Veep: Storms and Pancakes Review

Selina Meyer is achin’ for bacon on the stump trail. Here is our review of Veep Season 4 episode 6.

Veep is consistently brilliant, across the board. The acting, writing, timing, cuts are all inspired and seem completely casual and spontaneous. Occasionally the show surpasses itself with scenes that transcend the already-high level, such as Amy’s (Anna Chlumsky) meltdown last week. “Storms and Pancakes” doesn’t have that one special scene. For a lot of shows that might seem like a kind of letdown. Not Veep, which casually brushes aside collateral damage like a hurricane that veers south during election season, which is every season in DC.

Fun Fact: Julia Louis-Dreyfus made her big screen debut as Jeanette Cooper in the 1986 horror flick Troll. The main characters in this magical movie were Harry Potter and Harry Potter Jr.

One of the amazing things about Veep as a whole is that it can skewer politics without being political. We don’t even know if President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a liberal or a conservative. That’s because they take aim at the blandness at the sterile heart of the insipid body politic. All sides are equally offensive. That’s why these people got in the political game to begin with. There are no manners on the show unless there’s a camera running consciously and even then, as happened tonight, the soapbox orators don’t know what to say to keep themselves in check.

Tom James (Hugh Laurie) is returning to Washington and hailed because he has that human touch. He’s as smooth as the Copy Guy on Saturday Night Live and can flip a helluva pancake. But he’s a gambler with Selina’s future and just might wind up being the front-runner by the end of the season.

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Fun Fact: Hugh Laurie’s father was a doctor.

The video chat scenes are a great running gag.  Tonight the team was pretty sure they put their feed on hold, then worried whether the governor they were talking to could lip read. One of the writers might have seen it on a Seinfeld, but I believe it’s intentionally subliminally self-referential. The president herself faces the wall to cover her mouth. It was timeless. Classic, it could have been done by the Keystone Kops of the silent era. Veep won’t get old. The jokes are and always will be universal.

And they don’t even tell jokes. Tonight’s best lines were conversational passing tones. There is absolutely not a single funny line that comes out of Richard Splet’s (Splet? Really? Sam Richardson). mouth, but everything he says makes me laugh. He takes lame to a new level. Okay, that’s not exactly true, he might have had the best line on the show tonight. It had to do with tall, middle-aged women and Jonah. It’s so hard not to spoil because you can write a review of Veep using just lines from the show. Each line is a commentary. It writes itself. But I get paid.

Fun Fact: The Gettysburg Address ran about seven minutes. Thanks John Oliver for that tidbit.

Timothy Simons performance was downright touching tonight. I know what that sounds like and it goes double for Jonah. The scene where he realizes he is but one in a number of tall women is a pained aria. The other end of the sad-sack characters, Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) was so fixated on that stupid fucking weather app he could have a second career as a prop comic. Kent Davison (Gary Cole) is actually a socially awkward dweeb under that tightly clipped beard.

Tony Hale brings cluelessness to artistic levels. He hit the ground staggering tonight on the campaign bus. There is a strong sexual tension on the bus and Gary wouldn’t see it if it were tickling his inner thigh. Selina doesn’t just run the country. She is forced to micromanage the comprehension of everyone who works for her. But she has no comprehension of his growing affection, no matter how he crosses his legs.

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Fun Fact: Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were the only husband and wife team to appear in the regular cast of Saturday Night Live.

The Egan has landed. Getting paid is the name of the game in Washington. Not on the public service level, they get theirs on the back end. The lobbyists at PKM apparently have so much money and so little knowledge of what to do with it, they’ve hired both Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy. Both characters have had on-the-job meltdowns that were season highlights. Amy had hers last week and Dan last season. His was so bad he grew the D.C. Beard of Shame.

Fun Fact: Julia Louis-Dreyfus has more Emmy nominations than Lucille Ball.

“I’ll get you a decaf” is such an easy shorthand-joke it has probably been used on every sit-com, rom-com, dramedy and def-con, but Dan skirts the cliché by tossing it out offhandedly in the fadeout between scenes. Dan has been getting a lot of these last-second chuckles this season. The majority of the humor on Veep is off-hand. It is what makes the show more real and yet more farcical.

“You need to calm down. Go to a spa. Take a Pilates class. Go to a fucking church. Find someone there who has some valium and take four of them,” Dan, the former chief counsel to the president, advises her former campaign manager when she rains on Dan’s PKM coming out party. I don’t know how I feel about Amy blowing up in the garage. Christ knows she needed it and it was fun to watch, but I like her best right before she boils over. I was still savoring it as she kept boiling through the meetings, little droplets of insults percolating out of her mouth, every word an indictment. And then she pretends to ass-dial Ben just to prove she could do it.

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Fun Fact: Hugh Laurie plays guitar, piano and harmonica. He currently does it in Band from TV (wonder if they were ever called Banned from TV.

Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) is always a marvel, but watching him go against Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) might have been the first time he was out of his league. Her aloof professional demeanor is a vacuum to a deep and harsh emptiness. They are actually the only two people on the staff who know exactly what they are doing. They aren’t so much opposing forces as they are like putting magnets together the wrong way, they push away. “Great struggling to talk to you,” he tells her at the start of the episode and it goes downhill from there.

Fun Fact: Louis-Dreyfus appeared in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters.

“I don’t want to break a tit. They weren’t cheap.” Selina Meyer is beginning to realize that she is being usurped. But Louis-Dreyfus won’t let that sink in to the character. She keeps Selina just self-involved enough to miss the warnings until she crashes up on the rocks. “Storms and Pancakes” was another perfect episode.

“Storms and Pancakes” was directed by Chris Addison, story and teleplay by Georgia Pritchett and Will Smith.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5