Veep Season 4 Episode 2 Review: “East Wing”

Veep

On the heels of the speech disaster showcased in Veep‘s Season 4 premiere, where the new POTUS and former VP couldn’t make a stand regarding her legacy and instead announced ex-president’s Hughes’ plan, now the stakes are even greater. Selina needs to accomplish something big that would put the spotlight on who she is and what her term will represent, which is also vital for her ongoing presidential campaign.

As much as she and her team try, the new commander in chief is now being greeted and half-mocked for lasting 33 days in office, an event no one thought plausible. Because Selina Meyer is constantly being out-shined by her predecessors, the media asks Mike during a press conference in regards of how the president feels by outlasting America’s shortest-serving president, William Henry Harrison. The comparison does not sit well with her, of course. In addition, Mike’s ill-timed decision to change his looks by dying his mustache “tangerine dream” makes him and everything he represents a caricature.

In the meantime, while Selina prepares for her state visit with the Israeli prime minister, she voices her dislike towards a painting in the room. In an attempt to get rid of Gary, who, this season, seems to be in her way, Selina tasks him to make sure the state dinner looks nice and proceeds with her staff meeting. That action propels two key events: first, the president’s minion, who has been feeling sidelined takes his assignment to heart, which snowballs later on, and second, Amy’s absence from the meeting becomes more prominent. As if the threat of Ericsson tuning for her position wasn’t enough, the campaign manager is stuck in the Beltway with her bubbly, yet annoying assistant, Richard.

“East Wing” does a good job at showing that not only Selina feels the pressure to perform with excellence, every single member of her team shares that burden in different ways. In Amy’s case, in particular, she is frustrated to be out of the meeting, and even though she attempts to be there virtually, she ends up making matters worse because the communication breaks down (which is hilarious) and also because she learns that way that the former VP wants Ericsson to be part of her entourage.

At the Amy-less campaign meeting, Kent lets Selina know that her daughter Catherine’s approval rating is low. According to her likability index, her popularity is on the rocks, which is a potential hazard to the campaign. Then and there, Selina decides that her daughter is in dire need of image rehab, and instead of calling Olivia Pope, Kent is the one in charge of handling the situation. 

Still trying to show how valuable a team-player he is, Gary has prepared a surprise for the former VP; it’s a cake to celebrate ”Harrison Day.” However, his good intentions are shut down by Selina, by accident, as she expresses how frustrating it is that people keep bringing up that she has been in office longer than a dead guy. Once again, the sense that she has to prove who she is is palpable.

In the meantime, Bill Ericsson crashes the party, causing Amy’s insecurities to explode. The two have a brief, yet funny and tense encounter in the hallway, where Gary, who claims he wants to say a “friendly hello in an unfriendly way” to her, lets the campaign manager know that he is now a team Meyer player, since Selina has made him him the new Director of Communications. Ericsson has officially infiltrated Amy’s territory; now he is lurking, and he is excellent at doing that.

Meanwhile, Gary and the personnel in charge of decorating the White House for the state dinner are working full throttle. He is going over board with his demands and seems possessed by one Martha Stewart when he takes matters into his own hands and removes the painting Selina disliked. Then he instructs Patty, the White House’s Social Secretary (played by the comedy virtuosa Michaela Watkins), how he wants things executed. Patty looks wary, but she follows his command.

As Selina  and the Israeli PM assemble to discuss the broad subject of “peace,” they face an interruption, as it turns out the painting that was removed was the only work of art displayed in the White House made by a Native American. The piece being taken down is now wreaking havoc as the Native American community is taking the action as a presidential statement and a diss. How that small, seemingly insubstantial and benign element begins to threaten bigger matters is a terrific call made by the writers, who episode after episode show how strong Veep is at demonstrating just how difficult Selina’s job is. Comedy is exploited at its fullest in Veep, where yes, as the tagline states, “This land is her land.”  However, everything in it could be destroyed by innocuous mistakes.

Later on, Catherine is summoned by Ken, who sheds some light about Americans not liking the First Daughter. Blunt as always, Ken doesn’t break the news gently, and his approach is more tough-love-ish, as he straight-up tells her “America doesn’t like you.” Ken’s words cause Catherine to break down and feel like she is back in high school, although she is assured that the situation is much worse.  Since it is clear that something has to be done for her to be liked, Kent says that military service and childbirth are the go-to popularity boosters, which is hilarious, albeit terrifying. However, those options are disregarded by Catherine.

Meanwhile, Jonah, who keeps being sexually harassed, is tasked to accompany Dan when he meets with different senators to discuss the “Families First” bill. The un-dynamic duo brings the laughter by talking too much and not knowing the document in its entirety. At the same time, Jonah tries to pull a bait and switch move on both representatives they gather with by making up events of their liking (a bowling party and a bogus Scorsese film premiere) at the White House. 

Back at the meeting with the Israeli representatives, the subject of the painting compromises the discussion at hand.  The prime minister mocks the Native American snuffle and makes a point at saying that the founders got rid of the Native American tribe when they took their territory. Selina is in deep trouble and announces that she wants more Native American art in the White House Additionally, she has Mike hold a press conference where he says that the now controversial piece of art was removed to be cleaned. However, the media members don’t buy what he is selling. The official communication event ends in disaster and Ericsson notices. One can practically read his mental notes by his expression.

While everything seems to be falling apart, Amy still doesn’t have an office and she is at a breaking point regarding her feelings towards Richard, when Dan surprisingly saves the day and kills two birds with one stone. He assigns Richard to be Jonah’s assistant, which makes everyone happy, not to mention that Jonah’s cynicism and goofiness are perfectly matched by Richard’s enthusiasm.

When Patty shows Bill and Ben the obscene amount of money that Gary has designated towards the state dinner, everyone loses it. The image problem with the painting removal and Catherine’s low numbers are already critical issues; overspending while Selina is looking for money towards the “Families First” bill shows a huge crack in her plan and a problem with her administration skills.

Gary’s spender bender and his initiative to take down the painting are dangerously overshadowing the peace deal with Israel. Selina, naturally, resents that fact. She is finally accomplishing important things, but still, her own team is bringing her down. As a result, when she addresses the state dinner attendees, she mentions concepts such as hatred, hope, and trust. She stares at Gary while speaking, and he understands her message.

After the speech, Gary hides and Selina chases him. His office looks like a mini “Michael’s,” which infuriates the president even more. The situation has obviously gotten out of control and causes America’s leader to lose her temper and yell at the man who has always had her back. First, she calls him “Gary Antoinette” (I bowed at that) and then claims he is an unimportant figure. After feeling hurt by being diminished by Selina, Gary blows out as well and proves his boss that he is more than relevant. He is her Google, her calendar, her friend. It is easy to agree with him. Selina is brought back to her senses by the facts Gary shouted at her and apologizes, then she sees the “Harrison’s Day” cake and takes a piece. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that scene between Gary and the Selina was the best thing this season of Veep has given the audience this far, and that is saying a lot. Selina and Gary are a beautiful disaster together, and their interactions have been capital to the show.

The episode’s tag in comprised by Selina showing more Native American art displayed at the White House to a group of American Indians. Meanwhile, Catherine is performing image-rehab tasks, while doing so, she embodies her mother to a T. Not only because what she is doing is trivial and exclusively for the photo ops but also because she acts like Selina. She makes random comments, strange faces, and looks awkward.

The second episode of Veep Season 4 brought the laughter. Needless to say, there was excellence exuded from every front. Veep has always been a solid show with a clear identity. Unlike Selina’s term, the audience knows that the HBO show has standards, a path, and all the necessary elements to deliver exceptionally conceived and executed installments. If I could marry a show, it would be this one.

Highlights:

– “Amy is ‘a latte.'” Do I need to say more?

– Selina and her daughter working on the latter’s  “foto face.”

– The way Jim is told he has been fired and replaced by Ericsson was genius. A show that can get rid of a character without making a fuzz and bringing the laugher is a series that can show they mean business.

[Photo via HBO]

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