Anna Chlumsky and her Emmy-worthy meltdown completely (and gloriously) hijacked last week’s episode of Veep, which marked the introduction of one of this season’s biggest guest stars: Hugh Laurie as Tom James, Selina Meyer’s new (and extremely genial) running mate. James sort of slipped in at the end of “Convention,” but “Storms and Pancakes” focuses primarily on the new ticket and its adventures on the campaign trail. The result was probably the least LOL-worthy episode of the season, but it did solidify the series of relationships that will likely take us to the end of the season.
James is an ideal running mate: Friendly, funny, smart, and seemingly unable to forget the minute details about just about everybody he has ever met. In fact, he might be too good—early press returns on James are so glowing that Meyer immediately gets jealous. She orders Mike to gin up some stories giving her credit for selecting James as her potential vice president, especially after the New York Times declares him a “lone wolf.” “A wolf is actually a pack animal,” James helpfully points out. “I’m more a lone squirrel.”
Selina’s envy of James (and his complete apathy toward the supposed sexual tension brewing between the two of them) inspires some hilariously bad decisions, even though his mountain times in the Tour of Italy are embarrassing. She wants to prove she doesn’t have to rely on Gary for the type of conversation pieces that come naturally to James, so she cuts the cord for a campaign event in Connecticut. It leads to this wonderful exchange.
Selina: “I’m going commando at tomorrow’s pancake brunch.”
Gary: “No underwear?”
Selina: “What? No! Jesus Christ. Yeah, that’ll win me the election—a nice shot of my beav.”
Her life without support, and her need to one-up James, features an unfortunate non-anecdote about bees. “Fun fact about the honey bee: Do you know how much honey a honey bee produces in its lifetime?” she asks a woman at the pancake brunch. “Well, it’s either surprisingly little, or surprisingly a lot.”
But on Veep, as in Washington, D.C., you’re only as good as your last disaster. A hurricane is closing in on North Carolina, and rather than waiting to show up after the storm passes, James devises a plan: Why don’t they go to North Carolina before the storm hits? They’ll get some heroic photo ops, and they’ll also block any of their rivals from showing up to gain any glory for themselves.
It’s a brilliant plan, except for one thing: Despite the dependability of Mike’s weather app, the storm doesn’t actually strike North Carolina. In fact, it turns south and strikes Florida, right where the O’Brien/Montez tickets was campaigning. It was a gamble that enrages Selina. “Our horse did not win,” James says.
“No it certainly didn’t,” Selina snaps back. “It fell at the first fence and got shot and now some French f—er’s got it in a baguette.”
Despite those gaffes, this week belonged to Tom James, and because she demands it, I’ll give Selina Meyer an equal share in the victory as well. Here’s a look at the rest of this week’s poll numbers.
Jonah Ryan & Richard Splet (44%)
First of all, Richard has a last name! A small victory for Jonah’s personal assistant (and not technically attorney). Jonah opens the episode wandering around the morgue that is Vice President Doyle’s office. With his abdication from the ticket, there’s not a whole lot of heat in his corner of the White House, and without Dan or Amy in the West Wing anymore, Jonah is feeling antsy. He wants out of what he sees as a no-win situation. “VP Doyle is a lame duck, and you know what you do with lame animals?” he asks Richard.
Richard: “Care for them.”
Jonah: “Shoot them dead!”
Richard: “I got you. Kinder in the long run, actually.”
So Jonah starts taking meetings, but it turns out what he thought was a job interview was actually a meeting of people who have been molested by Teddy. They’re all tall women who look alarmingly like Jonah. “Richard, I don’t look like a middle aged woman, do I?” he asks.
“No sir,” Richard replies. “Though you do have that one purple shirt that looks a bit blousy.”
Later, Jonah’s rage gets the better of him, and he throws another female doppelganger out of his office. “I am sorry ma’am,” Richard says. “A number of tall women were molested, and Mr. Ryan was one of them.”
Dan Egan & Amy Brookheimer (27%)
Despite the fact that Mike put out a statement that implied that Amy was psychologically disturbed, she clearly doesn’t have the same post-White House taint that Dan did after his exit. She’s already in on Dan’s lobbying business, though not before she exorcises some demons. “If people want access to that backstabbing madhouse,” she says of her old employers, “then I think we’re the ones to get it for them.”
After Amy freaks out at a party Dan throws for himself (she tells one woman making a joke about her exit from the White House, “I hope your vagina falls off!”), he has to talk her down for the benefit of business. “The best way to get revenge on these people is to use them to make a s—load of money!” he tells her. “Mark Twain said that!” But Amy will have none of it, and instead she chooses to purge herself via horrific screaming in a parking garage. It’s so intense that it attracts the attention of a pair of cops. Though Amy is pretty pleased with how that felt (and by the end of the episode, she’s taking Dan’s clients and desk), Dan has better advice. “Go to a spa, take a Pilates class, go to a f—ing church, find someone there who has some Valium, and take four of them.”
Also, Dan and Amy have always been a will they/won’t they situation, but does it seem like it’s becoming more intense? The comedic possibilities of their romantic pairing seem too abundant to ignore.
Ben Cafferty (18%)
Poor Ben. Everybody is either fired, insane, or on the campaign trail, which leaves him to wander the West Wing (which he describes as “a morgue full of dead librarians”) and make awkward conversation with Sue (of which she wants no part). “Great struggling to talk to you,” he says, dejected. Later, while Amy is showing off for a lobbying client by calling Ben directly, he’s so excited to hear from anybody that he barely registers that she hung up. I don’t like the idea of Ben on the sidelines, though considering the remainder of the season is likely to focus on the Meyer campaign rather than the Meyer presidency, he may simply be the guy saying angry stuff on the other end of the phone.
Kent Davison (12%)
“I wish I understood vendettas. They’re so time-consuming.”