Veep Recap: A Surgical Strike


Season 5 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


Season 5 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina. Photo: HBO

Every now and then, Veep’s best jokes spring from an underappreciated place: the brilliant work of the makeup department. Think of Selina, back in season two, walking straight into a glass door that shatters on impact. She spends the rest of the episode high on St. John’s Wart (courtesy of Gary) and antidepressants (courtesy of her daily life), with a bloody, awkwardly bandaged face. Perfection.

In “Thanksgiving,” Selina undergoes cosmetic surgery to “take ten years off” her face by deflating the bags under her eyes. (I’m not a scientist, guys.) Selina, as we know, is almost cripplingly vain and has to deal with the particular misogynistic scrutiny America saves for our female public figures. But, in this modern age of better-living-through-chemistry, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that any of our presidents and/or partners underwent a secret nip and tuck at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Speculate wildly in the comments!

We begin with Sasha and Malia’s favorite American tradition: the turkey pardon. (Nothing has endeared me to the first family more than watching those girls give A+ teen side-eye to their dad on this very occasion in 2014.) What do people in other countries think when they hear about this bizarro, absurdist event? Catherine personally chose to name these turkeys Drumstick and Cranberry. Really, Catherine? The turkeys have been saved from the dinner table and instead will be sent to a petting zoo, where, as a journalist informs Mike, “They’ll probably collapse from their own weight and die in a year or two, tops.” That’s what happens when you’re bred to be eaten, birds.

Selina does not even tell her own daughter why she’s missing Thanksgiving. Does she not trust Catherine to keep a secret? Is she really that embarrassed about this surgery? Could it just be general Selina thoughtlessness? We may never know! But this thing is happening, as she tells Gary, because “my eyelids are starting to look like Keith Richards’s ballsack.” (Gary, adoring as ever: “He wishes.”) She is off to, as Ben puts it, get “permanently photoshopped.”

As one might have predicted, Selina’s post-surgery face is … well, it’s really something. It’s as if someone replaced the skin under her eyes with oozing, squishy, glistening puddles of blood. She happens to be stuck with this American Horror Story face just as news of a salmonella outbreak starts to spread. Kent doesn’t comprehend the rush to panic (“Do people not understand basic non-parametric statistics?”) and Tom is deployed for “Operation Calm the Fuck Down.”

Eventually, Ben has to enlist Doyle to make a public address, as the number of cases being reported climbs and Selina remains, um, indisposed. (“She’s not not incapacitated, she’s just not fully capacitated.”) Doyle thinks Selina is maybe attending to some other cosmetic need and insists on seeing her himself. Then he tries to secure himself the secretary of State gig should Selina take the White House again. She gives him her word, which I’m sure is going to be a very trustworthy thing, and Doyle makes some super-tasteful jokes about being able to “get you to a shelter.” “I love it! Domestic-abuse jokes. They just tickle me.”

Meanwhile, Dan doesn’t have a blue badge that grants him access to all things White House. But he’s rescued by Tom James, that dashing gent, that “tall drink of Xanax,” only to stealthily force him into Gary-style indentured servitude. It is during this degrading and deeply uncomfortable experience that Dan manages to Nancy Drew some intel that interests nobody: Dan’s former employer, Sydney Purcell, repeatedly calls Tom, who keeps dropping references to Purcell’s clients in his media appearances. Because of that whole “having a mental breakdown” situation, Dan is no longer a trustworthy source; naturally, Tom knows this and exploits it. When Dan crashes Amy’s Thanksgiving in the hopes of finding an ally, he instead finds himself reamed out by Amy’s dad — hi, Jerry/Garry/Larry! — for being a “shitsack Casanova” who, ahem, wanted to have “both.”

Oh, and another thing: Sherman, the oldest member of the House — like, so old he still uses the word “coloreds” — is dead. That’s one less vote for O’Brien. (“If I had known that, I would have killed him myself.” Selina Meyer, everybody!)

As you may recall, Jonah Ryan’s uncle is the one who runs things up in New Hampshire. He wants his golden nephew, Ezra, to take the seat when he gets back from his military tour. Also, Sherman’s widow is going to run, so they’re in the market for someone to run against a widow, “a real piece of canon fodder, some spectacular dumbass … willing to sacrifice his name and reputation.”

Any guesses who that spectacular dumbass might be? JONAH FREAKING RYAN. After being coerced into inviting Richard to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner, Jonah is informed by his dear uncle that he will be running for office.

Jonah’s reaction is a thing of beauty. He prays to God “to totally rock this shit, amen. The Jonah Ryan Story: Chapter Five! The House kneels before the J-man.” Although his uncle tells him that his time in Congress will be very short — once Ezra is home, he’ll have to GTFO — Jonah remains unfazed. He was only supposed to be at the White House for three weeks. Look at him now!

And a Few Other Things …

  • Sue got married last year and told no one. “Two-hundred-and-fifty people, no one from work.” We should all be so discreet about our nuptials. All hail Sue, Queen of the White House, and of my heart.  
  • Catherine refers to her grandma’s house as, “well, my house.” Catherine is a nightmare who will inherit the Earth/nation.
  • “Maybe I can pardon a car with a defective airbag, we can wrap up Michigan.”
  • I won’t rewrite it here because I wouldn’t do it justice, but that whole riff wherein Selina learns her procedure is called “debagging” and Gary talks about how “tea-bagging” is his job is just … it’s a lot, but it works.
  • Tom, assuring Dan that he will be a benevolent overlord: “I try not to act like an alcoholic father who just stepped on a Lego.”
  • Of course Gary got a degree in hotel management from Cornell.
  • Ben: “We need to shut this down like a fucking public school for the arts.”
  • Jonah: “I had all my adult teeth by age four.”
  • Jonah: “Ice Bucket Challenge can suck my dick.” Richard: “Well, it did raise awareness for whatever ALS is.”
  • Selina looks great in the aviators. Very Joe Biden.

Insult of the Episode:

Selina pointing to her post-op nightmare clown eyes and saying, “This is the new face of the administration!” She doesn’t realize it’s an insult, but still.

As for intentional insults, I’ll take Selina making calls to members of Congress: “Is he the one with a prostitute problem? Never mind, they all have that.”

Compliment of the Episode:

Jonah, describing himself: “I’m a MRSA infection. You don’t get rid of Jonah Ryan!”

Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As:

The future congressman from New Hampshire? Oh God.

Veep Recap: A Surgical Strike