Arts Desk

Veep, Week 3: Catch-44

Ben: Who'da thunk it? The Veep finally won one.

What at first seems like an intractable situation—two so-called Catch-22s—eventually resolves itself thanks to some hardball ingenuity from Dan, the vice president's young aide. For some reason, Selina instructs press secretary Mike to unveil her pick for a clean-jobs commission at the dedication of a community center named for the late Sen. Reeves. "When was that guy respectful?" Mike figures. "He was Rapey Reeves." (D.C.'s real-life Reeves Center has a more wholesome namesake, if an unfortunate recent history.)

Two problems: A liberal senator says Selina's pick is deep in with Big Oil; a petroleum lobbyist protests the pick isn't oily enough. Catch-44.

All of this comes to a head at the dedication ceremony, where a swarm of interested parties quickly turns a low-stakes afternoon of elbow-rubbing into a riot worthy of last night's mud-pie rebellion on Game of Thrones. "I imagine I would mix ape shit with bat shit," says Sen. Doyle, when Mike floats the hypothetical pick. "Rip your face off and use your eye sockets as a sex toy." The lobbyist's response to Selina's selection: "He's a fucking fossil but he's not oil."

Enter the "widow walk" maneuver: Selina links arms with Sen. Reeves' widow and small-talks her way to the exit.

There's so much more to dig into—Selina's kabuki rivalry with the first lady, the arrival of her real-speaking college-age daughter, her hand-wringing over adopting a vice presidential dog and convincing meteorological authorities to strike "Selina" from next year's list of hurricane names—but let's pause on Veep's impressive self-generating internal lexicon: When Gary, Selina's idiot savant of a bodyman, whispers in her ear while she greets well-wishers, he's executing "Garyoke." When West Wing aide Jonah refers to the first lady's own conflicting plans to adopt a puppy, he calls it "FDOTUS" (that'd be First Dog of the United States). The first lady, it seems, is now calling Selina "creepy Veepy."

And Amy, Selina's chief of staff, has a term for the flap over clean jobs: a "good old Washington shit-storm." She's glad to be off dogs and hurricanes, the kind of crap the Veep usually concerns herself with because, you know, the president isn't going to trust her with any real duties. Amy's clean-jobs gusto doesn't really have anything to do with the substance of the matter, of course; she just wants a scrap with some stakes. Sen. Doyle, it seems, is happy to posture about keeping oil—any oil—off of the clean-jobs commission, but when Dan tells him Selina plans to nominate not a former oil guy but a lobbyist, Doyle hastily backs down. "Twenty years ago you had no power, but you had balls," he tells Selina earlier in the episode, to which she responds, "Now I've got a dick and balls."

Veep mostly gets mileage by torturing Selena, which there wasn't much of this week. Still, I think this was the best episode  yet. We peered deep into Selina's narcissism via the skeptical eyes of Catherine, her daughter. ("You're not fucking Thor!" Catherine exclaims when Selina tries to change the hurricane's name.) We had a series of conflicts—some slightly asinine, others extremely asinine—that came to a head during the two receptions that framed the episode. (The latter was celebrating Selina's 20th year in D.C.) We had some of the show's most expertly staged gags, like the reception line of various minor political figures whom Selina must "mingle the shit out of" while Gary, um, Garyokes at rapid-fire speed. ("She just had triplets." "He has a glass eye." "His brother's in Rage Against the Machine.")

Ben, what did this week's episode say about power and how it's wielded? Is Dan a Machiavellian, a weasel, or both? Does Jonah really have a rapist face?

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