This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 7 Episode 2
Veep season 7 episode 2, “Discovery Weekend,” begins at the 16th Annual Discovery Weekend Welcome Chuckwagon at the Old Barn in Aspen Colorado. Former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is square-dancing and Gary (Tony Hale) is monitoring the calls. Gary is more than a bagman for Selina. He is her calendar, Google, and Wilson the volleyball when she gets stranded. What appears to be an opening gag is merely a setup for a punch line and the theme of the episode. Selina breaks away from the echo chamber of horrors to tell Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn) she hates being told what to do.
The presidential exploratory is being thrown by Felix Wade, a closeted ex-record producer who is very influential on choosing the next president of the United States, now that the electoral college has been getting a bad rap. Selina will spend most of her weekend being told how to do a two-step around the dictates of a man who’s favorite music memory is how Hip-Hop artists give away their publishing rights for free.
Wade is an interesting one-off character. He completely captures a side of political maneuvering we don’t really think about, clueless rich people who shower politicians in money so dark it would be shot entering its own apartment. The political powerhouse will ultimately pledge his support to whoever best reflects his views, or at least can repeat them. The secret to getting Felix Wade’s attention is to repeat the last two sentences he says back to him, Dan Eagan (Reid Scott) uncovers and relays to Selina, who wonders if the producer could really be that insecure as Gary repeats the last two sentences she says back to her. But Wade isn’t merely looking for adulation or attention.
The two sentence rule is one of retention, because Wade changes his mind repeatedly over the course of the weekend, sometimes it looks like he’ll endorse Selina with a cash infusion, other times it appears he’s leaning toward her rival Tom James (Hugh Laurie). But Wade isn’t exactly doing it out of political Machiavellianism and he’s not doing it out of social largesse. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing or why he’s giving away his money, his weekend events include breakfast talks on Our Clean Coal Future, sponsored by the Coal Council to Marshmallow Roasts on whatever progressive program Selina would have proposed had she not been knocked for a loop by a lovelorn James. He’s not being clever, he’s being dense.
Wade admits to Selina he is addicted to disruption since he stopped using cocaine. She laughs and offers the first all-female presidential ticket since Carter/Mondale. Meyer slowly realizes Wade has no sense of humor. He’s not smart enough to get jokes. He does have enough cunning to accept Selina’s hint towards Senator Talbot as a possible running mate, though it comes moments after Selina admitted she wouldn’t trust an all-female ticket to get into the White House. Every decision Selina ultimately makes turns out to be some kind of compromise, broken self-promise or ass-saving improvisation.
Tom James comes prepared with tips on how to fake folksiness for rural voters, and affection for the opposition. Selina and Tom’s flirtation begins when she maneuvers Kent Davison (Gary Cole) into a minor political pissing contest, pointing out Selina is beating Tom in the polls by 18 points, give or take four or five points, and taking into consideration many people in don’t have landlines in Iowa. He completely kills the moment just as the sexually charged Selina says she was moistening up. James has the best poker face on the series. He gets into Selina’s head by saying she’s gotten into his. He tells her he loves her just as she’s about to give her Marshmallow chat. He is completely convincing until Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) catches James fucking his chief of staff.
Amy is still hiding her pregnancy from the staff, which leads to a great visual gag. She runs off from an uneventful event complaining about something she ate and runs off to throw it up. She comes out of a bathroom to find Gary standing in the hallway, ducks in for a last minute barf and hurriedly comes out to plead with him not to say anything only to find he’s already gone. Gary mistakes Amy’s morning sickness for bulimia, which actually makes her slightly interesting in Selina’s eyes. Amy’s inner turmoil is evident during every moment she is on screen, regardless of what she is doing. Even after snapping a pic of Tom James’ itinerary, she is faced with an immediate reminder of her condition.
Amy finally admits to Selina Dan is the father of the baby. “Dan fucked you,” Selina asks incredulously. “Were you wearing a full-length mirror?” Selina didn’t spend her entire life defending a woman’s right to choose for Amy to choose this. Dan is feeling the greying sting of old age. After failing the beefcake audition to sit near Felix Wade, Dan is moments away from fiber supplements and voting in mid-terms. Just like Amy, he is also facing hard choices. He is thinking maybe it’s time to cut out all the meaningless sex with girls half his age. He’s 39. Just as it feels Reid Scott is about to give a brief glimpse into some inner consciousness he knocks that down.
But the biggest beat-down doesn’t come from Colorado. The New Hampshire Union Leader Editorial Meeting humors Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) by allowing him to make, and explain, an Ellen DeGeneres joke before bringing up charges that Jonah made inappropriate advances on a female staffer on Capitol Hill. Teddy Sykes (Patton Oswalt) reveals a post about a dead-eyed, lantern-jawed, one-and-done congress-tard who acted in a sexually inappropriate manner. Jonah says, correctly, the post could be anyone in Washington, but Richard Splett (Sam Richardson) points out it really does sound like Jonah.
This is where Veep becomes high-concept political satirists. Bojack Horseman may have usurped the #metoo movement, but Veep turns it on its head. Jonah was actually reluctant member of the #metoo movement. He was harassed by Teddy, who was given a chemical castration for his crimes. This is something Sykes suggests to Jonah to get out of his troubles because they are very easy to fake and nobody bothers to check. But the accusations are not, like most things on Veep, what they seem.
Jonah and his accuser file dueling nondisclosure agreements. Jonah wants her to keep quiet about anything inappropriate he may have done, she demands Jonah keep quiet about everything. That as far as the law is concerned, they never dated. The accuser is a “stone-cold, knock-down hottie” and Jonah wants the world to know they dated. Jonah swears there was nothing professional about his behavior. He verbally digs his grave deeper. Jonah has no inner turmoil. Every excuse is an indictment. He says he never pays for lunch because he does not want to contribute to the fattening of hot women. If a normal man knows his girlfriend even had lunch with a Jonah, he might not have the strength to take it.
The #notme movement is started by a group of Washington women who will swear on a stack of bibles they’ve never dated the presidential hopeful. For too long, women have been silent in the face of rumors they went out with Congressman Ryan. People are finally starting to believe women. “Lyin’ Ryan accused of appropriate behavior,” reads a news crawl, as one of his accusers recounts how Jonah tried to “friend” her on Facebook. She did “thing where you don’t respond yes or no, hoping, praying it would end. But it never does.” Jonah’s numbers go up the next day in the polls.
Selina’s former press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) is now writing online news for Buzzfeed. The online news source runs a notoriously tight ship and Mike’s boss gets fired for sleeping with Dan. Mike is now deputy editor and hits a backwards bulls-eye with his first scoop. Mike breaks that Felix Wade is, as Selina puts it, “gayer than an Eames chair with assless leather chaps.”
Veep remains a potent satire invigorating an out-of-shape body politic with active ennui. The series takes shots at the perennial potholes of the Beltway along with subtly twisted jabs at current transgressions. Selina do-see-dohs for dough in an age old ritual of succession. Jonah is a monster-sized poster boy for entitled upstarts. Veep‘s “Discovery Weekend” does what it’s title promises. It gives a revelatory glance at the forces which push politics, and how stupid they really are at their very core. Ineptitude is its own reward on the road to the Oval Office. The series puts a lot of work into making every misstep pay off with magnificent failure, which is the only way to win.
“Discovery Weekend” was written by Billy Kimball and Eric Kenward, and directed by Dale Stern.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.