As the pivotal midway episode, “Fishing” sets up the second half of Veep’s third season by introducing two new characters (“Baseball” Joe Thornhill and Bill Ericsson), giving two established characters (Dan and Jonah) new jobs, and setting up a (fatal, according to Jonah) four-way battle for the Democratic presidential nomination between Selina, Maddox, Chung, and Baseball Joe. As one might expect from the title, the episode hinges on a series of mostly failed professional courtships.
The first of which shows Dan being, what’s this—nice?—to everyone at Selina’s spiffy new campaign HQ. (Is anyone else surprised we spent so little time in the “Polish dungeon” introduced in “The Choice”?) Dan’s gunning hard for the campaign manager job, and unlike Amy, he’s comfortable grinning and back-slapping, telling the young volunteers they remind him of himself, and calling Mike a “media master.” Mike says watching Dan feign humanity is like watching a baby smoke a cigarette: “It’s kinda cool, but also very disturbing.” Meanwhile Ben encourages Selina to meet with Ericsson, whom Ben says is the perfect manager: “He’s Amy without a conscience and Dan without the viper scent.”
So Selina has a couple off-the-books lunches with Ericsson, played by The Drew Carey Show vet Diedrich Bader. (You may also know him as Ron Livingston’s handle barred neighbor in Office Space.) One episode isn’t much of a sample size, but thus far Ericsson is a one-joke pony—he interrupts a lot. He’s also colder than Damian Lillard in the fourth, ordering Selina to fire her entire staff for their chronic incompetence. Selina, whose patience with her Veeple has been waning all season (all series, really), flashes her ruthless side by agreeing—only to have Ericsson rebuff her. Ericsson cites a better offer from newcomer Thornhill, a folksy former baseball coach who comes off like a cross between George W. Bush, Steve Spurrier, and every ex-athlete who’s ever run for office. Baseball Joe’s political coach-speak could be a goldmine in debates—and let’s cross our fingers and hope that his campaign bus is a play on John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express.”
Selina strikes out, too, in her courtship of Secretary Maddox, whom she’d like to neutralize by making him her running mate. She visits Maddox’s country house (literally going fishing at one point), only to realize at dinner—as they sit at opposite ends of a long table, evoking their figurative distance and Citizen Kane—that Maddox has the same idea. Seconds after making a spirited case for the power and prestige of the Vice Presidency, Selina says, “I’d rather be shot in the fuckin’ face than serve as Vice President again. Seriously. In the fuckin’ face.” (Insert Dick Cheney joke here.)
Dan fares no better trying to poach Jonah, who’s now working for Maddox because apparently Jonah’s uncle controls the senior vote in New Hampshire. The Veep writers don’t seem to know where to stick J. Diddy in Season Three—five episodes in, he’s had four different gigs (White House liaison, West Wingman, Ryantology, and now bagman to Maddox). But I like the nepotism wrinkle. Of course Jonah knows someone—as Amy’s long-lost boyfriend Ed (Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods) says, how else could he have gotten a job at the White House?
Amy—taking a cue from Dan and advice from Ben (should anyone be heeding the latter? The man’s a bleak, misanthropic borderline-alcoholic)—tries to charm her colleagues by having them over for dinner, but she makes for a hostile hostess. Amy serves up an “ark of potatoes” and some surprisingly decent wine, then gets sidetracked by work and kicks everyone out post-haste/pre-entrée. It’s their one-year anniversary, but even Ed has to hit the bricks. “I guess I’ll just have the band I hired play Smiths covers in my car,” he says, forlorn. The look on Amy’s face when Ed kisses her goodbye is priceless and likely their relationship’s death-knell. (Meanwhile, Ken and Sue are making some vague romantic headway. I can’t decide if I buy this or not.)
In the end, Dan’s the only one who catches anything—the campaign manager job he’s been fishing for all season. Over celebratory drinks in Selina’s office, we get a whiff of sexual tension between the Veep and the Viper… until Dan poisons the ambience by trotting a disturbing skeleton out of his closet: he once killed a stray dog on a dare. (Selina, for what its worth, torched her ex-husband’s car.) Hey, in politics—as in love—there’s a reason these people are our second choices.
-JONAH: That’s a good stance, sir. Good solid base. I’d hate to be a fish in your water.
MADDOX: Shut up.
-AMY: I’ve eaten hummus with a pen cap. Don’t tell me how I can eat.
-GARY: I think you have just the right amount of… grit in your oyster.
-JONAH: The burrito juice could have gotten in my eye, Dan. The spicy burrito juice.
-SELINA: I think that I can pull some pretty big levers.
MADDOX: I must say, you exercise this power very discreetly.
-AMY (re: a primary battle with Chung and Maddox): The subtext of every question will be, “Yeah, you’re pretty, but could you break a man’s neck?”
-SELINA: I torch cars… Give me the nuclear codes! (laughs)
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter.