Unbeknownst to anyone and for no particular reason, Selina Meyer got a new haircut. Yeah yeah she also came in second in a debate and continued her campaign to be elected as the world's most powerful person, trampling the body of at least one rival, but my God that haircut. What kind of decision-making is that? It would look great on almost any other kind of person. Someone with duller teeth, maybe.

Appearance is, of course, everything. It's a platitude that gets pulled apart like taffy on "Debate"—a half-hour that pulls apart a lot of platitudes, and most of them unsuccessfully. (Occasionally, in masterstrokes, the series does this kind of pirouette backwards: appearance as the articulation of policy instead of the articulation of itself.) Couldn't you already kind of picture what kind of episode this was, before you watched it? The stumbling candidate, the bumbling candidate. The zeitgeist made carnate but nonetheless broad—a white and black version of Herman Cain! A joke about holes. Another joke about holes. Holes holes holes holes holes.

Wearing "the worst use of scissors" since Mike's failed vasectomy, Selina is riven with power and need. She side-eyes her immigration policy, the "three Rs," until Catherine says she likes them, at which point why not! I don't know why Catherine is all of the sudden around. It makes no sense except it does: unlike anyone else in the room, she touches the millennial moral event horizon.

The debate could have been the most banal kind of garbage-barge, but really only Maddox burns, shimmying around the podium like he's being sodomized on a Lazy Susan. Thornhill, the baseball manager, charms us with his analogies—and, with a winkle, charms us with his apology for a years-old affair with a nod to his smiling wife. Selina, a close second, burrows jubilantly into our xenophobia while square-dancing away from the gaping hole of a giant, Rick Perry-esque gaffe. (She forgets her third "R" mid-answer.)

This is all kinds of contemporaneous and none of it really sticks. Let the hair lead us; its follicles pay the only dividends, causing Mike to call in wife/style reporter Wendy to come interview Gary to the point of dyspepsia. Then there's Dan, three weeks fresh from his breakdown and demotion. Glowing, pale, bearded. He has never been more attractive.

I mean I mean. Guy is nice now, too, but only until the team begins to win again at which point what is even the point. Jackson, who is not Dan's replacement but is instead like a sexless copywriter who budded off of Dan while he slept last Thursday, simultaneously manages to lose everyone's favor without saying a single funny thing. An intolerable sin.

The veep, wearing the haircut that her head "has always wanted but was too afraid to ask for," has forgiven Dan because she is nice. ("I forgive you because I'm nice.") And then, because the magic of a changing appearance cannot be wielded too simultaneously, she commands him to shave :(

[Images via HBO]

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