In the ninth episode of the seventh season of The West Wing, Ellie’s wedding day arrives, and unsurprisingly, everything around it is in chaos. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.
OH LORD. How did the writers pack so much into a single episode??? LET’S DO THIS.
I have to start this review acknowledging that in this fucking episode, Donna sits next to Josh and says she’s bored and needs entertaining and JOSH LYMAN, YOU ARE SO DISTRACTED BY THE DISASTER IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU DIDN’T NOTICE THAT DONNA MOSS JUST BEGGED YOU TO ENTERTAIN HER. This show is going to perpetually tease me with this ship, isn’t it? Cruel. THIS IS SO CRUEL.
Will / Kate
There’s that moment in “The Wedding” where C.J. and Kate (who both looked utterly fabulous) head to the Situation Room, and I’d like a ten-hour YouTube video of C.J. saying, “Will Bailey?” with that smile on her face. Because it’s one of the best deliveries on a line from Allison Janney ever. Why isn’t she queen of the universe yet?
So, I’m glad that my demand in the video commission for this was for Will and Kate to work out that “thing” they had going on, which was more awkward tension based solely on physical attraction, and it actually came true. Well, it’s a start, of course, but it’s nice! A nice thing is happening! So far, I should say, because it’s The West Wing. It could veer south fairly quickly.
The show manages to capture the chaos of having a wedding at the White House, which is exacerbated by the frustrating coincidence of the China-Kazakhstan drama unfolding halfway around the world. I admit that at times, the urgency of the crisis felt a little lacking because we weren’t seeing anything. I know that’s funny to say about something on a show that relies almost exclusively on dialogue to convey information. But this season’s plot involving Kazakhstan has always been ambiguous up to this point, in the sense that information is conveyed to us, but we never truly know what it means for these characters. (I brought that up in the review for “Undecideds.”) Like before, I’m unsure if we’re going to see more of this and what ramifications there’ll be in the future. Right now, it’s almost like one long punchline developed specifically so that Bartlet can tell the Chinese delegate to shut up so he can go to his daughter’s wedding. That scene is absolutely worth it, for the record, and it’s going to be one of my finest Bartlet memories.
But the writers also touch on some more serious ideas in the process of building the tension to that explosive moment. I was pleased that they addressed the fact that Bartlet didn’t really know Vic at all. Given how overly protective of his daughters he is, Bartlet was surprisingly not that vicious with Vic. If anything, his sole chance to be with Vic is awkward and uncomfortable. So I saw it both as a sign of his growth as a father and his current exhaustion that Bartlet didn’t go through the same motions with Vic. Instead, he just wanted the comfort of knowing that Vic wanted to marry Ellie before she was pregnant. Oh god, Vic’s answer was so cute, too! BAH, FEELINGS. I LOVE THEM.
However, that was nothing compared to the brilliantly acted scenes between Martin Sheen and Nina Siemaszko where Bartlet saw his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time. It was a treat to watch because of how it’s contrasted with Bartlet in the rest of the episode. Bartlet tells his wife that he’s too old to be doing his job, and it was clear the stress and frustration was getting to him. But then he stands before Ellie, who looked absolutely splendid, and he just melts. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. BUT THEN THE WAVING SOLDIER STORY? NO, NOPE, DONE.
I am certainly surprised that after the previous episode’s development for Josh, “The Wedding” shows Josh engaging in self-doubt, considering that I thought “Undecideds” cast doubt on Santos. But after a surprising gain in Illinois post-debate, the Santos team struggles with the uncomfortable reality of money. It’s the thread that ties together what happens to Josh, and it’s disheartening to watch. There’s no problem engaging with the idea that Josh is flawed, and the show has easily shown us this before. But he’s facing an impossible crowd who don’t seem to get that being outspent is not Josh’s fault.
I think it’s easy to want to place blame so late into the campaign, and I also understand why Josh is an easy target. I do! At the same time, having the knowledge of what’s been happening behind-the-scenes, it’s very sad to see Josh’s decline in this episode. He sleeps less and less. He takes on more and more responsibility without delegating it. And faced with an electoral map that looks mostly red, he’s concerned about the possibility that a Santos presidency isn’tâ€¦. well, possible.
And that’s when the vultures come out, as they’re colloquially referred to. The big name Democrats insist it’s time for a shake-up in the campaign, all because no one saw the Illinois surprise. It’s important to state that, which is why Leo does later in the episode to Josh’s face. Illinois seemed like a lost cause when they were ten points behind Vinick, so why would Josh have chosen to put more adbuy money there? Let’s call it what it is: It’s unfair. No one could have known what effect the debates would have, so how is it fair to hold Josh to these weird clairvoyant standards?
Honestly, I started to get real scared in the last ten minutes of “The Wedding.” Holy shit, they were actually going through with this. They were actually considering replacing Josh. WITH LEO. witsdsdfjl fsadjklasfd l;as HOW THE FUCK WOULD THAT EVEN WORK? Would Leo secretly be the campaign manager? I didn’t understand that, but by the end of the episode, that was immaterial to the development. I’m glad that Leo offered his support to Josh, but did so by admitting that there’s nothing wrong with a confession of limits. Josh can only do so much, and he’s certainly driving his body into the ground by ignoring those limits. There’s clearly work that needs to be done, and Josh’s guidance and expertise has gotten them as far as it has. Perhaps this is the point where Santos really does take them all the way. I’m kind of excited to see what else he has up his sleeve!
But we’re now nine episodes into this season, and Santos is still trailing too far behind for my comfort. How??? How is this going to work? I suppose I should just let go trying to figure out how Santos might pull ahead; I didn’t even think he was going to win the nomination last season. BUT HERE WE ARE. Lord, this episode was uncomfortable and tense. I’m gonna go watch some Supernatural andâ€¦. oh shit. Go through the same thing, probably. SIGH.
The video for “The Wedding” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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