In Richard III’s day, according to hack playwright Willie Shakespeare, a kingdom could be brought down for want of a horse. In today’s technically advanced sociopolitical climate, a presidency can be brought down by small bit of metadata. Heads roll quicker than minutes on a cellular plan in Washington in the administration of President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), so watch your Data.
Childhood AIDS is a horrible enough reality without becoming public knowledge. Any medical data can be devastating, or at least embarrassing, if it is made public. It could lead to discrimination or worse. Releasing that data is illegal. That’s why we sign those sheets when we get our teeth cleaned.
Reddit has become a political landmine, as the data rupture causes Meyer’s Family First initiative to hemorrhage backers and microbackers. By the time the bozos disassemble and deal with the bleeding, it is too late for a transfusion. As the gang gets ready to assume bunker mentality, Selina reminds them that “Hitler went into a bunker and when he came out he wasn’t chancellor anymore. And he was dead. He’d be very intent to distance himself from me right now.”
Gary (Tony Hale) is more clueless than usual in this episode. Havoc reigns around him and he’s got such a sunny disposition I’d like to know his pharmacist. He swipes the dust off Selina’s dress while she’s talking to the vice president. He completely tramples on Dan (Reid Scott), who’s actually making a valid and timely point. He only gets one save tonight, remembering Lee’s name. He must still be riding the high from last week’s post-artwork disaster powwow where he was saved from being fired in a last minute reprieve he didn’t even know he ordered.
I love Sue’s new voices. Last week Sufe Bradshaw gave a reading of “too late, dude” that seemed out of character at first but these quirky quickies have been creeping into her performance all season. It opens a window into the repressed professional rage she feels and the dull edges of her razor wit. The first three seasons Sue’s retorts were short, sweet and, even when speaking directly to someone, had an under-her-breath quality. Now she’s slapping away hands and getting in people’s faces with voices.
When press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) remarks to Gary that Sue can’t tell him how to do his job, which the bagman points out that she just did, he is destroyed by the finality and inevitability of it. Of course he can’t hide it because, as Bill Ericson (Diedrich Bader) points out, he’s a terrible liar, which is sad because that’s his whole job. He does have his moments of clarity when it comes to clouding the issues though. When Selina is ambushed by the press over the little girl, the president asks where the whole AIDS thing came up in the first place and Mike explains “I think some guy fucked a monkey.” This is a perfectly reasonable answer for someone trying not to answer a perfectly reasonable question.
The new pending disasters and media meltdowns lead Selina to momentarily pine for easier days, or at least a time who’s problems I’ve suppressed. That suppression toughened her up between seasons. Selina is very strong, especially when she’s threatened. When she is getting ready to confront the press and McLintock asks her if she thinks she’s doing the right thing and she replies “that thing I said I’d do, is that what I think I should do?” She’s fed up with the second guessing. She’s hot enough to bake an apple, whether it’s named after her or not. She is saved by the inappropriate fireworks display, another nail in the coffin of a selected president. The fireworks guy knows what he’s talking about. He met the other unelected president, Gerry Ford if you don’t count W, and thinks was an asshole.
Kent Davison (Gary Cole) is such a downplayed master that every phrase becomes a punchline. When it comes out that a young virgin named Lee must be sacrificed to the media gods, Davison defends her as a kind of protégé. “I see splashes of myself in her,” he remarks before realizing how unfortunate his wording was and adds “I now regret that phrase.”
Dan has no compunction or conscience about sacrificing one of the Expendabelles, the young women who are hired in DC just so staffs could have someone ready to fire. He once broke off an engagement at Appleby’ and ordered dessert. But when the team needs to cut the throat of a bigger goat, he does not offer his throat up cheaply.
Dan sets up Jonah as the fall guy because he’s made to order, with his surprised while caught masturbating face. Johnny Titballs gets his surprises on a regular basis and Timothy Simons, who plays Jonah, is bringing a new depth to his performance. He’s playing, ever so subtly, a growing trauma. His eyes make excuses the way kids say they walked into the door when they don’t want people to know daddy couldn’t find the belt.
Catherine Meyer (Sarah Sutherland), the first daughter, is also an ongoing trauma survivor. Her mother basically tells her ‘don’t do bullying as an issue or I’ll beat the shit out of you’ and Catherine mistakes that for further bulling. Actually Selina is bribing, extorting and parenting her daughter all at the same time.
Dan always looks at people with an air of indulgence. Whether he’s indulging the person he’s listening to or indulging himself is never clear because he breaks off every encounter too abruptly. When he’s sizing up Richard (Sam Richardson) for signs of intelligent life, he files him away as a future patsy.
Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) never really liked Dan Egan. I mean, nobody really liked him except the audience. Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) warned Selina about the shit that he was before she took him on and now she’s indebted to him. But Ben really never hid his contempt for Dan. Well, his almost contempt, he’s too tired to muster that much emotion. Last season he set Dan up with the torture disclosure and last week he told Dan that either he’d sell the Family First platform or the person he hired to replace him would. But this week it boils up.
After an aria of no no nos, Dan threatens the presidency and Ben swats him down like a fly in his ointment. “You listen to me, you little turd’s assistant you don’t threaten this administration because we will fucking destroy you. We’ll skin you like a squirrel, clean you out like a dirty fucking chimney and wear you like a glove puppet with my fingers sticking out of your dead fucking eyeballs,” he says to which Kent informs Big Chief Skidmark “I cannot endorse that message but I do acknowledge it.”
Just as Mike is about to saw off the good leg for the press, we learn that Captain Loser negotiated himself a Chief Counsel position in a last second tiebreaker that was in no way a reprieve. Jonah gets the last laugh tonight.
Altogether a very exciting episode.
“Data” was directed by Becky Martin. Story by Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell, Neil Gibbons and Rob Gibbons. Teleplay by Simon Blackwell, Neil Gibbons and Rob Gibbons.