HBO’s Veep episode, “Fishing” takes Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) out to a ball game. One-dick-pony Joe Thornhill, an ex-baseball coach, throws his name into the presidential pool and it floats.
The Veep office is a cannibalistic workplace. In a lot of offices, people care about each other, sometimes deeply. They work together for years and, even though there might be some backstabbing, for the most part, people want to buy swaddling clothes for baby showers or bring cakes for their co-workers’ birthdays. Okay, bad example. Elaine in Seinfeld drew the line at office birthday cakes. But to the point, the co-workers at the Vice President’s office care shallowly and passionately for each other. Or should I say at each other? When Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) finds out that Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) is using IVF in an attempt to have a baby, Gary lovingly lets everyone know Mike’s basically a jerkoff.
The jerkoff bit gets out of hand, heh heh, when Selina tells Ericson, the campaign manager who she thinks is courting her, that Mike does it all the time. It’s a real problem. She’d dump all these losers. Every one of them is a liability. She doesn’t know she’s giving the strategist ammunition he can use against her. Selina never knows she’s giving someone ammunition. She always suspects it, but never knows when she’s doing it. Julia Louis-Dreyfus always plays it superbly, she is forever blind-sided. So when Dan Egan (Reid Scott) comes up to the table and overhears enough to make his insides heave, Selina makes the dark choice: Head off the extortion by giving the blackmailer what he wants before he asks. Dan actually likes the “croupier” criticism heaped on him. It makes for an almost hot scene. I don’t think it will be the last time.
I read a recent piece on Veep in Rolling Stone where they said Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a lead player in the rude-women-comedian movement and I think they are missing the point. Selina Meyer is evil, not rude. She may have had scruples, morals and causes at some point in her life but she chose to give those up. This makes her as much of an anti-hero character as Tony Soprano or Walter White. It’s not that Selina Meyer is ambiguous, she chooses the darker path. Every time, whether she’s choosing it because she wants something or because something is all that is left for her.
Selina Meyer is neither Democrat nor Republican. It doesn’t matter because she is the rotted soul of politics and that’s true for both sides. Horrible people want power. It’s like crack. The first time you pull the pipe, you think – who the fuck could get hooked on this shit? But, come the next election, politicians want more. They’d kill for the tiniest bigger taste. (God, I’d love to see Edie Falco and Julia Louis-Dreyfus switch roles just for one Sunday. They’re both playing junkies. And they are both absolute masters of their craft, with completely different approaches.) It is easy to come away from an episode of Veep angry at politicians. I do. Every week. Because I know that, even though these scenarios are made up by comedy writers who also are angry at politicians, Selina Meyer is representative of all of them. They do the same things in different situations. But they do it without a sense of humor. At least we can laugh at Selina Meyer. We only get angrier at anyone else in the racket of politics.
That’s why Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn) is so important to the balance of Veep. He is so straightforward about the exhausting bullshit of Washington that you can’t actually hate him. He is what any of us could have been if we went into politics, except actual politicians. We have Kent Davison (Gary Cole) to lovingly hate here for that. Political sycophant, sucking up to everyone: the president of the U.S., the president of Clovis, Sue (Sufe Bradshaw). He’s the worst. This means in an upcoming episode he will be the best. I’m waiting for the scene that will define Kent Davison. Every episode has had one character shine, it’s small but it’s been there. When Gary Cole gets his turn, he’s going to change America, in the way that only wars and fluoride have done.
Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) is so highly strung and tightly wound, she is effervescent. In the way that 7 Up is effervescent. Something is tickling your nose and it’s somehow disconcerting. That’s not to say she can’t throw a dinner party, because she can’t. I have trouble picturing the Amy character sleeping. Passing out from exhaustion for six hours, maybe, but not sleeping. Anna Chlumsky succeeds in letting her ever-simmering inner turmoil boil over without any outward histrionics.
Why is Jonah (Timothy Simons) still here? Wasn’t he discredited? Didn’t that mean he would go away? No. Not Jonah. He’s not quite the shit that Dan is but he’s tougher to wipe off. You need like a moistened baby wipe or something and there’ll still be something foul on your underwear come laundry day. But there he is, being told to shut up by the hunting congressman, George Maddox (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.). The one Selina Meyer tells she would rather be shot in the fucking face than be vice president again as she tries to get him to take the job. Maybe if she hadn’t caught the fish. Maybe if the fish ate Jonah. There is an opening in State.
I just hope no one leaves a stray dog in a parked car.
“Fishing” was written by Sean Gray & Ian Martin and directed by Christopher Morris.