We’re far enough into Veep‘s final season that discussing how the show has chosen to tackle the trump era of politics is starting to sound like a broken record, but last night’s episode, “South Carolina”, deserves another look from this perspective. The episode veers violently into the kind of cynical politics that have have dominated Washington since 2016 in more ways than one, and more severely than the three previous episodes of the season. In fact, I’ve been struggling with the notion that a transformative trump-like figure could exist in this world. Not because I don’t think that someone so self-serving could exist in the Veep universe, but rather due to the fact that just about everyone in this world is already as self-serving and narcissistic as one donald j trump, and this episode shows just how far some of those people are willing to go to get what they want.
In “South Carolina”, Selina Meyer resorts to several shady-ass tactics in order to keep the momentum of her campaign moving forward. Not only does she come very close to supporting police brutality while giving a speech in a black church (something she likely only backs away from in fear of her own safety), but she publicly declares her support for Chinese expansionism in exchange for a big, murky campaign contribution (as well as meddling in the primary) from that nation. In fact, this goes so far that we even find out that Andy Daly’s mild-mannered campaign manager, who has spent the better part of this season so far cheerfully accepting Selina’s disdain, reveals himself to be a Chinese plant.
We accept this kind of cynicism from the Jonah side of the story, and we get it, as Jonah’s campaign manages to steer even further to the right. He winds up giving a speech denouncing math because it was technically invented by Muslims, decreeing that math teachers are terrorists. The looks of horror on the faces of Bill, Teddy and Amy are priceless. Amy winds up leaning into it, as she ends the episode by transforming herself into ersatz Kellyanne Conway (and it’s glorious). But that’s not all, as this comes after an entire episode of Jonah trying to drop out of the campaign and exchange his endorsement for a cabinet position, a deal no one wants to take, only to find out from his rich uncles that he’s not in the campaign to win it, but instead to gather enough delegates so they can influence policy at the convention and ensure that their prisons remain full of pot smokers (because who wants a private prison with just rapists and murderers?).
Somehow even that manages to stride that line of almost egregious cynicism. But it’s the Selina story that really kind of hits you where it hurts. We know she’ll do whatever it takes to get what she feels is coming to her, so currying the favour of a foreign government probably shouldn’t come as a surprise after all the shady and probably illegal shit we’ve seen her do (it’s even references in every episode prior to this as the show has shined a line on Andrew’s embezzlements). But the way Selina juggles racial politics and foreign election meddling so easily in this episode almost pushes things to far; never mind how she winds up using Dan for sex after he gets her speech balloons just right and then fires him from the campaign.
Between Selina’s despicable behaviour, Jonah diving off the deepest of ends and how seamlessly the show weaves in current events and political issues, this is an all-timer when it comes to Veep’s political cynicism. As this sets up the show’s final arcs, it’ll be curious to see if the show is at all interested in trying to redeem any of these people, or if they’re merely trying to remind us once and for all that they’re all just terrible, hopeless and incorrigible.
Brutal Takedown of the Week: We can’t have an episode with an appearance from Jeff Kane and not highlight Peter MacNicol’s tremendous mastery of the Jonah Ryan takedown. Somehow his character – who only began to appear on the show late in its run, has managed to become one of my favourites with only a handful of appearances. Here he is eviscerating Jonah in one scene (two lines)
Shut the fuck up! When you’re president! I’ll jam my fist up my dickhole and pull out a forty piece danish cutlery set when you’re president.
Selina Meyer is a legitimate candidate, not a human pool skimmer last used to de-spunk a Provincetown hot tub party.
- Gary wants a bigger role in the campaign. Selina: “What kind of role was your mother thinking of?” “I don’t know, I thought everybody kinda did the same thing.”
- Bill: “I’m going to go hang myself from a sturdy pipe, and I’m not even going to bother jerking off.”
- Selina: “You can’t just replace Gary with another lesbian and think I’m not gonna notice.”
- Marjorie (w/ Selina) on her tea-making skills: “Thank you ma’am, I learned from an Afghani warlord.” “Why don’t we put him on the payroll?” “You killed him in a drone strike.”
- Marjorie RE Gary: “You’ve been taking fashion advice from a man who dresses like an overgrown ventriloquist dummy.”
- Kent/Selina: “My polling shows their [non-college educated whites] main wants are jobs education and an adequate safety net…” “Okay, I can speak to that.” “I’m not finished ma’am. To be denied to African Americans.”
- Ben/Kent: “Lu sent you a message inside Mike.” “A misfortune cookie.”
- Richard: “When my uncle stole me, I don’t remember exactly where he took me but I do have this recurring dream where I almost find out.”
- Selina/Ben: “He just fucked me right in the ass.” “Son of a bitch wouldn’t endorse you.” “That too!”
- Dan: “You want to blow a dog whistle in a black church? That’s like blowing a rape whistle while you’re raping somebody.”
- Selina: “Honeydew? If I want to pretend to be in the CNN green room I would draw a face on Ben’s ass and call it Christiane Amanpour.”
- Amy: “I should have aborted myself.”
- Jonah at the beginning of the episode: “Math is a plot invented by the Chinese to make smart Americans feel dumb.”
- Jonah at the end of the episode: “I just found out from my stupid stepfather-in-law that math was created by Muslims. And we teach this Islamic math to children. Math teachers are terrorists!”
- Jonah: “Algebra? More like Al Jazeera”
- Teddy: “I may I’m a registered sex offender but I cannot be apart of this.”
- Selina: “If we lose it won’t be for a lack of touching people in a Denny’s.”
- Selina/Ben: “How’s the turnout.” “Much like my prostate, mostly black and much larger than we’d like.”
- Ben/Selina: “I told you you can’t trust the Chinese, I married enough of them to know that.” “Isn’t your wife Korean?” “Maybe. Fog of war?”
- Selina/Gary: “Your name will be all over it like Jodie Foster / John Hinkley style.” “Oh my god, I’m obsessed with her.”
- Andy Daly quoting Selina: “I believe her exact words were ‘if I need another Washington douche I’d go to the M Street Right Aid.”