As soon as Mike McLintock started wondering whether he could fake his own death and asked his wife to stab him with a fork, I thought to myself, “Oh no, Mike is the next to go.” The fourth season of Veep has been dotted with spectacular flameouts, from the minor (communications guru Jim, who barely lasted an episode) to the monumental (Amy’s still-resonant bridge-burning a few weeks back). It’s as though Veep has become a sort of political satire Survivor, and only one character gets to remain standing at the end of all the challenges.
But Mike has never had much ambition, and despite the multiple indignities he endured during “Mommy Meyer,” he closes out the episode full of the same overwhelming mildly suicidal self-doubt he had in its first minutes. “I wish the intruder would just kill me,” he says of a White House invader who forced a West Wing lockdown. (Ben reminds him, “If the intruder kills you, Mike, who would announce your death?”) The difference between Mike and the other members of the Meyer team who are now outside the White House is that he is always fully aware that he’s something of a fraud, and no amount of beltway self-delusion can cure him of that truth. A large part of that stems from the position he has: Unlike the rest of Meyer’s inner circle, Mike doesn’t hold any sway over policy and isn’t much for power brokerage, so nobody is ever smooching his rear end. In fact, he’s the one who takes the most direct abuse, largely from the media. “You are the s— shoveler!” Meyer tells him when he starts to complain about his post, and though he resists the moniker, he knows that’s exactly what he is.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Mike doesn’t seem particularly great at being the Press Secretary. We’ve talked about his antagonistic relationship with the press corps before, and though making duck calls at him seems to pale in comparison to throwing things at him on Air Force One, it still stings. He’d probably gain a few more allies in the fourth estate if he provided slightly more articulate statements than his response to a question about Tom James referring to a gun-toting murderer as a victim: “Words don’t kill people, like guns, which did, and is bad.”
Still, it’s hard not to feel bad for Mike, who later divulged the details of the ongoing data leak scandal to Tom during Friday night drinks (and, after learning that James actually supports legalizing drugs, responded simply, “F— my face”). So considering he had such a rough time of it during “Mommy Meyer,” he is this week’s Veep victor, even if he doesn’t have a magic car (or whatever Merlin had). The rest of this week’s polling numbers are below.
Selena Meyer (29%)
The President had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, despite her best intentions to chill out with her old gang of lady lawyers. “As women, we really did get it done,” she said of her old pals from Annapolis. “Plus we had tits and ass.” Though she was still flying high from her debate victory, the White House intruder put an end to her revelry. Though everyone was okay, Meyer felt slighted after learning that the attacker announced he wanted to “kill Tom James and that bitch.” “He comes here to kill me and he doesn’t even know my name?” Selina whines, and it resurrects her fear that she is somehow slipping into her running mate’s charismatic shadow.
Crazy people who don’t call her by name isn’t her only problem, as she learns that the Families First Bill (which she wants called the Meyer Bill) is not only deeply unpopular with the American people but is also being derisively referred to as the Mommy Meyer Bill. She doesn’t want to give up on it, but finds that even her closest confidantes from the past don’t believe in it (though they would if it was being presented by James). Not even the acknowledgement of the difficulty of her position calms Meyer, who gets agitated to the point of being genuinely hateful. “It’s really difficult talking to you now that you’re sober,” she tells her friend Debra, essentially ending ladies night before anyone can finish her ice cream.
Also, even though Veep isn’t always super clear about its timeline, this season will be ending on election night, right? We’ve passed the conventions and Selina apparently won the first debate easily. That puts us in (roughly) the second week of October, though that’s also assuming Veep’s fictional Washington operates on the same schedule as the real thing.
Tom James (27%)
James remains this show’s political ideal: He’s not necessarily smarter than anybody around him, but the thing that separates him from Meyer (or basically any other office-holder presented on this show) is that he has an uncanny ability to tuck and roll. At a town hall event, he addresses a shooting in Pittsburgh that left several people dead, including the ex-Marine shooter. (“Well that’s f—ing not good,” Selina notes before deploying Mike with his “thoughts and prayers template.”) James runs up against his first real public gaffe when he calls the shooter “a victim.” That sends the Meyer team into a panic and inspires the nickname “Calamity James.” But James is totally smooth, humble, and effective in his apology, and it leaves most everybody in awe. “It’s like words are your second language, sir,” Richard notes.
Later, while the rest of Team Meyer is enjoying Friday night drinks, they toast James and his incredible political maneuvering, though not before they learn that he legitimately wants to legalize drugs (a stance that will undoubtedly come back to bite the campaign later on). Even when confronted of the news of the data breach, James plays it cool and insists they all move on. Maybe he was inspired by Jonah’s words of consolation? “It’s not really as bad as it sounds,” he says of the data breach that led to the exploitation of recently-bereaved parents. “Those kids had been dead for a while.”
Jonah Ryan & Richard Splett (16%)
Jonah and Richard are tasked with setting up Tom James’ town hall, a project Jonah relishes because not only does it make him feel like a big shot but also because he is clearly enamored of James. “How could anybody not love him?” Jonah asks. “He’s like your dad, except he’s nice!”
In fact, despite being unable to get James off the stage during the town hall following the “victim” statement (if only they had those balloons!), Jonah and Richard end up in the inner circle of Team Meyer, as solid a symbolic victory as Jonah has seen in the aftermath of his testicular assault.
Gary Walsh (12%)
Gary: “Isn’t there a panic room?”
Sue: “Gary, every room you’re in is a panic room.”
Amy Bruckheimer & Dan Egan (10%)
This week, Amy and Dan once again had a narrative almost entirely away from the White House, as they were lobbying contractors and Congressfolk on behalf of concrete. They even have a team of “Salebait,” which Amy described thusly: “Independent, well-educated young women like you who also happen to be very hot to lure Congressmen into the room in a way that is deeply feminist.”
The whole event is relatively uneventful, though Amy does get the better of Dan in the lobbying game for two weeks in a row. It’ll be interesting to see how (or if) Dan and Amy get integrated back into the White House story line before the end of the season, as there are no clear signs of their return to Planet Selina. Any guesses or conspiracy theories out there?
Ben Cafferty & Kent Davison (6%)
Kent: “I had not anticipated this. This I had not anticipated.”
Ben: “Well that sounds like the world’s worst Dr. Seuss book.”