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Review: ‘Veep’ Season 4 Episode 8 ‘B/Ill’ Pits All But One Against Each Other

Review: 'Veep' Season 4 Episode 8 'B/Ill' Pits All But One Against Each Other

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Veep’ Season 4, Episode 7 ‘Mommy Meyer’ Nails It (‘Like Streisand Hitting a High C’)

Immediate Reaction

How, after a week aptly described by Tom as “a long glass of frozen strawberry fuck-up,” are the Presidential staffers expected to survive a congressional investigation? They can’t stay on the same page when they’re in control of the questions, so I can’t imagine they’ll survive this unscathed. If Season 4 was the last season of “Veep,” I’d be expecting a “Seinfeld”-like finale where everyone ended up in jail as a fitting moral to the story. After all, if Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer did enough damage to justify a jail sentence, this crowd would be put away for life.

But despite everything going on in “B/Ill” — a title that, unlike the insults hurled between characters, feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be clever — the episode felt a little too slow, overall. With the exception of Kent and Bill’s early explanation for why they wanted to kill the bill, very little of the dialogue felt as snappy, quick and devastatingly ruthless as usual. Maybe I’m just biased, because Ben didn’t get any of the best lines, but trolling Gary’s fear of incarceration and Selina’s voice memo addiction didn’t pay off. With only two episodes left — both in this season and as showrunner — hopefully Armando Iannucci is saving the best for last. 

Politically Correct Response

Exposition and action drove “B/Ill”: Rather than the quick wits of characters beseeched by problems, Episode 8 focused on the problems themselves. Issues escalated so quickly it wasn’t until the final few seconds that we saw just how disastrous things have become for the Meyer White House. A Congressional hearing can’t be beneficial to a campaign already on the rocks, and that’s likely the least of their worries, given prison is on the table. Will that happen? It’s doubtful, given the satirical tone of the show — how many politicians actually go to jail versus how many get away with it? Still, where Selina ends up at the end of Season 4 is anyone’s guess right now.

The same can be said for her diegetic role in the campaign. As the official candidate, it would be dead without her, but the Democratic party may turn to someone new if Selina and her team are awash in scandal. This week was the biggest catastrophe to date, but was it because Selina was out of commission? Does her staff need her to keep them in check, or does a real authority need to come forward? Tom James has been making a case for himself since he walked through those elevator doors, but never did he look more presidential than shouting over Selina’s sickly person. If he can somehow stay clean despite ties to this administration, Tom James could be on the top of the ticket before the year is up.

Jonah Put-Down of the Week

“Oh no. Joker and Penguin beat us to it.” – Dan

In a week with plenty of Jonah put-downs, the above label takes the cake; not because it’s the most ruthless, but because it’s the most accurate. “Veep” has always excelled at finding creative ways to describe its characters, physically, emotionally and mentally. I wouldn’t have thought to compare Jonah and the Joker until Dan did it, but in that instant the similarities stacked up immediately in my mind. Outside of his tall, lanky physique, Jonah is cartoonishly evil. He’s always working against the VP-turned-P’s cause even when he’s trying to work for it, creating a kind of anarchy the Joker would be proud to mimic. Throw him in a purple suit, paint his face white and before too long I’m sure Jonah would be asking, “You know how I got these scars?” (even if he wasn’t the one to inflict them). 

Simile of the Season

“She sounds like an underwater Bob Dylan.” – Mike

Even though last week saw multiple contenders try to topple Amy’s reign, the ex-campaign manager’s quip is still the one to beat heading into Week 8. “B/Ill” didn’t offer much in the way of literal similes for contention, but Mike was able to slip the above gem in at the last second (or at least, the last scene). It got me thinking, too — did Julia Louis-Dreyfus come up with the voice and then the writers and/or Matt Walsh found its perfect negative descriptor or did it happen the other way around? Either way, it’s right on the mark.

Rhetorical Abuse

“There’s Pierce. He even walks dumb.” – Mike
“Every time I see him I hear circus music.” – Selina

Perhaps the least heralded MVP of Season 4 is Paul Fitzgerald’s oft-mocked Congressman Owen Pierce. The young, enthusiastic, braindead nimrod has been given more and more opportunities to move up the ladder, emphasizing how the most idiotic among us still are elevated to power positions for the sake of politics. His continue presence says more without commentary than anyone could in describing its incisive consequence. Perhaps most importantly, though, is Fitzgerald himself. That he slowly abandoned ship during a tough conversation and fled to the gift shop (“not to hide”) is great writing. How he did it is superb comic acting. If you have to be really smart to play stupid, then Fitzgerald might be the most brilliant actor on set. 

Power Rankings

1) Tom James
– Tom has been creeping up the ranks since he arrived, but he announced his authority with voices loud and soft this week: shouting at the team to serve the president and providing counsel for Selina in a time of doubt. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt who was the most presidential person in that bedroom.

2) Ben Cafferty
– Ben’s season-long streak came to an end, as his part in the bumbled attempt to get the “Mommy Meyer” bill shut down may be his end as well. Ben can lie with the best of ’em, but relying on consistent lies from everyone involved may be too much for even his fibbing capacity. 

3) Kent Davison
– Kent is so organized, I have to believe Ben had the “sub-list.” Only Kent could come up with a “sur-list” anyway.
4) Bill Ericsson
– Bill didn’t stand out for good or bad reasons this week, but Selina wouldn’t forget he was there (unlike Mike). Sometimes blending into the background is the best move. 
5) Sue Wilson
– Sue setting up an office outside Selina’s bedroom was a nice touch.
6) Mike McClintok
– Mike’s struggles continue, but I must say I’m pretty excited to see him take on congressional questioning.  
7) Amy Brookheimer
– Amy’s ascension wasn’t because of what she did so much as what Gary didn’t do: which was anything.
8) Gary Walsh
– Paris, Gary? You couldn’t think of any other foreign city? Get it together man! (But who else was surprised he didn’t try to steal a smooch on one of those lean-ins with an unconscious Selina?)
9) Dan Egan
– Dan’s deficit to Amy is ever-growing, but I give him credit for coming up with, “You colossal fucking fanny pack” to describe Jonah.
10) Jonah Ryan

– “Two giant children in their father’s suits.”

Grade: B+

READ MORE: HBO Orders Two Seasons of Duplass Brothers’ Animated Series ‘Animals’ Following Sundance Debut

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