Did you think we’d ever see this day? Selina Meyer: President of the United States.
I wasn’t sure if we were headed this way — surely the more expected path was to continue the campaign well into next season, keeping Selina as the VP until she either won the presidency for herself or (maybe more likely) fell out of the race only to be stuck on someone else’s ticket, forced to return to the very position she’d come to hate.
Instead, Selina — who it appeared was going to be incapable of winning an election on her own — stepped in because POTUS stepped down. Bread crumbs leading us to this outcome, in the guise of reports on FLOTUS’s poor mental health, had been liberally sprinkled through the past few episodes. And so Selina is president! The Veep becomes POTUS! In classic Selina fashion, she flubbed her swearing-in because Mike bumped into a lamp and she had to do the oath a second time before it really counted. But she has the presidency now, and all the things that come with the title that she probably had forgotten about: the nuclear codes, the yes men, the ability to piss off Iran and ignite an international incident completely by accident. For as long as we’ve seen her, Selina has desperately wanted to be president. But does she actually want to govern?
Let’s backtrack. Sometimes I find the best way to get a handle on a situation is to look at it from a new vantage point. Say, from the top of a $1,200 crate.
Team Selina realizes she needs to connect with voters by being folksier, something Thornhill does well, but in a way that makes me kind of want to die inside (“Let’s take our shirts off and work up a sweat!” he says, to the sound of all the cheers.) Selina doesn’t see what the problem is. “I’m normal! I can be so folksy! Doing the folksy thing with folks!” Oh boy. Everyone agrees the right move is to get Selina out there on the stump. As Dan puts it, “Nothing says regular American like standing on a street corner shouting at strangers.” And Kent — or as Ben calls him, David Coppercock — has something special to contribute: a crate. It’s folksy, it’s traditional, and it’s reinforced in titanium. Every time Gary tries to lift it, he makes it look like “Thor’s hammer” (h/t Dan).
Some impossibly douchey reporter named Quincy finds out that Selina’s crate cost $1,200 and has a segment called “Quincy’s Quickie Questions” that is like the poor man’s Proust questionnaire. Selina ducks the “what person, living or dead, do you most despise?” question, then tries to retroactively change her answer to Hitler because that’s what “most people” say. (It is kind of a gimmie.) This whole QQQ thing is such a joke! In what alternate universe is “why does God allow suffering?” a “quickie” question? Laughed out loud at Mike asking Siri, though. FYI, because I am a real investigative journalist, I asked Siri, too. She turns up a link to Biblebelievers.com. Way to be helpful, Siri.
It is a law of comedy that, given the opportunity for a character to think he or she is no longer being recorded, he or she will say something embarrassing/incriminating/career or relationship-killing, and that thing will be recorded. And so Selina and her team discuss their system for labeling insufficient donors — GUMMI and HBDDA and “I always called them dicks. Doesn’t stand for anything.” — and this gets picked up by Quincy’s phone, which he has left behind by mistake. Quincy runs the story online. Selina’s poll numbers slide south. She loses Iowa and New Hampshire; she calls the entire staff losers.
Meanwhile, Jonah is home licking his wounds, hanging out with his hilarious mother and trying to get his uncle to help him land a job. “I want a job on my own merits, and I really think he’s the guy to get it for me.” But Jonah’s mom and Uncle Jeff aren’t on good terms, and the phone call crashes and burns. “How do you not just punch yourself in the face?” This is seriously a thing Jonah said to his mother.
The scene that follows, the scene in which Selina finds out she is going to be president, better be on all the Emmy reels forever. This Selina/Gary in the bathroom stuff, the bleeding and the bending and the hysterical, maniacal, just grossly inappropriate laughter: It is perfection. I love the brief, bizarre role reversal, of Gary just lying there, helpless (while his nose is gushing blood!) and Selina pawing through his bag, looking for something to help him. Why does he have a magnifying glass? Why doesn’t Selina stick a tampon up his nose? Hasn’t she seen She’s the Man, some of Channing Tatum’s earliest, finest work?
Selina has changed her mind about her staff, by the way. Everyone, in a stage whisper, is a WINNERWINNERWINNER.
Except for that Syrian couple. They hid in a well for five days! Their journey was horrible. So sad.
But Selina has no time for their sadness. “I’m gonna be the fucking president.”
It’s all happening. Dan got a voice mail from Beyoncé. Katy Perry and will.i.am. send along congratulations, too, because of course they would. Also, Ashton Kutcher’s assistant says Ashton says congrats.
This is the first moment it seems Selina’s joy is punctured by the sheer reality of her new role. She looks out at the crowd, screaming and waving signs — “It’s like a Mormon orgy” — and is told she’ll be acquiring those nuclear codes just as soon as she’s done being sworn in. When she asks, “What if I’m not ready?” she really does look terrified. Later, when she says every fuck-up “isn’t just a fuck-up, it’s my legacy,” it’s like she’s reminding herself more than anyone else. She coerces Ben, through some typically graphic birthing metaphor (“this presidency is CROWNING”), to be her acting chief of staff.
It takes about 30 seconds for something to go wrong. Kent takes Dan into a closet, which is where Kent takes people for bad news (and probably Sue for making out, right?) The Post found out that Dan leaked the Chung Iraq torture story, and unless Dan can make it go away in six hours, he’s fired. Dan gets Jonah to renounce the internet — Jonah’s loyalty to the internet is so weird and so funny, as if the internet is just one person to whom he has sworn fidelity, not this amorphous mass of strangers who would turn on him at any moment.
Gary tries to have this beautiful Cinderella moment with Selina and a pair of shoes, but the shoes squeak all the way to the podium and back. Watching Gary beat himself up over the mistake made me think about how his role could evolve next season — how much more awful treatment of Gary can there be? It felt like this was the breaking point, from the cruelty being funny to just being cruel. Maybe things will improve just a teeny bit for him once they all head to the White House?
Even after Selina’s re-swearing-in, in New Hampshire, with a local judge in the dingy back room of a factory where they make firefighter gear, Selina still comes in third place in New Hampshire. Amy tries to make her feel better about it, but Selina is not having any comfort. “I came in third, Amy. Even the Nazis came in second.”
And a few other things:
- “What are Thornhill’s numbers? And please downplay them so I don’t cry.” I like how self-aware Selina can be when she wants to be.
- Jonah, on eating scrambled eggs with a fried egg: “It’s like a chicken came in your mouth.”
- “Like you always say, honey, haters gonna hate.” I would watch a web series that’s just short videos of Jonah interacting with his mom.
- Ben: “Relax, relax. Hypertension kills.”
- Selina: “What’s wrong, are we at war?” Kent: “Ma’am, we’re America. We’re always at war.”
- Jonah, when he thinks he can’t go back to D.C., will either go to Africa or Wall Street. One of the two.
- “I can’t have a terrorist chicken fucker next to the president. Security risk.”
- Kelly and Richard are back! They heard our cries! I hope they keep making cameos next season.
Compliment of the episode
“You do me better than I do me.” –Dan, to Amy. (Even better is her reply: “You do yourself a lot.”)
Insult of the episode.
“Your uncle controls a lot of votes, sure. But if you tried to clap you’d miss your hands.” The guy from the diner to Jonah. (Sorry, his name could seriously be anything and I would have no idea. Jason? Steve? All these central casting Hill staffers look the same to me.)
Jonah shall henceforth be known as ...
JJ. If it’s good enough for his mom, it’s good enough for the rest of us.