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HERC Sneaks Into THE WEST WING 2.3!!

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?

“The Midterms.”

WHY?

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.)

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

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 SEABORN?

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.

CHARLIE YOUNG?

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: Theology?

JACOBS: No.

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!

JACOBS: 18:22.

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?

***1/2

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!

I am – Hercules!





Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 18, 2000, 8:17 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see it!

    by EthanEdwards

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 8:17 a.m. CST

    And by the way...

    by EthanEdwards

    I'm first!

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 9:50 a.m. CST

    I missed the season premiere...

    by LesterB

    I was so bummed. "The West Wing" is the second best show on TV, next to "The Sopranos". I loved that piece with the Dr. Laura lady! So true, so very, very true...

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 11:44 a.m. CST

    The Best Show on TV

    by B A Fett

    The West Wing is by far the best show on television right now. I used to get excited for Thursday nights and E.R. -- now it's Wednesday nights and W.W.

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 11:50 a.m. CST

    Man that deserves 4 Stars! Fuck "Dr." Laura! Hope she burns in h

    by Bari Umenema

    She's an Abomination! Let's burn her at the stake or crucify her LIVE ON THE AIR! She makes me want to puke and I'm not even gay! Stupid bitch. Go Sorkin! Give us more man give us more!

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 8:53 p.m. CST

    Wow...

    by TheOneCalledBen

    Wow, that was an awesome episode of the West Wing. Not as good as the season opener granted, but thats to be expected. Also, kudos to Sorkin for blasting the tight-assed ultra-conservatives who believe anyone different from them are abominations.

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 8:58 p.m. CST

    I was a little disappointed by this episode...

    by AaronHayden

    until I saw the Dr. Laura speech, that is. After that, the episode was great. The moment with Charlie and the tech support guy and then the scene on Josh's stoop were "classic" West Wing. Damn, I love this show.

  • Oct. 18, 2000, 9:12 p.m. CST

    love the show, and another sterling episode as always

    by kojiro

    But that little speech at the end (though I still loved it) was a cheap rip-off of a hilarious letter that was supposedly sent to Dr. Laura. Frankly, I'm divided on how I feel about jokes like that. Sure it's fun, but it's always struck me as the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. It's just too easy. If you want to see the origainal letter this is one of the many places that carries it. www.2think.org/lauraschlessinger.shtml (Crap, that's two days in row I've plugged a site here, I feel like such a fucking schill but I swear I'm associated with neither of them in any way)

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 1:37 a.m. CST

    "The Sopranos" IS better

    by LesterB

    Don't get me wrong, I love "The West Wing". It's a marvelous show and it really does get to the heart of some of this country's issues without ignoring the characters, which I appreciate. However, I've seen both the scenes mentioned in the above talkback, and they were impressive, but for sheer emotional power and unpredictability, you can't do better than "The Sopranos". It's the first show in years that could actually be considered a work of art. I dare YOU to watch last season's finale and tell me that that show doesn't make "The West Wing" and "Buffy" look like "Herman's Head".

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Spoilers

    by howstone

    Do any of you at this site honestly think that anyone wants to know the outcome of things you write about before they see it? While I appreciate that you do provide a warning, mentioning every detail of a show or movie's plot is ridiculous. It's one thing to review something, but it seems like you're just trying to show that you're so important that you receive these episodes early.

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 9:27 a.m. CST

    To Howstone

    by Pope Buck 1

    That is why the article was clearly marked with the red "Spoiler" label on the AICN home page. So that, in this free country, anyone who wants to be surprised DOESN'T HAVE TO CLICK ON THE ARTICLE.

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Hm.

    by bltpdx

    The West Wing is my favorite show. Aaron Sorkin and Martin Sheen, in my opinion, are some sort of holy duality which bring us the finest ever in NETWORK (let's leave the Sopranos out of this) entertainment. That said, Bartlet's attack on Dr. Laura ERRRRRRR Jenna didn't impress me that much. I think it's because I thought everyone knew all those arguments Bartlet gave already. If not, that's my bad. I also think it's because by pulling a stunt like that the President of the United States would be pulling an unbelievable crapstorm onto his head. Are you kidding me? A room full of people who between them reach nearly every person in the US and you're telling me they wouldn't LOVE to see the President beat someone down, just so they could turn around and talk about how arrogant and self-serving he is? "He just can't stand to see someone not give his high and mightyness the proper due" etc, etc. Don't get me wrong, I completely agree with what Bartlet had to say. I just don't see it as likely that even someone as badass as him would actually say it.--------------------------------------Brandon. 98% ellipses free since 1998.

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 3:08 p.m. CST

    West Wing-ing It

    by Village Idiot

    Very satisfying show, although sometimes it feels like ER in the White House, with snappier dialog. It's still terrific: the "Lynching" discussion scene between Schiff and Sheen was great. This show is damn good, but **I think its best episodes are ahead of it**. Keep up the spoilin' Herc, we'll have some place to talk about them.

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Dr. Laura, Biblical interpretation, and good TV

    by not_a_jedi_yet

    It was a great episode, with some very powerful moments...EXCEPT for the "Dr. Laura" scene. I am not writing as a fan of Dr. Laura by any means, but it was just bad TV. It served no purpose but to allow Sorkin a chance to vent at Dr. Laura, and that's a stupid move. Twenty years from now Dr. Laura will be gone and forgotten, but the pertinent issues will still be around. I believe that there would be MUCH better ways of dealing with introlerance and bigotry dramatically than this awkwardly-placed scene that only served to take cheap potshots at one rather insignificant person. And on top of that it was BAD Biblical interpretation. To deal with the Bible's stance on homosexuality, you have to go far beyond the Levitical admonitions. The same logic Sorkin used could be used to defend incest, rape, and abuse as well as homosexuality. You can't say that just because one part of the Bible is no longer applicable, then anything goes. Don't flame me--I'm not defending Dr. Laura's stance. I'm just saying that Sorkin could've done a lot better job dealing with the issue, but the solution he chose was simply bad TV and even worse theology. I'd stake both my B.A. in Film and Video and my Masters of Divinity on that statement, for what it's worth (it may not be worth much to you, but it cost me a buttload of money).

  • Oct. 19, 2000, 7:31 p.m. CST

    and the best line of the show...

    by am003f

    was missed in the transcribing of the Bartlet - Dr. Jacobs dialogue!!!! After she throws a quick glance around the room and realizes that she, in fact, is the only person in the room sitting in presence of the still standing POTUS, she looks back to see him squint oh-ever-so-slightly (in the don't even think about saying a word kinda way) and she slowly rises. After a moment of dead silence. Quietly, Bartlett goes "Toby" "Yes Mr. President" "...that's how I beat him." and he exits. (The impact of this can only be realized with watching the entire show and doing a little psychology work. Few effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a loss of memory, inability to focus on the now, sense of loss of control... among many others. Throughout the show, both Toby and Bartlett obsesses over issues they don't have true control over, as a way to regain the sense of stability that was now lost. When asked, POTUS cannot remember how he won against the current school board frontrunner in his old district. Here, in this scence, Bartlett gains back his power by rightfully claiming it, by not tolerating the disrespect of Dr. Jacobs, another person with ideas he finds so despicable. By openly challenging such ideas, and commanding the respect and claiming his control over the situation, he corrects the sense of guilt, fear, and chaos he had faced when he lost control previously. That is how he beats his opponent, that is how he beat his fears of the shooting-lynching incident. And this is what he means... How cool is this show?)

  • Oct. 20, 2000, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Dr. Laura

    by RampantGeek

    Much though I enjoy seeing Dr. Laura over a barrel, I have to note that the teleplay credit really should go to Aaron Sorkin and an anonymous internet wit. Nearly everything in that speech can be found, "chapter and verse", in an email which has been circulating the net for months. I first got it from a message board with a large homosexual presence and spotted it again a few weeks later on one of my mailing lists. I wish I still had a copy so I could post it here, but it was erased in a crash. Makes me wonder where Sorkin gets the rest of his material ...

  • Oct. 22, 2000, 5:21 p.m. CST

    The *really* best line of the show...

    by cd0101

    ...actually came less than two minutes after the scene at the talk-show host reception. The tech support guy says to Charlie, "If they're shooting at you, you know you're doing something right." After the shot that Sorkin took at Dr. Laura, I wonder if he was smart enough to even realize the supreme irony of that line? Seems to me he is "hoist with his own petard."