The BEST Episodes of The Circus
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Jul 6, 2020
This documentary series pulls back the curtain on the 2016 presidential race, revealing the intense, inspiring and infuriating stories behind the headlines. Key characters and events from the individual campaigns are presented in real time, as they are happening. Produced in cooperation with Bloomberg Politics, THE CIRCUS is a non-partisan, never-before-attempted take on what promises to be one of the most fascinating and consequential elections in modern history.
#1 - War and Peace
Season 3 - Episode 5 - Aired May 13, 2018
The gloves are off as Donald Trump fights a 360-degree battle to keep the presidency. He's taking shots at those who stand to threaten it, and is at war against the "deep state" of the FBI, CIA, and the Department of Justice. Stories covered include Michael Cohen's connection to a Russian oligarch, Trump's attempts to undermine the Mueller investigation, the scuttling of the Iran deal, and the Senate confirmation hearing for Trump's controversial CIA Director pick, Gina Haspel.
#2 - Judgment Day
Season 3 - Episode 9 - Aired Sep 30, 2018
The focus remains tightly on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the future of U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein notwithstanding. As legions of outspoken critics and fans of Judge Kavanaugh vie for attention on Capitol Hill, and allegations of sexual misconduct continue to surface, the temperature in the capital climbs steadily upward. For much of the week John Heilemann is embedded with attorney Michael Avenatti, who may just have the most explosive revelations of all.
#3 - A Place Called Fear
Season 3 - Episode 14 - Aired Nov 4, 2018
Donald Trump has hit the campaign trail in a big way to aid Republicans in their election efforts, and he is painting frightening pictures to motivate his base. In response, prominent Democrats are issuing dire warnings of what will happen if their party doesn't retake at least some control. With the midterm elections only days away, The Circus travels to rallies and campaign stops around the country to find out how both sides are pulling out all the stops to win these all-important races.
#4 - The Cruelest Month
Season 5 - Episode 8 - Aired Mar 15, 2020
The results of the Big Tuesday Democratic primaries in 6 states cemented Joe Biden's frontrunner status and gave him a seemingly insurmountable lead in delegates over rival Bernie Sanders. But Sanders has announced he isn't dropping out, and is planning to debate Biden and continue to push his progressive agenda. Meanwhile, with cancelled rallies and limits on travel, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the race in ways large and small.
#5 - New World Disorder
Season 4 - Episode 1 - Aired Jan 27, 2019
On the season premiere of The Circus, it's a new world order in Washington as a Democratic majority in the House puts a check on the Trump presidency. The second half of his term has begun with total gridlock, a government shutdown, and federal workers lining up for free hot meals. Meanwhile, freshmen representatives are putting a new face on Congress—and introducing a new reality, and the investigation of Trump takes a surprising turn in the wake of Michael Cohen postponing his congressional testimony.
#6 - Black and White
Season 3 - Episode 13 - Aired Oct 28, 2018
As undertones of racial politics make news, The Circus travels south, following two historic gubernatorial races with African-American candidates. In Florida, America's most unpredictable swing state, Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis reap the benefits and face the challenges of being respectively progressive and pro-Trump candidates. Next door in Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams find themselves locked in a virtual dead heat despite being on opposite ends of a statewide voting controversy.
#7 - Tale of the Tape
Season 1 - Episode 22 - Aired Oct 16, 2016
Tracking the fallout from the second debate and the scandal surrounding a now-infamous audio tape, could this be the final nail in Trump's campaign coffin - or can he pull off a surprise October Surprise to rally yet another comeback?
#8 - Senatorial Combat
Season 3 - Episode 12 - Aired Oct 21, 2018
As the battle for the Senate heats up with post-Kavanaugh polls forecasting a Republican resurgence, The Circus travels the country charting the shifting dynamics in three of the closest races - each considered a must-win if Democrats hope to gain the majority. In Arizona, it's neck and neck between Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally; in Nevada, Jacky Rosen digs deep to take on incumbent Dean Heller; plus, a sit-down with North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, who's fighting for her political life in the wake of a campaign ad controversy.
#9 - Circling Vultures
Season 4 - Episode 2 - Aired Feb 3, 2019
The list of former allies who are turning on Donald Trump grows daily, the Mueller investigation continues to circle him and the Democrats have been unrelenting in their attacks. The President’s increasing vulnerability has led to a bumper crop of potential 2020 challengers, all of whom are hoping to be the one to unseat him.
#10 - President Trump
Season 1 - Episode 26 - Aired Nov 13, 2016
In a special hour-long episode finale of the real-time documentary series, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon go behind the scenes of both campaigns in the lead up to Election Day - and the fallout that followed.
#11 - Trump Country
Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired May 6, 2018
The Circus goes on the road to Trump country to take the nation's temperature on the president's performance, how the midterm elections are shaping up, and where the two sides currently stand on gun control. John Heilemann catches up with Mitt Romney about his Utah senate campaign, Mark McKinnon interviews Randy "Iron Stache" Bryce in Wisconsin about his bid to turn Paul Ryan's district Democratic, and Alex Wagner travels to Texas for a sit-down with Beto O'Rourke on his surprisingly close race to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
#12 - Mother(f***er) of All Midterms
Season 3 - Episode 15 - Aired Nov 11, 2018
This special one-hour season finale is all about the midterms: before, during and after. In the run-up to election day, The Circus visits some of the high-profile campaigns to catch their final pushes. On election day, we're backstage and on set at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where John Heilemann and Alex Wagner are guests as the results are coming in. Then we cover the fallout of the historic election, from Trump's reaction to the surprising changes to the political landscape in Washington and beyond.
#13 - 2020 Is Here
Season 4 - Episode 4 - Aired Feb 17, 2019
The 2020 election is looming large in the capital. Campaign season is here early and more and more candidates are jumping in each week. THE CIRCUS follows declared and potential candidates Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke at the top of the week, and tracks ongoing news of the potential government shutdown, the border wall battle, and the Green New Deal back in D.C.
#14 - Man of the World
Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Apr 29, 2018
As Mike Pompeo's nomination for Secretary of State clears a Senate hurdle, official visits from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel command the administration's attention. John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon sit down with Wendy Sherman, lead negotiator behind the Iran nuclear deal. Plus, Alex Wagner interviews imam Dr. Ismail Elshikh, the plaintiff behind the travel-ban challenge.
#15 - The Gathering Storm
Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Sep 16, 2018
With the looming midterm elections, the Trump presidency under relentless siege, and Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolina coast, Washington has a lot on its collective plate. Mark McKinnon and Alex Wagner visit the democratic and republican war rooms respectively, and learn what each camp is doing to secure the majority in the House. John Heilemann interviews Steve Bannon and takes a tour of Breitbart, all in advance of the release of Bannon's inflammatory new documentary.
#16 - Too Many Lawyers
Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Apr 22, 2018
An ever-growing swirl of legal entanglements continues to surround President Trump. From the ongoing Mueller investigation to the Michael Cohen raid and subsequent hearing, and James Comey's inflammatory book, the Trump presidency is under siege. John Heillman interviews Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, John and Alex Wagner have a colorful dialog with legal heavyweight and Trump supporter Alan Dershowitz, and Mark McKinnon remembers his old friend Barbara Bush.
#17 - The Verdict
Season 3 - Episode 10 - Aired Oct 7, 2018
The emphasis remains squarely on the constantly-evolving story of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. But as the midterm elections draw nearer, hosts John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon, Alex Wagner and guest commentator Steve Schmidt delve into the ramifications of the confirmation's outcome on various Senate races around the country. Republicans and Democrats are riled up about this issue, and in states where the polls are close, Senate races could be affected by how the incumbents vote.
#18 - Burden of Proof
Season 3 - Episode 8 - Aired Sep 23, 2018
As Republicans and Democrats play a dramatic game of chess in the wake of the assault allegations from Christine Blasey Ford, all eyes are on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Parallels are drawn between the current showdown and the Anita Hill hearing in 1991, and recurring contributor Steve Schmidt gives context to the Trump administration's response, given his experience working to confirm Supreme Court nominees for previous Republican administrations.
#19 - Dead or Alive
Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Mar 13, 2016
It's make or break time for Rubio, Kasich and Sanders. As the candidates pin their hopes on Florida and Ohio, can they gather enough momentum to force a brokered convention - or will their campaigns finally run out of steam?
#20 - The Whole World is Watching
Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Apr 9, 2017
What in the world is going on? This week is all about foreign policy: President Trump's military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and its impact on his ongoing delicate dance with Russia.
#21 - Clusterf**k
Season 5 - Episode 3 - Aired Feb 9, 2020
In one of the wildest political weeks in memory, the fumbled tallies at the Democratic Iowa caucus prevented the typical winnowing of candidates and essential momentum builds for the victors. With the stakes of the New Hampshire Democratic primary dramatically raised, all eyes go to the Friday night debate stage. Meanwhile, President Trump has the wind at his back, with a completed State of the Union address and an acquittal on both articles of impeachment from the Senate.
#22 - Looking Back and Moving On
Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired May 7, 2017
Washington insiders join John Heilemann, Mark Halperin and Mark McKinnon for a look at some of the thrilling, amazing and logic defying acts performed during President Trump's first 100 days. Season finale.
#23 - Closing Arguments
Season 5 - Episode 2 - Aired Feb 2, 2020
In the last full week before the caucuses, the focus is on Iowa and the closing pitch all of the Democratic candidates are making to voters. Campaign leaders for the major candidates weigh in on their final sprints, what they're excited about, and what is keeping them up at night. And even as his impeachment trial is underway in Washington, President Trump makes an appearance at an Iowa rally and The Circus is there to cover it.
#24 - Fit to Serve
Season 1 - Episode 19 - Aired Sep 18, 2016
Revelations about Clinton's pneumonia and scrutiny surrounding Trump's medical records lead to questions of their fitness to lead. As each campaign tries to avoid the issues, heat is put on their running mates.
#25 - Their Brand is Crisis
Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired May 20, 2018
The Trump administration has had to contend with an unprecedented number of crises, and spinning them is an ongoing preoccupation. In this era of splintered news media, how do you get the right message to the right people, and still stay on course? Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie discusses trying to govern during a PR crisis, Steve Brill hosts an Axios event on combating fake news, and Steve Schmidt and Mark Fabiani, Bill Clinton's advisor during the Whitewater scandal, both weigh in on how this White House is managing crises.