In the fifth episode of the fifth season of The West Wing, EVERYONE IS SHOUTING AND EVERYTHING HURTS. WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.
I am unsure what I just experienced, and I am having difficulty determining whether or not this is actually any good.
- You know how, on occasion, I’ll make a joke that’s like, “OH GOSH, MOM AND DAD ARE FIGHTING” whenever characters who once enjoyed one another start fighting? Well, here’s an episode where EVERY SINGLE PERSON FIGHTS ALL THE TIME AND ALMOST NOTHING GOOD COMES OF IT. This show can be pretty hard to watch at times, but this? Somehow, this felt worse than all of it. See, I wasn’t sure if I was getting my first dose of out-of-character writing or if this is part of some bigger plan. I can’t tell! And it doesn’t help that this episode hurts for all time.
- Like, everyone feels flustered and frustrated and off their game, and it’s like the events at the end of season four just cast these characters to the wind, and no one can find their footing again, and why must you hurt me in this way.
- For example, I finally understand why Toby has been constantly referencing this whole “big message” deal in recent episodes, and yet, it’s still not 100% clear why this is happening. My guess is that Toby wants Bartlet to spend the final 2+ years of his term getting real shit done instead of weathering the storm, and that would explain his desire to shift to crafting a message for the White House. In doing so, he’d give Will the bulk of his responsibilities. Well, actually, he’d give Will his job. Which is pretty exciting!
- EXCEPT THAT VICE PRESIDENT RUSSELL JUST OFFERED A JOB TO WILL BEING HIS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR. And goddamn it, he is so right. Will is absolutely the perfect person to craft Russell into a real political force. I mean, can we talk about how Russell essentially reasons that Will got a dead man elected and Russell himself is basically a dead man when it comes to politics? I LIKE BOB RUSSELL A LOT ALREADY.
- But this causes Will and Toby to viciously fight with one another for the remainder of the episode.
- And then Toby and Leo fight
- Then more fighting
- arguments EVERYWHERE.
- It’s like Oprah dropped into the script and started handing them out liberally. YOU GET A DISAGREEMENT, AND YOU GET A DISAGREEMENT, AND YOU TWO WILL FIGHT UNTIL MARK WANTS TO CRY.
- Look, even the funniest joke in this episode – Josh’s article in the Washington Post that calls him the “101st Senator” – ends up being absolutely fucking brutal when all is said and done.
- There is one moment of pure elation in this episode: C.J.’s infectious monologue about Ben, her old flame. Allison Janney, you are a national treasure.
- Anyway, let’s get back to everything being upsetting. I honestly didn’t think Will would accept Russell’s offer because he works for the goddamn President. Why would you leave that job??? Except that this episode nicely reminds us that Will doesn’t exactly have it made in the White House. Truthfully, Toby has kind of assigned Will some grunt work here and there, and when he’s not doing that, he’s keeping Will busy by not letting him pursue what he wants. Granted, a lot of this involves a West Wing standard: shit happening off-screen. Still, it was easy to see why Will would find his current job to be not nearly as appealing as having full control over Vice President Russell.
- Meanwhile, Josh has his own disaster to deal with in Senator Carrick, played by TOM SKERRITT! Oh man, what a weird actor cameo. I haven’t thought about him in ages! (Okay, wait, that’s a really awkward sentence that I’m leaving there for posterity’s sake, but LET ME EXPLAIN. I mean that I just sort of forgot he existed??? Wait, doesn’t Kelly’s mom love Tom Skerritt? You know, Kelly and that “Shoes” video. OMG.)
- Anyway, now that I’ve made a complete fool of myself. Senator Carrick is… god, both frustrating and kind of understandable? Ultimately, while I think his actions are based in some absolutely ridiculous logic, I also can’t ignore that what Josh does in this episode is responsible for Carrick’s reaction. With the “101st Senator” in his mind, he gets cocky. Honestly, that’s deeply in-character for him, and as uncomfortable as it is to watch this, it’s brilliant writing. The man has always sought to get what he wants by any means necessary. That’s not to say he is immoral or anything. But we know that he’s creative, he’s determined, and he’s egotistical. So while he clashes with Carrick over the missile system, he ignores Leo’s advice to compromise. This is about escalation, too. As Josh escalates his actions towards Carrick, Carrick responds with the same vitriol.
- There’s more. There is so much more. I am kind of flabbergasted by the writer’s decision to portray Amy as a… well, a rogue agent. I find it hard to believe that someone as seasoned as her – which is half the point of this episode – would act like she didn’t know that acting as Abbey would get her in trouble. Like, once everyone figures out that she was pursuing the HHS budget to get what Abbey wanted, Amy acts shocked and surprised that anyone would have been mad??? Um, Amy has always been a ruthless and perceptive character, and then all of a sudden, she’s deer-in-the-headlights about the political process? Also, for real, did she really think that Bartlet wouldn’t know WHERE HIS WIFE WAS? Surely she would have considered that?
- The same goes for her acting as the source for Josh’s story. I don’t get it. Amy cannot possible be that dense! It doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re telling me she didn’t expect someone to be upset about what she did? I don’t know, y’all, this just seemed so jarring to me.
- And then there’s poor C.J. Continuing with what we’ve seen in the past two episodes, she is forced to contend with her growing fear that she is acting as a mouthpiece for the administration on a host of issues she doesn’t agree with. This isn’t the first time a staff member has had to cope with something like this, but it’s clear to me that this is continuous thing for her. First Shareef. Then Jai. And now, while under pressure to address possible censorship of an EPA report on coal, she pisses off Leo royally. Oh my god, I don’t know if I could pick a more painful storyline here, but I’m leaning towards C.J. It’s been so difficult for her to manage her job recently, and I’m worried about what’s to come. Yes, Leo is right: She works for him. This is her job. But what is she supposed to do when she knows her moral compass is pointing elsewhere? And why is this happening so frequently? What have they all become if this is the sort of shit she has to do?
- WILL TOOK THE JOB OH MY GOD. Well, that means I’ll get to see more of Bob Russell, right???
- But y’all, can we just talk about those final two scenes? Josh misses the chance to talk to Amy because of Carrick, and then Carrick hands Josh a letter to deliver to the President AND IT’S HIS RESIGNATION FROM THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
- THIS IS A DISASTER
- NO, THIS IS AN UTTER DISASTER. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY, SOUND THE ALARMS. The Democrats won’t be able to get shit done without Carrick and NOW HE’S A REPUBLICAN AND THIS IS REALLY AWFUL
- LOOK AT JOSH’S FACE, HAVE YOU EVER SEEN HIM LOOK LIKE THAT
- OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL. Josh has to deliver that letter personally! Carrick did that on purpose just to fuck with him!
- AND THEN TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY
- THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
- SURPRISE JOSH
- YOU JUST FUCKED UP THE ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
- WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH
- Utter pain, that’s what it is. My god, everything is the worst mess yet, and part of me is quietly overjoyed only because I think this is going to be entertaining as hell. Still, I think Josh needs to examine exactly how he screwed this one up. Again, this plot feels in-character for him, and while it’s difficult to watch a character you like make a mistake like this, I’m interested to see how he and the rest of the staff deals with it.
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