As patiently as Leo waited for his Oscar, I have been waiting for the Marjorie-as-Selina-look-alike bit to pay off. When Marjorie and Catherine began dating, I thought, There it is! And if that had been it — that Catherine, in a Freudian wet dream, found the love and adoration in her mother’s doppelgänger that she could never get from her actual mother — well, dayenu. But this episode takes the little hints sprinkled throughout the season to give us a truly great, truly horrifying case of mistaken identity.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As Jonah falls apart in New Hampshire, shoving an apple in the face of the Widow Sherman (“It was an endearing gesture!” he insists), Selina dispatches Amy to attempt to — it honestly hurts to type this — get Jonah elected to Congress. Amy identifies the central problem: “Jonah doesn’t interact well with humans.” It might be too late to save the flailing campaign. As Selina puts it, Jonah “just handed O’Brien to New Hampshire, chained to a radiator with its twat shaved.” (Do they give out Emmys for Best Enunciation of Twat in a Comedy Series? If so, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has it locked down.)
Leaving the Winter Blunderland disaster behind, Selina goes on a faux family vacation. Our first clue that this isn’t really quality time in the woods with her ex, “Monny,” Catherine, and Marjorie is that Gary comes along for the ride. She says Gary is “part of the family,” so you know the whole thing is a cover. The Chinese are en route to make a deal: In exchange for lifting those sanctions, they’ll build factories in some choice states that will, as a result, hand Selina the presidency. This delicate international negotiation is being coordinated by former Finnish prime minister, Minna.
Meanwhile, Andrew is trying to fleece his daughter for cash to build some bullshit resort. I keep wanting to write about how terrible Catherine is, but with Tweedle-Dysfunction and Tweedle-Dumb as her parents, what chance did she have? She gives Selina a genuinely lovely gift: a pen used in 1907 at the Second Hague Convention. No one seems more surprised by this than Selina herself. “Amex gave me this crazy new card that’s made out of black metal,” Catherine explains. Nothing like new money, am I right? Andrew, that slimy bastard, gives Marjorie a first-edition book of poetry by Gertrude Stein. Where did Andrew get the money for this?
The Chinese arrive and immediately out-gift Selina. She fumbles her own gift delivery: “This is an American geode, which … sparkles, like we hope our conversation will sparkle.” Feeling dangerously outclassed, she shoves a few bottles of wine at the dry Chinese president, including a bottle from New Zealand, “which is local to us and it’s also close to Asia, which makes it local to you, as we are all local.” When this bit of improv does not lift the tension, Selina regifts the pen from Catherine.
Oh, and to maintain her cover that this is a low-key diplomatic meeting, Selina tells Catherine that the Chinese are just the kitchen staff. But that mix-up isn’t nearly as “oh, shit”-inducing as when Minna and the Chinese spot Catherine and Marjorie — whom they think is Selina because she’s wearing the kimono Gary gave her, even though the Chinese had just given it to Selina — making out. Oh, shit.
What follows is a perfect who’s-on-first conversation between Minna and Selina, as Selina thinks the Chinese are offended by Catherine treating them like the kitchen help and Minna knows they are offended by mother-daughter tonguing. “I had to let her finish!” Selina says. “You’re a mother, you’ve got a son, I’m sure you’ve done that before.” “This happens occasionally in Iceland,” Minna says. “But there it’s just an accident.” I want to know more about Iceland, like, now.
So, good news and bad news. Bad news: Catherine finds out about the pen, and she is very upset. Regifting is risky, people. This is the boldest regifting I’ve seen since that time my sister regifted a book to me that already had her name written in the inside cover. Also, the Chinese have proof that Selina lied to the country about the Chinese hacking her tweets. But there is good news! Selina’s rehearsed-then-authentic table-pounding really “rattled” the Chinese leaders, so much so that they’re willing to discuss Tibet. Or, as Selina quickly reinterprets, “I’m freeing Tibet! That is some man-on-the-moon legacy shit!”
Those factories aren’t going to get built, which is too bad for unemployed workers in Ohio and North Carolina. Selina is like, Oh well, they should’ve gone to college. The president of the United States, everybody.
Back in New Hampshire, Jonah literally shoots himself in the foot during a campaign spot where he is completely alone, surrounded by trees that, as Dan puts it, “make you look human-sized.” This could be a disaster, but as Amy and Dan discover the next morning, it is a gift: The NRA throws its considerable weight behind the Jonah Ryan campaign.* The Widow Sherman concedes. Oh. My. God. Jonah won. Jonah won.
Jonah uses his victory speech to call out all of the people he hated in high school — “Jessica, I like what you did with your hair. Do you like what I did with my life?” — and congratulate himself on never giving up on … himself. “This is my dream,” he says. “You can believe in yourself so hard that you can eventually become a congressman.”
*In light of the massacre in Orlando, I don’t really know what to say about the role the NRA plays in this episode. Maybe it is enough to note that, in the world of Veep, the NRA chooses to support Jonah Ryan, a man who has demonstrated on live television that he lacks a basic understanding of how to safely operate a gun.
And a Few Other Things …
- “Ma’am, your daughter’s dazzling eyes can start a fire by themselves.” (Selina: “Well, that’s terrifying.”)
- Selina, upon hearing that Marjorie turned Catherine into a “raw-food vegan”: “Oh, so that’s two things she’s turned you into!”
- Ken doesn’t know what he’s carving yet. “The knife tells you.”
- According to Selina, Sad Piglet looks just like Catherine: “Believe me, if you say ‘SeaWorld’ to Catherine, you will know what I’m talking about.”
- The Chinese react to Selina’s casual attire: “They say you look like a prisoner or pirate.”
- Selina, forced to go on a walk with the Chinese president: “This path was used by FDR for walks — or rolls, I should say.”
- Kent: “Ma’am, I don’t even use the colloquial phrase, ‘I guess.’”
- “Sort of an intermezzo emergency.”
- The surrogate is pregnant with twins and that Chinese baby adoption went through!
- “I can elect a Muslim AIDS virus … in the tiniest suicide vest ever made.”
- Catherine is turning the Palm Beach house into a sanctuary for rescued animals. Selina’s reaction: “You’re taking my daddy’s house and turning it into some Club Med for goats?” Gary just wants to know if there will be llamas.
Insult of the Episode:
It’s a small moment, but I love how Gary says, “Ugh, he’s insufferable,” after Selina says she’s “so sick of” the Dalai Lama.
Close runner-up: “Worry about your own unemployment in Finland,” Selina says to Minna, who replies, “We don’t have unemployment in Finland.”
Compliment of the Episode:
Amy and Dan, reacting to the NRA’s sudden support for Jonah’s campaign: “It’s a Christmas miracle!”
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As:
A fucking shaved Sasquatch. And, apparently, the congressman from New Hampshire.