Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E08 – Enemies

In the eighth episode of the first season of The West Wing, the team struggles with the complications of passing a bill while Leo lashes out at his daughter through Sam. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

I’ll reiterate what I said at the end of the video for this episode: Goddamn, this was a charming experience. I wouldn’t call “Enemies” a particularly flashy or jaw-dropping story. Instead, this focuses almost entirely on subtle character development, and that is definitely something I’m interested in. Let’s do this, shall we?

Sam/Leo/Mallory

Hey, an episode with Sam being likable! Seriously, when he’s not trying to act like Laurie’s father, he’s kind of enjoyable. I mean, Toby and him spend most of this episode obsessing over perfecting a birthday card. Er, a birthday message, that is. But, like C.J., he also has to balance the confusion that comes with dating in the workplace. Granted, Mallory is very insistent on the fact that she is not taking Sam on a date. No dating! It’s definitely not a date. Still, Sam is confused by this. It’s his boss’s daughter! What’s he supposed to do? So when he’s assigned the birthday message, I really believe that he knew all along that this was Leo’s way of getting back at his daughter. Of course, then it became something else, since he really wanted to nail that message.

For Leo, though, “Enemies” examines the complicated path that he’s on as a future divorcé. We find out his conversations with his wife are limited and impersonal, but he’s still spending time with his daughter. But even those interactions are wrought with awkward exchanges and passive aggression. It’s not like Leo has experience with handling these things, so he behaves poorly once he finds out that Mallory is using his opera tickets to take Sam with her. As I said in the introduction, Leo lashes out – quite unfairly, I might add – instead of behaving like… well, a mature adult. He could have just asked Mallory if she resented him for how busy he was, but Leo obviously has communication issues when it comes to personal matters. The guy can tear down a Senator in seconds, but he can’t ask his daughter why she’s mad at him. Thankfully, with some gentle suggestions from President Bartlet, both Mallory and Leo are able to move past this moment. Mallory understands the sheer complexity of her father’s job, and Leo is able to accept that his daughter doesn’t despise him. Oh god, they are so cute together, I swear.

Danny/C.J.

This isn’t getting any simpler, is it? It’s complicated enough that Danny is quite pushy about his desire to take C.J. out on a date, but this is only exacerbated when Bartlet takes Vice President Hoynes to task in a cabinet meeting. Danny relentlessly pursues C.J. in two ways. How is she supposed to navigate them both? In one sentence, Danny hits on her and compliments her appearance. In another, he harangues her for information about the verbal scuffle in the meeting. She’s kept constantly on her feet by this man, and I can tell it’s not really helping her at all. The pressure she’s under as the press secretary is bad enough, you know? And it makes me uncomfortable how tenacious Danny is. I admit that’s more of a personal thing than any sort of commentary on his character. I just tend to have a problem with people who don’t really hear the word “No,” or who choose to disregard a rejection. I suppose there’s a fine line between being persistent and being inappropriate, and my gut tells me that Danny has gone a bit too far for my own taste.

For example, when he sees that C.J. was aware of the land-rider addition, he takes the opportunity to not just go after the story, but put C.J. off her game even more. It felt unnecessary to me, as if he was relishing the opportunity to tip her off balance. Ultimately, C.J. is able to handle the situation by giving Danny thirty minutes on the record with President Bartlet, but even then, he says it’s not enough. He wants her to sing for him. Granted, he could have totally meant it as a joke, but it came off as a bit crass.

Hoynes/Bartlet

Of course, I wanted to know why Bartlet was so harsh with Hoynes during the cabinet meeting. There have been hints to something that happened in the past between the two, but I never anticipated what this episode eventually gave me. Damn it, now I want to know more! Will we get more information about what happened on the campaign trail to make these two act on-edge so often? Was it more than just Bartlet being forced to beg Hoynes to be his running mate? Oh god, I have a feeling that this story isn’t resolved at all. SO AWKWARD. I need more!

Josh and BILLS

I love how clever it is that this episode is framed by Bartlet’s nerdy obsession with national parks. Granted, Josh doesn’t want to oppose the banking bill because he considers himself a big nature guy. That’s hardly the case! But the land-rider added at the 11th hour peeves Josh because, like the President, his ego makes him a competitive person. Now, I admit that if you’re not familiar with the American political system, this episode might have been hard to follow. I get that. But it’s a reality in our nation (even on a local level) that bills are constantly amended (and rejected because of this) with extraneous shit. Oh god, it happens all the time. I felt like “Enemies” really portrayed that complicated dance well. It’s about choosing which fights to fight, as Mandy puts it. Is it worth it for the bill to go through if it also means an entire chunk of U.S. wilderness must go with it? Should the White House compromise in order to deliver a blow to the banking lobbies? And at what point must you concede your loss? At the end, it’s only Josh who remains hopeful (and desperate) that the bill can’t go through with the land-rider addition.

It’s fitting, then, that it’s Bartlet’s own personal joy towards national parks is what gives Josh a way to get around this. The team wins and gets what they want, but I loved that this episode actually ended with Josh wondering what’s become of modern politics. Do we spend too much time on our enemies? Do we actually have more of them? Is it all a waste of time? I can’t answer that myself quite yet, but I was quite fascinated with Josh’s dedication. Now Bartlet gets to make a new national park!

All said, I had a blast watching this episode. Bravo!

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Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E08 – Enemies

  1. Chaille Brown says:

    I absolutely loved when Mallory says “You are exactly like him.” and both Leo and Sam are completely flabbergasted by the thought.

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