Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E10 – In Excelsis Deo

In the tenth episode of the first season of The West Wing, Toby is called to the scene of the death of a homeless man while the rest of the team struggles to death with Christmas, inter-office dating, and Leo’s “problem.” Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

What the hell, I am being overwhelmed by emotions. First, yesterday’s Friday Night Lights, and then this? Goddamn it, I really thought it would take me longer to get to this point.


While I do find Danny much more adorable and charming than I did initially, I did want to comment on something I find slightly disturbing. There’s this myth passed about that men should be persistent, that they should interpret a woman’s rejection of their advances as more of a veiled “yes” that’s hidden within a “no.” While C.J. is free to date whoever she wants, there’s an unintended implication here that is unsettling: Men, if you keep pursuing a girl, she’ll eventually say yes. Yeah, can we not do that? In spite of that, I am enjoying where C.J.’s story is going. She made a real list! She typed it out!!!

I’m also an even bigger fan of her after her very beautiful defense of creating legislation that would beef up the prosecution of hate crimes. Look, if you’re thinking that Leo or Sam might have a reasonable point, let me explain something. Those two men make a critical mistake here: They are imagining a level playing field upon which a zero-sum game exists, and it’s absolutely not how our word operates. This is not about valuing murder, but creating legislation that begins to repair the centuries of violent oppression that marginalized folks have suffered. It’s tangentially related to the same issues that brought about affirmative action. Hell, there’s a fabulous comic that gives a very physical explanation of what I mean:



And that can be extrapolated to address what C.J. believes here. Hate crimes are part of a systemic violence in our society. They stem from the many -isms she lists: homophobia, misogny, anti-Semitism, racism, etc. It is a historical inequality that has prevented certain people from (if you’ll allow me to use the same visual analogy of the comic) from ever reaching the same level as the majority class. Legislation like the hate crimes bill that C.J. pushes for is an attempt by the federal government to correct years of hatred and discrimination by actually pulling these marginalized people up to the same level. (I say “attempt” because our current social status as a world community has shown us that while some things are better, oppression still exists.)

Anyway, C.J. rules. A lot.


I want to go rare book shopping with him. That’s all.


MY GOD, SEX WORKERS ARE NOT A GLOSSARY AT YOUR DISPOSAL. I am immensely thankful that this show makes it very obvious that what Sam and Josh do in “In Excelsis Deo” is a terrible thing to do because HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? Granted, Leo told them this was a horrific idea, but they actually went through with it. The whole time they were in her house, I couldn’t bear it. And then Josh started shrieking at her, as if what he was doing was some noble thing, and it was impossible for me to see anything but the painful irony of what he was doing. He was digging up dirt on people’s personal, private lives, and using that to wage a war against someone who dug up dirt on someone’s private life. Josh, stop.


So, I’m torn. I’m infuriated by the existence of this plot at all, and then pleased that Josh got such a beautiful smackdown from Leo and Laurie. Dude, come up with a better way to deal with Leo’s problem.


What could have been a story about someone feeling sorry for the death of a homeless veteran for the sake of it is turned into an explosion of feelings and emotions and help me. It’s extremely fitting that of every character here, Toby was the one to be called out to the National Mall to identify the body of Walter Hufnagle. (OH MY GOD, IT’S LANCE REDDICK OH MY GOD. In my head, he started in D.C. before heading to Baltimore. headcanon accepted.) Generally speaking, he’s the least prone towards making grand, sweeping gestures. He’s not often a very emotional character, for that matter. Well, unless that emotion is either anger or extreme irritation. But the fact that a man died wearing a jacket that he was privileged enough to afford giving away forces him to examine the sheer tragedy of Walter’s life. He served his country, and now he just died, apparently forgotten. (The show kind of dances around what Toby’s connection is to the armed forces, but I am guessing he did not serve in any branch of the military. Which then makes me wonder: Why is he attached to the idea? Why does he know so much?)

The writers combine Toby’s little obsession with the tragedy of Mrs. Landingham’s past, where she lost her twin sons in Korea. I knew that while she was chastising him for using the President’s name to arrange Walter’s funeral, she privately thought that Toby had done a beautiful thing. AND THEN SHE TELLS HIM THAT SHE’S COMING ALONG. Oh god, no, NO I AM NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.

My father fought in Vietnam, and my family still believes that it took about 30 years for that war to kill him. Because he was a veteran, he got a military funeral that was very similar to what we see at the end of “In Excelsis Deo,” so I admit that I got flashbacks to 2006. I think it was the folding of the flag that got me the most, and I can still remember the look on my mother’s face as the soldier handed her my father’s flag. It’s still hanging on the wall in her house, never once unfolded since the day it was given to her.

Lord, I don’t know that I can tolerate another wave of feels from a television show, y’all.

The video commission for this episode is now archived on for just $0.99!

Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
I have announced what the next books I am reading on Mark Reads will be, as well as updated y’all on the events, cons, tour dates, GOING TO EUROPE OH MY GOD, and general shenaniganry going on in my life. I have a similar post up on Mark Watches, detailing the next two shows I’m doing as well as the return of Double Features, and I finally explain what happened with my Vimeo account. Check these posts out!
– If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am doing a live reading/Mark Does Stuff event at Borderlands Books on April 21st at 5pm. Come on out! I’ll have copies of my latest book to purchase and sign.
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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