This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 5 Episode 3
It is three days until the Nevada ballot certification and President Selina Meyer is soaking up a string of increasingly anguished apologies from her wealthy banker boyfriend, Charlie Baird (John Slattery). The media is loving on her relationship so much even Wall Street is getting an erection. Not enough to raise their stock, but enough from making it plummet into further market shrinkage. Ever-repressive Congressman Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl) is also taking advantage of the president’s new found social outings by making a booty call to the couple’s haunts for reservations.
After Selina makes a social media gaffe so close to the recount, the competing presidential candidate calls a press conference to make a statement that he is not going to dignify a presidential tweet with a remark, remarkably making the statement by not commenting. This is great commentary on the Beltway’s regressive passive aggression. As is the brilliant stalling technique that Karen (Lennon Parham) brings to court. The president’s choice is a one-woman filibuster in any situation. The judge presiding the case is Rose Abdoo, the woman who plays Gypsy, who fixes cars in Stars Hollow on Gilmore Girls. I’m hoping to see more of her.
Bob “The Eagle” Bradley (Martin Mull) is calling the shots for the Nevada recount but he’s been slipping. After too many years under too many administrations in the White House, the man’s earthy, homey autopilot has gone out and nobody notices because his usual eccentricities are well-known. While no one is calling in the guys with the nets on the super trouper, Dan (Reid Scott) is being fitted for a blue vest because he can’t tell media from drug stores. He slept with Amy’s sister in a bid for occupational freedom and it looks like he should be committed.
Veep is all about commitment. They weave multiple punchlines in the most unexpected fashions and you can wait entire episodes before you even see one land. One instance of committing to the joke occurs when a bill that then-vice president Meyer passed cut the Postal Department’s overrun from $65 billion to just over $62 billion both saves and bites her on the ass. One of the mailmen who got stung snatched the ballot bags and stuffed them in his apartment. The first part of the joke comes early and is never referred to again. It is brought up as an afterthought later. Veep does a wonderful job in tying up loose ends that the audience doesn’t see until it trips over them.
They were using Mike for this in the past few episodes and I’m very happy to say that, in this episode, Matt Walsh gets the emotional payoff he deserves. He learns on the podium, while he is delivering the news to the assorted press, that the life-changing event he and his wife were planning their lives around is cancelled by the very media runaround he’s selling at the press conference. A long and convoluted sentence, yes, but that’s because Mike actually tried to avert this crisis urging the president to do the right thing. Walsh’s eyes telegraph everything his character is hiding. It really is a masterful moment in a series that is full of them.
Mike is constantly sidelined. His jokes don’t only fall flat because they’re awful, but because no one is listening to the set up. His personal life barely makes a blip on the president and he sacrifices his own health just to keep up. When Mike tells the president he’s got a better idea, the president says history has proven that he doesn’t.
Mike and Gary (Tony Hale) are always just behind the curve of what’s going on. Every character has some kind of disconnect from the president. Gary is great at correcting the president’s ongoing conversations, but has no intuition at all about simpler things. When the president punishes him with inaction, his first response is to offer to get her a cup of tea. The way Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells him he’d better not is spine-tingling. He was barely passable at his job when he was her bagman.
Kent (Gary Cole) is very good at what he does. He’s just not very good at explaining it to people who need things dumbed down. Kent’s mind doesn’t work on the same engine as other people but he is firing on all cylinders. It’s just that the president doesn’t speak cylinder. But Kent is the kind of guy who rooted for the machines in the Matrix movies.
Amy’s only disconnect is technology. She is so finely attuned to the president’s needs it is almost pathological. And if you look into Anna Chlumsky’s eyes while she is playing at it, you see that pathology play out in gory detail. Amy knows more than the president, but the president is pretty sure she knows best and now that they have The Eagle, Selina doesn’t see what’s in front of her. Chlumsky has been acting her entire life and brings enough experience to the series to challenge Mull. Of course, the president has a tendency to put her faith in the newest hope. Sometimes it works out by accident, like how Richard (Sam Richardson) gets some prized information out of a botched meeting but doesn’t even notice it. Amy misses nothing but chances.
President Meyer is no stranger to sidelining. She was overlooked by the president when she was veep and very often has to go along with whatever the Washington tide says. But tonight President Meyer takes control of the situation. Blaming another country for something they didn’t do has been the cornerstone of American foreign policy since the Spanish American War and she claims it. Meyer steers that ship right into the rocks and throws out an albatross as an anchor.
Ben (Kevin Dunn) is tasked with making his mentor, the famous Bill Bradley, the fall guy for the nuclear fallout. The veteran political master isn’t just thrown under the bus, he is past the macadam and beneath the streets. The Eagle lands in a subterranean office, devoid of natural light or cell phone usage. Buried beneath the rubble that is the Chinese tech debacle.
We get a first acknowledged clue about Catherine’s (Sarah Sutherland) documentary. The president tells her daughter not to include the vulgar parts of the staff meetings and Catherine tells her that’s all she has. The documentary is going to be dick-slapping great. I hope HBO puts it out as a standalone.
“The Eagle” was written by Steve Koren and directed by Chris Addison.