VEEP delivered its best episode of the season so far, as the gang gets back together again while Selina supervises an election in the Eurasian country of Georgia. The biggest issue with the first two episodes of this season was that not having the characters all in the same place deprived the show of some of its chemistry, but this episode proves that chemistry is still there. Selina’s sent to Georgia by Secretary of State Doyle–she plans on “spreading democracy like patient zero”–and she brings along Gary, Mike, and Richard. Meanwhile, Jonah’s there as a Congressman, with Kent and Ben. We even get the return of Selina’s nemesis/Finnish bestie Minna, who’s there supervising the election for the United Nations.
This episode brought back some of the strongest cast pairings. We get Selina intimidating Jonah with a great line–“I will destroy you in ways that are so creative, they’ll honor me for it at the Kennedy Center.”–and then a hilarious moment where Jonah tries to repeat the threat to Richard, only to bungle it completely. Selina’s not over Jonah failing to vote in the way she wanted in last season’s doomed election and Jonah isn’t over Richard choosing to work for Selina instead of him. Jonah tells Richard that he has 434 new best friends, but no one in Congress wants to hang out with him. Showrunner David Mandel has said that this season will see Jonah become Ted Cruz, a universally despised politician, and while Jonah is awful, it’s a bit sad watching him get shut down by his peers.
Jonah’s at his best when he’s with Richard. He has a genuine affection for him, as evidenced by his appreciative chuckle when he sees him put on his tourist hat–a physical baseball cap with the word “Tourist” written on it. The two get into a classic misadventure, going to a cool metal concert Jonah’s heard about, only to find out it’s a Nazi-themed metal band. Some more classic Veep pairings in this episode: Dan and Amy–he interviews her and Buddy, making sure to play the embarrassing dashcam footage multiple times and mention, purely in the interest of full disclosure, obviously, that they had a brief relationship when she was a much younger woman.
We also get a hilarious scene where it’s revealed that both Mike and Gary accidentally voted in the Georgian elections–the exact type of irregularity Selina was sent to prevent from happening. Their thumbs are dyed a bright green–it brings to mind their incompetence in the “Tehran” episode, where the two were trapped in the airport together. There’s also the ultimate Selina/Gary power play, as Selina forces Gary to taste a bowl of soup she suspects may be poisoned, only to decide after the poor man goes through with it that she’s not going to eat it after all.
But the main conflict this week involves around Selina fielding competing bribes–I mean completely legal donations to her library–from both the Georgian presidential candidates. On one side, we have Murman, the current president whose so track record with civil rights is so awful, Selina gleefully asks him if he’s imprisoned any good novelists lately. On the other side, we have Professor Nikolai (Stephen Fry), who has a severely disfigured face after surviving a poisoning attempt by Murman. Nikolai also happens to be Minna’s lover. Murman offers $10 million, which she’s willing to take after confirming with Kent and Ben that it’s kosher–Kent’s response: “There’s literally no Georgian law and I’m using literally correctly.”
Nikolai may seem like a down-to-earth professor, but the sweaters and cramped apartment are a ruse. He’s a corporate oligarch who owns a telecommunications monopoly and the most popular soccer team. He offers her $15 million to support him. Murman wins the election easily–more people than currently reside in the country vote for him. Minna is ready to denounce the election as not being free and fair, but Selina wants to use less strong language. She convinces Minna that her judgement might be clouded by her romantic relationship with Nikolai. Minna readily agrees with her, as she really does consider Selina her best friend, despite Selina’s barely concealed contempt for her. Besides, when both choices are corrupt, does it really matter which one wins?
On the plane home, they learn that Murman was arrested by the military and the man who was acting as their guide for the trip took over the Presidency. Selina speaks at a press conference, where Doyle thanks her for exposing Nikolai. Part of what made this episode so enjoyable was that Selina had power again–ceremonial power, but power nonetheless. Watching her flounder through post White House life hasn’t lived up to the highs of watching her yield and deal her way through Washington. Selina’s at her funniest when she’s weighing just how much she’s willing to compromise her integrity.
Last week, Marjorie and Katherine decided to search for a sperm donor. This week, they decide on Dan, so he has a reason to be around the Meyer craziness. Amy leaves Buddy after he goes off book and quits the campaign to spend more time with her, moved by her false words of love during Dan’s interview. Hopefully the show finds a way to get her back in the Meyer orbit, as this episode proves that the show works best when everyone can play off one another.
Season 6, Episode 03 (S06E03)
Veep airs Sundays at 1030PM on HBO
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor