Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S02E04 – In This White House

In the fourth episode of the second season of The West Wing, the team helps manage a meeting between the president of an African nation and the pharmaceutical companies. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

I had a heart, and then it was stomped on by this episode, and now it’s gone, and I AM SO SAD BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE.

Sam/Ainsley/C.J.

Look, I’ll repeat what I said at the end of my video for this: I fundamentally disagree with pretty much everything Ainsley Hayes says, and I am all about her. I want her on this show. I am so pleased that this show took a very notable stereotype (the air-headed blonde pundit) and immediately said FUCK YOU. Ainsley is viciously smart. She wiped the floor with Sam, then she stood up for herself multiple times, she can hold her ground, and fuck you for thinking she is incapable of doing so because she’s a woman.

Again, I don’t agree with her. Her comment about school lunches was horrible because I needed free lunches to be able to survive the last two years of high school. And sure, I felt humiliated, but not because the lunch was free, but because I was so poor that I had to rely on free school lunches in order to make it through the school day without passing out from hunger. As I said, I am pretty much opposed to everything she believes, too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate her for who she is or what she can do. Because amidst all the yelling and shouting and anger that all these characters express towards one another, there’s a shockingly intimate moment between C.J. and Ainsley that proved to me that she was best for the job. Throughout “In This White House,” C.J. freaked out about a comment she made to a new reporter that might have gotten her in serious legal trouble. And yet it’s Ainsley who very calmly and respectfully gives C.J. legal counsel in the end. Right there, I knew she was the best person for the job. I don’t think she realized it then, but after spending time wandering the White House (MARGARET, HOW DID YOU KEEP LETTING HER GET AWAY SO CONSISTENTLY), she saw a different side to these people. They do care about the country, deeply so, and they’ve all wanted to work in the White House just as much as she has since she was a kid.

I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT AINSLEY, AND I’M SO HAPPY SHE TOOK THE JOB.

President Nimbala

I’ll start this off by saying that Zakes Mokae and Michael Chinyamurindi give chilling performances in this episode, and while Aaron Sorkin’s writing is also fantastic, it’s really how these two actors speak his words that give this episode such a tragic life to it. Sorkin is largely not making up anything in this episode regarding Africa and the pharmaceutical companies pursuing their patents in the country. It’s still relevant, but I implore y’all to spend some time doing research and reading accounts and studies done from within Africa about the issue. It’s true that drugs are vastly more expensive in the places where people need them. At this point in the history of AIDS, the drugs weren’t as advanced as they are these days, so the cocktail that the pharmaceutical rep mentions was far more commonplace. Hell, I knew people who were still taking drug cocktails just a decade ago.

So while things have made a lot of progress in the recent future, this episode specifically tackles the fact that a group of corporations are making a profit off of the suffering of millions of people. And while Josh and the reps from the drug companies do their best to explain why this is not that simple of an issue, I really appreciated that Sorkin humanized this issue through President Nimbala. There’s that devastating moment where Toby and Josh try to get Nimbala to accept a deal of some sort before returning home, and Nimbala talks about how horrible it is to have to beg for your life. And honestly, that one line lays this out so clearly: Nimbala is begging these companies to have some compassion and save Equatorial Kundu. How could he even see it any other way? What does it matter to him that it’s cheaper to sell these life-saving drugs in Norway? In his eyes, the pharmaceutical industry is far more interested in helping white men get erections than they are in saving black people with AIDS.

So Nimbala’s role here is noble. He is trying to save his country, and Josh and Toby know that. They’re more than aware of how horrible this whole situation is, so I appreciated the fact that they were willing to come up with a plan that involved getting around the need for approval from Congress. And then the other shoe drops, and this episode has one of the most grim and depressing endings in the whole show’s run. President Nimbala’s country has suffered a coup while he was in the US, and his brother and sons are most likely dead. My god, just seeing Nimbala’s face during this scene was enough to shatter my heart in a million pieces. This man tried so hard to fix his country against unreal odds, and then his family and his presidency were wiped out in a matter of hours.

In a way, it’s kind of incredible that he still went home, knowing what would happen to him, because that was the right thing to do. My god, I’m still torn up about this. What a grim episode. 🙁

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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