Communications director for the vice president, Dan Egan, has found the perfect word for Selina Meyer to assert her newfound power in the administration. "Robust" is how he decides she will describe the administration's response to a hostage crisis, a situation if navigated successfully, could be in Dan's words a "legacy-maker" for the vice president.
"That's going to electrify D.C.," she tells Dan. "That's going to AC/DC," he quips, and her staff continues to remark on the wonder of "robust."
Unfortunately "robust" is about to earn a legacy of its own, and the veep team's best intentions are about to be trucked by their incompetency. While Selina visits a military base with Secretary of Defense General Maddox (whose name lives up to his personality: "mad like an ox"), her scheduler, Sue Wilson, is testifying in front of a congressional committee on government efficiency.
Her inquisitor is a Tom Coburn-like crusader against government waste, and the saucy Sue is warned to keep it dull in her testimony.
That doesn't last long: "Your efficiency hearing isn't very efficient," she snaps, and the congressman turns up the heat on his questioning, leaving Sue stammering. The word to describe the VP's efforts against waste that comes to Sue's mind? Robust.
This of course is only seconds before Selina is to make her big speech – in which she plans to out-robust the grumpy Maddox's "considered" rhetoric – and her aids try (but fail) to stop her from using the word. It doesn't take long for the press to connect the two, and the headlines are robust with the wordplay.
What frustrates Selina the most about the ordeal is not the mockery, but that Sue is getting all the attention from it, which can even be depicted graphically in word cloud form. But there is some serious business the madame vice president must attend to: convincing the president to take military action to rescue the hostages.
White House strategist Kent Davison won't let the president act until polls show he will have popular support, comparing the decision to save young, innocent American lives from the hands of extremists to cooking a Cup o' Noodles. That Selina and Maddox are using different words to characterize the administration's attention (he has since upped the ante with the word "aggressive") isn't helping.
Selina asks the White House chief of staff a fantastically meta "VEEP" question:
"Where is the great and powerful Oz, by the way?"
He gives an equally meta Washington response:
"We all know the White House would work so much better if there wasn't a president. But there is, so we work around that."
They won't have to work around their differences on the hostage situation much longer. Kent announces the rescue mission has the required support in the polls, and now all they need is a date to carry out the operation. Selina consults with Cliff, the pun-loving stand-in for Sue, during the efficiency hearings, who tells her the date in question has nothing immovable, and conveniently, is the same day as Sue's next hearing.
She confirms the date with the White House only to find out it indeed falls on the most immovable event of the year, perhaps the most important built-in requirement of a vice president: the swearing in of new senators, which she must conduct as president of the Senate.
Selina's chief of staff, Amy Brookheimer, reminds her to keep her cool, that any odd behavior might draw attention and put the hostage operation in danger. Nevertheless Selina, typically a stellar small-talker, cracks under the pressure as she tries to rush through the ceremony.
"We all want the big one, don't we," she says, discussing a senator's fishing hobby. "Did she just make an inuenndo?" asks Mike. Rest assured Mike. Joe Biden has done worse.
Soon enough, Selina is whisked what appears to be a broom closet – a "sh-tuation room," she calls it – where the watches the mission unfold, unlike every other aspect of Selina's life, with almost perfect success. The hostages are now safe and almost as important (at least in Selina's mind), the mission overshadowed Sue's second hearing, pushing Selina back into the spotlight.
"From ashes to ashes, dust to robust," Sue is told as she watches her fame evaporate in front of her.
Sue's 15 minutes are not the only casualty of the raid; a marine involved has lost his leg in the mission, Selina learns. He would not have been on the mission had Selina gone with a later date option — his tour was about to end — and she comes down with an uncharacteristic display of guilt.
Is Selina turning over a new leaf from her vain, narcissistic ways? Considering Selina's involvement raid has made her relevant, we're thinking, not likely.