When Gary and Selina had their his-and-hers heart attacks, Selina reminded Gary that he had so much to live for. He had a birthday! His 40th birthday, which is definitely something Selina knew about and was referencing on purpose! Gary wanted to throw a real big party down in Alabama, and should he survive this harrowing episode, could he expect Selina to be there? Under her breath, as though she were choking on the words as they left her lips, Selina said, “Yes.”
We’ve all been coerced into RSVPing yes when what we are feeling, deep down, is absolutely not. So we start this episode in Selina’s corner. “Is anyone as shocked as I am that I’m doing this?” she asks her assembled pack of minions, as she gets out of the car in White City, Alabama. Richard’s reply: “Well, I’m usually shocked, so I’m not the best person to ask.”
In My So-Called Life, there’s this great moment when Angela goes over to Rayenne’s place and thinks, “Walking into someone’s house for the first time is like entering another country.” Selina does not belong here (not a surprise), but it’s also telling to see how Gary doesn’t belong here either. He might seem like one of the more hapless members of Selina’s truly helpless entourage — obviously the most useless of the bunch is Mike, by, like, a lot — but he must have been one of the most ambitious people around his hometown to make it all the way to the White House.
Speaking of Mike, he thinks he can write a syndicated humor column for the Washington Post. Does he know what’s been going on in the newspaper industry lately? Nope! He doesn’t even get the print edition anymore. “I just read everything on my phone. It’s so much better, and it’s free.” Thank you, Mike. Also, he uses dialogue as a verb, much like Ivanka uses architect, and the biggest consequence of his meeting with Leon West is that Mike accidentally leaves his diary behind and takes Leon’s apparently identical one instead.
As we learn in Alabama, Selina isn’t the only one who has a deeply disappointing dad. Gary’s family patriarch is a clearly closeted and therefore viciously insecure man who berates his son for all his effeminate traits. Also, Gary is really close with his mom? Like, really close. But seeing as she is the only source of love and support in that house I’m just going to … not.
Oh and also: Gary had a twin brother who was stillborn and his name was Bruce and his parents KEPT HIS HAUNTED EMPTY CRIB in the room where Selina is supposed to sleep?! I know grief affects us all in different ways and no judgment (Judge pun!) but also, what?
Selina responds to this by saying, “No wonder I couldn’t carry the South. None of the research mentioned anything about a dead-son ghost crib.” And then she goes, “I’ll tell you something: If I had a crib for every baby who died inside me, I could open up a Pottery Barn Kids.” YMMV, but I find Selina’s cavalier attitude about her abortions to be one of my favorite things about her dark side. (She is approximately 90 percent dark side.)
Not that Selina got invited with a plus-one to this party — discrimination against single people for formal events is so real, it even hits former presidents, smdh, society is Bachelor-brainwashed garbage — but her fling from a few episodes ago, Mohammad Jaffar, happens to be in town. Selina, per usual, is struggling with library funds and Sherman Tanz will pull out (which doesn’t even work! Ask Selina, she’s had like 37 abortions) if she can’t find more backers. So Jaffar arrives to announce his changed circumstances. His dad died, so that’s good news for their relationship, as is the new imam who is “very chill” about sex and other such blasphemous activities. He happens to know a guy, Cordy, who could be a good library money man. Selina wants Cordy at Gary’s birthday party but she’s not ready to forgive Jaffar, plus she can’t do anything with him in this house: “This whole place is a vortex of sexual confusion.”
Meanwhile, Gary has meticulously planned a swanky, lovely affair; it’s all very Garden & Gun. There’s crystal and it’s a sit-down dinner and Gary has immaculate taste in these matters, so this makes sense. But Selina gets wind that Cordy thinks she’s too much of a snob, so these optics are not ideal. (Selina: “You know I’m technically from the South. Maryland had slaves, it just didn’t secede.”) Soon enough, Selina strong-arms Gary into changing the tone of this entire party — which he is able to do with remarkable speed, considering the scale of this event — and bullies him about standing up to his father. And Gary confides in Selina that he has this childhood story, a loving one he has tenderly held all his life.
So Selina dresses up for this party like some kind of schvitzy Stepford with put-on twang that’s all very Taylor Swift circa 2008. The party has gone in decidedly not Gary’s planned direction — he wanted vegetarian options for Marjorie and Catherine, I’m sure of it — and all of his actual friends are leaving, as they are uncomfortable by the Confederate flag and other such décor. Selina gets up to give a toast … and she steals Gary’s story. It’s a wonder to behold. She does tell it better than he does, fake folksy lines and all: “He just wanted to make his little girl as happy as a hound dog with a horse’s johnson.”
Gary’s face as he sees that Selina is really going to take every last thing about this milestone away from him is wrenching. He is gutted. The betrayal leaves him speechless, and, as usual, Selina is cavalier about the pain her actions have caused. Gary winds up taking his fury about Selina out on the Judge, as he screams about how “I KNOW YOUR SECRET,” but instead of the secret being the Judge’s sexuality, it’s just “YOU’RE A BULLY,” which is not really a secret! But good for you, Gary.
The thing is, Selina actually ends an episode getting what she wants for once! Cordy says he’ll give her money for the library. And after a morning of the silent treatment, Gary is back at her side with wipes for barbecue-sticky fingers and everything. (I expected the fallout between Gary and Selina to last a lot longer than it did, or that she’d face a more severe consequence for straight-up gutting him. Maybe he would even quit? Too bad Gary doesn’t know how to exist without Selina, so I guess there’s nothing she could do that would make him leave her.)
Back in Washington, Jonah is such a big deal now, even though, as Ben puts it, he’s “a freshman congressman who still uses [his] mother’s Netflix password.” I find it honestly so sad that Jonah’s one wish is for Dan to treat him like they’re best friends. Of course he makes some deeply stupid comment about rape to President Montez, with whom he manages to score a private(ish) meeting, and gets awfully close to the deal he wants. She refuses to humor his absurd request to abolish daylight savings time. Ben tells Jonah to take the deal and Jonah responds, in a mature and rational fashion, by firing Ben.
Jonah uses his itty-bitty bit of power to trick Dan into hanging out with him in exchange for an interview, then grants the interview to Jane McCabe instead. (Look, it’s not like Jonah used to fake sick from school to stay home and jerk off to Danny Egan, okay?) But in Jonah’s absence, the Jeffersons — now the Libertonians — enlisted Ben’s newly available services. They reach a deal with Montez and Jonah just goes ballistic. Wonder if his engagement will fall apart now that he’s not quite the hot shot he once was?
A Few Other Things …
• “Do you have any social skills whatsoever?” Selina asks Amy, who is trying to get off dead-end library detail. “We’re in the middle of meeting with what’s-his-ass’s family over here.”
• Brie: “At least while the government shuts down, we won’t have to pay taxes!”
• Catherine and Marjorie are going on a herstorical tour of great southern female writers and where they killed themselves.
• Dan went undercover as a homeless person!
• Ugh, of course Mike flew out of Dulles, the most inconvenient and terrible of D.C.-area airports.
• Richard knows everything there is to know about jug bands. “This band hasn’t played together since the Great Washboard Feud!”
• Jonah loves Melanie Griffith in Working Girl: “Scrappiest underdog in cinematic history.”
• Selina, upon leaving Alabama: “Beat my wife with a frying pan, it’s even hotter out here today.”
Insult of the Episode
It was a quiet one, but I loved Selina’s reaction to Gary yelling that his father’s secret is that he is a bully: “Nah, that’s not it.”
Compliment of the Episode
President Montez to Jonah: “You have accomplished more in one month than most extremely stupid people do in a lifetime.”
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As
The kind of person who shouts, “9/11, bitches! We’re gonna fly two planes into the CLUB.”