The gimmick upon which my Veep recaps are based involves arbitrary rankings of the characters on the show. But just as actual political polls tend to be biased and unfair, so are mine, and they belie the fact that Veep’s comedic power comes not from individual performances but from the ensemble as a whole. Comedy is not always a team sport, but it is on Veep, and the chemistry between the players is as important as the words the crack writers hand to them week after week.
That point was driven home over the course of “Tehran,” which opened with the now-deposed Dan Egan trying to calm down his mother on the phone. Six weeks have passed since he took the fall for the data leak at the Meyer White House, and he remains a radioactive hire for anybody. He’s rescued by a lobbying firm that sends him on TV to debate old bunker mate Amy, and even though they are on opposing sides of the aisle this time (and also on the glacé cherry issue), it still feels like a homecoming. Hopefully Dan will continue to go toe-to-toe with Amy, his most natural and consistent nemesis on Veep, and perhaps he’ll tag up with Leigh (aka Who Is That?, also sacked last week) to keep taunting Jonah from outside the walls of the White House.
The rest of “Tehran” spent most of its time on Air Force One trying to massage the story about the detainment of American journalist Leon West (played by TV comedy “That Guy” Brian Huskey). Not only did the Meyer administration keep West held in captivity an extra day thanks to some scheduling conflicts, but it turns out that they may have been the reason he was kept in a hotel room eating chick peas in the first place. It gets so West once again becomes something of a captive one more time. “Am I being rendered?” he asks Ben.
“No, you’re being friendered,” Ben tells him. “So please accept our compulsory hospitality.”
Between his international ordeal and his mother, Leon has earned himself a shared victory with Dan this week. Let’s take a look a how the rest of the polling shook out.
Amy Brookheimer (41%)
After spending a few episodes on the fringes, Amy came out with guns blazing this week. Since Selina took over the Oval Office, Amy has been constantly assaulted with job-threatening developments, whether it be the addition of Bill Ericsson to the team or the data leak. Her power has been chipped away, and she’s been so desperate to hold on to anything that her delightfully authoritative rage has been tempered. So it was nice to see her shout down Kent after learning about his poll numbers on the Vice President, which were not supposed to exist. “Again, the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing and the freakish middle hand is punching me repeatedly in the tits!” she shouts as she stomps away. Amy SMASH!
She keeps reeling through the end of the episode, when she is accosted by yet another operative stuck between her and President Meyer. Nobody vents as hilariously as Anna Chlumsky, and Veep should continue adding people to the cast if only so she can utter great lines like “I feel like I’m on a life support machine, and they keep pulling the plug to charge their phones,” and “If anybody asks for me, I have gone outside to scream into the night.” Also, bonus points for that mildly devastating moment at the bar with Dan, where she thinks for a split second that he is hitting on her but is really just asking for White House access so he can be a better lobbyist.
Selina Meyer (23%)
Is it me, or is Selina Meyer actually doing a pretty good job as President of the United States? Sure, she’s had to dodge the data leak bullet and probably still doesn’t know how those hikers died, but becoming the first Commander-in-Chief in decades to visit Iran justifies the Nixon comparison (and not because of her looks, either). She even handles the internal strife with Vice President Doyle with aplomb, following the advice that she drag him into the data leak story (just as long as we replace “data” with “cupcake”). “Inject him with the happy cupcake virus,” she orders. “I hope he swells up and dies. That’s not code, by the way.”
Still, the end of the episode introduces a few new developments in Selina’s life, including the addition of old lawyer friend Karen Collins and the news that daughter Catherine is engaged (presumably to that dude she was caught vaping with a few weeks back). Selina doesn’t have the reaction that Catherine was hoping for. “I’m 48,” Selina deadpans as Catherine shows her the engagement ring. “Put your hand down.”
Jonah Ryan (16%)
Was there a more fantastic distillation of Timothy Simons’ comedic skill than the phone call he has with Kent and Bill? Those two are simply fishing for news from the Vice President’s office, but instead they get Jonah to lay out the ball-grabbing saga with fellow staffer Teddy. Simons’ exasperation builds as he becomes more aware of who is listening, and it ends with him having a minor meltdown. Bill provides the perfect button: “Okay, we got nothing out of that but a funny story.”
Also, Jonah gets bonus points for his tag-team partner Richard, who remains a fantastically bushy-tailed foil to Jonah’s foul-mouthed cynicism. “In my family, basketball is a religion!” Richard declares. “Also Catholicism. That’s actually the main one.”
Ben Cafferty (11%)
Ben’s mild Ambien bender made for some great bits on Air Force One (“I’m so tired I could sleep a horse, or whatever that word thing is”), and by the end of the episode, he’s mildly hallucinating. When Selina tells him Karen is joining the staff, his response is perfect. “The more minds the merrier. That’s a saying, I think.”
Mike McLintock & Gary Walsh (9%)
In trying to keep the story about Leon away from the denizens of the press plane, Mike and Gary get left behind in Iran. One would think Gary would break down first, but it’s Mike who panics hardest. “Are we at war?” he whines.
Also, in order to get onto the press plane, Mike and Gary think they have to bring a peace offering of alcohol (because, as Ben reminds Gary, Iran is a “teetotalitarian state”). They don’t want to be met with static from the press, who reserve so much outward hostility for Mike that they throw things at him earlier in the episode. Does that actually happen? Has the relationship between the press corps and the Press Secretary ever been that toxic? Those White House press briefings always seem dedicated to mutually-assured boredom. I know that everybody hated Scott McLellan during the Bush years, but did they say that to his face while he was actually in the office? I’d love to know who the most outwardly loathed White House Press Secretary was. I bet it was Marlin Fitzwater. I mean, just look at the guy. Don’t you kind of want to throw spitballs at his giant forehead?