Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E17 – The White House Pro-Am

In the seventeenth episode of the first season of The West Wing, the First Lady complicates matters for the White House. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

You know, I don’t think I expected this show to be so political, and I realize as soon as I finished typing that what a ridiculous statement that is. IT’S A SHOW SET INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE, MARK. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? Honestly, I think I expected more drama! Like… a soap opera in the White House? With some politics? But the American political system is at the forefront of every single episode, none more so than “The White House Pro-Am.” There are basically two stories at work here.


Y’all, that diner scene is just endlessly heartbreaking to me. It’s not surprising, mind you, because I’ve been aware of this country’s penchant for violence against black bodies for a long, long time. It’s heartbreaking to watch a man realize that racist bigots are affecting his life when he’d rather they didn’t. His anger isn’t at the existence of those threatening letters; rather, it’s the fact that he can’t go out with someone whose company he enjoys. In that sense, he knows that these assholes have gotten him beat, and my god, that is so depressing to watch.

While I like where Charlie’s story ends, I kind of hate how he gets there. It is nice that Charlie eventually wants to be the one person who is “hassle-free” for Zoey. That is good advice, but I hate how Danny starts this off:

I don’t think the problem is you’re black, I think the problem is you’re stupid.

No matter what context I try to read this in, I come back to the same conclusion: a white guy is telling a black guy that his problem with white supremacists has nothing to do with his skin color. No, dude, it’s kind of the whole fucking point! Charlie is not the person making a mistake here, and I could have done without the blame being assigned to him in any context. That being said, he did leave Zoey in that diner alone, and I appreciated his apology. There is a small victory in Charlie taking Danny’s advice and finding a way to enjoy his time with Zoey regardless of the threat these racist assholes pose, and I don’t want to ignore that.

The First Lady

So, on the surface, you can see how Abigail’s story in “The White House Pro-Am” details how quickly a bill in Congress can be derailed. This is the way our government is run! This is the reality of our political culture! However, there’s a more personal and emotional subtext to what Abigail does in this episode. Plus, I am constantly stoked with redheadedgirl’s explanation of the finer legal and political plots of this show, and she’s far better at explaining this shit than I am. I was a poli-sci major, yes, but I focused more on political ideologies on an international and historical scale, so I’m as knowledgable on American politics as I’d like to be.

Anyway, I see this story as one of power and how Abigail tries to find her own space within the White House. I don’t think she’s necessarily being intentional about creating such chaos, but she truly wants to make a difference with the influence she has. And why shouldn’t she? I think this episode hints at some past friction between the White House staff and Abigail’s staff that we’re left to imagine, so I’m not entirely sure about all of this. Still, it’s clear that she wants to be respected, and her argument with Bartlet at the end of this surely makes that clear. But I don’t think she intended for Congresswoman Reeseman to jump on the bandwagon, either. Oh my god, she is utterly RUTHLESS to Reeseman, isn’t she? But she had to be. Ultimately, Abigail is able to admit to her husband that leaking her preference for Erlich was a mistake. (Which spawned THE BEST FUCKING LINE, oh my god. JUST STAND THERE IN YOUR WRONGNESS AND BE WRONG AND GET USED TO IT. Oh my god, I didn’t know I needed this line in my life.) Of course, this comes at the end of a particularly vicious argument that Abigail and Jed have, one that I must admit is brilliantly acted. Christ, how are so many talented people on this cast???

Let me just end this by saying that it’s virtually impossible for me to ignore that the writers of Parks & Rec created Chris specifically so Rob Lowe could poke fun at Sam Seaborn. PLEASE VALIDATE MY THOUGHTS, because OH MY GOD, that whole gym sequence was so Chris Traeger that it hurt my soul.

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!
- 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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