Veep: “Testimony” Season 4 Episode 9 Review

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Some simple reformatting makes for one of Veep‘s most brilliant episodes to date.

Veep has spent plenty of episodes mining comedy gold out its characters time spent in front of a camera. Whether its Selena squirming uncomfortably as her teleprompter cuts out during her State of the Union speech, or Mike wishing he could melt into the floor during a press interview, the series has nailed the pressure that media scrutiny often brings to politics.

Still, nothing compares to this week’s “Testimony,” which takes place entirely in front of deposition cameras and a taping of the congressional hearing. There are no behind-the-scenes moments for the characters to regroup and come up with a new attack plan. Here, our favorite White House staffers are stuck looking like deers in headlights as they face the consequences of this season’s devious actions. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.

The brilliance of “Testimony” is that it works as a great standalone episode of Veep with its singular, streamlined narrative, and yet it’s also a culmination of everything that’s happened on this season thus far. Things pick up directly where they left off in “B/ill,” and everything from the data breach to Teddy’s gropey tendencies is covered.

The lack of internal communication between the team serves this episode well, as the implications between each interview session speak volumes. Selena’s relationship with her daughter Catherine has been a point of tension this entire season, making her offscreen breakup with her fiancé an excellent point of comedy. Meanwhile, the cuts between Lee’s testimony and Dan’s lack of new information during his deposition are incredibly satisfying.

In fact, much of this episode is refreshing because we finally get to see everyone pay for their unscrupulous behavior. Veep has always presented a world of gleeful ruthlessness, where people will do whatever it takes to get ahead and then laugh about it later. Even though Selena and her staff can be endearing in their ambition, it’s nice to see them finally be put in the hotseat for all the tricks they’ve pulled.

Selena is the character for whom the stakes are the highest this week, as any missteps could mean the end of her presidency. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays through several of her character’s lies with a smile, and yet you can see the strain on her face throughout her deposition. Selena isn’t backing down from her stance, but it’s clear that she knows where one wrong move will get her. It’s a tricky time for Selena, and Dreyfus effortlessly displays her simultaneous fear and determination.

Elsewhere, the rest of the cast is at the top of their game. Tony Hale is particularly amusing as Gary initially comes in strong, and then retreats when he realizes he’s given a questionable answer. Sue has a similar moment when she misspeaks about voice memos, and Sufe Bradshaw plays her temporary lapse with laugh-out-loud precision. Kevin Dunn is terrific this week, as Ben goes on the offensive when asked the hard questions. Kent, meanwhile, gets a funny recurring joke about speaking out of turn. Matt Walsh’s face when Mike realizes that Selena’s voice memos are still on the cloud is absolute perfection.

The scene that has the most meat, however, is the group interview with Jonah, Dan, Amy, and Richard. This sequence not only let each of the individual actors shine, but also allowed them to play off each other in hilarious ways. Amy’s dowdy outfit to downplay her involvement is made ten times funnier by Jonah seeing right through it. The invasive questions about Jonah’s molestation are made even more uncomfortable by Dan’s eagerness for them to proceed. The scene ends with Richard’s slip-up in mentioning Dan’s attempts to use Jonah as a scapegoat before dissolving into chaos. It’s some exceptionally paced comedy, and it is truly marvelous.

“Testimony” sees a lot of the characters try to sell each other down the river in order to save their own hides. Unfortunately, all roads eventually lead to Ericsson, and the Communications Director finds himself fighting for his life. Diedrich Bader’s usual cool arrogance is replaced by genuine anxiety, and as far as character exits go, his is not to be missed. Though it’s a bit of a shame that no real consequence befell Team Meyer after all was said and done, it was great fun to see them all sweat it out for half an hour. Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

– Tom James is only seen briefly this week, which is fitting seeing has he was brought into the game so late. Still, Hugh Laurie makes the most out of his time onscreen, especially with his insult about Gary.

– A highlight of the episode has to be the Jonah nicknames that a committee member reads off in rapid succession. My personal favorites are “12 years a slave to jerking off” and “Benedict Cum-in-my-own-hand.”

– Tony Hale’s delayed delivery of “Bill…Ericsson” at the end is amazing.

– Is it just me, or was Catherine on something this week? Her attitude before and after she left to take a breather during her deposition was so drastically changed, that it looked like she had gone out to pop a pill.

– Jonah’s speech at the end may have been self-serving, but it’s repercussions might actually do some good.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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