Oscars 2016

Kate: I thought the Oscars were so late this year, but February 28 really crept on me. Ah, life.

Erica: Almost all of the nominated movies are divided between “Things I’m definitely not going to see” and “Things I probably won’t see”.

Kate: Oh I saw so many!

Erica: I must, before we begin, give a shout-out to Chris Rock, who made me feel better about this exercise we do in criticizing women’s fashion by pointing out that no one asks men what they’re wearing because they’re all wearing the same thing, and if George Clooney showed up in a lime-green tux, they’d ask. Readers, if George Clooney showed up in a lime-green tux, Kate and I would write something about it. We promise.

Kate: Also, I’m thinking of throwing caution to the wind and doing this in order of who we see as opposed to alphabetically — too wild?

Erica: Oh, my God, Kate. I can’t even handle you right now.


Mindy Kaling

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Kate: This is a lovely departure from her usual award show wardrobe, no? The sleeves are extremely flattering, and I really like her hair pulled back into a neat bun away from her face.

Erica: I think she looks very pretty. I don’t like the dress much as an object of fashion, but she looks pretty.

Kate: Color is a wee bit boring, but overall quite nice. Can’t wait to read her new book, which is next on my list!

Erica: You’ll love it.

Kate: Wait, hold on, the back is nuts. I take back what I said.

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Erica: I’m not loving the dress. But I think she transcends it.

Kate: Wait, no, I like it again. Still excited to read her book.


Sofia Vergara

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Kate: Oh my god, she actually looks bad? Is that dress from the 80s? What’s happening here?!

Erica: It’s a big departure from her in terms of silhouette but I find her overall aesthetic pretty 80s.

Kate: The color is really horrible and blah on her, and all the stuff happening in the middle is so unnecessary. Her boobs look incredible, as usual, but she put that fabulous hair back, which is a big mistake, and it is just overall not working. I guess she should stick to sparkly mermaid gowns with flowy hair?

Erica: They say it’s blue but it doesn’t look blue on the telecast. I’m not quite as disappointed as you are. Maybe because I am mesmerized by the boobs.


Alicia Vikander

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Kate: We haven’t been including her in the other posts, but I feel like we should because she’s nominated.

Erica: I have never even heard of her movie but I like the dress.

Kate: She has quite a lovely petite frame and has looked very elegant all season long, and I know I’ll be in the minority here, but I don’t love this. The color is a little too Easter-y, the sparkles a little too sparkly, the hair and makeup a little too casual. I can’t believe that half-up bun thing is trendy now; that’s how I might wear my hair when I know (or hope) absolutely no one will see me. I am also really not happy about the dress length or the bunching at the bottom, or the silver shoes. They’re, like, prom shoe dye-to-match silver.

Erica: I think it’s well balanced. The color is a little unusual. The sparkles are not overwhelming. The bottom of the dress is fun; on her frame, a full-length poof might have been overwhelming. And she is, again, very tiny and young looking. More makeup or more glam hair might have looked like a little girl who tried on Mommy’s stuff.


Olivia Wilde

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Kate: She TOTALLY took this from her Vinyl closet.

Erica: I haven’t watched that yet but I’m sure I should. She consistently impresses me in interviews.

Kate: Yes, you should. I like the dress but would prefer a thinner sleeve, and absolutely NO choker. I even like the bun/braid hairdo despite the frizziness on the top (it looked better on the pre-show than in this photo), but I am really weirded out by the red eye makeup thing she tends to do. It looks like bruising or blemishing, not at all elegant or chic.

Erica: I feel like this is more a look than just a dress, and as a look, I think it all works very well together. I like looks, and while this isn’t my favorite style, I think it’s all working together. I’m looking at her eyes — I even rewound to get a better look — and I don’t have a problem with them.


Saoirse Ronan

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Kate: Wow, what a difference from her very buttoned-up SAGs look (we also haven’t been covering her this season, but I feel like we should for the same reason as Alicia Vikander).

Erica: Fair. Yeah, the red carpet people were like, “She’s a polite Irish girl”, and I’m like, in that dress? I mean, it’s green. But I wouldn’t describe it as “polite”.

Kate: I may be saying this just because I’ve been re-watching Friends from the beginning, but she’s giving me a very Jennifer Aniston sexy tousled California girl look (from the neck up) paired with a Julianne Moore dress she cut the front and back off of. Which is to say, I really like it.

Erica: She’s too pale for the Jennifer Aniston look but I do love the dress. Very slinky and pretty. The people on my TV show are complaining about her earrings but IDK WTF their problem is.

Kate: I meant an Irish version of the Jennifer Aniston look, and I meant it in a very good way. May be a Best Dressed nominee already.

Erica: I might even agree with you there.


Olivia Munn

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Kate: Wow, friggin’ fabulous. Red looks incredible on her. (It looks more orange in the photo, but on the pre-show it was red, I swear.)

Erica: Okay so I’m into the dress for sure but there’s something up with her face, no?

Kate: Oh yeah I see what you mean, but I think it just looks thinner. Contouring, maybs? And I normally would not like the matchy lipstick, but it’s all just so perfect. The only thing I would change is adding a little more bling on the ears or on the other wrist.

Erica: Yeah, maybe. But the dress is very simple and attractive and exactly the right shade. It did look more red on television, but an orange-y red, which is very right for her.


Naomi Watts

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Kate: Jesus H. Christ does she ever look bad?

Erica: I thought you were over sequins.

Kate: I am, but she just has the perfect little frame, and even if the dress itself is just OK (which this one is), her fabulousness turns it up several notches. For once, I really like the necklace.

Erica: She’s not my favorite but she looks terrific.


Brie Larson

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Kate: Initial reaction is a no. First she did the topsy tail, now she’s doing the two front pieces pinned back behind her head — is she just, like, really into 90s hairstyles?

Erica: The 90s are back, baby! Where are my Docs? But also there’s something very complicated going on in the back of her head I can’t quite see.

Kate: The color of the dress is very lovely — she’s obviously a fan of blue — but the sheer extra material on top looks very cheap, the belt (which I’m hoping came with the dress and wasn’t a voluntary choice to add on) is WAY WAY WAY too much, and the bottom is too sea creature. The complicated thing going on in the back of her head is a braid or twist with jewels that match the horrible belt.

Erica: Zoe feels it reminds her of Evie’s coronation dress from the Disney Channel movie Descendants. So she’s a fan. I do love the color, and while I might not love the belt, the dress does require a belt. My thing is, I love ruffley skirts, but when they do the thing where it’s just ruffles attached vertically around the dress at intervals, like this one (I’m sure there’s a fashion term for this), I don’t like it at all.

Kate: It’s also making me nuts that the earrings don’t match the horrible jewel belt. This may honestly work fine with different hair and no belt, but I just can’t. Good makeup, not good everything else.


Rooney Mara

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Kate: Let me start with a compliment: I absolutely love the makeup. Expert smoky eye right there, and the exact correct way to do a dark red lip.

Erica: You are right that it is well done, but I also hate it.

Kate: Now for the non-compliments: Hate the hair, a) because it’s basically how she wore it to the Globes and the SAGs, b) because it’s dumb.

Erica: Dumb and annoying.

Kate: I don’t like the diamond belly cutout at all, or the flattened peplum thing(s). I might like it a whole lot if it were just a white long-sleeve lacy white column dress, even with the slit up the middle, but perhaps then it’d be too bridal.

Erica: Hate. All of it.

Kate: I love when you hate Rooney Mara dresses!


Margot Robbie

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Kate: She set the bar too high last year; anything else is just going to disappoint.

Erica: Well, this is a similar silhouette to last year. But not as well done.

Kate: Her hair is in that not-done style that I can’t stand, and the gold material looks too bulky on top. The rest of the dress is OK, but not stunning, and the obnoxiously long tassel on her black clutch is, well, obnoxious.

Erica: Her hair and makeup are really off. That said, she is a very sexy woman.


Isla Fisher

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Kate: Oh my god, I absolutely love this. It’s like a modern take on that white and green Scarlett O’Hara dress.

Erica: Ooh, yes, lovely. Although I will confess that I saw your words before I saw the dress and I was hoping it would evoke the dress made out of drapes. I love that dress.

Kate: How perfect does this look on her?! Especially with the red hair?! Not at all sure why she’s at the Oscars, but Best Dressed nominee!

Erica: I think she’s there as Sasha Baron Cohen’s wife? Who is there to…Present something? I’m not sure. I do love this dress. I love romantic, feminine things.


Heidi Klum

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Kate: I honestly think she wears these dresses now to F with us. “Ha ha, I’m gorgeous, look at how crazy I can still look anyway!”

Erica: Yes. That is precisely what happens in her head.

Kate: If she and Alicia Vikander stood next to each other, the Oscars red carpet would explode into a shower of Easter eggs.

Erica: The color, though, is the least offensive thing happening there. And what’s extra-infuriating is, as stupid as this dress is, she’s still gorgeous. She’s right; she does look good in ACTUALLY, LITERALLY ANYTHING.


Cate Blanchett

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Kate: Hang on, if Heidi Klum and Alicia Vikander AND Cate Blanchett stood next to each other, THEN the Oscars red carpet would explode into a shower of Easter eggs AND bunnies AND feathers. What is with the pastels, ladies?

Erica: Yeah but why not?

Kate: I think I would love this without the crazy puffy/feathery sleeves — the silhouette is BOMB on her body. Damn.

Erica: I like the sleeves. They’re a little nutty but I like a small dose of nutty if it’s also pretty. She’s on my Best Dressed list. Also, did you see Sylvester Stallone getting all star struck about her? “Cate Blanchett knows who I am! She saw my movie!” That was too cute.

Kate: Like I said in my predictions post, he’s the most adorable ever.


Jennifer Garner

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Kate: Ooooh very elegant. She’s got that depressed divorced look on her face Sandra Bullock always had after her marital issues, but the dress is super great.

Erica: I heard they were getting back together, no? She’s still so pretty.

Kate: Oh, I hope so! Yes, she is. This is actually one of my favorites of the night.


Julianne Moore

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Kate: Yes. Julianne Moore reads our posts and agreed that she needed to stop with the sparkly column dresses, and went out and got this. Excellent listening skills, Julianne!

Erica: We have pull in Hollywood, obviously.

Kate: I think this is great. It’s not going to be my favorite of the night, but I really like how different it is from what she’s been wearing, I love black, I love her hair and makeup, and I even like the contrast between the circular earrings and triangular top of the dress.

Erica: Yeah, she looks like a normal, lovely human being dressed for a red carpet, instead of like a whackadoo. This ensemble will not change fashion but she looks nice.

Kate: The only thing I don’t like is that the silhouette makes her look a little thicker around the waist, when in reality she’s a very tiny woman. (Confirmed that fact with Ian, who has met her.)

Erica: How?!

Kate: She wrote a children’s book and they took her out, duh.

Erica: Ian has the best job.


Rachel McAdams

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Kate: Ooooohhh I kind of love this.

Erica: It’s very nice.

Kate: It’s like she was kind of excited for the Globes and wore a nice Rachel McAdams dress, then she was kind of mad about the SAGs for some reason and didn’t care about doing her hair and makeup, and then she remembered that she’s effing gorgeous and nominated for an Oscar and BAM — sex pot dress.

Erica: She is effing gorgeous. The dress isn’t quite amazing, but it looks amazing on her.

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Kate: From the side she looks semi-naked, but I really like it anyway. The color is fab against her pale skin and hair (even though I prefer her as a redhead or brunette), and I dig all the accessories. That material unfortunately shows the tiniest little wrinkles, but other than that? Best Dressed Nominee!


Lady Gaga

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Kate: I find this to be overall lame. I don’t like the wide sculpted skirt over the pantsuit, I don’t like the white, and her hair/makeup look completely fake now, like she’s one of those women whose paid zillions of dollars to look like an actual Barbie.

Erica: I totes hate the pantsuit thing. Hate. It is filling me with confusion and disgust. And then she’s all, “It’s really important to me to speak out for victims of sexual violence”, and I’m like, I’m a terrible person for hating her outfit.

Kate: Well, hopefully her performance ensemble will be less lame.

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Kate: Nope. Guess we’re both terrible people for hating both outfits.


Tina Fey

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Kate: Ugh, she kills me. She hits it out of the park one night and strikes out the next — great color and dress overall, horrible necklace, even more horrible hair. It’s just too severe for her face; her hair looks incredibly beautiful and voluminous when worn down.

Erica: I don’t love the hair, and while I have less of an issue with the statement necklace than you do, that one is not great. But she looks very nice otherwise.

Kate: It’s like she still hasn’t figured out what works best for her, even though she’s been doing this for a long time.

Erica: I think this might be her least favorite thing about being a celebrity.


Reese Witherspoon

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Kate: Reese is wearing the same shade of purple as Tina. I repeat, Reese Witherspoon is wearing the exact same shade of purple as Tina Fey. I don’t know why I think that’s a big deal, but I do. Do they care about stuff like that? Are they friends? Will this hurt their friendship?

Erica: I am now, like, wishing for a friendship between them. I think that could be interesting. What’s it called when you write, like, fan fiction, but it’s about real people rather than characters? That is a thing, and I think I’m going to write a story about how Reese and Tina became friends.

Kate: Perfectly Reese hair and makeup and jewelry — which means fabulous and sweet but a little safe — but the dress itself kind of sucks. The material looks really stiff, and it’s just not flattering on her. Sorry, Reese 😦

Erica: There’s too much structure in the top. It’s weird looking.


Kerry Washington

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Kate: Way too S&M. Way.

Erica: Hate so much. It’s both too S&M AND black-and-white evening wear. (I’m not criticizing the practice of S&M, btw. Just the aesthetic.) But the makeup is great.

Kate: But the hair is not great. Have I EVER liked her red carpet looks? Why does everyone else obsess over her so much?

Erica: Well, I find her to be a very beautiful woman and a very charming, intelligent one in interviews and such. I didn’t really have an opinion about her until I saw her on Bill Maher’s show and she was so incredibly poised and perfect. I wanted to cast her as, like, a 60s political wife, who’s so good at the whole cocktail party thing, but you also know she’s got serious brain power and is basically behind all of her husband’s successes. Tonight, she was great talking to Robin Roberts about the whole #OscarsSoWhite thing. Also she looked adorable gazing at Henry Cavill, clearly trying hard not to giggle and flip her hair. I just do not connect with her style.


Charlize Theron

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Kate: Yes.

Erica: She’s a good looking woman.

Kate: It honestly looks a little off-the-rack, like it’s from that store Cache (and maybe it is for all I know), and I wouldn’t like that necklace on anyone else, and I’ve seen her hair look better, and it’s kind of the same thing she always wears, but it’s Charlize Theron, so it’s all just yes. And I give up.

Erica: Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with anything about the look, but it really is down to the woman wearing it. You have to be actively trying to look stupid if you look like Charlize Theron. You know, you have to try as hard as Heidi Klum. (PS. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the movies I saw. The Martian is the other one.)


Emily Blunt

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Kate: Oh gosh no, no no no! Emily! No!

Erica: That bad?

Kate: This looks like a maternity nightgown! (I know she’s actually pregnant, but still.) Oh I’m so disappointed.

Erica: Yeah? I mean, I don’t love it, but I don’t think it’s that bad.

Kate: Hate to do it, but Worst Dressed nominee.


Kate Winslet

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Kate: So I don’t love the dress in and of itself — I don’t know what that shiny material is, I don’t know if it’s black or brown or both, I don’t think it’s super flattering — but I love that it’s different from her usual look, and I super love that her hair is down and loose and wavy, and I super duper love that SHE ARRIVED. WITH. LEO. My heart is just BURSTING!

Erica: As much as I dislike Titanic, I do love their sustained friendship and support. It must have been quite a bonding experience to be young and so clearly better than your material.

Kate: I know it doesn’t mean that they’re together, because I think she’s married (with kids, even?) and he has serious commitment issues, but I know that they have a lot of love for each other and it’s just perfect that they’re both nominated and arrived together and I just can’t stand it. I also love her accessories and makeup.

Erica: Yes, she’s married and has kids, although I think her kids are not her current husband’s. And I don’t need them to be a couple. I like genuine platonic friendships between men and women. I don’t love this dress. It is aggressively shiny. But it is different for her. And her makeup looks great. I feel like the makeup artists of L.A. really brought it tonight.


Amy Poehler

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Kate: Wow, super different for her! Very kimono-esque.

Erica: Still loving the red hair.

Kate: I don’t think I like the kimono much, but I like seeing the variety.

Erica: Yeah, I mean, I always like something different. And I like the material of this dress, the embroidery and the colors. I think just a different neckline would have really sold the whole thing.


Priyanka Chopra

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Erica: I don’t know who she is or why she’s there, but she is very, very pretty and she looks stunning.

Kate: The only additional thing I know about her is that she is on a new TV show about the FBI. I like the dress a lot, especially that it’s white but not bridal, but I very much prefer her hair down. It’s quite fabulous.

Erica: I believe you.


Sarah Silverman

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Kate: This is a LOT better than the SAGs monstrosity, but she still isn’t getting it. Her hair is just a little too pulled back, the top of the dress is just a little too tight, the weird upside down triangle thing around the hips is just pointless. A few little fixes and this would have been a stunner.

Erica: Yeah, the top is really doing weird things to her actually pretty decent body. Do you think she resents Amy Schumer?

Kate: No, I think they’re friends.


Jennifer Lawrence

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Kate: J. Law with the very late arrival, and no red carpet?!

Erica: Maybe she’s sick of the whole thing. I would be if I were her. Oh, no, wait, I’d be busy rolling in my dollar bills and positive reviews and job offers.

Kate: I am absolutely in love with that new hairdo and subtle yet sexy makeup. I like the top of the dress a lot and I like the overall message of it, but it’s not my favorite ever.

Erica: I don’t love the hair. I do love the makeup. I do NOT like the dress. It is a stupider version of Rachel McAdams’s SAGs dress.

Kate: Oh no I think it’s quite different, and different from what she usually wears. Everyone really changed it up tonight, eh?

Erica: So, I think we will have trouble agreeing on Best Dressed, because I feel Cate Blanchett’s dress is everything I ever want on a red carpet, and you are somewhat less enthused.

Kate: No, she cannot win Best Dressed. How about Isla Fisher? She won’t win on anyone else’s list, but we both liked it a lot. Or Olivia Munn?

Erica: Ooh, let’s give it to Isla Fisher. We did both like it and it’s dreamy. Can we give Worst Dressed to Rooney Mara? I hates it soooo much.

Kate: Haha, ok!

Erica: Well, listen, folks, that’s it. That’s the awards season. And I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t know if we can cover So You Think You Can Dance this year. Because we can’t criticize eight-year-olds. And Nigel can’t possibly drool over any of the contestants (right? RIGHT?!) so we won’t have much material there. So you might not see us again until the 2016 Emmys in the fall.

Kate: And, you know what I noticed last night? We all obsess over these starlets and their dresses, especially the ones who aren’t nominated and maybe don’t even belong at the Oscars ever, and then some of the people who win the non-acting awards and who consequently get quite a bit of screen time are really quite terribly dressed. Case in point:

Erica: The costume designer for Mad Max: Fury Road?

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Kate: You got it, dude.

Erica: Yes. I don’t really want to get on the cases of the non-actors, because looking glamorous isn’t really part of their job. But woman? You design costumes. You couldn’t design yourself something that a character who is attending a formal event would wear?


Let’s do some more!

As 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 (or, sometimes, maternal qualities) 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia

And a ! for every piece of evidence that Toby and C.J. are FwB, and a TNFTS for every time the boys are Too Noble For This Shit.

Let’s get right to it. Previously, on “The West Wing,” Zoey Bartlet asked out Charlie Young, which kind of made her father nuts; Joey Lucas called Josh an unmitigated jackass, earning her a place in my heart forever; the veep and POTUS have some beef; Jed Bartlet is upping his daughter’s protection.

It’s 2:38 am and Jed and Leo are in a car. Jed is telling Leo that he, Jed, didn’t mean to put him, some other dude, in this position. But apparently every “him” knew the vote on the ethanol tax credit was going to be tight, and it is, in fact, 50/50. Leo wants to be done with this conversation, as it’s 3:00 am, but Jed wants to focus on how, despite the irony, he is not to blame for this. For those of you not catching up yet, when the Senate is tied, the vice president makes the deciding vote. So the “him” who can’t blame Jed is the vice president, and we can assume that whatever the vice president’s stand on ethanol (gas made out of corn) is, it’s going to put him in a tough position regarding this vote.

We also learn that Jed will meet Zoe’s new Secret Service agent on the plane. Where they are presumably going. Leo is trying to encourage the president to just sleep at the hotel that night instead of coming home right after the fundraiser. It seems the president and company (but not Leo) are going to L.A. for a fun-filled day of meetings and a party. Yeah, Mr. President, just stay the night. Go to sleep.

This may be why I’m not the leader of the free world.

The motorcade arrives at the plane. Leo says goodbye to Leo and hello, jubilantly, to C.J. and Charlie. C.J. tells him the press is not in a particularly good mood, given that it’s 3:00 am. The president insists it’s going to be great. “We’re going to race the sun to the Pacific horizon!” C.J. does not seem to feel this will help.

On the plane already are Sam, Josh, and Toby. The president tells Sam it’s going to be 50/50 on the ethanol tax credit. Sam offers to make phone calls but the president surmises that it won’t help. Isn’t this Josh’s job? Why is this information being directed toward Sam?

Toby and Josh want to talk to the president about the Al Kiefer meeting. The president thinks that they’re unnecessarily worried about the Al Kiefer meeting. Then he asks if they want to see the best part of having his job. He picks up a phone and says, “Colonel, this is the president. I’m ready to go.” And the plane starts up. That is a pretty good part of having that job.


On the plane, Donna and C.J. are discussing sun protection skin care. I guess this has to count as passing the Bechdel test -10 but God. This is why simply passing the Bechdel test does not make a story feminist. Toby makes fun of them, naturally, so I can give it a 4. Also, Donna says, for the first of many times this episode, “I have sensitive alabaster skin,” and I’m going to go ahead and give that a 4, too, because it sounds ridiculous and it’s meant to sound ridiculous.

Josh is concerned that a representative named Cameron is going to introduce a bill banning gays from the military. Oh, look, it’s a plot point on which the actual United States has progressed since this show aired! I love it when that happens. (It will only happen on the issue of gay rights, if I recall correctly.) C.J. thinks they don’t have to care, because it’s Cameron. Josh thinks a man named Ted Marcus might care. Sam thinks that Ted won’t know. Toby thinks they can pretend they don’t know.

Charlie comes in to warn C.J. that the president is headed for the cockpit. C.J. goes to head him off.

Charlie has a seat next to Zoe in a very cushy-looking room. He apologizes that he won’t be as attentive as she might like during this trip. Because girls are dumb and can’t tell the difference between “working” and “not working.” 8. Zoey insists that it’s okay. Charlie says he can’t tell the difference between when it’s okay and when it’s not okay. 8. Zoey replies. “I know. Doesn’t that suck for you?” 3 and 8. Ugh. Sorkin, women don’t really act like this. If you’re dating women who act like this, you’re probably not actually listening to them.

The president welcomes Special Agent Gina Toscano into his office. Gina has been with Zoey for two weeks now. The president asks her a bunch of questions. He sits but doesn’t invite her to sit for a good long time. I’m going to count that as a 5.

We learn that there have been letters regarding Zoey and Charlie and they may or may not be from white supremacists. They don’t have much to go on, but Gina assures the president that she knows what she’s looking for in a crowd.

The president says he wants Zoey to be comfortable with her protection and it’s not Gina’s job to tell him the nonsense that college kids do. Which she already knows. Then he pretends he does want to know if she’s cutting English lit, and Gina refuses. He waves her off.

At the White House, Leo pedeconferences with Ed and Larry, two guys from Sam’s office who have these conversations when Sam is elsewhere. They’re talking ethanol and the tax credit, its pros and cons. Leo thinks they never said enough that the tax credit creates 16,000 new jobs. Ed and Larry ask if it’s over. Leo tells them Sam’s been calling senators (at 3 am?) and Leo’s next phone call will be Sam telling him it’s over. “At least we’re going to win,” Ed or Larry says.

Margaret brings in papers for Leo to sign but she’s in a snit because she doesn’t get to go to L.A. for the day. 8. She also insists she’s not upset. 8. Sure enough, the phone rings and it’s Sam. Leo asks Margaret to get the vice president.

On the plane, C.J. wakes up the press to go over the schedule. They’re being greeted at the airport. Photos only. Then they’ll depart for the hotel, at which point, C.J. predicts, they will no longer be on schedule. Over a bunch of exterior shots of the president’s plane and then his motorcade, C.J. continues giving us the schedule. There will be two hours at the hotel for a security briefing and “personal staff time.” That sounds kind of dirty. I mean, not with Jed, but imagine if the president were more Bill-Clinton-y?

Damn, that joke is as old as this episode.

Anyway, at 10:00 am, they’re going to Orange County to hear a discussion on a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag-burning. Hey, I vaguely remember when this was an “issue” people actually talked about. Boy, I’m glad it’s not any more.

Hey, more progress!

At 3 pm, they’ll be going to a town hall meeting on school vouchers, and then to the exciting fundraiser held by Theodore (Ted) Marcus. The press will wear coats and ties and stay in the roped-off press areas.

At the hotel, Donna is dragging Josh’s luggage and Josh can’t open his hotel room door. Donna starts reading off people who have left Josh messages at the front desk, all of which he’ll handle later, as he’s too busy complaining about being unable to open his door. So Donna opens it for him. Josh is finally intrigued when Donna says Joey Lucas called. And not intrigued in a professional way. Joey will be at the fundraiser that night. Donna feels that Josh should do something about his crush on Joey Lucas. Josh makes fun of her. 5 Josh decides they’ll call her. Donna repeats her line about alabaster skin. 4. Then, before Donna can call Joey, she tells Josh Ted Marcus also called, and Josh decides to deal with that first.

MPTF: 10

We pull up to a stunning home, with men moving enormous vases of flowers around. Ted Marcus (played by Bob Balaban) has, in fact, heard about Cameron’s amendment. Josh pleads ignorance but Ted – a studio chairman, btw – doesn’t care. He’s sending them home tomorrow with $2 1/2 million so he wants to be listened to. Josh is not really that good at listening, but he listens hard when Ted Marcus cancels the fundraiser. Josh insists that the bill won’t be passed, and if it were passed, the president would never sign it. That placates Ted – if Ted hears the president say that on national television. Oy gevalt.

Back in D.C., the vice president enters Leo’s office. So now they need the vice president to go vote for the ethanol tax credit. The vice president is not happy. He begs Leo to get him off the hook. He says he spent eight years fighting this bill, and he was right. (He is, by the way.) But being right is not the point; it’ll be politically disastrous for him if he votes for this bill.

We go to the stupid-ass flag-burning thing the president is being forced to sit through. It is intentionally stupid-ass and I’m not getting into it. Josh pulls Toby and Sam out of the room to tell them about Ted. Toby says that Josh should tell Ted that a) the bill’s not going anywhere, b) it’s not actually in the interest of gay rights that the president say anything about it because it’ll give Cameron credibility and attention, c) the president can’t be publicly blackmailed, and d) if he chooses to stay home rather than go to the fundraiser and kow-tow to Hollywood, it’ll only make the president look better to the general electorate. And then, Toby tells him, you can promise Ted 10 minutes with the president at the party. That’s fine, Josh says, then asks how the president is doing in there. “He’s got that look on his face like he’s thinking of ways to kill himself,” Sam says.

Back in the room, Jed does, in fact, look very Over It. Jed asks what I wanted to know when this was, like, a Thing. “Is there an epidemic of flag-burning going on that I’m not aware of?”

As they walk out, flanked by Service, the president continues asking that question. Toby says there’s not, so they can choose not to meet with Al Kiefer. But Jed says they will meet with him, over lunch, at the Playa Cantina, where they make the guacamole right in front of you, and where Zoey had been hoping to have a relatively Secret Service-free lunch. Charlie tries to dissuade Jed from ruining Zoey’s lunch, to no avail. Jed is determined to ruin EVERYONE’S good time.

You guys, I didn’t really eat real Mexican food until I moved to Chicagoland. Don’t they make the guacamole right in front of you at most authentic and authentic-ish Mexican restaurants? Or did they not in 2000? Or is this a bunch of East Coasters coming to L.A., so for them, it’s a special treat?

Anyway, they pedeconference out to a bunch of people booing the president. I don’t think because of the flag-burning thing, because that just happened, and these people have signs, but I could be wrong. Oh, and then Toby is not allowed to get in the president’s limo, because he made fun of the guacamole. “I didn’t!” says Toby.

“I could tell you were thinking it,” says the president.

“Fair enough,” says Toby. Hee!

At the Playa Cantina, Zoey is pissed, and our impression that the president really interrupted Zoey’s lunch in order to protect her with his own Secret Service. And there’s more commentary about the guacamole.

Al Kiefer (who is Q from “Star Trek: TNG”) is with the senior staff, trying to convince them that the president should not stay quiet on flag-burning, nor should he speak out against it. He should instead lead the charge against it! The senior staff dismiss this, but the president invites him over to tell him more. Al Kiefer goes on about how 47% of voters, middle-aged men, pool-and-patio types (sure) like the president but didn’t vote for him because they think he’s weak. The president makes pointed comments about hearing that he’s weak in front of his daughter, but, dude, you called the guy over. You interrupted your daughter’s lunch and brought this meeting to her. Anyway, Al Kiefer knows this isn’t popular, but he trusts numbers and the numbers tell him that the president should make himself a leader in favor of an amendment against flag-burning.

Josh gets a call and rushes off, while Al asks Toby why he’s smiling. “I just figured out who you were,” Toby says.

“He’s going to say Satan,” Al says.

“No,” says Toby. “You’re the guy who runs into the 7-11 to get Satan a pack of cigarettes.”

It’s a good line. Also, I love Toby.

Charlie escorts the president away. Josh rushes to catch up with him as he smiles at the (now positive) crowd outside the restaurant. Jed is upset that men with pools and patios think he’s weak and Josh tries not at all to not say “We told you so.” But that’s not why he’s there; he’s there to break the news that Jed has to spend ten minutes alone with Ted Marcus. “I used to like parties, you know that?” Jed says.

Zoey is complaining about the extra protection when Gina sees who she’s apparently looking for in the crowd – two pimply, glaring white boys.

At the home of Ted Marcus, elegant lights are lit and elegant music is being played by a quartet on the staircase. C.J. and Toby stand together. C.J. admires the house, which Toby doesn’t care about, then says, “You know, you haven’t said anything about my dress.” 2 and ! at the same time. “You look very nice,” Toby says without looking at her. “You’re not looking,” C.J. says. 8. “I’m looking at the house,” Toby says. and ! again.

A man approaches the two of them and introduces himself as the head of New Project Development at Paragon. He wants to know if his money buys him a few minutes alone with C.J. Gross. Then Toby ups the grossness by saying “Throw in a box of chocolates and a pair of nylons – get you a lot more than that.” 2 and 5 and how very dare you, Toby? Also – a pair of nylons? You gift women nylons? Is it 1954? Are you their grandmother? Toby promises to be over at the bar, drinking heavily, if anyone wants him. C.J. assures him that no one will.

The dude who pulled C.J. away wants C.J. to work for Paragon developing projects. C.J. insists she does not know what developing is. I don’t, either, but it doesn’t sound that hard to figure out. C.J. says she likes the job she has now, knowing what it is and everything, and makes an escape with Sam. It turns out Sam was also offered a development deal. I bet he got offered more money. (Sorry, it was there and I had to.)

Outside, David Hasselhoff is trying to have serious conversation with Josh and Donna about the first amendment, but Donna is dumbly trying to talk about his career. 4. Josh leads her away and takes away her drink 4 but Donna goes off after Matt Perry. Who is sadly not on screen.

Joey Lucas and Joey’s translator call out to Josh. Josh babbles and Joey flirts for some reason. 2 and 6 to this whole thing. Even though I like Joey and any excuse to keep her around is fine with me.

Toby pulls Josh away but Josh asks Joey not to leave the party.

Leo is still with the veep. It looks really cold in D.C. And they’re walking outside. Leo is trying to persuade the vice president to vote their way by telling him that the president and his staff don’t trust the vice president. These guys have interesting ways of persuading each other.

Hoynes is above caring about any beef, real or imagined, between him and the West Wing, but apparently not above thinking the president somehow arranged a 50/50 split in the Senate in order to set him up. Okay, sure. It seems Leo was not successful in persuading him.

Leo and the president are on the phone. The president wants to fire Hoynes but he can’t, constitutionally. Leo thinks the vice president is right. Sam, who is there, too, agrees, and says he can set three of the Senators he put “in a headlock” free so that the deciding vote doesn’t come down to the vice president at all. Sounds good.

Veronica Webb and Jay Leno are flirting when C.J. pulls Jay Leno off to the side. She appreciates Jay laying off the president the last few months. Jay says what he wants is for the president to ride his bike into a tree again.

Josh is back talking to Joey. He’s telling her about the Al Kiefer meeting. She already knows about it, because she hears everything. Haha. C.J., Sam, and Toby approach and joke about their development deals. Josh introduces Joey to everyone. Joey says Kiefer asks the wrong questions. Yes, people favor a flag-burning amendment, but, as she found out when she asked, they don’t actually care. I always like this insight.

C.J., Sam, and Toby move off, and Joey says she still thinks the president should come out against flag-burning, just because flag-burning is mean. Oh, whatever. She also says “Vox populi vox dei,” and Josh pretends to confuse “dei,” God, with “dog”, which makes no sense. “Dei” and “canis” (“dog” in Latin) sound nothing alike. Then Joey reveals that she’s at this fundraiser on a date, and Josh tries to pretend he doesn’t care. Joey still asks him to call her some time, and says it was good to see him.

In Ted Marcus’s private room, Ted says he’ll publicly demand that the president promise to veto Cameron’s bill. The president points out that this would be a very stupid move, because right now it’s just a bill proposed by a stupid-ass, extreme right-wing Congressperson of no consequence that will never so much as go to a committee, but if the president says publicly that he would vote for it, it will become a National Story in a nation not really ready to be pro-gay rights. (Woohoo! Progress!)

(We live not to far from the naval base – my husband is a dentist there – and the week that the whole gays-are-allowed-to-serve-openly thing happened, we were out to breakfast and we saw a sailor at the restaurant with her family – and her girlfriend! They were holding hands! It was SO NICE to see a woman in uniform holding hands with her girlfriend in public. Also my husband had, in fact, worked on her teeth, so he went over to say hi to the family and it was all very sweet.)

Anyway, despite Jed’s hostility, Ted takes Jed’s point well, says he trusts and likes Jed, and also observes that Jed looks more tired than he did a couple of months ago. Being president ages you but quick.

Donna is in Josh’s room, persuading him to go ignore Joey’s “I’m with someone” and go chase after her like we’re in a rom-com. 2. After some irritating back-and-forth, Josh goes – only to have Al Kiefer in a bathrobe open her door. Joey comes out of the bathroom, also in a bathrobe. She is embarrassed but also flattered. Al is not really amused.

We’re on the plane. Everyone is snoozing. Except Jed, who is on the phone with the vice president. He tells Hoynes he admires the way Hoynes had stuck to his guns in Iowa on the ethanol tax, even though it probably cost him the presidency. I’m sure Hoynes appreciates that.

Jed hangs up with the promise to go to sleep. But he can’t. Poor guy.

TMP: 20 I don’t mind this episode as a piece of storytelling. But geez. Just about every time a woman appears on the screen, it’s to be a stupid, flimsy, misogynist stereotype. Cut it the fuck out and let me enjoy the otherwise good show you’ve written, 16-years-ago Aaron Sorkin!

MISOGYNY & AARON SORKIN, “THE WEST WING,” EPISODE 1.15, “Celestial Navigation”

I should be writing. I mean, I should be writing novels. I’ve got three manuscripts actively in the works, plus some shorter pieces I’m working on. I shouldn’t be writing this.

But for various reasons, I can’t write those other things. So I’ll snark instead. It should get my engines going.

As 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 (or, sometimes, maternal qualities) 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia

And a ! for every piece of evidence that Toby and C.J. are FwB, and a TNFTS for every time the boys are Too Noble For This Shit.

Ooh, I quite like this episode, because of rather than despite its Sorkin-ness. I really love the structure of it, the frame, and the opportunity to make fun of Josh.

Previously, on “The West Wing,” Jed Bartlett nominated Roberto Mendoza, (Edward James Olmos) to the Supreme Court. Also, in case you forgot, Sam Seaborn is the Deputy Communications Director, Josh Lyman is the Deputy Chief of Staff, Josiah Bartlett is Josiah Bartlett and Charles Young prefers Charlie. He met cute with Zoe Bartlett. Leo McGarry is the White House Chief of Staff, even though some obnoxious British guy thought he was the butler, and C.J. Craig is their host. Oh, and Toby Ziegler works for the White House. That was fun. Yes, the previouslies were just a series of blips to remind you who everyone is. I like it.

We’re in an auditorium, for the third installment of this year’s Marjorie DuPont lecture series. (This is actually a good example of 11 – you couldn’t make the host of the lecture series a woman, but you’ll give the lecture series a woman’s name. I’m not saying it’s an outrage, just that it’s a symptom.) It’s a good turn-out, so they must be excited to meet the guest that night. Who, we can surmise, is Josh Lyman, who’s in the darkened backstage on the phone. Roberto Mendoza, nominee to the Supreme Court, was arrested. For drunk driving, Sam, on the other end of the phone, and also on the street in the cold, tells us. Also resisting arrest and maybe disorderly conduct. It all happened half an hour ago, so details are sketchy. Thing is, Sam assures us, Roberto Mendoza doesn’t drink. Also the press doesn’t have it and it’s possible the cops don’t understand what’s going on because they don’t know that the guy they arrested is the guy who’s the nominee for Supreme Court. Sam gets in a cab. Josh keeps talking to the phone even though Sam’s hung up. His realization of this is pretty funny. I should make clear, none of my hatred for Josh should be transferred to Bradley Whitford, who is a fabulous actor with great timing and is really very, very good at being Josh Lyman.

The guy onstage in the auditorium is winding up Josh’s introduction. The audience welcomes Josh and Josh goes out on stage. Josh slips on his mike and is told that he’s here to tell them what it’s like to work for the president.

Seriously, I’m a sucker for framing devices, and this one is used particularly well.

At the White House (which still seems to be making efforts to save on electricity), C.J. asks Sam what’s going on and Sam claims it’s not as bad as she thinks. “Was the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court arrested for drunk driving?” C.J. wants to know. Yes. So it’s pretty bad, then.

Sam reiterates that Roberto Mendoza doesn’t drink and that he was, in fact, arrested for Driving While Hispanic. Toby enters and claims to have stepped off the edge of the world. C.J. wonders why Mendoza refused the Breathalyzer, and Toby claims it’s because Mendoza is a crazy man who is out to ruin Toby’s life. Bail has not been posted because it’s Friday night and they’re in Wesley, Connecticut and nobody can find a judge. Toby promises to find a way to blame this on C.J., which surprises C.J. not at all. 5? Sure. Toby is unusually hostile to C.J. all episode. Maybe they’ve stopped doin’ it.

Leo barges in. They should call Mendoza’s lawyer, he says. They always say that on TV shows. Does everyone have a lawyer? I mean, I claim I’m going to call my lawyer all the time, but by that I mean my dad, my mom, or my grandfather. He tells Sam to get on the Air Force jet waiting to take him to Wesley. He also threatens to blame C.J. if Sam sees any reporters upon getting off the plane. No number for that, since that’s actually C.J.’s job.

Toby’s going with Sam. Leo makes a warning noise but Toby has had it up to here with the judge. Leo says he wants his phone to ring every 15 minutes with updates. Wow, I’m so glad I don’t have to live in a world where I’d want my phone to be ringing every fifteen minutes.

After the credits, the lecture hall guy asks Josh to tell the audience about a typical day at the White House. Josh says there’s no such thing, that it starts out as a 9-5 job, but you can count on that being blown to hell by 9:30. Josh is really at his best in this setting. The lecture guy asks for an example, and Josh offers one from this week, actually, within the last 36 hours. The story he’s about to tell either started with “a cabinet secretary losing her temper, a committee chairman baiting her during a hearing, the president answering a question he shouldn’t, a dentist appointment, or me, being stupid.” He claims he’d like to think that it’s less the last one than others think. And really, he’s being utterly charming.

“It started out as a day that was supposed to trumpet the president’s vision for educational reform,” Josh tells us, which bumps us into thirty-six hours ago.

We’re in the press room. C.J.’s at the podium, Sam and Toby are in the otherwise empty audience. Sam is asking for the bullet points. C.J. insists she has this, and Sam is confident in her, but Toby wants to hear them anyway, which annoys C.J. Still, she tells us the bullet points: Forgive student loans for people who become teachers and spend at least three years in an underserved school district; provide cash bonuses for people who leave other careers to become teachers; give districts money to institute training programs wherein the old guard teach the newbies. Toby reminds her to say that half of all new teachers quit in the first three years. That sounds really high. I thought it had gotten markedly worse in the decade and a half since this aired, and that sounds like it’d be high even now. Anyone want to give me stats on this?

Josh calls Toby out and they leave. Sam follows C.J. out of the room and encourages her to push the briefing from 11:00 to 1:00. But Carol doesn’t want to move the briefing; C.J. has a thing. C.J. feels this is a good excuse to move the thing. When Sam discovers C.J.’s thing is a dentist appointment, because she’s experiencing some pain, he insists she keep the dental appointment and set the briefing for 2:00. He’s nuts for dental hygiene, he tells us. C.J. sends him away.

Josh and Toby are pedeconferencing about the HUD secretary Deborah O’Leary calling someone named Jack Wooden (and also all Republicans) a racist. Toby asks his assistant Bonnie to get this information for him and she responds, “You want it now?” So he gets rude and I’m giving this a 5 for Toby for being rude, and also a 5 for the writers deciding this was the best use for Bonnie as a character – to make her seem lazy and be subject to Toby’s abuse.

Toby is mad at O’Leary, but Josh is amused because Josh has enormous sympathy for people who are baited saying true but rude things to assholes. See, for example, Episode 1.

Mandy comes in to brief Toby, Josh, and the audience on the incident. O’Leary, in response to Wooden’s decrying of HUD, said, “Public Housing has serious problems, Mr. Chairman; I don’t deny that. But if you and your colleagues in the Republican Party-”

“No,” moans Toby.

“-were as invested in solving the problems associated with poverty as you were in scoring political points on the backs of poor people and minorities, you might just see the value,” Mandy says. Wooden apparently responded by asking if the Secretary was calling him a racist, and she responded, “If the shoe fits.”

Toby is very annoyed.

We shoot back to Josh, relating this tale to the lecture audience. He tells us the hard part is telling the president about this.

“If the shoe fits?!” the president says. Toby reports that O’Leary doubled down to reporters outside the room, too. The president seems more upset that she, as Leo puts it, “resorted to cliche.” Charlie calls the president out.

They head into one of the meeting rooms, where a whole bunch of reporters stand and clap.

Josh tells the lecture audience, “The president spoke briefly. The president has never spoken briefly in his life, but he spoke.” This was the bill-signing for education reform. After the president signed the bill, he answered some questions from the press. Josh invites us to marvel that, even though the number one issue on Americans’ minds, they claim, is education, and the president was signing a huge education bill, the first question from the press was-

“Mr. President, do you agree with Deborah O’Leary that Jack Wooden is a racist?” asks our old friend Danny Concannon. “And if not, do you plan on asking for her resignation?”

Jed sings O’Leary’s praises. Danny insists that doesn’t answer his question. Jed was hoping he wouldn’t notice. He says that he agrees with O’Leary that the Republican party doesn’t have a plan for combatting poverty, but that there are Republicans who are working hard on the issue and that he, Jed, is working with them. Danny says, “I’m sure that was an answer to some question, Mr. President, but it wasn’t the answer to mine,” which is a good line and I’ve definitely used it in a classroom setting a time or two.

Back to Josh in the lecture hall. “If only we’d stopped it right there,” he says. But it took them all too long to realize that there was no C.J. to manage the press. Dun dun dun!

Back at the signing, the president continues that O’Leary went too far in assigning motive to Wooden and the Republicans, and that O’Leary would be meeting with Leo later, and that “an apology would be appropriate.” This causes the senior staff to groan, and Sam finally jumps in and says the president’s late for lunch with the U.N. Ambassador. Who, Toby mentions as they pedeconference out, is in Portugal.

Josh in the lecture hall continues to lament that they didn’t step in, when his phone rings. He uncomfortably excuses himself from the stage and takes the call. It’s Toby. They’re lost. They’re hoping Josh, being from Connecticut, knows which exit they should take for Wesley. Sam thinks they’re not lost. Josh says he’s in the middle of something, hangs up, and returns to the stage, claiming the call was about the trade deficit. I guess that’s what you say when you don’t want follow-up questions. Anyway, he tells the audience that now, the day was about the showdown O’Leary was about to have with the president, and if she would apologize, and if she didn’t, if she’d be fired. “And the day was about to get worse. Because I was about to step to the plate.”

After what was presumably a commercial break, we’re in the car with Sam and Toby. Toby is fretting but Sam is using “celestial navigation.”

Josh, in the lecture hall, reminds us that O’Leary’s on her way and she’s going to be angry.

And, in fact, Deborah O’Leary is yelling at Leo, asking why the president would demand an apology without hearing her side of the story. It’s the standard argument on this show. Moral High Ground vs. Political Reality. I won’t go into details. In the end, Leo tells her, she’s doing great work and the president loves her. “He’ll cry, for three minutes, when he fires your ass. Then he’ll ask what’s next?” She agrees, reluctantly, to swallow her pride and apologize, and Leo turns sympathetic.

I’m sure if I were better versed in race relations in this country, I’d have a shit-ton to say about this scene. But as far as I in my privileged and ignorant rich white girl position can tell, this is a pretty honest and not particularly offensive exchange.

Josh, in the lecture hall, surmises that this should have been the end of it. C.J. briefs, redirects to education, all is good. “Who here has had emergency root canal?” Josh asks the audience.

A day ago, C.J. knocks on Josh’s door. She has had emergency root canal. Which Josh entertains himself by making her say several times. 1. She’s got to cancel the briefing, she says. Well, bwiefing. Josh pretends he thinks she’ll be fine to brief, but he’s just amusing himself again. 1. But they still have to have a briefing, so Josh says he’ll do it. C.J. thinks that’s a very bad idea and tells Josh he gets “hostile”. Which he insists he doesn’t. Unless hostility is called for. C.J. says to have Sam do it. Josh claims he’s in Foggy Bottom, but only so that he can make C.J. say Foggy Bottom. 1. Sam, and Toby, are both busy, so Josh is going to brief. C.J. begs him to “twy vewy, vewy hard not to destwoy us.” 1. Josh replies, “You shouldn’t say that, C.J. You’ve got a great body.” 2 and 5.

Danny tries to stop Josh from doing this, but Josh dismisses him. “Let me tell you something, compadre. I’m not your girlfriend, 4 I’m not your camp counselor 4, and I’m not your 6th grade teacher you had a crush on 4. I’m a graduate of Harvard and Yale, and I believe that my powers of debate can rise to meet the Socratic wonder that is the White House press corps.”

Give him hell, Danny.

C.J. watches the briefing from her office, looking nervously.

In the lecture hall, clearly self-mocking, Josh says everything was fine, that he dispensed with the O’Leary matter, and that he was imposing discipline that he felt C.J. lacked. 4, but ameliorated by the fact that he is, right now, being self-mocking. But he’s mocking the self from a day ago, who was clearly being a misogynist pig. So the is for a-day-ago Josh.

In the briefing room, Josh is taking questions. Josh calls on Mike, who asks when is the last time the president had cigarette. Josh calls the question stupid, and C.J., in her office, despairs. Another reporter says it’s not a stupid question if the president’s going to be so anti-tobacco, and, to Josh’s claim that the president quit smoking years ago, that the president bummed a cigarette from her two days ago. Josh skips to another reporter, who just asks why he’s not answering the question about the president smoking, and Josh says he’ll look into it. He calls on Danny.

Danny asks Josh if the president is worried at all about the effects of low unemployment and increased wages on inflation. Josh starts saying that the president is pleased about dropping unemployment rates, but Danny insists on asking if he’s doing anything about inflation. Josh doesn’t really answer again and the smoking reporter asks if the president has a plan to fight inflation. “Twenty-four Ph.ds on the council of economic advisors, Katie,” Josh condescends. “They have a plan to fight inflation.” Danny pipes up. “Is the reason you won’t tell us about it because it’s a secret?” he asks.

“Yeah, Danny,” Josh sarcastics. “He has a secret plan to fight inflation.”

In her office, C.J. puts her head in her hands.

In the lecture series, Josh acknowledges that this is when the wheels came off the wagon. The host says this is a good time for a break and invites everyone to stretch their legs. Josh goes out to the hall and starts dialing Toby, but first receives a compliment from a nubile co-ed. 6.

Toby and Sam are still lost. That celestial navigation thing doesn’t work if the thing you think is the North Star is actually the Delta Shuttle. Toby is annoyed but Sam seems unperturbed. Josh razzes them about getting lost, so Toby razzes him about the secret plan to fight inflation. (This, incidentally, is the one misuse of the frame. There should have been indications earlier – even if we didn’t understand them – that Toby was pissed at Josh for something.)

As it turns out, Toby and Sam have, in fact, found the Wesley police station.

The two of them walk in and befuddle the police officer at the desk. In his very Sam way, Sam says, “Officer Peter, we’re in a certain amount of trouble tonight, and the only thing I’ve got going for me is that you’re in more trouble than we are. My name is Sam Seaborn, I work for the president, and the sooner you reach the conclusion I’m telling the truth, the  better off we’re all going to be. Why don’t you go get your watch commander?” The officer does so.

Sam turns to Toby and geeks about directions. Toby is very not interested.

Sergeant McNamara comes out and reacts with hostility to the problem Sam describes. Then the officer shows him a newspaper photo with Toby and Sam next to the president. As the sergeant is goggling, the phone rings, and Sam advises he get that, because it’s likely the governor of Connecticut. (Is it, though? We never see or hear about that again.)

In the lecture hall, Josh acknowledges that he fell for Danny’s trick. In the briefing rom, the reporters are jumping on him. C.J. takes some more of her painkillers. Josh looks terrified and Danny looks smug.

Josh leaves the briefing room and Donna approaches him, trying to be sympathetic and failing. C.J. yells at him, Toby comes in to yell at him, and Josh fails to be as apologetic as he ought to be. And Toby makes fun of C.J.’s voice. 1.

Sam bursts in with a problem that’s not Josh. “The only thing that could make my day worse,” Toby says, in the style of all TV characters, “is if Roberto Mendoza got involved.”

Roberto Mendoza is involved.

Josh tells the lecture hall who Roberto Mendoza is, and that Toby’s in charge of his confirmation process, which is a BFD, and very difficult to do, especially with Roberto Mendoza, who is not so into the tais-toi et soi belle (“shut up and look pretty”) attitude Supreme Court nominees are supposed to adopt before their confirmation hearing.

C.J. is explaining to Leo that Roberto Mendoza has said to the Chicago Tribune that the president shouldn’t have asked Deborah O’Leary to apologize for calling Jack Wooden a racist. Only she still just had “woot canow” so Leo is too irritated to listen to her. 1. Sam repeats what C.J. said. Leo is pissed. He thought Mendoza was on vacation in Nova Scotia. Josh laughs that there are still telephones in Nova Scotia, and everyone in the room sends “STFU” vibes his way. When C.J. tries to speak again, Toby shuts her down. 1.

Leo tells us that the president’s at a thing in New Orleans, at which there will be no press, so they’ll tell him when he gets back. Or, when he wakes up and gets to the office, which, after getting home at 3:30 am, will be at 7:00 am. Poor Mr. President.

Josh offers that the senior staff be with Leo “in spirit” when Leo tells the president what’s going on the next morning. Leo tells him they’ll be there in person, too.

Josh is telling the lecture audience that saying controversial things about the president’s allies has been a theme for Roberto Mendoza over the past few months. Then his phone rings again and he has to take it.

It’s Sam. They’re in. Toby goes in to a jail cell to talk to Mendoza.

After the break, Josh is talking to the lecture audience again, telling them how Charlie Young has the second-hardest job in the White House, and that yesterday morning (or this morning), it’s Charlie’s job to wake the president up.

So we see Charlie trade work quips on the phone with the White House and be put through to the president. The very sleepy president keeps saying “What could you possibly want right now?” Charlie is very polite and professional. Jed professes to not know who he’s talking to or where he is but Charlie says, “Sir. I need you to dig in now. It was not a nightmare. You really are the president.” The president agrees to get up. I love this whole exchange.

Josh tells the lecture audience that Roberto Mendoza has been summoned to the White House, but that Mendoza planned on moseying to D.C. in about three days.

Charlie shows up in the residence to find the president still asleep. He wakes up the fairly hostile president but Charlie is unfazed. Because Charlie is the most professional person in the White House. He doesn’t even get mad when the president appears pleased that Charlie hasn’t even had the three hours of sleep that the president had.

The senior staff wait restlessly in one of the anterooms of the Oval Office. Possibly Leo’s office. I could tell if I had any memory. Or if they’d turn the lights on. Leo is flabbergasted that Mendoza is driving from Nova Scotia to D.C. Sam wants to talk directions.

The president enters, hostile, and they go into the Oval. They were in the Mrs. Landingham area, by the way. Josh starts explaining his part in the day’s catastrophe. The president is pissed, but holding himself together, despite Josh’s total idiocy. Toby then relays the Mendoza issue to the president, and Sam relays Mendoza’s travel plans, geekishly. The president hopes that nothing today makes any of this any worse.

The rest of the senior staff leave but Josh hangs around to apologize, and also mention the thing about smoking. The president continues not to kill Josh.

Josh wraps up his lecture, but when the host asks what ever happened with Mendoza, Josh says that Mendoza is still en route. What’s actually happening, of course, is that Mendoza is in jail.

Sam waits in the lobby of the police station. The sergeant says he was the one who pulled him over, and isn’t entirely convinced Mendoza wasn’t drinking. Sam says Mendoza has chronic persistent hepatitis, a non-progressive form of liver inflammation, and does not drink because drinking would kill him. If he drank enough to be considered a drunk driver, he’d be dead. Great info, Sam, but does the sergeant of the Wesley police department need to know Mendoza’s medical condition? Isn’t that kind of private?

In the jail cell, Toby asks Mendoza why he didn’t take the Breathalyzer. Mendoza feels that, given that he was driving fine, etc., the Breathalyzer is an illegal search. Toby’s like, “Oh, my God, just call me instead of going to jail,” but Roberto Mendoza is TNFTS. Also they pulled him over because he’s Hispanic.

Toby wants to leave but Mendoza wants to fight this out. He’s pissed because his kid was in the car and saw him be arrested. Toby points out that his kid has also seen him in his judge’s robes with a gavel in his hand, but he claims that his kid doesn’t understand that. Because of TV. I’m not sure you’re correct about that, Roberto Mendoza. I think if he understands what police are, and his actual father is an actual judge, he has a pretty good idea of what a judge is, but I know that’s not what this is really about.

Toby is sympathetic. He promises that he really understands Mendoza’s anger and humiliation, but also, Mendoza is going to be a fucking Supreme Court judge if he stops pulling crap like this, and that Mendoza will be in a position not only to make his family proud, but to make this better for other “pissed-off guys with dark skin” (Mendoza’s words) in America. It’s a little white-guy-explaining-to-brown-guy-how-to-be, but it’s also human and well-acted, so I’m okay with it. I, not being a brown guy.

Out in the lobby, the desk officer wants to know if Sam has missile codes. Sam says he does. Toby and Mendoza come out. Toby collects Mendoza’s stuff. The sergeant looks uncomfortable. Toby insists that the sergeant apologize to Mendoza, and to his son. The sergeant agrees quickly.

Sam calls Josh to tell him it’s over, and Josh, at the lecture, promises that this is the last time his phone will ring. He says there’s another part of this story he can’t tell right now, but they should ask him back after the Senate confirms Mendoza.

No Bechdel test was passed this episode. Only three women spoke, never to each other, and two very briefly. 10.

TMP: 20  And most of them were earned using C.J. for comedy relief, in a way that directly undercut her ability to do her job.

I will say, though, that this episode should be taught in writing classes for how to use a frame, because it’s so well done. First of all, Josh as a character is at his charming best in that lecture hall. Second, there’s a connection between the frame and the story being told, and you don’t know about it until you need to know about it. Third, we move in and out of the frame exactly enough to keep it relevant and to use it well. Also, the writing is tight as anything this episode. See how often I quoted directly? That’s because I couldn’t improve and I didn’t want you to miss out. It’s a really, really well-done episode and serves as a good reminder that, for all that I bitch, I love this show.

Grammys 2016

Kate: Honestly, this is my least favorite award show to cover because it makes me feel SO old and uncool when I don’t know who the F anyone is.

Erica: And if YOU feel old and uncool, try to imagine how I, who have never been cool about music, even when I was a teenager, feel.

Kate: Whatevs, we can judge everyone’s fashion choices even if we don’t know them. I do it on the street all the time. And at least Adele is back this year!

Erica: Yes, why should we let ignorance stop us?!


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Kate: Ok so I was hoping for something a little different/more daring since she lost all the weight, but this is pretty much what she’s always done with slightly less dramatic hair and makeup.

Erica: She lost weight? That dress does not really show it. And I don’t love the hair.

Kate: It’s ok, it’s ok, she’s too much of an angel sent to us from heaven for me to care too much about what she’s wearing. Ugh, I love her so much.

Erica: You know, I haven’t listened to her new album. I don’t know what “Hello” sounds like. That’s how out of it I am.

Kate: Please tell me you’ve watched that amazing video of her singing in the car with James Corden?

Erica: You know, I knew that it existed, I just hadn’t watched it.

Kate: Ok, stop looking at Grammys dresses and go watch that RIGHT NOW. Then come back.

Erica: So understand that this is not just my first viewing of that video but my first hearing of “Hello.” So…Does Adele just have a direct line to my tear ducts? WTF? Also, how is she so cool? How does she have that voice and those songs and a seemingly awesome, totally chill personality and she’s pretty, too (or at least very good at eye makeup)? What am I even doing with my life? I’m feeling a little inadequate right now. (Also, you know, I could make fun of the Spice Girls thing. I sure as hell would have counted it as a mark against her when I was a teenager. But then I had a little girl and started doing Just Dance and, you know what, I quite happily dance to the Spice Girls on that, so who am I to talk?)

Kate: How? Because she’s an angel, like I said. I actually like her performance look a lot better:

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Erica: To me, the performance dress is sort of more of the same. But you’re right. Who cares? She sings like Adele. And writes songs like Adele. And applies makeup like Adele. And seems like a totally cool person like Adele.


Anna Kendrick

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Kate: Less than thrilled by this — isn’t she usually a little more daring and sexy?

Erica: I don’t usually love her red carpet looks, I don’t think. This is, you know, a little underwhelming. A little dated? I don’t know, I think she can do better.


Ariana Grande

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Kate: Overall adorable, but when is she not?

Erica: I thought she had dropped the high ponytail as part of her look, but here it is. It’s good; I like it. You should keep what works.

Kate: I think she changed it from half-up high pony to full-up high pony.


Bella Hadid

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Kate: Housewives alert! Housewives alert!

Erica: Poor Bella. Imagine looking like her and still not being the “pretty” sister.

Kate: This is a little like Morticia Addams threw sparkles all over herself, especially with the slicked back hair behind the ears, but it kind of works on her. She is really quite gorgeous.

Erica: I like it. It’s very Grammys. I mean, normally, I don’t like all black and slicked back hair, but it’s very appropriate for the occasion. I’d ask what she’s doing there, but where else should models congregate than at the same places as rock stars?

Kate: She’s there because she’s dating The Weeknd!

Erica: Naturally.


Carrie Underwood

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Kate: Oooooohhh I love it.

Erica: Very glam.

Kate: I think it perfectly compliments her body and you know I love me a nice, elegant black gown. I maybe would have gone with a different necklace or no necklace, a slightly lower slit and lighter makeup, but overall fab. Best Dressed nominee!

Erica: I like the necklace. I don’t like the hair. It’s the same as Adele’s hair, but with a side part.




Kate: This is where I draw the line with the slit. Come on.

Erica: Okay, no, I don’t like the dress. It doesn’t make any sense as a garment at all and it’s not attractive or pretty or interesting in anyway.

Kate: It’s like someone suddenly stopped sewing a potentially great dress, and then Ciara threw on a sheer black scarf to cover her left boob, and tied it all together. Terrible.

Erica: BUT. Look at that body on her. That is crazy town. That is the genetic lottery plus an absolute commitment to excellence. I must applaud it. If I were her, I would just put on a tiny little slip and a big diamond necklace and call it a day.

Kate: Yes. And her hair and makeup are, of course, on fleek.


Demi Lovato

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Kate: I. Am. So. Over. Tuxes. On. Women. SO OVER IT!

Erica: I will never be over the tux on women, if it’s done right. This is not done right. It’s not done right because the jacket is not evocative enough, and it’s not done right because tuxes don’t have skirts.

Kate: The skirt makes it a thousand times worse. Are there no other ways to be “alternative” and “buck trends” on the red carpet, Demi? ARE THERE NO OTHER WAYS? Worst Dressed nominee!

Erica: Oh, I wouldn’t go that far. (Although I haven’t looked at everything yet.) I am enjoying her necklace and understated makeup.


Ellie Goulding

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Kate: Oh my god, I love it so much.

Erica: From the front, I like it fine. It’s very nice on her. From the back, it’s even better.

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Kate: What a lovely shade of pink, perfect material and silhouette on her, elegant in the front and sassy in the back. Perfect hair and makeup. Best Dressed nominee! (Only thing I’d change is the necklace.) And I can’t get enough of that song — WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOOOORRRR?

Erica: I’m very annoyed that the Fifty Shades movie got good things, like this song, or really very nice OPI nail colors.


Florence Welch

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Kate: Even with the sequined dragonfly and star and moon patches, this is actually fairly normal for her, no?

Erica: For her, yeah. Does she have young daughters? Because this definitely looks like something a 4-year-old, particularly girly, little girl might design. Which is not exactly a criticism.

Kate: What about a 7-year-old little girl, like Zoe? I feel like she’d like this, except for the pink.

Erica: Honestly? This is a little immature for Zoe.

Kate: The pink looks better on Ellie Goulding than on Florence, but I don’t think she gives one F about it.

Erica: I think that’s an accurate assessment.


Kacey Musgraves

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Kate: So she’s the one who had that INSANE hair at the CMA Awards that one time. This is much tamer.

Erica: I don’t love it. But I like how it’s just the right amount of nuts.

Kate: I actually really like it — it’s got elements of elegance (I like the sound of that, “elements of elegance”) mixed with funk, which is exactly what one should wear to the Grammys. The lipstick may be a little too matchy-matchy with the dress, and I maybe wish the whole dress were all purple instead of purple, blue, and green, but I lurve the eye makeup AND even the high pony.

Erica: I like that she lets the dress be nuts and then she has simple hair and relatively simple (but matchy) makeup. She’s got a point of view when it comes to clothes (or her stylist does) and I appreciate that.


Kaley Cuoco

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Kate: She continues to confuse me, but for some reason I like this sparkly jumpsuit, even with the cutout. It sort of looks like she repurposed something Kate Hudson has worn.

Erica: It is, you’re right, very Kate Hudson. But I still don’t like it.

Kate: I don’t like the tousled hair with it; it would look better with a slicked-back bun. I also think the length of the pants is extremely tacky, and the overall thing is probably too casual for the Grammys, but her level casualness or fanciness honestly doesn’t matter. Meow!

Erica: I hate the hair a lot. You can’t just ignore your dye jobs and then call it ombre! (I say this with extraordinary umbridge for someone whose grays are reaching past her ears right now.)

Lady Gaga

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Kate: Remember when I was bored by her black dress at the Golden Globes and wanted her to start doing this again? Be careful what you wish for.

Erica: I mean, it’s not a dress made of meat or anything.

Kate: I think this is related to her David Bowie homage, and it is true Gaga, but that doesn’t mean it looks GOOD.

Erica: Oh, wait, if it’s about David Bowie, I forgive all. Sniff.


Meghan Trainor

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Kate: She has red hair? Wasn’t it blonde?

Erica: It was, but I like it red.

Kate: Ok, yes, she confirmed during her pre-show interview with Ryan Seacrest that she used to be blonde. I’m actually really into her lately.

Erica: Yeah? I feel so torn. On the one hand, her songs are so catchy and fun. On the other hand, they have really not so great messaging. I do find it hilarious — her “All About That Bass” is on the latest iteration of Just Dance, but the lyrics have been all messed around. Instead of “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” it’s something like, “Boys like you for the beauty they find inside.” I’m like, come on now. That’s not what the song is.

Kate: Anyway, this is kind of what I wanted Adele to wear, but it looks really nice on Meghan here. It’s not the most daring thing to wear to your first (or second?) Grammys, but how daring are you going to get when your dad is your date?

Erica: Aw, that’s cute that her dad is her date. She does dress like alternative-universe-Adele a lot, though.


Selena Gomez

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Kate: Still over the sequins AND the cutouts, but I get that they’re both appropriate for the Grammys.

Erica: Yeah, to me, this is a very basic Grammys dress. Not bad, not remarkable.

Kate: I just feel like she’s done this before and I want to see her do other things. She also looks extremely displeased to be there, which honestly always everything worse.

Erica: Maybe that’s just her face.

Kate: Hang on, she changed into something different to present — I like this MUCH better! Why didn’t she just wear this the whole time?

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Erica: That is prettier. Not particularly more interesting, but prettier.


Taylor Swift

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Kate: Oh god.

Erica: So, we have recently become Swiftys in this house, which has been weird for me. But this? I am not in love.

Kate: Can we start with the INSANE amount of bronzer or spray tan or other fake tan or all of the above on her arms/shoulders/chest? Does that not rub off on people when she hugs them? Ew!

Erica: Heehee. Now that’s going to be part of my imagination all day — that her “squad” is covered in rubbed-off tanner and can’t say anything because Taylor will throw a hissy fit but behind her back they’re all, “Weren’t you supposed to help her with this? Is she about to hug Paul McCartney? Should we stop her?”

Kate: And I get that she has a sick body that can pull off something like that, but that doesn’t mean she should. It’s a pair of shiny hot pink bloomers with a huge shiny hot pink skirt around it and a red bandeau top! Why not just do the red bandeau top as a whole slinky column dress? She looks great in red.

Erica: Those are not bloomers. But I agree, this is not a great look.

Kate: Fine, it’s a bathing suit bottom. I don’t even hate the choker, and I usually do, or the fresh-cut bob with bangs, save for the grey blonde color. (I hate that trend.) The one positive thing I have to say: Excellent face makeup. But really can’t get over that bronzer.

Erica: I mean, look, she’s been perfect on the red carpet for ten years. She was bound to have a misstep.

Kate: Ian thinks she looks “ridiculous”, and he means that in a good way. So there you have it.


Tori Kelly

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Kate: Hey I actually know who this person is, and I like one of her songs! Wait, two!

Erica: I don’t at all know who this person is.

Kate: Well, watch those videos. I think this is nice if not a little boring? It’s more of a Golden Globes dress than a Grammys dress — maybe one borrowed from Kate Winslet? — but she’s a pop singer and doesn’t get invited to the Golden Globes. The color is great on her, and her hair looks very luscious and sassy.

Erica: I like the hairstyle but I don’t love the blonde color on her. The dress is fine but unremarkable.



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Kate: Is that hair a joke or a prank? Something in retaliation of Giuliana Rancic’s comments about her hair last year, which was the catalyst that unraveled Fashion Police for the umpteenth time?

Erica: Well, she’s usually wearing something weird.

Kate: Whatever it is, I hate it. And the tux.

Erica: Actually, I think this is a better tux than Demi Lovato’s. Too bad the hair is so dreadful.

Kate: So before we get to Best and Worst dressed, I have to say that a lot of these outfits look a LOT better on TV and in motion than in still photos. It must be really hard for these ladies to figure out how to look best in both, but I can’t feel too sorry for them.

Erica: Yeah, I’ll cry on the inside. So Best Dressed? I’m leaning Ellie Goulding.

Kate: Yes! And I’m listening to her RIGHT NOW!

Erica: Worst Dressed, I hate to do it, but looking over our choices, I’m going to have to say Ciara. Because that is, actually, the worst dress. Even if her body is slammin’.

Kate: Totally ok with that. Now we have less than two weeks to prepare for the Mother of All Award Shows! Until then, loyal readers!

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.14, “Take This Sabbath Day”

Boy, it’s been a while. And now I have other shows I want to do, in other formats. So I’d better get my ass in gear.

As 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 (or, sometimes, maternal qualities) 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia

And a ! for every piece of evidence that Toby and C.J. are FwB, and a TNFTS for every time the boys are Too Noble For This Shit.

Ugh, I forgot. I kind of hate this one. I actually like the rhythm of it, if that makes any sense. Although if you’re an Aaron Sorkin fan, you probably do. I just find it somewhat boring and pedantic and also, there’s going to be a limited amount of stuff about girls.

Oh, way, no, this is the episode in which Joey Lucas is introduced. There will be a little.

Also, I have the strong feeling I’ve done this recap before, at least in part. But I can find no evidence on WordPress that this is true.

Okay, so, previously on “The West Wing,” nothing at all happened that will be relevant in this episode.

It’s Friday evening at the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s apparently time for retrenchment at the U.S. Supreme Court, because damn, it is dark. We saving on electricity here? The Supreme Court is announcing that they will not be staying the execution of somebody. That somebody’s three lawyers – the tallest one in particular – look very disappointed. Or at least they would, if I could see their faces.

Those three lawyers pedeconference outside the Supreme Court. The short, Jewish-looking one and the the bald black one argue about who they know at the White House, that they can call at 8:00 on a Friday night. The bald, black one surmises that they’ll only be able to get ahold of the switchboard operator. But the tall one in the middle, who’s a total Hey, It’s That Guy!, used to beat up Sam Seaborn in high school.

At the White House, Josh is excited to leave and get to his friend’s bachelor party. Donna reminds him that he has to see Sam before leaving. As they pedeconference over to the Sam part of the building, Donna reminds Josh that his system is too delicate for a lot of drinking, and Josh informs Donna that while men do still like naked women, they no longer enjoy looking at them in a room full of their best friends. This whole exchange is very Donna-as-Josh’s-mother-and-girlfriend, so I’m giving it a but it’s also very cute.

Bonnie (ah, Bonnie is the black assistant whose face I can rarely see!) reminds Sam that he wanted to see Josh about O’Dwyer. As Sam and Bonnie get ready to go, Sam explains that he made an appointment with O’Dwyer’s campaign manager, Joey Lucas, for the next day. But Josh will have to take it because Sam will be sailing. Josh is not pleased, and neither is Donna when Josh tells her if he has to be there, so does she. She was planning on going shopping. He mollifies her by offering to buy her shoes afterward, which, yes, 4, but also, mildly cute.


Sam tells Bonnie he’s seriously leaving, as she cheers him on, clearly trying to get out of there as well. No pager, he says. No cell phone. Well, maybe pager. Maybe cell phone. But he’s leaving. Now! Except, as we knew, his phone rings. And he stays to answer it.

After the credits, Sam is meeting somewhere outside with Bobby, the tall lawyer who used to beat him up. Bobby is being pretty belligerent now in insisting that Sam force the president to pardon his client. But this is an Aaron Sorkin show, so belligerence is an effective persuasion tactic. Sam says he’ll try, and even reveals when the president lands the next morning and where Toby Ziegler goes to shul on Saturday mornings. FFS, Sam.

Sam heads back to the White House to get his stuff and tells Leo what’s going on. Leo is not happy and says they thought the court was going to send it back to the 7th circuit. Sam says he’ll brief Toby before he goes. When Leo asks why they don’t just execute him tonight, why the execution is scheduled for Monday at 12:01 am, Sam tells him it’s because we don’t execute people on the Sabbath. The Jewish or the Christian one.

Isn’t the Muslim Sabbath Friday? Shouldn’t we be trying to improve the perception in our society of Islam so that we can parlay that into all Sabbaths being non-work days? Let’s get on this, people.

Sam goes to sign out of the building, and then, completely predictably, comes back to his office. And then he doesn’t take off his coat and he only turns on his little desk light and starts to read this enormous law book. Did Aaron Sorkin use up NBC’s electricity budget? Why are there no lights on in this episode?

It’s Saturday at 9:00 am. Donna is in the office. She finds a very smelly Josh asleep on his office floor. There is a red fringe-y thing around his neck. Donna starts pestering him. Yes, Josh came there after the party, which just ended a couple of hours ago. He couldn’t go home because he couldn’t find his house keys. Or his house. He is both hungover and still drunk. Donna is super-pissed. And disgusted. I have to give this a 4. It’s all very “Oh, my God, why is this stupid girl bothering me about stupid girl things?”

Donna says she’s going to find him clothes and then says, “Are you going to listen to me from now on?”

“I’m not even listening to you right now,” Josh replies. 5.

“I SAID ARE YOU GOING TO LISTEN TO ME FROM NOW ON?!” Donna knows he’s hungover. So good for her. -5.

The president has landed and Leo is greeting him. C.J. is demonstrating how little she fears for her job by complaining loudly and bitterly about the president’s conversation on the flight. -5. Charlie is very tired. Leo gives the president a very brief version of the 411.

Donna has brought Josh Sam’s foul-weather gear so that Josh won’t be naked while Donna goes to have his suit dry-cleaned. Why doesn’t Josh have extra clothes at the office? He pulls overnighters all the time. Josh fears he’s going to look like the Gordon’s fisherman.

Toby is in shul. The rabbi has just started his sermon when Toby’s pager goes off. Toby goes outside and calls back Sam, who asks if the rabbi is giving a sermon about capital punishment. He is. Vengeance is not Jewish, the rabbi is saying, in a very Jew-y accent. Sam says the appeal was denied and promises to explain when Toby gets to work.

“Are you the unmitigated jackass who’s choking off funding for the O’Dwyer campaign?” someone busts into Josh’s office, yelling. Look, you start off a question with, “Are you the unmitigated jackass” and the answer is “Yes. Yes, it’s Josh. For sure.” It’s actually two people yelling, Marlee Matlin in sign language and her translator. Josh is very much not catching what’s going on. And he’s in an undershirt and suspendered yellow plastic pants.

There must be something made about how Joey is a woman, not a man, and also, how silly Josh looks. Joey is not impressed with how hungover/still drunk Josh is. Donna comes in with Josh’s clothes. They exit so Josh can change, and Donna observes that Joey Lucas is a deaf woman, and also, that Sam needs to see Josh. Josh wants to know why Sam is there, and Donna says all she knows to say is, “The appeal was denied.” Josh is saddened.

Toby is clarifying with Sam that Toby’s rabbi spoke to Lawyer Bobby. Mandy is there to ask Exposition Fairy questions, but a) it’s believable that she might not know, as she’s a public relations person, not a policy wonk, and she’s not asking obvious questions, and b) it is a legitimate part of her job right now to be asking these questions. So no points for that.

Everyone splits to do their jobs, and Josh says he’s meeting with Joey Lucas. Sam asks what “he’s” like, and Josh responds, “Well, for a campaign manager, he’s got very nice legs.” Is there a more asshole way to have answered that question? 2. But I wish I could give it many 2s.


When Josh leaves, Toby continues wondering how Lawyer Bobby knew he went to shul. Then Toby doesn’t fire Sam when Sam reveals that Sam told Lawyer Bobby.

Leo gives the president some info about the case. The president is not looking forward to dealing with this. When Leo leaves the room, the president asks Charlie if he would want to see the guy who killed Charlie’s mother executed. Charlie says he’d want to kill the guy himself.

Which, in my opinion, is the reason we shouldn’t have the death penalty. But that’s neither here nor there.

Joey Lucas is arguing about how the DNC could cut off funding just as O’Dwyer is doing so well. Josh informs her that it’s precisely because O’Dwyer’s doing well. The person he’s campaigning against is such a right-wing nut job that every one of his soundbites is worth $1 million in the DNC’s coffers. Joey wants to see the president. Josh calls her a “lunatic lady” 8 and says that there’s no way she’s going to see the president. Of course the president walks up behind him at that moment. The president invites them all on a pedeconference. Joey gloats.

C.J. asks Carol for biographical information on Simon Cruz, the guy about to be executed. First, she’s going to need to know how to spell his last name.

The president determines that Joey Lucas is a Dutch Quaker from Pennsylvania. As they settle into the Oval Office, the president asks Joey what she thinks he should do about Simon Cruz. Joey thinks the death penalty is wrong. The president says it’s supported by 71% of Americans. Joey says that’s a political problem. The president says he’s a politician.

Josh goes to usher Joey and her translator Kenny out of the office, but Joey is a focused woman. She asks the president about O’Dwyer. The president says O’Dwyer is an “empty shirt” who’s running for Congress “because it’s a great gig.” Meanwhile, “the devil you know” is better. Then he dismisses her, because he’s done with her. 5.


Kenny politely says goodbye to Josh. Joey makes rude hand gestures. I like her.

Toby is back at shul, where a woman is practicing a song for a funeral service. The rabbi is sitting in otherwise empty pews. I think it’s Sunday morning now. The rabbi gets the episode title when he tells Toby he was hoping he’d “take this Sabbath day” to consider the death penalty. Toby points out that while vengeance might not be Jewish, neither is the president. He’s Catholic, though, and Catholics are also anti-death penalty. But of course, the president can’t make these decisions based on religion. They argue about the Torah for a little while. Then Toby says he thinks that the woman practicing the song was put there for his benefit, and the rabbi acknowledges that she was. Boy, that’s a great plan right there, isn’t it? What if Toby hadn’t shown up until, oh, four o’clock in the afternoon? Was that woman just supposed to sing sadly all day?

C.J. is staring into space when Mandy comes in and asks if she has everything. C.J. claims to have no position on capital punishment, but that she wishes she didn’t know his mother’s name when she is the one who has to tell the president when he’s dead.

I think this passes the Bechdel test, btw. -10.

Although I don’t know what to do with the fact that the two senior staffer women are the two senior staffers who don’t necessarily think the death penalty is wrong. I think I might give this an 8.


Toby goes in to the fairly dark Oval to talk to the president. Toby tells the president about his conversation with his rabbi. He tells the president that while the Torah doesn’t prohibit capital punishment, the rabbis of the Talmud made it damn near impossible to use. Toby thinks that we should do the same. Then Leo comes in and Toby goes with a sheepish look that makes me fall even deeper in love with him.

The president says he can’t commute the sentence just because he doesn’t like the death penalty; it’ll leave the next guy with huge 8th amendment (no cruel and unusual punishments) problems. Leo thinks he can let that be the next guy’s problem. An assistant comes in to announce that Sam is waiting. The president asks for a minute and then shakes his head at Leo.

Leo, perfectly comprehending, goes out and walks Sam away. Sam is righteously indignant but Leo doesn’t care. He says this was all bungled from the beginning, and that, had he known that the court wouldn’t send it back to the 7th circuit, he’d have kept the president out of the country until Monday so that they wouldn’t have to handle this. Sam is very disappointed by that. “There are times, Leo, when we are absolutely nowhere.”

Josh is at a hotel bar where someone’s playing piano. Joey and Kenny walk in. Joey’s not pleased to be meeting him. She says her flight’s in one hour. Ah, the pre-9/11 days, when you could set up a meeting an hour before your flight. Josh is apologizing on behalf of the president, although not particularly well, which is not surprising for the president or for Josh.

Of course, this being a Sorkin teleplay, Joey does not mind the bad apology and concedes that her candidate is indeed a schmuck. Josh says the president thinks that Joey should run for something herself. Joey is touched.

It’s Sunday at 11:57 pm. The president’s hometown priest, played by Karl Malden, whom I know best from his role in the movie Gypsy, comes to talk to the president. He asks about the red phone and sort of gushes about how amazing it is that this kid from his parish can just call the pope. The president is not at all charmed by Karl Malden, though I kind of am.

Jed really wants Karl Malden to know that he tried to find a way to commute Simon Cruz’s sentence. But even though he prayed about it, no wisdom came to him, and he’s pissed off about that. Karl Malden tells the classic tale of the guy in the flood who refuses to evacuate his home, because God will save him. The flood waters are rising, and he refuses to get on a rowboat, because God will save him. The flood waters are rising, and he refuses to get on a helicopter, because God will save him. He drowns. When he gets to heaven, God says, “What are you doing here? I sent you a warning to evacuate, a rowboat, and a helicopter!” Karl Malden tells the president that God sent him a priest, a rabbi, and a Quaker; he can’t complain that God gave him no wisdom.

C.J. comes in to tell the president that Simon Cruz is dead and we hear the woman from synagogue singing on the soundtrack. You gotta give it to us Jews, we do mourning music really well. So what does Jed want from Karl Malden? Just that Karl hear his confession.

The end.

TMP: 5 A very low misogyny count this week, although that’s mainly because this episode was about a BIG ISSUE, and women don’t have any business getting involved in BIG ISSUES.

And also because some of the women got their own back a little.