Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer.
Selina Meyer’s dreams just get smaller and smaller each day. Once, she dreamed of the Oval. (She lived that dream for a hot second, and it turned out to be about 98 percent nightmare.) In last week’s episode, she dreamed she could reclaim the office of the president. Now, she’s significantly lowered those expectations: Fine, she doesn’t need the presidency. But what does a woman have to do to get a presidential library? And even those dreams diminish by the episode’s end. She’s going to have a much harder time getting this “goddamn, look-at-the-size-of-my-dick, bring-history-to-life presidential library” than she thought.
This whole idea takes shape while Selina is touring the Stuart Hughes Presidential Library and Museum. She’s climbed over the protective wall to sit behind his desk, because why wouldn’t she do that? Veep usually gets all the love for its rapid-fire profanity, and rightly so, but this is a perfect bit of mostly wordless physical comedy: As Hughes approaches, Selina tries to hoist herself back over the wall and gets stuck, feet in the air and head hovering above the ground, until Gary rescues her and plops her on her (cute!) high heels just as the other ex-president strolls past. I also love the quiet moment of Selina sitting at the desk that opens the episode. With zero context, that scene could be from anywhere: a flashback, a dream sequence, the real Oval Office.
(Sidebar: I know Veep takes place in alterna-America where it appears there’s never been an Obama presidency. All the former presidents we’ve seen are white guys, including Hughes — and this is the first time we’re actually seeing President Hughes, right? In the Veep universe, have there only been white presidents?)
Selina casually floats the idea of a presidential library to ex-POTUS Hughes, who very rudely asks if she can even have one. “Seems like it’d be more of a bookmobile.” Selina’s reply: “Oh my goodness, you’re so funny! If only the American people could have known you for your sense of humor instead of your bizarre indifference to apartheid.” Then Selina gets excluded from a photo op of former presidents in front of Air Force One alongside President Montez; she gets stuck smiling with the first ladies sans Mrs. Hughes, who, as Selina so kindly suggests, “is probably hanging from the rafters somewhere.” I love that Selina can never be totally sure why she is treated as a second-class president: Is it the circumstances of her ascent to office, the brevity of her term, the fact that she’s a woman, or just generic, petty political bullshit?
Soon enough, Selina announces her plan to Andrew, Richard, and Gary, clapping along with the words, “SELINA MEYER BELONGS IN AN INSTITUTION,” which, yeah, I mean, she might? (Also: She was in one already. You know, her “spa” trip.) This brings us to a tiny moment that is my absolute favorite of the episode, even though it is only two words: Gary’s vision of the wing of the library dedicated to her outfits. Just the way he gestures as he says, “Dresses, belts!” I die.
Maybe a female architect, Richard suggests? Ugh, no. “We’re not redoing a kitchen here.” (As Selina once said, “Fundamentally, people hate women.” And no one on Veep hates women more than Selina.) She’d like everyone to use the JFK library as a reference point: “You know, he was also a part-termer.”
She wants the library at Yale, where she went to law school, but those bulldogs emphatically reject her. “Fuck Yale,” Selina says. I am here for that. Also, they asked for a donation — NOT surprised. The only way to get your alma mater to not ask you for money is to traumatize a well-intentioned undergrad who is making those calls as part of some work-study arrangement by telling her that in real life you have taxes and you can’t take econ pass/fail anymore and all your hopes and plans are for NAUGHT and do not call again for 15 years because that’s when you anticipate having some spare change to throw at an institution where you already spent tens of thousands of dollars. What’d they do with all those tuition checks? Roll them up and smoke them in the quad?
Anyway, on to plan B: Smith! (Why did someone who hates women so much attend a women’s college? I have to assume Selina did not get accepted at any of her top choices, Yale probably included.) Who do we find at Smith but Regina Pell (Amy Brenneman), a.k.a. Gigi, a lesbian with whom Selina had a little Chardonnay-fueled experimentation way back when. At first it seems like Selina actually handles the situation really well: The Smith undergrads are angry that Selina pardoned that prison magnate, but she Smith-speaks her way out of it, talking about a “patriarchal phallus quo” and charming these little lefties into cheering for her.
Everything could be fine … except for Andrew. Andrew has been screwing one of Selina’s staffers — an unpaid staffer, as it turns out, so therefore someone who is not beholden to the NDA she signed — and her texts to him are read aloud by one of those cyber-Siri voices. This is all worth it to watch Gary scream and spasm like he’s having a rage seizure: “YOU ARE THE FUCKING DEVIL.” When Selina fires this staffer, the Smith students protest. That woman, they explain, is the real victim here. No justice, no library!
Gigi tells Selina the only way out of this mess is to rehire, as Selina calls her, “Frida Swallow.” No dice. And no, Gigi is not interested in having that glass of Chardonnay anymore.
Meanwhile, over in Jonah-land, I have a confession to make: I think … I agree … with Jonah? With like, a lot of the things he says? I think he makes some [deep breath] not-terrible points?
I know. It shocked me, too. I’m honestly kind of appalled. But if I can’t be real with you — strangers on the internet reading these recaps — what then?
Jonah is trapped on an ethics committee, so no man’s land. In a statement it’s hard to argue with, he insists, “No one in Congress cares about ethics,” and he wants Furlong to get him out of this purgatory. The only way out of ethics is to get into Furlong’s power-broker dinner parties. But the wives run that scene, and Jonah isn’t married so he isn’t invited. Jonah is furious. “Fuck that dated paradigm!” AMEN.
“I am a ballin’ bachelor sexual congressman and I will be passing bills by day and smashing gash by night,” he continues, which, okay, those are not the words I would have used but I think the sentiment is solid. Why should you have to be married to be taken seriously in this country? Plus, it’s not like being married has stopped any of the dirt bags on the Hill from slutting it up all over this town.
Kent and Ben point out that if Jonah doesn’t get married, everyone will think he’s gay. “Goddamn it, I hate homophobia,” Jonah says. Me too! See what I mean? Jonah is talking sense. This one time. Even a broken clock, as they say.
But Jonah is such a horrendous twerp on the dates Kent and Ben set up for him that two of the women pretend to go to the bathroom only to bolt from the restaurant. Date No. 3, which was going pretty well, falls apart when Dan crashes and plays the part of Mr. Steal Your Girl by warning this prospective Mrs. Ryan, “This predator has roofied more women than Kappa Alpha Cosby.”
We’re running way long here, so I’m going to trust all of you remember (in vivid detail!) the fact that Amy leaked the video of Buddy’s opponent’s wife snorting coke and that Buddy, in return, got plastered and indecently exposed himself to a police officer, and that Amy wound up having to play the role of “lobotomy Barbie” to stand by her man, the very thing she had just sworn to never do. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Amy.
• Richard, on Selina’s presidency: “Never forget. Oh, sorry! That’s the Holocaust. Totally forgot.”
• “That sweaty pederast has ruined more kids than the Common Core.”
• Selina, upon learning that people are more interested in her library than they are in adult literacy or AIDS: “Well, I guess AIDS had a good run.”
• Andrew’s got a Pakistani investor who can donate $20 million as long as Selina can get his cousin off the no-fly list. Selina’s take: “As long as he promises not to blow up my library, I don’t really give a shit.”
• Richard was standing still in case he was in the painting!
• How do we feel about Jane referring to Dan’s penis as his “Walter Cronkite”?
• R.I.P., Gary’s gift-wrapping room.
• Mike tells one of his babies to “say bye-bye” to Selina. Selina: “It doesn’t have to say good-bye.”
• Selina sent Catherine to etiquette school, “where you learned to interrupt, evidently.”
• Catherine and Marjorie want a BABY. Oof.
Selina to Gigi, on the Smith women protesters: “I don’t like the word shrill because it’s so misogynistic, but in this case …”
Selina, responding to Gary’s concern that living with Andrew won’t read well with small-town America: “Unlike small-town America, Andrew fucks me in a way that I really enjoy.”
Professor X-Gayvier (h/t Furlong)