This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 6 Episode 5
You know something is going wrong on Veep when Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) buddies up with Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh) on a throw rug in front of a fire. Veep season 6, episode 5, “Chicklet,” is about repression, and the former president probably still can’t unsee that picture of the inside of Mike’s gob choking down a sandwich from a few weeks ago. This episode, while it may not be the best of the season, may be the series’ Citizen Kane, a slow motion breakdown complete with a room thrashing and trashing.
All interesting people are peculiar and Selina’s daddy was a pinnacle of peculiarities. He bought his “squirrel” a horse named Chicklet, that her mother hated, and a global collection of snow globes. He also primed her for her marriage to a serial cheater. Selina Meyer is an absolute narcissist. All narcissists have trauma at their center and the former president wants to pay it forward. She tortures those around her, gaslighting even as she herself acknowledges her intimate relationship with insanity. She digs up every symptom for Amy (Anna Chlumsky), who helps her bury it to keep her job.
Meyer forces everyone to repress, but the episode focuses on sexual repression. It comes out that after her ex-husband slept with her press secretary, Selina canned her ass and started looking for the least fuckable press secretary in Washington. That was right about the time she hired Mike McClintock, who can barely keep a lid on anything without getting a stain on his shirt.
Everyone in the office is suppressing the most notorious sexcapade. It seems that the wax figure of former President Meyer at Madame Tussauds’ museum doubles as a life-size sex toy. Amy tries to hide it from the boss, but it can’t be contained. The surprise is that it’s flattering to the ex-president, who is as vain about her looks as she is about her legacy.
Every president gets a library, even Carter, but Selina can’t even finish a book. She barely puts half a coat of paint on ghetto concrete before losing interest. Selina can’t get the t-shirt off fast enough after the national volunteer week wall-papering, but at least she doesn’t have waxy yellow building. If people can’t respect her as a museum piece, fine. It’s better than being an unfuckable grandma.
Danny Egan (Reid Scott) is upset that Page Six tagged him as a boy toy. He’s okay with the title and it gets him good leads, but he’s ambiguous about the mixed benefits. Sure, screwing Jane McCane, wow, that gets respect from people like Gary (Tony Hale), but who wants to screw Gary? Certainly not Selina. Naked self-interest isn’t limited to politicians. Even the media who chase Beltway headlines are more interested in their public face than their public. Dan’s setup was probably arranged the first time Jane saw him in swim shorts covering the Polar Bear dip on Coney Island. Veep is totally cynical about the body politic. Every limb is infected.
The episode introduces two new characters, rumpled foreskin Sherman Tanz’s daughter and wife. Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) fucks the funnier one. He’s smarter than he looks, without glasses. Voters hate that. The Tanz family is all on point. Jonah tries to get on their good side by going one step too far in the battle to keep the streets safe, but is quickly called out of bound. “If you kill them we can’t lock them up,” he is told, and his agenda is as set as his watch. Ignoring Daylight Saving Time only made him stronger and taller. The female form is quite a formidable opponent, Kent Davidson (Gary Cole) tells Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn), as their best counseling is trumped by a bow-tie that plays better in the sticks. It’s fun to watch the veteran political minds hold back their derision.
Richard (Sam Richardson) proves himself beyond suppression. While Selina Meyer never had an awkward phase, Richard has had nothing but. Butter scotch supplanted sexual desire in his family, which considered microwaves and laughter as sins. He has never self-husbanded himself. While he’s not as useless as a dick at a roller derby, he doesn’t quite know which way is up. Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) and her former Secret Service fiancé, who are looking to him as a last-resort sperm donor, have never encountered anyone like Richard. They play it perfectly. Their concern is palpable, even as they reconsider their choice.
Brian Doyle Murray is always a joy to behold. Whether he’s chasing Candy Island as Captain Knuckles on Flapjack or cleaning plastic for the Bubble Boy on Seinfeld, his gravelly voice is reassuring and inviting. Except maybe when he’s telling Selina that her father’s secretary Barbara had an eye for snow globes. That opens up a can of worms that goes back to another Seinfeld episode, when we learned that every little girl in Poland had a pony.
Selina’s entire world spins apart after all that repression. First she has the hall-of-half-term-wonders breakdown (Ford is already wooden, why make him out of wax?) and, then she takes it out on Chicklet’s old home, and her father’s office. The first breakdown is so heartbreaking, even her staff is almost concerned. Julia Louis-Dreyfus digs into a deep vein of pain and comes up wanting more. The second one probably requires stitches. Emmy shoo-in Louis-Dreyfus has explored all forms of physical comedy in Veep, but watching her go at it, while encouraging Mike to join in, is cathartic. It is also very generous, because she lets him steal the scene. Mike’s shrieks get more and more personal and hysterical as he gathers speed. He starts with a direct line to Selina, “pay me bitch,” and then gets into everything that bugs him: right down to eating while he’s full. Mike needed this as much as we do. He’s been so bottled up by failure he’s making us all sick.
Selina overcomes the breakdown by getting away with having one. Blaming it all on Mike, the author who pushed all the wrong buttons to accidentally fire the epiphany that defines her narrative, she realizes what was locked in the barn with Chicklets the horse. She was the gifted girl who triumphed over her parent’s dysfunctional marriage to become the political wonder woman she is today. “Chicklet” is devastating. It is explosively funny and more horrifyingly dark than most episodes. It takes some of the callous cynicism out of the show, though, because this is the first glimpse we’re getting of a real self-appraisal from Meyer.
“Chicklet” was written by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller.