Veep: "Debate"

(Episode 3.08)

TV Reviews Veep
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<em>Veep</em>: "Debate"

Well, I was wrong about Baseball Joe. I thought his political coach-speak could be a goldmine in debates. Instead, it’s the weak link in an otherwise very strong “Debate.” The sports metaphors whizzing past get tired fast, which is strange, because save a hip-hop detour, Chung is just as much of a one-joke pony, and I love me some Chung. The difference might be that Veep has delivered Chung’s martial harping in small doses over the course of three seasons, and last night dropped a whopping hunk of Baseball Joe on us. Or maybe it’s Thornhill’s gravelly, Mickey Rourke-by-way-of-the-Midwest voice that I find so grating. Regardless, I thought Thornhill landed with a thud.

And yet, Baseball Joe comes out on top in the New Hampshire debate polls! According to Senator Doyle (Phil Reeves), “The public will vote for anyone they recognize. We could lose to the whale from Free Willy.” Doyle is back after a four-episode hiatus to help with debate prep; even more welcome is the return of Congressman Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl), who swipes nearly ever scene he’s in. (He says hi to Catherine, and I laugh.) Doyle, Furlong, and Ben are almost interchangeably jaded and lewd; on paper, the three sharing a room sounds redundant, like grizzled cynic overload. In reality, their caustic commentary is the best part of the episode.

The easiest targets are Maddox—who shits the rhetorical bed with his sour body language and a hole metaphor that begins almost cogent (“There are loopholes and legitimate holes!”) before spiraling out of control (“We’ve got to bring everybody above the hole!”)—and Congressman Owen Pierce (Paul Fitzgerald), a “baby-faced know-nothing” (Ben) who reminds one admittedly liberal critic of Paul Ryan. Pierce and his plug didn’t leave me in stitches, but he seems to have more flexibility and room for growth than Thornhill. The former is not just a sweaty-palmed ball of nerves, he’s also a weirdo from Nevada whose parents didn’t let him play sports as a kid. Fitzgerald does a solid job in the role, but if Steve Carell were playing him, Owen Pierce could be a comedic revelation on par with Brick Tamland.

But what of Selina, who’s rebranded herself via a kd lang-y boy-cut and Peter Falkian eye-twitch? She finishes second in the debate polls despite pulling a Rick Perry while outlining her immigration policy. Blanking on the plan’s third R—“Renew”—Selina draws from her ass the much more aggressive “Repel,” which of course launches the American people into a happy frenzy. (The Land of Opportunity!) The press won’t share the public’s enthusiasm. Expect them to hammer Selina re: her xenophobic vocab in the first of next week’s back-to-back final episodes (“Crate” and “New Hampshire”).

I’m curious to see how Amy puts out her first fire as campaign manager. She struck a fine balance this week—tough and on-top-of-it without reaching DEFCON Dan levels of harshness or stress—but then again, nothing calamitous happened. The boy-cut was a non-story; the twitch, in rattling Maddox, proved a surprising asset. (Dan is back, by the way, demoted-but-forgiven and, by the end of “Debate,” his old, Jonah-destroying self.) Between the “Repel” comment, the budding tension between Mike/Wendy (these two are doomed, right? I’d almost forgotten Mike was married!), Kent/Sue (officially rooting for them now), and the presumed improvement of Maddox and/or Pierce, the road ahead looks rocky.

This third season, on the other hand, has been solid as a rock. All my ratings have fallen between 7.4 (Ep. 6, “Detroit”) and 8.4 (the premiere, “Some New Beginnings”), which is sort of ridiculous but reflects the fact that every week the show has been pretty good-to-really good, but not quite great—at least not yet. There’s one hour to go, and I suspect Veep has an October surprise up its sleeve. We’ll see how the final tally turns out in “New Hampshire.”

Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/evoooooooooooo..