When news broke last Monday that national security adviser Michael Flynn had resigned over his communications with Russia, it was a sure thing that John Oliver would lead this fat, juicy story to the slaughter—and he did not disappoint. On Sunday night, Oliver positively eviscerated the administration’s complicated relationship with Vladimir Putin.
Oliver opens by taking allegations of Russian influence over Trump associates like Paul Manafort and stunning them with a captive bolt pistol of truth. Next, the waggish host skewers the trotters of a montage of Trump saying nice things about Putin with a piercing gambrel of logic, suspending it upside-down and using his razor-sharp wit to sever its carotid artery and jugular vein. Before the troubled administration’s murky web of foreign business and personal relationships is even fully exsanguinated, he submerges it in a scalder, loosening the hairs of hypocrisy with the boiling water of reason.
Oliver, who honed his keen observational skills on the sharpening stone of The Daily Show, painstakingly scrapes footage of Putin “discovering” ancient vases on an obviously staged diving expedition until it’s clean. Incisively cutting through the bullshit surrounding Putin’s finances from sternum to groin, Oliver pries apart the thick, leathery skin of obfuscation, exposing secrets the Russian autocrat never thought would see the light of day.
From here on, gravity does most of the work—pull on a single coil of Putin’s slimy history of blackmail and murder, and it all begins unspooling. Oliver simply has to keep his bucket of justice underneath Putin’s ominous past as the bloody details come out. It’s a messy business, but the brilliant host doesn’t miss a single detail.
Leaving the story’s carcass for the traditional media to pick over, Oliver carefully puts Russia’s history of anti-gay sentiment in a stockpot of boiling facts for five minutes, killing the bacteria of homophobia and painstakingly removing the fecal matter of Russian televangelism.
After rinsing off Russia’s terrible human rights record with the shocking cold water of a sly reference to Saudi Arabia, Oliver cuts shots of Trump saying “Wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia?” into three-inch slices.
Next, the host reveals a stockpot filled with a bouillon of alarming facts about Putin. The base, simmered all week by Last Week Tonight’s crack research staff, consists of a mirepoix of infantile foreign policy statements from Trump seasoned with a bouquet garni of photoshopped stock images and boiled with the bones of Putin’s Charlie Rose appearance. Submerging Russia’s delight in U.S. hypocrisy for a full five minutes, Oliver then drains it in a colander of indignation until all that’s left is a pile of false equivalencies offered by Putin’s defenders.
Finally, Oliver ignites the grapevines of wrath with the searing fire of investigative journalism. When the coals subside, he grills Trump’s statements about American innocence until they are brown and crispy, finally removing them from the heat of his penetrating gaze. Lightly seasoning with a coarsely ground montage of Oliver saying terrible things about Trump—demonstrating our freedom of the press and unlocking the rich flavors of Putin’s hypocrisy—Oliver plates the completed Last Week Tonight segment with a garnish of earnest belief in America, serving it with a 2003 Château Lafite Rothschild made from first-growth Russian pop music. Bon appétit!