Veep Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Love In The Time Of Bailouts

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Bailout is the buzzword on Veep this week, and never has fiscal indecision been more fun to watch. In New Hampshire, Jonah Ryan’s campaign (predictably) fails before it even starts. And somehow smooth-talking Tom James — who becomes more dubious by the day — is giving all the worst advice.

At the morning press briefing, Mike tries to quell the reporters’ headline-grabbing mania. The official stance is that the administration isn’t weighing "bailouts" (which makes for fresh headlines), instead, the Meyer White House is considering "massive capital infusions." Reporter Leon West calls Mike's bluff: “That’s the literal definition of bailing something out.”

Behind the scenes in the West Wing, the Economic Response Team — the one Selina dumped on Tom James in the season’s second episode — is still trying to figure out their official move. There are three banks on the bailout’s shortlist but the nation can only afford to save two. Choosing the first bank is an easy political decision — it’s headquartered in Illinois, a state that Selina’s re-election bid requires. Now Selina must pick between the final two: Paulsten-Berheim or E.M. Wheelright. The catch? Wheelright’s CEO is Charlie Baird, the billionaire banker Selina is seeing.

It’s curious that Tom James immediately says that he’s in favor of bailing out Wheelright. Financially, he says, the bank is the best bet for a crippled economy. Selina is just happy that she doesn’t have to defend her boyfriend’s bank, and eagerly echoes Tom’s opinion. But Tom is a political animal, which makes his unwavering support of such an obviously bad decision suspicious. Tom, after all, was almost too defensive last week when Dan started to suspect that he had secret ties to lobbyist Sidney Purcell.

In New Hampshire, Jonah has launched his campaign to battle the widow of Harry Sherman, the state’s long-serving representative. His TV spot is everything you’d expect from Jonah but worse: in plaid, wielding an axe, with a brow so furrowed he looks like something from an episode of “What Would You Do?” The question, at least, is relevant: Would you vote for a giant man in a checkered shirt chasing a pale-faced child through a park?

Luckily for us, the ad is shown at a focus group, and we get the response of real New Hampshirites. Not only is Jonah chopping wood incorrectly — somehow, it seems, people in New Hampshire can instantly spot a noob wood-chopper — but his look is as charming in his home state as it is in the District. “His head is too big for his body,” one woman finally admits. “But then…sometimes his body is too big for his head.”

Selina has another crisis to attend to, a “cherry on this shit sundae.” Politico has reported that a “high-level West Wing staffer was recently overheard calling the president the C-word.” Selina convulses a bit in disbelief; everyone else in the room — the usual suspects, really — avoid eye contact and half-heartedly admonish the news. Selina puts Amy in charge of the witch-hunt. The news has the president’s paranoia somewhere between late-term Nixon and the mafia don in the second half of Goodfellas.

Kent refocuses the group on Jonah’s failing campaign. Selina agrees. “We need a Jonah-whisperer. Except someone who’s gonna yell in his face and call him stupid. Oh!” she says, settling on the only person perfect for the gig. “We need Dan Eagan!” Dan already declined the offer days ago but Amy reminds him that it’s a sweet deal: Win or lose, it's likely that Dan will come out of the race unscathed. He speed-walks to tell Ben he’s onboard.

The see-you-next-Tuesday investigation goes predictably: As Amy interrogates Mike, it turns out they both said the c-word loudly and recklessly. So did everyone else on Selina’s team. Soon enough Leon comes calling: Three people have been fired from the White House communications office, graduating the scandal from c-word to a c-gate.

Dan walks into the New Hampshire campaign headquarters flexing his Jonah-whispering muscles. Catherine — still as bad a documentarian as ever — is there to film it all. “If you listen to me instead of your only two brain cells busy butt-fucking each other in the vast expanses of your misshapen skull, maybe you might actually have a chance at becoming the first mentally impaired Frankenstein’s monster ever elected to American public office,” Dan says. Richard Splett sits in the background charting the musicians who have sent cease-and-desist notices to Jonah’s campaign (Sting, Bruce Springsteen, and somehow Enya).

In the private residence, Selina and Charlie Baird decide to skip the foreplay — dinner and fake pleasantries — and just have sex. Charlie (still so silver-haired, still so charming) is like a horny Nicholas Sparks teen promising abstinence when he says that whatever Selina decides about his bank and the bailout money is fine by him. It’s a lie so sweet you almost believe it, and Selina seems to have bought his earnestness.

The next morning Ben and Kent storm into the Oval Office with numbers on how bailing out Charlie’s bank would poll. It’s Jeb!-please clap-level bad. “Approval rating for bailing out your sexual partner’s financial establishment: 4.3 percent,” Kent says. Selina — 17 hours before the market opens — backtracks on saving her bae’s bank. Kent thanks “nonexistent Jesus.” Tom James looks deflated.

There’s a twist in the Granite State: Bill Erickson shows up. The ex-Selina operative has wiggled his way out of his prison sentence and into a job as the widow’s campaign manager. But even with heat from Selina and pressure from his opponent, Jonah manages to tap into the antiestablishment fervor that fuels failing candidates both real (Ted Cruz) and fake (Jonah Ryan). Shading Selina gets Jonah a standing ovation.

The markets open soon and Selina is still wavering, but settles on bailing out the bank that isn’t Charlie’s. Gary (who was always a Charlie fan) starts to cry when the pair breaks up.

Catherine has been trying to get Selina’s ear for days now, hinting that she’s got big news. She’s in love with Secret Service agent Marjorie — exactly, who? — which makes for more jokes than the episode has time for. The look Selina and Gary exchange is enough of a gag to give Selina the final burn of the night. “I wish mother were alive. ‘Cause this definitely would have killed her.”

The episode, though, has one more trick up its sleeve: Mike tries to use a Groupon at a remote Korean BBQ in Annandale and sees Tom James sitting down with Sidney Purcell. It seems Dan was onto something, and maybe Tom is more cunning than he’s letting on.

Best Burn:
Kent tells Selina the approval rating for bailing out her boyfriend’s bank is 4.3 percent. “Hanukkah polls higher in Mecca,” Ben says.

Least Surprising Fact:
Of course Gary thought the c-word everyone was talking about is “crone.” Of course.

Best Romance: Catherine and Marjorie, Selina’s Secret Service detail (and awkward lookalike). Also Catherine and a boy she "dated in college that just wanted to pee on her.”

Best Exchange: Leon: “Huh, you eat. I suppose you need something to nervously shit out.”
Amy: “Hello, Leon. It’s always good to see the most left-swiped face on Tinder."

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