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Magrudergrind, Ben, Magrudergrind! Jonah and Dan may have filmed this scene in Baltimore’s Ottobar—-here named The Labyrinth—-but the band on stage was none other than D.C./New York grindcore act Magrudergrind. As far as D.C. cred goes, this might make up for the nonexistent “yoghurt” shop on U Street NW in episode 2. As Leor Galil reported in April, the band was tapped for its local ties and its clean-cut, federal-worker look—-although I’m pretty sure we only saw frontman Avi Kulawy from the back. The song Magrudergrind played is called “Lyrical Ammunition for Scene Warfare.”
Fitting, because last night’s episode saw Selina’s frosty warfare with the president get a fair bit hotter. In the cold open, Selina’s flunkies glimpse her falling asleep on C-SPAN as she presides over the Senate. At the end of the episode, she has to make a fateful decision from the same perch, pitting her legislative aims against the president’s.
In between, Selina dispatches Dan to gather some intelligence (“the Whitegeist”) on the West Wing’s thinking—-which he attempts to do by courting Jonah’s friendship. But the fructose-intolerant presidential aide proves less than useful, spilling nothing of value during rendezvous at a local diner—-a stand-in for Ollie’s Trolley? Florida Avenue Grill? Sadly, this restaurant felt very Bal’mer—-and an extreme-metal show. When the president pulls out the rug beneath the veep’s office—-by shelving the clean-jobs bill she’s been shepherding all season—-we see that Jonah kept those plans close to his vest, or more likely was unaware of them. And then Dan breaks up with Jonah over dinner.
Jonah may swagger into Selina’s office every time he relays a command from the president, but it makes sense the Oval Office would want to keep him in the dark. As far as we can tell, he’s the main point of contact between POTUS and VPOTUS , so he’s probably getting his info on a need-to-know basis. Not that we knew that, at least until now: Jonah has attempted to project proximity to power, just as Selina does each week. Ultimately, I think she knows she has no actual heft in the executive branch; the best she can do is give off the appearance of it.
Did you notice, Ben, how less kinetic this episode was than previous weeks’? If Armando Iannucci has a stylistic go-to, it’s the extended office sequence fueled by rapid-fire, heroically profane banter. Last night’s episode was divided into shorter-than-usual sequences, kept the jokes below the speed limit, and seemed to take place over a longer-than-usual period of time. I think this worked, if only because a zanier set-up would’ve disrupted Selina’s jarring, truly epic freak-out when she learns the president has set aside clean jobs. Using Jonah, she tells Dan, “is like using a croissant as a dildo.” She even gives it to “those fucking dumb Segway tours of D.C.” (Word.) Ultimately, a senator adds some of the clean-jobs language as an amendment—-possibly Dan’s doing—-to the fiscal-responsibility legislation the president has chosen to highlight. And Selina has to make the tie-breaking vote. She will follow her principals and conscience, she tells her aides: “Which way is that?”
Do you think Selina made the right choice, choosing the president’s agenda over her own? This was the survivalist choice, certainly, and perhaps she’s worried Governor Chung could still replace her on the ticket. But to the usually cynical show’s credit, her disappointment registered: “Is this what I got into politics for?” she asks Amy.
I liked that this week’s humor came at a slower clip, but there were still a handful of great moments—-like when Selina enters the office and releases her purse, and Gary zooms by and snatches it. Not to mention the litany of vice-presidential nicknames that Selina’s office tracks: My favorite was “Mrs. Doubtmeyer.” Yours?