[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Veep, “Thanksgiving.”]
It’s Thanksgiving on Veep.
Sunday’s episode opens only two weeks after Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) buried her mother and discovered that her estate had been left to her daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland). Despite a plea from Catherine to join the family at her home for the first Thanksgiving without Meemaw, Selina only snidely agrees “there’s a lot to be thankful for” since the death and opts to spend the holiday working in the White House.
“This is very characteristic of Selina,” showrunner and executive producer David Mandel tells The Hollywood Reporter about the seemingly cold choice. “But it’s also circumstances. I don’t think she even realizes that not spending Thanksgiving [with Catherine] is that big of a deal. I don’t think it even occurred to her.”
With the loss of both the Nevada recount and the popular vote in her rearview mirror, Selina is now looking ahead to the Congressional vote. Something that hasn’t happened “in like 100 years in politics,” Mandel says. The House of Representatives will choose the President and pick between her and Senator Bill O’Brien (Brad Leland).
In addition to focusing on the vote, Selina decides to freshen up by getting an eyelift — a procedure that leaves her looking like “a black-eyed pea.”
“When you’re confronted with your own mother’s mortality, I do think you worry about age and aging and things of that nature,” Mandel says. “There’s a vanity issue and also a sense of: I want to come out of this looking sort of healthy and refreshed as a way of standing different to O’Brien, who is perhaps seen as older and out of shape. All of these things are probably running through her head, but if you were to ask her, the reason would be election-based, and never vanity or age-based.”
The choices she makes are all signs that after the death of her mother — which saw Selina experiencing a near-emotional breakdown and longtime Veep fans witnessing a possible breakthrough in the last episode — Selina is grieving in a very-Selina way.
“You’ll start to see her becoming a little more unhinged,” says Mandel. “It’s a process. We’re at the halfway mark and she’s gone through a lot, she’s had some small victories and some big losses, and she’s had some big personal losses. We’re coming around the turn and we’re now realizing we are focused on Congress.”
And there’s a surprising key player around the corner: Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons).
Thanks to the influence of his uncle Jeff Kane, played by Veep newcomer Peter MacNicol, Jonah has been tapped to run for the seat left vacant by the late New Hampshire Congressman who met an early demise amid “Turkeypocalypse” and the salmonella outbreak.
“Seeing the shortish Peter MacNicol screaming and bullying Jonah (played by Timothy Simons, above), we were biting our hands not to make noise,” says Mandel about the Uncle Jeff character who fans will see more of in coming episodes. (Photo: Lacey Terell/HBO)
Since he will be running against the Congressman’s widow for a position that will eventually get to place a vote on either Selina or O’Brien for president, a “spectacular dumbass” was needed.
“No one wants to run against a widow,” Mandel explains. “It’s going to get ugly. You’ll have to attack the widow and you’re going to get a really bad reputation. So someone like [Uncle Jeff’s nephew] Ezra, who Uncle Jeff is hoping will run for president one day, wouldn’t want to be stained with a bad reputation like that. Uncle Jeff needs an idiot he can control, that’s willing to get bloody and really attack the widow, ruin his own reputation, hopefully still win and vote for Selina, but when it’s all over in two years, step aside for Ezra when he’s back from Afghanistan, because Ezra’s a war hero. So that’s their plan.”
But when Uncle Jeff relays this to puppet Jonah, the lackey still views this as his big chance.
“The one thing you can say about Jonah and the way Tim plays him: he does not lack confidence in his ability to get in somewhere and burrow in like a tick,” Mandel says about the plotline, which will play out over the rest of the season. “As he puts it, he’s like a MRSA infection — he’s not goin’ anywhere. Like a lot of these guys you meet in D.C., he’s got an 80-part plan, he’s already writing his autobiography and this is just one of the many steps in his rise to power.”
As for Selina’s worried response when she hears that Jonah is the pick to run, Mandel says that in typical Veep fashion, nothing is ever simple: “In a tied election with the country split down the middle, this could be the vote. You can hate Jonah, but he could be the vote. This is the most important thing in the world.”
The Thanksgiving episode also provided a few key updates about the rest of Selina’s staff, revealing that the mysterious Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) is married and that press chief Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) and wife (Kathy Najimy) are moving ahead with their surrogate in hopes of having a baby.
But it’s Dan Egan (Reid Scott) who shed light on a possible looming threat when he questioned Tom James’ (Hugh Laurie) intentions. “Is Dan crazy or is Tom up to something? That’s a question for another episode,” Mandel says. “Let us not forget, as Selina said in episode two, ‘Tom’s one of the smartest guys in Washington, he’s a lot smarter than you dummies.'”
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.