Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S02E13 – Bartlet’s Third State of the Union

In the thirteenth episode of the second season of The West Wing, President Bartlet gives his third State of the Union address. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

I got the distinct feeling that none of this was resolved on purpose, but I’m going to do my best to discuss what I do know after watching this episode.

The Third State of the Union

I would have loved to see the entire speech, but then I remembered that those speeches are long as fuck, y’all. Wait, how cool would it have been to make the entire episode just one speech? SOMEONE GIVE ME A TELEVISION SHOW TO RUN, I’M A GENIUS. Anyway, this frames the entire episode, though we get an inside look at all the various things that went into the construction of the speech and the ramifications of what Bartlet said.

You know, I’d love to see a full speech by the end of this show’s run. That’s all.

Josh/Donna/Joey

UGH, I AM SO GLAD THAT JOEY LUCAS IS BACK. I adore her, and she is an infectious force in this episode. Oh my god, I love how willing she is to toy with Josh’s emotions. Like, I get that this is a big deal! These numbers are important! But Josh clearly overreacts about a quarter billion times here. Dude. Ask Joey out. Listen to Donna. It is inevitable. That’s probably a sign that my Donna/Josh shipping isn’t that intense because I’d totally support Josh dating Joey. I would! So he better ask her out in the next episode.

C.J.

I really liked the running gag of the wet paint on the bench, first of all. Anyway, it seems C.J. gets a double dose of awkwardness here and in “The Drop-In,” since she’s forced to deal with possible PR disasters on her own, and both of them don’t go as well for her as she’d like. In this case, a specific police officer who Bartlet referenced and pointed to during his State of the Union address is discovered to have a charge of excessive force against him from an arrest 17 years prior. Whether he actually did use excessive force isn’t discussed, so the plot feels a little strange to me. It’s unfortunate that something that happened so long ago might be dredged up again, but this episode conveys how this is the nature of the media surrounding American politics. So is it going to be an issue after C.J. preemptively brings it up? Will it just fade away? Is there any truth to the charge?

Leo/DEA

Of course! Of course, I should have expected that something would go horribly wrong once everything was going right. It’s not that Aaron Sorkin is a particularly brutal writer when it comes to his characters. There has been a lot of joy to be had for the people of The West Wing, and he gives these people happiness, too. This is more a commentary on the inherent chaos of international politics. Something is bound to go wrong, and it will go wrong when you least need it to.

I’m hoping that beyond the military implications of the DEA agents being kidnapped, this show can also explore the problem with the “War on Drugs” itself. I hate seeing statistics about drug production in South America and Central America without any emphasis on where those drugs are going and how our country consumes so much cocaine and marijuana. Why are the DEA agents there in the first place? What are they doing? How are they contributing to the very problem they’re trying to solve? And will a strike against the Frente erupt into a full-blown war?

Oh god, it’s so weird to talk about all these issues because I feel like I can’t actually come to any conclusions because nothing was resolved! So I apologize if this feels super brief. It’s not my intention!

Ainsley

You know, I was the seventh or eighth employee hired at Buzznet ever, and in the four-and-a-half years I was there, I had a conversation with our first CEO once. Once! Oh, he’d talk about the success my “department” had, though it wasn’t a department. It was me. So I understand how Ainsley has gone three months without meeting the President. And you know, I think I would also be a bit terrified to meet our President, let alone work for him. So, I’m going to agree with Sam here. Things could really not have been worse for Ainsley when she finally did meet Bartlet. At the same time? Bless Ainsley. I want to have basement dance parties with her. And now that Bartlet’s seen her at her silliest, it can only go up from here!

Abigail

Oh god, I wish Stockard Channing was a regular castmate, y’all. SHE IS SO GREAT AS ABIGAIL BARTLET. This episode specifically features a brilliant portrayal on her part of a wife who feels left out after Bartlet breaks a promise he made with her. If you watch the commission for this episode, you’ll see me struggling to understand why Abigail is so disturbed by the State of the Union address. Why does the language upset her? Why does Charlie’s question about the uncashed check anger her so much? WHAT IS GOING ON?

Even when she does start confronting Bartlet about the speech in the kitchen scene, I thought it was because he’d left out things that were important to her, such as the Violence Against Women Act. (Which is how this ties into the $500 check.) But the damning moment has nothing to do with that, really. Abigail is furious because she just figured out that Bartlet is running for another term. She can tell from his speech that he intends to, breaking a promise he made to her that he’d only serve one term. While I think Abigail will ultimately support him, I can only imagine how betrayed she feels here. He didn’t include her. His wife. He didn’t tell his wife what he had planned, and she figured it out based on what he left out of a speech.

This is only going to get more awkward. IT IS, I SWEAR. help.

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

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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