Selina Meyer, master of diplomacy, has found a surprising and not not problematic ally in her quest to regain the White House. No, it’s not college-educated whites—per Kent, they aren’t “a big enough slice of the pie” in South Carolina to matter. It’s not black voters, who are not impressed by “the blackest white woman” a certain civil-rights leader ever met. And while Selina has every intention of charming non-college-educated whites, she just doesn’t have it in her to tell a packed Southern Baptist church that, while it’s very sad an 8-year-old boy was fatally shot by a cop who thought the kid’s candy bar was a gun, The Real Victims Here are the police. Selina certainly can’t count on Tom James’s endorsement, which surprises her and I guess also catches her staff off guard, but like: GUYS. Come on. Tom James?! Tom James will screw you and then he will screw you. That’s his signature move!
No, the only friend Selina has in this nightmare world is China, which sent Selina a message via Mike, the world’s worst messenger — host of McClinTALK on BuzzFeed live! — that, should she pledge to recognize Chinese ownership over a contested smattering of islands (about which Selina knows nothing because, ugh, they don’t even have a Four Seasons there), it’ll interfere on her behalf. Naturally this is no good because America is still a democracy-ish. (Kent: “-esque.”) But as seems to happen in Selina-land, one impulse and misguided idea has now gained too much momentum to be stopped, so Selina is manning up all across this big, beautiful country and the Chinese are helping her do it.
Let’s back up: Selina wins the New Hampshire primary. In a perfect bit of staging, her new slogan is behind her and the bottom half is hidden by a crowd, so it’s just Selina at the podium standing in front of the word MAN in bigger-than-Selina font. Balloons fail to fall because that was Amy’s job. But other than that, all is going better than ever for the Meyer campaign. Her new shtick, which is the oldest shtick in the books — misogyny — is connecting with every quadrant. Selina gets it: “It’s universal: Men hate women, women hate themselves.”
Like many a dopey white candidate before her, Selina is convinced that all black people love her because one black person told her so. Ben reminds her that she is running against an actual black person this time around. The son of the civil-rights leader Selina had such a strong flirting rapport with is the always-welcome Keegan-Michael Key, who tells Selina his endorsement is just not available now that “we’ve got race in the race.” I lost it over JLD’s fake-cheery delivery of “Progress!” while doing the saddest little raise-the-roof gesture. (And I loved the callback to it when, upon hearing about record African-American voter turnout, she tossed off this simpering little “inspiring.”)
Anyway, clearly it’s not worth it to Lion King Little Richard all over this church. Time for a new strategy, which, like sexism, is really one of the oldest strategies of all: courting white people who hate black people. They need a dog whistle, not a dog whisperer (charter schools? Step up, Dan!) or a dog chainsaw. At this point, Selina gets her message-in-a-Mike, which he picked up while trying to adopt a second child who, he hopes, will not have such unabashed disdain for him. It’s all very who’s-on-first with Selina asking Mike and Kent, “Can’t we not not do the thing that we’re not talking about?” Mike, who is pretty sure his wife his Korean, says trusting the Chinese is a bad idea.
Speaking of people Selina shouldn’t trust, Tom James swings by to make a play for secretary of State in a Meyer administration. She won’t commit, but she still has sex with him because of course she does. The next day, Tom calls a presser to say he is pulling out of the race but can’t endorse anyone just yet. Things are getting DESPERATE. Selina will not cede South Carolina to Kemi. This is where she gets the, ah, bold idea to give a speech defending local law enforcement to the Southern Baptist church. “You want to blow a dog whistle in a black church?” Dan says. “That’s like blowing a rape whistle while you’re raping someone.”
Selina does her best Kate Middleton cosplay — that hat lol — and, faced with this huge crowd of black churchgoers, wilts under the pressure and instead calls for an end to the polic … ing! Of the South China Sea! By the Americans! That’s right, she went there. And, tiny problem on top of a much bigger problem-waiting-to-happen: Keith Quinn, the accidental campaign manager, speaks Mandarin and knows exactly what Selina is doing. On the bright side, Selina wins South Carolina and the balloons actually fall this time! To reward Dan for this stunning achievement, Selina has sex with him (!) and then, like, immediately fires him (!!). Between that and not being young enough to get Felix the billionaire’s attention, it feels like this is a real rough season for Dan’s self-esteem.
Amid all this, it’s time for some campaign shake-ups! After 18 years on the job, Gary is ready for more responsibility. Selina asks what he (ahem, his mother) was thinking, and Gary is like, “I thought everybody kind of did the same thing,” which is fair! He gets faith-based outreach and his primary contributions there are this one video we never see, plus having bagels flown into Charleston from New York (great use of campaign funds). Meanwhile, Marjorie steps into Gary’s old role, and while Selina is put off by this initially — “You can’t just replace Gary with another lesbian and think that I’m not going to notice” — she quickly learns that Marjorie is better than Gary at, basically, all but one part of the job: sycophancy. Naturally Marjorie lasts all of three days before Gary gets his job back. (Marjorie screws up on purpose because Catherine wanted her to. True love!)
Over in Jonahland, it’s looking like it is time to take the campaign “to the electoral scrapyard and sell your endorsement for parts,” Amy says. Jonah, alas, can’t even get that part right. (He tells Selina he wants “Department of the Exterior.” Amy corrects him: “Interior.” “Amy, we’re going to negotiate against ourselves now?”)
Jonah meets with Sherman Tanz and discovers, to his horror, that no one ever really thought he could be president. He was just a pawn in Sherman’s efforts to win over enough delegates to get some stricter marijuana laws on the books, so that the atmosphere in his private prisons could be a little less murder-y. Jonah also just discovered that math was not “a plot invented by the Chinese to make smart Americans feel dumb” but was in fact an Islamic invention. So he explodes.
“MATH TEACHERS ARE TERRORISTS,” he shouts at a rally. “Algebra? More like Al-Jazeera!” He starts a chant of NO MORE MATH and reams out his whole campaign staff. Everyone bails except Amy, who has what honestly looks like a dark religious awakening. Remember a few episodes back when she said she’d want to be president so she could “nuke America”? Looks like she figured out the next best (worst?) thing: She goes full Kellyanne Conway, getting all glammed up to tell CNN that “Jonah Ryan is the only candidate who is honest about his dishonesty” and interrupt cogent points with a petulant, “That’s your opinion.”
As usual, the only person who’s doing really well is Richard, hero of Lurlene. So proud of you for saving all those people when that cropduster crashed into a 7-Eleven! Good to know FEMA is sending in emergency rations of cigarettes.
A Few Other Things…
• Selina, asking Gary to make her a waxing appointment, “I’m feeling patriotic.” Gary knows the code: “Full bald eagle.”
• Marjorie learned to make tea from an Afghan warlord. Selina would love to hire him for the campaign, but alas, “You killed him in a drone strike.”
• Selina, looking at the coloring on the anti-Kemi flyer: “I’m so black, people are going to start calling me articulate.”
• Selina couldn’t promise Tom James secretary of State because “there is no way I would appoint anyone competent to anything in my Cabinet.”
• “I’ll tell you what: If we lose, it won’t be for lack of touching people in a Denny’s.”
• Jonah’s mom is remarrying his stepdad-in-law!
Insult of the Episode
Veep’s collective (and correct) knock on CNN. After saying that Jonah Ryan’s campaign is dangerous, toxic, violent, and divisive, a quick pivot to promising to cover Jonah’s rally live, exclusively on CNN.
Compliment of the Episode
Gary, getting his job back by answering Selina’s question about whether her eyes look puffy: “I’m surprised they let you run for president, because you look 34, tops.”
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As
“A human pool-skimmer last used to despunk a Provincetown hot-tub party.” Great to see you too, Uncle Jeff.