Wow, a clip episode without clips and it all adds up to the dumping of yet another in a long line of scape goats we were tired of anyway. When Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David came up with the idea for Seinfeld, they promised themselves no “very special episodes.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Armando Iannucci have run with that ethos while subliminally throwing in some very special episodes. Veep season 4, episode 9, is “Testimony” to what can be achieved by doing nothing.
Okay, so last week, in one what is probably the closest Veep is going to get to a white-knuckle episode, President Selina Meyer’s staff killed her Family First Bill. They diverted funds to do it, they did it under the table it was a royal clusterfuck of constitutional proportions. And the constitution doesn’t look to fondly on royals. Meyer’s two most competent elder staff members, Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) and Kent Davison (Gary Cole), aimed their least competent staffers, pretty much everyone else and if they weren’t involved Ben pulled them in like they were life preservers and he was too far from shore in white caps.
This week the life preservers float to the top. They are unearthed in front of a congressional committee looking into exactly what they did last week. While they dig into each of the staff they also reanimate the ghosts of scandals past, which apparently occur on a daily basis.
When they round up the usual suspects Gary (Tony Hale) comes across as Kaiser Soze. He is the most intimate member of the staff with the president. He is the pipeline that feeds information directly into her head Sure people see him as just the president’s bagman, the guy who hands her documents or lipstick, tissues and, well, hygiene objects, toiletries. He takes care of her sanitary needs. But the bagman is also the bad man. He met with the lobbyists Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) to persuade them to lobby against it Well, they weren’t acting as lobbyists. They were consultants. A consultant consults a client who wants to lobby, a lobbyist actually lobbies.
Just like a mastermind masters and a bag man picks things up and puts them down. Gary breaks down during questioning. He is, as Vice President Tom James (Hugh Laurie) says, a 12 year old boy trapped in the body of a 12 year old girl. Gary admits everything. All that talk about being the president’s pipeline was bigheadedness. He’s a nobody. He’s a prompter. To put it in legalese he is a man who prompts.
Selina sets the tone in the press by letting everyone know that it’s really no privilege to sit and answer a lot of questions when there are important presidential duties she should be performing. It’s funny how those duties always seem to come up when she could use a prompter. She the president and doesn’t even have time for friends. The president has to back track on everything she says almost immediately after saying it because the press gets information faster than she does.
Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) has the same problem. She comes out swinging and immediately pulls her punches back so far you can hear kids from miles around yelling “why are you hitting yourself?” Catherine takes a minute for her blood sugar but things turn sour. The investigation costs Catherine her relationship. Jason was never right for Catherine anyway. He was sweet but controlling, lobbying for Oxfam one minute and then consulting for big pharma the next. It was a good day for truth but a sad day for love.
Kent Davison (Gary Cole) explains that although it may appear that there was nothing going on there was lots going on underneath like a swan or Professor Hawking. Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) would have gotten Iwo Jima right. She has everything the president has ever done neatly filed and microfiled, but the Congress is unplayable.
The minutia of the questioning comes to the breaking point with Mike McLintock’s (Matt Walsh) knee medicine. For his right knee, the medicine has a symbol of a horse because they have good knees. We see him wracking his brain and sweating over a completely unnecessary and irrelevant detail. But at least Mike gets to show off his new app and that he knows how to appropriately touch icons to get them to work.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) once again has to talk about his abuse at the hands of the Vice President’s staff. Maybe I should say staff. Then again maybe I shouldn’t say hands. Testicles and hands never actually made contact because Jonah’s spheres were always clothed, but the actor has never been more naked. He is forced to talk about the abuse and can’t even request that a male committee member as if his abuser touched both testicles. Even Richard Splet (Sam Richardson), Jonah’s personal aide, can’t stop thinking about it. That is a bell that can’t be unrung.
Jonah doesn’t just has to endure talking about the abuse. He’s already seen the opening of The Jonad Files. No, his balls aren’t the only things being squeezed like tension balls. He endures a litany of nicknames which were too good not to print in full: J-Rock, Jizzy Gallespi, Jack and the Giant Jackoff, Gaylian, Tinker Balls, Wadzilla, One Erection, the Pointless Giant, the 60 Foot Virgin, Jimpanzee, Jonah Ono, Hagrid’s nutsacks, Transgenderformer, Scrotum Pole, the Cloud Botherer, 12 Years a Slave to Jerking Off, Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole, Benedict Cuminhisownhand, supercalifragilisticexpialidickcheese, Guysscraper, Pubaka, and most unnecessarily Tall McCartney.
Okay, no one actually lies on the stand, President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) used to be a lawyer and Kent has a sub-glossary to the appendix he affixed to each staffer’s prep package. Ben goes so much further than not lying. He is so truthful on the stand that every single person wholeheartedly believes every single thing he says and agrees with it. “It happens. Rain gonna fall, bars gonna close. Bills gotta fail,” he explains when asked about the dead bill. Why would they want to kill it? The White House sweated a full transfusion of blood working on that bill.
When asked about why Dan Egan was fired over the data breach, when he really had nothing to do with it, Ben says Washington needed a sacrifice so we all ran and took out our pitchforks and we set fire to the wicker Dan. He can’t understand why congress makes it sound like there’s a correlation between what should happen and what actually happens.
So intense is Ben’s matter-of-fact descriptions that the jury can’t help but understand. “Yes, there is no other way to do things. It’s so obvious. I don’t know what actually happened, but I would have done the same thing,” they can’t help but be thinking. I was I believed every word and I saw it happen. Last week. Twice.
Dan wants to rat and roll, but Lee Patterson beat him to it. She was the scapegoat long before he was the scape goat. Lee is what Jimmy Cagney would have called a good kid. She values data privacy and isn’t afraid who know it. There’s nothing she didn’t say about the bereaved parents’ campaign mailer called “I Care” that Egan could add to and therefore we see the ranks close in to pick a new scapegoat.
Tom James (Hugh Laurie) throws the first snowball. Everyone else just turns words into verbs. Bill Ericson (Diedrich Bader) used misappropriated funds to pay lobbyists to kill the bill. The snowballs turn into an avalanche of snowballs, if you catch my drift, buried by other people’s snow and it’s not pure driven snow either. If you hadn’t noticed there are knives sticking out of his back? Ericsson took noticing in high school so he can see them. He can see that he’s being righteously railroaded and that there are fairer trials happening in parking lots where the defendant is wearing a mail bag on his head.
I’m gonna miss him. Wonder who he’ll wind up lobbying, I mean consulting for?
“Testimony” was directed by Armando Iannucci, story by Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci and Will Smith and teleplay by Sean Gray and Will Smith.