SYTYCD XI – Top 16

Group Routine – Jazz, choreo by Mandy Moore

[“Take Me To The River” by Annie Lenox]


Erica: The minute I saw “Annie Lennox,” I thought, “Sonya Tayeh”. Then I thought, “Wait, no, it’s gotta be Mandy Moore. She’s all about the ‘80s”.


Kate: I love Annie Lennox songs on this show. (Ah, what a perfect place to provide a link to Ashley and Mark’s season 7 dance to ”Wonderful”!)


Erica: I was sad that they got rid of the swoopy scarves so early. I like swoopy scarves.


Kate: I was sad that the girls weren’t together at all.


Erica: I gotta say, they looked pretty professional for this number. Way better, more energetic and together than last week’s hip-hop. Even though I liked last week’s bizarre concept and costuming and stuff.


Kate: Yes, but I didn’t think the girls were that strong together. The partner stuff was cool, and they looked great at the end. Can we talk about the dumb/weird little choreo things they now do during introductions?


Erica: No, I skip them or go get a Coke or something.


Kate: I’m not a fan. They always look awkward. Who drinks Coke anymore?


Cat’s Ensemble


Erica: Ew feh.


Kate: You know I didn’t realize “feh” was a Yiddish word until a couple weeks ago?


Erica: I didn’t realize “klutz” was until very recently.


Kate: Anyway, it is July. This is a January outfit. (Except for the fact that mock turtlenecks are a never outfit.)


Erica: Her hair is great, although my preference is for last week’s hair, and makeup is A-OK with me. But I don’t dig the dress. Maybe it’s a personal thing.


Kate: No, it’s a mock turtleneck thing.


Erica: Is Mary, like, on purpose trying to look old?


Kate: Oh, I like her outfit. Hah. I find myself liking old lady clothes more and more these days.


Erica: Misty again? Is this to honor Misty or because people are tired of guest judging for this thing?


Kate: I heard she’s permanent now!


Erica: So no more guests?


Kate: This I do not know.


Valerie & Ricky – Bollywood, choreo by Nakul Dev Mahajan

[“Dilliwaali Girlfriend” from the Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Soundtrack]




Kate: This is when I don’t pay attention.


Erica: Oh, and of course she doesn’t know how to be sexy because of f*cking course.


Kate: So Ricky was fabU here, duh. Valerie had great energy as usual, and decent form/technique, but was nowhere near sharp or quick enough for this style. Not surprising, but disappointing because I want her to be good.


Erica: You know what, she really doesn’t know how to be sexy. And yeah, great energy from both of them but she was not precise enough. I loved her costume, though. When Nigel said that Bollywood reminds him of something, I thought he was going to say, “When England owned everything”, but he didn’t. He had Misty to back up this idea that Nigel basically introduced Bollywood to the Western world.


Kate: Didn’t he?


Bridget & Emilio – Contemporary, choreo by Travis Wall

[“The Leaving Song” by Chris Garneau]


Erica: I like her. I don’t want her to go home.


Kate: Me too. Me either.


Erica: So I’m watching this on my iPad so that I can type on my computer at the same time and, boy, the lighting was not okay for me here. But I can see well enough to know they can’t send her home, right?


Kate: I kept thinking, “Where’s the actual bed? They’ve used actual beds on the show before, what gives?”


Erica: Kate, it was like, symbolic and stuff.


Kate: Ah. Symbols. This was very good.


Erica: I really liked it. I really, really liked it. I mean, it was pretty literal in terms of the interpretation of Travis’s stated ideas, but I don’t mind that and I thought they — especially her — did a pretty fantastic job of it.


Kate: Agreed, very strong. She has crazy (in a good way) legs. I think she’s my favorite right now?


Erica: Well, if I say she’s mine, she’ll be cut tonight so I’ll shut up.


Tanisha & Rudy – Hip-hop, choreo by Dave Scott

[“Good Kisser” by Usher]


Erica: Rudy’s faces in his first performance are killing me.


Kate: In what way?


Erica: OMG SO CUTE. He’s, like, 11? And he’s doing salsa and he is pulling SO MANY FACES. Hey it turns out the brightness on my iPad was way down. I fixed it.




Erica: So I thought she was very good at the non-hip-hoppy moves. Her legs and hips are very fluid. And I liked the concept and the costumes and all. But the whole thing didn’t really gel for me.


Kate: See, I unfortunately really enjoyed this. I say unfortunately because I don’t want to like Tanisha, but in this I did. A lot.


Erica: I don’t know if it was the choreo but I honestly don’t think it was. It just kind of felt like they weren’t in the same dance.


Kate: See I thought the choreo did get a little repetitive towards the end (like, enough hip shakes) and was overall corny, but I still liked it a lot. What is happening to my brain?


Erica: Maybe I’m just too old to find any of these kids sexy. But I am enjoying Cat dishing.


Kate: P.S. There’s a Chris Scott hip-hop choreographer and now a Dave Scott hip-hop choreographer. Will wonders ever cease?


Erica: Chris Scott is the skinny white one. I like him. I like Dave, too.


Jessica & Marcquet – Foxtrot, choreo by Dmitry Chaplin

[“I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone]


Erica: I think I’m hitting my lifetime limit on this song.


Kate: What about the Hocus Pocus version?


Erica: I mean, Bette will always be Bette but I’m just tired of it. It’s not a bad song or anything, I just see it come up and go, ugh.


Kate: How about Tab Benoit’s? He is very sexy.


Erica: I don’t know who that is. Isn’t this a little fluid for a foxtrot? And, like, sexy, with their pelvises against each other and all?


Kate: Yes, and isn’t she a bit too stripper-ish? Sorry, not trying to be catty, but she was way too much here. Too much.


Erica: So Marcquet is totes going home.


Kate: Shame, he’s good.


Erica: I LOVE it (in a totally non-sarcastic way) when Nigel actually criticizes the choreography. Also I need to learn to do that cat’s eye thing like on Jessica’s eyes right now.


Kate: You’re the one who taught me how to do eye makeup, I’m sure you could figure out the subtle cat eye.


Erica: It’s hard; it works best with a liquid liner, which is hard to control. And I’m out of practice at makeup in general.


Kate: Use the liquid liner Mom and I use from Lancome. Great stuff. (Lancome did not sponsor this post in any way). So this dance sucked, next?


Erica: Okay, buy me some. Also, Lancome, if you’d like to sponsor a post, we’d totes take your money. I really like your eye makeup remover!


Kate: Sephora’s house brand makeup remover is actually better. (Sephora is not a sponsor of this post either, but we’d take it.)


Erica: Oh, I have the Sephora one! I’m taking it with me this weekend! (To my sister-in-law’s wedding in San Francisco, if you’re curious.) BTW, readers, we are both doing this recap in real time and we’re in a commercial break right now. That’s why the long chat about make-up. Also someone stole my Diet Coke. Damn it.


Carly & Serge – Contemporary, choreo by Mandy Moore

[“Foolish Games” by Jewel]


Erica: What’s in the water over there? Everyone’s sexing it up this week.


Kate: You toooooook your coat off, and stood in the rain. You were always craaazy like that. Er, this song is soooo your high school years!


Erica: :-) Zoe likes this song.


Kate: So does Aunt Kate!


Erica: It’s giving me flashbacks to adolescence.


Kate: Yikes. Hey, this dance was great, and one move in particular reminded me a lot of Robert Roldan and Allison Holker’s “Fix You” routine from season 7 (which I think is my favorite season ever?) — let’s watch that one now!


Erica: This was a lot less of a literal interpretation of the theme but beautifully danced. I just caught sight of Cat’s shoes. They kind of make me like the rest of the outfit more.


Kate: She lucked out with another good routine, and I like her despite not wanting to, similar to how I feel about Tanisha. This was very good.


Erica: I don’t like her personality much but I think she’s a fine dancer. And I like Serge quite a bit. Maybe because he’s not 12.


Kate: Yes, he’s very good. And I loved his first-ever ballroom competition outfit. And right, doesn’t Carly’s personality just irritate the crap out of you?


Erica: Yah.


Emily & Teddy – Salsa, choreo by Oksana & Jonathan

[“Bruk It Down (Soca Remix)” by Mr. Vegas feat. Alison Hinds]


Erica: I couldn’t remember who these people were – but now I’ll remember that Teddy is freakin’ adorable as a kid. And Oksana is like some sort of living Russian stereotype.


Kate: What else do you expect with that name? They are my least favorite dancers (skill-wise, not personality-wise). I totes noticed Emily’s slip and contrary to what Misty said, I think it did mess her up for the rest of the performance because she slowed down and hesitated from there on out and just looked to nervous to do it full out.


Erica: She looked super awkward. Her hips did not look like salsa dancing hips.


Kate: And his hips are just CREEPY. Bleh.


Erica: Isn’t that what male salsa hips are supposed to look like?


Kate: I guess, but he looks so creepy doing it. Me no likey.


Erica: Misty’s voice is starting to make me kind of nuts. Still appreciate her commentary. Oh, wait, Emily’s dancing injured? I hate that. I’m too much of a nervous Jewish mother.


Kate: When Misty was commenting on Teddy her words said “I love you” but her tone said “I think you suck but I’m paid to be somewhat nice”.


Erica: Heehee


Jacque & Zack – Jazz, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

[“Back to Black” by Beyonce feat. Andre 3000]


Kate: Of ALL the people to cover my girl Amy Winehouse, I would NOT want it to be Beyonce. I’m so over her.


Erica: Overkill? Damn, Sonya is being tough on Jaque.


Kate: What do you mean overkill?


Erica: Your Beyonce hate. Her costume is f-ing bizarre.


Kate: I’m sorry I’m just over her! And YES, I thought the same thing about the costume. Not relevant to the routine/song/century.


Erica: You know what, though, Sonya was right. She is kind of relying on pretty. And Misty seems to agree.


Kate: I think she’s talented, but not the most talented. I was surprised at how they pulled off sexual attraction in this routine as I cannot see them together in real life, but I enjoyed their chemistry and thought this was overall great. Could have been more the choreography than the dancing, though?


Erica: Well, Sonya is a pretty amazing choreographer. Isn’t she the one dating Rudy?


Kate: Sonya? No. Jacque? Yes.


Erica: Sorry, that’s what I meant. Sometimes I forget the whole pronoun-antecedent agreement thing.


Brooklyn & Casey – choreo by Will “Wildabeast” Williams

[“Hustle Hard Remix”, Ace Hood feat. Rick Ross & Lil Wayne]


Erica: They’re pulling some pretty cute faces.


Kate: Oh my god, this was quite possibly the least hip-hop routine to ever grace the SYTYCD stage. Oh my god I gasped OUT LOUD, like, SEVERAL times during this, that’s how bad I thought it was.


Erica: No way. No way. I’m not saying it was super-swag or anything, but there have been some seriously non-hip-hop hip-hop routines on this show.


Kate: What drugs are you/the judges on right now? This was SO BAD! Her faces were painful to watch! There was no swag! No getting down! Gah!


Erica: Excuse me, Kate, but her faces were HILARIOUS to watch.


Kate: No, there were like “Oh, this is hard, ah, this is harder, ahhh I look crazy, eh what’s next? Oh!” No. No no no no no.


Erica: Like I said. Hilarious.


Kate: Also known as horrible.


Erica: Excuse the F out of me, Nigel, but hip-hop DOES in fact require technique and precision, you pretentious, condescending, “benign racism” racist old man. God.


Mini-Group Routine # 1- Jazz, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

[“So Broken (Live)” by Bjork]


Erica: So, yes, I’d prefer a group routine to solos. But can someone explain to me how this happened? Did they tell this group, like, last week, that they were in the bottom and then have them practice this? So when they bring them on stage and “reveal” it, they actually already know? Or did Sonya whip this up backstage like five seconds ago? Did all the dancers rehearse it and then just the six step into their “parts”? SO MANY QUESTIONS.


Kate: My guess is they knew the bottom 6 by, like, last Thursday, and the learned this in a couple of days. This was a first, right?


Erica: Yes, it’s a first. Wait, no, there are four couples here. I’m confused. I have the short-term memory of a fruit fly so I can’t even remember which of these people are actually in danger.


Kate: Yea, now I’m confused too. Off with their heads!


Erica: Again, I’m in favor of the idea. But they need to be clearer about the whole rules aspect of this thing. Maybe these are the bottom eight and they just didn’t tell them which of them were actually the bottom six?


Kate: My brain hurts trying to figure it out, but I think I liked this better than the first group routine. Tanisha did do very well tonight. Hmmm..


Erica: Wait a second. Marcquet isn’t there. He was in the bottom six, wasn’t he?


Kate: Brain. Hurts. Also, it’s only 9:38? Is there another routine still?


Erica: Maybe it’s two mini-group routines, irrespective of people in danger? That’s been done before, right? In Melonie and Sasha’s season?


Kate: By George, I think you’ve got it!


Erica: Anyway, I agree with the judges. I think Sonya might be my favorite. And yup, there’s a Travis routine coming. Wow, that could have been clearer.


Hey what are you doing?


Mini-Group Routine #2 – Contemporary, choreo by Travis Wall

[“Love Runs Out” by OneRepublic]


Erica: I love Travis’s brain. Sometimes he’s like, “It’s about a couple in love,” and I’m like, ugh, boring, but it usually isn’t. And then he comes up with some crazy amazing concepts and I just love him.


Kate: LOVE! Love this song, loved this routine. It had me dancing (on the couch). LOVE.


Erica: I think Ricky might be my favorite boy now. Also this was cool. Just cool. Good job, Travis. Good job, dancers. And good job, Cat’s hair, cascading down her back like that when she was at the bottom of the stairs.


Kate: And good job, girl I’m not sure who you were, with the Full Down (that’s a cheerleading term)! Yea, Ricky is clearly the best on the show this season.


Erica: Do you think Sonya was looking at Travis like, “I’m going to put a knife in your neck at the wrap party”?


Kate: Ya, this totes shat on her mini-group routine. Sors Sonya.


Erica: Aw, man, hers was good, too! More group routines in general, that’s what I say!


Kate: Hear hear!




Erica: Nigel’s “Yeah, thanks, Cat,” was totally sarcastic. Wait, four dancers next week? Why? Fox skimping on time for SYTYCD? Or is Nigel playing with us and they’re saving everyone this week?


Kate: Fox is way skimping. They give this who less and less time every season; I fear the day they finally — gasp — cancel.


Erica: Can you tell we’re doing this in real time? Okay, so it’s Marcquet and Brooklyn. Not surprised about Marcquet. Not even really that surprised about Brooklyn although I think she’s pretty good.


Kate: Me either. Happy with it. Moving on now, tune in next week for the top 14, after which we’ll skip over the top 12 and go right to the top 10, at which point the judges will have no say anymore whatsoever! Right?


Erica: I don’t know. I can’t keep up with the rules on this show. So this week, we are posting, like, right now. Next week might be late. I am getting home from San Francisco at some time I can’t remember when but I’m sure I won’t be able to get a post up before mid-day on Thursday.


Kate: Yes, so patience, young grasshoppers.


SYTYCD XI – Top 18 Perform (Though Without Marlene, How Can They Call It The Top ANYTHING?!)

Erica: Before we begin, I want to tell you all that I saw Godspell this weekend and I was reminded of Katee and Joshua, my favorite couple ever, dancing to “All for the Best”, which is from that show. And this was basically just an excuse to link the video.


Group Number – Hip-hop, choreo by Pharside & Krystal Meraz

[“How It’s Done” by District 78]

Erica: So in this one, half the dancers are in all black and half all white – but very quirky and not uniform at all. Then they hip-hop.

Kate: Very Gaga-esque, no?


Kate: I thought this was too much clothing to be able to dance well in. The routine had its moments, but I don’t think everyone was fierce or sharp enough to give the full effect of what it was supposed to be. You know?

Erica: I don’t know about the clothing being an issue. I did not think everyone was sharp; this group does not seem to be great, in aggregate, at hip-hop. And I thought the dance itself took a while to warm up. There were some cool moments at the end, but for the most part it dragged.

Kate: Hold on, Misty again? I appreciate her legitimate critiques, but are they having trouble booking other guest judges already?

Erica: Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that. I mean, yes, please, real dancers giving intelligent critiques that teach me about dance. But it’s pretty weird for them.


Cat’s Outfit

Kate: Hmmm. I like it, but not with all the necklaces (specifically the shorter ones, or is it all one necklace?).

Erica: Oh, really? I kind of like the necklaces.

Kate: Wait, it’s a jumpsuit? Never mind. Hate. Good makeup (darker than usual) and hair, though.

Erica: I am, as a principle, against jumpsuits. However, IF there were a jumpsuit that was marginally acceptable, and IF there were a person suited to wearing one, then Cat would have looked pretty good tonight. Many, many yeses on hair; I thought the make-up was a touch overdone.

Kate: Meanwhile, an animal has died on Mary Murphy’s head and she stole my Wednesday Addams dress!

Erica: I am not understanding Mary’s situation at all. At. All.


Jacque & Zack – Hip-hop, choreo by Keoni Madrid & Mari Martin

[“Stay With Me” by Sam Smith]

Kate: Weeeeee Sam Smith! Sam Smith! Seriously, I’ve been listening to him for five days straight. “Nirvana” is my new favorite.

Erica: Is he the dude you were kvelling about last week?

Kate: Yes! So Zack did a great job in this, he continues to impress me. However. Jacque looked awkward, like she had trouble getting down and dirty for the hip-hop, which is surprising because she did well at that with the African Jazz last week.

Erica: Well, this wasn’t really down and dirty hip-hop. I don’t even think I know what hip-hop is anymore. But yes, he was better than her.

Kate: Also, how could the judges have properly seen the beginning with them on the floor? That’s bad choreo (for TV), Keoni and Mari!

Erica: Well, no, it’s fine for TV. It’s bad for a live performance. How much do you love when Cat is in her gossip-monger mode? If this show ever ends, she should interview teeny-bopper celebrities on E! or something.


Jourdan & Marcquet – Contemporary, choreo by Dee Caspary

[“Disappear (Demo Version)” by Mikky Ekko]

Erica: Dee Caspary’s explanation of the dance and the story sounded to me like Contemporary Dance Mad Libs.

Kate: I may not have been paying attention to that.

Erica: I don’t like her. I can’t escape it. I just don’t. And, seriously, the two of you? We are supposed to be “surprised” to learn that Jourdan works out a lot and Marcquet…Dances? But hip-hop in addition to ballroom? Well, blow me over with a feather.

Kate: Her ballet legs paid off here, and she finally impressed me a little.

Erica: I did like this dance, but I think I might have liked the song more than the dance. I mean.

Kate: But I didn’t feel much emotion and passion from either of them. (Goodness gracious I agree with Nigel.)

Erica: Don’t you love Nigel’s “I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you the facts” face when he’s announcing Emmy nominations and other ways in which his little show is SAVING THE WORLD?

Kate: Hey, we love his little show!


Jessica & Stanley – Jazz, choreo by Tyce Diorio

[“Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” by Nikka Costa]

Erica: Oh my God, Fox has the longest commercial breaks.

Kate: I was all excited for Tasty Oreo, and then this left me with a befuddled expression on my face. Wah.

Erica: Why were you excited? I hate that dude most of the time. Especially when it’s jazz and not Broadway. Although I now have to give him gratitude for introducing me to the phrase, “funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter”.

Kate: I thought you used to like Tyce? II just didn’t get what he was doing here? And Stanley is really great, but I don’t think these two are a good match. Isn’t this her style, too?

Erica: I don’t know what her style was. It probably should be Broadway. She pulls a lot of faces and they’re cute, but Misty was right. They were a little too much here. I really like Stanley. He’s very long and graceful. (I’m sorry, Stanley. By saying I liked you, I have probably doomed you.) But it made her look kind of short and stumpy, which she’s not, but…Yeah. They don’t look good together. And this whole dance was super-weird and stupid and pretty much exactly what I expect from Mr. Oreo.


Bridget & Emilio – Jive, choreo by Anya Garnis & Pasha Kovalev

[“Happy” by Pharrell Williams]

Erica: PASHA! Holy sh!t the years are being so good to him. Her, too. I love Anya.

Kate: Well! What a great Jive song this makes, eh? Who woulda thunk it?

Erica: Too bad her outfit was so stupid. Did the costume people use up all their budget for the opener?

Kate: So this was really fun, and I really like her and thought she was a natural at the Jive. She was a little better than him, and I’m sad that she is one of the bottom three girls for the second week in a row.

Erica: She was sharper and kept better posture, I thought. Plus her attitude was exactly on point. But look, generally speaking, the more Jive I see, the more happy I be.


Emily & Teddy – Contemporary, choreo by Tyce Diorio

[“Ne Me Quitte Pas” by Nina Simone]

Kate: He was better than I thought he’d be at contemporary, and I’m starting to like her a little more, but I still just don’t love either of them.

Erica: Who are these people? I have no memory of them from last week.

Kate: And I’m just not sure what’s going with Tyce. Is he in a bad place right now?

Erica: No, he’s always kind of sucked. Except at Broadway, and, like, one contemporary dance ever. I will say they had some moments that were pretty small but quite lovely — at least one of the lifts, she looked like she was floating or something.


Brooklyn & Casey – Jazz, choreo by Bonnie Story

[“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Michael Buble]

Kate: Boy and girl at prom? Hello Lauren and Kent routine from season 8! (One of my faves!)

Erica: Yay links from dances past!

Kate: They both have great legs and this was cute and fun, but she fell off a little at the end and stopped hitting things.

Erica: I liked it. But, I mean, it was right up my alley.


Valerie & Ricky – Viennese Waltz, choreo by Lacey Schwimmer

[“I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz]

Kate: What a DRESS! Did Zoe very much enjoy that fashion?

Erica: Zoe was busy watching Wall-E with her boyfriend Otis, who was sleeping over last night. Why is Lacey blonde now? Was she sad being the only brunette in Utah?

Kate: So this was far from perfect from a ballroom technique perspective, especially on her part because of her loosey-goosey arms, but they both performed it so great and I just love them so much. Like, so much.

Erica: Well, Valerie is my girl now that Marlene is gone. It did seem to me that they were leaving, like, no room for the Holy Ghost, you know, but other than that, I didn’t think a lack of technique negatively affected this. The Viennese Waltz can be boring as all get out; this wasn’t.


Carly & Serge – Hip-hop, choreo by Luther Brown

[“Senile” by  Young Money feat. Tyga, Nicki Minaj & Lil Wayne]

Erica: Really, Serge? Carly liked to dance in college? I’m very surprised. Although his snarky delivery kind of saved it.

Kate: Um, I didn’t appreciate the condescending tone about her joining a dance team. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with THAT, people!

Erica: I think he was mainly teasing her about insisting that it was different from cheerleading.

Kate: EITHER WAY! I didn’t want to like this routine — seriously Luther, skeleton costumes? — but I did. They were both better at hip-hop than I thought they would be, even at the subtle things. Serge more so than Carly.

Erica: I guess. I continue not to be massively impressed at this group’s handle on hip-hop. I mean, it was okay but it didn’t sing for me.


Tanisha & Rudy – Broadway, choreo by Warren Carlyle

[“Sing Sing Sing (Part 2)” from Fosse (Original Broadway Cast)]

Kate: This did not work for me. I am in almost complete disagreement with the judges this season, eh?

Erica: Really? I thought it was totes fabulous.

Kate: I mean, the winner of the competition is going to star in a new Broadway show. Neither of them were sharp enough to star in a new Broadway show, they just weren’t! They were barely even together the whole time!

Erica: Really? This one sang for me. I thought they were very sharp and great. And then Cat got all match-makey and it was adorable.

Kate: Well, that was pretty cute. So I was overall disappointed with this episode. Nothing really melted my heart.

Erica: I try to remember that I feel this way at the beginning of almost every season, but I’m kind of eh on the contestants this season.


Non-SYTYCD Performance

Kate: Hey look how cool I am — I saw A Great Big World live in New Orleans, they were a surprise guest during Christina Aguilera’s Jazz Fest performance.

Erica: Yes, Kate. You’re very cool. I love this song, btw. That’s okay, right? I know I sometimes have absurdly horrible taste in music but this is legit good, no?

Kate: Yes!





Erica: Well, I’m glad Jourdan is gone, so I don’t have to critically examine my visceral dislike of her.

Kate: Jourdan I understand, but Stanley? Seriously?! He was one of the best guys!

Erica: Yeah, I thought he was so elegant. But I’m not going to cry for him like I did for Marlene.

Kate: Well, tune in next week for the top 16, when America and the dancers hopefully get it right this time!

SYTYCD Season XX – Top Twenty Perform (Again)

SYTYCD Season 11 Top 20, Part 2

Kate: Dag nabbit we did it again!

Erica: We did what again? Watch the Top 20? By the way, folks — I, like some of our fans, didn’t know that the real thing started last week. Fortunately, Kate was on hand to give me this link where they had videos of all the dances. (Kate, can you send me the link again?)

Kate: Like last season, we are watching the Top 20 again, but 2 of them will be eliminated by the end of the show. Hence the “Top 20, Part 2”. MEH.

Erica: I don’t like this “watch the sitting ducks dance” nonsense. I don’t know how to better structure it, but I don’t like this.


Group Performance – Broadway, choreo by Josh Bergasse

[“New York, New York” from On The Town]

Erica: I eat this sh!t up.

Kate: FAB costumes. Fab fab fab.

Erica: Seriously. And the cast as a whole was so good at the Broadway attitude — the right amount of face-pulling, the right bounce in their steps.

Kate: I felt like the routine choreography was a bit all over the place, but I suppose that’s Broadway. I didn’t notice anyone being particularly amazing or horrible.

Erica: It’s not only Broadway, it’s this particular type of number, popular in some of the musicals of this era, with the sort of “Check out the whole setting” vibe. It works much better live, and, unfortunately, most of this show’s audience is, you know, watching on the TV, and I continue not to like the camera work on this show, but I did quite enjoy the dance. It is definitely my kind of thing.


Cat’s Outfit

Erica: Wait, first, can we talk opening credits? Because they changed them to have those sort of science-y motion tracking graphics and I think I like it.

Kate: They’ve been doing that. Cat’s giving me a little bit of a Victoria Secret model look right now, and I like it!

Erica: I am not a fan of animal prints, period, the end. But I like the shape of this and the overall vibe.

Kate:  I normally hate booties with skirts/dresses because they make legs look stumpy, but it works on legs like that.

Erica: Yeah, I don’t think there’s a force in the universe that could make Cat Deeley’s legs look stumpy.

Kate: Amen.

Erica: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. So the choreographer of the first dance is choreographing that very show on Broadway — and the winner will star in it? Seriously? Isn’t that…Kind of a big deal that should have been introduced in a more big-deal way? Rather than a sort of aside by Cat?

Kate: They mentioned that in the beginning of all the audition episodes, and I think it’s a sweet prize but don’t they also have to be able to sing and, you know, ACT, to star in a Broadway show?

Erica: And…Cat looks super cute in her baseball shirt and cut-offs. I don’t really understand what’s happening with the baseball stuff, but she looks cute. They all look cute, really. Even Nigel.


Tanisha & Rudy – Jazz, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

[“You Need” by Bengsons]

Kate: I still don’t really like her.

Erica: I like her. I mean, I don’t adore her the way I adore Marlene, but I like her.

Kate: I don’t know, there’s just something rubbing me the wrong way. This was a good routine and they did well, but I still saw moments of them hesitating and stumbling and just trying too much. I don’t want to see them try, I want to see them do.

Erica: I only saw one moment that looked hesitant — when she was on his thigh and stretching her leg. Other than that, I thought they were pretty good. Also, I think I’m right — Sonya Tayeh’s choreography is heavily influenced by her emotional life, and right now her emotional life is gettin’ it.

Kate: We’re doing dance-a-longs between commercials now?

Erica: Totally in favor of this development. Zoe wouldn’t practice with me because apparently the crocodile from Peter Pan and/or a shark is in our library and we can’t stand on the ground but I plan on going back later and giving this a whirl.


Valerie & Ricky – Contemporary, choreo by Travis Wall

[“Oh Darling” by Gossling]

Erica: Aw, man, the judges changed. I liked the baseball uniforms.

Kate: Ricky has quite impressive and expressive feet.

Erica: Valerie is maybe the cutest person ever. And I seriously love her costume here.

Kate: I am thrilled that they are paired together right now, and I am thrilled that she is good at genres other than tap. Contrary to what the judges said, I thought she was very good at conveying the emotional aspect of contemporary dancing.

Erica: I thought this was simply stunning. Great Travis Wall choreography; Ricky’s technique was amazing — his feet, oh my God, his feet! And yeah, I agree with you, her emotion was fantastic and I thought she was quite good at the dancing even if her technique wasn’t quite where his was. I mean, that back-bend? Where she stood on his thighs and just went all the way back? Holy moly.


Bridget & Emilio – Hip-Hop, choreo by Luther Brown

[“Work” by Iggy Azalea]

Kate: I was worried about her getting hip-hop, but she did not do badly with this.

Erica: I fell in love with Bridget when she answered the “Vampire or werewolf?” question with a stank face and a “Neither. Wizard!”

Kate: She had moments of surprisingly good swag here, mostly toward the beginning, but she also had other moments of oh-she’s-so-cute-trying-to-be-gangster-but-it’s-not-quite-working. He was obviously very good.

Erica: I feel like hip-hop on this show is mostly oh-she’s-so-cute hip-hop. I didn’t love this choreo — I didn’t think it looked that hard, frankly. So yeah, she did great, and yes, he was very good, but it looked like a routine I could probably pull off to an acceptable degree if I practiced. I mean, I usually like Luther Brown, but this just didn’t impress me much. I loved Emilio’s little hand motions while Cat was exhorting the audience to vote.


Jessica & Nick – West Coast Swing, choreo by Benji Schwimmer

[“Respect (Weird Live Version)” by Aretha Franklin]


Kate: Ya, ow/ew. But this was beyond bizarre. And I had no idea there was a difference in Swings, but West Coast doesn’t look like the Swing I know and love.

Erica: Because of the weird nature of the number, it looked like we were watching a warm-up for a while. But I liked it, and I thought they were pretty adorable in terms of the personality for the song and all. And she sure has a cute rear end. BUT SHE POPPED HER SHOULDER OUT DURING PRACTICE. Is that not a problem?

Kate: You can pop it right back in, dancers and athletes are fairly used to that I think. But the song just didn’t even feel like a real song until halfway into the routine, so their dancing looked completely off! (No offense to Miss Aretha.)

Erica: I like how he’s ballroom, it’s so amazing he can switch to…Swing? Aren’t those styles pretty closely related?

Kate: This is what I’m saying.

Erica: I do love when they have actual professional dancers as their guest judges.

Kate: Yes, Misty is actually providing valuable, legitimate critique, not just repeating Nigel’s and Mary’s comments in a less-intelligent-sounding way.


Carly & Serge – Contemporary, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

[“Latch (Acoustic)” by Sam Smith]

Kate: As soon as Sonya started describing the routine, I KNEW it would be a Sam Smith song. Yay me and yay Sam! (Er, seriously, listen to him. He’s so good.)

Erica: Yes, ma’am.

Kate: Carly is lucking out with staying in her style and getting good routines and choreographers — if she had Tanisha’s routine last week and Jessica’s this week, she’d be outta here. She is good, just not amazing.

Erica: I’m not yet at the stage where I remember these people from week to week. So I’m sure you’re right; I just don’t remember. I liked this routine quite a bit and I thought that they were both quite good.

Kate: Serge delighted me at contemporary. I loved the part at the end where they were just grabbing each other all over (not in a sexual way).

Erica: I just hope Serge doesn’t go away. He’s the only boy on this show old enough for me to find attractive.


Emily & Teddy – Hip-Hop, choreo by Dave Scott

[“Don’t” by Ed Sheeran]

Erica: Ed Sheeran is just everywhere lately, isn’t he?

Kate: Yeah, and he sounds EXACTLY like Nick Carter. #BackstreetsbackALLRIGHT. Anyway, she was sharp and quick where she needed to be, but was WAY too stiff for hip-hop. No swag whatsoever. Bridget did a much better job, I think.

Erica: Meh. Meh to the whole thing. Choreo, their technique, everything.

Kate: I just don’t love him at all — he’s too much like a random dude dancing on the street and not enough of an exceptional performer.


Marlene & Stanley – Broadway, choreo by Spencer Liff

[“I’ve Got Your Number” by Nancy Smith]

Kate: Holy hairdo Marlene! …I want it.

Erica: I’m just glad she’s not wearing that weird neon thing from the opening.

Kate: She had the perfect amount of sass for this routine, but the props were way too much. It seriously limited the amount of dancing TOGETHER, and I would have loved to see them together because they are both so good. Bad move, Spencer.

Erica: I adore her. She’s so sexy and adorable and fun. It would have been nice to see them interact more.

Kate: Also, the camera angles were even more off than usual. I rarely could even see them both at the same time.

Erica: Yup. It really feels like the judges are dinging the dancers for stuff that was the choreographer’s fault. They should have thrown the phones down? They should have danced more together? How is that their fault?


Jourdan & Marcquet – Jazz, choreo by Sean Cheesman

[“Work Work” by Britney Spears]

Erica: Something about her puts me off completely. I should like her because she knows many digits of pi but I just can’t. During the dance, it occurred to me that she and Marlene illustrate the difference between “performing sexy” and actually being sexy.

Kate: And ballet rears its ugly head. She was not sharp or quick AT ALL here. The judges were all completely wrong and must have been on drugs.

Erica: Again with the porn-y premise/outfit/song. Oh, but I forgot about Marcquet when I said Serge was the only crush-worthy boy for me.

Kate: He honestly wasn’t doing much to save her, which is disappointing because he has been good at styles other than his own. ALSO, the edited version of this song is nowhere near as fun as the real one. You better WORK, B!TCH.

Erica: I don’t like this song in either iteration. Britney Spears to me is the epitome of performing “sexy” without being sexy.

Kate: But we still support her general mental health and well-being. Poor Brit.


Brooklyn & Casey – Argentine Tango, choreo by Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo

[“Gallo Ciego” by Louis Bravo’s Forever Tango]

Kate: She was great, he was not. I did not think either of them were as “grr” as the music and style called for, but she is very good and has ca-ray-zay legs.

Erica: I thought neither of them were great, although she was better than him. Her legs and her hips seemed to be able to move completely independently of the rest of her body, and of each other, and really, of the way normal bodies with normal joints can move at all. But I thought there were so many moments that were supposed to look slow-and-sensual, but came across as more hesitant and uncertain instead.

Kate: Disagree wholeheartedly with the judges. He was not a good ballroom partner. Off weeth hees ‘ead!

Erica: He looks like such a child up here. Eighteen-year-old girls can sometimes vaguely imitate “woman”-ness, but eighteen-year-old boys can rarely pull of “man”-ness.


Jacque & Zack – African Jazz, choreo by Sean Cheesman

[“Dibiza (Kick *** Mix)” by Danny Tenaglia]

Kate: What interesting costumes/hair/makeup, eh? She was much better than Jourdan outside their style, but that was to be expected.

Erica: Definitely interesting. I liked them at first, and not just because I love it when they don’t put the “African Jazz” dancers in super-stereotypical “African” garb. But then I found them distracting. I really can’t tell whether or not they were good at this dance. (Also at the beginning when she was straddling his neck, it kind of looked like his hair was…Well, never mind. I won’t say it.)

Kate: There were moments where he was not completely with her, but they both had such great energy and personality. I like her a lot.


Kate: Do we want to comment on the Beyonce tap routine?

Erica: I was excited about this crew competition idea, until it involved Justin Bieber. Then I wanted to forget the whole thing existed.

Kate: They did better than most in making the taps sound okay with music, but still. It’s just not right. I’d rather see actual stepping.

Erica: I didn’t love it. I mean, I wanted to love it because girls and tapping and Beyonce, but I just didn’t not feel enthused.



Kate: MAN OH MAN! I really liked Marlene.

Erica: Mother-effer. I can’t even tell the rest of them apart. And I LOVED Marlene! What is wrong with SYTYCD voters? They never like the sexy, mature girls. They always like the teeny-bopper nonsense girls. Also, damn, Jourdan’s skin is reacting very badly to whatever is happening on this show.

Kate: EW, Nigel, don’t tell her she made it to the Top 20 on her looks. Gross.

Erica: Seriously, @sswipe. She is all things fabulous and you’re not good enough for her. Sh!t, she looked really sad.

Kate: I thought Serge would go home, but I’m also not surprised it’s Nick. I feel like he barely made the top 20.

Erica: Wait, so once we hit the Top Ten, it’s all about who’s got the lowest votes? No judge’s decisions anymore? I thought that didn’t happen until the very end.

Kate: Me too, but they constantly keep us guessing how this show actually works. Catch us next week for the Top 18!

SYTYCD XI – Top Twenty!


Erica: Well, I’m trying very hard to be back.

Kate: This show makes me so inexplicably happy, I can’t even.

Erica: And when you’re happy, I’m happy, my dear.

Kate: Let’s start with…

Cat’s Outfit

Erica: Meh.

Kate: I like the longer, beachier hair, and I like the dress, but it almost looked too big for her (the slits on the side were not tight against her skin), which leads me to believe she has lost weight, which she did not need to do. Bad Cat.

Erica: I did not much like the dress. Her hair continues to spectacular. How do we feel about Mary’s hair?

Kate: Looking froofy but good.

Erica: I do think she looks better as a brunette but I kind of like the shape.

Opening Group Number — Jazz, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

["Stalker Ha" by Kingdom]

Kate: A little sexier than usual, no?

Erica: A little, yeah. I think Sonya Tayeh’s choreography is very reflective of where she is emotionally, so maybe she’s getting some.

Kate: She does have some interesting new hair. Regardless, I thought they were all very synchronized for this routine. That said, I didn’t love the routine as a whole. Not enough “wow factor” for the first performance of this group, know what I’m saying?

Erica: Really? I quite liked it. Creative choreo, really showed off some of these dancers’ ridic legs, and they were all very much dancing as twenty parts of one whole. I especially loved when they were sort of dancing in a clump but with partners.

Kate: I did like the cheerleader-esque stunts. ;)

Brooklyn & Serge – Cha Cha, choreo by Dmitry Chaplin

["Hell Yeah" by Midnight Red]

Kate: Isn’t he your fave, Er?

Erica: No, PASHA is my fave!

Kate: Oh. These two are very talented individually — very snappy and sharp with non-human fast legs — but they did not completely connect in this, and I feel like of all dancers ballroomers should be the ones to most easily connect.

Erica: I was not thrilled by the choreography. We’ve seen more interesting cha cha routines. And then the lights went all crazy and it felt like they were trying to make up for the lackluster choreo.

Kate: I am excited about the number of ballroom dancers this season, though, and I think they will both be very good at other genres.

Erica: Of course Nigel loved Serge’s, you know, heterosexuality. And of course he had to do a long lead-up to his commentary, talking about him doing something arts-education-related. Yes, Nigel. Good job bringing dance to the world, Nigel.

Emily & Casey – Contemporary, choreo by Travis Wall

["All of Me" by John Legend]

Kate: It was only a matter of time before they did a contemporary dance to this song.

Erica: I’m so out of it. This song…I mean, I guess it sounds familiar?

Kate: I surprisingly did not love this (surprisingly because it’s Travis Wall). I was not happy she made it to the top 20 as she barely impressed me in the auditions and callbacks, and I saw her wobble more than once in this routine.

Erica: I was more impressed by him than I expected to be given how young he is. And I did really like this routine. I mean, it won’t be Travis Wall’s Best Ever, but I liked it.

Kate: It was also not nearly as fluid as the usual Travis Wall routines, and they did not connect AT ALL as partners. AND, when she ran and jumped on his back, it reminded me too much of at least, like, three other recent routines. (Maybe from the Melanie season?)

Erica: Well, all the choreographers have their tics.

Valerie & Zack – Tap, choreo by Anthony Morigerato

["Sing" by Ed Sheeran]

Kate: I must start off by saying that I LOVE VALERIE. I am not usually a huge fan of tap on this show, but she was incredible at other styles during callbacks and she has a really adorable charm about her.

Erica: She is like the cutest little puppy on the block. These two make me feel ancient.

Kate: And yet, I didn’t love the tap routine. The mini-staircases added a little awkwardness to their movements, and I caught both of them looking down a lot to make sure they weren’t going to slip and fall, which caused me to worry they were going to slip and fall. I also don’t like how tap makes dancers’ arms just kind of wave around in the air doing their own thing and there’s no sharpness.

Erica: I thought she was lightness and grace itself. I barely paid attention to him. But can we talk about Jason DeRulo having a tap background?

Kate: I cannot figure out if he is serious, or why he was guest judging the very first episode of the season.

Bridget & Stanley – Contemporary, choreo by Bonnie Story

["Doesn't Mean Goodbye" by Jon McLaughlin]

Kate: Excuse me while I do my best impression of Mary Murphy: WAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WOO WOO WOO! HOLY SMOKES! HOT TAMALE TRAIN!

Erica: I mean, I don’t know about “hot” but great gadzooks, these kids were fabulous.

Kate: This is EXACTLY what I would have expected from a Travis Wall routine, and I am now in love with this Bonnie lady. Bridget and Stanley had amazing chemistry and incredible technique, they were so in sync with each other. I think this is my favorite of the night.

Erica: They were both just so graceful. They hit all of these poses with the perfect, like, fingers and toes and it was just all in sync.

Kate: I do think Stanley outshines Bridget a little, but he will make her better. I hope they stay together as partners for a while. The only thing I would change about Bridget is her corny facial expressions.

Erica: They won’t, though, right? I didn’t love her personality. He struck me as intelligent and thoughtful.

Jourdan & Jacque – Ballet, choreo by Marat Daukayev

["Pas De Deux - Black Swan - Tchaikovsky" by Richard Bonynge & The London Symphony Orchestra]

Erica: Fine?

Kate: These ladies are lovely, but this dance was way too hard for them. Fifteen fortes in a row at the beginning of the routine? They both had a hard time recovering from that for the rest of the performance, especially Jourdan. “Strict Russian ballet teacher” is an understatement for this choreographer.

Erica: I was definitely not excited by this routine. I mean obviously they are doing things I could never do, and well, but they are no Eliana.

Kate: I am also a little worried about them doing other styles. They will obviously excel at Contemporary and maybe even Jazz, but Hip-Hop? Broadway? Ballroom? Not so sure.

Erica: By the way, did you know that Nigel can get REALLY, REALLY big deal choreographers to do this show? Like, BIG.

Jason DeRulo Performance

Kate: I’m sorry, we must address this.

Erica: Really? Must we? Because I could happily live without ever acknowledging the existence of this performance.

Kate: This is a real song? “You know what to do with that big fat butt”?

Erica: Pop music is just done with the whole pretending-to-be-art thing.

Kate: I mean, props to the sole white girl for keeping up with everyone else and wiggling her not-at-all-fat butt, but geez Louise this was absurd. I would have liked to have seen some SYTYCD alum up there!

Erica: I would rather not see them sully themselves.

Malene & Marcquet – Brazilian Samba, choreo by Louis Van Amstel

["Morning Drums" by Gregor Salto]

Erica: I thought this was very Brazilian. Snerk.

Kate: I was a little bit in love with Marlene during auditions, but then she looked horrible doing a hip-hop routine at callbacks and I thought she wouldn’t make the top 20. Alas.

Erica: I did, in fact, see Marlene’s audition. She was the one who gave the sexy little look over her partner’s shoulder before the music started. I kind of adore her.

Kate: Marcquet is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and I foresee him staying on for a long time.

Erica: Hey, a man who can look that good in that stupid shirt is ok with me. And he gyrated even better than she did.

Carly & Rudy – Contemporary, choreo by Stacey Tookey

["Take It Easy" by Jetta]

Kate: I developed a serious disliking of Carly during callbacks when her group routine drama was shown, so I may now have a negative bias against her dancing.

Erica: I didn’t see it but I am certainly not all that impressed.

Kate: This was good, but I feel like it was good because of all the tricks and not necessarily because of the dancing? I do really like Rudy, and I didn’t understand the judges saying multiple times that he has “heart” but not “technique”. He has both, folks!

Erica: I hate that sh!t. If he doesn’t have technique, why is he in the Top Twenty? Especially considering that this is the best Top Twenty EVER!!!

Kate: ALSO, during the whole judges’ critique Carly had her shoulders hunched. I know it’s a tiring experience, but you are a DANCER — stand up straight for goodness’ sake!

Emilio & Teddy – Hip-Hop, choreo by Christopher Scott

["Nightshift" by The Commodores]

Kate: What a HORRIBLE song choice for a hip-hop routine. Simply horrible!

Erica: I am generally in favor of the contrasting music genre/dance style thing. But this music, combined with this concept — was no one else getting a porn vibe?

Kate: This was a little corny (I didn’t get a porn vibe), but most of Chris Scott’s routines are. Emilio and Teddy were not always together, possibly because they are so differently shaped/sized, but they are both very good. I look forward to seeing what else Teddy can do.

Erica: I liked Emilio more than I expected to, given that he annoyed me in the little 8-seconds-tell-us-about-yourself thing.

Kate: I also appreciate that Emilio still had to go through callbacks and not just walk onto the top 20 because he made it last year but then got injured. Three cheers for fairness, Fox!

Erica: Here, here!

Jessica & Ricky – Contemporary, choreo by Sonya Tayeh

["Vow" by Meredith Monk]

Erica: Holy moly.

Kate: Whoa.

Erica: That was perfection. That was incredible. I am comfortable crowning these two right now.

Kate: I must admit, I fell asleep during this one and had to re-watch. I am officially 90 years old. But this was phenomenal and these two are now tied with Bridget and Stanley as my favorite of the night/the most talented dancers this season (as evidenced by this episode; I know that can change).

Tanisha & Nick – Cha Cha, choreo by Louis Van Amstel

["I'm a Freak" by Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull]

Kate: Why were two cha chas allowed in the opening episode? I don’t like that.

Erica: Because they had Louis Van Amstel and that’s what he does? I’d prefer more variety but I tend to like cha chas the second most, after jives, so whatevs.

Kate: They were not nearly as good as the other ballroom dancers nor is Nick as good as his BFF Rudy (I know they do different styles, but still). I don’t think either will last long on the show.

Erica: I thought Tanisha had spark. Nick looked like a boy playing a man’s role to me. But maybe that is because I am SO FRICKIN’ OLD.

Kate: Ok so OVERALL, I think the guys need a little more practice in lifting these ladies, and everyone needs a little more practice in partnering (except Marcquet and Marlene). I also want the judges to be a little harsher next week because they were too happy-go-lucky and not providing any real critique.

Erica: See this is what’s weird to me. They don’t usually have voting for this top-twenty, dance-your-own-style episode but I guess now they are? Anyway, I am pleased as punch to once again be in the company of the young, hopeful dancers, Cat, and even Screechy Mary and the Lewd Racist Homophobe (Nigel). See you next week!

Chicago-North and Windy City RWA present Chicago Words!

Yes, folks, this is your first blog post about our Chicago Words Twitter event for this summer. If you read my blog but are not a member of the RWA chapters Chicago-North or Windy City, and/or you do not care at all about romance or writing or Twitter events, stop reading now. Come back when I do another West Wing recap. I promise it will be soon (ish)! And also come back for my sister Kate and me when So You Think You Can Dance officially starts! (Yes, auditions are on now but we don’t recap auditions, not even when totally hot Joffrey ballet dancers are on them.)

As for the rest of you – hi!

I don’t know about you, but I used to look upon summer as my good writing time. I was a college student, then a grad student, then a Hebrew school teacher, so I was less busy in the summer than at other times.

But this year it’s a little different. This year, my daughter was in full-day kindergarten (I know, such a luxury!) and I theoretically had hours and hours each day to write! And plan Spring Fling. And lesson plan for two Hebrew school classes. And, you know, all that life stuff. But this summer, my daughter will be home most of the time. And when she’s not, we’ll both be traveling. A lot. So I’m going to have to cram in as much writing as I can. So how am I going to do it?

I’m going to get her to write, too!



(I just looked at this picture and went, “Hey, that’s where my red water bottle went!”)

We’ve been reading these two terrific children’s books about the writing process. The first is Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. It introduces concepts like “adjectives” and “conjunctions” and gives the best guideline to building a story I’ve ever seen:



(If it is illegal to take this picture of a page from a book I own and post it onto my blog from which I make no money, I apologize profusely and will happily give up the proceeds from this post to the publisher.)

The smaller book is Drawn to Trouble, by Nick Bruel, who writes the Bad Kitty series, which is hilarious. This one goes into even more detail for older kids about what a story is composed of – setting, character, escalating conflict, etc. And it has drawing instructions to draw your own Bad Kitty! So my idea is, while I’m writing, I’m going to encourage her to use these books as guides to create her own stories! I’m sure this will work .03% of the time, and the rest of the time, I will just shout, “Hey, could you go downstairs and watch ‘My Little Pony,’ please? Yes, sure, you can have ice cream.” Because she can get the ice cream and the spoon herself. (“And she can scoop it into a bowl?” you ask. “What bowl?” I reply.)

I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes. Meanwhile, how will you make the time to write this summer? Will you be starting on Twitter about an hour from now? Can’t wait to see you there!


Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing”, 1.07, “The State Dinner”

Dudes, these titles are getting a little unwieldy. Not of the episodes, of my posts. Would it confuse anyone if I went with something shorter and simpler?

Just a reminder, here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger coming from a female character is unreasonable or mysterious, either to the audience or to another character.
  9. A female character plays the Exposition Fairy. Note: Having Exposition Fairies is not in and of itself a problem. It’s necessary in most fiction. But in The West Wing, the Fairy is almost always a female character, and is almost always asking a male character for explanation, and would almost always certainly know the information she’s asking for, so that the fact that she’s asking indicates that she’s not that good at her job.
  10. An episode goes by that does not pass the Bechdel test.
  11. Lip service is paid to female power or agency or simply the existence of females in this world without, oh, say, actually casting one or giving one something cool to do.
  12. A male character or characters act(s) as white knight to a female character or characters.


!. When we see evidence that Toby & C.J. are doin’ it. Not misogynist, just entertaining to me personally.

So, previously on “The West Wing”, Josh obnoxiously asked Mandy to work for “the leader of the free world” and Mandy feistily punched him and I wondered if I could drop a number for a thing that happened in a previous episode and then decided it’s my f-ing blog so why not 3; CJ gave Danny a lead on something because he’s a good guy; Leo insisted that his marriage was not over and his daughter laid some truth on him; Sam was obnoxious to his prostitute friend who “doesn’t plan on getting busted”. 12 because we didn’t have a number for this before and also we’ve found our Chekhov’s pager!

Currently on “The West Wing,” C.J. is in a room, like, behind the press room? With machinery? She’s looking at something I think may be photography-related while a bunch of lady reporters ask annoying lady questions about what the First Lady and also the guest First Lady will be wearing. C.J. is sort of keeping it together but clearly has an “Ugh, fashion” attitude. I’m giving this a 4 because it doesn’t have to be a male character disparaging femininity; it just has to be the show. C.J. even throws shade at the FASHION REPORTERS for not asking about the NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY. Which, a) THEY’RE FASHION REPORTERS, C.J., and b) isn’t even mentioned for the rest of the episode. I thought at first that the state dinner had something to do with the nuclear test ban treaty but on further viewing, it doesn’t, so wtf, CJ? Another 4 for you.

Josh follows C.J. out of the room-behind-the-press-room. C.J. continues to rant about how with her 22 years of education (which is K-12 plus four years of college plus five years of grad school, right? So I’ve only had one year less of education than she has? And most of the annoying lady journalists must have had K-12 and most likely four years of college and also a lot of them probably have been to grad school, right? Yeah. Okay.) she has to answer stupid LADY questions about stupid LADY things like fashion and wine. 4. Although it is sort of amusing when she’s all, “And Mirabella wants to know what kind of wine we’re serving, God,” and Josh is like, “What kind of wine are we-” and C.J. snaps, “It’s wine, Josh. You drink it.”

Josh moves on to what he actually wanted to talk about, which is a hurricane headed toward Georgia and the Carolinas and likely to make landfall that night.

Sam tags in to announce that the teamsters have voted to strike and Leo is putting them in a room to hash things out. They have until midnight. (I don’t think he mentions which “team” the teamsters are on here, so I’ll just tell you – it’s the trucking union. I mean, other unions are referred to as “teamsters”, right?)

Toby joins the conga line. There’s a situation in McClane, ID, where somewhere between eighteen and forty survivalists and their children are in a farm surrounded by local law enforcement. The FBI is going in, treating this like a hostage situation. I guess the children are the ones who count as hostages. This is all supposed to remind adult watchers in 1999 of Waco, TX. I’m sure I should understand it in that light in better detail, but I was a kid when Waco happened.

C.J. sums up our subplots thusly: “Let see if I have this: A hurricane has picked up speed and power and is heading for Georgia. Management and labor are coming here to work out a settlement to avoid a crippling strike that will begin at midnight tonight. And the government’s planning a siege on 18-40 of its citizens all while we host a state dinner for the president of Indonesia.” The boys all nod and agree vigorously. “Amazingly, you know what I’ll get asked most often?” she continues. And of course one of those irritating lady journalists pops her head in and says, “C.J.?” And C.J. already knows what she’s going to ask and repeats her description of the first lady’s shoes from earlier. “Black suede and velvet Manolo Blahnik slides with a rhinestone and mother-of-pearl toe buckle.” Then she looks at the boys like, “Women, amIrite?” 4. But thanks for the recap, C.J.!

And, not for nothing, but . . . black suede AND velvet? Suede for evening? Rhinestone AND mother-of-pearl toe buckle? Do these not sound like unrealistically hideous shoes? I mean, I’m no expert and maybe the image in my head TOTALLY does not match the actual shoe, but . . . no?


Misogyny Points Thus Far: 6. We’re in for a good episode!

Josh is in his very messy office with stacks and stacks of stuff practically obscuring his face. He’s talking to someone on the phone about the hurricane. He hangs up and calls for “Donnatella Moss!” He doesn’t want to talk to her about the hurricane, though. He wants her to find out if a specific Indonesian official speaks English, and, if not, get a translator from State so that he, Toby, and the Indonesian official can have a pow-wow later.

Donna wants to talk to Josh about a problem she has with “this whole Indonesia thing.” See, she’s been doing some reading on her own, and -

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Josh says.


No, wait, Robert Downey, Jr. It gets worse.

“Why?” Donna whines.

“Because you tend to cull some bizarre factoid from a less than reputable source and then you blow it all out of proportion.”


I know, right, Karen?

5. And 4. What the hell, let’s throw in an 8. Because for real, Josh? For real, Aaron Sorkin?

And of course Donna only proves the point by insisting that she does not do that, and then insists that in some parts of Indonesia, she’s read, they execute you if they suspect you of being a sorcerer. Ugh. Another 8 just for how dip-shitty they had her sound here.

MPTF: 10

Anyway, Josh does not care and goes into Leo’s office, or maybe his, I don’t know, parlor? The staff is gathering. And the scene that follows is actually one of the ones I want to praise Aaron Sorkin for. It’s not a spectacular scene; it’s a working kind of scene that lets us get updated on all the plot points and also advance one minor thing. All of the people in the room talk so that the exposition feels natural and it’s even funny at points, like when they’re talking about the truckers in the Roosevelt Room and Josh says C.J.’s going to need to know what they’re wearing.

So, anyway, the following things happen:

The hurricane is getting worse.

The truckers and management are in a fight over the two-tiered system, in which some workers are considered full-time, with the pay and benefits of full-timers, and others are considered part-time, even though they work the same number of hours, and they get lower pay and no benefits. On the one hand, that seems unfair. On the other, Toby and Josh claim, the younger workforce is interested in flexibility and not willing to make long-term commitments to their companies, so why should those companies offer benefits and higher wages to them? Oh, 1999. A time when the younguns wanted flexible jobs so they could explore themselves and shit. Instead of just wanting jobs that pay them money. We miss you, you simpler, more economically stable times.

Sam wants to be in charge of the McClane thing but Leo wants him working with Toby on the toast because State is going to be very picky about what they can and cannot say.

Josh says he’ll assign it to someone in his department and Mandy says she wants to do it. Josh does not want Mandy to do it because she is a political consultant and this is “an actual, you know, thing.” Mandy and Josh bicker and whine and C.J. makes great faces. Leo decides to let Mandy handle it, but she has to keep Josh in the loop.

I’m giving Josh a and a 5 for his dismissal of Mandy’s abilities to handle this kind of thing, but I do have to ask – I mean, I know that Sorkin had all kinds of actual West Wing former staffers as consultants but – is it realistic that Mandy, who, as best as I can tell, is a freelance consultant and not an employee of the actual federal government, would be given charge of such a sensitive issue? Should she even be in the daily senior staff meeting like this? I don’t know; I’m just asking.

As they lead the meeting, Toby approaches Donna to ask her about the Indonesian dude. He also confirms that they do, in fact, behead sorcerers in some parts of Indonesia. He seems disinterested, though, and Josh fails to apologize for his earlier attitude. 5.

And listen, I don’t know what they do or do not do about sorcerers in Indonesia, now or in 1999. This blog is not about ethnocentrism, or colonialism, or any of that stuff. Because I don’t know enough to be an authority on this issue. I’m sure Sorkin is wrong about something in all of this, but I’m not taking it upon myself to tell you what it is.

Many camera flashes are going off. One cameraman says, “Mr. President,” and C.J. cuts in to say there are no questions at this particular time; they’re keeping things brief. The cameraman says it’s a short question, and the president says C.J.’s not worried about the length of the question, but the length of his answer. True facts, Mr. President. The cameras continue flashing while President Bartlett tries to engage the president of Indonesia in conversation. The president of Indonesia is not at all interested.

Toby goes to Sam to talk about the toast. Sam’s writing a nice, boring, diplomatic speech. Toby wants to toughen it up. He doesn’t want to remind everyone how friendly America is with dictators who “oppress their people while stealing their money.” Sam wants to know how else you could steal their money? Hee.

Sam asks Toby what he’s got going on with Josh. “We’ve got to see a guy about a thing,” Toby says, and no, he doesn’t want help.

Leo goes to the Roosevelt Room where the teamsters are sitting down with management. Leo yells at them for a few minutes and leaves. Well, good, then.

Mandy is waiting for Josh outside his office. She accuses him of not thinking she can do this. She runs down the situation in McClane. The relevant new piece of information here is that the FBI is using the fact that they may have illegal guns with them as a pretext, except that the FBI in fact sold them those guns. Mandy notes that it bugs Josh that the president listens to her sometimes. He says it bugs him when the president listens to anyone who’s not him. Really, Josh? Funny, we haven’t seen you disparage Sam or Toby the way you disparage Mandy. 5.

More cameras flash. Now the two presidents are sitting down and it appears they can take questions. The Indonesian president is no more responsive to the press than he was to President Bartlett.

Danny Concannon is in this group of reporters and asks the president what he knows about the protesters outside the White House. They’re protesting vermeil. C.J. shuts him up by saying they’re covering vermeil at the briefing later and ushers this group of reporters out of the room. Then she and Danny bicker about vermeil for a while, C.J. insisting that she does, in fact, know what vermeil is. Danny calls Carol over to help C.J. with the vermeil story he just made happen. And the Carol and C.J. exchange words! Okay, two lines. But it’s about vermeil! I believe that counts as not-a-man and therefore this episode passes the Bechdel test! -10.

MPTF: 13

Leo steals President Bartlett for a minute. The minute they’re outside the room, the president complains about how boring the Indonesian president is, and how he wishes he were sitting with Toby, C.J. and Sam that night, as that’s the “fun table.” He observes that the only way such boring and/or rude man could win an election is that the U.S. rigs them.

Anyway, Leo just wanted to tell him they’ve ordered a carrier group out of Norfolk to move out of the way of the hurricane. So that should end well.

Toby and Sam are writing together, Toby on a legal pad and Sam on his laptop. Toby hands his legal pad to Sam and Sam does not think they should invite people to dinner and then chastise them. Toby thinks that if you don’t, it’s just a waste of food.

C.J. is now talking to the press about vermeil, which is gilded silver, and which was produced in France under atrocious conditions and then melted down to pay for Louis XV’s wars. In other words, to some people, it’s a symbol of oppression and government waste. To the White House, it’s a good place to put seasonal floral centerpieces.

Danny follows C.J. out of the press room and C.J. accuses him of “rousing rabbles”. Hee. Apparently this protest is composed of six people. Danny wants to know what C.J. is wearing that night. Not his paper, Danny. C.J. does not smack him, but answers him, “An evening gown of gray silk.” Danny says he’ll be looking forward to it.

Yeah, I’m throwing up a 2 here. You can argue with me if you like in the comments.

Sam and his prostitute friend Laurie are at a diner. Laurie is trying to study. Sam is yapping to her. He is also trying to Bogart her sandwich. He insists that in this kind of place, the food is communal. Sam, you’re thinking of Chinese food. Or family-style Italian. Sandwiches are never communal unless you explicitly state that one of you will have one half and the other will have the other half. Laurie is inexplicably charmed that Sam is not afraid of being seen with her in public. 6. Sam wants to know if she has a date that night and she says yes but doesn’t want to talk more about it. She wants to study. Sam throws the answers to her study questions at her and she thanks him sarcastically for his “nerd bravado” while insisting that, whether or not this test is relevant to the practice of law, it is in fact relevant to the passing of law school. I gotta give Lisa Edelstein credit, by the way. I hate a lot about what they do with this character but I like her a lot and she plays this role very well. I do have to ask, though, if you need to be studying, why are you out having lunch with Sam? He’s even stealing your food.

Some dudes are telling the president how militias are an inherent threat. Mandy asks permission to join the discussion. She lectures the men about how kooks and extremists are the byproduct of a free country, much like porn is the byproduct of free speech. Josh points out that guns are different from Hustler. The unnamed men – who I guess are with the FBI – quibble with her about the difference between entrapment and a sting, and Mandy brings up that her concern is the court of public opinion. Josh says there’s no way this will end good, so it’s best to end it fast. Mandy wants to bring in a negotiator. The president dismisses Josh and Mandy, and they go outside to debate the nature of democracy. Well, Mandy talks theoretical abstract bullshit about democracy. Josh is on the side of, “When the FBI says come out with your hands up, you come out with your hands up,” and you can avail yourself of your free country’s judicial system at that point. I hate to say it, but I agree with Josh here. On a theoretical level, in fact, as well as a practical one. An ordered state requires that everyone buy into the state’s authority, as well as requiring that the state not abuse that authority. I agree that we have plenty of problems with the latter. I’m just saying that doesn’t justify problems with the former.

Anyway, Leo comes out and tells Mandy that the president is sending in a negotiator. Josh nastily says, “Well, you’re in the game now.” 5

Donna is tying Josh’s bow tie and talking about the whole sorcerer-beheading thing some more. I don’t know exactly how to justify this but I’m giving this scene a 4. Charlie comes in to ask Josh a favor – his grandparents are in the path of the hurricane and Charlie can’t reach them. Charlie is clearly embarrassed to be asking this favor but Josh insists he not worry about it. He tells Donna, “Call FEMA, use my name. When that doesn’t work, use Leo’s name.” Hee. Josh promises to find them.

Mandy, in evening wear, approaches Josh. Josh says he looks good, even better than her. I disagree with his assessment. I don’t get the white bow tie thing. Anyway, Mandy is worried that the negotiator hasn’t been in contact yet. Josh has no opinions on this. Nor does he know what’s happening with the hurricane or the teamsters. “What is it you do here, exactly?” Mandy asks. “It’s never really been made clear to me,” Josh responds. Hee.

Their perambulations bring them to Sam. Sam and Josh admire themselves and Mandy asks if they want to be alone.

Yeah, I’m calling it. New number.

13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Damn, and I just redid my post-it with all these numbers on it, too.

MPTF: 18

Sam wants to know if there’s any personal connection between President Indonesia (they keep saying his name but I can’t catch the spelling) and the US. Josh says that he was once almost pushed out of an airplane by a CIA operative. Sam thinks that’s not going to work and departs just as Toby calls Josh over.

Toby is displeased that the interpreter from the State Department does not speak one of the 583 Indonesian languages that the dude Josh and Toby want to talk to does. Josh shouts for Donna 5 who insists she has it under control. She has a kitchen guy who speaks Portugese and the dialect the Indonesian dude speaks, but not English. But the State Department guy speaks Portugese. And English. Toby wants a drink.

C.J., in gray silk, is greeted by Stockard Channing, our First Lady, who compliments C.J.’s dress except for its lack of cleavage and then introduces her to a single cardiologist. Throwing up a here as well.

C.J. pulls the First Lady away to talk about the vermeil. The First Lady – Abbey – says she’s not embarrassed; they didn’t spend new money on it; and it’s their history. They’re not going to lock it in the basement or brush it with a new coat of paint; they’re going to use it to display seasonal floral arrangements. I gotta say, I like that answer.

C.J. walks away and Abbey greets Leo by comparing him to Fred Astaire. Whom he does kind of resemble. She wants to know where her husband is. He’s on a call. The teamsters are still talking. Abbey commands Leo to mingle.

Mandy is meandering nervously. She leaves the party area to go to the Josh area. Donna can’t get anyone on the phone.

Leo wants Toby, Sam, and Josh to schmooze with a big donor. Whose date is Laurie. Who is Brittany right now. Sam is gobsmacked, visibly. If I were the big donor, I’d assume Sam had used “Brittany’s” services.

Donna finds Charlie. His grandparents are safe at a shelter, but are being sent back home. The hurricane has shifted direction.

Leo passes by Donna saying this to ask C.J. what’s going on. Turns out that carrier group is now in the path of the hurricane. But there’s nothing to be done and Leo doesn’t want to tip the press by having C.J. start to work on this.

Josh is in the dining room on his cell as people come in. Mandy approaches him. She hasn’t heard anything.

But Josh has. It’s over. The survivalists shot the negotiator; the FBI came in and arrested them; the negotiator is in critical condition. Because women suck at doing actual, you know, things. 7. Also, although Mandy was assigned to be point person on this, and has been on the phone all evening, Josh is the one that can get through. 11. Mandy is going to be sick. Because girls, they can’t handle this shit like men can. 4. The presidents are announced as Mandy rushes off to the bathroom to hurl.

MPTF: 22

The president is for some reason surprised that the hurricane changed course without warning. Leo says it’s unusual. Is it? I thought hurricanes did this kind of thing all the time.

President Bartlett and Leo go to talk to a captain, who informs him that this carrier group is 12,000 men. That’s a shit-ton, isn’t it? The worst will hit in 20 minutes. They’re going to set up a call to the carrier group so that the president can talk to them. Leo tells the president the negotiator is being prepped for surgery. The only thing for the president can do is go back to the party.

Meanwhile, Toby is in the kitchen with the two interpreters and the Indonesian dude. Donna watches. It’s all pretty dumb. Josh comes in and the nonsense goes on until it is revealed that the Indonesian dude speaks English. Josh is mad at Donna and dismisses her. 7. Toby dismisses the interpreters. They tell the Indonesian dude they want him to let their French friend out of Indonesian jail. They very obnoxiously explain that they don’t want this to be, like, an official let this guy out of jail; they just want the Indonesian dude to put key to lock and get the guy out. The Indonesian guy correctly notes that this is a favor and that Toby and Josh are hardly displaying the demeanor of persons asking for a favor. Furthermore, the speech Toby wrote was “despicable and humiliating.” He also points out the hypocrisy of lecturing the world on human rights when we killed all the Native Americans. I mean, he’s right, but it’s also kind of a childish and unsophisticated point to make. The Indonesian guy tells them to go to hell.

C.J. is working in her evening gown. Danny comes in and compliments her dress, then asks her about McClane. She’s annoyed. She asks if, when he flirts with her, is he doing it to get a story? No, he’s doing it to flirt with her. Yeah, Danny, you’re all about the boundaries. She points out that he’s the one who says she’s too friendly with the press corps. She sends him off but then asks if he really likes the dress. Ugh. 2.

We’re back with the teamsters. They’re arguing. The president walks in. They all stand. The president demands that they talk for five minutes apiece. While standing.

The donor approaches with Laurie/Brittany. The donor wants a “relationship” with Sam and Sam talks like he’s a prostitute. Then the donor walks off and Laurie, inexplicably, apologizes to him. 6. Sam is pissy with her until Abbey approaches them and asks to be introduced to Laurie. Sam does not know what to do but Laurie handles herself. Abbey wants to know where her husband is and when she’s told he’s with the teamsters, she surmises that he’s there because he can’t save a gunshot victim or divert a hurricane. The first lady then calls Laurie “thoroughly charming” even though Laurie didn’t say anything. -6? Then Abbey leaves and Sam continues to be a whiny baby. He offers her $10,000 not to go home with that guy tonight. She doesn’t smack him; she just leaves. 12.

The president cuts off one of the trucking people and says that none of them know what they’re talking about. At 12:01 am, he says, he’s using his executive power to nationalize the trucking industry and draft the truckers into military service.

The president marches through the halls, and Abbey sees him. She says she shouldn’t have stayed away so long; when she does, the president loses his sense of proportion. They have a very loving interaction as the storm rages behind them, causing the lights to flicker. Jed calls it a “metaphor for powerlessness.”

The two of them depart hand in hand, and Leo finds them and tells the president they could only get a maintenance supply boat, and what’s more, they can’t even get the captain. So Jed, in his office, surrounded by his staff, talks to the kid in the radio shack, who is clearly terrified. As well he should be. He’s going to die.

I can’t recap this scene. I’ve got . . . something in my eye. Shut up. It’s allergy season. The president talks to this kid until he can’t anymore and that’s all you need to know.

And that’s the end of this episode.

It seems ludicrous to write about misogyny points right after 12,000 people died in a hurricane. But that’s my job, right?

Total Misogyny Points: 25

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing”, 1.06 “Mr. Willis of Ohio”

So I’m watching my favorite TV series for the purpose of criticizing its tendencies toward misogyny, tendencies that are exacerbated in creator Aaron Sorkin’s later works. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger coming from a female character is unreasonable or mysterious, either to the audience or to another character.
  9. A female character plays the Exposition Fairy. Note: Having Exposition Fairies is not in and of itself a problem. It’s necessary in most fiction. But in The West Wing, the Fairy is almost always a female character, and is almost always asking a male character for explanation, and would almost always certainly know the information she’s asking for, so that the fact that she’s asking indicates that she’s not that good at her job.
  10. An episode goes by that does not pass the Bechdel test.


!. When we see evidence that Toby & C.J. are doin’ it. Not misogynist, just entertaining to me personally.

This particular episode could also be mined for race and class stuff but I’m going to just stick to what I’m good at.

Previously, on “The West Wing,” the president marches along that outdoor walkway thing at the White House, the name of which I should probably learn if I’m going to do these recaps; Leo tells his wife that his work as Chief of Staff is, in fact, more important than their marriage; Sam tells a person he thinks is a random teacher but who is in fact his boss’s daughter that he “accidentally” slept with a prostitute; and Charlie and Zoey (the president’s daughter) flirt adorably.

Currently on “The West Wing,” C.J. deals a hand of poker to staffers in a dimly lit room in the White House. It is presumably evening or even late at night. The players are C.J., Leo, Josh, Toby, the president, Mandy, and Sam. Sam and Toby are smoking cigars. I continue to be wildly attracted to Toby despite said cigar. Everyone calls check except the president, who decides to quiz his staff about which fruit has seeds on the outside. The staff is not best pleased and is highly expressive of their displeasure, because they are very, very secure in their jobs. C.J. guesses the kumquat and Leo, next to her, laughs, and they all grin adorably. I do love the scenes on this show where the staffers are just enjoying each other. More poker-y things happen, including Toby raising the president’s bet. The president responds by informing them that the fruit is the strawberry, which they are all way too impressed with, and then asks for the fourteen punctuation marks in standard English. The table in general guesses the most obvious seven and then Toby finishes off with the last, earning an “Ooh!” from C.J. ! He’s totally getting some tonight. Toby insists that the president focus on poker. The president still does not. Instead, he wants to know which three words in the English language begin with dw-. Josh says this is why they never get anything done. Toby and Sam come up with dwindle and dwarf, and then the president raises his bet and reveals, via something Shakespearean, that the third is dwell. There is more general ribbing and everyone being totally fun together, and then Toby loses the hand to the president and they decide they’re done.

The president tells Leo to kiss Jenny for him, so we know that the president has not been informed of their marital troubles yet. Josh is going to go back to the office, because of course he is, and gets Sam to come with him so that Sam can explain the commerce report to him. So, okay, let’s throw in a -9 for that because Josh just admitted he didn’t know something, but let’s also remember this light, joking moment in which Josh basically orders Sam to do this for him and Sam acquiesces agreeably.

The president tells Charlie – who has been in the outer room this whole time, NOT invited to play poker, a shonda, I tell you – that he’s going back to the residence. Charlie says he’s going to stay and do more paperwork.

Mandy and C.J. converse! -10! They’re talking about poker! Mandy won $84 and C.J. lost money, some of it to Mandy.

Then some suited men come walking in all important-like. The building is not secure. They need to all stay in the Oval Office. Josh notes that this is happening too often and Leo tells us it’s pledge week and frat boys have a habit of hopping the fence. Josh is being somewhat shirty with the Secret Service and everyone gets tense for a minute. Then the president breaks the ice by starting a new trivia question. By the time Toby and the president are done razzing each other about it, one of the agents gives the all-clear. Mandy joking that “This is the kind of thing that didn’t used to happen at my old job” leads us into the credits.

And listen, I still don’t have anything against Moira Kelly, but her delivery of that line is kind of the perfect illustration of her not really getting the Sorkin rhythm.

Patriotism, swelling music, and shots of the cast!

Our misogyny count is in the negative right now! -2! Amazing!

After the credits, we’re in the ever-bustling Toby-and-Sam section of The White House. Toby would like Cathy (who I thought was Sam’s assistant?) to get him a copy of Article One, Section Two. Cathy asks, “Article One, Section Two of what?” which seems like a totally reasonable question to me. Toby says, “The Constitution,” like it should be obvious, and I’m going to go ahead and put in a 5 here. A soft 5, but a 5 nevertheless. Cathy wants to know if that’s something she’s supposed to have at her desk. Toby wants to know if anyone in the general Toby-and-Sam section has a copy of the Constitution handy. No one does. Toby thinks this is “discouraging.” Cathy orders Bonnie to get it. Bonnie wants to know “if it’s still in print” which is a ridiculous question. 7. Honestly. Toby shouts at them to “try Amazon DOT com” (or, I would suggest, the internet in general – I mean, I know it’s 1999 and the Internet isn’t quite what it is today, but I bet there was a copy of the U.S. Constitution up somewhere) or to “bust into the glass display case at the National Archives!” Toby, honestly. Send someone down to the gift shop; they probably have free copies.

C.J. comes up behind him and chastises him for yelling. Toby does not say, “That’s not what you said last night.” C.J. says, kind of awkwardly and weirdly, that she’s here to see Sam. Toby does not care and C.J. continues to be weird about it.

Sam is talking to someone named Jill about sampling data and the census. C.J. flatters him weirdly but I’m not going to give it a 6 for reasons that will become obvious in a moment. Sam grumbles about how the census needs to be taken seriously, despite the lack of glamour. C.J. compliments his hair and his suit and he looks good today. Sam correctly guesses that she needs a favor (which is why no 6).

C.J. tells Sam that there were parts of the commerce bill regarding the census that she didn’t understand. Sam says he can help her out. C.J. confesses that she understands nothing about the census. Because 9. Sam chastises her for not having understood the whole thing for weeks now and for faking it and  then very generously offers to “forget about the fact that you came a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all.”

So, let’s go over this. When Josh doesn’t understand this very same bill, he obnoxiously orders Sam to stick around well after working hours to help him understand it. Sam helping Josh takes place entirely off our screen and Sam is entirely cheerful and willing to help Josh with no commentary on what it means that Josh needs his help.

The very next day, mere hours later, considering these peoples’ work schedules, C.J. comes to Sam all flattering and penitent and pleading for help understanding that same bill, and Sam makes her debase herself a little about how much she doesn’t understand and then says she’s “late to the party.” I don’t know if I have enough 9s to give. So this scene will get two, the one above for simply the fact that it’s C.J.’s job to play dumb audience member even though we are given a set-up that would have allowed it to just as easily be Josh, and this one for how groveling she’s expected to be about it.

Donna has a question about the budget surplus that she’s posing to Josh. There’s a $32 billion dollar surplus (Oh, 1999. We miss you.) and the Republicans want to use it for tax relief – i.e., give it back – and the Democrats don’t. Donna wants to know why the Democrats don’t. Josh says, “Because we’re Democrats.” Donna doesn’t care; she wants her money back. Yup, another 9 for the episode. I don’t get the census (unless it’s “We count up all the people,” in which case, I get it fine) but I do get the whole concept of Republicans like not taxing people and Democrats like spending money on social programs just fine, and I’m not the assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House.

Leo is going over some of the appropriations bill additions with the staff. They are pointing out all the nonsense things in the bill and then we learn the real point – if the three swing voters that Toby and Mandy are meeting with later will agree to something something something wrt the census, they’ll let the appropriations bill pass. Or something. I think that’s what’s being said, anyway. Also, one of the three is the husband of a recently deceased Congresswoman who is taking her place for the term. See, it’s a way to show that women are totally Congresspeople, without having to cast an actual woman to be involved in this meeting. I don’t have a number for that. Let’s call add one .

11. The show engineers things so that it pays lip service to the idea of women in power without actually showing it.

Actually, another good example of this would be C.J. dealing the cards. She is in the in-charge position in a group meeting, but it’s an irrelevant in-charge position, and it’s also undercut by her losing. So already two 11s for this episode!

Wait, and when Sam was on the phone and made sure to address the other person as Jill so we’d know he was having this important discussion with a woman even though we’d never see or hear from her! Another 11!

Anyway, Mandy and Toby think the dead congresswoman’s husband (the titular Mr. Willis, if you haven’t figured that out yet) is just going to vote with the others and are not worried about the meeting. They think they can threaten their three-day weekend in order to browbeat the congresspeople into voting their way. Leo simply commands them not to screw up or embarrass him and the meeting is dismissed.

A Secret Service agent having a meeting with the president to discuss the events of the night before. We learn that the person who jumped the fence the night before was not a frat pledge, it was a middle-aged crazy lady. Because dames. Crazy, right? 8. The president jokes that just trying to kill him doesn’t mean the woman is crazy.  But the president wasn’t the target. Zoey was. The president is taken aback.

Leo walks in and the president tries to pretend he’s okay, introducing Leo and the agent, Ron Butterfield (I love Sorkin’s character names) and marveling that the jumper was “a woman!” 4? And maybe another 11, since, again, we’re supposed to be impressed that the show had a woman doing the thing instead of a man, but we never actually see her.

Ron Butterfield excuses himself. Leo reassures the president that Zoey was safe, and the president decides not to tell his daughter her life was in danger. Because women. They can’t handle shit like this. I think I’m going with 8. Leo starts to try to tell the president about his marriage breaking up, but before he can, Ron Butterfield comes back in to report that their security worked as it was supposed to, and Leo decides not to go on. Ron advises the president not to lose sleep, but admits that the woman did have a gun before leaving.

A whole bunch of dudes come in to one of the meeting rooms, where Josh and Mandy are waiting. One of them is tubby and black and kind of wide-eyed, so that’s Mr. Willis. One of them is smarmy and says to Mandy, “If I had know you would be here I would have brought my sword and shield.” Mandy responds, “Champagne and flowers would have done the trick,” because women! You should always relate to them as if they are your lovers. 2. And 3 for how feisty Mandy is know to be.

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 

Smarmy dude introduces Mr. Willis, who explains to them who he is and why he’s there, which they already know. Mandy says she’s sorry for his loss and Mr. Willis is very nice about everything, and also explains that he’s not really a congressman; he’s an 8th grade social studies teacher.

Toby marches in ready for his performance. He has a bunch of assistants – Cathy and two dudes – put his copy of the appropriations bill on the table. It is many, many stacks of paper. Toby insincerely welcomes the two congressmen and tells Mr. Willis, sincerely, that he was a great fan of Mrs. Willis.

Then Toby turns his attention to the stacks of paper. It ways 55 pounds, he claims. I kind of doubt it. It includes very dumb things, like a study of the uses of wood. Toby tells them he’s thinking of some uses for it right now. I pant a little. The smarmy congressman smarms about how they’re supposed to be talking about the census. Josh, sitting across the table, says, “We are. The White House just wanted to point out that you are criminals and despots.” Oh, 1999. I miss you.

Josh and Mandy say they will pass the ridic appropriations bill if these three people vote against the law in it prohibiting sampling for use in the census. I’m so excited that Mandy actually gets to speak in this meeting I almost drop a number but then remember that THAT SHOULD BE NORMAL. My good mood from earlier in this post seems to have dissipated; I don’t know if y’all noticed.

Toby threatens their weekend plans, and Mr. Willis interrupts to say he has no weekend plans and no flights to miss or reschedule, so he’s down for the long haul on this. Toby is taken aback. So are the other two congressmen.

Oh, my God. C.J. and Sam pedeconference through the C.J. section of the West Wing and C.J. requests that Sam talk slow and assume she’s dumb. I don’t even. All the numbers. Okay, fine. Let’s go with 97, and maybe a little 4. And a 5 for when Sam makes a joke about being able to imagine her being dumb.


C.J. describes herself as “submissive” because she had to ask Sam for help. Note that Josh did not feel at all submissive when he asked, nor did we have to go through several conversations about how weak he was for needing it in the first place. 4. And then Sam insults her intelligence again. 4.

Finally we get to the explanation. The constitution decrees that every ten years, we count everyone. C.J. asks why. I mean, for fuck’s sake. 9. Because, duh, Sam does not say. Sam goes on to explain how the head count works – expensively and inaccurately. C.J. continues praising him unnecessarily but I’m still not throwing up a 6 because it’s not inexplicable.

Leo’s daughter in a gorgeous Irish fisherman’s sweater brings in some stuff for her dad and informs Leo that the marital difficulties he’s having are not, as he says, going to blow over.

Then we go back to the appropriations bill meeting. Mandy is saying this is a one-time experiment and the smarmy congressman is losing his cool. The one who is neither smarmy nor Mr. Willis appears to be asleep. Donna calls Josh out of the meeting and they pedeconference about why Donna is not getting her money back. I’m not even recapping this conversation. Go find a Facebook debate about taxes and government spending. I assure you it will be more sophisticated and informed than this conversation. I’m throwing in a 9 here for Donna being the originator of this dopey conversation. I do like when Donna whines, “I want my money back” and Josh says, “Then you shouldn’t have voted for us.”

Donna peels off and Josh enters that anteroom of the Oval Office where Charlie and Mrs. Landingham sit. He greets Charlie and Mrs. Landingham sends him in to the Oval. The president is on the phone but motions Josh over. He whispers that he’s on a conference call to the Postmaster General and doesn’t know what it’s about. He tells Josh he wants him to take Charlie out for a beer tonight. Because you should definitely be calling him out of meetings and interrupt your own call for this? Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of this idea. In fact, I wish all episodes would include a scene of some portion of the gang going out for drinks together. I’m just wondering why this couldn’t have been discussed later.

The president is even going to give Josh some cash, which is adorable, except he doesn’t have any, which is also adorable.

Josh invites Charlie out and Charlie is confused. Josh offers to “speak as men do” which is a pretty funny and ridiculous line except that then Charlie implies that Josh is trying to take him to a gay bar because gay=gross and funny! I don’t have a number for that. If it keeps coming up, I’ll make one.

Mrs. Landingham suggests Josh is too old to be “leering at co-eds” and that is also adorable, as Mrs. Landingham is maybe the only person in the building who can legitimately use the word “co-ed.” Josh insists that there will be grad students at the bar, too. I’d call him out for being gross, but it’s not like we’ve ever seen him actually try to start a romantic or sexual relationship with a girl, so I’ll just go with him being funny here.

Somehow, as Josh is exiting the Charlie-and-Mrs.-Landingham room, Zoey (the president’s daughter) and Mallory (the chief of staff’s daughter) have already caught wind of this plan and want to go for beers, too. They insist the president says Josh has to take them, and Josh, instead of sniffing out the obvious lie, calls the president a “camp counselor”, which would be funny if it were not an obvious lie. Don’t let Josh babysit your kids, ladies and gentlemen. He’ll believe them when they say, “But Mom and Dad let me!”

Josh says these are plans among men, and Mallory says they don’t mind if he flirts with the co-eds, so I hope she’s just repeating what she heard Mrs. Landingham say, because she’s way too young to call them co-eds. Josh again insists there will be grad students there. Mallory wants Josh to bring Sam. Josh thinks Sam doesn’t need Mallory making booty calls, which just goes to show you everything you need to know about Josh. Stop cockblocking, dude. Sam can fail to have relationships with women without your assistance. Also 2.

As the girls wander off, Josh says, “The president’s daughter, the chief of staff’s daughter, a Georgetown bar, and Sam. What could possibly go wrong?” And dude, check yourself before you wreck yourself; why do you think Sam is going to be the troublemaker in this situation?

In the empty press room, Sam is explaining the totally obvious reasons why head counts disadvantage immigrants, the homeless, and inner city populations. Sampling is more accurate, but also, unconstitutional. Sam patronizes her and C.J. calls him out. I love C.J. Josh bursts in and invites Sam out. C.J. mentions she likes beer and Josh completely socially awkwards a “Oh, you can come too, if you want.” C.J. teases him about having completely swept her off her feet, and I should drop a 2, like I did for Mandy’s champagne-and-flowers comment, but C.J. has the gift of delivery, so I won’t.

Back in the appropriations meeting, Mandy is quoting statistics about how black people weren’t counted appropriately in the last census. Toby points out that sampling is more accurate and less expensive. Mandy and Toby trade off points for a few minutes. Smarm-meister doesn’t care. Non-smarm-and-non-Mr.-Willis insists that the Constitution makes it perfectly clear that sampling is not okay. They insist that the article in question is not arcane. Then they piss and moan about actually reading the Constitution and claim that none of them are Constitutional scholars. Although they are people who can claim to know what the Constitution says about sampling, apparently. Whatever, at this point, they are just straw men.

So Toby has Mandy read the article. But he has her read it while leaving a section out, you know, for the theater. Because if you’re going to burn your straw men, you want to make sure the flames look good. Non-Smarm insists that the phrase “number of whole persons” means that sampling is a no-go, although I would wonder how a Constitutional scholar would reconcile that with the inherent problem of ascertaining “whole number” by a head count. Toby lowers the boom, asking the black 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Willis, to confirm that Mandy left out the word “free” in front of “persons” and the phrase about 3/5 of all other persons. Toby really drives it home with a, “Three-fifths, they meant you, Mr. Willis, didn’t they?”

Well, no, Toby, they didn’t. Mr. Willis is a free person. His antecedents in this country may not have been but he is. And if I recall history correctly, there were free persons of African descent living in here when the Constitution was drafted. Their positions may have been tenuous, but they existed. Also, if I recall history correctly, there were non-black non-free persons at the time of the drafting of this Constitution, as well. So they didn’t just mean “black people” when they wrote that. But, excuse me, Toby. I’m interrupting your performance here. Carry on.

After Toby points out that this article is, in fact, arcane, Congressman Smarm wants to go. He and Congressman Non-Smarm say they’re not going to go change their vote. But Mr. Willis will change his vote, so hah. The two white men leave and Mr. Willis stays behind. Toby asks Mandy to go tell Leo and Toby asks Mr. Willis why he changed his mind. Mr. Willis says Toby made a strong argument. Toby is amazed that someone is voting his conscience. Then he admits that he took advantage of Mr. Willis, and that he didn’t mention the problems with sampling, like will it set a precedence for voting? Mr. Willis jokes that it’s okay with him, as long as it’s not the same people who decide what’s on television and they share a good laugh. Then Mr. Willis gets to give a Wise Black Man speech and we say goodbye to Mr. Willis.

Mrs. Landingham and an unnamed assistant help usher an impatient president out the door. The president is kind of rude to Mrs. Landingham but she calls him on it and it seems a natural and not at all power-trippy part of their relationship so I leave it alone. Leo comes in and reports success on the Toby-Mandy meeting. Leo tells Jed what’s going on with Jenny. Jed does not handle it well. He demands that Leo fix it! Leo yells at him. Jed is sad that Leo didn’t tell him about this for two weeks and Leo points out that he quite rightly expected Jed to take it badly. Jed continues to be an ass and Leo is gobsmacked.

We come to a bar called the Georgetown Station. Mallory asks about the prostitute. And apparently Zoey already knows. Because Mallory told her. And Mallory knows because Sam told her. C.J. is amazed that Sam is that f-ing stupid. Sam asks Mallory if her father knows. She says no. Sam asks Zoey if her father knows. Zoey bats her eyes and says, “Not yet.” Gosh, Elizabeth Moss is terrific. And it’s nice to see her play happy and silly. She’s so miserable on Mad Men these days. She should have sex with Stan.

Anyway. The bartender didn’t bring C.J.’s grasshopper. Zoey volunteers to go get it and asks the table to hold her lipstick, panic button . . . you know, that stupid shit in her pocket. Charlie looks hangdog about this. Are they going to give the young-looking nineteen-year-old Zoey a drink? Am I hopelessly naive?

When she leaves, Charlie asks what a panic button is. Hey, Charlie is appropriately and sensibly playing Exposition Fairy! -9! Although Mallory and C.J. totally don’t explain anything. Josh then wants to know if Charlie is having a good time and he and C.J. get into a little nonsense about whether Charlie’s good time is affected by Josh asking him if he’s having a good time. Charlie is only concerned that they know he’s not in college. C.J. assures him he’s the smartest kid in the room. Charlie is scanning the crowd, presumably for Zoe.

Zoe is approached by that dude who (spoiler alert!) gets turned into a vampire in the first episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and then (more spoiler alert!) gets killed in the second. He has two henchdudes with him. They ask her name. Zoey can’t believe they don’t already know who she is. Neither do I. I mean, I know 1999 (or 2000?) was basically the Dark Ages as far as the Internet is concerned, but everyone knew what Chelsea Clinton looked like. Maybe they wouldn’t believe that they were walking into a bar and seeing the First Daughter, but they would have probably said something like, “Hey, did anyone ever tell you you look just like Zoey Bartlett?”

Anyway, they want to guess her name. They already seem menacing, and not flirtatious – I mean, am I just a prude, or is it menacing when three boys get all up in your personal space to hit on you like that? – but Zoey goes with it, delighted with the idea of being anonymous.

Meanwhile, Charlie has spotted their menacing-ness and decided to swoop in. He reveals that her name is Zoey and they become even more menacing, stepping in between Charlie and Zoey and calling Charlie “Sammy” (as in Sammy Davis, Jr., because . . . he, like Charlie, is black? I’m not sure that this has quite the sting these boys imagine it does.) and “Superfly” (also not quite as mean as they’d like it to be?). Then Zoey tries to go with Charlie and the boys physically block her and she looks scared. Her transition from “totes flirting with these boys” to “scared and happy Charlie has come to protect her” happened in nanoseconds, btw. Charlie tries to end this conflict with kindness, but they continue calling out names of other black people.

Then Josh notices the trouble and picks up Zoey’s panic button. The boys are throwing more nonsensical names at Charlie as Charlie remains cool and polite, focused only on getting Zooey away from these boys.

Sam approaches and menaces the boys, who are unimpressed. And have switched to gay slurs, which they can apply equally to Sam, and to Josh as he comes up.

Then, THEN, the best thing happens. One of the henchdudes – you know, the guy who didn’t recognize the First Daughter – looks at JOSH and says, “Hey, I recognize this dude.”

Excuse me while I clean up the Diet Coke I just spurted all over my monitor.

The idiot racist homophobic girl-menacing asshole didn’t recognize the First Daughter, but he recognizes the Deputy Chief of Staff?

Okay, quick. Picture Sasha and/or Malia. Got ‘em? Got ‘em in your head? Pretty clear picture, right? I mean, the Obamas are sort of protective of their girls, but you know what they look like, right?

Okay, now picture Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

Nothing, right?

Can you even NAME Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff? No? Me, neither.

Oh, Aaron Sorkin and his avatars. Gotta love ‘em.

So Josh tells the assholes that they’re having a pretty bad night just as federal agents bust in arrest the assholes. Charlie yells at them and Josh gloats, although, really, in any scene where Josh is present, you should assume he’s gloating. And I’m not really sure why we should be counting Charlie, Sam and Josh as the manly men here when it’s the federal agents they called in who brought these guys down.

Also, I think I might have occasion for another number here. Let’s call it:

12. Male characters play the white knight and the show implicitly or explicitly praises them for it, whether the damsel needed saving or not.

Because as far as I can tell, Zoey didn’t need saving. Not yet, anyway. It was probably good of Charlie to walk over there and check on her, but even if he hadn’t, if she had felt uncomfortable, she could have walked away. And if they restrained her – as they did when Charlie tried to take her away – then she could have yelled for help and the boys could have galloped in.

And it doesn’t really matter whether she needed saving, what matters is that the show had this moment at all.

And I’m applying this number retroactively to the bullshit Sam pulled on his escort friend when he showed up while she was on a work-date and made threatening noises at her.

Anyway, we cut to Zoey on a couch with her father questioning her about the incident. He wants to know if she did anything to “provoke” these guys. Oh, Jed. Do I have to add a number for rape apology? At least Zoey stands up for herself on this particular issue.

Then Jed starts yelling about how they’re upping her protection because her getting kidnapped is “the nightmare scenario.” Then he lays out a whole scene about her being in a nightclub, kidnapped out of the bathroom, two agents dead, whisked away in their car, no one realizes she’s gone for a while, the airports are not shut down in time, and she’s in a cargo hold in Uganda while Israel refuses to release the terrorists that the kidnappers want released and now the U.S. doesn’t have a president; they have a father who’s out of his mind because his little girl is in a shack in Uganda with a gun to her head. He’s shouting by the end of it and Zoey is crying. It’s a pretty effecting scene, but I also want you to remember this scenario that the president spells out.

After apologizing to his daughter for scaring her, Jed goes and apologizes to Leo for being an asshole. Leo accepts just as graciously, but with less hugging.

Josh, Sam, and Charlie are sitting around waiting for their lecture. Josh and Sam are discussing which guys they could have “taken”, you know, if they didn’t just call for federal agents instead.

Donna brings in sandwiches but refuses to give Josh his change because of their argument about tax refunds from before. Still not recapping, also don’t believe that Josh handed her a $20 to go get her sandwiches, like she’s his daughter, rather than there either being money in the White House budget for employee sandwiches and a credit card to which assistants have access, or a credit card she shares with Josh for these purposes. Or a running tab at their favorite sandwich place. Donna gets a 3 here.

Charlie insists neither of them could have taken any of the guys, which is true.

Jed calls Josh in. He wants to know why Josh took Zoey to a bar. Josh still thinks he was acting on orders from the president, which is of course not the case. The president says, “When Zoey told me she was going, I just assumed you were going to have malteds or something.” So a) Josh, you’re an idiot, and b) malteds!

Josh snarks on the idea of “malteds” because he’s very secure in his job. And I guess he should be because the president just thanks him for doing whatever it is he did. Which is, hit the panic button so that actually strong, capable men could come in and deal with this.

Josh insists he did nothing (mostly true) but that Charlie didn’t blink before putting his body in between danger and Zoey. Well, at first it was just perceived danger. But that’s also true. Jed nods and calls Charlie and Sam in. Leo is in the room, too, by the way.

Jed invites Charlie to their poker game, as is appropriate. C.J. wants to know why Josh isn’t being punished. They all sit down to review their days. Toby is impressed with Mr. Willis for being unafraid to say, “I don’t know,” and listening to other people. A rare quality indeed in this particular room. C.J. says she’s happy she said “I don’t know” to Sam and now knows everything about the census. Except the total number of people living in the United States! Hah hah, girls are dumb! 7.

Toby wants to watch Mr. Willis place his vote. Because it’s so damn incredible when black people think, or something. And yes, I know that Toby/Aaron Sorkin didn’t mean it that way but it kind of sneaks in there anyway.

End of episode! End of recap!

Total Misogyny Points: 24. And we added two numbers to our list! An exciting day, and again, welcome to any new blog readers! Please make comments if you like!