition made me thirsty. So, you know, these teetotalers dump the good stuff, but I know a little secret stash.

 

Senator Fall: I’m a mite on the early side. I suppose I know better than to turn down a drink with a man whose livers is as famous is yours. [laughs.

 

Marshall: [walks away, laughing]

 

Edith: Oh, that made me nervous. Follow them. Make sure everything goes fine.

 

Trudie: On it. I was born to be a follower. Well, actually I was born to be a Samantha, but—

 

Edith: Trudie!

 

Trudie: Going.

 

[loc. White House Red Room]

 

Edith, voice over: I knew Marshall could charm 20, 25 minutes out of Fall.

 

Marshall: Trudie! Do not drink this. It’s fancy kerosene. Keep, keep it in your mouth and then spit it out in the plant when he’s not looking. OK?

 

Trudie: OK. What are you going to do?

 

Marshall: Oh my dear, I believe God may have put me on this beautiful earth to drink this strong-ass shit. [opens a cabinet panel] Here we go Albert! Look at this beauty, just like me, it’s been fortified with a little brandy.

 

Senator Fall: Isn’t that something, Marshall? You never cease to amaze.

 

Trudie: I know! He moved a piece of wood in that old cabinet and there it was.

 

Marshall: Yeah. During the War of 1812, this entire building was burned to the ground, destroyed. But this, this bottle of port survived. I mean, a lot of men were killed that day, but now we get to kill this bottle. To America and her welfare, may she only burn to the ground if we hold the matches!

 

Senator Fall: Oh. Oh, that is smooth.

 

Marshall: Yes. Smooth as a backside of a baby with alopecia.

 

Trudie: Oh, God, I swallowed it.

 

Senator Fall: Yes, darling. That’s what you do with liquid, which we should do again.

 

Trudie: You know what? I can handle it. I’ll do another.

 

Marshall: Wait, wait, wait. No, no Trudie, I—

 

Senator Fall: You heard the lady Marshall. Pour.

 

Edith, voice over: Once the booze got flowing, charm was no match for a man like Fall.

 

Senator Fall: Be a gentlemen Marshall! Fix her another.

 

Marshall: Alright now. I always listen to a man with a six shooter.

 

[loc. White House Oval Office]

 

Edith, voice over: But Marshall’s distraction still bought me enough time to get Woodrow out of the Oval and into his library. But when I swung open the doors to the office . . .

 

Edith: Woodrow?

 

Edith, voice over: The room was empty besides the rolling chair. He was gone.

 

Edith: Woodrow. Woodrow!

 

[loc. White House Red Room]

 

Edith, voice over: Woodrow was missing, but that wasn’t the only ongoing crisis in the White House.

 

Trudie: You know what I hate about wine, Bordeaux, Montepulciano, champagne-yay—I’m supposed to know what it tastes like from a place?! You don’t do that for other food, OK? Right? Oh, well, the chicken is from Cleveland, so you know what that means.

 

Marshall: I told you she was funny, didn’t I Al?

 

Senator Fall: I’m tired of waiting. I’m going to find Woodrow.

 

Marshall: No Wait! Whoa, whoa. Whoa, wait.

 

[loc. White House hallway]

 

Edith: Woodrow? Woodrow, you here? Woodrow.

 

Tumulty: Ma’am, Ma’am!

 

Edith: Tumulty, what’s wrong now?

 

Tumulty: Trudie’s drunk, ma’am.

 

Edith: What?!

 

Tumulty: Fall was chasing her into the garden, not looking too happy.

 

Edith: She had his hat.

 

Tumulty: Yes, she had his hat. Wha—what were you doing? Why were you saying the president’s name?

 

Edith: He’s missing.

 

Tumulty: What?! He’s missing!

 

Edith: Shhhh. I’ll go take care of Trudie. You keep looking for Woodrow.

 

[loc. White House South Lawn]

 

Trudie: This big ol’ beautiful tree is a maple tree dedicated to us by those uppity old Yanks in Connecticut.

 

Senator Fall: I don’t believe apples like that grow on maple trees.

 

Trudie: You know what? Why don’t you give the tour, Mr. Tree, with all your tree facts? Oh, hey, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you’re right, it’s a rare maple apple, a mapple.

 

Edith: Trudie!

 

Trudie: Oh, I was just giving Senator—

 

Edith: Senator Fall, I’m so sorry,

 

Senator Fall: Madam First Lady, respectfully, I’ve had enough. I demand to see the president right this instant.

 

Edith: Woodrow’s still a little busy.

 

Senator Fall: Stop. Stop it, ma’am. If I don’t see the president now, I tell the Senate, the press, the public, that this White House is being run by an unelected wife. Do you understand me?

 

Edith, voice over: That’s when I spotted Woodrow, through the dead leaves of a tree, right behind Fall doing what I told him to do days ago: enjoying a walk through the first snow of the season.

 

Edith: Yes. Yes, Senator, you’re right. Trudie, Woodrow is in the Oval Office. Take Senator Fall there now.

 

Trudie: OK. Are you?

 

Edith: Go. Go. [walks off]

 

Edith: Woodrow! Woodrow, you can’t go wandering off without me, but I am so relieved. I know you could walk. I love you, Woodrow. I love you.

 

Woodrow: I love you, too, Ellen.

 

Edith: Woodrow, I’m not Ellen. That was your first wife, remember, I’m Edith. Let’s get you inside. I need you to be president.

 

[loc. White House Oval Office]

 

Trudie: Here you are, Mr. Fall. The Oval Office, not a corner in sight.

 

Senator Fall: What’s going on here? Is this joke. No one’s here.

 

Trudie: I, I don’t know.

 

Senator Fall: Where is his bed chamber?

 

Trudie: I am not allowed to—

 

Senator Fall: Take me there, now. Or I tell Edith you got drunk and couldn’t help it and told me all about how Woodrow is too sick to be president.

 

Trudie: I, no. I didn’t. I . . . this way, Senator.

 

[loc. White House President’s bedroom]

 

Edith, voice over: Woodrow had crawled back in bed before I could stop him. His eyes were closing. I knew all roads led to this room and I didn’t have much time before Fall arrived. I hated what I had to do next.

 

Woodrow: Ellen. Ellen! No!

 

Edith, voice over: I used every ounce of strength in me to prop him up against the headboard.

 

Edith: It’s time, sweetie. It’s time to be president.

 

Edith, voice over: I placed a stack of papers on his lap, and he clenched them angrily like he was strangling an unwanted kitten. As Fall entered the room behind me, followed by a petrified Trudie, I knew for certain that our time at the White House was over.

 

Senator Fall: Well, I’ll be. There he is. The man everyone’s talking about.

 

Edith: Please. He needs to rest. He’s still recovering.

 

Senator Fall: You know Woodrow, there are lots of rumors out there about you. You’re a difficult man to track down.

 

Woodrow: March into my bedroom, without permission!

 

Senator Fall: Mr. President, I’m a colleague. No need to yell. I’m excited to see you so lively. It’s just lots of people are worried about you, and—

 

Woodrow: What a joke.

 

Edith: I told you now wasn’t a good time. If you don’t mind—

 

Senator Fall: Now, Mr. President, I came all the way down here, and I promised myself I’d shake your hand no matter what, just to see for myself.

 

Woodrow: Firm handshake.

 

Senator Fall: Ow, ow. Oh, sir! I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m not sure what I did to offend.

 

Woodrow: Firm. Handshake.

 

Tumulty: Mr. President, sorry for the interruption, but there’s news on the Mexican hostages. You’re needed right away.

 

Edith: As you can see, the president is very busy. The only illness here is men like you spreading conspiracies.

 

Senator Fall: Mr. President, I meant no disrespect.

 

Woodrow: It’s time, sweetie. It’s time to be president.

 

Edith: He’s needed. Out now.

 

Senator Fall: Firm handshake, sir.

 

[loc. White House outside the bedroom]

 

Edith: Well, you got what you came for, didn’t you, Senator? You saw he’s busy. You shook his hand, and you molested a recovering man in the few moments of rest he has in a busy day.

 

Senator Fall: You’re, you’re right, ma’am. I, I overstepped.

 

Edith: And I’m sure you’ll tell the press that as well.

 

Senator Fall: I will. I’m a man of honor. I’ll tell him what I saw. A firm handshake, hard at work and doing his best to get better.

 

Edith: Right. Well, our ushers will see you out. Come back any time, Senator! We sure do love visitors.

 

Edith, voice over: I should have been happy. The only way I could have beaten him more is if I’d shot a hole through his hat. But it was luck, and Fall was just a symptom. Time was up. I needed to get rid of the disease.

 

[loc. White House Cabinet Room]

 

Lansing: As Tumulty described in the report, he—what?

 

Edith: Secretary Lansing. You’re fired.

 

Lansing: Excuse me? Edith. Hey, what the hell does that mean? I’m fired?

 

Edith: It means: You. Are. Fired.

 

Lansing: Under whose authority?

 

Edith: Under the president’s.

 

Lansing: [laughs] I want that in writing.

 

Edith: You’ll get it.

 

Lansing: Oh, not a forged signature. Hey, hey, hey, hey! If I’m going to be fired by the president, I want it signed by his hand, not yours doing a bad impression of a president.

 

Edith: How fucking dare you?

 

Lansing: What do you want with all of this, Edith? Is there some issue or cause? There isn’t, is there? It’s all just a hold on to, I don’t know, is it even power? Or do you just not know how to stop fighting?

 

Edith: You’ll get the letter signed by the president’s hand. Now pack your things.

 

[loc. White House President’s bedroom]

 

Trudie: Edith, I hope I wasn’t bothering Woodrow by sitting next to him, I just came to apologize. I’m so sorry for getting drunk. I didn’t mean to.

 

Edith: Not now, Trudie. Not now. Woodrow, give me your hand.

 

Woodrow: Oh, ow, stop.

 

Edith: Give me your hand, hold this pen. Woodrow! Hold still.

 

Trudie: Edith, what are you doing?

 

Edith: He needs to sign this letter. No, Woodrow, give me your hand.

 

Trudie: I don’t think he wants to.

 

Edith: Now.

 

Trudie: You’re hurting him. Edith!

 

Edith: Give me . . . there. It’s done.

 

Trudie: Edith. I—

 

Edith: What!

 

Trudie: Nothing. I’m sorry.

 

Edith: Trudie, I—can you drink some water, eat some bread, sober up? Because tomorrow we have work to do and I need you by my side.

 

Trudie: Yes, Edith. Anything you need.

 

Edith, voice over: History is never inevitable, it’s messy. And sometimes it’s up to you to take that first big step.

 

[end]