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Veep Recap: Children Are of No Value

Veep ventures to some dark territory this week. First we get a glimmer of hope: Selina has values! She has, like, actual political priorities. There are things that she cares about, things of substance, of depth, things that affect the normals! One of those things is universal child care, which she insists is “a principle” worth defending. Yet she can’t even try to advance the tiniest suggestion of a platform that steps outside the Party lines without, as Senator Doyle would put it, getting stuck in traffic.

What adds a sadder, stranger layer to all of this is that we know Selina has total disdain for regular people, and we see in her every interaction with Catherine that she barely cares about her own kid. So I’m sort of surprised she goes to the mat so vehemently for universal child care, an issue that you’d think would be championed by someone who either is passionate about working- and middle-class families or, at the very least, passionate about children. But, nope, it’s Selina.

Alicia (Tracie Thoms) may just be the most likeable character to ever grace the world of Veep. She is dismissive of Jonah before she even meets him — “curb-crawling asshole” — and her campaign is both catchy and compelling. She wants universal child care and is flyering the streets with her slogan: “I live three miles from the White House but it may as well be three million miles.” Alicia is the single mother of a 6-year-old, Halo, who is the most telegenic child possibly ever.

I’ll give this much to Jonah: He is not backing down from Ryantology. “I’m a storyteller. I want to tell real stories about real people. I’m like John Steinbeck in that regard. Or Denzel Washington.” Alicia relents but is immediately swooped up by Amy, who steals Jonah’s interviewee away so Selina can use her as a prop/symbol during the speech in which she announces her candidacy for president. We get this fantastic moment of Amy hearing the VP’s disinterest and cluelessness re: Alicia and having to translate it, on the spot, into something resembling genuine enthusiasm. (“It’s Amy. She sounds uncomfortable, like she’s with a member of the public,” —Selina, the pot to Amy’s kettle.)

Will this speech be indoors or outdoors? “Outdoors risks rained-on hair and running mascara. Do you want to risk looking like Alice Cooper?” Thanks for that input, Kent. “All great speeches are done outside,” Selina insists. “Gettysburg, Mount Sinai, the speech I gave in Philadelphia last week.” (… which was actually inside.) And what issues merit inclusion in the speech Dan will likely be rewriting until his dying day? (Commenters who pointed out that Dan wasn’t actually fired last week, only that Selina “retained the right” to fire him, you were all correct. Take a balloon with Selina’s face on it!) Selina wants universal child care, but Kent is unimpressed. “Children are of no value. Forget child care.”

Everyone wants to control what Selina can and can’t talk about, and what normals she gets to mention in her speech; Selina reacts to this by literally hugging the whiteboard with the stage layout on it: disabled farmer, injured fireman, heroic restaurateur. “For the first time in four years, I can say what I really think. You start picking this thing apart, what am I left as? I’m an optimistic warmonger with a soft spot for educated gays!” (Optimistic Warmonger: best band name ever?) The speech suffers from more micromanaging by the masses— m ilitary has to come first, but hospital can’t come after military because, as Kent says. “It’s the curse of the unintended narrative” — and things really start to fall apart when Senator Doyle rides in on the last fuck truck to say that universal child care is a “bottomless money pit.” Selina says it’s just a mention, but Senator Doyle isn’t having it. “Oh, so we can say anything now? We can heal the sick! We can turn water into blow jobs!” Doyle wants the AARP up there because seniors are a easy, safe vote to court.

Catherine shows up accidentally wearing an almost-identical (fraternal?) dress to her mother. There is so much love between them!

Selina: What in the wide world of fuck do you think you’re wearing?
Catherine: Uhh, nice to see you too?

Later, when Selina goes quiet/catatonic, Catherine snaps her out of it by essentially saying her entire childhood was miserable and the only way Selina can make it up to her is by running for president. “Okay, sweetie, I am not a bitch. But, thanks, and by the way. that jacket doesn’t work. You look like a waiter.”

Doyle threatens to prevent the Congressional leadership from attending Selina’s speech. She’s furious — “I’m supposed to let a bunch of dead-eyed white guys shit over absolutely everything that I stand for” — and it’s all very inspiring! Except that she is fighting with balloons and that can make anyone look idiotic. She uses human prop Halo to corner Doyle into giving her the green light to talk about universal child care in the speech, and we get a tiny win for Selina!

Meanwhile, Mike tries to manage Alicia, who seems skeptical of this whole enterprise and, in a kind of childish twist, needs to be made to feel more special than all the other guests. (Mike, pitching in: “A heroic restaurateur? Oooh, I just made an omelette, I’m a hero!”) He accidentally winds up calling her a “stupid cow,” though, and Jonah hears it; in the process of groveling to stop Jonah from writing up the incident, Mike only humiliates himself further. Fortunately Alicia knows it’s never good to be on Jonah’s team, so the story dies and Mike’s career lives another day.

Other gems: I love how uncomfortable Amy is with children, from bending down to basically yell in Halo’s face “Do you like POWER RANGERS?” to later, while escorting Halo to the bathroom, shouting, “Peeing is fun!” Also, Sue is quietly emerging as the MVP of the season, I think. Her deadpan delivery is stellar, especially because she seems to be the only member of Selina’s staff who doesn’t change her demeanor when she’s in public. (See her dismissive “It means you’re wearing a red sticker” to Alicia.)

Threaded through the episode is a great and meta development: Selina was mocked in a Saturday Night Live sketch and needs to do some image-damage control. (The joke — that Selina was a spoiled, privileged kid — goes perfectly with the story in last week’s New York Times Magazine about how modern politicians didn’t struggle enough during their formative years and have to steal their parents’ and grandparents’ good narratives.) Selina has no idea why the joke is even funny: “So what? I had a horse as a kid. Who didn’t? I mean, have a pet is what I meant.” (Worth it to watch that scene a dozen times just for JLD’s comic timing.) In her book, whoever ghostwrote the section about Selina’s childhood said that “pony grooming taught her how tough it is for American farmers.” I love everything about this. And of course it is great to watch JLD, who has spoken before about how “miserable” she was during her SNL tenure, talk shit about her alma mater. “I don’t watch this show, it’s completely juvenile.”

I love the closing shots of the episode: Selina’s rousing-but-pandering speech playing over images of depressing, empty rooms.

Compliment of the episode
“She’s basically a good kid” —Jonah’s endorsement of Amy to Alicia

Insult of the episode
“What were you bobbleheads doing while I was just getting ear-fucked by father time?” —Selina, to Kent and Ben, about Senator Doyle

 Jonah shall henceforth be known as
“This bushel of fuck” —Leon