B+

Veep: “Andrew”

Selina Meyer might as well pull a David Blaine and live in a glass box hanging over the Potomac. She’d get as much privacy and respect as she does in her capacity as vice-president, and she wouldn’t have to listen to anything anyone says in Washington.

“Andrew,” named after Selina’s weaselly ex-husband (David Pasquesi), is a study in the drawbacks of being able to tough it out. This season, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has nicely conveyed her character’s ability to keep plowing ahead, no matter what the obstacles. By the end of “Andrew,” it seems to be dawning on her that a reputation as someone who can take a punch only inspires more people to come at her.

The president has already put Selina on the spot by keeping her in the dark about a CIA spy being among the American hostages rescued from a Persian country, even as he allowed her to take a high-profile role in planning the military action. In this episode, he puts her in charge of negotiating a federal budget with congressional leaders in order to avoid a government shutdown. She expertly succeeds in reaching an agreement only to be undermined by the president, who wants to prove his toughness against Congress. Selina has nothing but contempt for the president, but she has to maintain public loyalty to keep any chance of succeeding him in the White House, so all she can do is curse him in private and brace herself for the next time he pushes her aside.

Veep’s acid take on what it means to be a player in Washington comes with an uncomfortable side of gender politics. A lot of the men on this show are one drink away from seeing Selina — who’s as adept as anyone in the West Wing at using filthy language and bragging about the size of her metaphorical balls — as a sexual conquest. Last week, it was the First Gentleman of Finland groping her. This week, it’s not surprising that Jonah fantasizes about a “Mrs. Robinson” liaison with Selina at her daughter’s birthday party. But even puppy dog–like Gary gets a little carried away at the thought of kissing the vice-president in this episode (after slipping up and calling her “sweetie” instead “of ma’am”).

“Andrew” doesn’t have as many plot movements as last week’s “Helsinki,” instead turning up the heat on Selina by forcing her to deal with her ex-husband, who dumps another political embarrassment in her lap. (“He just fluffs ya, then he fucks ya” is Selina’s description of his devious nature — which is an odd indictment of someone she used to have sex with, but that’s the language everyone understands.) The veep also has to appease pouty daughter Catherine, an increasingly hostile press, and all of the people snapping photos and tweeting about her as she tries to have an intimate family dinner at a restaurant. As in many episodes of Veep, she lets off a little steam near the end of this episode (jabbing the air and saying “Fuck POTUS!”) and immediately regrets it.

With Selina forced to conduct budget talks in a ladies’ room (don’t worry, the House majority leader is a woman), it feels as though her life is getting more claustrophobic and she’s running out of places to hide. Perhaps there’s a breaking point to come before the season ends.

Stray observations:

  • Selina small talk: When confronted with someone she doesn’t recognize, she tries to bluff her way out of it by joking, “We met in Bumfuck, Idaho, I think it was.”
  • Catherine’s 21st birthday party is at the National Gallery of Art (hint to my D.C. friends). So Jonah’s pick-up lines include: “You look like a piece of art…. Compared to you, that Monet [points]… a piece of shit.” Also: “You look like a piece of art. I know I’d like to nail you up against the wall.”
  • After all the jokes about the praying-mantis appearance of his character (Gabe) on The Office, Zach Woods must have relished telling Jonah, “You’re not even a man. You’re like an early draft of a man, where they just sketched out a giant, mangled skeleton, but they didn’t have time to add details, like pigment or self-respect. You’re Frankenstein’s monster, if his monster was made entirely of dead dicks.” (I first heard it as “an early giraffe of a man,” which might be better.)
  • Then again, Woods’ introductory scene as Amy’s date to the birthday party — in which he describes his “pelvic thrust” dance moves and calls himself “the Hunter S. Thompson of bar mitzahs” — is pretty creepy.
  • Communications Director Mike to a breakfast gathering for reporters: “Selina has become one of the most effective vice-presidents in history!” Good job, Mike. A minute later, to a reporter’s question about the hostage rescue: “This isn’t ‘Meyer the Liar’ again.” Oops.
  • The president’s chief of staff to Selina: “You do have a choice. You could say you were out of the loop for the hostage rescue, which would make you look clueless, or you could say you were in the loop, which would make you look devious. Either way, just blur the fuck out of it.” Poor, caffeine-addicted Ben (Kevin Dunn) seems to have genuine regard for Selina. He might be impressed that she doesn’t share his habit of hiding in supply closets when things get tense.
  • Why is there an oversized key in the shape of Maryland hanging in Selina’s outer office? I’m sure Veep won’t confirm it, but it’s a pretty good choice for her home state.

More TV Club