Most of the time, Veep lets us relish the vicious, scheming, shallow, self-loathing yet arrogant insult machine that is Selina Meyer. We don’t have to worry, too much or too often, about what kind of childhood could have produced this sad, deeply insecure, attention-craving woman, someone who married a philandering grifter, employs people for whom she has nothing but disdain, and parents her daughter like her goal is to produce the millennial generation’s answer to the Unabomber.
Last season, we started to see the root of Selina’s cruelty and dysfunction when her mother died. (So nonexistent was Meemaw’s devotion to her only child that she left exactly none of her fortune to Selina and gave it all to Catherine.) Selina has a way of realizing the failings of her parents — and the ways in which those failings left her damaged — just by describing their behavior out loud, like when she said her mother would want her nails done in death because “Mother loves her hands. She always wore dish-washing gloves when she gave me my bath … which is why I don’t do dishes. I just realized that.”
Selina has always clung to the idea of her father as this wonderful, darling man who adored her, a fellow victim of Meemaw’s heartlessness who tragically died before he could see his daughter ascend to the presidency. So it is a REAL downer for Selina — at a time when she cannot exactly stomach yet another downer — to find out that her dad was a run-of-the-mill dirt bag who literally died while screwing his secretary.
But let’s backtrack: Selina is even edgier and meaner than usual, which Amy realizes is because she’s in a post-heart-attack depression. Apparently it’s a not-unusual occurrence, because the human body is a miracle but also a monster, and why not inflict some psychological suffering on top of a physical trauma? National Volunteer Day seems to bother Selina more than it should — “God almighty, I wish I’d been assassinated in office. Although with my luck, I’d be then crippled for life, sitting in a wheelchair, in my reading room with my name on a thing” — as does the prospect of lunch: “I hate every food, ever, from everywhere.” (Richard: “Have you tried ice cream?”)
Once she discovers her wax figure at Madame Tussauds is stuck next to Gerald Ford — “Is this the Hall of Half-Term Wonders?” — she totally spins out. “GET THEM TO MOVE ME NEXT TO LINCOLN.” (Of course no matter where Selina is in the museum, guests take photos pretending to be having sex with her, because being a woman is amazing.) When Amy, who did not learn from how quickly she got shut down last week for suggesting Selina might have menopause, assures Selina that this is an expected depression, Selina replies that she is not depressed, thank you very much: “I just feel like I’m in a thick, dark fog and everyone disappoints me and nothing works out and what’s the point of anything anyway.”
Some great foreshadowing follows, as Mike says of his time in therapy: “I cried so hard I threw up, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done.” By the end of this episode, Selina will have a total sobfest-meltdown and Mike will vomit, and it will probably be one of the best things Selina has ever done.
It’s a small moment, but I love when, as she’s walking away from this shitty conversation, Selina just chucks her bag and coat on the ground: “I’ll tell you what else, I’m not gonna carry that.”
At least Selina’s depression turns out to be a boon for Mike’s troubled soul: He actually gets her to open up about her life, which, what do you know, finally provides him with material for his book. Who knows if Mike is intelligent enough to write down all this juicy stuff, seeing as he doesn’t even realize Selina is talking about him when she says, “We just hired the least fuckable press secretary we could find.” (“Oh, that’s right when I started working with you!” Jesus, Mike.) But he does manage to go what seems like a full 12 hours in Selina’s good graces. He slumber-parties with her at the brownstone — much to Gary’s horror — and learns about the doomed horse of the episode’s title, Chicklet. The horse was a gift to Selina from her dad, who told her, “Squirrel, you’re an intense little girl, and now you finally have a friend.”
We know as soon as Selina drops a telling detail — that the night her daddy died, his secretary “came banging on the door at 2 a.m.” — that the door wasn’t the only thing this secretary was banging (… sorry), but it takes Selina a bit longer to figure out her father was a fraud. When Mike attempts to point out that these stories about Daddy Meyer are a little alarming, Selina flips out: “My daddy was a very good family man! He was charismatic, he was gregarious, he was somewhat peculiar, but all interesting people are.”
Eventually, these two temporary besties take a field trip to Uncle George’s house and it all comes tumbling out: Barbara the secretary was just one of Mr. Meyers’s mistresses; also, she’s the one who bought all the snow globes; also there was no trip to Cuba; also Daddy sold Chicklet “to get the IRS off his back”; also he converted the barn so he wouldn’t have to go to seedy motels; also, Mike notes, “Uncle George sounded pretty sweet on Meemaw”; and that is enough for Selina. It is time to get trashed and trash in return.
I know no one reading these recaps needs to be reminded that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a national treasure, to the point where amateur cryptologist Nicolas Cage is probably looking for her house using a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence right now. But every single thing about this barn-destruction scene is so good, from Selina’s bittersweet memory of hiding under her dad’s desk after he died “because I was so petite and pretty,” to her rage-yelling, “HE WAS A CHEATER AND A LIAR, HE WAS A HORSE THIEF,” to wrecking the place, to drunk-driving her car right through the wall, to gently offering her security detail that ceramic pen holder. “I made this at camp!” (I also enjoyed Mike’s self-loathing shouts: “I’M A GROWN MAN, I SHOULDN’T EAT WHEN I’M FULL.”)
Anyway, Selina has an epiphany that may or may not last until the morning: “This is the book! This is the story of the gifted girl who triumphed over her parents’ toxic marriage to become an American icon!” Her eyes are wild. “Don’t you see I had no choice but to go into politics and be extraordinary and a sex symbol! And you’re gonna write it!” Mike vomits immediately.
Back off the ranch, Jonah finds love at a fundraiser with Sherman Tanz’s daughter. Though they don’t exactly hit it off at first, because Jonah (understandably!) can’t tell which Tanz-adjacent woman is his wife and which is his daughter — after Shawnee, the daughter, snaps at him, Jonah says to Tanz, “I see why you married the other one” — he eventually charms her with a monologue about his ability to overcome adversity. Yes, charms.
After Jonah gets Shawnee back to his place, which is his office and not because he lives with him mom (“She wishes”), she wastes zero time making over Jonah in her ideal image by (1) donating most of his suits to a charity for rescued circus giraffes, (2) giving him a bow tie like a small-town grocer, (3) taking away his glasses because they make him look smart, and most crucially, (4) telling him how to vote with no regard for Kent and Ben’s counsel.
This recap is running way long so I’m going to trust you all are worshiping at the altar of genius/goddess Jane (who is leaking the rumors about her relationship with Dan to “Page Six” so she can stay on the better side of the grandma-to-fuckable spectrum), and also that you thoroughly enjoyed discovering that Richard, Catherine, and Marjorie’s second-choice donor, has never masturbated before — I’m sorry, I mean, he’s never “shook the devil’s hand” and doesn’t totally know how to “self-husband.” Hope he doesn’t go to hell like Grandma Splett said he would!
A Few Other Things …
• I want to know who from the Veep writers’ room has a vendetta against American University, which, as Selina says, “Sounds like a made-up college in Egypt,” but alas is the only school interested in accepting her archives. Later, it’s the source of Jane’s disdain for some bright young thing who wants to take her spot on CBS This Morning: “I will be replaced by two tits with a degree from American University.”
• If Selina knew she had to throw on that T-shirt for volunteer day, why did she wear that form-fitting short dress and heels? I know Veep exists in a world without Michelle Obama (… oh my God, can you imagine how awful that would be?! No wonder everyone is so pissed all the time), so maybe Selina doesn’t have a role model for age- and status-appropriate athleisure.
• Selina, upon learning Catherine has been in therapy since the age of 13: “Well, what you really needed was a dermatologist.”
• Gary, disgusted by Mike’s request for sausage patties: “What is this, Yonkers?”
• Selina’s vomit-sound impression of Mike’s voice is honestly spot-on.
• Amy bragging about how she relocated Selina’s wax figure to a bench next to FDR: “Zero anal access. How’s that for a new deal?”
• As I said last week, I would like to be Jane when I grow up: “I know we’re not actually fucking because you’re not a billionaire and I don’t want to catch anything.”
• Jonah continues his alarming pattern of saying things I totally agree with by telling Shawnee that “D.C. rents are insane” as an explanation for why he lives in his office.
• Kent, offering Jonah a color-coded chart to help him keep his information straight: “I’ve become close with a woman at Kinko’s who makes educational materials for preschoolers.”
Insult of the Episode
Selina, in response to Amy’s assurance that her dad went through a depression after his heart attack too: “Trust me, Amy, it was not the heart attack that depressed your dad.”
Compliment of the Episode
Amy, to Dan, re: him and Jane, “You are my mom’s favorite couple.”
Also Jonah, talking about himself: “Puberty at 19? When it hit, it hit like a fucking thunderbolt.”
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As:
A giant barbecue fork, h/t Ben.