A Chinese nuclear submarine sinks off the coast of California. China declines to rescue the trapped men because it would mean admitting they were spying on the U.S. President Garcetti can't authorize a rescue operation because it acknowledges that he knows China was spying on the U.S. This all has Elaine hopping up on the highest horse she can find and lecturing everyone about decency and loyalty and whatnot. Vice President Collier calls her a hypocrite, seeing as how disloyal she's being by running against Garcetti. Elaine denies everything, but it doesn't make any difference. Bud tries to get her to use the incident as a breaking point to separate herself from the current administration. Shut up, Bud. Even if he's making sense. Just... shut up, Bud.
Meanwhile, T.J. is getting ready for opening night of the Dome. Palling around with him is his sobriety sponsor from Narcotics Anonymous. His name is Gunner Cox. Gunner Cox! It's so awesomely awful. Amid all this, T.J. remembers the last time he was happy and sober. It was six months ago, when he was in love with a hot, young -- and very, very closeted -- Republican senator. Collier uses knowledge of the affair to blackmail the senator into voting with the Democrats on some contentious bit of legislation. Elaine warns T.J. about the move ahead of time, but he's devastated when she can't/won't fight Collier on the issue. The young senator goes into gay panic overdrive and pretends like he's super disgusted by the thought of being with T.J., despite an earlier declaration of love. This is what leads up to T.J.'s suicide attempt in December.
In the present day, the whole family is planning to attend the Dome's opening night. Or so they tell T.J. Once the actual night rolls around, Bud announces he's not going, and Elaine follows suit. T.J. descends into a self-destructive spiral, and brings Gunner along for the ride. Bud, feeling bad for slighting his son, shows up at the club, only to find him unconscious on the floor.
In other subplots: Georgia continues to prove what a sneaky sneak she is and weasels her way into a byline with Susan. Elaine finally admits to Garcetti she's running against him, but manages to convince him to save the Chinese sub anyway. Bud continues to be a horndog with a bizarre ability to snag hot women, but he may be trying to change his ways. Stay tuned for the full weecap.
Christmas, 2011. The Hammond/Barrish family decorates for the holidays while snarking about Congressman Sean Reeves. He's on TV, being all staunchly Republican about some bill or another, and Elaine doesn't like him. T.J. kind of sticks up for him, while Nana is a fan of his abs. T.J. excuses himself from the rest of the evening, saying he's got a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to get to. Elaine tells her boy she's very proud of him. They hug and smile and it's very sweet. Enjoy it, because it won't last.
Later, T.J. plays Christmas songs at the piano while clad only in his boxer briefs. "I love it when you play," says a naked man currently lounging in a postcoital tousle on the couch. It's Sean Reeves. Sadly, he gets up and starts putting his clothes back on. "I can't stay. We're reconvening in an hour," he says. "Are you still deliberating? What are you holding out for?" T.J. asks. Sean says the bill goes too far and endangers more kids than it helps. All this political talk gets T.J. hot and bothered. Alas, Sean's wife calls and snaps them both back reality for a moment. Sean doesn't answer, but T.J. sees her picture on the caller ID. "She's pretty," he says. Sean gives T.J. their homey backstory of football and nerdiness. "Was it love at first sight?" T.J. asks. "I didn't know what love at first sight was, till you," Sean says. They start making out at the piano. The only "reconvening" tonight will involve their nekkid bodies.
Present day. T.J. tells his fellow N.A. members that December was the last time he was happy. He was six months sober -- the longest stint since coming under public scrutiny in the White House. He says Doug could handle the "fishbowl," but he couldn't. He escaped with drugs. "Good share," says a cute guy with carefully managed stubble.
Doug meets Susan at her sister's place. We don't get to meet the sister, who's been barred from meeting Doug because of the embarrassing childhood crush she had on him. If someone tried to keep me from meeting my childhood crush, there would be hell to pay. Nobody's keeping me away from Superman, man. Susan wants all the deets about Elaine's campaign. (She writes everything in a Moleskin notebook so you know she's old school.) Doug grouses that there hasn't been a campaign to speak of. For the past three weeks, Garcetti has had them doing globe-hopping busywork. Susan asks about Bud Hammond's new publicist, Mindy Meyers. "Word is, she was brought in to rehabilitate his image as a reckless womanizer." (A quick cut to an interview shows Bud nearly crying over a question about his ex-wife. Of course, he's also sleeping with his publicist, who is young and hot and who promises him a bump in his poll numbers. She forbids him going to T.J.'s club opening, lest Bud get himself photographed with some hot co-ed.) Back to the meeting with Susan: She wonders if it isn't a bad idea for T.J. to be opening a nightclub, but Doug says he got a chaperon for his brother. When Susan tries to pry for details about Doug's personal life, he shuts down. She reminds him of their deal and threatens to tell Elaine about his betrayal. He doesn't give in. She seems surprised and a little impressed. I bet they totally end up doin' it.