This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 5 Episode 2
It’s 5:02 a.m. in Reno, Nevada, where a recount is set to determine the fate of an unprecedented electoral dead heat and President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is having reservations about the Reservations. The Native Americans might be taking back their votes. I know that Jerry Seinfeld almost kind of said there is a phrase for this, but that might be offensive and Veep isn’t the kind of show to offend sensitive sensibilities. It’s out to prick the skin of the most insensitive.
Selina needs 512 votes for a full state recount and her team went to the mattresses to crush the numbers. The voting retabulation process is ripe with wriggling room, even without the dangling chads. A write-in vote that says fuck Selina Meyer could be read as negative, or it can be an affirmation of choice, like Fuck! Selina Meyer! No dangling chads necessary.
Meyer is completely hooked into the moment, whatever moment is in front of her, and everything is at her whim, which fluctuates wildly. Amy (Anna Chlumsky) and Dan (Reid Scott) are jumping electoral loopholes to follow the president’s instructions but she changes her mind more often than a child molester at Disneyland. She flipped the power dynamic so that it is now top-heavy.
Sam Richardson gives the best deliveries to the worst lines and it is subversively hysterical. This is a guy who has a double doctorate who was grabbing coffee until the last episode and all he wants to do is please. Richard is in charge now and he is still putting his happiest face forward. But he does show some ambition. He’ll be sad to see his father pass away, but he would like to get his hands on his old man’s email handle.
The commitment Richard puts into his glad-handing is sublime. He has not been decimated by the harsh swamps of Washington. Any of his lines can be made into a passive aggressive attack, but the character has no guile. When the Paddington Bear-looking man tells someone to drive safe, he really wants them to get to their destination. But you’re not really sure of his intent when he mistakes two minutes for two miles.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) is now working under Richard and is bristling about it. A seven foot seven gooney looking Lithuanian who’s going to spontaneously drop dead of marfan syndrome, Jonah has seen the worst Washington could dish out. Last season, an entire session of a senate political hearing centered on the nicknames his DC pals have for him (J-Rock, Jizzy Gallespi, Jack and the Giant Jackoff, Gaylian, Tinker Balls, Wadzilla, One Erection, the Pointless Giant, the 60 Foot Virgin, Jimpanzee, Jonah Ono, Hagrid’s nutsacks, Transgenderformer, Scrotum Pole, the Cloud Botherer, 12 Years a Slave to Jerking Off, Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole, Benedict Cuminhisownhand, supercalifragilisticexpialidickcheese, Guyscraper and Pubaka to refresh your memories). Jonah is in the political life for life. I wonder what he’ll be like when he’s a political veteran?
He’s going to turn into Ben (Kevin Dunn). It seems unlikely now, but look at his trajectory, Jonah went from coffee boy to poster boy for sexual harassment in the office and even had his own catchphrase. Ben is inarguably Selina’s most competent staffer. He actually usually knows what he’s talking about and isn’t afraid to drop the axe. He knew enough about the job to beg Selina not to hire him in the first season. Bob “The Eagle” Bradley, played by the legendary Martin Mull, points out that Ben used to be Jonah. When Ben was a young intern he even had his own catchy endearments, Fatty Dicksuckhole, B-b-b-benny and the Jizz and the old standby butt-fucker. Probably his proudest moment. Mull is consistently fantastic as the inconsistent expert. He may not be able to see the future. He has big balls, but neither one are crystal. The Eagle has been on the job since DC was ruled by mosquitoes and never forgets his old friends.
How old is Sue (Sufe Bradshaw)? Is she one of the White House ghosts? Apparently she’s been around since Tricky Dick Nixon tried to milk a horse that was led to his waters. Kent (Gary Cole) is usually good with numbers. He’s as much an expert on political facts and figures as Gary Cole’s character on The Good Wife is about ballistics. For example, did you know that the Nazis’ polling numbers were through the roof, in spite of losing the Jewish demographic? But Kent cannot get his head around the mystery that is Sue. He has been investigating her and trying to get inside what makes her tick since he first laid eyes on her and she only grows more enigmatic.
Louis-Dreyfus tosses off her casual dismissals so offhandedly you’d think Meyer has never had an outside interest in her life. Meyer is one of the most single-mindedly self-centered characters on TV and the former Elaine is a master of reckless disregard. She barely registers Mike’s family plans, she steals the banking task force out from under Tom James (Hugh Laurie) just to keep him in line. And it works.
Mike (Matt Walsh) has been kind of reduced to an easy punchline this season. Last year, Mike’s story was subtly engaging and Walsh was heart-wrenching without missing a comic beat. He was really deep last year. I think he’s going to have some kind of medical condition and it will all be part of his health regimen. Tonight he cleanses himself and then suffers a sudden sugar drop kind of brain spasm on the dais during a press conference. It leads to the media discovery of a state secret, but at what cost?
Selina has a quickie with banker Charlie Baird (Mad Man‘s John Slattery) during a discrete task force. She shows him the closet where Warren Harding fathered a child with his teenage mistress as foreplay. Kent, helpful as always, suggests adding a female to the mix. Baird even charms the jealous Gary (Tony Hale), just by giving him a little attention. It all seems harmless fun until Baird goes over to the other side. Then, as Selina says “He fucked me and then he fucked me? What? Is he trying to fuck me?”
Gary is actually helpful today, what with the Bronze kayaking medal corrections and slipping political bedfellows out back doors. Amy’s sister bones faggy haired Dan. Her pickup line is that she works for CBS and there might be a late night spot opening he can fill.
Congressman Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl) is always a sight for sore eyes, if also a slight eyesore. Furlong’s appearances are always short, he wears out his welcomes pretty quickly, but his lines and delivery are consistently devastating. Tonight, he humiliates his aide and reduces a vote counter to tears in just a few sentences and bids a hasty adieu. God bless.
Once again, we have to wonder what Catherine’s (Sarah Sutherland) documentary is going to look like with the footage she’s being reduced to. “Maddox is probably going to study the effects of legal prostitution on his dick,” she records before her mom, the president of the United States, tells her to stop taping. If Meyer gave her more room to catch footage of the nice things that come up during political maneuverings, Catherine would be able to make a somewhat flattering portrait of Selina. Well, maybe not, because even the nicest parts of political strategizing put the ug in ugly.
An excellent episode with as many laughs as lines, even if they are kind of losing focus with Mike.
“Nev-AD-a” was written by Lew Morton and directed by Chris Addison.