Hugh Laurie (HBO)

“Storms And Pancakes” picks up a week or so after “Convention,” with Selina and her new Vice Presidential candidate, Hugh Laurie’s Senator Tom James, hot on the campaign trail. James is proving to be as popular as promised, getting more laughs and bigger cheers at the campaign stops than Selina. “Convention” gave only a brief glimpse of James, but it would appear he’s as affable and sincere as those few scenes indicated. Laurie is good in the role, but it’s hard not to hope a more colorful character lurks within James’ straight-laced exterior. A few quirks have emerged—most notably his penchant for spouting off fun facts, which has started to spread through the Meyer team—but even after spending most of this episode with him, James still feels unexplored. Veep has traditionally been tentative about voicing its characters’ unfiltered opinions on issues and without his team to provide context, it’s hard to know where James stands and what he’s like when not on his best behavior, palling around with the President.

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Meanwhile, Amy is spinning, still bitter towards Selina over her treatment. Mike’s assertions that Amy has, “issues, not problems” aren’t helping and neither is Amy’s inability to let go. Of the various staffers let go from the White House during the series, Amy has by far the hardest time coping. Anna Chlumsky does a fantastic job showing Amy’s frustration and resentment. She may have given Selina a piece of her mind, burning the place down in spectacular fashion on her way out, but that doesn’t give her closure. She needs acknowledgement, confirmation of her importance to the administration and a sign of the respect she feels she was owed, and those are things Amy may never get. Mike’s embarrassment over his treatment of her in the press and Ben’s happiness at her call are a good start, but it will take more for Amy to move on. Watching her do so should be incredibly entertaining and as nice as it is to see Dan so supportive of her at the beginning of the episode, her glee at stealing his clients and desk is even better. Those two have the potential to be great friends, but only if they can stay out of competition with each other—Amy takes too much pleasure sabotaging him for them to peacefully compete.

With fewer guest stars to fit in, Jonah and Richard are given more time this week and both Timothy Simons and Sam Richardson make the most of it. This duo has been extraordinarily reliable throughout the season and this episode is no exception. Jonah’s sexual assault arc continues to pay dividends, giving Simons comedic as well as surprisingly poignant beats to play. His reading of, “I feel like I got felt up again, but this time by the law” blends dark humor with painful and perhaps unintentional truth. Jonah is going for the joke, but can’t quite sell it; following that up with Richardson’s hilarious, “Well, you’re dealing with the emotional fallout-“ is wonderful, a quintessentially Veep moment and just one example of why Richardson’s promotion to series regular was the smartest move of the season.

Back at the White House, Ben is struggling without the hustle and bustle that comes with having the President in town. His awkward attempts to engage Sue are fun, as is the notion of him tying fly fishing lures, but of the various Bens shown this season, Tired Ben far outpaces Bored Ben for laughs. Ericsson—sorry Bill; take two episodes off and you’re back to last name status—is once again notably absent, only appearing silently in one shot, and his seemingly instant demotion from prominent new cast addition to barely recurring guest star is puzzling. If Ericsson is around, why doesn’t Ben harass him? If Ericsson is too busy to humor Ben, why isn’t Ben more busy? The past two episodes’ sidelining of Ericsson are among the season’s biggest missteps and hopefully Diedrich Bader will be back soon, and with a vengeance.

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By the end of the episode, Selina’s on a downswing, having proven herself incompetent at small talk without Gary (a weakness she should have already known about) and once again choosing potential positive press over the needs of the nation. She’s embarrassed herself with James, or at least she believes she has, and as he consoles the lactose intolerant Bernie, even Selina may think James would make a better president than her. Despite James’ popularity, Selina has an uphill climb ahead of her and seeing how the campaign culminates, and whether Amy and Dan find their way back somehow, should make for an exciting final arc for the season.

Stray observations:

  • The Copland-inspired percussion and string scoring used over shots of the Meyer campaign bus is great, capturing the energy of the campaign trail and a sense of Americana. And speaking of the campaign bus, their slogan—Selina Meyer: Continuity with Change—is delightful, a prime example of the indecision Amy criticized Selina for.
  • Laurie may not get many straightforwardly comedic lines, but his, “I’m more of a lone squirrel” is pretty great. Also entertaining is the contrast between Laurie and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ body language when Selina brings up their “moment” from 12 years previous.
  • The continuing gag with Mike’s weather app is a nice thread, particularly the reveal that he didn’t even vet it in the first place.
  • We finally have a last name for Richard, and it’s just about perfect. Two cheers for Mr. Richard Splett, lover of reading and carer for lame animals!
  • Dan throws himself a party, because of course he does. My favorite detail is his beer of choice: Loose Cannon. He’s nowhere near that incendiary, though, and Sidney Purcell knows it. Peter Grosz is a lot of fun here, especially his late episode reading of, “You want top clients [Dan], be more like Amy. Or better?”
  • I absolutely love Veep’s comfort referencing the female anatomy, particularly the way this has been incorporated as a trait of both Selina and Amy, whose “I hope your vagina falls off” this week is beautifully snarky.
  • Amy has a lot of good moments this episode, but one of my favorites is her description of the White House in terms that call to mind Obi-Wan’s take on the Mos Eisley spaceport.

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