Tom James, M.D.
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Storms and Pancakes, an apt title for the two threads that were swimming along this episode, is another housekeeping episode that continues a solid if unremarkable fourth season for the political firebrand show. Tom James, who we were told last week out of nowhere, is hugely charismatic and he proves that here indelibly. He has that touch of being charming, handsome, and appearing to be legitimately down to earth even though the position he is gunning for is the Vice Presidency of the United States. Selina picking him out of the blue because of Amy’s constant optioning of him made sense – she needed someone with more charisma and less baggage than herself. This episode proves that that could potentially be a double-edged sword; the short-term benefits of having a more popular #2 don’t necessarily outweigh the potential long-term risks. Certainly the occasional grimace on Tom’s face as he sees Selina’s team in action couldn’t be an indication of a morale boost.
Last week I noted that the consistent rotation of characters in and out of the President’s office is making for a somewhat frenetic feeling of Veep’s narrative. Thusly, the character consistency that had made the second and third seasons so great has been missing in the show’s fourth outing. The episode notes that lack of consistency in a moment of understanding when the staff back in the White House notes how empty everything feels. It’s a mark of confidence perhaps, that Veep feels okay with leaving so many of its characters on the periphery but the danger can be that they completely feel as if they are detached from the central workings of the show. Amy and Dan’s brief connection before Sydney decides to play them off against each other was well done, but it lasts for just the right short amount of time. The two, as kind as they can be to one another, thrive off of competition and there simply is no denying that Amy is more competent at surviving in Washington, D.C.
Selina might not be. For the first season, she showed almost none of the trademark brilliance her suggested past would have carried. More than anything, she came across as someone who was completely self-absorbed and had somehow bumbled her way into power and once finding herself there had no idea what to do with it. Season two gave her more agency and the show became all the better for it. Giving Selina actual victories and weighted storylines made the irony of her being a powerful progressive Senator losing all of her power when she theoretically got promoted all the more powerful and hilarious. Her presidency got off to a shaky start but her recovering with the wins in the Middle East was a nice touch.
This week, the incompetency may have crossed an unfortunate line. Per Tom’s suggestion, getting a photo op in the midst of the oncoming hurricane would make Selina look great in the eyes of the public. Screwing the notions of danger, Selina informs the governor of North Carolina that she would be making a touchdown. It’s a quietly brilliant scene, with Selina having to buy off the governor with a declaration of a state emergency so that Raleigh would get more federal disaster relief funds. Tragedy is a business for everyone. Upon landing, the team discovers to their dismay that the hurricane had gone down south and now her rivals were getting the photo op she wanted in Florida: pulling a teddy bear out of the water. Even the damage to the factory that she ends up visiting isn’t extensive in any way, shape, or form. It’s a tragically funny moment that really doesn’t end up serving the story in a significant fashion for now and frankly could have been avoided with competence.
In the most promising development yet, I was quite happy to see that the circumstances surrounding Teddy’s sexual assault of Jonah was being kept within the story’s purview. I was irritated last week that it seemed like a mere plot point that wouldn’t come back but to see it here in the form of a class action lawsuit was fantastic. Jonah is still trying to come to terms with Teddy’s behavior, the complete senselessness of it, and how it so rapidly tore apart the cocksure persona Jonah had built around himself. To see that all of the other individuals involved in the lawsuit were women is a huge blow to the stupid, macho masculinity he had built around himself and he can’t handle it. I’m curious to see where this is going but I’m glad that in this instance Veep is treating this matter as seriously as it should be treated, within germane context to boot.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I love to read.”
+“Self-congratulations are in order.”
+“Well, this is a soulless parade of vanity and ambition.”
+“I hope your vagina falls off.”
+“The best way to get revenge on these people is to use them to make a shitload of money. Mark Twain said that.”
+“Well, you’re dealing with the emotional fallout…”
+Amy on Politico: “That site has turned to shit.”
+“I’m sorry ma’am. A number of tall women were molested, and Mr. Ryan was one of them.”
+“You are Beyoncé. He’s backup booty.”
+“This is a potential tragedy that could be great for you.”
+I love that shot of Tom James looking forward while Selina and Mike are looking at the wall. Only Kent is paying any attention to Tom based on that one shot, a perfect visual encapsulation of the power dynamics at play here.
+Sam Richardson has become such a delight on this show. I’m really surprised and equally delighted.
Title: Storms and Pancakes
Story By: Georgia Pritchett & Will Smith
Teleplay By: Georgia Pritchett & Will Smith
Directed By: Chris Addison
Image Courtesy: HBO