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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Veep: “Clovis”

Illustration for article titled Veep: “Clovis”
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Four episodes in, Veep is having one hell of a third season. The structure provided by Selina’s presidential bid has focused the series, adding urgency and stakes that were sorely lacking in much of seasons one and two. With her candidacy now out in the open, the Vice President can start campaigning in earnest—and this process should provide plenty of comedic fodder thanks to, among other things, increased interaction with the public. “Clovis” does not disappoint on this front, using yet another awkward meet-and-greet to spark much of the action of the episode.

Selina’s always been out of touch with her constituency, but her privilege is particularly prominent this week as she scoffs at $500,000 to (recently destitute) Mike and reveals that she and her ex-husband became millionaires in their thirties. Her disconnect from the employees of Clovis, the Google-like Silicon Valley firm Selina tours this week, is palpable, as is her frustration with CEO Craig (no, Craig)’s entitlement. Hypocrisy is a favorite topic for creator (and director this week) Armando Iannucci, and the non-political, post-tax Craig (and by extension, Clovis) is another fun addition to Veep’s stable of horrible people.

The difference this week is that for once, without stripping Selina of her self-involvement or general terribleness, the show seems to be on her side. Craig’s use of “Selina” rather than “Madame Vice President” rankles each time, and Melissa looks absolutely miserable surrounded by ping pong tables and Legos. No wonder she tries to woo Amy with an enormous paycheck; she’s desperate to have another adult around. That’s where the discrepancy lies: Our leads may not be that different from the coddled man-children of Clovis, but least they’re trying to be adults, no matter how unsuccessfully.

On that less successful end of the maturity spectrum is the continued sparring of Amy and Dan, who are vying to be Selina’s campaign manager. This week, neither proves to be up to the task, though Dan does walk away with an edge over Amy. His handling of Jonah is another delightful exercise in schadenfreude, but by the end of the episode, Dan remains unaware of his blatant manipulation by Ben. He clearly has a lot to learn. On the other hand, Amy can’t even solve a simple meet-and-greet tangle, so it’s hard to root for her to get the job. Melissa notably doesn’t work out their mutually beneficial, nefarious deal with Amy—instead, she does so with Kent. With the series so forcefully presenting an Amy vs. Dan narrative, it seems inevitable that this will turn out to be a false dichotomy, and Ben, Kent, or someone new will wind up as Selina’s campaign manager.

The other main continuing thread this week is the evolution of Gary’s role on the team. His desire a couple weeks ago to leave the bag behind may have been prescient: He’s in significant pain, and it’s hilarious. Tony Hale is at his Buster-like best this week, unable to carry Selina’s bag, a Clovis gift box, or most entertainingly, a baby. This looks to be part of a larger arc for the character, who hasn’t been significantly useful all season. His attempts to be an idea man proved unsuccessful, to say the least, and now he can’t even carry the bag, pulling the wheel-less rollaway behind him. It’s hard to see this ending well, but perhaps that’s a good sign—Mike went through the wringer in season two and was rewarded in season three with a loving, fulfilling relationship and home life. It’s hard to imagine what a happily ever after for Gary would entail, but if he can survive season three, it may just be waiting for him in season four.

Selina’s campaign has brought energy and vitality to everyone on Veep and, as those familiar with the American political system are well aware, the road to Election Night is a long and arduous one. If the show can maintain this level for the rest of the process, we’re in for one hell of a season.


Stray observations:

  • “I love Silicon Valley!” So do we, Selina. Tim Baltz and Mary Grill are a blast as Craig and Melissa, and it’s fun to think of them as alternate future versions of Silicon Valley’s Richard, if Pied Piper hit it big and went to his head, and Monica, if dealing with Peter Gregory’s quirks started to do long-term damage to her nerves.
  • It’s entertaining to imagine Melissa slowly going insane at Clovis. Is she just now reaching her limit, or has Clovis long been a horrific totalitarian regime under a façade of free milkshakes and graffiti walls?
  • It’s notable that Selina brings up child care, which does seem to be an issue she legitimately cares about (nice to have one of those kicking around).
  • The parodies are on point. The Smartch is just the right blend of innovative and useless and Meat Meyer and Meating Meyer are both fantastic, far more successful than the SNL sketch from last week.
  • Tony Hale isn’t the only one who knocks the physical comedy out of the park this week: Timothy Simons’ terrified phone toss is wonderful, as is Anna Chlumsky’s episode-ending Muppet-like shuffle.
  • Mike’s cough-and-you-miss-it Logan’s Run reference is greatly appreciated, but the line delivery of the week goes to either Julia Louis-Dreyfus for, “A girl gets tired,” Randall Park for Gov. Chung’s beautifully self-involved outrage, or Timothy Simons for Jonah’s reaction to Clovis’ offer.
  • “I can be cool, sometimes.” Oh, Melissa. No, you can’t, and that’s okay.