For Anglophiles who first heard of “Veep” due to creator Armando Iannucci’s previous “The Thick of It,” last night’s episode is going to be a treat. Selina and her staff are in London and, while there’s unfortunately no Malcolm Tucker cameo, there’s a sense of familiarity that helps this become, by the end of its half hour, one of the strongest episodes of the season thus far.
The U.S./U.K. buddy-buddy relationship of the Bush and Blair years seems to have dissipated in “Veep”’s universe, and Selina’s quickly-imploding campaign is not helping any international relations. Instead, the Deputy Prime Minister (whose actor is not listed on IMDB, but who looks very familiar) is suspicious that the Transatlantic Security Organization will be held in Frankfurt, not London, despite Selina’s cocktail party protestations. He also basically accuses the U.S. of spying (or “data collecting,” as Selina terms it). Has he been talking to Merkel?
Meanwhile, Dan is still a terrible campaign manager. He’s at the point where he’s shooting down Red Bulls and shouting at empty rooms, and it seems like a nervous breakdown won’t be too far off in the future. (By the end of the episode, to be accurate.) Behind the scenes, Mike is resenting the staff’s “Downton Abbey”-esque situation (“Madam out there hobnobbing, us here in the servant’s quarters…”) while writing a surprisingly moving speech commemorating World War One’s fallen, and Amy is quiet. Too quiet.
As it turns out, she’s plotting. We’ve seen glimpses of ruthlessness from Amy in the past, but in this episode, her strategy to win the campaign manager position from Dan is truly Machiavellian. It involves Jonah, a convincing British accent (at least to my American ears), and a simple Internet search of Ray, the personal trainer/sex slave (as Gary so accurately terms him) played by Christopher Meloni of “Wet Hot American Summer” fame.
Ray, if you recall, was hired by Dan specifically to distract Selina from her ex-husband, Andrew. It turns out that in addition to his published works (“Sixty Day Shred,” “Get A Bod Like God,” and “My Name Is Ray, You’re Okay,” to name only a few), Ray has a history of publishing online “treati” concerning the sinfulness of body fat, including one that goes so far as to accuse obese children of being possessed by the devil, “as a punishment for past sins.” Naturally, Jonah leaks this to the British press, who are already having a field day with Selina’s complete incompetence when it comes to understanding British accents (“Danniwa!”).
What follows is a total disaster of a press conference, with a series of increasingly dry journalists reading the contents of Ray’s screed to a scrambling Selina. The Deputy Prime Minister, whose suspicions of Selina’s deal with Germany were recently confirmed (and, by the way, of course it was Ray who chose the hat that gave her away), does nothing to direct the press conference back to its original topic, clearly enjoying the moment. Selina, in a nice throwback to an off-the-cuff comment she made in season one, reveals that she, too, has struggled with her weight (and clearly still has some prejudices, ranting to Gary and Mike after the conference that, “Fat people don’t even vote. They can’t even be bothered to get out of the house, you know. There’s no food in the voting booth.”)
Back to Dan and his nervous breakdown. To quote Mike, “Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said, ‘Dan’s a fucking terrible campaign manager’?” After he keels over while watching the press conference (“Danniwa!”), Amy accompanies him to the hospital, where they receive what appears to be a mass staff email from Selina, firing Dan. To add salt to the wound, Jonah stops by to gloat, though those flowers are for his “Mary Poppins on all fours,” not Dan. The look in Dan’s eyes as he learns he’s fired is truly heartbreaking, and for a second, I almost felt sorry for him. He’s left a trail of disaster and unceremoniously dumped politicians’ daughters in his wake, though, so who will hire him after this is anyone’s guess.
It’s also a mystery how he will return home, since Selina, now safely ensconced in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, decides to depart for the States immediately, leaving him behind. We close with Amy’s promotion. Hooray! If anyone deserves even the slightest bit of happiness in this series, it’s Amy, whose competency looks like it might be put to the test in next week’s preview.