'Veep' recap: 'Data'
“Data” is a perfectly reasonable, reliably funny episode of Veep, but it can’t help but live in the shadow of star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ appearance on last week’s season premiere of Inside Amy Schumer. Alongside Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey, JLD dealt a phenomenal blow to the concept of her “last f—able day,” and there’s no doubt that the sequence of her shotgunning a melted pint of ice cream and then delivering both a belch and a fart will end up on a lot of “funniest of 2015” lists. It’s such a good sketch that we should really watch it again before moving on.
Now on to “Data.” As the completely made-up numbers I have doled out the past two weeks have proven, most everybody in Veep’s deep ensemble gets a chance to shine every week, but there are always one or two characters who step forward to rule the day. There were a handful of competitors for the top spot this week, including the now-fired Dan Egan, who fell on his sword (or rather, was pushed) for the Meyer administration after a data leak resulted in not only the outing of an elementary school girl who is HIV positive but also an insensitive mailer aimed at recently bereaved parents. Dan will now assume the role that Jonah took on two seasons ago, when he was on the outside looking in for a time, which should be revelatory—any time anybody on Veep has an extended experience outside the Beltway, it usually ends in stir-craziness and psychosis.
Dan only had to exit because Selina decided that Ben, the intended sacrificial lamb, was too valuable to jettison (or would at least be useful down the line when she had to make another symbolic dismissal). Ben is a perpetual underdog, and Kevin Dunn has imbued him with the perfect balance of Eeyore-esque underdog softness and cutthroat political maneuvering (his clear glee at the idea of keeping his job and also the savagery he unleashes on Dan at the suggestion of blackmail illustrates both of those sides nicely). Plus, he hates the Internet, preferring it when it was “just AltaVista and that little Star Wars kid.”
But though the narrative tonight focused on the undoing of Dan Egan, it was Mike McLintock who eked out a victory with one championship belt-worthy exchange. In an attempt to get the press to stop savaging Catherine, the President crashes the daily press gaggle and asks them to lay off, only to encounter questions about the girl who is HIV positive. That leads to this post-gaggle exchange, one that I’m undoubtedly tattooing across the chest of my first born.
Selina: “What the hell? Where did HIV come from?”
Mike: “I think some guy f—ed a monkey?”
Matt Walsh’s delivery on that line is perfect: He’s desperate to come up with the right answer to what he thinks might be a legitimate question, but is also clearly bamboozled by the whole scenario. It’s his particular blend of ignorance and pride, and it’s dynamite every time.
So with Mike winning whatever fake office these characters are running for according to the totally made up rules of these recaps, let’s see how the rest of the math shook out.
Dan Egan (28%)
This is probably not the last we’ve seen of Dan, but if it is, then he certainly went out in a blaze of glory. Originally charged with symbolically firing somebody for the data leak, Dan settles on Leigh, formerly known as Chloe, Ellie, Sci-Fi Sally, and Who Is That? His mettle is tested in that meeting—Leigh threatens to cry, but Dan is immune to such expressions of emotion. “You’re talking to a guy who once broke off an engagement at an Applebee’s and then ordered dessert,” Dan says with pride. (Does anybody else want to see that scenario played out? Any time Dan—or Amy, for that matter—mentions his former life, I immediately want a Family Guy-style smash cut to watch those scenes.)
But then things unravel for Dan, and he is forced out of the White House, but not before Jonah—who Dan had been “fattening up” for just such an occasion and accuses him of having a face that always look like someone just walked in on him while he was masturbating—gets the last laugh by sending him out the door where all the reporters have gathered. That’s not even his final indignity, as during the credits, we get to watch Dan make several uncomfortable phone calls in a desperate attempt to land on his feet. Dan is dead, long live Dan.
Selina Meyer (20%)
Selina is always at her funniest in times of vague panic. Tonight, that came when her staff finally told her about the data leak, which she helpfully pointed out resulted in the administration committing a federal crime. When Kent suggests they maintain a “bunker mentality,” Meyer snaps back. “Don’t give me that bunker s—!” she yells. “Hitler went into a bunker and when he came out he wasn’t Chancellor any more, was he? Plus he was dead!” That one gag informs the philosophy at the heart of Veep: Even a self-inflicted bullet to the head isn’t as bad as losing power, which makes Dan’s exit from the White House all the more devastating.
Also, in the best throwaway bit of the evening, Selina desperately wants some cheese, and while she waits, Gary provides an “interim banana.” When she struggles to break its peel, Selina whines, “It doesn’t even work!”
Is there anything better than Richard’s straight-up tomfoolery? Most every character on Veep has a baseline of intelligence, and it is (usually) only hubris that gets them into trouble. But Richard is a pure fool, and the show uses him to perfection, busting him out mostly so other characters can shoot eye-rolls back at him. “I love fireworks. The noise, the lights—mostly those aspects,” he notes when he and Jonah are charged with setting up the pyrotechnics for a Meyer campaign event. Then, when things go awry with the Vice President’s entrance music, Richard says, “I don’t know what’s happening. I usually use a Mac, so this is Windows 8’s fault, if anybody’s.” He still doesn’t have a last name, but Richard continues to be one of the season’s most consistent joys.
Ben Cafferty (12%)
“It’s a fickle world, my friend, and you’ve just been fickled.”
Bill Ericsson (10%)
Bill narrowly manages to avoid the chop for the data breach issue, mostly by suggesting to Selina that Dan would make a better sacrificial lamb than Ben. But he does really let the news cycle get away from him. Even after Leigh gets fired, the data breach continues to be the top story all the way through Easter weekend. “Is there no other news?” Bill asks. “Whatever happened to Ebola? I loved Ebola!”
Jonah Ryan (9%)
Anybody else wondering where the Jonah/Teddy relationship is headed? I’m a huge fan of Patton Oswalt’s testicular obsession and chortled heartily when Teddy called Jonah “I Am Groot,” but it seems like that story is about ready to be taken to the next level. And for all my excitement over Oswalt’s addition to the cast, he’s basically hit the same notes for three straight episodes. Obviously the producers are free to do what they want, but so far it seems like a waste of Oswalt’s myriad comedic gifts. Also, Dan is right: Jonah totally looks like a guy who was just walked-in on while masturbating.
Gary Walsh (5%)
A quiet week for Gary, which was probably necessary after last week’s GaryGate. But he and Selina had a nice moment at the top of the show over a dress—Gary seemed genuinely thrilled to be able to lay out Selina’s outfit, a job normally handled by her valet.
Kent Davison (2%)
Like Oswalt and Diedrich Bader, Gary Cole also remains underutilized on this show, though his defense of Leigh was delightful, punctuated by this line: “I see splashes of myself in her. I now regret that phrase.”
Selina Meyer and her staff try to take on the White House in this HBO sitcom.