Season 1, Episode 3: “Catherine”
If over the last couple of episodes of “Veep” we’ve been critical of the writers overstuffing the plot, that’s not an issue this time around. But unfortunately, the titular subject of the episode (who really only comes into play in the last third), is also the least interesting.
Tonight’s episode finally finds Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) searching for a suitable candidate to round out her Clean Jobs Commission, one that will keep Senator Doyle, who is backing her Filibuster Reform bill, happy. But it won’t be without jumping through a few hoops first. There is also the oil lobby who wants to be appeased by having someone from their industry involved. Trying to please both sides, Selina decides to go with ex-oil man Chuck Furnham — someone who was in the industry, but no longer is — in a hope that she can please the lobby’s need for a friendly face, and Doyle’s desire to keep the Commission oil-free (which they would be, technically speaking). But neither side is happy. Selina’s pick is not considered an insider enough for the oil folks, while Doyle thinks he’s too connected.
While they sort that mess out, Selina’s staff is also tasked with finding her a dog to adopt, a gesture that won’t only be good for the press, but hopefully make up for the neglectful upbringing of her college-age daughter, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland). Studying Experimental Theater, she’s rather reserved but not without a quip when needed (White House staffer Jonah, played by Timothy C. Simmons, is the victim of a couple of particularly deadpan zingers). Selina and Catherine don’t quite understand each other, but Selina is eager to try and forge some kind of relationship with her daughter. But try as she might, she’s not only distracted by the Clean Jobs Commission fiasco, but also by the party celebrating her 20th anniversary in Washington, one that needs to be scaled down slightly after a local reporter called the veep a “diva.”
Everything comes to a head at her party, where both Doyle and oil lobbyist Sidney Purcell are looking to square away the name that will be added to the Clean Jobs Commission. Once again showing himself to a sly puppetmaster, hot shot veep staffer Dan Egan (Reid Scott) somehow manages to pull off making Chuck Furnham a welcome choice to both sides. However, the dog adoption is put firmly on hold when Jonah reveals the First Lady (FLOTUS) is also planning to get a dog, and doesn’t want her press thunder stolen. Selina, who had let Catherine pick the dog they are now not getting, expresses relief that the mangy mutt her daughter selected won’t be coming with them. But of course, Catherine, now hearing her mother’s true feelings about the dog, is hurt.
The introduction of the veep’s daughter into the storyline is a compelling idea, but one that for now doesn’t quite work if only because Catherine’s naiveté is distracting. She is upset (and somewhat surprised) that the veep’s staff do what Selina says and even if it might be wrong or ridiculous. Yes-men in Washington? No way. And she doesn’t understand why the Vice President Of the United States has her staffers make sure that Hurricane Selina is taken off the official list of storm names that could be used. Is it that vain? Perhaps. But it’s pretty plain to most people why the veep wouldn’t want her name associated, even tangentially, to a potentially destructive hurricane. But more importantly, Catherine just isn’t the foil to Selina the show needs, with a personality that sees her quickly fade to the background, especially when the rest of the cast of characters are so sharply defined.
Tighter and leaner, “Veep” finally showed some needed bite — particularly in the Clean Jobs dance which nicely twists the knife into political manuevering on Capitol Hill — even if “Catherine” is still uneven overall. It’s a problem when the show’s funniest moment plays during the end credits. Viewers get treated to an extended extra sequence of Selina greeting her party guests as her bodyman and political encyclopedia Gary (Tony Hale) whispers details in her ear of each person who comes up to shake her hand, so she can add a little personal touch to each interaction. Hale and Louis-Dreyfuss — who have shown a great spark together — really shine here, teaming up for an endless array of one liners and awkward moments that nicely exposes how empty the gladhanding in D.C. truly is. We laughed harder here than at any other moment of the series so far. [B-]