Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S03E02 – Manchester, Part II

In the second episode of the third season of The West Wing, the team struggles on the eve of an event where Bartlet will officially announce his re-election campaign. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

Well, the third season is here, and lord, it’s going to hurt.

  • Seriously, what happened to the snake? I’m concerned about the snake.
  • “Manchester, Part Two” continues with the dual timelines, but here, we finally see how the two of them come to meet, which explains the behavior of every character in the present time.
  • And no snakes.
  • Seriously, is the snake okay? Maybe they just wanted a friend!
  • One of the most frustrating things about this two-parter is how vicious everyone is to one another about the re-election speech. Toby is generally quite sarcastic and joyless, but here, he’s so much meaner than he usually is. Even Sam’s sass is more vitriolic than I’ve seen it before.
  • When this cold open was followed up with Bartlet ignoring his wife again, I kinda pieced this together. This was about being in denial. It was about acting out in misguided ways to avoid the truth or to refuse to accept the wisdom of others. As I mentioned in the previous The West Wing review, it’s been quite some time since Bartlet delayed the very necessary conversation he was supposed to have with Abbey. It’s downright absurd at this point! And that would be my only complaint about “Manchester, Part Two,” though it’s possibly premature for me to say this. I really think that this show needs to have this conversation between Abbey and Bartlet happen onscreen, and I’m hoping that the final scene in the car isn’t Sorkin’s way of saying that Abbey is okay with what’s happened. Yeah, that doesn’t count as a conversation or an apology to me, you know?
  • Anyway, there are a lot of things over the course of this two-parter that are hinted at (very obviously, I might add, though I don’t have a problem with this) in terms of personal character drama. For some reason, Josh refuses to accept the President’s decision to let the FDA announce RU-486. I found the President’s insistence on letting the chips fall as they may to be refreshing! Why couldn’t Josh do the same thing? Why did he need to have it postponed? Wouldn’t it be poor timing in the future anyway? Granted, yes, the media would have a field day with the announcement occurring just hours before Bartlet’s event, but normally, Josh is more than okay with Bartlet doing his own thing.
  • And that’s when Sorkin decides to show us how Bruno and his staff came to be a part of Bartlet’s campaign for re-election. After the MS announcement and C.J.’s gaffe, Leo wanted to make sure that they could get Bartlet in the White House for another four years. Of course, he does so on his own terms, and I love that Bartlet and Leo both refused complete access to the President. It was a way of saying that the staff came first. But this also helped explain why there was so much animosity. Bruno, Doug, and Connie do not have the emotional attachments that the staff does. They have a very specific job as well: They are there to get Bartlet a victory. They aren’t interested in being friends, in catering to the egos of anyone on the staff, or in being diplomatic. It’s a big reason for the clash, but it’s not the big reason.
  • That comes in two parts. First, there’s the reveal that Josh royally screwed up a brilliant opportunity when he sought the money for the DoJ’s big tobacco case. This is something that Josh carries with him for weeks, and it’s why he’s so furious with the FDA issue. He can’t make up his mistake. In his eyes, if he’s able to pull a few strings and get the RU-486 announcement delayed, he’ll have done something to make-up for his own gaffe. It’s misplaced anger.
  • Which is precisely what’s wrong with everyone else. Their anger for what the President has dragged them into is misplaced on Doug, Bruno, and Connie. God, I never once considered that Bartlet’s lack of apology would have this effect, and it’s one that makes so much sense once it’s revealed. These writers all refuse to put an apology in the President’s speech, yet they all personally want one.
  • This relates directly to C.J.’s secret: She wanted to resign if the President fared well after his event. First of all, no. NO. I mean, I get it. Who wouldn’t want to quit after such an awful experience, especially one you didn’t really ask to be a part of? C.J. did not sign up to be interrogated and grilled about someone else’s illness. I don’t blame her! Of course, I was INSTANTLY SAD because C.J. is my favorite part of this show, but that’s her choice.
  • So I like that it’s an apology from Bartlet (a very personal one, I should add) that keeps C.J. around. He apologizes for benching her and replacing her with Nancy. He says he needs her.
  • Excuse me, there go my emotions.
  • No, wait, they are gone once the President apologizes to his staff and swears that they’re all going to re-write the chapter on how to win an election without courting the lowest common denominator.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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