Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (currently virtual) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in all things drama. This month, our colleagues at MASTERPIECE are bringing us Atlantic Crossing, a historical dramatization of the relationship between U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Norwegian Crown Princess Martha set against the backdrop of WWII. I’m here to recap the show as it happens.

Well, if you thought people were grumpy about FDR’s sneaky loophole to help the Allied powers at the end of last week’s episode, they’re even MORE upset this week. Protesters gather outside the White House, chanting “keep America out of the war.” Inside, Eleanor takes this opportunity to drop a very pointed “I told you so” at her husband’s feet. FDR, however, is undeterred. After all, if the act passes, it’ll mean new jobs. And if there’s one thing we love here in America, it’s jobs.

Eleanor: Listen here, chump: You don’t know how bad it’ll be if we join the war. Keep that in mind.

Later, at a party at Martha’s house, she walks in to find FDR monologuing about how annoying he finds Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who for some reason remained popular in the States despite being famously well-liked and celebrated in Germany by high-ranking Nazis like Hermann Göring. Lindbergh may not have ever come right out and said it, but the evidence is very good that he was, at minimum, an antisemitic POS, and thus likely a Nazi sympathizer. Anyway, probably not surprising that he wasn’t into the U.S. entering the war.

Unnamed Congressman: Yes, I agree that he’s a pain, but you can’t underestimate him. There was a big crowd at that rally.
FDR: Boo, don’t care!
Olav, to some other party guests: Hi, yes, we would like to buy some weapons?

Before everyone can get down to too much wheeling and dealing, Martha announces that dinner is about to begin in the dining room, and all the gentlemen start making their ponderous way toward food.

Martha, to Olav: So, how’s it going?
Olav, answering in Norwegian: Not great. Even the Congressman with Norwegian ancestors isn’t really picking up what I’m putting down. They have to pass that bill, it’s critical.
Martha: Well just hold tight, I have a surprise.

Later, at dinner, Martha reveals her surprise. There’s an empty space at the head of the table, reserved for the guest of honor… who isn’t FDR. But who is it? Why, it’s Alfred, the sailor from last week, who’s here to really hammer home the need for a little good ol’ American interventionism.

Alfred: I mean, so as you can see, I’m a bilateral amputee. But I’m alive, and my friends are all dead. This is a super serious situation. I’m not asking you to send your kids to go fight, but please just lend me a gun so I can go back home and fight the damn Nazis.

Alfred gets a little spicy on the last bit, and Olav initially looks concerned that Martha’s guest of honor has taken this whole thing too far. But FDR, a showman himself, starts a well-timed slow clap that rallies the rest of the table to the cause. As the Unnamed Congressman from before leans over, asking Olav where he found this guy, Olav’s mood shifts. Is Martha suddenly a political dynamo? Is he into that? Hard to say. Later, the couple check in with each other in the kitchen.

Martha: Seems like it’s going well, right?
Olav: Uh, yes?
Martha: Then what’s up?
Olav: Your sailor friend impressed everyone, but you should have run that stunt by me first.
Martha: Um, stunt?!
Olav: Yeah, dude, stunt! That was a risk, and it could have backfired on us.
Martha, unamused: Well, when you decide to actually live here and participate in the family, you can have a say. But since this is my house, I decide the guest list.

Whump, there it is! Olav, pal, you can’t rope your wife into politics against her will and then get mad when she’s good at it! Anyway, the Lend-Lease Act passes, and our Norwegian diaspora buddies start celebrating accordingly. At the party, Norwegian Ambassador does a nice toast, specifically calling out someone who worked tirelessly to get the law passed. Prince Olav!

Me, Martha and anyone else who’s actually been watching the show: I’m sorry, WHOMST?
Norwegian Ambassador, my new hated enemy: Yeah, Olav, man: you got here, and that’s what swung everyone over to our side! Thanks a bunch, and get home safe! Cheers!
Everyone: Cheers!

And then, adding insult to injury, the ambassador calls Olav over for a photo op, leaving Martha on the sidelines. Does Olav correct his ambassador, and set the record straight? NO. Well, at least not at first. He’s gearing up to call out his amazing wife, but by the time he gets around to it, she has fled the room. Olav pivots his toast to a “Yay Norway” and everyone cheers, before heading outside to look for Martha. But he’s too late: she’s already speeding away in a car.

Three months later, Martha catches a radio broadcast about how much the America First committee hates the Lend-Lease Act. Too bad, clowns, it’s law! Unfortunately for Martha, she can’t really hear the radio, because her kids are having a loud fight. A maid comes to shuffle them off just in time for us to hear the rest of the story: apparently, America hasn’t actually followed through with the act at all, and to date, has neither lent nor leased a single thing to the Allies. Even Winston Churchill is pissed. Guess it’s time for mama to get back to work. So how does she do that? By going on a drive with our pal FDR so they can have a little chat.

Martha: This is a disaster. The Allies keep losing, and Lend-Lease hasn’t done a damn thing.
FDR: Ok, but to be fair, we don’t just have a bunch of fleets lying around. We’re making them!
Martha: We don’t have time for this, people are dying.
FDR: You know, you can do stuff yourself.
Martha: I’m not a leader! Or a politician!
FDR: You sure sound like one. Look, give a talk. Mobilize your people. They’ll want to hear what you have to say, and you’re way more badass than I think you know.
Martha, pouting: Take me home.

Later, at a DC hospital, Martha and Mr. Misogyny/Norwegian Ambassador greet a group of Norwegian soldiers, on their way to recuperate. The healthy ones will eventually have to go back to fight, but the rest will mostly be placed with local Norwegians.

Martha: What about the rest?
Mr. Misogyny: We’ll have to put them in homeless shelters.
Martha: Well that’s stupid, I have room. They can stay with me.
Mr. Misogyny: We don’t know who they are! We have to clear this with Olav and King Grandpa.
Martha: They don’t live here, so I’m gonna call the shots. Send them to my house.

Speaking of King Grandpa and the other Norway boys, they’re in England, playing croquet.

King Grandpa: And what did Mr. Misogyny say?
Nikolai: He says it’s not his fault: Martha’s doing her own thing and ignoring him.
King Grandpa: Get fired up, Olav, this is your wife we’re talking about.
Olav: Uh, no thanks. I don’t see why you’re upset.
Nikolai: Well I think it’s a good look for the royal family, tbh.
King Grandpa: The house is full of sailors!
Olav: They’re our countrymen?
King Grandpa: Yeah, but they’re still men, you know what I mean? I’m not feeling it.
Olav, grumpy: We should take some in ourselves. We’ve got plenty of room.

Back in the U.S., the first group of sailors arrive at Martha’s house and start settling in. At the White House, Missy turns off a radio story about how selfless and awesome this is with a wry smile that says “game recognize game, sister.”

FDR: She’s awesome, right?
Missy: You’re barking up the wrong tree AND she’s manipulating you.
Advisor Harry: Well this seems like it’s about to turn into a couples thing so I’m gonna go ahead and be elsewhere. Night!
FDR: Yeah, fair enough. Sleep tight!
Missy: It’s a spectacle, is what it is. And she’s not that into you. You’re just an old man who happens to be president.
FDR: I’m sick of your jealousy, dude.
Missy: I’m not jealous! Straight up, she’s not into you; she’s no threat to me.

Over at Martha’s house, she starts to understand the downside of having a bunch of recovering veterans as houseguests when she’s awakened in the night by one of the men having a night terror. Being a get up and go type, she runs over to his room to see what’s up.

Random Sailor: Sorry, your highness, but you can’t wake him up.
Oldest Kiddo, also curious: What’s happening?
Martha: Just a nightmare, go back to bed. Now, what’s this kid’s name?
Random Sailor: Otto.

Martha, unphased, sits on Otto’s bed and strokes his hair until he calms down, and then tucks him back in, proving once and for all that moms have superpowers. Later, she’s lurking in the kitchen, unable to sleep, when young Otto wanders in.

Martha, scaring the pants off this kid: You’ve got insomnia too?
Otto: Oh geez, sorry your highness.
Martha: We’re in the kitchen in the middle of the night, you can call me Martha. Tea?
Otto: Uh, ok?
Martha: That seemed like quite a nightmare. How did you end up a sailor?
Otto: I got on a fishing boat headed to England.
Martha: What did your parents think?
Otto: They were proud; I have a lot of siblings and they needed the money to feed everyone.
Martha: I’m sorry, WHAT? Are they low on food?
Otto: The Germans are aggressive with the rationing — my mom had to make bread out of bark. At least they don’t have to worry about me now.

Well we all know Martha’s not about to sit around and accept THAT. The next day, she marches into Mr. Misogyny’s office and tells him she’s about to start a tour to collect emergency aid for Norway.

Mister Misogyny, thinks he’s smart: Well how will that money GET to Norway, genius?
Martha: Swedish Red Cross, obviously. My dad is leading that humanitarian effort.
Mr. Misogyny: Well I guess it’s not a bad idea, but are you sure you want to do this?
Martha: Yes. As soon as possible.
Mr. Misogyny: In that case, I know where you should start: Madison Square Garden! We can fit 30,000 people in there, and do a big event with music, speeches, performances. It’ll be a real spectacular. And we can film it and air it across the country!
Martha: I didn’t realize I was talking to the Greatest Showman, but go off I guess. Ugh, I totally forgot this means I have to make a speech.
Mr. Misogyny: Yup.

Meanwhile, at the White House, Eleanor once again tries to get work done against the persistent backdrop of protesters, with, it must be said, some deeply boring chants. Unfortunately for her, work is not going to happen, because she’s got a visitor: Martha.

Eleanor: Uh, sorry, Franklin isn’t here.
Martha: Oh, I came to speak to you. Quite a protest outside.
Eleanor: Well, yeah: They don’t want to go to war. And TBH, neither do I.
Martha: Look, I’m going to cut to the chase: I’m not good at public speaking.
Eleanor: Well guess what, I have a folksy metaphor for that: Women are like teabags — we don’t know our strength until we’re in hot water.
Martha: But you’re so good at getting people to listen to you.
Eleanor: It’s not skill, it’s about preparation. And determination.
Martha: See, I prepare, but the second I get on stage… I…. well, would you help me? Teach me to speak like you do? I know you don’t approve of everything I’ve ask Franklin to help with, but —
Eleanor: No. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time in my schedule. I basically run the country, you know. And I’m sure there are better coaches out there anyway.
Martha: Noted. Well I guess I’ll be off, have a good day.

At home, Martha takes some time to mope on her staircase. TBH, if Eleanor Roosevelt rejected my mentorship request, I’d be doing a lot worse than a mild staircase mope, so I get it. Anyway, our new buddy Otto stops to ask if Martha is ok.

Martha: Yeah, I’m fine. What about you?
Otto: Not really! I got my orders to go back to the war, and I just don’t know if I can do it.
Martha, as much for herself as for Otto: Being brave is about doing the right thing even when you’re scared.
Otto: What are you scared of?
Martha: Oh, just, ya know, normal imposter syndrome stuff. People will see that I’m worthless and ignorant.
Otto: Bud, I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t stepped in. You’re a good person.
Martha: Let’s make a deal. We’ll be brave together.

They shake on it. Back in London, the Norwegian contingent gets some good news. Ragni and Nikolai’s older kids have made it to England! They reunite with their dad, and introduce their buddy Erling, a Lieutenant in the army who helped them escape, and oh by the way, has proposed to the oldest Ostgaard kid. I have to hand it to Nikolai, because he handles the emotional whiplash of “my kids are here apparently unscathed and now my baby is engaged to a stranger?” pretty well. The family heads to the phone to call Ragni, and they have a tearful reunion on the line. Kinda fun to have a moment of good news to break up the intensity, so I hope you all enjoyed it; it might be the last one for a while.

In England, Olav puts on an extremely jaunty beret to inspect their Norwegian brigade. Everyone seems confident that this ragtag group of whalers is ready for prime time.

Olav: Oh, also: the cabinet wants to bring back that Chief of Defense gig.
Military Guy: So are you gonna get to do it this time?
Olav, minimally pouty: Nah, they still aren’t into that. But I know you’re the guy for the job. I’ll get King Grandpa on board, just you wait.

Well, we might be waiting a long time. King Grandpa still really isn’t digging Military Guy’s whole thing.

Olav: Dad, he’s the clear choice.
King Grandpa: But he wants to send our troops? Into Norway? To fight the Nazis?
Olav: Yeah, bro, that’s the whole point of having a Norwegian army!
King Grandpa: The cabinet is worried about reprisals. Every time we do something, the Nazis kill resistance fighters or civilians. We could be putting people in danger.
Olav: Well that would be Germany’s fault, not ours!

Back in the States, Eleanor pops into the oval to speak with FDR, but per Missy, he’s out.

Eleanor: What about his 3pm meeting though?
Missy: He cancelled it. One guess as to why. Apparently she needed advice and comforting.
Eleanor, snarky: Oh. Great. Bet Frankie boy was able to provide both.
Missy, equally snarky: Indeed. Look what she’s up to now! Taking in a bunch of sailors? Guess she’s not lonely anymore at least.

For some reason, this seems to be the final straw that prompts Eleanor to take an actual interest in Martha. Later on, she drives out to visit the house, and the ladies do that thing where they’re like “oh yay, so happy to see you!!” and hug, but you can tell they’d rather settle their differences with a cage fight (which, if we’re being honest, I would really, really like to see).

Martha: So, you said you were way too busy for this, what changed?
Eleanor: May I be Frank?
Martha: I guess that makes me Dean Martin, so sure.
Eleanor: Oh, Martha, you know the Rat Pack won’t exist for another 20 years! Here’s the deal. When you first got here, I thought you were kind of boring, uninformed, coddled and shy. But I was wrong. Do you still want my help?
Martha: Yes! Very much.
Eleanor: Good, let’s stop f*cking around then. It’s time for a training montage.

Now look, I want Eleanor to make Martha put on a grey sweatsuit and run up the steps of the Philly Museum of Art just as much as the next person, but instead, we’re in for more of a Henry Higgins situation. Martha practices giving her speech for the kids, the household staff, and a stern, note-taking Eleanor.

Eleanor: What do you want?
Martha: World peace.
Eleanor: Cut the crap, we all want that. What do YOU want.
Martha: I want my life back.
Eleanor: You’re still kicking! Get specific!
Martha: I want to go home.
Eleanor, dismayed: What do you think will be there?
Martha: The house Olav and I built together, our garden, you know, a bunch of bucolic stuff. I want routine and everyday life. That’s what I want.
Eleanor, moved: GOOD. Now we have something to work with. Now get up.

And then, I kid you not, Eleanor starts doing her best Ministry Of Silly Walks impression in an effort to teach Martha how to embarrass herself. And with that, the actual montage begins. Martha learns how to be silly, how to be loud, and also how to not be scared of Mr. Misogyny.

Mr. Misogyny: Ok, great! I’ll make the speech shorter this time.
Martha: Uh, no. I’m writing my own speech, but thanks all the same. Toodles!

Later, in the green room at Madison Square Garden, Martha reviews her speech. She’s still nervous, but she definitely does look a hell of a lot better than she did at the church that time. She’s also done her signature thing of wearing a nice dress with an absolutely enormous flowered brooch contraption on the shoulder, which I love. Back stage, Eleanor gives her a look that says “you got this girl” and practically bounds onto the stage to introduce Martha. There’s a loooong pause. At the White House, Missy uses the time as a chance to refill her drink and snark. But then Martha starts speaking. While she talks, we get a lovely montage of family time, starring Olav and the kids, which is honestly very stinking adorable. As Martha talks about the war, the montage switches to historical newsreels of the fighting in Norway. It’s very evocative. Look, I’m just gonna say it: Martha nails it, and everyone knows. Backstage, Ragni hugs her, Mr. Misogyny tells her she did a perfect job, and Eleanor gives notes. Things are looking up.

But back in England, the Norwegian cabinet continues to be super annoying. They don’t want Martha to go on a tour, saying that spending money on her security is a waste when the Americans are unlikely to donate to the cause. Olav, predictably, is irate, probably because he’s the one who has to pass along the bad news to Mr. Misogyny. King Grandpa tries to say it’s all for the best, but Olav ignores him and heads out for a walk. Across the pond, Martha prepares to head out on her tour in the morning, leaving a distraught Middlest Kiddo, who wants mom to take her to the dentist, behind. First stop, Mr. Misogyny’s office, where he explains that the cabinet shut down the tour because security is too expensive. He looks genuinely upset about the news, but not as much as Martha, who heads home to get mad in private.

At the White House, Missy catches Advisor Harry on his way out the door — but isn’t he staying for White House cocktail hour?

Advisor Harry: Oh. Crap. I thought you knew — FDR’s going out tonight.
Missy: To see who?
Advisor Harry: Don’t make me say it.
Missy: Great. Perfect. One second.
Advisor Harry: Don’t do what you’re about to do, Missy!

Ignoring that, she runs out of the office and out to the car to confront FDR.

Missy: Why didn’t you tell me you were going out tonight?
FDR: I didn’t want to upset you.
Missy: And you thought I’d be LESS upset about you sneaking out? Come on, man. We have a routine here!
FDR: Please, you’re making a scene. Byeeeee!

And with that he drives off to pick up Martha, leaving a sad Missy and a “I super didn’t ask to get stuck in the middle of this” Advisor Harry in his wake. Once again, FDR drives himself and Martha onto a side road to ditch the secret service.

FDR: Here’s what I have: This is the same route you and Olav took when you were here last time. Basically it’s all the spots with big Scandinavian populations. Anyway, we’ll have to figure some stuff out, but you’re going on your tour.
Martha: Thank you!!!

She, excited, goes to hug him, but the hug goes on WAY TOO LONG. And then, as she tries to pull away, he kinda attempts to kiss her face. How does Martha feel about this in the moment? Unclear, but before she has time to properly react, the secret service finds them, and they pull apart. Later, at home, Martha seems to be having a lot of the same thoughts as this recapper, namely, what the heck just happened? Does this tour have strings attached? And how will she interact with our pal FDR now? I guess we’ll all have to wait for episode 6 for our answers.

Episode 1 Recap: Midnight Train to Hamar
Episode 2 Recap: The British Are Going
Episode 3 Recap: Happy Days Are Here Again?
Episode 4 Recap: All I Want For Christmas Is You (To Pass the Lend-Lease Act)