Like Episode 3.02, Veep’s third installment of the third season features Selina pulled in two directions and struggling to please everyone. Unlike in “The Choice,” though, in “Alicia” Selina makes something of a stand and proves unusually savvy, even principled.
The Alicia in question is Alicia Bryce, who has a six-year-old daughter named Halo, and is organizing a Walk to the White House to promote universal child care. Alicia is one of the Veep’s VIPs: a group of “normals” (Selina’s word) who will appear alongside Selina (both physically and in her speech) as she announces her campaign for the presidency. The speech is a coming-out party: Selina says, “For the first time in four years, I can say what I really think,” which might explain the backbone that seems to have sprouted overnight.
That being said, Alicia and the rest of the normals are still treated mostly as props by the Veep and her Veeple. They’re rearranged and cut based on their appearances and/or what’s politically beneficial. In lieu of names (with the exception of Alicia), they’re known as Injured Fireman, Just Beat Cancer, Foster Mom, Heroic Restaurateur, Benevolent Taxi Driver, etc. They’re constantly condescended and lied to. At one point, Alicia asks if all these people are as special as her, and Mike says, “No. Are you kidding? This guy here is just an injured fireman.” Gary adds, “I don’t see any scars,” and they all laugh. Like much of Veep, part of the reason this stuff is so funny is because it doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
In addition to showing us how politicians view us regular folk, this episode also gives us a rare glimpse at Selina and her staff from a normal person’s perspective. The angle isn’t flattering. Just before threatening to sauté a man’s sac, Dan tells Alicia and her daughter that they’re “an inspiration.” Amy is visibly uneasy making small-talk, even more so with Alicia’s daughter. (“Peeing is fun,” she says, more awkwardly than it sounds on paper.) Sweet, dim Mike does his best, but even he winds up calling Alicia a “stupid cow.” The Veeple in large part come across as inhuman, almost monstrous.
Jonah, of course, is the biggest monster of all, and back where he belongs—swapping F-bombs with Selina’s staff, and now the media. Extricating him from his apartment feels right, even when he witnesses Mike’s cow-tastrophe and makes him get on his knees and beg for mercy via song. (Between that “Goober Peas” song and Mike saying that his dad used to call his mom a cow, is anyone else wondering what kind of childhood the poor guy had?) Mike does what he asks, but Jonah’s going to run the career-killing story on Ryantology anyway—until Alicia refuses to confirm it. This moment seems to underscore the prime difference between D.C. insiders and outsiders; the outsiders have hearts.
Speaking of heartless: Dan might be the frontrunner for the campaign manager job if Selina could recall that he advocated owning the gone-viral SNL sketch spoofing her hardscrabble childhood riding horses. (Unlike those old Tina Fey/Sarah Palin bits, this skit’s not remotely funny. Perhaps it’s a commentary on the current state of SNL…?) Selina winds up appearing on the show and doing the live-from-New-York thing—a wise compromise that nips this SNAFU in the bud, as Lorne Michaels has said they’ll stop spoofing her if she comes on.
It’s not the only savvy compromise Selina makes this week. Wonderfully crusty Sen. Doyle has threatened to withhold the Democratic party’s support if Selina doesn’t replace universal child with senior citizens in her speech. Selina fights Doyle, then caves, then compromises, bringing Halo onstage during her speech as “the face of the future.” It’s a shrewd move that allows her to appease the party while still leaving the door open for universal child care as a priority in her campaign. Selina continues to slowly but steadily transform herself into a viable presidential candidate. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a campaign—or a series—if she didn’t.
—“There are no votes in space. There’s nothing there.” (Selina)
—“So what? I had a horse as a kid. Who didn’t?” (Selina)
—“Like I always say, nothing less funny than a comedian.” (Kent)
—“Start picking this [speech] apart, and what am I left as? Some sort of optimistic warmonger with a soft spot for educated gays. (Selina)
—Selina: “What do you want me to do? You want me to be just some sort of a party puppet? You can stick your hand up my ass and work my mouth?”
—Doyle: “Yes please!”
—Selina: “Gosh … And what were you bobbleheads doing while I was just getting earfucked by Father Time?”
—Mike: “I’m appealing to your better nature.”
Jonah: “Mike, I don’t have one of those.”
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/evoooooooooooo.