Veep season 4 episode 5, gotta put that in, it’s impolitic not too. Veep is all about being impolitic and what better place than the national convention, where everyone speaks in easy to remember sound bites and no one says anything. That’s not true in the oval office of President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), where a single sound bite would probably cost hundreds of thousands of votes.
The episode opens with the president’s daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) being groomed to introduce her future groom. The show incisively slices and dices how the media treats political families and how they are treated in return. If you don’t remember, Catherine hasn’t been polling well, she’s not likeable. So, she rehearses smiling and kissing her fiancé while gritting her teeth through the utter humiliation of it all. Sutherland caps it all off with a pause. When she finally gets to the podium and has to address the conventioneers, she’s given a line about rocking out in these United States. It’s not the right line, it’s a lame line and she knows it. Catherine hates herself for having to say it and of course we hate her for saying it. But we love that Sutherland’s eyes stuttered.
Gary, the president’s bag man, confidante and personal walking Siri, has suffered all kinds of humiliations at the hand of the former vice president. There has always been a one-way heat generating between Selina and Gary, but tonight, the anguished longing that Tony Hale put into the almost-kiss scene was heartbreakingly funny.
It’s hard to replace Steve Martin, but not his boring older brother. Vice President Doyle wants to get out of Dodge to dodge a political bullet. He wants to get out on principle, but his office has been hiding a scandal. His man Teddy has been “fondling Jonah’s balls like he wants to find out what the prize inside is.” Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) handles the dirty work with an amiable “fuck off I’m busy” attitude. He’s the axe man, the fixer and where the buckshot stalls before it hits the president. Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) reminded me of Louis C.K. tonight. I was glad to see Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) bring on her elated face.
Kent Davison (Gary Cole) finally became Mr. Spock. He’s been hinting at it, with his nonpartisan good looks and indifferent demeanor. Jonah admitted he wanted to punch Davison right in his neutral face. But tonight as Davison corrected Karen (Lennon Parham), by saying that science by its very definition is an exacting discipline, he threw in an amazing tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, leaving an impression with the single word “extraordinary.”
Speaking of impressions, when Selina calls in her staff after the Danny Chung disappointment, you can hear her Soup Nazi “next” voice from Seinfeld when she says “no you’re not.” Even after hearing the Chungmania story dozens of times, it never stops being funny. Not as funny as his military training, which is funnier than Maddox’s hamburger joke.
“Convention” introduces Tom James (Hugh Laurie), the perfect politician. He’s so cool he shits ice cubes and pisses snowflakes. The only skeleton he has in the closet is Selina Meyer and she doesn’t take up much room at all. His professional glad-handing and polished demeanor will obviously cover a deep-seated insubordination. Laurie, best known as Dr. House on the medical drama House, started out in comedy and will bring great things to Veep.
Dan (Reid Scott) is on his first assignment as a lobbyist and calls in two stooges: Jonah (Timothy Simons) and his sub-stooge Richard (Sam Richardson). It’s fun watching Dan squirm as he takes coffee orders but it’s more fun when they all squirm. Scott and Simons have been building a strong toxic chemistry. They are now finely unpolished swords as they duel on a sinking ship shedding rats.
I know I said last week was Amy’s episode, but she was just warming up. Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) has been simmering for weeks, if you don’t count last season. Her eyes glisten and her facial tics play like percolating coffee. Amy fended off the advances of Selina’s chief of communications, Bill Ericson (Diedrich Bader), as he trimmed the deadweight from the staff with one eye on the scales she was standing on. She outmaneuvered Jonah. She survived the shit storm that is Dan. All of these were worthy foes.
Karen (Lennon Parham), Selina’s personal choice for a full-time life coach, is not a worthy foe. She takes no side until after it has already been decided. She’s not good at the requisite bullshit of the job or the office and she has the president’s full indulgence. If Karen were an equal and aggressive wit instead of a wavering mouthpiece, Amy could have wiped the floor with her. But as a nothing, she is unbearable. The entire staff throws her looks, if not overtly talking under their breath, but the president continues to cast a blind eye everywhere else. It is a shame such a foe proved Amy’s undoing, but it was worth it for her parting shots.
When Amy blows up it is magic. Chlumsky’s entire physical presence is stunted. Her limbs and digits are doing independent dances on their own. Her eyes are wide enough to land aircraft on. She has that mad Carrie’s mother in the Stephen King book look. She’s gone around the bend, lost her marbles and found clarity. She has bitten her tongue so long, it looks like a dog’s cushion. She finally lets the truth be known, after a Selina Meyer Presidency, there may never be an ovary in the Oval Office again.
President Meyer has two settings: no decision and bad decision. She shouldn’t be allowed to run a bath without the coast guard and the fire department standing by. Every thought plays out on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s face, ever decision she makes is telegraphed so far in advance that the viewer is relieved when the punch lines finally land. Louis-Dreyfus is so good she doesn’t have to deliver the punch lines themselves. But she still owns them. She calls dibs by sucking on the inside of her mouth before you even know it’s a setup.
Amazing episode. It was relentlessly funny. It went for the jugular, was embarrassingly raw and so completely on target against itself and the body politic.
“Convention” was directed by Stephanie Laing. Story by Armando Iannucci, Sean Gray and David Quantick. Teleplay by Sean Gray and David Quantick.