Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E15 – Celestial Navigation

In the fifteenth episode of the first episode of The West Wing, THIS IS SO AMAZING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.


Trigger Warning: It’s impossible to talk about “Celestial Navigation” without talking about racism and police violence.

  • My god, I’ve never seen suspense, humor, and a flashback narrative used so fiercely and brilliant quite like it was in “Celestial Navigation.”
  • God, I love the framing device of this. We’ve got Josh acting as the storyteller, relating the tale of one of the most horrible PR days in recent memory, while Sam and Toby go to fetch Roberto Mendoza out of jail. It really is one big story when you think about; it’s just that the last part of it is happening in real time.
  • I think that this episode works so well because it deals heavily in the realism of racism on a personal level and on a national level. We see how the crisis with Secretary Deborah O’Leary is wrapped up in some damning and frustrating politics, and then we see how racism can affect a man and his family. It’s two sides of the coin, and thankfully, the writers portray both experiences as being immoral, unfair, and unjust.
  • So let’s talk about Deborah O’Leary. There is an unfortunate and ridiculous stigma around the word “racist,” one that I have never been able to escape. Most white people treat it like an insult, as if they’ve been called a horrible slur. Y’all, I have seen more white people lose their shit over being called a racist than I have ever seen white people lose their shit over racism itself. That’s what happens here! Not a single person (aside from Leo) ever really engages the idea that Wooden might actually be racist. The press and the staff and Congress and everyone ever freaks out that a black woman called a white man racist. I cannot tell you how many times I have had the same scenario play out in my life. I can’t! God, it’s even happened on my sites before. If y’all followed my reading of The Lord of the Rings, you might remember the Tolkien Orc Debacle, which is easily one of the worst days of my Mark Does Stuff career. Did you know it’s worse to say you’re only slightly uncomfortable with the racist implication of a character than it is to write a character with a racist implication in it? WHO FUCKING KNEW???
  • And Leo knows that Wooden is a racist, and I got the sense that he felt most Republicans were, too. I can stand behind that. I think most of the Republican party is firmly in love with the system of white supremacy in this nation. They love being in charge, they love being on top, and they will do whatever they can to keep people of color below them. I don’t find that to be a controversial opinion at all. I also understand that Leo has a massive political movement to run and that he’s not “punishing” O’Leary for being spot-on about Wooden. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing. I’m glad Sorkin gave an outlet for a black woman on the show to insist that it was horrific that people like Wooden continue to be enabled by a social code that enables and coddles these racist sacks of shit. But it’s disheartening because at the end of the day, she has to go be humiliated. She has to go apologize to someone who obviously hates the poor and hates anyone who isn’t white, despite that she’s right, and she has to do it because someone hurt Wooden’s delicate feelings.
  • Fuck Wooden. I hope we never see him.
  • Anyway, this is directly related to what we see from Mendoza. Toby tells Mendoza at the end of this episode what he’d do in the same situation, and he brings up the “humiliation” he’d feel. And y’all, I know some of this might go over your head if you’re white, but I hope this episode and this review can help impart how humiliating racism is. I was arrested in 2008 while protesting the passage of Prop 8, and it was literally because a cop couldn’t tell the difference between two brown people. He thought I was the “Mexican” that committed a crime, despite that I wasn’t the same build, did not look the same, did not have the outfit described in the report, and was actively helping the person who had been assaulted. Hell hath no fury like a cop who realizes he made a mistake. I was battered with racial and homophobic slurs, and then tackled from behind all because this cop was so mad he’d made a mistake. I had to spend a night in jail, and the humiliation and terror was palpable. You feel like less of a person. Despite that I’d experience a lifetime of being picked on for my skin color, of being profiled constantly by the police, I remember thinking that it was impossible that someone could be the victim of racism like I was in 2008. 2008. Not twenty years ago! But I was in denial. I’d heard the anecdotes from my friends, I knew the statistics, and I’d seen the white supremacist system play out in Los Angeles day after day. But humiliation does terrible things to your perception, you know?
  • So it fills me with pride that Mendoza wanted to go through with this, to put the legal system through its test, to thoroughly embarrass the police department who arrested him because of racial profiling. I get that desire for vengeance!
  • UGH THIS IS SO GREAT. And then Toby orders to the officers to apologize to Mendoza AND Mendoza’s son. Toby, you are the best.
  • And that’s not even all this show is about! I kind of read Josh’s day as Press Secretary as a way for the show to tell us that C.J. is best suited for that job because HOLY SHIT I DID NOT KNOW ONE PERSON COULD MESS THINGS UP SO HORRIBLY. Josh. JOSH! You fell for them, hook, line, and sinker. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.
  • I gotta say that Allison Janney is a trooper for her performance in this episode. I will forever hear PWESIDENT and BWIEFING whenever she speaks.
  • Oh, Charlie, I wouldn’t want to wake up the President, but you handle it with class and style. Bless you.
  • This episode also featured the Sam and Toby Roadtrip Show, which I would watch every goddamn week until the end of time. God, they are incredible. It kind of felt like Chris and Ron Swanson in a car. Oh shit, now I can’t unsee that.

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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!
- 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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