Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S07E19 – Transition

In the nineteenth episode of the seventh season of The West Wing, Josh contacts an old friend to help him run the White House while he struggles to balance work and a personal life. Meanwhile, Santos makes a possibly catastrophic decision before entering office. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

I just love so much of what this season has done for us. It’s such a rewarding season of television, and I admit that it’s a thrill to see how The West Wing has been so consistently entertaining in its seventh season. How many shows can boast such a fantastic final run? Of course, there are some TOTALLY UNFAIR hints at the potential for future seasons of the show, but I’m glad that we’re ending on a high note. Still, COULD YOU IMAGINE? Well, wait, SpectralBovine has been imagining future seasons, so THERE’S THAT.

Let’s do this.

Sam Seaborn

You know, it was only after this episode ended that I realized how well-done the return of Sam Seaborn was. He’s so quintessentially Sam here, and Rob Lowe fell right into this role brilliantly. But it’s also important to note that Sam plays a pivotal part in Josh’s development, since he’s the force that’s meant to keep Josh in line. That journey is a long and painful one, though, and Bradley Whitford’s physical performance is a huge part of that as well.

I was confused that there was no mention whatsoever about Sam’s run in Orange County, but I think it’s probable that he lost terribly and moved on to a law career. That career provides Sam with a whole lot more stability (and less stress!) than what he used to do, so why on earth would he pack up and move to DC? WITH HIS FIANCEÉ, I SHOULD NOTE. Oh, I hope we meet her! Anyway, it’s through this that we first get an example of a recurring motif throughout “Transition.” Sam notes that Josh looks terrible, but he does so by using that as evidence that he shouldn’t take the job. Truthfully, Josh does look horrific here, and he refuses to see this as a sign that he needs a break. But this is Josh Lyman we’re talking about. He’s the same man who tried to work through his own PTSD; he lashed out earlier this season when he couldn’t control election results; and now, he takes out his own exhaustion on Otto in “Transition.” It’s such an uncomfortable, distressing scene, but it gives Sam a chance to demonstrate why Josh needs him. Who else could have reined Josh in like that?

But I think that Sam’s idealism is as much of an important force as anything else. Throughout this show, he demonstrated a love for and faith in the democratic process, and you can tell that’s the same reason why he wants to be a part of the Santos administration. (I do suspect he missed the West Wing just a little bit.) It’s why he left the White House to run in an election that he was virtually guaranteed to lose. And he’ll do it again to serve his country, but Josh has to understand his own value to Santos and the rest of his staff if he’s to do the best job possible. This episode shows us how right Sam was: Josh was not at his best. He was sloppy, distracted, rude, and unfocused, and if he didn’t reset himself, it would only get worse.


Which is why it’s important that Donna (IN ALL HER GLORY) gives Josh an ultimatum. It’s not that she was in a rush to begin a relationship with Josh. If anything, we’ve seen that she’s certainly capable of handling the more awkward elements of their… well, whatever it is that these two have. She was fine with them just having a sexual relationship, and she didn’t need Josh to commit to more than this at that point. But she knew, like Sam, that if Josh did not take some time to reflect on himself, he’d never stop to do it. Plus, she’s offered the position of Chief of Staff by Helen. (!!!!!! IT’S SO PERFECT, I CAN’T) I love that she definitively states that she can’t work under him again, and that’s so important for her character! She can’t go back to that dynamic ever again, and she can’t enter another cycle of awkward relationships and unresolved sexual tension and missed connections… you get the point. So yeah, it was sad that Josh said he couldn’t figure things out between them in the timeline Donna provided. BUT Y’ALL WERE MEANT FOR ONE ANOTHER, COME ON JOSH.

I’m just glad that the writers are giving Donna what she deserves: her own career and job. Independence. Respect. AND THEN A TROPICAL VACATION WITH JOSH LYMAN AND IT’S SO PERFECT AND THAT WAS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE PLANE REVEAL OVER ON HANNIBAL.


Soooooo…. WHEN DID BARTLET AND SANTOS TALK ABOUT THIS BRILLIANT CON? I mean, look, this is not the first time Bartlet’s done something in secret like this, but holy shit. This story went from one that was horrifically awkward and potentially disastrous to ADORABLE CONSPIRACY BUDDIES. Which I am 100% okay with, since Bartlet’s approval of Santos means a lot to me? I swear, I had an entirely different bit planned for this section that was going to analyze the political fallout that Santos faced, and talk about presidents inheriting messes, and WHOOPS IT WAS ALL A RUSE. A brilliant ruse, at that, since both Santos and Bartlet realized that they could exploit the transition period itself in order to put more pressure on China and Russia.

I’m so sad this show is ending.

The video for “Transition” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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