Veep Season 5, Episode 7 Recap: Non-denominational Christmas in July

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
It’s December at the Veep White House, which means it’s time for Christmas in July for us… and Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Kwanzaa and literally any other religious or cultural holiday you can think of. This week on Veep, Selina’s staff also celebrates two other D.C. traditions: the annual list of the District’s most attractive aids, and the holiday party with enough visceral verbal knife-twists to make Game of Thrones look like just another small town election.

The episode starts, though, with a reminder of the show’s greatest underlying contrast. Selina is on Air Force One meeting with Congresswoman Nickerson, a representative from Colorado. For five seasons now we’ve seen Selina’s political aspirations collapsing under the weight of her own narcissism and her staff’s incompetence, so seeing her in conversation with a “normal” is hysterical. Nickerson chuckles warmly about her love of minivans; Selina mumbles something about having an expired license. It’s nice to see Selina fake-smile through an interaction with an earnest oaf — easily impressed with mugs and blankets — rather than her usual District knuckleheads.

Of course the meeting is about snatching more votes in the Congressional battle against O’Brien, the season’s causal conflict. But the team's suspicions have been raised about Tom James and his sneaky meeting with Sidney Purcell, ostensibly because he wants to be O’Brien’s secretary of treasury, a role Selina wouldn’t give him.

In New Hampshire, Jonah is still wearing fake glasses and riding a wave of populist dissatisfaction. But still he remains the only candidate in politics, real or imagined, that’s just a horny teen in an adult body. During a rally, he listed Brattleboro, a town in Vermont, as a city he expected to win. “Granted every town up here is just two dirty piles of snow connected by a covered bridge,” Dan says, “But Jesus Christ Jonah, you grew up here! How do you not know this shit!” The sweetest surprise to come out of Jonah’s HQ is that angry Uncle Jeff, meanwhile, is quite taken with Richard Splett: “If you were like 10% less black, I could make you president.”

The White House’s non-denominational holiday soiree has arrived, and it’s at the party that Tom James’ motivations become clear: Instead of lobbying for votes for Selina, he’s actually asking representatives to abstain. Based on Congressional rules no one but Kent really understands, enough abstentions in the House takes the vote to the Senate, where it would be a wider race and Tom James would have a shot at the presidency. Selina pulls him into a dance in the middle of the floor, midway through saying she has a taste for Korean barbeque. Tom James hasn’t caught on yet. “There’s this great place I heard about. It’s in Annandale. What was the name of it? Oh, right. It's called the cock-sucking backstabber.” Oh yes. Tom’s caught up now.

They move to a private room for a shouting match that turns sexual. Tom James drops a cliché line about undermining her because of democracy and the public good. The only thing Selina hears is his criticism of her decision to date Charlie Baird. Suddenly the conversation shifts. Selina’s narcissism in this scene is really a beautiful thing to behold, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives her character the breadth to be so unlikable. Selina demands the truth from Tom James, but about another betrayal: one night in a cab several years ago it was obvious he wanted to sleep with her, she says, and he only accepted a place on her ticket because of their attraction. Neither of them see it, but Gary walks in on them having sex and shudders silently in the hallway.

Fresh from her tryst with Tom, Selina is ready to make heads roll and drum up the votes he stole away earlier in the night. She circles back to small town Nickerson, who Tom James convinced to abstain. But – because it’s Veep and because women in politics contain multitudes – Nickerson isn’t actually anyone’s fool. Her words are razor sharp, but Selina is on fire. “If I don’t win the election, O’Brien’s gonna sink your boats. And you’re gonna look like a hair sprayed asshole in your 1980s mother of the bride dress,” Selina says. Then she twists the knife: “And if I do win, I will have my administration come to your shitty little district and shake it to death like a Guatemalan nanny. And then I’m going to have the IRS crawl so far up your husband’s colon, he’s gonna wish the only thing they find is more cancer!”

The greatest irony? This whole night of sex and suspicion has almost been for nothing. Selina battled only to end up with the same number of votes that she started the party with. On Veep, the election cycle is just a (non-denominational) gift that keeps on giving.

Best Burn, Jonah Edition: Jonah says his own personality has gotten his campaign this far. His uncle Jeff snaps. “No, I am the one that’s gotten us this far, you sentient enema!”

Saddest comeuppance: Amy tells Gary his inclusion on the hottest aid list was a typo. His spot was meant for Gary Welsh.

Best dirty talk: A congressman (whose date is a prostitute) tells Selina that he must listen to his conscience, and after prayerful consideration he can no longer vote for her. Selina tries to explain her feelings in a way he'll understand: “Think of it this way… moments before you’re about to come all over [the prostitute's] stupid Slavic face, she says, ‘Niet. After much prayerful consideration, I have to abstain from the upcoming blowjob.’”

Best surprise ghost from Senate hearings past: Teddy (Patton Oswalt), VP Doyle’s former chief of staff returns! Fondling two billiards balls, he’s back to briefly bully Jonah.
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