Oh wait, you all were serious about Selina coming to Gary’s birthday party?
The episode begins with some of Team Selina arriving at Gary’s childhood home of White City, Alabama for Gary’s birthday. Gary rushes up to the porch and hugs his mother, Imogene, played by Jean Smart, while Amy tells Selina that donors are restless on the library’s slow progress, so Selina needs to find a new source of money or return the old money. Also, Al Jaffar, who is in New York, wants to see Selina, but that will have to wait.
As for Gary’s judge father, he’s out on a hunting trip, so we’ll meet him later.
Over at The Washington Post, Mike tells Leon that as a result of working on Selina’s memoir, he’s been bitten by the writing bug and wants to start a syndicate column. He then reads a quick snippet of a time he found Ellen in her closet. It’s far from Pulitzer winning material. Leon agrees to give Mike an update if he learns anything.
Back in Alabama, Amy’s attempt to ask for working on something besides the library are rebuffed. At last, in enters Gary’s father, the Judge, played by Bill Dauterive himself, Stephen Root. The judge here didn’t vote for Selina, but respects. Well, I guess that counts for something. Meanwhile, he saw the recent Tom James interview and found him to be quite a good-looking man. Huh.
Imogene then shows Selina upstairs and tells her that she and Gary will be in separate rooms since they aren’t official yet. Ha. In this particular room is a crib that belonged to Gary’s stillborn twin, Bruce. Selina notes that there’s something off about the judge, but Gary figures that it’s just his dad being hard on him. Of course. Also, Mom and Dad sleep in separate rooms. Makes sense.
Over in the civilized part of the country, it’s Day 23 of the government shutdown and Jonah tries to commemorate this by smashing a clock, but ends up hitting Congressman Clark’s foot instead.
And at CBS, which covers every news story under the sun, Stevie informs Brie and Dan that the execs aren’t happy with them, so they need a game-changer. Well, they could go back to fucking again, but Brie wants to wait until after the wedding, so Stevie tells Dan that the executives want him to get an interview with the head of the Jeffersons. Yup, Dan gets to have another one-on-one with Jonah. Sounds fun.
Back in Alabama, the judge tells Selina, we learn that Dad is fine with the government shutdown. He could get behind a man like Jonah, even though his bowtie makes him look quite queer.
Oh, and Mike’s arrived thanks to a cheap flight that made an emergency landing in Birmingham because someone took a dump on the beverage cart. Nasty. Since Amy figures that Mike needs closer supervision, Selina puts her in charge of finishing the book with Mike, and Richard is now in charge of the library. However, Mike doesn’t have the White House diary. He thinks he might have left it at a truck stop diner.
While Catherine and Marjorie leave for a tour of great Southern female writers, Al Jaffar arrives and apologizes to Selina for his past behavior, but things are better now that his father has died of colon cancer. As Al Jaffar had some business in the Gulf with Sturges Energy, Selina remembers that this Quartie Sturges donated an entire wing to the Hughes’ library. Indeed, Al Jaffar is good friends with Quartie.
So Selina asks if Al Jaffar can use his connections to convince Quartie to donate a few million to her library. That could be arranged.
Back in New York, Dan is having lunch with Greg when he gets a call from Jonah’s office. Jonah is getting tips from his team, Sherman Tanz included, but Ben tells Jonah that, as a freshman congressman, there’s no way he’ll get a meeting with President Montez. Dan finally gets through to Jonah, who wants Dan to score him tickets to “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” You know, the show that closed years ago and was plagued by disasters.
So since Dan can’t do this, he stops Greg from promising it and it turns out that Jonah wants to hang out with Dan, like when they were friends. I guess that all happened off-screen. Dan soon agrees, but not before being corrected by Kent, who informs him that, contrary to what Dan said, Bruce Hornsby never officially joined the Grateful Dead. Thanks for that tidbit, Kent.
Through some miracle, Jonah gets his face-to-face with Montez, and when Candi Caruso asks the President if she’ll be fine with Jonah, Montez asks her to stay. This bothers Jonah, as it’s not like he was going to rape the President. And him merely saying that he wouldn’t causes a bit of a fuss.
Montez does get around to congratulating Jonah for getting more done in a short amount of time than most stupid people would in their lifetime. She gives into Tanz’s prison deregulation and sentencing reform demands, but Jonah wants Montez to get rid of Daylight Saving Time, which she of course can’t do. And Jonah better decide fast, as Montez’s offer is only temporary.
Back in Alabama, as the festivities for Gary’s party are set up, Al Jaffar tells Selina that Quartie is intrigued, but reluctant, as he finds Selina to be a bit of a snob. As such, she wants Quartie to come to the party so she can prove that she’s open-minded and nonjudgmental…like how she calls the birthday crystal ‘elitist.’ She wants it gone, but Gary should keep a note of it since Selina may rent it for her birthday.
At the random-ass truck stop diner, Mike finds not the White House diary in the bathroom, but his jacket. On the floor. At that point, he really has no business keeping it. Mike’s belt is also missing, and he thinks the diary may be with his belt in the security section at Dulles.
Back at House Walsh, Selina tells Gary to stand up to his father and fails to see the irony in that. Gary tells Selina that, when he was young, all he wanted to do was go hunting with the Judge. That finally came on Gary’s 10th birthday. During that adventure, a squirrel popped out. When Gary pulled the trigger, the recoil knocked him out. When he came to, the Judge was standing over him with a squirrel.
But what the Judge doesn’t know is that Gary saw him pull the squirrel out of his pocket. He just wanted his son to feel like a man. How sweet. Selina turns to Richard for his knowledge of jug bands.
At the Longworth Building, Ben tells Jonah to take Montez’s deal, as there’s nothing Jonah could do that wouldn’t get him re-elected at this point. And forget about Daylight Saving Time. Jonah thanks Ben for his input by firing him. Not Kent, though.
It’s time for the birthday festivities to begin. There’s a bit of a problem with the signage, but for Selina, it’s not the Confederate flag, but the birthday sign. She’s then introduced to Quartie Sturges, played by Toby Huss, who apparently heard nice things about Selina from President Hughes.
Also, time for Dan and Jonah to hang out, starting with a fancy ass limo ride.
Back in Alabama, Selina continues speaking with Quartie while Gary finds Brian and Beth leaving the party due to the presence of so many Confederate flags. Can’t say I blame them.
To make matters worse, Marjorie learns from Gary that no, there aren’t a ton of vegetarian options. This triggers Marjorie’s angry face. It’s not much different from the neutral one.
Selina then gets the crowd’s attention to share a tale- the exact damn story that Gary shared with her about hunting with his father. She then asks Gary to come on stage for a few words, but he refuses. Well, the crowd at least liked Selina’s story. When Gary attempts to tell Selina something, she shoos him off to get more bourbon instead.
Also, Marjorie finds Catherine eating meat. Whoops.
In the garage, Gary gets some bourbon and has a run-in with his father. The two spill onto the party floor where Gary loses it. He begins ranting and raving to the Judge and admits in front of everyone that he knows the Judge’s secret…he’s a big, fat flaming…bully. Close enough, Gary. He then decides that he’s gonna slow dance with his mom.
Next day, Dan brings Jonah to CBS for the interview, but it won’t be Dan that’s giving the interview. Nope. That honor goes to Jane, who is back at CBS for this prime opportunity to finally fuck Dan in the face. Plus, when Jonah was young, he apparently used to pretend to be sick so he could stay home and jerk off to Jane, so there’s precedent.
Meanwhile, at the airport lost and found, Mike and Amy find Mike’s house keys, but not the diary. No, they’ve found Leon West’s diary instead.
However, before Jane’s interview with Jonah can start, she gets word that a deal in Washington has been reached to end the government shutdown. Indeed, President Montez and the Libertonians have come to an agreement.
It’s time for Team Selina to leave Alabama when Richard informs Selina that Quartie agreed to make a sizable donation to the library.
Following this, Selina and Gary dine at a restaurant, where Selina tells Gary that he should be honored for her sharing her story. Politicians borrow stuff all the time, after all, and Selina at least told the story better. Other than that, she sees no reason for her to apologize.
Meanwhile, at the Post, Leon gets a phone call, presumably from Mike, and doesn’t answer it.
Who would’ve thought that some one-off line about Gary asking Selina to come to his birthday would be explored in detail? It’s something that I would have written off on most shows because, in the grand scheme of things, the line wasn’t all that important when it was uttered on “Justice” and this sort of follow-up on a quick line is something I’d expect from a show like Arrested Development.
And yet, here we are, episodes later on a trip that focuses on Gary and his family. As far as its placement and value to the overall season goes, it doesn’t add much, but for someone who has received as much verbal abuse as Gary, it’s a welcome opportunity to explore his childhood home and maybe pull back the curtains to reveal what’s turned him into the bag man he is today.
Reveal we do indeed, as Gary’s parents are just as odd as he is, but more steeped in their Southern Fried Culture. Though this may be the one and only time we see them, Jean Smart and Stephen Root were great in their roles and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them just to see them interact not just with each other, but Selina’s team as well.
It’s Stephen Root in particular who gives me pause because, in what we got from this episode, there’s more to the Judge than he lets on, though seems like Gary is the one who can’t realize his father’s secret. If the Judge is indeed the epitome of a Southerner who has issues with gays, but may have a little bit of gay in him. I could be looking too deep into that and I doubt Veep would explore this, but it’s interesting to consider.
Hell, if the Judge has an eye for what looks queer, perhaps that would explain why Gary’s so damn good with Selina’s fashion options. Much more so than an actual woman like Amy.
All that said, the only issue I have with visiting Alabama is that we don’t spend more time here. And I do get that. As Veep features an ensemble cast, we have to see how everyone else is doing and how other stories are progressing, but Gary spends so much of his time playing off of other characters, Selina in particular, that it would be nice to see more of the team making the most of being in Gary’s world.
Compared to the fast paced, yet dull life that Washington provides, they’re in No Man’s Land and if Amy and Mike’s misadventure at a truck stop diner was any indication, I could have stood to spend the entire episode here, even though the odds of a member of the team disappearing by episode’s end would have just increased. Though Al Jaffar and Richard didn’t go missing, so I guess not all of the South is still backwards.
Plus, there’s plenty of comedy just from Gary’s parents. After all, whether it’s mistaking Marjorie for a man, thinking Gary and Selina are a couple, or holding onto the crib of Gary’s stillborn brother, calling Gary’s parents an odd pair would be putting it nicely, so I think there was an opportunity missed by not spending more time in Alabama. At least we got a sense of how close Gary is with his mother. Could explain the bond with Selina.
For Selina to snatch Gary’s story for herself just to get into the South’s good graces felt like a punch to the gut for Gary and I was hoping he’d stand up to her like he did in “East Wing.” There, even though they argued, the two went back to being on good terms. Here, while Gary has every reason to chew out his father, he has just as much incentive to do the same with Selina. But we didn’t get that.
That’s not entirely a bad thing because if Gary is known for anything, it’s his iron will that keeps him at Selina’s side, but when Selina told Gary to stand up to his father, I anticipated another confrontation between the two. But hey, Selina got money for the library and she got to bond with Gary over barbecue, so all’s well that ends well, I suppose.
But you can’t get it all. And not to say that because we didn’t spend most of the time in Alabama meant that the rest of the storylines presented were bad. Quite the opposite. Jonah’s baffling rising status gives him easy access to a meeting with Montez, and continues the running theme of women wanting another woman around when Jonah is involved. Plus, don’t put ‘rape’ in any sentence involving the President, Jonah.
Despite his rise, he runs into some obstacles as well. Despite being so adamant about shutting down the government, his Jeffersons-nay, Libertonians- are all but happy to make a deal to end the shutdown once he’s off partying with Dan and getting ready to be interviewed by one of his childhood fantasies. For any progress Jonah makes, life is there to remind him that he’s Jonah Ryan and he is still a running gag.
Plus, of course he’d respond to Ben telling him to compromise by firing him. Jonah Ryan gets nowhere by compromise. He just shut down the government! But he also just shut down the government, and is real life is any indication, people are going to get tired of that shit real fast. But this is Jonah and being the face of a government shutdown isn’t going to deter him. Poor Kent, though. Ben is free, but not Kent.
And for a moment, Jonah did get the best of Dan when he used his authority to score what I’m guessing was an amazing night. But then that’s all pulled out from underneath him when the shutdown ends. To get Jane for the interview instead of Dan, who didn’t even want it, was just salt in the wound and I thought ‘Wow, Jonah managed to one-up Dan.’
That doesn’t happen too often, more so since CBS finds a new way to screw over Dan each week. Even though he and Brie seem to be doing well off-screen, but there’s nothing they can do satisfy the executives or audience. Maybe Dan should’ve just put up with Jane. I’m sure he has no problems with cougars.
With just two episodes left in the season, “Judge” feels oddly placed and is a bit of a detour from the ongoing storyline, but despite a missed opportunity in not spending more time in Alabama, it put Gary in the spotlight and gave us a closer look at his upbringing. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last time we visit White City, Alabama.