Which political landscape is more treacherous: the bloodlust that follows the iron throne on HBO’s current centerpiece show, or the one walked by President Selina Meyer and her team on Veep? On the one hand, Meyer doesn’t have to deal with any fire-breathing dragons, and there appears to be far less incest in the Meyer camp than in Westeros. On the other hand, is there anybody in the Game of Thrones universe as sinister as Jonah Ryan?
One thing the Lannisters never have to worry about is polling, perhaps the most nefarious born-in element of the American political body. So as we enter into the fourth season of Veep with Meyer both inhabiting the Oval Office and desperately clinging to life in the primaries of the next election, each week we’re going to run down how each of the characters on Veep is polling. Who won Veep this week? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Selina Meyer (37%)
For the moment, President Meyer stands tall, seeing into the future-whatever on the shoulders of all the giant word-jazz performers who came before her. In an effort to find funding for her Families First bill (which features some sort of “breast-feeding business”), Meyer calls in the Joint Chiefs to try to wrench some money out of the grip of the military industrial complex. It turns out there’s an outdated submarine program that is both easily jettisoned and worth $50 billion. Problem solved!
Except it isn’t. It turns out that cutting that program will cost job-related votes across a bevy of districts, costing Selina votes on the Families First initiatives. In the hustle to get her speech to a joint session of Congress changed, not only does the Teleprompter screen go blank, but the team ends up tacking an extra $10 billion onto the sub project they were about to drop.
The struggle between good intentions and maintaining political balance has always been at the crux of Veep (and basically every other television show that takes place in the halls of power, except maybe for Scandal, which is mostly about murder and red wine), and those divides will become greater this season. Though we only get a glimpse of the Meyer campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, the President’s campaign for the job she currently has is in trouble, and it is implied that the submarine nonsense will also cost Selina votes when it comes time to try to get elected. I know this is a comedy (albeit a biting satirical one), but there’s as much political intrigue at play here as there was on The West Wing or Commander In Chief. (We’re just going to have to assume there was intrigue on Commander In Chief, as I’m pretty sure not even Geena Davis remembers anything about that show.)
Despite the fact that she’s now promised to spend a bunch more money on something totally pointless, she still knocked the season premiere out of the park, whether it was riffing through her speech (thanks to a Teleprompter that simply read “FUTURE WHATEVER”) or insisting that former President Hughes was dead (he’s very much alive).
Jonah Ryan (18%)
The Meyer camp’s lankiest villain remains a spectacular comedic force. Now working as a mole for new Vice President Andrew Doyle, Jonah once again steals every scene he’s in with his unprintable responses to the question “How’s it hanging?” and his collision with a female staffer while running through the White House (“Oh my God, are you okay? You look…you look okay!”). Timothy Simons is a fantastic physical comedian who really uses his size to his advantage, and any time he gets to whine, “I think I split my diaphragm,” you know you’re in for a good episode.
Teddy Sykes (11%)
Patton Oswalt is like a male Margo Martindale: Every time he shows up on a television show, he immediately elevates everything around him. (Is the secret to this power starring in guest arcs on Justified? I’d like to think the brilliance that radiates from Timothy Olyphant’s various hats is catching.) Oswalt joins the cast as Teddy, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff who is, according to Gary, very “hands-on.”
That’s literal: Following his first encounter with Jonah, Teddy straight-up cups Jonah’s testicles, then poses by the elevator for a faux-exit. It’s a great spin made greater by the height discrepancy between the diminutive Oswalt and the towering Simons, just like how Kevin Hart merely sitting next to Shaquille O’Neal at the Justin Bieber roast was one of the funniest things on that show. I desperately hope Teddy continues to escalate his bizarre relationship with Jonah, as seeing Jonah’s discomfort at the mere mention of Teddy’s name is already worth its weight in strange duck statues from India.
Gary Walsh (9%)
Poor Gary! Now shut out of many of Mama Meyer’s meetings because of his lack of security clearance, he’s left to hand off his precious bag full of Dutch eye drops to prickly Secret Service agents and stare woefully into the Oval Office via the FLOTUS window.
Here’s the big question of the week: Is the FLOTUS window a real thing? When introducing the idea to Gary, Dan mentions that “A lot of anxious First Ladies use it.” Is that true? In between visits to talk shows, does Michelle Obama stare into the Oval Office making sure her husband isn’t bumming cigarettes? Did Laura Bush watch her husband invade various countries, or was the FLOTUS window blacked out during those eight years so she couldn’t see that Dick Cheney was running everything? Who established this in the first place? Franklin Roosevelt was the first President to use the modern Oval Office, so does the FLOTUS window exist so Eleanor could keep track of his perpetually wavering health? Did Jackie Kennedy spot her husband banging starlets from that perch? What does it all mean?
Amy’s assistant, who still doesn’t have a last name, gets a healthy batch of underdog votes tossed his way this week just for reserving a hotel room under the name “Lazlo Whitaker.” (“Was ‘Vladimir Drawattentiontomyself’ already taken?” asks Bill Ericsson.) Bonus points for his inability to remember a coffee order despite his Illinois Institute of Technology-trained brain.
Bill Ericsson (6%)
I desperately hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Diedrich Bader on this show, as his dry rage makes him a good fit for this ensemble and a particularly great foil for Amy’s borderline sociopathic control issues. I think my favorite line of the whole night was, “It’s a nice room… for a lonely suicide or an affair with your secretary.”
Ben Cafferty (4%)
Selina’s Chief of Staff had a relatively quiet week, though he gets to hold his head up high both for introducing a metaphor about cutting off appendages into budget negotiations and for sharing the theory that Ronald Reagan actually hired John Hinckley Jr. to shoot at him just so he could get some time in bed.
Sue Wilson (2%)
Sue only pops in once or twice every episode, but this week’s exchange with Mike about “the S hitting the F” was priceless.
Who Is That? (1%)
Is it Chloe? No. Ellie? Maybe. Ally? The mystery staffer has made lady-racists out of us all.
Dan Egan (1%)
Shockingly quiet episode for Dan. He only came on strong at the end, identifying Selina’s speech style as “bebop speaking” and watching his entire career flash before his eyes. “It’s incredibly impressive!” he says.
Mike McLintock (1%)
Outside of making the communications bullpen smell like Puerto Rico, it was a slow episode for the easily bamboozled press secretary.
Amy Brookheimer (1%)
This breaks my heart, because Anna Chlumsky’s Amy Brookheimer is my favorite character on Veep, and keeping her separate from the rest of the cast in the remote desert of New Hampshire is going to hurt the show. Getting her back in the war room during Meyer’s speech was clutch, but Amy is at her best when she acts as a direct foil to Selina.
Kent Davidson (1%)
“I detest jazz, but this is impressive.”