Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer.
Selina begins this episode with actual, genuine excitement about something: the unveiling of her official presidential portrait and, more importantly, the oh-so-glowing remarks President Montez will make for the occasion. Selina must have forgotten that the painter of said portrait was, as Mike would say, making love to Andrew, and was already being treated pretty badly by Selina before that fun fact came to light. If I were Selina, I’d be nervous about this whole thing from the get-go. But alas, we cannot crawl into our television screens and advise these characters how and when to manage their expectations. So Selina is all giggly about Montez saying some hilariously untrue thing about shattering glass ceilings, in English, in front of 200 of the most important people in Washington.
Richard would just like to know if Jonah is invited. Selina compliments his sense of humor.
Jonah, naturally, is obsessed with the fact that basically everyone in D.C., except for him, scored an invite to this gathering, which I guess is prestigious because both POTUS and former POTUS will be in attendance, but honestly it sounds sort of boring and not that important. Then again, Jonah has never met a pretty grievance he couldn’t cling to and make into a way bigger deal than necessary. So Jonah will, in time, use this non-invite as his inspiration for shutting down the entire United States government. But more on that in a minute.
First, Selina’s meeting with her editor. While he is so riveted by her tales of her father’s horse-thievery, the book ends when Selina goes off to college. (It sounds like this is her Dreams From My Father, right? People seemed to want to read that! I mean, I didn’t. But like, other people did.) The editor is totally cool with her going in that direction — volume two, of course, being Meyer Ascendant and volume three The Meyer Year — it’s just that, unless she gets some presidential stuff into this particular book, she’ll have to pay back her advance. (Poor Mike, on the brink of poverty and starvation: “There was an advance?”)
It doesn’t take long for Selina to realize the juiciest parts of her presidency — or at least, the parts she can actually remember — revolve around her sex life. (Briefly in contention is Catherine’s sex life, but Selina dismisses that idea: “Does anyone really give a shit about two average-looking lesbians?”) Besides, Selina’s got something better to share with a soon-to-be-shocked America: She had sex with Tom James at the Congressional Ball. Nobody knows about that! Well, except for Gary, but shhh, Selina doesn’t know he knows. (I greatly enjoy watching Gary, throughout the episode, accidentally reveal his knowledge all the details of this tryst because he literally watched it with his own eyes and cannot help himself.)
Selina decides to run this whole idea by Tom at his office, where, in his comically large workplace, she meets someone who seems awfully nice, humbled, and apologetic. TOO NICE, SELINA! RED FLAG. But Selina’s judgment in the man department has never been stellar. Tom reminds Selina that he, too, has a book coming out: Investing With a Conscience. (As Selina puts it: “So, it’s sci-fi?”) Tom is in this thrilling new stage of his life, with a pregnant wife and all, and he begs Selina not to write about their hookup. “I guess I will have to think outside my box,” Selina says, and then she assures Mike that she’ll be writing about it anyway.
At least, she plans to write about it anyway, even promising her editor, “I’ve got a White House book that is hotter than Nancy Reagan’s guide to cocksucking. I’m not kidding. You’re gonna be so pleased.” But alas, Tom wrote about it first. Tom appears on CBS This Morning to chat with Danny Egan about the “explosive revelations” in his book. I wonder where this little erotic sidebar fit in the broader Investing With a Conscience narrative? Anyway, Tom offends Selina in a battery of ways: outing their hookup before she has the chance to capitalize on it, calling her one year his senior, and labeling her the “aggressor” in their encounter. And Selina wrote him such a nice blurb! What a prick.
She’s ready to call off the whole portrait thing and just stay home in her pajamas, but Gary gives her a pep talk. They’re going to use the Jackie crystal service, for one thing, and besides, Selina should be inspired by Jackie’s example: “If Jackie Kennedy can go through the day with her husband’s philandering brains all over her dress with her head held high looking STUNNING … you can go to the White House tomorrow.”
But little does Selina know what’s been happening on the House floor: Jonah has rallied his Jeffersons to vote against raising the debt ceiling, mostly because (1) Jonah is the king of petty; and (2) he doesn’t understand how the debt ceiling works. Okay, yes, none of us understand how the debt ceiling works. (Also, just noticing this now: What’s with all the ceilings in politics? Glass ceilings, debt ceilings, there’s probably some other kind of ceiling that I just can’t come up with this second.) Kent and Ben attempt to reason with the unreasonable Jonah, explaining that these votes will shut down the government. Jonah is unmoved. “When something’s broken, you shut it down and then you turn it back on again,” he replies. “Like with a router.”
Jonah will make EVERYONE pay for the fact that he did not get invited to the portrait unveiling. Does Jonah even know what an unveiling is? “Look, whether I know what an unveiling is or not is not the point.”
This means that, by the time Selina and her crew arrive at the White House, her swanky event has been downgraded to a “Dixie cup shitshow.” I am surprised at how well Selina takes this, but I guess her focus is elsewhere — specifically, on reaming out Tom James. I could watch these kids go toe to toe forever. You know what? Tom probably could, too, because as Selina discovers in the middle of their very heated shut-the-fuck-up fest, Tom was in love with her.
I am so impressed by Selina’s mic drop: “You can have your trophy wife, and your trophy office, and your trophy baby who you won’t even live to see go to college. But I still got to be president, and you never will.” I even wrote in my notes, in all caps: HELL YEAH SELINA, SHUT IT DOWN LIKE YOU’RE JONAH SHUTTING DOWN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.
But then Selina doubles back. She needs to call Tom out on his feelings, on being “too much of a pussy to go for my pussy.” In her effort to get Tom to confess to his love, she also gets quite a lot off her chest: She admits flat out that she was in “a loony bin” where she thought of him constantly, and that she’s been crushing on him since their Senate days. Unfortunately for all of us, this emotional outburst is cut short by the entrance of Elithia, Tom’s wife. She does not look a year older than Tom.
Montez’s speech — a.k.a. the thing that really got Selina to show up here in the first place — ends up not happening, because Montez has to rush back to the Oval and deal with the shutdown. The portrait not only shows Selina wearing a different dress than she wore while posing, but also features the chair in which the artist and Andrew had sex. Also, it doesn’t exactly make Selina’s neck look spectacular. “I have pardoned turkeys with fewer waddles.”
Selina gets onstage and gives an abbreviated, surprisingly honest, borderline nihilist speech: “Maybe in 100 years, all that anyone will remember is that you have your portrait hanging on a wall in the White House.” That is, if anyone remembers the Meyer year at all.
Meanwhile, Dan is having some workplace problems of his own: Even though he’s actually having sex with Brie, their onscreen chemistry is nonexistent. Dan is scandalized because he’s “never not had chemistry with a woman,” and Brie, who is engaged to a Yankee, cannot lose this job before her wedding. The network note is: “Maybe you two should fuck differently then.” Dan responds to this criticism by being gross about Brie’s ability to “fill out a bikini” right before his new sign-off about how every day starts with morning.
And so, Veep continues to provide us with a taxonomy of all the fun and different ways men can be disgusting.
• Jonah, to Shaunee, learning about Judaism: “This stupid hat is too small for my head.” “Yarmulke.” “Fine, this stupid hat is too small for my yarmulke.”
• I love that Jonah’s first concern re: Judaism and heaven is: “How am I going to see my dog again? Is there, like, a Jew place for dogs?”
• Selina, in response to Mike’s claim that some things are so dull you have to block them out: “No kidding. I’m sure I played with Catherine when she was a child, but for the life of me I can’t remember.”
• Catherine doesn’t want to find out the sex of her baby, so of course Kent can tell just from looking at her belly that it’s a boy.
• Selina, reacting to Marjorie’s pronoun soup: “Is that how we’re talking now, Marjorie? Like some bi-curious Porky Pig?”
• New life goal: Find a way to make sure the line “despite evidence of cocaine and reckless boating” winds up in a news story about me.
• Selina, about her struggle: “This is like Black History Month. It never fucking ends!”
• Amy really wants to work for Furlong? Oof.
• “Underage Muslim brides are less traumatized at their unveiling,” says Selina. Gary agrees: “And they don’t have to drink Coke Zero.”
• While ranting about everything he wants shut down, Jonah gives a special shout-out to the national parks, which he closed “so your parents will have to take you someplace cool on vacation, like Disneyland, or Cancun, or Mexico!”
Selina, to Tom, after seeing and learning the name of his wife: “Elithia? Is that her name or is that the pill you take to fuck her?”
Gary, to Selina: “Nobody since Jackie has given as much for her country as you.”
Selina, about Montez: “Oh wow, she looks awesome. I’d give my left tit for those tits.”
“Like Herman Munster’s brother who liked to molest that pudgy werewolf kid.”