Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S02E12 – The Drop-In

In the twelfth episode of the second season of The West Wing, the President deals with new appointments of foreign ambassadors while Toby struggles with whether or not to drop-in a criticism in an upcoming speech – without telling Sam. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

Well, this was a neat episode! It wasn’t over-the-top or super exciting as some of the others, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s more subtle than many of the episodes this season, and I appreciate the approach nonetheless.


Poor C.J.! She just wants to use the trivia she knows! This is a tragedy.

Until the third act, C.J. is largely just in the background of “The Drop-In,” but when she does take center stage, it’s one hell of a scene. I think that this episode examines what it is that we do in the name of politics and how ridiculous these things seem once you spell them out. For C.J., asking Corey Sykes to turn down the Will Rogers dinner is an exercise in awkwardness. While we don’t actually hear the joke that Sykes told, we’re meant to understand that it was at the expense of the NYPD. Despite that two years have passed, C.J. knows the media will bring up the joke and Bartlet’s apparent reaction: He didn’t find Sykes funny.

Except that’s not the true. And, as Sykes explains, he is a black man who kind of has the right to criticize the NYPD through a joke. I know this episode aired over twelve years ago (!!!!!!), but it’s interesting to me that the NYPD is still an awful organization. So, because some folks were “offended” by the joke, the President had to make a statement that wasn’t even true. It’s political pragmatism, and it infuriates Sykes. He’s not naïve enough to misunderstand why C.J. is doing what she’s doing, but come on, did C.J. really think this wasn’t disrespectful to him? This ends up being one of many examples of the complexity of internal politics, you know? Which is a perfect segue to:

Leo and NADM

Leo tries real hard to convince Bartlet that it’s worth it to invest $60 billion in an effort to build a missile shield. Note that this happens after a test of this missile defense system fails. Oh, sure, it passes nine out of ten of the criteria set, but it’s that tricky tenth criteria that matters. It missed the target. By 137 miles.

That’s a lot, right? Yeah, that’s a lot. Well, relatively speaking, it might not be, but the point is that it missed the target, and that’s what the President and Lord John Marbury latch on to. So what if the other nine criteria are met? Of course, it’s also difficult for Leo to hear all the reasonable criticisms of the program from Lord John Marbury, who gloriously returns to the show as the new British Prime Minister to the United States. Hell, it makes Leo furious! WHICH IS VERY ENTERTAINING TO WATCH. But in the end, there isn’t a decision made, and Bartlet remarks that it’s a discussion for “serious” men. I like that Leo’s spirit is in the right place, but I think Lord Marbury has a better read on the political and legal situation. Honestly, though, just watching Leo and Lord Marbury go head-to-head is enough to entertain me for years.

The Speech

I recalled that this episode opened with Toby returning to the office, only to find out he wasn’t included in the meeting where Sam pitched the GDC speech to Bartlet. So, on one level, I can see why Toby purposely excluded Sam from his plans for a drop-in. But I think there’s so much more to this, and Sam addresses that in the bar scene at the very end. Sure, Toby is the boss here, but the willingness that he goes to create the disaster that this turns into is upsetting. It is! And it’s all about scoring points, about gaining possible votes in the future, and it stinks. Sam makes a damn fine point: Did they just betray their friends for politics? Was it absolutely necessary to insult people who support them in this context? I understand that Toby thought it was necessary to do this, but look at what it caused. It’s a mess. Now I’m curious to see what affects this will have, but not just politically. For the time being, Toby and Sam seemed to have worked things out, but how long will that last? Will they be at each other’s throats again in the future?

The Charlie Brown joke


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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