In the eighteenth episode of the first season of The West Wing, a million different things happen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.
Let’s get to it!
I’m really confused about her character. I guess I went into this show expecting her to be around a whole lot more than she has been. The first few episodes set her up to be a pretty big character, one who acted as a foil to Josh. However, we’ve seen her – what? Maybe five minutes total in the last five episodes? What’s going on with that? It’s really strange to see because there’s absolutely no explanation behind this. I like her, but… why is she here? Why introduce someone who’s fascinating and engaging, and then have her show up to spout a few lines and disappear? Well, and fall for Josh’s jokes. The whole panda plot line is funny because of the hope that Toby and Mandy will team up to get revenge, but then it never happens. Meh. At least I got a minute or two of Toby experiencing jubilance out of this.
At the exact point where Leo revealed that Sam’s position was just opposition research, I realized that I had fallen for the misdirect, too. At that point, I had also gathered an entire defense of the public school system that I was ready to spew forth in this review, and then Sam said most of what I was thinking, and I FELL FOR IT SO HARD. I have said this a lot, but it’s honestly the most appropriate word I can come up: THESE PEOPLE ARE SO CHARMING. They are! I love that they can play off one another, that they challenge one another intellectually, and that at the end of the day, they truly care about one another. It’s so nice. And Sam got called a fascist. That made me laugh.
Wow, this episode got real close to being a total disaster. I admit that I’m always tense when an American show addresses race or race relations in our country because… well, I don’t have a lot of faith in the mostly-white writers who traditionally work in television. We don’t get much subtlety or nuance, we often get “reverse racism” stories that make me want to punch myself, or race is so egregiously ignored that I can’t even cope. There’s a lot more nonsense, but I’m not going to list it out here. So I was put at ease when Josh immediately made it a point to state that he was probably ill-equipped to have a conversation about reparations for slavery with a civil rights lawyer. HE IS! And I’m glad he went into that meeting with Breckenridge with that in mind.
I constantly see people thinking slavery happened a lot longer ago than it did. (It’s not 200 years at all.) I see a lot of people ignoring the fact that black Americans and indigenous people are absolutely living in a world whose history influenced their social standing and perception. I am angered by those who ignore the fact that one of the many ramifications of slavery has been the continued lack of any sort of ancestral inheritance of assets or property because slaves had nothing to pass on. And this is where Josh gets dangerously close to spouting nothing but ahistorical bullshit, because the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights movement, and affirmative action have not solved the problems slavery wrought. Once he starts comparing this all to the Holocaust? Dude, you can’t do that. What are you doing? Thankfully, it’s with that very outburst that Josh realizes what a precarious position he’s taken and how Breckenridge has a point. A good one, at that. Aaron Sorkin was smart not to give any sort of Official Answer for reparations either. Instead, both Josh and Breckenridge acknowledge what a logistical nightmare it would be while Josh comes to Breckenridge’s side, ultimately throwing his support behind him for the confirmation process he’ll be going through. It’s a surprisingly optimistic ending to what could have been more of a disaster.
Okay, C.J. doing Ronny Jordan’s “The Jackal” is incredible. That needs to be said.
This episode made me realize that I haven’t ever really thought about the Secret Service. Of course they have an office. Why wouldn’t they? WHY DID THIS SHOCK ME SO MUCH? Oh god, you know, I would totally watch a spin-off show with Gina and the rest of the Secret Service, and it could be an in-depth look at what the President and his family and staff face in terms of threats and violence. Because I don’t know if you know this, but people are really fucking awful. Trust me, in my ten years of running online communities, I have seen the capacity the human race has for depravity, perversion, violence, and stalking, and it is not fun. So that part of me would love love LOVE this show.
Anyway, it’s hard not to be disturbed by what Zoey faces in this episode because it is so clearly based on reality. We currently have a President who is now the most threatened President in the history of our country. So it’s hard not to see Sorkin’s sorcerer storytelling at work here. Zoey and Charlie’s threats come from fringe groups dissatisfied with… what? The fact that Zoey sees a black man as being attractive? God, spelling it out that way makes it seem so absurd, but I don’t need to tell y’all that. What’s unsettling at the heart of this is that by nature of who Zoey and Charlie are, they are thrust into a world where people like Edgar Drumm feel justified in doing what they do. Their racist, paranoid conspiracy theories are reason enough for them to hide in a college’s kitchen to ambush someone.
But let’s expand that. It’s not just Zoey and Charlie’s relationship that’s affected by this. Zoey can’t even be a friend to David Arbor, who is dealing with an addiction, because other people feel entitled to slandering him and spinning the truth to get a headline. Jesus, that’s fucked up. And that’s a damning commentary on that we’ve seen before! The media wanted to tear apart Leo McGarry for his problems with addiction because it’s salacious. That’s not to discount the fact that we should hold the people in government accountable for their actions, obviously, but the way in which Leo’s time in rehab was used as an attempt to blackmail and degrade him showed me that these people had no interest in accountability. They wanted to destroy, and Edgar Drumm and his followers are doing the exact same thing.
C.J. handles all of this with grace and professionalism, and I’m just so happy that she is the White House Press Secretary. Even when she’s been handed the difficult job of telling this all to the President, she does it. It’s her job. And she does it while the President threatens to make everything worse (understandably so), prompting her to go toe-to-toe with him to calm him down. That thanks he gives her at the very end? He meant that. He respects her. Hell, that’s one of the great things about this cast of characters: They all inherently respect what they are doing, even if they do have a little fun with each other in the process.
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Mark Links Stuff
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