Well, that was fast. Given his lackluster performance last week, many expected Dan to quickly lose his job as campaign manager, but the elaborate series of screw-ups in “Special Relationship” that leads to this inevitable conclusion is particularly enjoyable. Just about everything Selina does in London goes wrong, but most of these mistakes boil down to Dan’s horrible judgment, particularly in bringing on Ray (the hilarious Chris Meloni, continuing his guest spot from last week). Hiring Ray was one of Dan’s first acts as campaign manager—at least that we’re aware of—and it’s a doozy. Did Dan even bother to vet him? Jonah, with his highly evolved research skills (“So you Googled it”), finds out about Ray’s delightfully insane online ramblings in a matter of minutes, or at most hours. Dan can’t have looked particularly hard. Watching the trip to London spiral into chaos, as Dan chugs Red Bulls and talks to himself, is an absolute blast.
Meloni has been fantastic as the ever-erudite Ray. He brings energy, confidence, and the right dose of goofiness to the role, lingering on words like, “intrinsic,” “ardently,” and “symbiotic” (which Ray undoubtedly picked up from a Word of the Day calendar or somesuch); his glee at working them into the conversation is readily apparent and Meloni’s commitment to Ray’s many absurd moments (one particular favorite being, “Britain is the Kingdom of Hats”) sells the character and explains how he’s managed to succeed in business despite being a crazy idiot. He’ll certainly be missed, though knowing how campaigns work, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to pop up later down the road, as one enemy or another hones in on Selina’s many blunders.
Ray also functions as a delightful foil for Gary, who loses it nearly as completely as Dan does this week, raising his voice to Selina in his determined effort to get through to her. Tony Hale keeps Gary fairly subtle for much of the episode, angrily adjusting his cuffs without remark, but this all changes with Kent’s appointment of Mike as the interim boss. Gary’s disbelieving, “Oh my God, Mike. Oh my God!” is only trumped by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ beautiful reaction, “Fuuuuuck.” Louis-Dreyfus has been great all season and this week’s episode gives her a wider variety of things to play than she’s had in quite a while. Selina is somber and reflective at the end, petty and mean-spirited earlier (when she discusses the voting habits of her plus-sized constituency), and utterly unaware as she corrects the pub owner about soccer vs. football.
Mike’s few moments in charge are the highlight this week. Both Gary and he seem to immediately realize the scope of the team’s problems if Mike is being empowered to lead, even as the other staffers are too preoccupied to think that far ahead. Gary and Mike are alone together for barely even a minute before they’re breaking china and sweeping the problem under the curtains, rather than the rug, and Gary’s subsequent freak out is on par with his reaction to Selina’s attack last week. Fortunately, Mike has a good week otherwise and several of the quotes from his speech are legitimately moving. When he actually tries, he’s a good speechwriter; he’s just not suited to leadership.
While Mike’s temporary promotion is the scene of the night, the reveal of Selina’s absolutely ridiculous hat is the episode’s funniest moment. The My Fair Lady references are spot on (Selina’s look is reminiscent of Eliza’s Ascot getup, down to the black and white coloring), with the Veep pulling a reverse-Doolittle, just not the kind envisioned by Dan. It doesn’t matter how wonderful her speech is—no one is listening and with that hat, could anyone blame them? The British Deputy Prime Minister’s mounting frustration with Mike and Ben is great, as the staffers refuse to fess up to the complete failure of their deception thanks to the aforementioned hat, and the subsequent press conference is painfully, mercilessly awkward.
With creator and showrunner Armando Iannucci’s background skewering British politics, it’s somewhat surprising to see so little examination of the other side of Selina’s interactions, but there is at least some social commentary for those interested. She may be attacked for the least of her problems, potentially listening to Ray, but Selina also shows herself to be ignorant and closed-minded, very much the stereotype of the Ugly American.
Just as much vitriol is saved for Jonah and the British tabloid press. The reporter’s initial lack of interest in Jonah’s story speaks well to his journalistic integrity, but that quickly goes out the window as he earns Jonah’s, “Oh my God, you guys are fucking brutal” with his creativity and viciousness. Still, it’s a shame to not get more insight into the specifics of British politics, particularly for those viewers who haven’t made time for The Thick of It. Hopefully this trip across the pond is one the characters can make again in the upcoming season four, maybe folding in a Malcolm Tucker cameo? Even without everyone’s favorite poet of profanity, however, Veep’s trip to London is a success, moving forward the season’s arcs while delivering plenty of great comedic moments.
- It’s been two episodes since Bill Erickson advised Selina to fire her entire team, due to their incompetence. We’ve seen Dan fail spectacularly, along with Mike (when put into a leadership capacity), and with Gary’s shoulder pain returning at the end of the episode, his time is counting down as well. Given her colleagues’ inability to rise to the occasion, it seems unlikely Amy is headed for success as she takes over the role of campaign manager. Dan lasted two weeks—can Amy last three?
- Amy’s happy dance is a thing of beauty at the end of the episode, as is her Downton Abbey impression and early line to Mike, “Death, glory, folly, tragedy; it’s got all the four main mood groups.” As they did last week with Gary, here the writers find success pairing her with Mike. Now all we need is an Amy/Sue buddy comedy road trip.
- Gary was disgruntled earlier in the season, wanting to contribute outside of his role as Selina’s Body Man, but when he gets his opportunity, he flounders, “I think it’s very, uh, nuanced, and I think there’s a um lotta different sides…”. Oh Gary, stick to the bag.
- Sue and Kent may not get much time this episode, but they make it count. Their continuing courtship is fascinating, as are the increasingly regular reactions from the other characters.
- The lines in contention this week for most memorable are: Dan’s campaign strategy, “I can chop this thing in two like a disputed kitten,” Jonah’s new nickname, “Double oh fuck off,” and Selina’s late episode, “I just got Brit-fucked by that balloon animal.” Veep, you foul-mouthed beauty, never change.