Join the circle jerk and grab a dick. Veep season 4 episode 8, “B/ill,” was the most exciting episode of the season and Julia Louis-Dreyfus did it all lying down. I don’t know what Louis-Dreyfus sucked or swallowed or chewed on to get that phlegmy sound, but whatever it was should be considered on par with the cotton Marlon Brando stuffed in his cheeks to get that perfect Don Corlone sound in The Godfather. When President Meyer talked so loud that it turned into a whooping cough it really sounded like we were going to see her pancreas come out of her nose. This is HBO, if they want to show us President Selina Meyer’s pancreas, they have the power to do it. Power to the people.
The people are truly fucked. The president’s people know it and it’s an open secret in congress. It wouldn’t be so open if the White House wasn’t trying to cover it up so much. Congress is finally voting on President Meyer’s signature legislation, which went from the Family First Bill to the Mommy Meyer Bill. The bill probably would have died an agonizing death in the house if only for the clusterfuck of a staff looking for corners in the Oval Office.
This is the biggest scandal since the last scandal and it’s all on Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn), the closest thing Selina has to a competent staff member. Ben has offered to throw himself on the grenade before, but this time he’s hanging on for dear life by his fingernails. He is ready to throw anyone under the campaign bus. Dunn is masterful, you can taste the acid in his stomach even as it comes out of his mouth in swear clusters that border on poetry.
Ben underestimates the incompetency of the staff. It is truly, as Tom James (Hugh Laurie) calls it, an “infestation of mediocrity.” Bill Ericson (Diedrich Bader) describes the game plan best: “We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re just doing it badly.” But when an incompetent is tasked to do something badly it’s got to spiral out of control. Ben was using the staff’s ineptitude as a weapon and it went nuclear. This is a comic law of physics. Think of each character’s failing as electrons, neutrons and protons, crashing into each other. Basic burlesque ballistics say that’s adds up to a meltdown of China Syndrome proportions.
It all begins with Gary (Tony Hale). Everything begins with Gary. He is, after all, the center of Selina Meyer’s universe. The Families First Bill must die. Gary plays Deep Throat as he cluelessly yet knowingly diverts funds to lobby against it. Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) are no longer power-hungry. They are money-hungry. They know that money can’t exactly buy power, but it can. They also know that power spends money. Dan lays it out for Gary in the arts and crafts room and for a price defeat is within their grasp.
Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) is the press secretary. What he doesn’t know he can’t lie about. But everyone insists he know. He can’t get around it. It is so fun watching Walsh play with this. He does everything but stick his fingers in his ears and hum. But then, he saves the character punchline for when he runs into Amy and Dan in the parking lot and you see that he has completely forgotten everything that has gone on around him. It’s true. He’s forgotten it all. He’s actually a great press secretary. It’s like he practices Transcendental Amnesia or something. It was such a quick scene, but it encapsulated everything about his character. Even as he has forgotten it, he gets pulled back in. His entire body shrinks. You can see him implode and he’s doing nothing at all.
Tom James (Hugh Laurie) endures a lot and comes out swinging for the president. Something has to be wrong with him to go to the mat for her like that. He is offered up a long glass of frozen strawberry fuckup and he goes to straight to the head malt ball. James is a politician and therefore, by definition can’t be trusted. It’s kind of like Harry Mudd saying that he’s lying on the original Star Trek, it’s enough to blow Kent Davison’s (Gary Cole) mind. Don’t get me wrong. Tom is perfect, whichever side of the fence he’d want to straddle. He’s got a black belt in jujitsu bullshit. If Selina crashes, he can go down with her or jump ship like the last veep.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) is thinking of running for office. Not now, and maybe not in the foreseeable future, but the thought is in his mind. That turns Veep into a potential horror series. These are exactly the kinds of people who get into politics and here we see the demon seed being implanted in the brain of one of the Beltway’s children of the corn. Watch for a particularly funny battle-of-the-inappropriates between Jonah and Dan in a hospital room. Richard (Sam Richardson) was basically playing Repeat to Jonah’s Peat tonight, but dropped his name at the door of the presidential bedroom.
Veep was created by Armando Iannucci. In the Loop happens to be on Netflix right now. Anna Chlumsky is in it. So is James Gandolfini from The Sopranos. If you’re uninitiated it takes a few minutes to reconcile one show with the other, but once it kicks in it is frighteningly funny. Tonight’s episode was damned suspenseful for a political satire. It is unfair and yet somehow apropos to compare this with Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. But this episode reminded me of last season’s closer. That was a classic piece of television and this episode caught the same amount of tension with a completely different approach. Edie Falco completely immersed herself into that descent while Louis-Dreyfus surrenders herself to the flu. When Selina comes out of one of her snoozes she greets Gary with “It’s an otter.” I don’t know where that came from, I took it as those things you yell out when you’re delirious before a fever breaks, but it was randomly perfect. If only Gary got the flu instead of Selina, all this would still have been unavoidable.
“B/ill” was directed by Becky Martin, story by Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil; teleplay by Tony Roche, Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil.