The second season of "Veep" is finally on the upswing after stumbling out of the gate, with last week's episode showing what the writers can do with just a little bit of focus. And this week's "The Vic Allen Dinner" mostly takes the same tack, finding comedic potential in a simple premise and then driving to the hoop and while it might not be a slam dunk, it's a solid alley-oop.
With the hostages now freed, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) is ready to do a bit of a victory lap, and as the show opens, she's in her limo, going over photos from the Situation Room to approve which one to send to press. Granted, she appears on a screen on the wall -- as she had to video-conference in thanks to the calamitous events last week -- but it's certainly the best PR opportunity she's had in a while. But naturally, by time she gets to the office, things have gone south. Instead of sending the picture she approved, POTUS sent to press an image that makes it seem like Selina was on her mobile as the rescue of the American hostages went down. (And it must said: if you go back to last week's episode, you can see that very moment go quickly by in a nice bit of continuity from the directors). And worse, it has already gone viral. Jonah (Timothy Simons) informs everyone that it has become a meme, hitting Reddit, Tumblr and everywhere else (Watching Selina's utter confusion at those words is pretty priceless). "It's just a meme maam, not a Mememaam," he helpfully informs her. And it wouldn't be another day in the life of Selina if there were even more wrenches thrown in her way.
That same evening she's slated to appear at a dinner for Washington types, that is almost like a talent show, with various politicians preparing jokes or songs. The initial plan had Selina tasking Dan (Scott Reid) and Mike (Matt Walsh) to pen a tune ribbing the Speaker Of The House. When that gets kiboshed by strategist Kent Davison (Gary Cole), who warns that it could kill any attempts to reach across the aisle, she has to go to Plan B: a parody of Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave You Lover" entitled "50 Ways To Win In Denver." It might sound like a bad idea, but...
...Selina crushes it. Not only does she have to top a beatboxin' Danny Chung (Randall Park), some jokes about her meme at the expense of the Speaker Of The House (ironic), and her own faltering start ("I'm not Selina Dion" she quips), Selina eventually has the entire crowd on their feet and eating out of the palm of her hand with the song. But again, the moment on top is short lived. By the next morning, her song has somehow made it online, and the lyrics in particular "Don't be European Ian, screw France Lance" have drawn ire overseas....where Selina has just been tasked to travel to meet with politicians....
The latter ten minutes or so of "Veep" contains enough plot for an entire episode all its own, yet the writers really make it work. Looking to launch his "dream metric demographic program," Kent looks to borrow one of Selina's team to help him put it together. While Dan seems like the obvious choice, it's Mike that Kent chooses bonding with him because a) he doesn't irritate him and b) over their shared passion for sailing ("I have no children and I wish for none, but she's my family," Kent says about his boat). So without a director of communications, Selina is given Jonah, who promises to increase the veep's profile on social media. How does he do that? By leaking her parody song online leading to the aforementioned diplomatic situation.
And we haven't even gotten into the staffing problems Selina has to tackle, with Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) interviewing for another job and Gary (Tony Hale) increasingly dissatisfied with being the punching bag for Selina's roller coaster of emotions. Sensing the discontent, Amy (Anna Chlumsky) encourages Selina to smooth things over with both of them. With the quick promise of a raise, Sue is satisfied, but the much more sensitive Gary will need a bit more finessing. So a dinner date is coordinated with Gary and his new girlfriend Dana (Jessica St. Clair), and needless to say, it doesn't go quite so well. Dana is an unrelenting, obnoxious chatterbox who arrives complete with her own catchphrase ("You know I'm right!") that winds up driving Selina up the wall. And while the dinner goes south (even Selina's gift to Gary of a new bag for all her stuff isn't so well-received), it seems that the pair have at least come to an understanding to what their relationship dynamics are. Selina can't function without Gary, and no matter what abuse he takes, that will likely never change, and it appears as if he's accepted it.
With the show recently renewed for a third season, it may have taken a while, but "Veep" seems to be hitting a stride of consistency (we hope). The narratives are getting tighter, the jokes becoming even more razor sharp and with Selina's responsibilities broadening, more opportunities are presenting themselves for unique comedy, positioning the show as something more than "The Office In D.C." Also, we're unlikely to hear an insult as absurdly perfect as Jolly Green Jizzface anytime soon. [B]