Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Damn you, HERCULES THE STRONG!! I don't WANT to watch a show on Wednesday nights!! I am perfectly happy not even thinking about the big glass teat that night. I don't want to set a tape or check the guide or ANYTHING!! So stop telling me that THE WEST WING is great. Stop trying to convince me with these well-written articles that make the show sound fascinating. JUST LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU EVIL, EVIL LITTLE MAN!! If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sulk now about my inability to find Radiohead tickets for Friday night at the Greek and Herc's quest to ruin the middle of my week.
WHAT’S IT CALLED?
Tonight’s episode deals with the White House’s efforts to win more seats for Democratic lawmakers. The reason these are MIDTERM elections is because “The West Wing” takes place in an alternate universe roughly two years removed from our own. (Which is also why we will not see President Bartlet formally nominated for re-election until 2002.)
Teleplay is credited, as usual, to series creator Aaron Sorkin.
IS IT AS GOOD AS THE SEASON PREMIERE?
Of course not! The two-part season launch of “The West Wing” two weeks ago constituted the most moving and entertaining installment yet of one of the two best TV shows in production.
IS 2.3 GOOD?
It is very, very good.
IS DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF JOSH LYMAN, WHOSE LUNG WAS COLLAPSED BY A BULLET IN THE SEASON OPENER, STILL AMONG US?
Josh starts great and gets much better. One of the odder things about this episode is it spans about three months. It begins on Aug. 14, about a week after the shooting, and ends on Nov. 7, midterm election day. By episode’s conclusion, Josh is the picture of health, and apparently on the eve of his return to work.
OKAY, JOSH IS GOOD. WHEW. WHAT ABOUT THE PRESIDENT?
Bartlet is back to work and campaigning hard for the party, but he’s obsessed with the outcome of a school board election in his home state, one in which a despised old opponent is the front-runner. Bartlet wants to express public support for his old opponent’s new opponent. C.J. is horrified. She finds it unseemly that the president would take sides in a local school board election. She also feels it would galvanize the Republican majorities in Congress against Bartlet and all other Democrats.
AND TOBY ZIEGLER?
The president’s communications director wants to exploit the president’s shooting to bring attention to gun control and hate crime issues. The rest of the staff deems this far too opportunistic. Toby quietly despairs and contemplates a leave of absense.
Sam recruits an old law-school buddy, now a well-respected district attorney, to run for a vacated congressional seat. But two damning facts are eventually discovered about the buddy: 1) he uses preemptive challenges to fill jury boxes with white people when the defendants are black and 2) he belonged to an all-white college fraternity. The two facts together, apparently, spell political suicide, and Leo orders Sam to abandon his old law-school buddy.
The president’s “body man” still seems haunted by the fact that the bullets that felled his colleagues were actually meant for him. This, it turns out, is just guilt piled upon guilt. We learn that the night Charlie’s cop mother died, she had switched shifts because Charlie asked her to.
ANY SIGN OF A SMOLDERING HOLE WHERE MOIRA KELLY USED TO STAND?
Not yet. You’d think because this episode is so election-oriented we might at least see the return of Marlee Matlin as Joey Lucas. Alas, everybody’s favorite hearing-impaired political operative remains wholly and conspicuously absent.
BEST REASON TO WATCH TONIGHT?
There’s an election day scene that amuses hugely even as it demonstrates Sorkin’s fearless faculty for combining controversial ideas, dramatic situations and circular-saw-like wit. The scene, a real showstopper, finds the president stopping in on a White House gathering of radio talk personalities. As Bartlet struggles though a speech extolling the gabbers’ contributions to the airwaves, Bartlet is distracted by the sight of a Dr. Laura-like radio psychologist seated nearby.
BARTLET: It’s a good idea to be reminded of the awesome impact, the awesome impact… I’m sorry. You’re Dr. Jenna Jacobs, right?
JACOBS (obviously pleased to be recognized): Yes, sir!
BARTLET: It’s good to have you here.
JACOBS: Thank you!
BARTLET: … the awesome impact of the airwaves, and how that translates into the furthering of our national discussions, but obviously also how it can … how it can … Forgive me, Dr. Jacobs. Are you an M.D.?
JACOBS: A Ph.D.
BARTLET: A Ph.D.
JACOBS: Yes, sir.
BARTLET: In psychology?
JACOBS: No, sir.
BARTLET: Social work?
JACOBS: I have a Ph.D. in English Literature.
BARTLET: I’m asking ‘cause on your show people call in for advice – and you go by the name Dr. Jacobs on your show – and I didn’t know if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had advanced training in psychology, theology or health care.
JACOBS: I don’t believe they are confused, no, sir.
BARTLET: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an “abomination!”
JACOBS: I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
BARTLET: Yes it does. Leviticus!
BARTLET: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I wanted to sell my youngest daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown Sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?
(Bartlet only waits a second for a response, then plunges on.)
BARTLET: While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGary, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Or is it okay to call the police?
(Bartlet barely pauses to take a breath.)
BARTLET: Here’s one that’s really important, because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?
(The camera pushes in on the president.)
One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building when the president stands, nobody sits.
(Jacobs sees that, in fact, the president is standing and she is the only one in the room sitting. After a moment, she rises, holding her tiny plate of appetizers. After the president exits, Sam Seaborn sternly approaches a thoroughly belittled Jacobs.)
SAM: I’m just … going to take that crab puff.
(Sam snatches Dr. Jacob’s crab puff, then hurries after the president.)
HOW’S IT END?
Camped out on Josh’s stoop with Toby, C.J., Donna and Sam. It’s the first time Josh has been outdoors in three months. And we learn of the election results the regulars had been working hard to influence for 12 weeks.
HERC’S RATING FOR “THE WEST WING” 2.3?
The Hercules T. Strong Rating System:
**** better than most motion pictures
*** actually worth your valuable time
** as horrible as most stuff on TV
* makes you quietly pray for bulletins
I implore you not to defy me!