This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 5 Episode 6
The Meyer administration has a new gate and it’s driving the president into full-blown Nixon mode. While Richard M. was a tricky dick, Meyer’s country scandal is more transparent. Veep’s “C**tgate” doesn’t bail Selina Meyer’s presidency out of its meltdown, which is good for the audience and good for meltdowns everywhere.
Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) is running for congress in New Hampshire, but he’s not a good fit. Sometimes his head is too big for his body. Sometimes his body is too big for his head. He’s just not the right shape and his wood just doesn’t burn in the granite state. The gangly candidate has anger issues and is a thin-skinned whipping boy.
Dan (Reid Scott) is all lash as the congressional whip. The first order of fixing Jonah’s campaign is for the candidate to stop talking. Every word costs him at least one campaign song. Some artists are putting out pre-emptory restraining orders on the campaign before they even get the chance to cue up a tune. Springsteen sent two. If Jonah leans to ignore his only two brain cells, busy butt-fucking each other in the vast expanses of his misshapen skull, he might have a chance to be the first mentally impaired Frankenstein’s monster to win a national election. Well, maybe not the first, but the first Egan will bring to office.
As Ryan is actually a straw man to boost President Meyer’s chance of keeping her address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Ben tasks Dan Egan with being a loud mouthed Jonah-whisperer. As the president likes to brighten her days with horrific smack-downs, she pushes Jonah and Dan towards finding their winning strategy: Getting President Meyer out of the White House.
The best thing Veep does consistently is find a way to have every piece of the puzzle to be at cross-purposes to the jig. The series is like an O Henry story on Groundhog Day. Every shaving kit costs a hair brush. The left hand never knows what the right hand is doing and both hands are usually doing something underhanded. Sometimes it makes for stressful viewing but it always keeps the audience glued for the next catch 22. Selina can’t win unless she has the New Hampshire congressman’s support and he can’t get elected if he supports the president.
But every no-win situation is a victory for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She is one of the most generous actors working. She may be the title character and the guiding force in Veep, but it is truly an ensemble piece. Her star power could have unbalanced the group effort, especially in an episode like this where all eyes are on her as she sizes up the staff. Amy (Anna Chlumsky) is investigating a DC lip-slip. Someone on the president’s staff called her “the worst thing you can call a woman.”
Chlumsky’s facial expressions do calisthenics throughout the investigation as each of the president’s staff confesses to the gaff. She opens up by admitting it was her and by the time you can say “see you next Tuesday,” even Gary offers contrition. Tony Hale’s performance is so sweet in his breakdown. Every molecule of Gary’s corn-fed innocent comes whooshing out of his nose when he learns his is the least flagrant slip.
The others, of course come as no surprise. Except maybe Kent Davidson (Gary Cole), but only because he knows so well how that word plays in the polls. Davidson’s real surprise moment of the episode is when he blows up at the president. This is a character that has been so repressed and shut in, isolated by the numbers crushing him down. When he loses it, the whole Oval Office is surprised. Not just the staff, only Ben (Kevin Dunn), Gary and Selina actually witnesses it, but the furniture itself. It’s an eye-opening moment, worthy of gasps.
For once, Tom James (Hugh Laurie) wants to do what President wants to do, give a hot cash infusion of cash to her lover, Charles Baird. But doing it risks her popularity poll standings. The papers are calling the U.S. financial meltdown “the Selina slump” and the only way to save make Wall Street numbers jump is to dump the banker she bumps. It is another catch-22. But it could also be a ploy from the vice president to be, who has better luck cashing in his Groupon discounts than Mike Walsh when he needs to butter up his lobbyists.
Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) tries to get time with Selina to share major news. She’s in love and her giddiness is positively contagious. Even the president’s personal Senior Service guard can’t stop almost smiling.
Bill Erickson (Diedrich Bader) is back and he’s still smarting from his stint as a fall guy at the state’s expense. He knows the Jonah campaign is a joke, but he learned in prison that jokes are no laughing matter.
This was a scandalously good episode.
“C**tgate” was written by Georgia Pritchett and Will Smith and directed by Brad Hall.