This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 5 Episode 5
The holidays can bring out the best in some people but “Thanksgiving” brings out the Beltway beasts in Veep. The episode opens with presidential turkeys Drumstick and Cranbury getting pardoned from the dinner table to spend their declining years in a petting zoo. Bred to be eaten, they will collapse and die under their own weight within the year but won’t get hit with tax evasion charges. That’s pretty much as good as life gets in Washington, where every congressman is dodging some kind of chopping block at home.
Thanksgiving is the extra-long weekend when politicians get to spend quality time at home with their constituents and families. It is the national holiday when they have to account for all those credit card charges they can’t quite fit on their entertainment expense reports. All sorts of secrets get revealed at the dinner table and it’s no different for the family of staffers who administrate the daily life of the president. The revelations keep coming about Sue (Sufe Bradshaw). She is married. There were 250 people at her wedding but no one from work.
Washington is probably the most jaded place in the country and the characters who populate Veep are the most jaded politicians in D.C. and in the surrounding Maryland area, where both President Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her body-from-behind-double Secret Service Agent grew up. Not that the president would remember that.
VP Doyle (Phil Reeves) brings a crotchety gravitas to the Beltway when his anal bleaching discovery shuts down the proceedings like a public school for the arts. This season is very concerned with President Meyer’s vanity. There seems to always be things growing on her face, which is currently marinating after a plastic surgery procedure makes her look like the punchline in a domestic abuse joke.
Selina doesn’t see it, of course, she only sees what she wants to see and believes the world sees what she projects. Gary is her enabler in this. He sees past the bruises to her inner beauty. His sycophancy is based on unconditional love and the president takes it unquestioningly. Can you blame her? Somewhere in the world at this very moment there’s a woman getting eaten out and the president of the free world is stuck with the only man in Washington who still thinks teabagging is something you do with milk and sugar.
Sad sack press secretary Mike (Matt Walsh) and his frightening but still nicely racked wife Wendy (Kathy Najimy) get some good news on the adoption front. They’ve completely fooled their surrogate into believing they are good people. They decide to celebrate with what would be a hotel room quickie for anyone else but a turkey shoot for the press secretary.
Let me point out how perfect it is that Kent Davidson, so renowned for his knowledge of facts, figures, statistics and little-known trivia that Ben sometimes feels the need to reboot him, throws in a Devo detail. It is a tiny moment that may have been buried under the cross-talk, but for the man who might be a closet Vulcan, it is revelatory. Devo is a geek band. They might be the poster boys for nerds. They began by preaching the de-evolution of mankind and they did it in 7/4 time. Davidson whips that figure good, like a former Devo-tee. Gary Cole is the master of the understated throwaway in a show that is top-heavy with masters.
But Ben (Kevin Dunn), who is usually very casual in his offhanded vitriol, is the real surprise. When Dan comes to him and Kent to vent his paranoid ambitions, Ben’s mimicry of Dan’s past instability is gut busting. I had to watch that scene three times in a row before I could get my fill. It came out of the blue for the character and between the surprise and the spot-on delivery it was a series high point.
Veep runs on its awkward moments and this episode is loaded with them. The first comes fairly early when Catherine (Sarah Sutherland), asks to speak with her mom alone and the president makes her do it in front of the staff. The president uses the proximity to Ben to back up her alibi for not enjoying the holiday at home, well, Catherine’s home, with family. Selina keeps pushing her daughter farther and farther away and she’s going to snap back like some kind of beltway sling shot.
Dan gets two wonderfully awkward moments. One comes in the car when he confronts Tom James about his Sidney Percell name dropping. When Dan says he wants in and the tall drink of Xanax questions his sanity. Dan is still figuring how to collect human ears for a necklace when Tom reduces him to a mere Gary (Tony Hale), after a debagging, but with less bruising. The second comes when the Brookheimers almost let him eat cake after getting down with both daughters. Dan (Reid Scott) is suffering from what Amy (Anna Chlumsky) calls “blue badge blue balls” but gets some small relief from the veep-to-be.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) gets the best awkward moment when he is beaten down by his uncle Jeff Cain.
The president is spending her day off dealing with international crises. All that exercise and North Korea’s Glorious leader still can’t take off a pound. He should try America’s Salmonella weight loss program. The president is dealing with Turkeypocalypse, the plague that comes when none of the four horsemen know how long to cook a turkey. The epidemic takes on epic proportions when it claims the life of Harry Sherman, the oldest congressman in New Hampshire and an O’Neill supporter. This clears the way for the true Armageddon: Jonah Ryan is running for Congress. Richard (Sam Richardson) will be his chief of staff, following the requisite vetting process.
Somewhere Grover Cleveland is crying.
“Thanksgiving” was written by Sean Gray, Georgia Pritchett and Will Smith and directed by Chris Addison.