Veep Recap: Happy Harrison Day!


East Wing
Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 5 stars


East Wing
Season 4 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Patrick Harbron/HBO

Is Selina a good president?

We may never know! Why? Because even when Selina-as-POTUS does something right, she or someone on her team will do something wrong. And the something wrong will forever overshadow the something right, even if the wrong thing is relatively miniscule and the right thing is a tremendous accomplish. Such are the laws of political physics, inviolable in the White House as gravity is on Earth.

Gary, attempting to please his beloved Selina, has a painting removed that Selina dislikes (“I think it’s called The Man Who Shits Triangles,” she says). But it turns out that this was the only work of art by a Native American in the entire building, which leads to a very awkward and politically incorrect mad dash to get the artwork back and smooth things over with an increasingly outraged demographic. Mike’s desperate efforts to find Native artwork ASAP—“Get me some scalps!”—remind me of Roger Sterling’s rush to get a Jewish employee into a meeting when Rachel Menken first showed up on Mad Men. (“I had to go all the way to the mailroom, but I found one!”)

Selina keeps getting notes about the painting fiasco in the midst of her meeting with a very sassy Israeli prime minister. “We’re so close,” she says, as in, to a peace deal; he replies, “So is my country, to lots of people who would like to destroy it.” When he realizes Selina’s furtive messages from the staff are all about the painting problem, he says, “It’s ironic you’re talking to us about occupation while you’re occupying someone else’s continent.” This guy! Bring him to all the state dinners, am I right?

Mike is crushing it at the White House press briefings, so on fire he apparently thinks he can pull off an atrocious mustache the color of a traffic cone. He calls his brightened facial hair “tangerine dream.” Teddy says it looks like he “glued Cheetos to that face.” But you know, lively debate is what democracy is all about!

I am a big Richard fan and am very excited to see that he’ll be sticking around. I didn’t think we could get a better odd-couple setup than Richard and Amy, considering the latter fantasizes about drowning the former, who just wants to stand on a chair to get WiFi, but Richard and Jonah might just do it. Dan solves two problems at once, giving Jonah something to do so he’ll stop crashing Dan’s meetings and getting Amy to owe him a favor. What a multitasker.

Catherine’s likeability index is “shallow,” Kent informs Selina, who at first is horrified that they would poll her daughter’s popularity but quickly realizes that something needs to be done about this delicate political liability. Mother of the year that she is, Selina delegates this task to Kent, who handles it like so: “Catherine, America doesn’t like you.” He gives her depressing, accurate counsel—“Customary shortcuts to public affirmation are military service or childbirth.”—which Catherine promptly rejects. At the end of the episode, we find her giving out, what are those, Girl Scout medals? Her small talk is even worse than her mother’s. “Don’t be worried. I’m not going to bite you. That man over there has a gun!”

And now for Gary. Sweet, beleaguered, trying-too-hard Gary, way overspends on the state dinner in an effort to make up for all his mistakes. This, like every kind gesture of his, totally backfires. He tries to run, literally, from this catastrophe he created, but Selina corners him.

Gary and Selina’s relationship is the crux of Veep. They are codependent in the worst way: Gary has built his life around Selina — without her, he has no purpose—and Selina has no appreciation for Gary even though, without him, she would be incapable of functioning.

They proceed to have the kind of fight you should never, ever have with someone that close to you, the one in which you say all the left-unspoken things, running a highlighter over what you’ve agreed to keep invisible.

“Shut up. Just shut up. You are UNIMPORTANT, okay?” Selina bellows. “And you have suckered onto me like some sort of car window Garfield.”

“That is not true, ma’am.”

“You think you’re some sort of a big shot, Gary? You are not a big shot. You are a middle-aged man who sanitizes my tweezers.”

“You’re wrong.” Gary says in this low, unwavering voice, for maybe the first time in his entire subservient, deferential life.

Gary is the one who knows Catherine’s birthday, which senator’s daughter is in rehab, what Selina is wearing tomorrow. “I’m your calendar. I’m your Google. I’m your Wilson the volleyball!” He lists all the ways in which he has degraded himself for her – injuring his body, offering himself up to be humiliated – but that he is happy to do it. “Most of the time you don’t know that I exist but I am fucking everything to you!

Selina declares that Gary is replaceable, but Gary says she can’t find someone who “can do what I did,” which Selina interprets as “Labor Day.” Gary looks mortally offended that Selina thinks, even in this moment, he would dredge up that particular unmentionable from their past. (Do we know what happened on Labor Day?) The reminder of whatever ultimate sacrifice Gary made for Selina way-back-when diffuses the fight.

It’s almost like an argument you could have with your parents when, as a kid, you try to run away from home. “I DON’T NEED YOU, I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF,” *door slam* [you walk down the block and remember how hungry you are and how cold it gets at night; turn around and come back to your front door].

They are both so sorry. It’s good to clear the air. Would she like some “Happy Harrison Day” sponge cake? It’s light sponge.

I don’t know that she will treat him any differently going forward. Actually, I think their dynamic would be destroyed if she did; Gary needs to be needed, but as much as he craves respect, he would probably consider being treated as an equal an insult to the high status Selina holds.

Selina winds up filling the Oval Office with paintings by Native American artists she neither likes nor understands—“This is so pretty!” “I believe the title is Massacre.”—but she lives to serve (and screw up) another day.

And a few other things:

-“I gotta go save the world. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but, I do.”

-Why does Teddy keep tapping Jonah’s balls? Does anyone have any theories/thoughts/concerns on this pressing matter?

-Catherine: “I didn’t take drugs with those guys, I was just in their van for like half an hour.”

-Jonah, crossing his fingers: “The president and I, we’re like this! Not to scale, obviously.”

-“To paraphrase a predecessor of mine, we have nothing to trust but trust itself.”

-“Can you pull me out as soon as it becomes acceptable to leave?” Catherine speaks for us all!

Compliment of the episode:
Selina, talking about herself: “I, as President of the United States, have actually achieved something. Which is virtually unheard of.”

Insult of the episode:
Kent, to Catherine: “It’s not that you are unlikeable. It’s that there’s a perception that you are unlikeable.”

Jonah shall henceforth be known as…
Preppy Longstocking.

Veep Recap: Happy Harrison Day!