A Look at Veep- Season 4, Episode 9: “Testimony”

C-SPAN 3 just became a lot more entertaining as the Meyer Administration eats its own in the midst of an ongoing investigation.  Welcome to “Testimony.”

Testimony- Selina takes questions from the press about whether she knew what was going on in her name on the day of the Families First vote

The episode begins with a press conference as Selina takes questions from the media about whether she knew what was going on in her name on the day of the Families First vote.  If she did, she would have done something about it.  She says that there’s no truth to these allegations.  Actually, she says it twice.

What follows is possibly one of the most interesting committee hearings ever to grace C-SPAN 3.  Almost everyone within Selina’s inner circle and staff are sworn in to answer questions regarding the ongoing issues in the Meyer Administration.  I’m tackling these scenes a bit differently

Testimony- Ben speaks about why the Families First bill failed

First up is Ben, who is asked why the Families First bill failed.  His response?  It happens.  However, the panel notes that Ben doesn’t seem to be too upset that the bill failed.  When asked who was responsible for the breach, Ben tells the panel that Dan was fired due to his relation to the breach.  That doesn’t answer the question of was he responsible and the fact that Dan was fired when he was innocent, but Ben is adamant.  A sacrifice was needed.  Life is unfair and Dan needed to go.

Testimony- Amy, Dan, and Jonah testify before the committee, Amy turns nouns into verbs

With Jonah, Dan, and a conservative, not-at-all-guilty Amy, after Jonah gives his assessment of the two, Dan admits that he loves money.  He and Amy are patriots that speak for the common citizen.  Amy doesn’t help by trying to differ between consultants and lobbyists- she just turns the nouns into verbs.  The panel brings up a certain document on a J drive entitled the Jonad Files, which Jonah confirms.  Dan apparently encouraged staffers to add to this abusive glossary, though Dan is surprisingly blank about this.  Until the panel starts reading off some of the names.  Where do I even begin with this?  Some include…

Jonad, J Rock, Jizzy Gillespie, Jack and the Giant Jackoff, Gaylien, Tinkerballs, Wadzilla, One Erection, The Pointless Giant, Jimpanzee. The 60-Foot Virgin, Jono Ono, Hagrid’s Nutsacks, Scrotum Pole, Transgenderformers, 12 Years a Slave to Jerking Off, Benedict Cum-in-his-own-hand, Guyscraper, The Cloud Botherer, Supercalifragilisticexpialidickcheese, Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole, Spewbacca.

…damn.  So what’s the point of this?  To prove that Dan and Amy don’t hold Jonah in high regard, as they apparently claimed.  If it’s any consolation, Jonah throws in a nickname others called him: Tall McCartney.

Testimony- Leigh reveals that she was fired to cover something bigger

Leigh Patterson finally returns to testify after being fired in April.  She has nothing to hide, as she values confidentiality and paradoxically doesn’t care who knows.  Leigh tells the panel that she was fired to conceal something bigger: the Meyer campaign using child mortality data from the same breach that named Jennifer Graham as an HIV victim and used this data to target bereaved parents.

Leigh isn’t concerned about the serious repercussions.  She names Bill and Gary as the ones closest to Selina during this scandal.

Testimony- Dan's deposition

During a deposition, Dan tells the interviewers that Leigh has no idea why she’s being scapegoated.  He’s one step behind, as the information he reveals about the data breach is something the interviewers already know, thanks to Leigh’s testimony.

Testimony- Bill and Kent testify

Next up are Bill and Kent.  Kent sticks up for Leigh and calls her a good kid, as Jimmy Cagney would have said, but Bill also says that Leigh had no real idea what was happening.  However, according to a deposition from a witness, it’s known that Bill ordered Leigh.  Bill feels that he’s being snowballed.  When asked if that’s what he did to Leigh, Kent- who still hasn’t directly been asked anything- interjects and says that was scapegoating.

What’s the difference?  It’s not Bill’s fault- that’s the difference.  Bill feels that he shouldn’t be raked over the coals when he’s sitting right next to the campaign manager, despite the fact that Kent was not the campaign manager at the time of the breach.  Yet he said nothing?  Well, in Kent’s defense, it may appear that there was a lot of nothing going on, there was lots going on underneath, like a swan or Professor Stephen Hawking.

Back to Deposition Dan, he implicates Gary.  He tries to make a comparison to The Usual Suspects, but the interviewer has not seen the film.  Don’t you hate that when you try to make a reference?

Testimony- A nervous Gary testifies

Okay, so it’s Gary’s turn, and he’s visibly shaken by the large presence of cameras and people in the audience.  The committee informs Gary that several people have put him at the center of events, so they need him to outline his duties and responsibilities.  However, Gary expected to testify under different circumstances.  When he was originally summoned, it was a much smaller hearing and his executive privileges were waived.  Now it’s like a U2 concert.

He doesn’t un-waive his privileges and starts to say that he’s friendly with Dan, but walks that back.  In addition, he was spotted with both Dan and Amy on the day of the Families First vote.  When asked to describe his relationship with the President, Gary describes himself as a pipeline carrying information straight into Selina’s head.

When asked if he knew that Selina lobbied against her own bill, Gary then downplays his effectiveness to the campaign.  He’s more of a prompter.  The pipeline remark was just him being big-headed and arrogant.  He wouldn’t have contact with lobbyists, but Catherine’s fiancé, Jason, is a lobbyist at times, so there’s that.  Up until now, though, he’d been referred to as a consultant.

Testimony- Selina's deposition

Now it’s time for Selina’s deposition.  Unlike Gary, she elected to waive her executive privileges.  When asked if she’s concerned about her daughter being engaged to a lobbyist, Selina corrects the interviewers and says that Jason is a consultant.  Upon learning what Gary said, Selina replies that Gary has…limited skills.  Such skills include taking care of Selina’s sanitary needs.  Lovely…

Even though Selina says that Jason isn’t a lobbyist, the firm of Merryman & Cotter lists him as a lobbyist on the “Our Lobbyists” section of their website.  Very specific.  In addition, he’s lobbied for Christian Aid, OxFam, the World Health Organization, various IT organizations, and investment banks.

Testimony- Catherine's deposition, Catherine is a smart-ass

And during another deposition, Catherine confirms that her fiancé is indeed a lobbyist.  She doesn’t see any difficulty with this in her relationship, not to mention she doesn’t like questions on her personal life.  After a snack, she’s less snappy and more cheery.  Nah, let’s just say it: she’s a real smartass.

Selina sees the conflict of interest here due to the investigation of direct links between lobbying and her administration.  However, it’s come to our immediate attention that Catherine and Jason may not be engaged anymore.  Jason was never right for Catherine, despite Selina calling him sweet not too long ago.  She then goes to call the President of South Africa.

Testimony- Sue's testimony

Now it’s Sue’s turn.  What can you possibly hold on Sue, as straight-laced as she is?  She has no record of any meeting between the President and Congressman Owen Pierce.  That’s because Pierce was not disposed in a matter indicative of a meeting…which makes no fucking sense.  To Sue, there’s a difference between a meeting a having a meeting.  She keeps meticulous records of emails, texts, voice memos, letters…wait, what was that about voice memos?  The panel focuses on that, but Sue says that wasn’t her responsibility.  Whose was it then?

Testimony- Mike testifies and demonstrates his app

In enters Mike.  A witness places him in a parking lot with Dan and Amy.  Mike does not deny this.  It just happened by chance, as he went to get something from his car.  What was it?  Knee medicine.  For his left knee.  When asked to name it, Mike comes up with the creative title of Crouch Cream.  No, more like Knee-Z Cream.

He demonstrates the app he recommended to Selina by sending a message to himself.  Oh, he remembers the name of the cream: Knee Free.  The panel inquires about messages from the President, but Mike says that most of them were about lemons and Advil.  He’s deleted them all.  Unfortunately, they still exist in the Cloud.  Well, that sucks.  I never saw the movie Sex Tape, but didn’t the Cloud come up in that film, too?

Testimony- Selina is asked whether Congresswoman Bennett is on the committee to divert focus away from the scandal

Back to Selina, who delivers a statement confirming the end of Catherine and Jason’s engagement.  This breakup is unconnected to the ongoing inquiries into her administration other than the strain the inquiry has brought upon the relationship.

Selina is then asked about her relationship with one of the panel members, Congresswoman Bennett, played by Melanie Nicholls-King.  Selina claims that they aren’t friends, though it’s suggested that Bennett is there just to steer the committee away from any issues that would be uncomfortable to Selina.  Selina doesn’t have time for friends, though.  She’s the President.  And yet, Selina appointed a special prosecutor, and the legal folks talking to her are the team under her appointee.

Testimony- Congresswoman Bennett, played by Melanie Nicholls-King, asks Jonah about his harassment

Interesting theory on the team’s part.  Let’s put it to the test.  Jonah, Dan, and Amy are joined by Richard.  The committee, well, Congresswoman Bennett specifically, wants to touch upon Jonah’s emotional issues during the run-up to the Families First Bill.  He mentions that he was touched in a private place, but does not mention Teddy Sykes’ name.  When asked if there was ever any contact between testicles and hands, Jonah states that his spheres were clothed.

Testimony- Amy, Dan, Jonah, and Richard testify; Jonah is asked about sexual harassment

It’s at this point that Jonah notices how Congresswoman Bennett is indeed pulling focus away from the lobbying issue.  In fact, Bennett won’t even allow any of the male members ask questions.  Jonah is asked who else knew about this, and that’s where Richard jumps into the conversation.

He not only knew about this, he witnessed it in a hallway around the same time that Dan came to fire Jonah as a scapegoat for the child mortality data breach.  Ha!  I know Richard didn’t mean to say that, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t a great way to unintentionally screw over Dan.  Though Bennett wants to hear more about the alleged molestation, the panel quickly shifts back to the data breach.  A name is necessary or this administration will be in deep shit.

Testimony- Tom Jones is asked about Gary Walsh

Tom James finally makes an appearance and is asked if it’s possible for Gary to have been responsible for paying Dan and Amy to lobby against the Families First bill.  He laughs at the notion of Gary, a 12-year-old boy trapped inside the body of a 12-year-old girl, could do this.

Testimony- Gary names Bill Ericsson as the scapegoat

During Gary’s deposition, he confirms that he did indeed contact Amy Brookheimer and Daniel Clifford Egan after they had left the White House with regard to the Families First Bill, but someone else made the arrangement for the payment: Bill Ericsson.

And, one by one, the episode comes to a close with the rest of Selina’s team throwing Bill Ericsson under the bus for this entire fiasco.

The most interesting thing to hit C-SPAN 3 in some time?  “Testimony” is a strong entry into the series and one that explores not just the fallout and woes of the Meyer administration this season, but the incompetence of almost everyone within Selina’s inner circle.  We’ve known that they’re a bunch of fuck-ups, but this puts their mistakes on full display.

Testimony- Jonah talks about Amy's suddenly conservative looking outfit

And this isn’t a scenario where the characters can just lash out at each other in profanity-laden sentences, as is often the norm.  This might be the cleanest episode of Veep thus far because outside of the reading of the Jonad Files, there’s no swearing here.  You could almost get away with airing this on network television.  I’d almost call this a bottle episode, except we do spend portions of “Testimony” away from the committee hearings when we watch the depositions.

This episode dealt with the corruption in Selina Meyer’s team and how all of their screw-ups have managed to catch up to them.  Great.  No, I mean that.  This is something that I wanted from Veep last year, as the events throughout the season have led up to this rather than just being isolated incidents.  Again, because Selina is now the President and not the Vice-President, every single move she and her team make will be examined with extra scrutiny.

Testimony- Ben says that Washington needed a scapegoat; Dan

It’s scrutiny that that they deserve.  Everyone is right in character here, but they’re all walking slim tightropes, with the exception of possibly Ben.  Kevin Dunn in particular is excellent here as he attempts to skewer the committee for questioning the actions of the administration, but the fact is that they’re asking valid questions.  He can’t just force this issue away.  He admits that Washington needed a scapegoat, but that’s not a justifiable reason, in my opinion.

Testimony- Leigh testifies before the panel

At the very least, I’m glad that this meant Leigh could not only return for an episode, but get back at the administration for throwing her under the bus.  Her appearance was brief, but to the point and effective.  If this is the last time we see this character, I’m glad she went out on a high note.  She, Ben, and Kent, I believe, handled the committee questions quite well.

Testimony- Sue's screw-up

And I don’t think anyone ever expected someone as stoic and meticulous as Sue to slip up, but it happened.  Granted, it wasn’t intentional and she only mentioned voice memos in addition to the other forms of communication that she keeps records of, but the committee didn’t know about the memos, so that’s another problem for Team Selina.  Like everyone else, Sue opted to save her own ass by passing the buck to someone else.  It was brief, but Sue had a humanizing moment that made her feel more real and less of a machine.

Testimony- Amy doesn't help her own case

If anything, this episode exposed many of the character’s main flaws.  Dan is arrogant, Amy can be guided purely by money- though she tries to reject that claim- Bill cracks under pressure, and Jonah is the oddest person you may come across on this show.

And in my honest opinion, that reading of the Jonad Files will probably be a standout moment of this season, right up there with Tom James skewering the team or Amy skewering Selina.  Lots of skewering.

Testimony- Richard implicates Dan

But if I had a favorite moment of this episode, it would have to be Richard involuntarily mentions that Dan meant to fire Jonah for the child mortality data breach.  It was such a ‘bang’ moment because, at that point, Dan, who had been building up to firing Jonah in the first place, realized he was screwed.  And yet it wasn’t done out of ill-intent on Richard’s part.  It just came out because he’s that open of a guy.  Just when it looked like the committee would shift its focus to the molestation allegations, Richard manages to shoot that down without even trying.

To that point, though, not only is it dastardly to try and sabotage your own bill just to win an election, but now we see that Selina might have taken that a step further by bringing someone in just to take attention away from her.  The administration really is just digging its own grave.

In effect, any of Selina’s positive work may be forgotten because of this.  And she’s strived to prove she can be an effective leader.  She even asked Tom last week whether she was doing the right thing in regards to the bill.  Now everyone is paying the consequences.

Testimony- Bill is nervous

If I had any qualms with this episode, it’s that Bill Ericsson is tossed aside way too quickly.  Since becoming the Director of Communications, Bill hasn’t really had much to do and wasn’t given a lot of material.  He was competent, mind you, but nothing he did since joining the team was as memorable as his unfriendly hello to Amy and we never got to see him really show what he could do for Selina.

When we first met Bill, he knew the political scene very well.  Someone with that sort of knowledge is the kind of person that Selina would want on her team.  She finally brought him on, but the show didn’t do much with him.  It’s unfortunate because Diedrich Bader is great with the material he’s given and there’s really no reason as to why Bill specifically is the scapegoat.  Given Bill’s expertise, I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Testimony- Tom James' deposition

Another minor issue I have is that Tom James is barely in this episode.  Hell, his deposition isn’t until near the end, and that’s just for his perspective on the situation.  He’s not asked many questions regarding the investigation.  I just wish he’d been featured a bit more, if only because of Hugh Laurie’s performance.

Like last year’s “Crate,” “Testimony” is a strong episode that provides a lot of setup going into the season finale.  The Meyer administration is in major trouble with the scandals piling on top of one another.  It makes me wonder how this will all end.  Will Selina maintain the Presidency?  Can she even go back to being Vice President after all of this?  The team has booted off Dan, Amy, and now Bill, so is anyone else next on the chopping block?  Who knows?  We’ll find out, next time on C-SPAN 3.

You can watch this entire committee hearing and other programs online at c-spanvideo.org

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