In the thirteenth episode of the third season of The West Wing, the crisis in Kazakhstan finally comes to a point of no return. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.
I’m ignoring that one thing until the end because otherwise, that is all this review will be about.
Will and Kate
You know, there’s a sense of synchronicity to “The Cold,” especially if you think about how various people and events come together to be on the same page. Josh and Donna, the Republican leadership and Vinick, and now Will and Kate. We find out that Will’s offer for a date has moved beyond a mere date and IT’S SO WONDERFUL. There’s no denying, though, that the office romance of Will and Kate borrows from six years’ worth of Josh and Donna’s flirting. So I find it fitting that Will offers up the advice that Donna needed to hear long ago: her feelings for Josh aren’t inappropriate, and if she really wants to be with him, she’ll work out the weirdness. And I liked that Will didn’t suggest that everything would be perfect! Because holy shit everything is hilariously awkward between him and Kate, so much so that even C.J. picked up on it. Ah, bless these two. I’m so glad that they’re seeing each other.
I WILL TALK ABOUT THE THING, I SWEAR.
Bartlet and Kazakhstan
So, yeah. I WROTE SOMETHING IN THE LAST REVIEW THAT IS SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSING IN HINDSIGHT. Look, there’s no way I could have known that “The Cold” would DIRECTLY ADDRESS MY EXACT CONCERN ABOUT THE KAZAKHSTAN PLOT.
I spoke about detachment and tough decisions while addressing “Duck and Cover,” and I think there are similar issues at work in this episode. Whereas Bartlet’s choices had immediate affects in the San Andreo crisis, his decisions in “The Cold” are all about long-lasting struggles. There is no immediacy in the solution to what’s happening in Kazakhstan, and in that sense, it makes sense that the writers have been keeping this story in the background of nearly every episode this season. It’s an ongoing problem, one that won’t be solved by Bartlet and will most certainly be something the next President will have to deal with.
Bartlet (being who he is) doesn’t take this lightly, and this is the impetus for his invitation to both Vinick and Santos in order to give them a heads up about what’s about to go down. “The Cold” becomes increasingly tense and surreal because of this, not just because we don’t know exactly what Bartlet will say to these two candidates. I love, love how serialized this season has become, and the way this follows “Duck and Cover” is a great example of how fantastic the writing is for season seven. We open this episode with absolute confirmation of the ramifications of San Andreo, which has brought Vinick and Santos to a tie. LITERALLY OVERNIGHT, THE SANTOS CAMPAIGN GAINS NINE POINTS. (I think? I may have missed the exact number, but the important part is that the latest Gallup poll is split 42-42.) Given this, we see two very different reactions from each camp. The Santos campaign moves towards California in order to try and take Vinick’s home state. The Vinick campaign struggles with the undeniable pressure that the Republican leadership exerts on them to change their message. Essentially, each campaign has more than enough that they need to do right then, and it’s frustrating to both camps when Bartlet invites them to the White House.
Of course, I was so excited by how happy the Santos team was. THEY’RE SO ENERGIZED. But I found myself feeling sad and wistful about Vinick’s team. I mean, I want Santos to win! However, I don’t dislike Vinick or his staff, and watching the Republicans swoop in to insult them and take away their hard work… yeah. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. I like Sheila a lot, and it’s just so fucked up that she offers herself up as the scapegoat so that Vinick can change his focus. I think that this whole election has been an idealized version of reality because Vinick is such an incredibly principled person. He’s run his campaign with honesty and integrity, and I’ve adored the fact that he refuses to sell himself out. So it is sad to know that he’ll have to go against his own standards in the near future. But that’s the sort of desperation he’s under, too, and the whole thing just feels chaotic now.
I guess that means that Bartlet has just made things worse, though he clearly knows that he’ll be passing on a “mess” to whomever wins the election. I imagine that the news of troop deployment in Kazakhstan will leak very, very soon, and both Santos and Vinick will have to change their campaigning drastically. Vinick’s tax cut won’t make sense, if Bartlet’s $70 billion cost estimation is remotely accurate; Santos’s education plan will most likely be nothing more than a fantasy. But what else was Bartlet supposed to do? Two nuclear powers were converging on Kazakhstan, and as he put it, someone had to stand in the middle to stop them. Is it a great plan? No. Does it have an exit strategy. No. Could Bartlet have ignored the issue for three more weeks? Nope. It was a difficult decision in every sense, but it had to be made.
I’m definitely very interested to see how the candidates will deal with this.
Donna and Josh
Well, they completely overshadowed this whole episode. BECAUSE IT FINALLY HAPPENED. IT HAPPENED IT HAPPENED IT HAPPENED IT HAPPENED. I can’t even being to describe the elation and shock I felt, and then they CONTINUED KISSING AND IT WAS JUST SO BEAUTIFUL AND OVERWHELMING. And yet? I still worried that the writers would do something to take this away from me. LOOK, SIX-AND-A-HALF SEASONS HAVE I WAITED FOR THIS. Do not expect that I’ll simply throw away my intense protective shield at this point.
And god, THEY ARE SO CLOSE TO JUST FINALLY BEING WITH ONE ANOTHER. Understandably, Josh and Donna are flustered by the kiss, Josh more so than Donna. After spending years and years in denial, and then nearly half a year apart while they worked on opposing sides, I get why things aren’t progressing at lightning speed for them. A kiss is a huge deal, but they still work together. The same issues they had before – though unspoken – are brought to the forefront here. Is it inappropriate to begin a romantic relationship with someone you work with?
Again, I like Will’s advice, and it was clear that Donna was ready to take it. I mean, she told Josh prior to speaking with Will that it was “bound to happen” between them, and ain’t that the truth? She was already open to the idea at that point, even if it was confusing. It’s why she’s so bold at the end of the episode. She was willing to make it work despite any potential awkwardness because Josh was worth it. BUT GODDAMN IT, MISCOMMUNICATION HAS RUINED ANOTHER CHANCE FOR PERFECTION. NOOOOOOOOO, GO FOLLOW HER JOSH, DON’T DO THIS. Just… how haunting is it to watch this happen while Billie Holiday’s “Body and Soul” plays? (Of course, seeing this happen as Vinick stands alone without Sheila is just as heartbreaking.) This show is cruel.
I’m gonna have to start playing some Backstreet Boys while I watch this show, I swear. QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH MY HEART.
The video for “The Cold” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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