What happens you get a running mate who may be more likable than you? Then, you get Hugh Laurie. Let’s jump into “Storms and Pancakes.”
The episode begins with the Meyer campaign making its way through Pennsylvania. The mood is festive and full of energy as Tom and Selina greet voters, though the people are more in love with Tom than anyone else. The press is falling for him as well: the New York Times did a great profile piece on James and there are positive headlines like “Best POTUS We Never Had.” You probably don’t want Selina to see that one.
On the campaign bus, Selina tells an oblivious Gary that there’s obvious sexual tension between her and Tom, just going by the way he crosses his legs. You see, the thing is, about 12 years ago, Selina and Tom almost fucked.
The campaign receives a call from Bill and Ben, who let them know that there’s a hurricane braced to take North Carolina from behind. You can’t get that kind of line anywhere else, I’m sure. Selina and company plan to keep up to date on it, but in the meantime, Selina tells Mike that she wants more op-ed pieces and headlines about how her choosing Tom was an act of real vision and leadership. It’s fine that people like Tom, but Selina wants credit- never mind that it was Amy’s suggestion, but whatever.
Back in Washington, Ben is bored. He tries to make small talk with Sue, who prefers the quiet, so their small talk goes nowhere fast. Get used to this.
Though Teddy is gone, Jonah still has to deal with ridicule from other staffers. He and Richard enter Doyle’s office with notes from a tariff meeting, but Doyle is watching coverage of Tom James at a rally. Though Doyle isn’t a fan of James, Richard suggests that the outgoing Vice President write a memoir about his interesting life. He was vice president, the campaign polled other candidates, and he was fucked in his slack old ass. It’s a start, at the very least.
We then cut back to the campaign at a Bike for Health Rally in Maine. Tom’s a bit rusty with his biking. He did the Tour of Italy in 2008, but his mountain times were apparently embarrassing. I doubt anyone will judge him for that. As he and Selina prepare for their ride, Selina takes an answer from a journalist about whether Tom James is a star. He isn’t- he’s a super star and Selina made a good pick.
Not all is well with the campaign on the road, though. Amy is still pissed at Mike since he sent out a press release saying she resigned because she’s unstable. I mean, Amy is unstable, but it’s best not to put that out there. Kent doesn’t get vendettas since they’re so time-consuming. I can’t agree more.
So what’s Amy up to now? She’s at PKM Offices with Dan, but is still upset about the falling out. Hell, the campaign is going to a pancake breakfast- something she suggested, but got shot down. Dan tells her to clamp down on the complaints and then introduces her to Sidney Purcell, who has a GMJ client he needs tied up. Some West Wing access would help.
Selina talks with Tom about their shared moment from long ago after the Sharpley debate when they shared a cab, but Tom has no idea about this scandalous adventure. In fact, he’s more focused on the green shoes that Selina wore.
When Selina informs Gary about Tom’s cluelessness on that night, she rejects Gary’s offer to talk to Tom himself. She needs him to stop doing things for her, which is a reminder for the pancake breakfast tomorrow: she’s going commando, as in she wants no prompting. I don’t recall that being what going commando means, but fine.
Dan throws a welcome back celebratory party for himself because he’s just that vain. Amy, though, is still bitching and keeps on doing so when the two enter a parking garage. Dan reminds Amy that she loves D.C. and just needs a way to release it.
She does so by screaming at the top of her lungs. This, by itself, isn’t the best idea, but it’s made much worse when two officers exit a nearby police cruiser. Initially, they think Dan is the problem, but Amy assures them that she’s fine. Dan suggests that Amy find a different way to unwind.
Later, Jonah and Richard meet with a group of women at Senator Wilkie’s office. Senator Wilkie, though, is not present. So what are these women doing here? They’re all victims of Teddy Sykes’ inappropriate touching and are filing a class action suit. Oh, and they’d like Jonah to testify. Jonah is apparently the only male that Teddy touched so far. There are several jokes in here somewhere.
On the campaign trail, Kent goes over the setup for the pancake breakfast. However, after enough work, Selina needs to take a break from the preparation. She might vomit on…Mike. What made her single out Mike specifically, I don’t know.
We then cut to the Pancake Brunch at the Connecticut Country Club. Selina and Tom greet various attendees, including Congressman Edgar Housman, played by Chris Kies, who has never met Selina before. Again, Tom has that persona touch that Selina lacks, but at least she’s trying.
So Amy goes to a spa and tires that whole relaxation thing, but this is Amy, so she can’t help but check her phone and glance at Politico. After relaxing for about seven minutes, Amy has had enough and leaves.
Back at PKM, Amy, through means I can’t really understand, manages to land business with a client, Paul, played by Brad Morris. In fact, Amy has somehow done so well that Sidney decides to give her some of Dan’s biggest clients. Oh, and she also gets his parking space and desk. Ha!
Selina still isn’t winning the crowd like Tom is, but some good news heads her way when Ben lets her know that the storm is near. This is a potential tragedy that could be great for her. It’s also great for Ben, because when it’s just him and Sue, he feels like it’s just him.
On Air Force One, the plan is to wait in D.C. for the storm to pass, and then head to North Carolina. Tom suggests going there now before the storm hits. As soon as the hurricane passes, Selina will be there for the citizens in their hour of need. That’s a Tom James of an idea! That’s also how you master a disaster. Despite Gary’s warning about wind, Selina decides to have the plane turn around and head for North Carolina.
The campaign has a conference call with North Carolina Governor Cecile, played by Carolyn Mignini. A state of emergency in her state would shut down travel and cost millions. Upon recognizing Tom James, however, Governor Cecile softens. Selina tries to talk with the team without Cecile hearing or reading their lips, so they all turn their chairs around. How very Seinfeld.
Tom thinks it would be unfair on Senator O’Brien and his running mate if there were a travel lockdown because they would be stranded in Florida. They would not be able to visit the disaster site like Selina’s team campaign. Just throwing that into the barbecue sauce. Selina decides to ground flights. Tom sweetens the deal with a light dusting of federal funds.
In North Carolina, though, there’s no hurricane. There’s no wind, no rain, no sign of any real storm at all. Turns out that the storm moved south and is headed to Florida, meaning O’Brien and Montez will get the storm photos and headlines.
Jonah meets with Louise Benjamin from Cabinet Affairs, as she’s collecting agency responses.
The episode comes to a close with the Meyer campaign surveying the minimal damage of an egg plant. And I do mean minimal damage.
“Storms and Pancakes” is a transition episode. The Meyer campaign is still moving right along, but now the mood has changed for the better since Tom James’ arrival. This is both a good and bad thing. Again, a running mate can make the presidential candidate look better in areas where they’re weak. We don’t know yet what areas in policy Tom may outclass Selina, but we do know from this episode that he’s a more relatable kind of guy.
Without doing any sort of scientific research and just going off the flurry of political ads that we get in the States, politicians really want voters to like them. Whether it’s holding town halls, kissing babies, volunteering at shelters, and tons of shaking hands, our politicians want to come off as relatable. If they try too hard, we’ll know it’s not genuine and that they’re just doing it for the votes. This is what Selina’s doing. Not to say that Selina isn’t a relatable person, but within the context of this episode, she’s pushing for good press.
Tom, however, doesn’t need to do that. Part of it has to do with the charm of Hugh Laurie’s performance, but Tom James just comes off as a nice guy. He’s personable with people and never comes off like he’s trying to force an association. Sure, it helps that he already has a lot of established connections with people, but he never acts like he knows someone that he clearly doesn’t, as Selina does. Some would call this sort of kindness annoying, but I think it helps set James apart from the rest of the campaign team.
Remember that on “Convention,” Ben said that everyone likes Tom, and that’s very clear here from how he’s able to click with people. There’s nothing fake about him right now- he just appears to be a nice guy. This is the kind of person that Selina needs and he’s not trying to one-up her. The press just happens to like him more, but Selina wants credit and does not want to be taken out of the spotlight.
For example, before the campaign leaves Pennsylvania, Tom charms the crowd with some funny one-liners. Not to be outdone, Selina steps off the campaign bus with a funny remark of her own…not because she has to, but because she might not want Tom to have the last word and the crowd to have a lasting impression of him instead of her.
We don’t know yet whether he’s feigning ignorance about this night he shared with Selina or just doesn’t know, but he seems to have his mind on other things. Tom is a bit quirky to me, but in a good way. I love his random fun facts that he shares and how he’s able to sweet talk the Governor of North Carolina while Selina is trying hard to negotiate. He’s fun, but good at what he does, which I can’t say for most of Selina’s team. With the exception of Sue, Bill, and maybe Ben and Kent, the people who work for Selina are walking punch lines. Tom is a change of pace.
Aside from Tom interacting with various characters, this episode was a lot of fun. It was nice seeing the team back on the campaign trail after spending so much time with legislative business. Even then, they’re still the same people, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that Selina and her team would take advantage of a national disaster for the sake of good press and photos. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for real life politicians and I certainly wouldn’t put it past Selina to exploit this, but then we get the reveal that she missed the storm.
And sticking with the campaign crew for a second, Kent appears to be doing a good job as campaign manager. Since he’s not one to hold grudges or have vendettas, he may be better equipped for this position than either Dan or Amy. Granted, we haven’t seen Kent do much and even Amy seemed better than Dan during her first few days, but Kent seems more competent at his job.
Amy and Dan, though, are working together again, but Amy just cannot get the White House off of her mind. It shows how connected she was to that job, but also how hard wired she is to work in general, as she can’t bring herself to relax for even a moment without glancing at her phone. Chlumsky is still great at letting Amy’s inner rage fly and I loved that scream in the parking garage.
Yet Dan is back in competition with her and she’s somehow managed to one-up him in no time at all. I don’t get how she did that when they both presumably have the same contacts and access to the White House, but Amy looks to be ahead of Dan for now. This just makes me wonder why Dan would go through the trouble of helping Amy get a job in the first place when there’s the possibility of her surpassing him, which she’s now done. These two could work well together if they put their differences aside and acted like good people, but this being Veep, that’s probably not going to happen.
Jonah is the only man whose been inappropriately touched by Teddy and all of the other victims are not only female, but they all look like him. The jokes literally write themselves and Richard is just so straight laced and open about everything that he helps to balance out the more hard-wired Jonah. And I loved Richard’s line about how “a number of tall women were molested and Mr. Ryan was one of them.” Good writing and a great delivery by Sam Richardson.
And Ben trying to have a conversation with Sue of all people was as funny as it was awkward. If the office was completely empty, I’m certain that Ben would lose his mind while Sue would just go on with business as usual. Though I honestly don’t know what she does all day.
“Storms and Pancakes” was another great installment of Veep. Each storyline was executed effectively and had great humor throughout. Amy is back on her feet, sort of, Jonah now realizes his potential future as a middle aged woman, and Tom James is taking off with the voters. Onward to next week.