In the seventh episode of the fourth season of The West Wing, THE ELECTION IS HERE, and somehow, that’s not even the biggest plot thread here. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.
It happened. It happened, and nothing went like I thought it would.
“Election Night” opens with an extended prank against Josh, where Toby organizes a local acting troupe to repeatedly “recognize” Josh after he votes so that they can ask him increasingly asinine and frustrating questions about voting. IT’S BEAUTIFUL. Oh god, bless you, Toby, for coming up with a way to get back at Josh that involves pressing all of his buttons at the same time.
Actually, that’s not quite true. It’s Debbie who finds a way to press the remaining buttons, and I think it’s a brilliant way to integrate her into the cast. First of all, Sorkin establishes her dynamic in the office, but he does so in a way that emotionally resonates with us. We’re led to believe that she’s creating rules almost for the sake of it, at least from Josh’s point of view. Why change things? As he puts it, why upset the “flow”? Truthfully, though, this isn’t what she’s doing. She demonstrates just how attentive to details she is by explaining to Josh why this is happening. I mean, yeah, I do think she’s sort of marking her territory in one sense so that these people take her seriously. But she’s also trying to accommodate the possibility of the President’s MS, which is brought up multiple times here. She’s not asked to do this, by the way. She just takes the initiative because she knows that she can give the President more time to sleep. But it’s also why she re-routes his phone so that all outgoing numbers go through her.
I found it so fascinating that she did all of this without being prompted to. I know it doesn’t necessarily need to be said, but I’m happy that the show isn’t giving me a copy of Mrs. Landingham. Debbie Federer is so drastically different, and I appreciate how she’s being used not just for her own further characterization, but President Bartlet’s.
Mostly, Josh exists here to be irritated. I’m okay with that.
Toby’s prank on Josh is what fuels Donna’s very odd and very endearing quest to get someone to vote as she would in the election. Oh god, I remember when I voted for the first time in college. (My 18th birthday was too close to Election Day, so I had to wait until I was 19. DAMN IT. My birthday also cursed me to starting school 11 months later than most kids.) I WAS SO TERRIFIED THAT I’D VOTED WRONG. Why can’t all ballots be the same? MUST WE DEAL WITH HANGING CHADS AGAIN? (I swear, the 2000 election was nightmare fuel during my studies as a Political Science major. I spent months studying that election, and it still occasionally haunts my dreams. I’m not exaggerating.)
And so Donna, being who she is, sets out to correct her mistake by getting someone to vote as she would. It’s… it’s the most adorable display in the faith of strangers and democracy as I’ve ever seen. Understandably, though, not many people believe her. With election misconduct happening every year, who could blame the folks of Washington, D.C. for ignoring her? But eventually, someone does take her up on the offer. CHRISTIAN SLATER. And I’m hoping that the mention that he’s working for Nancy means we’ll see more of this CLEARLY BUDDING ROMANCE or else Christian Slater decided to make a three-minute cameo on The West Wing. I have no problem with that idea, by the way.
Also THEY CLEARLY FLIRTED. Clearly! It was cute. I personally can’t find Christian Slater attractive at all because I think he looks like an alien, but if Donna is happy, so be it!
I’m glad the show is keeping Anthony around because it allows the writers to explore a new dynamic in Charlie, mainly one that’s kind of… fatherly, almost? At the very least, Charlie feels like Anthony’s actual big brother, annoyed and irritated by the childish things that Anthony and his friend Orlando do. However, because of Orlando’s mistake, Charlie actually gets to help Orlando vote for the first time! That being said, as entertaining as it was to see Orlando in the White House, I didn’t understand at all how Charlie was helping the kid out. What did his presence do? This wasn’t made all that clear to me. Charlie was… writing a note? Or something? Oh, well.
Okay, can I be a confused queer for a second? Because straight people is this something you do. Toby is absolutely mystifying in this episode, though I think that’s partially because this show is hiding so much from me. I didn’t even know that Toby and Andy were dating again, let alone having sex. Because so much has happened off-screen, we’re left with a story that makes Andy appear wooden and mean because she won’t even entertain Toby at all. But… that’s her choice? If she doesn’t want to marry Toby, that should be the end of the conversation. Instead, Toby relentlessly pursues the issue, and it’s about as non-romantic as humanly possible. So, he wants to marry her so as not to create a scandal? Yeah, I wouldn’t marry anyone for that reason! Why does he act so exasperated with Andy once she rejects him?
Honestly, I think this is less about me criticizing characters and more about me scratching my head because I feel like I’ve completely missed the point. And that’s okay for me to admit! Maybe this is a story that happens more often than not with couples who have children when they’re not married. You have to understand that I grew up believing I would never, ever get married, so this is UNCHARTED TERRITORY FOR ME. But it’s not just that. I just feel weird watching this because it’s almost like Sorkin and company are dangling a bigger story in front of me, and then refusing to tell me what it is. Am I meant to accept that because of Toby’s prior reluctance to have children, Andy won’t marry him now? If that’s the case, I just wish it was a little more obvious so that I didn’t feel like I was so confused, you know?
That being said, that moment where the two of them stop bickering to marvel at their children is SO STELLAR. SO INCREDIBLE. BLESS THAT SCENE.
It’s happening. It’s happening. Sam’s comment to Will Bailey, which he meant more as a throwaway interest than anything else, IS BECOMING REAL. The dead man in the California 47th MIGHT ACTUALLY WIN. What does that mean for Sam???
Oh gosh, the fact that we get more of Will Bailey alone is great, obviously, but this story has such a larger repercussion for the episode as a whole. Hell, and this season? I guess I expected the Bartlet/Ritchie election to go down to the wire, but instead, this tiny election out in Orange Country suddenly takes precedent over what’s largely a calm Election Day for the White House. Clearly, this affects Sam, so how long is he going to wait before he tells someone other than Donna? And then WHAT’S HE GOING TO DO? I don’t doubt that Will’s going to hold him to his word, so… what the hell, y’all. This is the most unexpected aspect of “Election Night,” and it’s not going away, either. I’m sure the next episode will address the Congressional races that are too close to call. Plus, that means we get more of Joshua Malina! Yes? YES PLEASE, IT’S GREAT.
I seriously don’t see how this can be resolved without Sam disappointing someone. I NEED MORE.
Like I said, I didn’t expect that Bartlet would crush Ritchie so overwhelmingly. By the end of the episode, the count puts Bartlet at nearly ELEVEN MILLION VOTES OVER RITCHIE. Holy shit, that debate really did crush Ritchie. And yet, that doesn’t mean that Sorkin doesn’t have something else to upset me with. While the rest of the White House is openly celebrating an easy victory (except Toby, because YOU DO NOT CELEBRATE UNTIL 9PM EASTERN TIME), Bartlet was quietly losing his shit. Y’all, that scene where he gets in the car and he can’t sign the documents that Charlie gave him because his hand is shaking… no. No. No, it’s happening, y’all, and now there’s now turning back. It’s a tragic irony that on the day that Bartlet succeeds in winning the Presidency for another four years, he gets a sign that his MS is accelerating. I knew something was wrong when he went off the teleprompter during his final speech, but I didn’t expect anyone else to catch it.
I’m happy, then, that it was Abbey who was the first one to approach the President with her concerns. I loved what she did here: She reminded him of the reality of his MS while giving him the confidence he needed to keep going. She’s so beautifully supportive in that final scene, and it made me feel a lot better about what’s to come after this. (Does this also mean Abbey will be around more? Because I’d love that.) Of course, that means that there will probably be yet another crisis on hand for the White House. How much do they tell the public, especially given what happened the last time they didn’t inform anyone. Oh god, it’s already too much to think about.
Y’all, I can’t believe the election happened so early in the season. What the hell does Sorkin have in store for me now???
The video commission for “Election Night” can be downloaded right here.
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