A Look at Veep- Season 5, Episode 4: “Mother”

And so, we gather here to join President Selina Meyer and company as they experience a tragic loss that is sure to shake things up and lead to some moments of reflection, grief, and eventual acceptance.

Oh, and Selina’s mother is in the hospital and at death’s door.  “Mother,” for my money, might be one of the darker episodes of Veep that shows what Selina Meyer truly values most in life and what she doesn’t, but probably should.

Mother- Selina learns that her mother is in the hospital

The episode begins with Selina addressing a crowd in Jersey during a clean energy venture.  The winds are not blowing, though because the turbines are not running.  Mike tells Gary, meanwhile, that he and Kathy are meeting a surrogate.  Also, Selina’s mother is in the hospital due to a stroke.  Selina, though, is in no hurry to rush to her mother’s bedside.  Of course.

In fact, she’s more cynical than anything else.  Mike seems to like her, but Selina talks about her mother comforting her after an election defeat.

Mother- Dan and Amy spot a protest

Then we get a ballot hearing in Nevada.  The Meyer and O’Brien camps make their case, though Karen somehow manages to find a way to stall out the process of a deadline.  Outside, Dan and Amy find a protest that they discern to be fake.

Mother- Selina and family with Mom

At the hospital, Selina gets a call from Amy, who apologizes for Mom’s stroke.  Not about the recount, though.  Get the damn ballots counted.  Kent, Sue, and Ben are also at the hospital.  So is Andrew, at Catherine’s request.  Andrew introduces Selina to Monica, who Gary does not know.  He does, though, when Andrew mentions her blogs.

Mother- Dr. Mirpuri, played by Sarayu Blue, tells Selina about her mother's condition

At Mom’s bedside, Selina finds that Catherine has quite the tight bond with Monica.  Selina isn’t a fan of the music, even though it’s Mom’s favorite, and instead focuses on her fingernails.  Mother loves her hands.  Dr. Mirpuri, played by Sarayu Blue, tells Selina that all brain function in Mom has ceased, so she’ll need to stay on life support until she expires.

Mother- Kathy and Mike meet a potential surrogate

Elsewhere in the hospital, Mike and Wendy meet with their potential surrogate, who has already carried three babies to term, doesn’t drink, never smoked, and exercises.  Oh, and she’s a Christian.  Mike and Wendy are too, now.  They go to Our Lady of the Holy Womb of Jesus.  It’s not a well known congregation.

Mother- Selina and Catherine learn how Mom will die

There’s no plug for Mom as the news goes from bad to worse.  Instead, there’s a ventilator tube that needs to be removed.  After that, Mom’s organs would begin to fail and the doctors would track her vitals.  Catherine wails for life, but Selina rushes to Kent’s side so she can get a break from family matters.  Kent slowly places his hand on Selina’s shoulder.

Mother- Kent tells Selina that her favorable numbers are going up because of her mother

Good news, though: since word spread about Selina’s condition, there’s been an outpouring of support that’s driven up her favorable numbers by double digits.  If Selina pulled the plug, there could be a greater outpouring due to a death bump.  These fucking people.  Selina has some soul searching to do.  Furlong, meanwhile, reacts to O’Brien’s tweet, as Selina needs some quiet space to think.  Ben tries to offer solace to Selina.

Mother- Counter protest

So Richard and Jonah have been enlisted to run a counter-rally to O’Brien.  So they rally.

Mother- Gary and Selina pray

At the chapel, Selina asks Gary what she prays for- and it’s her.  Well, that’s sweet, I guess.  Gary literally has to give Selina some words so she can start her prayer on God easing her mother’s pain.  Also, please let Selina be elected as the first female President of the United States.  Lord, hear her prayer.

Mother- Selina's last moment with her mother

Dr. Mirpuri tells Selina that when the ventilator is removed, there may be some coughing.  She then gives Selina a moment to say goodbye.  She uses this moment to examine her mother’s nails and fumbles with finding nice words to say.  She regurgitates Ben’s quote- which she didn’t even like- when the others enter.

Mother- Selina's mom passes

Soon, the ventilator is removed, just as Ben and Kent get notifications on their phones.  The process only takes a few minutes.  Well, that’s good, given Selina’s schedule.  But then Gary also gets a notification.  Then Mom flatlines and passes.  When the doctor leaves, the team learns of the temporary stay in Nevada, meaning the count will continue.

And this is what gets an emotional reaction out of Selina.  Not because of Mom, as Catherine believed.  See, Catherine just entered, so she didn’t get to see Mom in her final moments.  Selina comforts her daughter, saying that Mom was only brain dead, and now there’s good news about Nevada.  My God, Selina, you are evil.

Mother- Selina goes through her mother's possessions

Later, Selina, going over some of her departed mother’s items, tells Catherine that she has no idea what it’s like to be the daughter of a pathological narcissist.  Selina also never got to play the good piano.  Okay.

Mother- George Huntzinger, played by Brian Doyle-Murray, tells Selina that people outside wish her well

The next morning, Selina meets with George Huntzinger, played by Brian Doyle-Murray: her favorite of Mom’s lawyers.  Selina learns that there are a ton of people outside that have come to wish Selina well since she’s in mourning.  Of course.

Mother- Selina meets with some well-wishers

So why not soak up some of that goodness?  Selina speaks with the diverse crowd.

Mother- Amy talks about Eleanor Roosevelt

Back at the Nevada Election Board, the recount continues.  Amy talks with an observer, but she goes off the cuff about Eleanor Roosevelt eating pussy.  Is it true, though?

Mother- Selina wants the recount stopped

The team learns that the new votes are now tilting towards O’Brien due to absentee ballots.  Selina is upset and tells the team to stop the recount.  This would look like a flip-flop, but Selina doesn’t give a fuck about that.  She’s about to be the first elected female President and right now, she’s tired of losing things.  You know, like parents.

Mother- Karen wants the recount to stop

So Karen now files a motion to exclude all upcoming ballots.  Dan rushes out to tell Jonah and Richard to stop, but the protest is all over the news.  Well, maybe Selina will get assassinated.

Mother- Tom James shows up at the funeral

Time for Mom’s funeral.  Tom James even stops by and finds that Charlie Baird is here, even while the economy isn’t doing so hot.  Mike has a eulogy prepared for Selina, who won’t let Catherine be involved.

Mother- Ambassador Al Jaffar, played by Usman Ally, sends a message from China

Ben then tells Selina that Qatar Ambassador Al Jaffar, played by Usman Ally, has arrived with a message from China in regards to the sanctions, which may undermine China’s economy.

China is open to indirect talks in exchange for Selina easing off the economic pressure.  On the table is everything from climate change to human rights.  Well, that was mysterious.

Mother- Selina learns that she lost the popular vote

Also, Karen could not stop the recount.  As such, Selina has lost Nevada, so this fight will go to Congress.  With all the new votes going to O’Brien, Selina has lost the popular vote.  Selina Meyer, in light of everything that has happened, now grieves.

Mother- Selina has lost Nevada

So it’s time for Selina to deliver the eulogy.  She talks of her mother’s piano, but she’s overcome with emotion.  She has lost…so much, but doesn’t get specific.  She lets Catherine play Tim McGraw.  As the music plays, Selina continues to drown in her tears not over the loss of her mother, but the loss of Nevada.  There’s still time to discuss the inheritance.  The bulk of the estate was left to Catherine.  So there’s that.

Trust Selina Meyer to put politics above everything else, even in a time of grieving.  Veep always excels with its writing, cast, and comedy, but “Mother” could be one of the show’s darkest episodes just because of how Selina deals with her mother’s death.

Mother- Catherine cries again

Or, should I say, doesn’t deal with it.  Death is inevitable.  Death is tragic.  Death is…something that warrants a time of reflection and grieving.  I’m no expert, so don’t quote me on that.  Point being that you’d think that losing someone as close as your mother would garner some sort of emotional response.

Mother- Selina tells Catherine about the good news in Nevada

Oh, who am I kidding?  Not that I’d expect Selina to show even the tiniest hint of sadness at losing her mother, but this shows just how much of a pathological narcissist she really is.  Irony isn’t strong enough of a word when she tells Catherine that she has no idea what it’s like to live under someone so cruel.

Mother- Selina with her mother

Throughout the episode, we see Selina take every step to avoid dealing with her mother’s condition and instead deal with the Nevada recount.  Focusing on her mother’s fingernails, trying to think up something nice to say before her mother dies, and not even giving Catherine the time to be present in those final moments, paint Selina as a very selfish person.

Mother- Selina flip-flops on the recount

To be fair, that’s nothing new, but I was floored at seeing how she didn’t process her mother’s slow demise.  Family isn’t priority for Selina, if her treatment of Catherine is any indication.  She’s a politician first.  And despite still being the President, Nevada is a major obstacle and pain in Selina’s ass since she needs that state.  The loss of a mother won’t change that.

Mother- Selina visits the well-wishers

Except when it turns out that grieving can work in her favor.  It’s not unlike politicians to speak openly about losing their loved ones.  Some call that scoring political points or using family as props, and that’s just how it works for Selina.  Only when Kent informs her that her mother’s condition is driving up her favorable numbers does Selina show some semblance of grieving.

Mother- Selina is tired of losing

Not because she’s sad, but because she’s still seen as an unlikable president and this would help make her look more appealing.  And let’s face it: part of what helps in a political campaign is coming off as palatable.  And if Selina is always screaming and bitching about how much her life sucks, very few people are going to vote for her.  So why wouldn’t she play up the sadness when people are watching?

Mother- Karen can't stop the recount

If anything, it’s even more of a desperation tactic than bringing in Karen because all she can is stall for time.  And even that ends up failing once she’s unable to stop the recount. Never mind that, as Mike said, it would have been a major flip-flop.

Mother- Selina has lost so much

When Selina finally lets her emotions go and cries as her daughter did, it is both sad and humorous.  The crowd thinks that she’s acknowledging the loss of her mother, but in reality, it’s more like she and her team losing a much needed win.  That, and not the death of her mother, is what drives President Selina Meyer to tears.  Unbelievable.

Mother- Catherine flips out

What’s more is that, even after Mom has died, Selina still finds a way to speak ill of her in front of her daughter.  And Catherine gets a fair bit of shit thrown her way, too.  As great as Julia Louis-Dreyfus is as Selina, Sarah Sutherland deserves praise for her performance as Catherine.  She’s so low-key, but here, she lets her emotions loose, whether sobbing at her grandmother’s condition or challenging Selina.

But then, we learn that the bulk of Mom’s estate was left to Catherine, so I’m curious if we’ll get any kind of follow-up on that.

Mother- Gary prays with Selina

The rest of the cast at the hospital is great as well.  Ben and Kent’s awkward attempts at comforting Selina, Gary helping Selina pray– of all things- and Mike offering to turn around so Selina won’t have to look at him is how Veep keeps the humor going at a quick rate.  It’s a credit to the show’s writing that there are so many comedic moments that stick and manage to get packed into just a half-hour.

Mother- Dan and Amy now need to switch the protest

Well, most of them tend to stick.  Yeah, I’m going on about Nevada again.  Despite how important of a job the Nevada team has, they’re not making much ground and I didn’t find these segments any more memorable than the previous week.  Better, though, if only because of how the team has to immediately flip their strategy once Selina wants the ballot count stalled.

The funny moments, like Jonah, Richard, and Cliff having to stage a counter-rally, or Amy going off about Eleanor Roosevelt, are fine, but I wanted to get back to the others at the hospital.  I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that the Nevada situation is vital to Selina’s campaign.  But for me, these scenes didn’t hold my focus as much as the situation with Selina and her mother.

Mother- Kathy and Mike apparently attend Our Lady of the Holy Womb of Jesus

Meanwhile, we do again get some progression with other storylines threaded throughout the season.  Wendy and Mike have their sit down with a surrogate while masking their feelings on religion, while Selina learns that the sanctions on China may have ended up working in her favor.

Mother- Selina grieves for losing Nevada

So by the Transitive Property of Selina Meyer, thinks are not going to stay that way.  Hell, they already haven’t just based on her losing the popular vote and Nevada.

So what have we learned today?  If you’re a relative of Selina Meyer, don’t expect her to weep at your funeral unless it has to do with her, not you.  And the worst part of her day is that her fate now rest in the hands of Congress.  Again, “Mother” is a dark episode that shows Selina at one of her most narcissistic moments in light of a personal tragedy…to her political career.  Not her personal life.  That would be asking too much.

Yes, Selina Meyer did indeed lose so much this week.  Will she start winning?  I doubt it.

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