Veep Season Premiere Recap: The Old (Electoral) College Try

By
Hugh Laurie as Tom James. Photo: HBO
Veep
Show
Veep
Episode Title
Morning After
Season
5
Episode
1
Editor’s Rating
5/5

It's morning in America, and no one knows who the president is.

Selina Meyer, who is technically still president but has no idea if she can remain president, because the election is a tie, because of course it is, begins this tortured day by addressing a conflicted populace. As she swears that she is "in barefaced awe of the majesty of our democratic system," we see the tattered dregs of last night's would-be party, ripped posters with her face on them in the trash, like a frat basement on a Sunday. Selina points out that the electoral college is "a somewhat arcane institution that many scholars say we should do away with," but until those scholars get to it, this is the system we have. In this system: Selina won the popular vote! But … that's it. For now.

When the cameras shut off, Selina — the real Selina, who speaks in magnificent streams of profanity and has nothing but disdain for the citizens she ostensibly dreams of serving — tells her staff that she "forgot to thank the voters for making our country look like a high-school Spanish club. Didn't those founding fuckers ever hear of an odd number?"

A little "previously, on Veep" for the rusty among you: Selina's former lieutenant, Amy, had a bit of an epic meltdown, but she is both a sucker and stuck in a ride-or-die situation, so she finds herself back in Selina's inner circle, as if pulled there by a gravitational force she can neither see nor control. Gary is right where we left him, where he will likely remain forever. Mike and Wendy are adopting a baby from China. Sue is, as ever, cooler than everyone and defeating Mike in a Fitbit contest without even leaving her desk. Kent might be beating both of them; he's already counting his steps in his head. Bill Erickson is going to be indicted and is "as welcome here as a swastika-shaped shit in a synagogue," Ben says. Tom James is going rogue. Dan is desperate, just, like, in general, but also professionally. Catherine is filming everything for her thesis. ("I had that thing last semester where I was tired all the time." I love that Catherine is also terrible. Apples and trees, kids.)

As for the election: Senator O'Brien's lead is less than half a percent, which, as far as Nevada is concerned — Ne-vah-duh? Ne-vaaaah-duh? No one knows, actually — allows for a possible recount. Win Nevada, win the presidency!

Who can we count on in this time of electoral crisis? RICHARD. Richard did his doctorate on recount procedures in the West. Well, he has two doctorates. One is in veterinary medicine, "which was my fallback." Amy is stunned because this secret genius used to get her coffee. As it turns out, that menial labor "was much harder, because you have so many different moods."

This leads to a phenomenal switcheroo: Jonah is now working for Richard. Richard handles this adjustment with grace and ease. Jonah handles it by misremembering Harry Potter: "He rises up and kills all the Muggles."

Selina gives an impressively vacuous speech about how #blessed she is, and her mountain of a pimple becomes a volcano and basically explodes on live television. It is the pimple Angela Chase feared she had. It is like the stress pimple Ben gets on his butt. It cries out for medical attention and, in the interim, a parody Twitter account for "POTUS: Pimple of the United States." Oh also, the DOW is crashing because of the tie.

While Gary blotches — sorry, I mean botches, it just slipped out that way — Selina's skincare regimen, Amy comes up with a real two-birds-one-stone idea: Appoint an economy czar, which "seems like something," and make Tom James that czar. Tom thinks he can weasel his way out of that one — "It is a huge honor, but I have to balance that against my need not to do it," — but Selina just announces publicly that he's doing it, which is very savvy on her part. Besides, Tom wanted to be treasury secretary! "I don't see how this is any different from that," says Selina, which suggests that in the alternate America of Veep, there is no Hamilton.

Sidebar: There's been a mudslide in Idaho, but Idaho didn't back Selina. So forget a state of emergency, Idaho! Selina declares "a state of go-fuck-yourself. I'm not spending money to scrape mud off a bunch of dirt roads […] Don't you think that mudslides are the funniest kind of natural disasters?" I didn't before but … kind of? I get where she's coming from. I mean, any natural disaster that's also a T.G.I. Friday's dessert is a little funny, right? Or I might just be a terrible person, verdict to come.

Obviously Amy wants back in on the insanity, but she can only admit it to herself when Selina floats the idea of hiring a grown-ass woman who voluntarily goes by "Candi" to run Nevada. ("She's still under 30," Amy clarifies. "She looks older.") Amy recruits Dan to her cause; he has just been fired, sort of to his face but really over text, for being "as useless to me as a 40-year-old woman." Ooof.

Selina is also hosting a symposium on race, which, what do you know, features a panel of white people! This crescendo at the end of the episode is Veep at its finest, as no less than three different jokes come together in the span of 30 seconds: Mike, trying to get in the flight of stairs he needs to be a better FitBitter than Sue, accidentally opens a door attached to an alarm; Selina summons Sue to the panel so at least one person of color will be present; Sue bursts in just as the security team descends, and is mistakenly accused of causing the breach; Bill Erickson, already on the way out, gets arrested and blamed for everything. If only there were a way to hold him responsible for Selina's stress pimple, which Gary is currently attempting to heal by applying a secret family recipe and blowing on Selina's face for five full minutes.

And a few other things …

  • Ben's first line of the episode is a real keeper: "Two great Greek contributions to society: democracy and getting fucked up the ass." (Selina's reply: "I've tried both, and they're way overrated. Like jazz.")
  • Ben assures Selina that her massive pimple is "hardly noticeable, like our Hispanic voter turnout."
  • "The only thing Catherine ever finished was an entire ice-cream cake." Selina, mother of the year.
  • Very intrigued by Clea DuVall as the newest member of Selina's Secret Service detail.
  • "How many abortions does a pro-lifer have to pressure his mistress into before the people turn on him?"
  • Selina, to Tom: "I LBJ'ed you. I'm the LBJ queen and you are Sargent Suck-It Shriver."
  • "Life gives you Yemen, you've gotta make Yemenade."

Insult of the episode:

Amy ripping apart Candice-call-me-Candi: "If she does that with her own goddamn name, how is she supposed to handle a recount?!" (Also, later, her exchange with Candi is perfection: "It's Candi, with an I." "Amy with a Y, which is correct."

Runner-up: Selina asking her beloved daughter: "Catherine, why is that your hair?"

Compliment of the episode:

Did anyone compliment anyone in this fine premiere? I guess the closest thing is Gary asking Candi if her dress is a size two.

Jonah shall henceforth be known as:

Richard's assistant. :-/