The West Wing S02E05: And It’s Surely to Their Credit

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My West Wing review hiatus is a reflection of my contempt for politicians and my disgust with politics as practiced in Australia and the USA.

I cannot remember being this appalled since Emperor Bush I went to war against Iraq and left the job unfinished, making sure there would have to be a repeat of the whole disaster. Especially the financial haemorrhage of public funds into private blood banks.

Lionel Tribbey interrupts the president.
Lionel Tribbey interrupts the president.

The West Wing, on the other hand, has a distinctly optimistic flavour to it. Even about the Republicans.

How can I write about that optimism while being so thoroughly dispirited about its hopeful ambitions for topics we see today soiled and discarded?

At the turn of the century it might indeed have been a novel idea to hire staff across party lines. For talent. Today the concept is less unlikely: but only because the two parties often seem indistinguishable from each other.

Nevertheless, the way Americans are being ripped off, lied to, gaoled, and killed by their representatives makes it hard to believe that any competent people at all are being hired within a hundred miles of Washington.

It’s the idea that counts, they say. America would surely be a better place if the White House were indeed staffed by people with conscience and integrity. Who cares what party-political affiliations they might have.

White House counsel Lionel Tribbey is definitely a highlight in this episode, played for full comedic effect by John Larroquette; it looked like he was having fun, and it was fun watching him having fun.
Curiously, so was the written-for-laughs presidential sex interlude, though I can still not quite work why Abbey Bartlet has to consult the president’s vitals first. Were they trying for a baby? Was the president so ill he could only sleep with his wife when the vitals were in some particular groove?

I never noticed before, but CJ’s goldfish Gail gets a pink bed and there’s another goldfish in there with her. Goldfish romance?

CJ dresses down a retiring general.
CJ dresses down a retiring general.

I was less charmed by the Ainsley Hayes plotline. The humiliation she suffered at the hands of advisors Mark Brookline and Steve Joyce (played by Steven Flynn and Paul Perri) still plays true. Particularly after she did them a favour. Workplace bullying, particularly the sexist kind, seems not to have been diminished under old Republicans, new leftists, and the new lunar right they all merged into when Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers bought all the ‘executives’, body and soul.

I’d love to have something more positive to say. But I don’t. I cannot even remember how I thought about this episode in the past. Was I charmed by the Gilbert and Sullivan dialogue and finale? I doubt it. I hate musicals and anything that smacks of high school panto.

Let’s just say that Mandy Hampton mark 2 – Ainsley Hayes – is slightly less annoying. Sam Seaborn as the righteous boy scout defending her virtual honour is slightly less bumptious than the boy scout defending a prostitute’s honour.

And CJ dressing down a four star general who’s about to badmouth the president is still somewhat satisfying, the way that Josh Lyman choosing not to sue the KKK is not, and never was.

Credits

  • Written by Aaron Sorkin from a story by Kevin Falls and Laura Glasser. Directed by Christopher Misiano. First aired on 1 November 2000.
  • Headline cast in opening credits: Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Dulé Hill as Charlie Young, Allison Janney as CJ Cregg, Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as Leo McGarry, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman, and Martin Sheen as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet.
  • Special guest stars Stockard Channing as Abbey Bartlet, John Larroquette as Lionel Tribbey.
  • The Gilbert & Sullivan routine.
    The Gilbert & Sullivan routine.
  • Guest Starring Emily Procter as Ainsley Hayes, Daniel Roebuck as Lieutenant Buckley, Tom Bower as General Ed Barrie, Paul Perri as Steve Joyce, Steven Flynn as Mark Brookline, Kathryn Joosten as Dolores Landingham, NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper.
  • Co-Starring Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick, Kim Webster as Ginger, Jack Shearer as Engineer, Bradley James as Donnie.

 

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