'VEEP' Recap: One Veep's Trash

A government shutdown throws Selina Meyer's office into disarray.

(Lacey Terrell/ HBO)

Timothy C. Simons and Tony Hale in HBO's "VEEP."

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Despite Vice President Selina Meyer's desperate attempts to craft a deal and avoid a government shutdown, POTUS has yet again undermined her best intentions, letting the shutdown go on anyway. In Sunday night's episode of "VEEP," entitled "Shutdown," the waste of the government malfunction is everywhere, literally – trash lines the streets, in front of Selina's house, in her office. More dangerous is the political garbage that might take down Selina's legacy and threatens her chances for another presidential bid.

"She is furloughing indiscriminately into the crowd!" Amy, Selina's chief of staff, says. Selina uses the necessity of the furlough – unpaid employee leave due to a freeze in government spending – to temporarily lay off whomever is annoying her the most at the moment. First goes her scheduler, Sue, who uses her time off for a spa day, and her deputy communications director, Dan Egan, who turns it into a networking opportunity.

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However it isn't long until others on Selina's staff start causing problems. Gary arranges for a private contractor to pick up the garbage outside the vice president's residence. Not only is this terrible optics, but Selina frets that evidence of her renewed relationship with her ex-husband is among the refuse and could potentially fall into dangerous hands. What exactly is in her trash we don't know. Contraceptive wrappers? A sex tape?

Whatever it is, when Selina tells Gary – who idolizes his boss as a mother figure, but in an Oedipal kind of way – it paints a look of sheer horror on his face. Like the good little warrior he is, he marches to the trash dump – Jonah in tow – to find her garbage. To retrieve it, he must make a deal with the dump owner that Selina will do a media spot with him – an arrangement that eventually brings the furlough ax to his neck.

 

Meanwhile, a bear has killed a man minutes away from a park station where rangers should have been able to save him, had they not been furloughed by the shutdown. It's a tragedy that the president's and vice president's staff mock behind closed doors.

"Now I'm to blame because some goober got eaten up by a bear?" Selina exclaims.

But it has the potency to fuel her political rival's fire. Danny Chung, governor of the state where the accident occurred and a smug opportunist looking toward a run for the White House, rushes to champion the dead man's widow. Meanwhile, Mike, Selina's communication director, bungles his office's attempt to reach out to her. "When I said 'fault' I meant that it wasn't your husband's fault because bears are ... uh .. naturally hungry?" he says in a phone call to the widow.

When Selina finds out she will be touring a garbage dump while Chung visits with the widow, Mike's head is next on the furlough chopping block.

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Overall, "Shutdown" didn't reach the comedic heights of this season's stronger episodes, such as "The Vic Allen Dinner" and "Helsinki." But it did set up some amusing conflicts that will be fun to watch play out in the season's final three episodes.

Danny Chung, angling for heir apparent to the president (who has written Selina off in an interview with Politico), is already trying to poach Dan Egan from the vice president's office. "Tell me honestly, where do you think Selina is heading?" Dan confides in Amy.

In an effort to stop any more unattractive news leaking (an effort that will surely fail), Selina has made a deal with the devil – Roger Furlong, the bitter politician who was screwed in the midterm elections. Even if he guards his secrets about Selina, there is obviously other evidence floating around of her misbehavior, as suggested by her trash freak out.

At the end of the episode, Selina's team resolves to put her on a puffy interview show called "First Response" in an attempt to regain control of her image. (Allison Janney will guest star as the show's host next week.) Selina might be getting the first response, but it's unlikely she'll be getting the last word as well.