This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 7 Episode 6
Having laid waste to most of the American political climate, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is off to Europe to sully the good name of the Nobel Peace Prize in Veep season 7, Episode 6, “Oslo.” Selina is at the Nobel Summit Awards in Oslo, Norway. She’s not exactly getting the Nobel Peace Prize, but a summit award from the world summit of peace laureates, the Nobel Peace Prize Junior.
The Nobel Peace Prize, created by an arms manufacturer, is an almost sacrosanct honor. Luckily nothing is sacred to Veep, which seats murderous dictators at the better tables than Tibetan monks and treats the reception like a flea market for political favors. Murman Shalikashvili (Eugene Alper), who won the country of Georgia’s first democratic election with more votes than there are citizens, bought an English football club. Luckily there are no English players on the team, so they have a good chance at winning a game or two. He’s now in the market for an American president. “There is literally no Georgian law, and I am using literally correctly,” Kent Davison pointed out in the season 6 episode “Georgia.”
In America, politicians frown on taking money from foreign interests, Selina points out. At least at the moment, while Ben is running around sticking his fingers in his ears to give the impression of plausible deniability. Luckily, Murman is also in the market for a home, and offers millions for Selina’s Florida property. This leads to a discussion of real estate agents, the true villains of history. Everyone has to live somewhere, and real estate agents work on commission.
Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) is tapping into the fringe conspiracists on his Truth Caboose and leaving a multitude of sick voters in his wake. He is attacking vaccinations in the states with the lowest rates and even lower common denominators. We begin to see a little bit of strain from the newly converted Amy (Anna Chlumsky). She loves what it’s doing in the polls even as she inwardly, and overtly, hates his growing constituency. Amy has been freed from the constant stress and denigration of running the former president’s campaign only to be lauded for her worst ambitions and Chlumsky is masterful at the manipulations. Her eyes shoot darts, but these are weapons of her own choosing. She has claimed her place as a throw cushion in the seat of power and is still finding loose change.
Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) is hired as the youngest correspondent on CBS News. Selina’s former press secretary, who is overwhelmed by every workload, is youngest by a lot. The dinosaur news network loves every little thing about his “McLinTalk” blog – the mispronunciations, the constant interruptions by incoming phone calls and his kids, his horrible wife – and wants to change everything. We get our first glimpse of the new network McLinTalk through Selina’s eyes and the first thing we see of Mike is he’s talking to the wrong camera. That is a deep level of commitment.
Gary Cole as Kent Davison is so subtle, so underplayed and yet can cause belly laughs. He is not showy but his timing is impeccable. Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn) emotes when he speaks. Kent has no such delivery system for his jokes but they are still lethal weapons. He can quote a statistic, correct a pronunciation, or deny entry to his hotel room, sometimes in the smallest of voices.
On last week’s Veep, Keith Quinn (Andy Daly) pulled a major coup over the president’s perceived independence. Now Selina wants to take some of that power back but loses it over leakage. Quinn tells Selina he will make it public that she “vaporized a DRA leader’s wedding with hellfire missiles and took a huge laser guided shit all over Pakistani sovereignty.” She is appalled by his effrontery. Those records were sealed. All that footage was classified. This kind of security breach goes beyond Selina, and she is aware of it. She believes it is criminal until Quinn tells her it got out because someone on her staff clicked on a link for “Asian girls bound and gagged.”
Selina immediately blames Ben, who marries an Asian woman about every decade. Then she thinks about it and blames Kent, who she’s seen in one too many kimonos. This is interrupted when she realizes Leon, the press secretary, has been lusting openly after Amy, and if he could fantasize about that, to what depths could he go? Finally, the list of suspects comes around to Marjorie. This may be out of gender fairness. But her daughter’s lover insisted on gluten-free piggies in the blanket, so she can’t be discounted. Selina has quite the staff.
We get a possible Seinfeld homage when Selina throws what she thinks is Minna’s (Sally Phillips) cell phone out of the window of the limousine. In Seinfeld’s “The Marine Biologist” episode, an author Elaine Benes is courting for the publishing company she works for throws her digital planner out of the window of a cab because she can’t get it to stop beeping. Elaine had just finished explaining how Tolstoy’s original title for War and Peace was “War What Is It Good For?” which adds to the subtle ribbing “Oslo” gives to the Peace Prize. The punch line is that Selina actually threw her own cell phone out the window and Minna already called Interpol. The former and wannabe president will be extradited to The Hague and imprisoned for war crimes upon sight.
Of all Veep‘s infuriating characters, Finnish liaison Minna is one of the most incendiary and contradictory. Minna called Selina her best friend, and confided her love affairs, family suicides and other deeply personal details most Americans would categorize as “too much information.” But Minna is also never at a loss for a bad replacement word for one of Selina’s verbal allegories. When Salina said she was at a spa last season, Minna said she heard the former president was in an asylum. The joke gets a reprise tonight when Selina seeks asylum at the Finnish Embassy and Gary says she prefers the word spa.
Presidential bagman Gary (Tony Hale) is pulling double duty as Catherine’s (Sarah Sutherland) wedding planner and Selina’s clueless exit counselor, and his asides are perfect. He doubts Catherine could have found the perfect wedding dress at a Renaissance Faire, doubts there is a difference between the two shades of beige lipstick Catherine has chosen, yet is impressed at how well Marjorie captured the smoky eye look with her eyeliner. Gary is usually completely out of his depth and merely living the illusion of understanding anything the adult world is talking about, but here he is in his element, merely by being out of it.
Following his short stint as Mayor of Lurlene, during which he emerged as a heroic figure and an anti-corruption crusader, Richard Splett (Sam Richardson) is now Lieutenant Governor of Iowa. Michael McKean makes his Veep debut as the Governor and he is letter perfect from the moment he nicknames Dan Egan “Manhattan Date Rape Mystery.” Dan is stumped in the small state of Iowa. When he tries to find a non-chain restaurant, Siri tells him to go fudrucker himself. This opens Richard up for a classic example of his patent-pending innocent passes. The joke not only goes over his head but he tries to find a logical explanation, suggesting something is wrong with the cell phone settings. He later admits he doesn’t know pigfucking is a job requirement as Iowa’s lieutenant governor. Richard is an enigma on the series. He is a man with convictions. The kind of convictions which lead to convictions as an agricultural lobbyist found out last week.
Dan makes a very telling word choice mistake. When the Governor of Iowa goes blind because of the Jonah contamination, Dan is thrilled he is now governor of Iowa. Then realizes it’s Richard who is indeed the governor. Richard doesn’t miss this and says “congratulations to both of us.” It came across almost as sweetly as his usual missed interpretations, but there was something in his eyes that said Dan is going to get his payback. Richard’s got more going on than the average bear, booboo, and now that he’s a Super-delegate, he is a king maker. It is both wonderfully telling and guilelessly sweet when he tells the assembled press he wishes he could endorse all the candidates.
Jonah’s slogan “No one in, no one out” brings isolationism to a new level. He has already satirized Trump’s immigration plan and categorization of Mexicans but this gets dirtier. He blames outsiders for all disease and, while some immigrants like Beyoncé, are good people. But his jabs go beyond usual racial barriers. He says he got through his dumb father’s death and hot girlfriend’s rehab by putting his faith in the god of Jesus Christ, not the Jewish one.
Jonah’s uncle Jeff Kane (Peter MacNicol) doesn’t get the last laugh, but he gets the biggest. At least he presents it. His appearance at Jonah’s father’s funeral is a great allegory for the series as a whole. Not everything he says is funny, nothing he’s laughing at is funny, but the laugh is so contagious we are all infected. Just like almost everyone who jumped on the Jonah Ryan Truth Caboose. Veep is getting lethal. The body count is rising. Or is it? On the one hand we know Jonah’s anti-vaccination message cost him a father figure he hated. On the other hand, we’re not sure how dead Selina’s ex-husband Andrew is. He sounded pretty dead last week, but he looks like he may have gotten better.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is once again amazing. In one scene alone, Selina goes from a screaming banshee suffering from the claustrophobia of political asylum amidst a trunkful of shoes to swallowing every bit of bile in Northern Europe only to come out of the scene broken by confusion. The cynicism is at an all-time high when Selina is speaking in a phone interview on McLinTalk. She assures Americans she was only interested in their safety when she drone-bombed civilians, all the while making jerkoff motions to her appreciative aides.
But Selina’s most subversive and agonizing cynical height comes in a “Gift of the Magi” moment. In order to get China’s support for her return to the White House, she has to give up the only legacy of her presidency: the freeing of Tibet. That she does this with so little reluctance throws the jaded passion of the series and her character into yet another and deeper level of repugnance. Nothing is sacred. She even picks up her heavy plastic peace trophy with strong words of support for the continued freedom of Tibet. This is something she tasked her press secretary Leon with doing, and it is something she fires him for doing successfully. Bono would never be able to look himself in a mirror again, an international tragedy in itself.
Veep‘s “Oslo” reintroduced cynicism to the series in ways it never would have made it past the border in America. Selina has more experience on the international stage than anyone she’s running against, but so much of that experience is bad. In the twisted reality of Veep, that plays well with voters. A lot better than dead elephants. The series offers and withdraws hope so regularly and yet so irregularly the audience and the characters suffer from comic trauma. As Veep comes home for the close, Selina Meyer’s trip abroad is mixed bag for the campaign but a win for the series.
“Oslo” was written by Steve Hely, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Dan O’Keefe and Dan Mintz, and directed by Brad Hall.
Veep airs Sundays on HBO.
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.