The final episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series — “Who Is America?” — aired on Sunday night and it was as notable for what didn’t air as it was for what did. Where was the highly anticipated interview featuring the former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin?
You might remember: She was among the first to come out and publicly admit she had been duped by Mr. Cohen. In a July Facebook post, Ms. Palin said, “I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor’ of the British ‘comedian’ Sacha Baron Cohen, enabled and sponsored by CBS/Showtime.” She said she had been interviewed by Mr. Cohen, who “heavily disguised himself as a disabled U.S. Veteran,” as part of a “legit Showtime historical documentary.”
Showtime issued a statement soon after, pushing back, saying, “Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the U.S. military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview, and contrary to her claims he did not appear in a wheelchair.”
The network added that Mr. Cohen was in character as Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., who had interviewed several prominent figures for the show.
The finale on Sunday started off being quite underwhelming, when the former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank wasn’t quite fooled by the Ruddick character. Ruddick, a Trump supporter, tried to convince Mr. Frank that Hillary Clinton was a ringleader in a fringe conspiracy theory having to do with child trafficking known as “Pizzagate.”
The second segment featured three real Trump supporters, only identified as Glenn, Darren and Cody. In character as Lt. Erran Morad, an Israeli antiterrorism expert, Mr. Cohen trained the three to fight antifa. (The term, a contraction of “anti-fascist,” describes the loose affiliation of radical activists who have openly fought white supremacists, right-wing extremists and, in some cases, ordinary supporters of President Trump.) This involved learning to cook quinoa, memorizing plotlines of HBO’s “Girls,” and taking a mannequin resembling President Trump and putting it in sexual positions — all to embody being a liberal, in Morad’s eyes. Then, at a Women’s March in San Francisco, Mr. Cohen (as Morad) persuaded Glenn to detonate an explosive device. Glenn did so — without reservation or regret. (Of course, there was no actual explosive.)
The show ended with a bit with O.J. Simpson. Mr. Cohen, this time as Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire playboy, repeatedly tried to goad Mr. Simpson into admitting that he was guilty of murder.
A hint that Ms. Palin’s segment might not air came from Showtime’s chief executive, David Nevins, earlier this month. Speaking to reporters, in response to a question about Ms. Palin, Mr. Nevins said, “There are several people who have thrown themselves in front of buses that may not be headed their way.”
The season has now ended — and Ms. Palin’s interview never aired. When asked about it Monday, Showtime said it had no comment. It’s possible she didn’t sign a release. It’s also possible her segment didn’t provide enough comedic juice for Mr. Cohen — although several segments from “Who Is America?” have featured subjects who have caught on to the gag early.
But the episode did not go without a Palin reference. She received a post-show credit: “Special Publicity Consultant (Inadvertent).”