SPOILER ALERT: Is it a spoiler when the show is called Veep? Okay, I admit it. Tonight’s episode wasn’t boring. The episode was called and takes place on “Election Night,” of the closest election in recorded history. Well, Fox News says it’s close, but they also said the rapture was close.
Too close to call is the call of the night. All night. Veep had moments of true excitement: The thrill of victory, the agony of the feet, when rubbed on the carpet, close calls, bad calls and premature speculations. Voting projections are ghosts and Team Meyer were zombies coming back from the dead, over and over.
The night begins with Tom James (Hugh Laurie) telling President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that history is calling and it won’t go to voice mail. Selina is in a state of advanced lassitude, feeling like she’s about to be dumped by the whole country. Gary (Tony Hale), speaking for union itself, assures her that America doesn’t just love her, it’s in love with her. Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) agrees. She’s going to win in a slide. Not a landslide, exactly, just a marginal slide. Election nights are Caffrey’s cocaine. Election nights and cocaine used to be his cocaine, but he’s settled. At least he won’t settle for diet soda.
Matt Walsh is amazing. Every week Mike McLintock finds another insignificant detail to turn into a comic performance. His character is so jaded and so tired, but Walsh finds a spark of discovery every single week. He may be the saddest sack in the White House, but ultimately he is the most optimistic. Tonight his nemesis was the hotel carpeting, it was incompatible with his shoes, creating all sorts of electrical charges to go shooting through his fingers. But the punchline hits when he’s getting soda and begs the machine not to electrocute him.
Bill Ericsson is really a buzzkill. Okay, Jesus, you’re going to jail, this is Washington, who hasn’t? It’s a resume builder on par with doing time and shutting up for the mafia, so shut the fuck up about it already. Diedrich Bader is fantastic, the anguish builds all night inside him and his eyes are always on the verge of either exploding out of his head or in tears he didn’t know he had in them.
Karen is master of the middle ground, no one is better prepared for Washington, if she weren’t so unprepared. She can make a 360 degree turn, well a 180, on a dime and always land on the wrong side. Like Iowa. Pardon my ribaldry, but Fuck Iowa. I’d nuke it, but it’s too late.
James used six rolls of magic tape to fix the election after the hearings and he doesn’t want to be the same kind of do-nothing vice president that history is filled with. No, he didn’t autograph all those tits on the campaign trail for fun. He wants to start The Bank of Tom James. With the stern face of Tom James on greenbacks and maybe a big screen TV for his office. He wants to be Treasury Secretary, a real job with real responsibilities, an unprecedented move in an unprecedented presidency.
When the shit gets too real at least Selina can endure and find uncomfortable solace in her daughter. Catherine Meyer (Sarah Sutherland) has been horribly neglected to the point of abuse in the name of the body politic. But in these moments, at least the leader of the free world can impart loving parental guidance. She assures Catherine that, while men may seem horrible, to tell it like it is, all men are awful really. And advises the first daughter to that the key is to find a man who is the least awful. To further distance herself from her political impediment, when Catherine finds a picture where she thinks she looks like her mother, Selina steadfastly maintains that, no, not even a little bit and still has the time to remind her that her daddy was horrible.
The testicle man says check ‘em, don’t neglect ‘em. Yes, the scrotum situation worked out for Jonah (Timothy Simons). He’s gone from insignificant skid mark to magnificent wet spot on the sheets of American politics. He is the two-faced rep for workplace bullying and genital health and all it cost him was his dignity, a cheap tradeoff in Washington. Simons has been so effective this season in playing and concealing his dueling emotions. He brings such disappointment to the question why do we even have balloons?
Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw) is peerless and she knows it. Not only does she know it but she doesn’t care who knows she knows it. She takes it as a given and we accept it as true because, well, she ought to know. Sue picks things up very quickly. Even though she doesn’t follow things like electoral college tallies too closely, she knows the election is a tie even before Kent Davison (Gary Cole). Mike was still googling how to tie a tie.
Selina is in control. Even and most especially when things are out of control. But there is nothing she clamps down on stronger than her vice president. She doesn’t let one word come out of Tom James’ mouth, not a one, when he’s called on to add some meth to a flagging support rally. Meyer has shut him down consistently throughout the season, especially as he’s grown more and more popular. But she leaves the parting shot to Gary, when he gives James a second look after he takes away the microphone.
But the president completely blows the secret James was going to tell that his grandmother revealed to him. Even before it was revealed to him, his grandmother kept this secret for almost fifty years. The secret is as vital as the dust bowl part of the country where James is from, but it blows dry. I need closure on that anecdote, as they might say on The Simpsons.
The CNN coverage of election night had its own perilous arc. Dan (Reid Scott) decimated a moonfaced hobbit while Pete from 30 Rock traded barbs with the shrill Amy (Anna Chlumsky). Amy used to be the woman who rushed everywhere clutching her phone like it contained her frozen embryos. She was a workaholic who worked frantically to avoid dealing with her weird mix of lack of self-worth and narcissism. Amy spent a third of her life leading up to election night and she is a little off her game so far away from the Oval Office. Her reunion with the president is underplayed comic brilliance.
Selina’s breakdown is masterful. After she realizes may have lost to her own number two guy, the one everyone loves so much, the one she picked but doesn’t get credit for, Louis–Dreyfus’s cry is beyond cathartic. Gary breaking down behind her is like an accompaniment to an operatic aria and when he tries to scoop up Selina’s ass as she slides down Amy’s body in pure emotional abandon, it becomes a tearful tour de force. Even the way Selina chooses Amy as her pillar is revelatory and hysterical.
The near concession after the premature Pennsylvania projection really felt like a triumphant moment. Veep has never put that much work into suspense and pay off. It was almost a “who likes pizza” moment. There was nothing in there not to love. It was impeccable, witty and truly emotionally moving. We felt the noose turn into a necktie.
Jesus. You try to serve the people and they just fuck you over because they’re ignorant and they’re dumb as shit and that is democracy. Each state gets one vote. What happens if it ties in the house – a dance off? No, another season where Veep can live up to its name. Veep may very well be the best series on TV right now and I don’t mean because the finale just aired. I will stand by that until I waffle. Continuity with change.
“Election Night” was directed by Chris Addison; teleplay by Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche; story by Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche.