Selina Meyer’s problems are so relatable. Don’t you just hate it when you’re attending the funeral of a crown prince and you can’t tell your Sudanese warlords from your doormen, the chitchat is super awkward because, as Selina would say, “It’s like six degrees of Al Qaeda in here,” and you have to worry that the U.S. might drone the place while you’re inside?
This episode gives us a chance to admire Selina totally in her element — a moving, shaking, dealmaker who knows how to turn competing interests into aligning ones — and to highlight her astonishing inability to care about anyone more than she cares about herself. But it also veers awfully close to a pretty repetitive pattern in the Veep-verse: No matter how savvy Selina is or how carefully she plots, she will inevitably end the episode not only being denied the thing she fought for, but also losing ground she’d already won. I get that the show is funnier when Selina and her staff of incompetents are denied their hearts’ desires, but I wonder if for the sake of surprise, at least one thing should play out in Selina’s favor? It’s hard to stay invested in her efforts when it’s obvious they’ll all come to nothing.
At the funeral, Selina runs into the Chinese president who (hilariously) pretends he can’t speak English whenever he doesn’t want to talk to her. She gives him shit for conveniently editing her out of the whole Tibet narrative, heaping all public credit on President Montez. But she also has a much more pleasant run-in with Jaffar, who is oh-so-kind about the Tibet situation — “Tell it to that ingrate, the Dalai Lama,” Selina replies. “I guess he’ll be thanking me in his next life” — and sure hopes, wink-wink, that he’ll see her again soon.
Lucky Jaffar! He gets to see the next morning in front-page news because Selina got photo-bombed by that Sudanese warlord! Catherine and Marjorie have chosen this inopportune moment to Skype their big news to Selina (Richard, dad-to-be: “Maybe I can stop masturbating now?”), so of course Selina doesn’t hear anything they say, except she does catch enough to ask if a lousy connection is the reason why Catherine’s voice sounds so whiny.
Time to brainstorm: What’s the opposite of a warlord? Richard has the answer: “A peace lady?” Thank you, Richard. Amy finds the perfect photo op: a women’s-rights dissident from the Sudan, currently under house arrest for opposing that photo-bombing (also literal bombing) warlord.
The sequence that follows enters dicey territory, and not just because Selina is walking through landmines like Princess Di. Can an episode of television that comments on xenophobic, hateful assumptions about Africa not be, on some level, perpetuating all the lamest stereotypes about Africa? (Did you think we would be able to make it through this whole stretch without a Lion King reference? Alas, we could not. “You know that little animal that Nathan Lane plays in the Lion King? So three of those got caught in the engine.”)
Some of these jokes hit the sweet spot where it’s obvious that Selina is the clueless fraud to Nyaring’s no-bullshit survivor. I especially enjoyed the riff on the curtains made from Nyaring’s husband’s death shroud. “What a touching tribute,” Selina says, but Nyaring corrects her: “It was a purposeful desecration of the man who beat and raped me.” Selina, down but not out: “Well, they go with everything.”
But there’s a lot of recurring stuff about genital mutilation — high-wire humor here, kids — and Americans sending flowers that require constant watering to a place where there’s no water, so the rotting flowers actually kill people. It all just feels a little beneath Veep’s usual level.
Because of the Timon-in-the-engine deal, Selina calls upon Jaffar to send his massive plane to rescue her, which is definitely 10,000 times cooler than anything anyone has ever done to pick me up on a date. Then Selina spends the night with Jaffar in his palace (again, impressed) and they plot some sexy international trade deals with China. Selina is feeling fantastic, so you know it’s all going to go to hell, but at least we get to watch her tough-talk to the Chinese president — who conveniently speaks English again! — on Jaffar’s yacht. Although we’ve yet to see Selina express a real passion for any issue other than power and the acquisition thereof, this does give us a sense of one reason why she got into politics in the first place. “Isn’t this a rush?” she says to Jaffar, who honestly doesn’t seem to be quite as turned on by the wheeling (yachting?) and dealing as Selina. “This is what the Arab Spring was all about,” she says as a toast. “Arms deals and the exploitation of third-world resources.” Plus, she can finally get that credit for Tibet she’s been angling for.
But her glory is short-lived, of course: She spots Montez on TV standing side-by-side with Nyaring, or, as Selina calls her, “my dissident.” Selina wants to double-back to the Sudan and make some big statement about women’s rights. “No more stoning of the rapee! Let’s stone the raper.”
And yet this flash of sisterhood is also short-lived, because the Sudanese warlord who’s crucial to the deal is at the Arab Conference on Human Rights, where Selina is supposed to speak so passionately about women’s rights. (Actually, he’s a sponsor.) Even Selina’s artful, on-the-spot edits — the most horrifying of which is her roundabout way of being cool with female genital mutilation because male circumcision is practiced in the U.S. “and I’m sure you have your reasons” — aren’t enough. The deal is off, and Jaffar dumps Selina because she’s white. Turns out his dad saw paparazzi pics of these two lovebirds and he wasn’t pleased. Also, he thought Selina might be Jewish. Advice for the future: “As we say in Qatar, you should never build your house on shifting sands.” “Okay, well, everything is built on sand here,” Selina points out. “So, that doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Speaking of things that don’t make any sense at all: Jonah’s life is radically improving back in D.C. He and Shawnee are engaged, not that he had anything to do with it — “There’s a ring on hold at Tiffany’s, pick it up at six, it’s already paid for” — and he has a little clique in Congress who will vote the way he tells them to. He even gets to pull rank on choosing a team name: the Jeffersons. No, Jonah’s never heard of the television show. But in his defense, the other names did all sound like gay a cappella groups. I mean, the Libertonians? Come on. Jefferson, Jonah explains, isn’t played out like other presidents George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Also, don’t bother trying to explain Hamilton to him, as Jonah is convinced he “was our first Puerto Rican president!”
Perhaps just by osmosis, Jonah may actually be learning how government works. When Furling comes to him for the votes he needs for a transportation bill, it dawns on him: “You need something from me. That means I get something from you!” He and Shawnee score an invite to a dinner at the Furlongs, a surprisingly religious and profanity-free affair, except for when Mrs. Furlong heads to the kitchen to cut up oranges for the sangria. Furlong resists Jonah’s request for a better office — “And I want Rihanna to put a gun to my head while she makes me eat her out,” are his exact words which, cool, that’s a vivid fantasy to share with your colleagues — but with Shawnee’s skill and the presence/pressure of Mrs. Furlong, Jonah gets everything he hoped for. Said it before and I’ll say it again: I predict in the series finale of Veep, Jonah will be sworn in as president.
While there’s been plenty of buzz about Veep and other political shows inadvertently echoing our bananas political reality, it’s Dan’s story line in TV land that feels most lifted from life: He complains to HR that Jane is sexually harassing him, ultimately getting her fired. (Dan does this in the midst of supporting the use of air conditioning as a tool to make Brie and Jane’s nipples pop on camera, but that’s neither here nor there, I guess.) Jane did too good a job convincing everyone that she and Dan were having sex, so, too late to walk back that rumor. Looks like we’ll be tuning into CBS: This Morning with Dan(ny) Egan from now on.
A Few Other Things …
• For someone who struggles to make conversation with ordinary citizens all over the world, Selina is very quick with a graceful edit for the more depraved members of society. Very impressed by how quickly she provided “import-export” as a euphemism for “human trafficking.”
• Selina has nothing left but her international reputation. Well, that and her amazing calves.
• Did you see that kid in the Sudan wearing a Jonah Ryan T-shirt? It happens real quick, but he’s right next to that feral-looking dog. (FWIW: 12/10, would eye cautiously before petting.)
• How could Richard tell that the goat had an ear infection?
• Selina needs to send the Egyptian president’s mistress a gift “from any department store that wasn’t started by Jews.” Amy: “I will have to start one myself.”
• Gary’s face when Selina says she has to learn how to say “morning-after pill” in Qatari. “It’s probably a stoning. Which would also do the trick.”
• A-plus to the Veep makeup department for giving Mike a sunburn that sizzles and aches just to look at it. (Mike seems pretty unbothered by what I have to believe is excruciating pain. “When I talk I can hear my skin crunch, it makes me want to eat cereal.”)
• Selina only has one glass of Champagne on Jaffar’s yacht. “I don’t want this whole evening to go all Natalie Wood on me.”
• Richard, accidentally breaking news to Selina of Catherine’s pregnancy: “I’m just so optimistic about the world we’re creating for your coming grandchild. Do you prefer Gram-Gram or Meemaw?”
• Jane, going out with a bang: “I built this goddamn network with my own two tits.”
• Dan never misses a glutes day.
Insult of the Episode
Jane, to Dan: “You microdick weasel! You couldn’t even fill my pisshole.”
Compliment of the Episode
Selina, to Jaffar: “Oh, yeah, I don’t see color. To me you’re like white!”
Also, Jonah, talking about himself: “Good things happen to good people.”
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As:
Little Miss Muffless (h/t Furlong)