Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S06E05 – The Hubbert Peak

In the fifth episode of the sixth season of The West Wing, Josh inadvertently causes an environmental crisis while Toby takes lessons (begrudgingly) from Annabeth on how to be a Press Secretary. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

There’s a newness to this season so far, and as upsetting as it is to lose Leo as the Chief of Staff, I’m just so impressed with the way the writers of this show have found a way to inject life and energy into a show that’s existed for years prior to this point. It helps that I just love what’s happening so far with pretty much all of the characters???? LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM.


In a way, I think that Josh is quintessentially Josh in “The Hubbert Peak.” It’s his arrogance that leads to his cluelessness, which leads to the hilarious but not actually funny moment where he plows down a brand new Prius with a massive SUV. (Sidenote: This episode is kind of surreal because PRIUSES ARE EVERYWHERE. Hybrid cars are everywhere! And now we’ve got Tesla making a huge mark in the car industry and I sat in a Tesla not long ago. Holy shit, those are cool cars. Anyway, I think that Bartlet’s insistence on the chaos of the market being the solution to our energy problems has actually played out in the real world and WHOA, THE WEST WING IS KIND OF PROPHETIC.) Josh messes up, doesn’t tell anyone, shrugs the whole thing off, and then CHAOS. And while I did make a reference in the video to Josh’s War with The Internet during the scene where he called that blogger, I think there’s a nice difference between the two moments: the writers here don’t patronize and insult the person online. Instead, Josh is clearly playing the fool. He’s the one who doesn’t understand what he’s getting into or how most people blogging aren’t exactly adhering to journalistic standards.

And so, he’s stuck sitting through a meeting with representatives of alternative energy. LOOK AT ALL THOSE CHARACTER ACTORS. BLESS. What I loved about Josh’s scenes with the alt energy reps was how well it summarized our current options and the flaws with each plan. Truly, there isn’t a perfect option, though each of the choices Josh is presented with – solar, wind, ethanol, and hydrogen – are all good in certain contexts. I don’t think the episode would have worked as well if the writers decided to go with one option after just one three-hour meeting. Instead, Josh comes to understand the complexity of the issue at hand, and, combined with all of the issues surround consumption, inflation, demand, and supply, the audience gets a neat (if reductive) lesson on alternative energy.


Well, okay, I need more scenes with Kate and Donna as soon as possible. It’s true that we haven’t seen much of Kate and Donna interacting at all, and I love what it means to have Kate approach Donna as she does here. Kate recognizes that Donna must be going through a lot of the same things she went through once. While she offers Donna whatever support she might need, she also doesn’t presume that Donna needs her. She puts it out there that she’s there if Donna needs to talk, and that’s it. I love that, and I respect it a whole lot. As someone who’s gone through traumatic events that weren’t a secret (like the death of my father), I appreciate the care Kate exhibited in approaching Donna.

I just… MY HEART. Donna is hurting – much more than we ever knew, but she’s not ready to talk about it. AHHHHHHHH THIS ISN’T OKAY. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME????


I was low-key dreading the episode when Bartlet would find out that Charlie graduated because that would mean Charlie is leaving. While “The Hubbert Peak” is not quite the Charlie-centric episode I’ve been craving for a few seasons, it does address the elephant in the room in a graceful, exciting way. First, ZOEY IS BACK OH MY GOD. As it turns out, she is the one who told Bartlet about Charlie’s graduation from Georgetown, and in doing so, she sets the wheels in motion for THE BEST THING POSSIBLE. Once Bartlet handed Charlie that box of copies of his résumé, I got increasingly nervous. Was this it? WAS THIS GOING TO BE THE LAST EPISODE WITH CHARLIE IN IT? Because my body was definitely not prepared for this.

But Charlie was quick to assert to the various people he gave a résumé to that he had absolutely no interest in leaving. He couldn’t leave, not with Leo gone! And it’s just too beautiful for words. We’ve always known that this was more than just a job for Charlie. He loved what he was doing and he loved working with Bartlet. However, C.J. points out the dilemma that he’s stuck in because… well, eventually, Bartlet’s going to command Charlie to stop working for him, isn’t he? That’s precisely something Bartlet would do. I bet he’d issue an executive order if he could get away with it. Thankfully, C.J., in all her wisdom and with all her newfound power, realizes that SHE CAN HIRE CHARLIE. “Deputy Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.” WHAT. I LOVE THIS. CHARLIE AND C.J. WORKING TOGETHER MORE. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I WANTED THIS. I love when that happens!

Toby / Annabeth

However, I definitely knew I wanted more of Annabeth and Toby interacting, and this episode gave it to me in SPADES. It’s entertaining, and I do feel the need to acknowledge this before I talk about why I’m so happy that the show is doing this. Y’all, I COULD WATCH THESE TWO BICKER UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Why hasn’t this show paired an unending ray of sunshine with Toby this much before? It’s so beautiful. It’s so perfect. And Annabeth herself is this incredible blend of positivity and brutal realism. She may find creative ways to criticize Toby, but you better believe she’s not going to let Toby think he’s doing well when he’s not.

And it’s really that dynamic that’s so intriguing to watch play out over the course of “The Hubbert Peak.” At no point do the writers disrespect Toby’s role as the staff curmudgeon. You can’t just change Toby’s fundamental characterization after six years and magically make him into Annabeth Schott. That’s not what Annabeth does here, and that’s not even what she wants. She just believes that Toby can do the job much better than he thinks he can. A lot of that concerns his delivery, his posture, and his confidence. Toby is a quick thinker, but the problem is that he’s viewing the job all wrong. As Annabeth points out, the press room isn’t a war zone, and every time Toby goes into that place with that idea in mind, THE PRESS IS GOING TO FIGHT WITH HIM. So how can he change that? How can he keep the press interested and engaged without feeling bored or attacked?

That’s why I love Toby’s small transformation here. He takes Annabeth’s advice and stands up straight. He addresses the room with charm in mind. He stops being combative. And yet, he’s still Toby Ziegler the whole time. I LOVE IT.


I am so enamored with C.J. as the Chief of Staff, and I honestly think it’s the best writing choice made on this show in YEARS. She’s still adjusting to the job, and there are a few moments where that’s clear in “The Hubbert Peak.” But it’s so satisfying to watch her take command around the office, to establish herself as the one in charge, and I LOVE IT. For the most part, though, her story centers around a chess match that Leo and Bartlet used to play once a week. I still can’t quite recall if we’ve ever actually seen this happen, though it’s not news that Bartlet loves chess. So I was a little confused why Margaret and Leo were both insistent that this chess game continue. It was a pleasure to see Leo in the flesh, and John Spencer’s acting in that lunch scene is amazing. He physically looked and sounded like he had a heart attack! Anyway, Leo finally reveals the reason why Bartlet needs to play chess once a week with Leo. IT WAS SO THAT LEO COULD TRACK ANY POSSIBLE SIGNS OF HIS MS. Oh. OH MY GOD YOU JUST RUINED ME WITH AN IMAGINARY GAME OF CHESS. 

I was a little confused about whether or not Bartlet knew that this was why he was playing chess every week. It would explain his reluctance to keep playing it; that would allow him to ignore the reality of his disease, and we all know he’s much rather focus on his job than on his own health. But C.J. is persistent, and she even brings someone from the Housing and Urban Development department to play against Bartlet. In a nice and symbolic twist, Bartlet tells C.J. that she will have to play against him, not the chess whiz she brought. It really did feel like a passing of the torch from Leo to C.J.

The video commission for “The Hubert Peak” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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