Veep Season 5, Episode 8 Recap: Winter Blunderland

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
No one on Veep is particularly adept at dealing with other people. This episode follows the arc of two seemingly opposite characters, but their similarities are obvious at their seams. Selina scowls her way through a family Christmas gathering; Jonah grimaces through New Hampshire’s special election. And — because this is Veep and this is politics — each somehow makes his or her way to a mangled victory.

Selina deals with trouble in the Granite State from her seat on Air Force One. During a debate, Jonah tried his hand at some kind of play at pleasantry involving an apple. The bit ballooned into a blowup of (Anthony) Weiner-proportions. “He looked like Ike Turner handing Tina a snack!” Selina says. Amy is there for damage control, but there’s too much going on in the “Winter Blunderland” that’s worth salvaging.

Selina is headed to Camp David for some intimate family time, but Gary’s presence on the flight is the first hint that that’s exactly what won’t be happening. Catherine has brought Margery along and says she’s excited for Selina to meet “fun Margery,” and see her girlfriend as more than a secret service agent. Fun Margery? “Do you know when she’s gonna get here?” Selina asks laughing. Gary’s the only one in on the joke.

The family gathering is really a convenient cover for a visit from Chinese government reps to meet with Selina in secret. They’ve come to discuss the harsh sanctions Selina imposed after the fake Twitter breach, embargoes that are crippling their economy. But on the homestead, Selina’s family is more bizarre than she remembered: Her ex-husband’s girlfriend Monica (a.k.a. “Monnie”) is some kind of quasi-Martha Stewart blogger; Catherine is considering selling her grandfather’s favorite house, and she and Margery are now tree-bark eating raw-food vegans. In the nick of time ex-husband Andrew swoops in from behind to caress shoulders he thinks are Selina’s. When he sees he’s actually touching Margery he recoils. “How about you touch neither of us,” Selina says with a grimace. When she asks the happy couple to run along and get firewood, “fun Margery” appears: “Ma’am your daughter’s dazzling eyes could start a fire themselves.” Um, yeah, sure.

Selina’s team is holed up in the Hickory Lodge to prepare for the looming Chinese negotiations. The talks have brought on an extra team member: Finnish prime minister Minna Häkkinen. Minna preps Selina for the meeting with the Chinese, suggesting she storm out if they express hesitance. She has her usual charm, peppering in questions about Selina’s plastic surgery and menopause.

When the family exchanges gifts, Catherine seems to genuinely delight her mother for the first time ever. Selina opens a box to find a pen from 1907, used in the second Hague Convention (history check: an international treaty about intercountry adoptions). Not to be outdone, Andrew says he has a gift for Margery. As she opens the gift, Andrew’s beady eyes are fixed on Selina, ready to register the president’s discomfort as Margery opens a first edition Gertrude Stein book. Selina’s gift for Margery? Lost to security a.k.a. forgotten.

Of course, there’s a second gift exchange Selina isn’t prepared for, this time with the Chinese. They unwrap three gifts for her, and she only has a glorified rock and few bottles of wine (one from New Zealand) to gift them. “The best is yet to come,” she says, asking Gary to take out a historic and important pen that she’d like to give them. Gary’s face is a mix of horror and panic. At least Catherine’s gift was sacrificed in service of ego and world peace.

Later in the night (after an awkward nature walk where Selina has to explain that President Eisenhower has been dead for several, er, decades) Selina walks in on her family playing Monopoly. Catherine sees that they’ve showed up with a package and asks if its Margery’s gift that was lost in security. Selina and Gary look at each other as he silently hands the package to Margery. It’s a beautiful silk robe the Chinese gave to Selina, who is borderline despondent at seeing it go. “You know that’s government property right?” Selina whispers to Gary. “You just committed a federal crime.” Gary steals it back from Margery’s luggage later.

Update from New Hampshire, where the election looms: Jonah has shot himself in the foot. — literally, on live television. Congressional candidate Jonah H. Ryan posed with a rifle and accidentally shot and fractured his foot. Ben and Kent are ready to call the Granite State for O’Brian, but — twist! — perhaps for the first time in Veep history, the NRA has saved the day. Overnight the organization has lodged an onslaught of ad buys against Jonah’s opponent.

As Selina is getting her (New Hampshire) house in order, Minna takes the Chinese on a walk to stall. They see Catherine hugging a brown haired woman in the gorgeous Chinese robe and assume it’s Selina. Then they see them kiss, and watch as Catherine grabs what seems to be her own mother’s ass in a deep embrace. The payoff of Margery as Selina’s doppelgänger could not have been sweeter.

At the lodge, the negotiations are a dull back-and-forth until Selina storms off to stop Andrew from trying to swindle their daughter out of her new inheritance. When she returns, the nation’s demands have softened and they’re even open to relaxing their rule of Tibet. “I’m freeing Tibet!” Selina shouts. “Bono’s gonna shit his sunglasses,” Ben says. Technically, the nation wouldn’t be free under the Chinese offer, but Selina’s elated at the chance of a Nobel Peace Prize.

But what’s a Nobel Peace Prize when, moments later, Selina is on the phone with the newly elected Congressman Ryan. Oh, yes: Real people in the state of New Hampshire took their time to vote for Jonah, who is declared winner and promises to vote for Selina in the special presidential election. But Jonah isn’t nicknamed the Jolly Green Jizzface for nothing. Instead of an acceptance speech, he singles out the people he hated in high school. Congrats Jonah! We wish you a short and ineffectual congressional career.
Proof that Dan might have a second life as a Project Runway judge: "Jesus, those are your pajamas? That’s the outfit I picture when I’m trying not to come." — When he sees Amy's nightgown

Best one-liner, Ben edition: "[The Chinese are] still on the road, ma’am. Presumably driving slowly and not using their signals."

Best one-liner, Uncle Jeff edition: "I can elect anyone in New Hampshire. I can elect a Muslim AIDS virus."

Happy early Father's Day: To Mike, whose surrogate is pregnant with twins, and he and his wife received word that their adopted Chinese baby is in transit.

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