Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.20, “Mandatory Minimums”

Okay so listen. I know I don’t produce these recaps at a fast enough clip. But I do love doing them. So this one took me, oh, eleventy-hundred months to write. But I enjoyed all of those months and I’ll see what I can do about working at a steadier clip.

Also you need to know – if you don’t already – about two podcasts: The West Wing Weekly, with WW alum Joshua Malina and podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway, and Jed Bartlett is My President with Lani Diane Rich, formerly of StoryWonk and also romance novelist and professor. The first has some big deal guests – including Ed and Larry – and obviously some insight from Joshua Malina himself on what it’s like to work with the Big Guy. The second has a lot more feminist-y stuff, which I like, but she’s going out of order, which drives me crazy. I am not in general a Type A person, but there are some things…

Anyway, on to the recap.

Remember:

  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.

Last time on The West Wing, Josh failed to land Joey Lucas because she was sleeping with Q; a piece of paper was going around; Leo told the news room about his history of addiction; two seats opened up on the Federal Election Commission and Jed wants to get all outsider-president about how he picks new commissioners, which makes some Congressdude threaten Josh with a legislative agenda that will embarrass the president.

At the Sheraton Centre Hotel in D.C. (which, this is America, bitches; we spell it “Center”), the president is giving a speech about our episode title. He says he feels nervous about laws that assume you can’t trust Americans. I, for the record, do not. (Although I am against mandatory minimums.)

Jed is also against term limits. Ah, Jed. Here in 2017, so am I.

The press seems impressed with the speech, and C.J. is quipping. With a female reporter. They are both women, but they are talking about what the president had for breakfast . I have no idea if this passes the Bechdel test or not. C.J. tells the press they’re about to hear something interesting and she’ll talk more about it at the briefing later, in a sure-to-be-successful effort to get them not to bug her about it now. Danny tries to chat with her privately but she blows him off so she can go listen to Jed’s big announcement.

In another room, a Senator is mansplaining cognac to his staffers. Do I have a number for mansplaining? Not really, and I don’t care enough about this particular moment to make one. The guy who was pissed off about the FEC thing last episode, who I thought WAS a Congressperson but in fact is the chief of staff for Senator Cognac, draws the Senator’s attention to Jed’s speech on the telly. (Hey, if the speech is at a centre, it’s on a telly.) The senator hears the names of the people Jed is appointing to the FEC and is furious that his threats-by-proxy didn’t work.

Sam is kind of needling Josh about the call he’s about to get from Senator Cognac. Toby tells Sam to stop it, and Sam says Toby told him to do it, and Josh appears cool as a cucumber. Donna approaches Josh with his cell phone. It’s Senator Cognac. Josh calmly takes the call, tells the senator to “take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass.” He hangs up, in a move that definitely looks cooler with a flip phone than it would on a 2017 phone.

And on Cool-Guy Josh note, we get the swelling music!

After the credits, we’re in the briefing room with C.J., who reminds the press that the president has selected one Democrat and one Republican, “which he was under no legal obligation to do.” She also confirms to a reporter that they may not have told Congressional leadership that Jed was making this announcement, so Congressional leadership will be upset, as they expect to be the ones to choose new FEC chairs. Through all this, she’s sort of pointedly not calling on Danny. Another reporter wants to know if the president is declaring war on Congress, and we pan to Josh watching the briefing on a TV and encouraging C.J. (who cannot hear him) to say it’s a “police action.” She does not, but Josh seems pleased with her answer anyway.

Okay, wait, when C.J. answers a female reporter’s question, does that pass the Bechdel test? (Also, this confusion I am experiencing is not the Bechdel test’s fault. It’s the fault of television and movie scripts that force us to look for these little crumbs.) Either way, I guess I can put a -10 here.

Donna pulls Josh out to go see Toby about “polling”. Donna temporarily refuses to tell him that Toby is pulling in Al Kiefer, who you may remember from 1.16, “Twenty Hours in L.A.”, and whose face may or may not, depending on whether you watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and how you felt about his character Q, give you a visceral “No” reaction any time he appears on screen. It’s not your fault, John de Lancie, actor who plays Al Kiefer and Q. Or rather it is. For being such a good actor as the intensely irritating Q.

Anyway, Donna’s point is that, with Al Kiefer will be arriving Joey Lucas, who first charmed Josh in 1.14, “Take this Sabbath Day,” and then was sleeping with Al Kiefer in 1.16, but maybe not exclusively and maybe she’s interested in Josh and despite her stunning lack of taste in men, we like her. Josh pretends to be unfazed by this information and Donna pretends to believe him.

In the Toby area, the Toby assistants clap for Josh and his cool-guy flip-phone demeanor. Bonnie says they’re not allowed to talk like that in Indiana. Ginger, the Sheen, says in New Jersey, it’s encouraged. Speaking as a Jersey native transplanted to the Midwest, I can relate to both these ladies.

Josh finds Toby and Sam in Sam’s office. Toby is watching over Sam’s shoulder as Sam writes and says it’s good twice before saying he might want to come to a verb at some point. Sam says it’s imagery; Toby says it’s bad writing. I love this little byplay because it’s about writing and I love Toby but also if I were Sam I’d want to punt him through the wall and Sam doesn’t appear to want to do that so I love Sam a little, too.

The boys talk Al Kiefer, and how he’s only going to do what Toby orders him to do, which I’m sure will work out great. Also, given that English as the National Language is the first thing the Republican dudes threatened to put on the table, they want to gear up for that. Which means bringing in Joey Lucas and her Hispanic-heavy-California numbers. They are very concerned.

I feel like I should give this a number, this idea that a woman whom Josh finds charming but who didn’t sleep with him last time they saw one another is somehow a concern worthy of all of the professionals who work with Josh. But I can’t figure out which one. Maybe a for Joey being relegated primarily to romantic status.

But the more Sam talks about women in a very way, and also a little 4 for the mention of high heels, the more disheartened Josh looks, until finally Sam observes that nothing he’s saying right now is helpful and so he’ll just go back to his job. Josh leaves (after saying C.J. is doing great) and Toby mentions that Sam could use punctuation at any time, and Sam finally looks annoyed. I could 100% watch a show that is primarily devoted to Sam and Toby co-writing things.

C.J. is still killing it in the briefing room, agreeing with a reporter that the Federal Election Commission is generally “toothless,” but that the symbolism is still important. C.J. walks off and whispers something to Carol. Carol approaches Jack, a reporter sitting directly in front of Danny, and says C.J. wants to see him in her office for some follow-up. Jack gets all embarrassed and insists she must want Danny, not him – not because he and all of the reporters have been gossiping for months about Danny and C.J. possibly doing it, but because Danny outranks him.

Only ever on Sorkin shows do people committed to their intensely competitive jobs ever try to turn down major opportunities in their fields because it’s someone else’s turn. TNFTS!

Anyway, C.J. did not mean Danny, she meant Jack, and Danny is making many faces about this, but, because he is also Noble, he tells Jack to go.

On Tuesday morning, Sam is lecturing Toby about why mandatory minimums are bad, while Toby insists he knows. See, this is the point I was trying to make last episode. When it’s Donna, it’s, “Please, Josh, mansplain to me a thing that the real assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff would definitely know already, even if the average audience member wouldn’t.” When it’s Toby, it’s “I obviously already know this thing you’re telling me for the sake of the average audience member and I will mention with every sentence how much I already know this.” Anyway, the point is that Sam wants to do something, and Toby doesn’t want him to, so even though Toby said Sam was in charge of this thing, actually, Toby is still in charge forever and always. And they passed the breakfast place where they’re meeting Leo a block ago, but Sam felt they were having a nice conversation. You guys, I really love the Toby-Sam dynamic.

At the restaurant, Margaret is doing something weird with pencils. 4? I don’t know. It’s weird. Josh comes in, with Donna, complaining that they’re far from the office. Donna points out that Josh’s suit is particularly nice, because Joey Lucas is coming, and Margaret admires it, and it’s all very silly 4 in a way that Toby and Sam dragging Josh to their office to make sure he’s okay with Joey appearing wasn’t. Toby and Sam arrive – and by the way, they’re seated outside on this lovely terrace and it looks like a very nice place to get breakfast. Toby says they’re ready to go to the president with treatment vs. incarceration on drugs, and Sam also wants to go to him with stuff about getting rid of mandatory minimums (this being what they were talking about during their nice conversation), but Leo, like Toby, thinks they should do one thing at a time. And that Sam’s in-chargeness was not so much an actual thing.

Leo takes a call while the waitress comes over to take their order and has Margaret write some names down. The names are very Sorkin-y so I will record them here: Dalton. Dawson. Foxworthy. Greer. Morganthal. Stackhouse. Sugarbaker. Toby asks what that was, Leo says that Toby knows, and Toby says it’s the right thing to do. But what is it?! We don’t know yet. Boy, the audience anticipation you’re building better pay off.

Josh would like to clear up that he’s not dressed up specially for Joey Lucas and Donna insists it is. Leo threatens to fire them, as is his wont. They are unafraid of him and continue to argue about Joey Lucas. With a little homosexual side-eye thrown in. 13. I almost forgot I had a number for that.

Anyway, Leo feels that they’ve got to not screw up this week and also that he is perfectly calm, a statement which Sam disputes by using a word his mother made up and then everyone looks at him funny. I do that all the time, Sam.

In the Oval, Al “Q” Kiefer is telling them they’re going to lose. C.J. and Mandy head outside and C.J. says “Listen,” and they just stare at each other for a while until Mandy insists she wants to go over Leo’s head to talk to the president. Hey, this is definitely the Bechdel test being passed, though. So that’s cool. C.J. is telling Mandy that everyone is so pissed at Mandy that they’re pissed at C.J. and Mandy storms off in an uncharacteristically poorly framed shot.

Back in the Oval, Al hates Sam’s idea that we spend more money on drug treatment and less on drug enforcement. (Like, spend the same total amount of money on drug stuff, but flip more to the treatment side rather than the punishment side.) Al thinks it makes us sound soft on crime. Jed does not give a fuck. Al is very tired. And I am with the White House boys; Al Kiefer is always wrong and also he’s Q so I hate him. But then why do they keep paying him money to tell them stuff?

Charlie makes a cute little face at Josh to get him out of the room, because omg you guys Joey Lucas is here and Charlie is being just as much of a weirdo as everyone else around this issue. “She’s a fine-looking woman,” he repeats to Josh like 80 times, even though a) isn’t he 20 years old or so? Would a 20-year-old in 2000 use the phrase “fine-looking woman”? and b) 2. Joey is there to do a job. For real, guys.

In Josh’s office, Josh greets Joey and her translator Kenny and offers to show them to her desk. Josh is being rude and justifying it with “This is the White House, bitch,” but then Margaret brings flowers from Leo, so ha! He then says that “women” like to personalize their space with things like hand lotion (?) but he doesn’t like clutter 4 and also he’s a dick 5 because he likes her 2. Then she has her translator say very loudly that she’s not sleeping with Al Kiefer anymore 2,3 and Josh lectures her on professionalism. Hey, remember that time Josh thanked a reporter for favorable reporting by trying to help him get in the press secretary’s pants? Good times.

C.J. finds Josh and reports her mistake – it turns out that the president is, in fact, under legal obligation to nominate a Democrat and a Republican to the FEC. This still doesn’t make sense to me. If two don’t usually quit at a time, how can you always be appointing one Democrat and one Republican? (Also, are our political parties really locked into law like that? I’m not sure I approve.) Anyway, C.J., you made a stupid boo-boo. 7. Josh she’ll fix it in the briefing and don’t worry about it. This feels like a stupid scene. Like, why is Josh C.J.’s point person on this? Isn’t Toby her boss? Why does this need to be explained to Josh at all?

In the Oval, Sam persists in trying to persuade Al Kiefer that drugs are an addiction and not a crime. Al feels they can’t sell it. Toby says, in a tone of voice that implies everyone would agree, that, “This isn’t ideological; it’s science,” and I fall over because I’m sobbing so hard. “Science is science to everyone,” Toby says. I can’t even see the screen through my tears.

Josh comes in and wants Toby and Leo. In Leo’s office, Josh opens with Joey’s new relationship status, because this is pre-Facebook and they don’t all already know. Josh reports what C.J. said, like, why isn’t C.J. reporting this? Why did she tell Josh first? WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF THIS OFFICE I AM SO CONFUSED PLEASE SEND HELP.

Josh asks if Leo has talked to Sam about “the thing” yet. Josh, I’m sure Sam’s updated on Joey’s sex life. Oh, no, they need to talk to Toby about a thing. A thing where they want Toby to have lunch with his ex-wife because his ex-wife is in Congress and something something something FEC.

Toby goes off and Josh complains that Leo sent flowers. Because this is a Sorkin teleplay, Josh is under the impression that he, Josh, was successfully flirting with Joey when he was being a dick about the professionalism of the White House. Professionalism he’s displaying in spades right now by mitchering his boss about sending their new contractor flowers.

Josh goes and Leo calls in Margaret and asks for the names he gave her earlier. She repeats them back to him and he’s for some reason annoyed that she memorized them. 5.  He asks Margaret to get one representative from each of those people’s entourages at 2:00, in the press briefing room. He won’t tell Margaret what he’s up to. I’m in a mood so I’m giving that a 5, too.

Josh goes to check on Joey. He declares that her clock is an acceptable bit of personal decoration. Then he sits down and tells Joey all about the FEC and the retaliation and English as the Second Language. Joey knows this; she was briefed by Toby. I’m going to go ahead and give that a -9. A female character already knows the thing she’s having explained to her. See? I am not in such a bad mood that I cannot be generous.

Joey’s alarm goes off. It’s lunch time. Josh looks annoyed that his flirtation-by-way-of-being-a-jackass isn’t going well.

Sam and Toby feel they can sell the idea of spending money on drug treatment. Al disagrees. The president wants lunch.

Sam heads back to his area and Cathy tries to get him to commit to a lunch order. In Sam’s office is Senator Cognac’s chief of staff, the guy who was threatening Josh. Sam wants him to talk to Josh. Senator Cognac’s chief- Oh, Christ, this is too long. I think his name is Steve; let’s go with that, shall we? Steve thinks Josh is not being himself. “Take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass?” he says. But Sam says that sounds exactly like Josh. As do we all, but I like the opportunity for a joke. Steve wants to have lunch with Sam at Sam’s desk.

A beautiful redhead is on the lawn, trying to get Toby to sit with her. The ex-wife, then. They banter. It’s cute. She’s got pie. I’m giving this a 4 but also it’s cute. They of course must start walking before they can talk business, so they do. Gosh, D.C. is pretty. Andy (Andee? Andi?) wants to talk about mandatory minimums, Toby doesn’t, and they have a little ex-marital spat. Toby asks if she has a problem with what Leo is going to do, and she says she doesn’t but wants to be there, for fun. Toby complains about her wanting to have fun. 4.

Back in Sam’s office, Steve tells Sam that as long as they press on the FEC, there’s no room to work with them on the drug thing, which Steve knows is important to Sam. “With the FEC, you can go back to writing speeches for when the president talks to the Girl Scout who sells the most cupcakes.” Sam is called out of the office but makes a point to tell Steve that Girl Scouts sell cookies, not cupcakes, and that he wrote a great speech about volunteerism. Sam’s defense of the Girl Scouts is why Steve’s comment is not getting a number. I’m taking this show/Aaron Sorkin to task for displays of misogyny, not the characters. We’re clearly not meant to side with Steve.

C.J. comes to see Leo; his peeps are in the press briefing room. C.J. brings up her mistake and Leo chastises her pretty hard. 7. Leo peels off to his super special secret meeting in the press room, and Danny accosts C.J. to yell at her about ignoring him. They yell at each other for a while, and it’s mostly about C.J. not putting up with Danny condescending to her anymore. God, I hope that sticks. A -3, I think, for how this is a woman being in control, quick-witted, and strong in her own defense without it coming across as adorably “feisty.”

Leo greets his group. He starts talking and one of the group interrupts him right away, which, rude. But Leo can handle it. He tells them there’s going to be a debate about fighting the drug problem, and that the White House will be in favor of more money for treatment vs. punishment, while the people they work for – those names Margaret memorized – being more in favor of punishment. Oh, and Andy is getting to witness this, which strikes me as WHOLLY UNPROFESSIONAL but whatever. So why is he talking to the seven of them about this? But it’s because each of their bosses are connected to situations in which privileged people did not have to serve the “mandatory minimums” connected to the drug crimes they committed. Someone’s daughter was trafficking cocaine and got a slap on the wrist. Someone’s husband committed vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, got community service. Etc. “The president wants a lively debate but he’s not going to stomach hypocrisy.” If any of their bosses start saying anything about being soft on crime, Leo will make his information public knowledge. And Leo has C.J. open the doors to the press to demonstrate how easy it would be to do so. Yes, the payoff was worth all the mystery. Andy and I both enjoyed watching that scene very much. Toby did not enjoy Andy’s enjoyment. Aw, Toby. I like you.

Andy reveals to Toby that the previous night, she had been on a date and her date “bumped” a car in front of them and a cop was about to give them a ticket when he recognized Andy and didn’t. Toby says as long as Andy didn’t ask for such treatment, there’s no problem. Then he marvels that she was on a date with the “executive adviser” for the Baltimore Orioles. Is that a real job title? Come the fuck on.

They banter a little more but Andy is very serious about mandatory minimums and enjoyed seeing Toby. Toby asks her for pie. It’s very sweet. I love Toby. And Richard Schiff is so damn good.

It’s 11:30 pm. The president is asleep next to a bunch of open books and papers. Leo barges in because why the fuck, Leo? Jed doesn’t beat him over the head but lets him in instead.

Charlie drops in on Josh still at his desk. Charlie has noticed that Joey is still here and wants Josh to go over there and not be a dick but be nice instead. 2. But also it’s a good piece of advice, Josh.

Charlie leaves and Toby and Sam come in to tell Josh about Sam’s meeting with Steve. Josh and Toby find this whole thing hilarious. They think that Steve knows about Laurie, Sam’s hooker friend, and wants Sam out in front on something so that Steve can use Laurie to take Sam down. Sam is not nearly as amused by this as Josh and Toby are.

They leave Josh’s office and Josh sees Joey. Joey starts telling him about her research but Josh wants to give her this White House mug he got her. You know, to decorate her desk. Joey likes it. Josh kicks Kenny out and tells Joey that he did, indeed, wear his nicest suit for her. Joey smiles. Joey is 100% too good for Josh. I’m not into her highlights right now, but it was 2000 so she is forgiven.

Okay, so Leo woke the president up to talk to him about his feelings regarding drug treatment legislation and Leo’s own addiction. Jed, instead of being irritated at being kept awake for this, says nice, supportive things to Leo. Then C.J. comes in because this is a staff that comes up to the residence whenever they want to. I suspect this is acceptable in very few White Houses. I suspect this is one thing the Trump presidency and the Obama presidency have in common – that staffers are not permitted to wander at will into the residence at 11:45 at night. Anyway, C.J. wants to apologize for her mistake but Jed doesn’t care about the mistake and forgives her. Sam and Toby turn up. Because sure. And then Josh, too. And Josh tells Jed and the gang about the coffee mug. The president wonders why his Secret Service agents haven’t taken them all out. I am wondering the same thing. Sam wants to know where Jed is on the drug thing. He’s not anywhere because it’s nearly midnight and he wants to be a-fucking-sleep, Sam.

I know, I know, this is cute and Jed gets an opportunity to give the gang a pep talk in his pjs. I’m just being a curmudgeon.

Jed also tells them to be nice to Mandy and Danny now because they were both just doing their jobs.

Everyone leaves except for Toby and Leo. Toby says he met with Congresswoman Wyatt. Josh teases Toby about calling his ex-wife Congresswoman Wyatt and reveals that he enjoys calling his own wife Dr. Bartlett. Anyway, Andy’s turned Toby around on mandatory minimums. They’re racist. And Jed promises they’ll be part of the drug conversation.

Toby leaves and Jed tells Leo he’s sleeping better, dreaming of utopias, waking up and thinking he can sell those utopias. It’s a nice ending to a middling episode. Of course, middling episodes on this show kick the asses of episodes on ALL THE OTHER SHOWS OF EVER.

Total Misogyny Points:  Aw, shit, I didn’t keep a running tally. Okay, went back and counted. 15. That’s pretty light. I’d say the misogyny in this episode is light but heavily concentrated around certain themes – like, say, “Hey, Josh, we brought you a girlfriend!”  That theme.

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Misogyny& Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.19, “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet”

I started this one a long time ago. Then I had a baby. So they got put on hold. But a reader reached out recently to bemoan the lack of more of these, and, as many of you may know, a writer’s soul is a voracious beast, desperate for adulation, but one such voice can encourage it to great heights!

So half of this was written before baby. Also before election. And inauguration. So if the tone takes a sudden turn halfway through toward the extremely bitter and caustic, well, you know why.

  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.

Previously on “The West Wing”, Josh obnoxiously offered Mandy a job at the White House, and also, everyone in the White House is feeling super-dissatisfied with their work.

It’s Monday morning and Toby thinks it’s going to rain. Sam is vehemently denying this. Toby’s concerned because the opening line of the speech the president is giving a speech this morning that opens with “As I look out over this magnificent vista,” so if it’s raining, and the speech is moved inside, he won’t be looking over a magnificent vista. Sam thinks that the president can change that on his feet, but Toby thinks he’s not going to be paying that much attention to the five-minute speech he’s giving to the United Organization of Trout Fishermen. Sam insists it’s not going to rain. And then the thunder claps and the lightning flashes and it starts raining.

C.J. joins them as they leave their office and asks if they know about a piece of paper going around. That’s all the information she has on it, though. That it exists, and is going around.

Leo joins the pedeconference to inform them that people have already been moved inside because of the prediction of rain. C.J. asks about the president’s mood and Leo, in the tone of voice one uses when one is trying to be positive about a cranky toddler, says that the president seemed pretty happy today. C.J. doesn’t think that’s going to last.

And she’s not wrong. The president is pede-complaining to Mrs. Landingham and Mrs. Landingham is assigning his mood to the lack of roughage in his diet. 4. She’s always fussing about his food. Because she’s a girl. He threatens to beat her with a head of cabbage. 5. The president is irritated that Sam, Toby, and C.J. aren’t there already and Charlie says it’s because they didn’t know it was raining.

The three of them join the pedewhine. The Secret Service is in front and I just imagine that they are like camp counselors trying to keep a head count of their campers. The president does not seem excited that he’s addressing the United Organization of Trout Fishermen.

Josh joins the gaggle and informs the president that “the CBO’s going to revise its out-year projections” (I have no idea what that means.), two FEC (Federal Election Commission) officers resigned, and the NGA endorsed trigger locks. I assume trigger locks are when you can’t pull a trigger on a gun without the right finger print or some such thing, and that the NGA is the liberal version of the NRA. Toby seems interested in the first thing, about which I continue to have no idea. The president seems excited about the idea of getting to appoint two FEC commissioners. Leo and Josh try to tamp down his enthusiasm – the Senate leadership is going to pick people to fill those seats – but the president responds that he just wants to “dangle their feet in the water.” The water, in this case, being the nature of American democracy. By appointing two people to the FEC who actually want to reform campaign finance.

The president goes to speak and Leo’s like, “Don’t get your hopes up,” and Josh is like, “Yeah, don’t worry, I wasn’t,” but angry. Then the president, as Toby predicted, begins, “As I look out on this magnificent vista,” and Toby refrains from slapping Sam, for which he deserves some kind of medal. I feel you, Toby. I have so been there.

Credits!

MPTF: 2

Back from the credits, our favorite Exposition Fairy, Donna Moss, is asking Josh how this whole FEC thing works. And again, I understand that this sort of a thing is a service to the viewers. It’s useful here, too; I definitely didn’t know any of this stuff before this show told me. But when there are two dudes in a room and a concept with which they would be familiar needs explaining to the audience, they do it in other ways. Like one guy explaining it while the other talks over him, saying, “I know, I know, I know.”

Anyway, Josh explains that, while the president officially nominates candidates to the FEC, what actually happens is that the leadership in Congress of both parties picks “one Democrat and one Republican” (which I don’t understand how that works if it’s always only one person quitting at a time, which Josh claims is true). The president says, “Okay.” Donna thinks it’s great that they’re going to do it differently this time. Josh thinks it would be great if they actually were going to do that but in fact he’s just going to have a series of pointless meetings about it.

C.J. is being charming in the press room about Easter egg White House stuff. “The theme of this year’s event is ‘Learning is Delightful and Delicious,’ as, by the way, am I,” she says, which is cute but I have to give it a 2. She also promises that the “cats” of the American Egg Board are “party people.” She hops off the podium but calls reporter Steve to the side to ask him about the paper that’s out there. He claims to know nothing more than she does but also reminds her that he’s a reporter, so he’s not actually obligated to tell her if he finds out more.

Then Mandy approaches. She knows about the paper. She wrote the paper. It’s a memo she wrote while working for Lloyd Russell about the weaknesses of the Bartlett presidency and how to beat them for reelection. Mandy is embarrassed. C.J. is pissed. Mandy defends herself by saying that C.J. should bear in mind how pissed she, Mandy, was, at the senior staff, which strikes me as a very unprofessional argument. 8. Isn’t it more to the point to remind C.J. that, at the time, she was working for Lloyd Russell and the production of such a memo was her actual job? But the Bechdel test is being passed here! -10!

In Leo’s office, Margaret is trying to explain to her very disinterested boss 5 why the e-mail is not working and the whole conversation is extremely 4. She expects her boss to know who her friends are, like a girl5, and it all has to do with calories in raisin muffins, 4, and is being told in a really drawn-out way, 4, until Leo finally tells her he lost interest when she mentioned bran muffins, 4 5. It’s totally awful.

Josh comes in and Leo asks who he came up with for the FEC. Lightening flashes in the background. It looks pretty cool. Josh has the names of two people who are for aggressive campaign reform. Leo notes that the leadership will hate them both. He tells Josh to arrange meetings with the leaderships’ “top guys” – their Leos and Joshes, presumably – but not with the leadership guys themselves. (Oh, a 4 for the use of “guys”, as if these must all be men)(and I say that as person who frequently uses ‘guys’ as a unisex word, but they’re not). Josh asks Leo if the president thinks that they’re actually going to get somewhere with this and Leo says, “No.”

Then Josh asks about the e-mail and Leo is rudely dismissive. 5.

MPTF: 15

You think I’m being too harsh? Let me ask you this: What is the point of this e-mail sub-sub-sub-sub-plot? Does it have anything to do with anything else in this episode? No. It does not. I thought for a minute maybe the e-mail security breach had something to do with Mandy’s memo leaking, but if that’s so, it’s certainly not made explicit in anyway. So it’s just comic relief. And what’s the joke? Wherein lies the comedy? That Margaret’s batty determination to publicize the correct calorie count of the raisin muffins has brought down the White House e-mail server. Those crazy dames with their crazy priorities. That’s the joke. The whole joke. It’s mean, it’s misogynist, it’s not even that funny, and it’s wholly unnecessary.

Anyway, Toby and Sam catch Josh as he leaves Leo’s office and ask who he’s got for the FEC. Josh gives us their names – John Bacon and Patty Calhoun, for those of you keeping track at home, and btw, I’m pretty sure Patty Calhoun is supposed to be a woman, so they’ve done the task of pretending gender equality while never having her on screen, so unless I’m proven wrong, 11. Toby and Sam agree that neither of those people have a chance in hell of serving on the FEC, and Josh does not deny it. Josh leaves Toby and Sam to go to their meeting. Outside the door, Sam offers to do the talking. Toby is not interested.

In the room, Toby sits down with a bunch of uniformed guys and a couple of suited guys. They’re there to talk about gays and lesbians in the military. A subject on which we’ve actually made progress! Huzzah! (And crossed fingers.) Toby says they’re there so that they can give an informed recommendation to the president and one of the military guys asks pointedly what he thinks the result of Toby’s recommendation will be and Toby says it’s actually Sam’s recommendation and everyone in the room, including Sam, doesn’t think Sam’s recommendation will be very effective. Sam tries to throw around a little “He’s the commander-in-chief so the military will do what he says” language but another military guy says it takes an act of Congress to change the uniform code, so no, they won’t do what the president says. Toby smirks in self-deprecation, which is rarer than his “I’ve won, you fools” smirk, and notes that this will therefore be a short meeting.

Donna is asking C.J. about the eggs. Hey, more Bechdel test-passing. (Only worth one subtracted point per episode, though.) Then she tells C.J. Mandy is waiting for her, and Donna tells C.J. she wants to see Josh. Donna goes to her desk and C.J. finds Carol to talk about eggs for another sentence, then goes to her office where Mandy is. Did Janel Moloney and Melissa Fitzgerald (the actors who play Donna and Carol) not have enough lines this episode per their contracts? Because otherwise that minute was entirely pointless.

In C.J.’s office, Mandy gives C.J. the memo. Mandy does not know who has it and C.J. is going to read it. She tells Mandy to go back to her office and not answer any questions, and to count on a call when she’s done reading. There is much tension.

Back from what would have been a commercial break, we look up at the capitol building. It’s lovely. Josh is at a table being served nice snacks with a table of men, lecturing about money in politics. They all condescend to each other a little. Josh names his guys to fill the empty FEC chair seats, and the guys name theirs – Grant Calen (sp?) and Joe Barkley. Josh notes that they both oppose campaign finance reform. One of the condescending guys says, “We can’t have this meeting every time the president wakes up and decides to make the world better.” Need some aloe vera for that burn, Josh? Condescending dude promises that if the president makes a thing of this, Congress is going to bring up all the issues the president wishes would not be at the forefront, including English as the National Language, in addition to simply not confirming their guys. Josh hates being out-condescended, so he says that while he came there knowing it was a fool’s errand, he is now determined to make John Bacon and Patty Calhoun the next members of the FEC. The guys don’t care, though. They leave.

Charlie approaches Mrs. Landingham for a pedeconference to tell her that the president is displeased with his lunch, which is a salad and not a sandwich. Mrs. Landingham don’t care. 4. Man, why do women have to be so obsessed with the healthy feeding of their men?

We break from them back to the meeting that was supposed to be short with Toby and Sam and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Toby makes a “haha, gay” joke 13, and a military guy says he doesn’t like Toby’s sense of humor, and Toby says he gets that a lot. I wish that line were attached to a better Toby joke, because Toby’s delivery of “I get that a lot” is perfect.

C.J. breaks in to call Toby away. Sam almost comes, too, but Toby says Sam is doing good – and Rob Lowe manages to take a half a beat to glow from that praise – and sends him back into the room. C.J. tells Toby that she knows what the paper is. He invites her into his office. Probably to bang their tension out. !

Donna is waiting in the lobby for Josh. She is cheerleader-esque and reveals that when he is out of the office, she sits in his office and looks for him out the window. 6. He is annoyed. 5. He tells her he needs her to prep him on English as the National Language. She jokes and he’s not in the mood but he’s not rude. Donna promises to get him bullet points in 30 minutes and that Toby wants to see him.

Ginger tries to get Toby’s attention while Toby sits in his office with C.J. but he’s not having it. 5. (They’re both clothed but you know they weren’t a few minutes ago.) Toby is not pleased about Mandy’s memo. Josh comes in and gets updated. Toby instructs C.J. to figure out where this thing is and she leaves to do so. Josh sits next to Toby and says, “Our second year doesn’t seem to be going a whole lot better than our first, does it?” “No,” Toby replies. I don’t know if I praise this show enough but moments like these, where the writing is exactly spare enough, and that the actors handle with such perfect, subtle grace, deserve to be mentioned.

Toby is outside Leo’s office with Margaret so that he can get condescending about the bran muffin e-mail, too. 4. Although, actually, Toby’s lack of interest could stem from his preoccupation with Mandy’s memo. So the 4 is more for the show than for Toby.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff comes out of Leo’s office with Leo and another uniformed dude. Leo finishes saying something to Fitz about the Phillipines. Fitz asks Toby about the meeting with uniformed dudes and Sam across the hall. Toby tells him it’s about gays in the military. Toby also tells Fitz there may be a security breach with the White House computers. Fitz tells Toby the White House computers aren’t secure.

Hey, Americans in the year 2000, totally don’t worry about computer security and the federal government. It won’t in any way be important in the future! (Brb, sobbing quietly into my keyboard.)

Toby goes into Leo’s office. After some, you know, small talk about the Philippines. Then Toby tells him about the memo. Toby brings up the idea from the memo – which Leo can already guess – that Leo moves the president to the middle. Leo is sanguine and does not want to see a copy of the memo and tells Toby not to worry about it. Toby leaves.

See, this is what I mean about gendered differences when it comes to exposition. Donna, who has worked for the Deputy Chief of Staff for over a year, needs Josh to explain to her what the FEC is and who gets to decide who’s on it. Leo does not need the contents of a memo that he has not read explained to him. In both instances, information that the audience does not necessarily have are delivered. But in one, a female character is required to play the idiot, and in the other, a male character gets to be nearly psychic. Another for how perfect an illustration this is.

MPTF: 23

Donna gives Josh her six pages on English as the National Language. Josh snaps at her for giving him stuff about James Madison but Donna calls him on it -5 and notes that everyone’s “walking around like they know they already lost.” Josh even apologizes, clumsily, which is nice. -5.

Mandy is in Josh’s office. She asks about James Madison and tells Josh that the president is not going to look good fighting against English as the National Language. He tells her to tell him something he doesn’t know. Another for again illustrating that men don’t need the exposition they’re given for the audience’s sake. Mandy reminds Josh that it’s her job to tell them what the president will and will not look good doing and Josh tells her it’s not a good day for her to remind him what her job is. I’d think it’s the perfect day. But Josh has bigger problems, in that he feels this is all pointless anyway because the president won’t end up taking a stand on the FEC. He’s so demoralized, he can’t even get up the energy to be all that rude to Mandy. Aw, Josh. Mandy leaves and Donna comes in and confirms that everyone is as sad as Josh today.

Back in the meeting with Sam and the military guys, Sam is yelling at the military guys. He’s pointing out that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell only works if actually no one asks and no one is forced to tell. One of the military guys makes clear that homosexual identity has no place in the military when Fitzwallace stops by. Someone says it’s an honor to meet him and he says, “I imagine it would be, yes.” Fitz is kind of awesome. He takes a Danish and bullies two of the military guys into saying that they don’t think gays should serve in the military because they pose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion. Fitz pretends to agree with them, even saying that the military is not meant to be an instrument of social change. “Problem with that is, that’s what they were saying about me fifty years ago,” he says. “It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. I’m an admiral in the US Navy and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Beat that with a stick.” Then he throws his uneaten Danish back on the table and stalks out. It’s beautiful.

Sam follows him out and thanks him, but Fitz notes that this conversation is not going to go anywhere and Sam agrees.

C.J. finds Danny in that darkened corner he always seems to be working in and Danny makes her wait until he finishes typing his paragraph before talking to her. C.J. asks him about the paper and they bicker about their relationship a little 2 before he reveals that he’s the one who has the memo and that obviously he’s going to print a story about it whether she likes it or not. He points out that they must have known a memo like this would have existed when they hired Mandy and they should have asked for it and learned from it. He also says he doesn’t want her comment on the story.

This very short meeting is still happening. Sam continues making the right points but one of the suited guys makes the better point that the president is not acting like someone who actually wants to change Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so this is all pointless. Sam concedes that point and the military and suit guys leave.

Margaret is complaining some more to Toby about the e-mail stuff in the most irritating fashion possible 4 and Toby mocks her 5. Leo welcomes Toby in and makes another dig about the e-mails. 5. Toby had new job approval ratings and they’re not good. 42%, with unfavorables being higher than favorables for the first time. (Brb, sobbing loudly in the bathroom.) “We dropped five points in a week?!” Leo says. “We didn’t do anything last week!”

“I’ll say,” Toby replies. BURN, Leo. Major burn.

And Leo’s feeling it. He invites Toby to give him his resignation whenever he wants. Toby points out that their only victory so far has been putting Mendoza on the bench. Leo argues that they were elected by a narrow margin and therefore can’t govern as if they have a mandate. (Brb, beating my head against a wall until it hurts more than this conversation does.) Toby says it’s not the ones they lose that bother him; it’s the ones they don’t suit up for. Wise words. And also how dare Leo question his loyalty.

C.J. comes in and tells Leo she gave the president Mandy’s memo. Leo wishes she hadn’t. Josh and Sam come in. Josh says he thinks the Senate will have to confirm Bacon and Calhoun because their credentials are too good (It’s never going to hurt enough, is it?), but will then punish them by bringing up a legislative agenda designed to make them look bad. Leo agrees that it doesn’t matter because they’re not going to fight for their own FEC guys anyway. Leo asks about Sam’s meeting and Sam manages to express that it was a pointless waste of his time while saying out loud, “It was fine.”

Charlie comes in and pulls Leo into the Oval. And I’m going to end my misogyny counting here.

Total Misogyny Points: 27

I’m stopping there because the next scene-and-a-half is so damn good I don’t want it sullied. So. There were problems in this episode. Most notably the stupid e-mail-bran-muffin plot line that was mostly a throwaway joke about how silly and pointless girls are, when actually, computer security in our federal government should be A REALLY BIG FUCKING DEAL but never mind. Girls and their muffins and their calories and their long, pointless story-telling.

Also it was an excellent episode for the illustration of the way Donna is used as an exposition fairy (and sometimes C.J.) vs. the way male characters get to behave in an exposition-heavy scene.

But. The following scene-and-a-half. It’s television gold.

The president is very sad about the memo. “I really did wake up energized this morning,” he tells Leo. He wishes he felt the same at the end of any day as he does waking up. Leo concedes that the memo bothers him. The president assures Leo that Leo does not move the president to the middle, with the air of someone ending a conversation.

Leo is not ready for this conversation to end, though. Leo says that the president is the one driving them to the middle, not Leo. “Everything you do says, ‘For God’s sakes, Leo, I don’t want to be a one-term president.'” Leo correctly calls the president out for not actually saying he wants to name his guys to the FEC but that he wants to “dangle our feet in the water of whatever it is we dangle our feet in when we want to make it look like we’re trying without pissing too many people off.” Leo calls himself the hall monitor. “It’s my job to make sure nobody runs too fast or goes off to far.” He knows he’s sending his staff off on fool’s errands and so do they. The president says if he ever told Leo he wanted to get aggressive on anything, Leo would hall monitor him. Leo says, “If you ever told me to get aggressive on anything, I would say, ‘I serve at the pleasure of the president,'” but he doesn’t believe it’s going to happen. The president believes he has said it and it doesn’t happen. Leo declares the loyalty and commitment of his staff. Then he calls in Charlie’s willingness to go toward danger in order to date Jed’s daughter, which I think is a poor example, as Charlie should definitely not put himself, his girlfriend, or all the people who circle around them in harms way just because, as Leo says, “A man stands up.” (Nope, not changing the misogyny score for that one. Because this scene is just so damn good.)

Jed very quietly says he doesn’t want to feel this way anymore. Leo says he doesn’t have to. “This is more important than reelection,” Jed says. “I want to speak.” Leo peps him up with some sports metaphors, and writes on a legal pad, “Let Bartlet be Bartlet.” With the score swelling, he storms back into his own office to throw sports metaphors at his staff. He tells Josh to go forward with the FEC guys they want, and they’re going to fight, etc. “Does that sound alright to you, Josh?”

Josh closes his eyes briefly, and then says, “I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.” Proud. Strong. Music swells. I feel so goddamned patriotic right now.

Each staff member gets a look from Leo, and they all repeat Josh’s statement. Leo says, “Good. Then let’s get in the game.”

The staff leaves, and Jed and Leo exchange priceless looks through the open door between their office.

This is a killer episode ending. Just killer. John Spencer (Leo) is especially holy-shit amazing, as is Martin Sheen, but the whole cast brings it home. Holy shit. Amazing.

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.18, “Six Meetings Before Lunch”

I’m feeling blocked so I thought I’d write this instead. I don’t know if it helps get the juices flowing or just redirects them and further sinks me into a block but I guess we’ll find out.

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.

Previously on “The West Wing”: Charlie brought Zoey flowers, which somehow excused him for being a dick; Zoey objected to her protection being increased; that protection was Gina, who got nervous about some white-pride-looking boys in a crowd; Leo’s daughter Mallory did or did not ask Sam out on a date, much to the delight of the First Lady; Roberto Mendoza is the president’s choice for the Supreme Court, and Noble, Brave Sir Toby is going to make sure he’s confirmed.

It’s Thursday at 9:45 and in the White House, a black female assistant gets a line AND gets to have her face fully lit at the same time. She’s in front of two TVs showing the floor of the Senate, pouring wine and offering congratulations until Toby stops her. Toby is against celebrating the confirmation of Roberto Mendoza before there are fifty-one’yea’ votes on that screen. He will not have his Day of Jubilee ruined by the tempting of fate. As much as he’s being a dick to Bonnie here (Doing these recaps is really helping me learn which assistant goes with which name) 5, I can’t fault him too much. I am also strongly against the tempting of fate. He extends his not-exactly-wrong dickishness to Ginger (the redheaded one, whom I believe might also be a Sheen) 5 before wondering where Josh is.

Donna is calling for Josh; they’re already, since the scene break, at nineteen yea votes. (They were at five before.) Josh wants to know why there’s a message about talking to Mandy about a panda bear. Well, actually, there’s a little back-and-forth about Donna’s handwriting but I’m going to give it a 5 and keep going. He’s confused about why he would have to talk to Mandy about a panda bear and also doesn’t seem to know the difference between a panda bear and a koala, or that a koala is not a tree. And for some reason we’re not supposed to think less of him for this lack of basic pre-school -level knowledge. Because knowing about animals is girl stuff. (Donna knows.) 4.

Mallory comes in and asks where Sam is. She’s pissed at him and Josh has no idea why. 8. They all head to the room where the Mendoza vote is being held. Josh is surprised that there is no champagne yet, which Toby forces a very annoyed Bonnie to explain 5 and Donna is nattering on about her handwriting 4 while Josh is asking her to go get Leo.

Leo is on the phone in his very dark office yelling about a book jacket when Margaret comes in to rush him off. Margaret plays Exposition Fairy about the book jacket. It’s that an appointee to a justice post favors reparations for African-Americans. Margaret says, “What for?” which is why this gets a 9. Because come the fuck on.

I do love how neatly Aaron Sorkin sets up an episode. What’s happening in this one? Mendoza is being confirmed, Mandy wants a panda, Mallory’s pissed at Sam, and there’s a judge who wants reparations for slavery. And based on the previouslies, I assume we’ll find out something’s up with Zoey and Charlie and white pride. And go!

Leo and Margaret enter the confirmation celebration room and Sam comes in right behind them. Mallory tells him she despises him and everything he stands for 8, 3 because of a position paper he wrote. He doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She tells him not to play dumb. He says he is actually dumb; most of the time, he’s playing smart. Which is a good line. Except that he does know it’s about his position paper on school vouchers. In case you’ve forgotten, she’s a public school teacher.

Yea vote 51 is called and Toby pops the champagne with that facial expression like he’s not sure he’s ever allowed to be happy and I love him.

Credits!

We’re back from the break and a clearly drunk Donna is still waxing stupid to Josh about her handwriting 4 when Leo breaks in. He tells Josh that their nominee, Jeff Breckinridge, for the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights (Is this a real position? I mean, if it is, that’s awesome.) is no longer going to sail because Breckinridge supports reparations for slavery, as is evidence by his quote on the dust jacket of a book called The Unpaid Debt. Leo wants Josh to talk to Breckinridge. Josh feels uncomfortable in his whiteness. “I’m not the guy for this,” he says, and he’d be right, if they had a black person on staff who ranked higher than Charlie.

They hear noise coming from the other room and Leo is excited to learn that C.J. is going to lip-sync “The Jackal.” So excited he asks Cathy to pull Sam out of the argument he’s having with Mallory for the occasion. (I like C.J. doing “The Jackal” as much as the next person, but the fact that this is a thing she does gets a 1.)

Sam has determined that Mallory got the position paper in favor of school vouchers from her father, who is trying to drive a wedge between them, in spite of the fact that they haven’t been on a date yet. Sam doesn’t want to talk about school vouchers. He wants them to watch C.J. do “The Jackal” and then get a late-night dinner, “after which I may or may not give you a good-night kiss.” Aaron Sorkin believes that this sort of arrogance is very sexy. He’s not 100% wrong.

Mallory appears to be immune, however. And my heart belongs to Toby.

Josh approaches Toby about Jeff Breckinridge, trying to con Toby into taking over. Toby instructs him never to talk to him during “The Jackal,” which C.J. is performing rather adorably. Then Toby puffs suggestively on his cigar. This moment totally gets a ! It is fairly clear that C.J. doing “The Jackal,” while exciting for everybody, is foreplay for Toby.

Sam approaches Leo about Mallory. Leo is #sorrynotsorry about messing with Sam’s dating life and also cares way more about C.J.’s “The Jackal.” Toby puffs his cigar some more, Josh and Sam try to execute some dance moves or something and look incredibly white doing so, and we’re out.

An aerial shot of the White House leads us to C.J. dancing in her office and Danny approaching from behind. Danny is sad he missed “The Jackal.” He was busy listening to his police scanner. C.J. surmises that in high school, Danny was the president of his A.V. club. Danny corrects her; he was, in fact, the vice president. Bobby Pfeiffer was president. Danny doesn’t like to talk about it. I only tell you this because it’s pretty funny.

So what’s Danny doing here this late, besides lamenting lost opportunities to ogle C.J.? Josh invited him down for a drink. Danny came after hearing on his police scanner that David Arbor was arrested outside a frat party for possession and possible intent to distribute marijuana. C.J. hopes David Arbor is not the son of Bob Arbor, but he totally is. And also Zoey Bartlett was at the party. Danny is hoping C.J. will remember he brought this to her, and also that she’s in love with him. 2.

The next morning, C.J. is going over with Carol the party line on Zoey and the frat party. Bechdel passed! -10! The party line is, the president doesn’t even know, because it’s such a non-story. Mandy also pipes in for one line and hopes it remains a non-story. Then she peels off into Josh’s office to talk about a panda bear. “I think we should get a panda bear,” she says. “You say that now, but I’m the one who’s going to end up feeding him and walking him.” Hah. Also 2.

MPTF: 12

Anyway, apparently the last panda bear at the National Zoo died two weeks ago and there have been 3,000 letters asking about when they’re getting a new one. Josh tells her to go ask Toby. Donna delivers a whole bunch of files. Mandy asks about it. It’s related to his meeting with Jeff Breckinridge, black civil rights lawyer. She wishes him luck. Wow, that was a Mandy meeting surprisingly free of feistiness.

In a college dining hall, Zoey and her friends are practicing French. As they get ready to go, Gina leads them out the back to avoid reporters. But a reporter is waiting in the kitchen. Gina throws him up against a wall but he asks why Zoey was hanging out at a party with a drug dealer, and Zoey responds by saying she was invited to the party and didn’t know David Arbor was going to be there. Gina sends Zoey and her friend tot he car.

Back at the White House, Sam is pleased with having his draft done on time, and asks Cathy about his schedule. There’s a noon meeting he doesn’t want to go to, but Cathy doesn’t care. Also he has a meeting with Mallory right now, much to his surprise, because she wants to yell at him about school vouchers during business hours.

Jeff Breckinridge enters Josh’s very, very dark office. Seriously, what’s up with this? I know Aaron Sorkin had former White House staff as consultants; did the (first(?!)) Clinton administration keep their electric bills low by forbidding the use of lights for much of the day? Anyway, it turns out Jeff once worked in the same law firm as Josh’s father, which is super-exciting for them both. Then Josh has to tell Jeff that some Republicans don’t like his book jacket quote. Jeff gives zero fucks. He feels that African-American descendants of slaves are owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.7 trillion (as calculated by an economist) and that he means this in a totally non-abstract way.

Carol announces Charlie into C.J.’s office. Charlie tells C.J. about the reporter who accosted Zoey. This reporter,a according to C.J., is not so much a reporter as a “professional Bartlet baiter” who works for a “fund-raising newsletter for the radical right.” Zoey wants C.J.’s help with David Arbor. The poor kid doesn’t sell drugs; he just buys them. User, not a dealer. And Zoey is trying to help him. In fact, she was at that party, according to Charlie, to return the car keys – to a Porsche, Charlie needs to point out – that she had confiscated from him the week before. C.J. asks Carol to tell Danny she’s coming to see him, then reminisces with Charlie about the time she backed her boyfriend’s Porsche into a pond.

It should be noted that they are pronouncing Porsche with one syllable. I never know if it’s pretentious or correct to do the two-syllable thing. Much the way I know you should pronounce Van Gogh like “Van goch” with the guttural “ch” but you sound like a pretentious asshole if you do.

Toby is approached while walking by Margaret, and Margaret notes Toby’s unusual good mood. Margaret peels off and other random people in the hall are similarly weirded out by Toby’s good mood.

In Sam’s office, Mallory is lecturing about why school vouchers are not a good idea. I believe she is correct, but also, I don’t care. I mean, I care about school vouchers. I don’t care about this plot point. And also 8 because this plot line is so ridiculous. Sam gets snotty; Mallory points out that this is not a good path toward dating her; Sam is like, but this is a business meeting! I’m giving that an too. Because girls, they’re so manipulative. She schedules a business meeting but his behavior during it counts toward their (non) dating life! Nofair!

Cathy comes in to tell Sam she cancelled that meeting on the Hill he asked her to cancel, a request he now regrets because he has to stay in this meeting with Mallory. (I love Cathy, by the way, who takes no shit and gives zero fucks, all the time.)

C.J. comes to Danny – also in a darkened workspace – to talk about the non-reporter. Danny complains that she never compliments his suspenders. 2 but also hah. Danny tells C.J. that Zoey told the reporter that Zoey didn’t know David Arbor was going to be there. C.J. realizes that Zoey was lying and manages to cover up this knowledge from Danny.

In Josh’s office, Jeff says the idea of reparations is nothing new; at one point, newly freed slaves were promised forty acres and a mule. But then that order was rescinded and maybe if it hadn’t been, the U.S. wouldn’t owe descendants of slaves $1.7 trillion dollars now.

Someone wise once said to me that it wasn’t the slavery that was our true original sin. Slavery is bad, of course. But even worse were the next hundred years. It’s one thing to have a law that says that certain members of the population are not equal. It’s not good, but it’s not as bad as having your law say that the whole population IS equal, and then very much ignoring that law with little if any repercussions. I’d add that, as Jeff Breckinridge is pointing out here, we could have done a lot to ameliorate the damage done by slavery. We just chose not to. In many ways, we chose to double down on that damage. And then the civil rights movement happened, and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and … aside from electing a black president, we continue to fuck it all up. So if you’re a white person who routinely whines about “How come they still complain about slavery? It was so long ago.” then a) pro-tip – these are inside-your-head thoughts, not out-loud thoughts, and b) don’t let’s pretend they don’t have lots of more recent things to complain about.

Anyway, Josh pretends he’s going to move this conversation on to Jeff Breckinridge’s confirmation process, but he wants to talk instead about the “600,000 white men” who lost their lives to end slavery. Yeah, Josh was maybe not the best pick for this conversation.  Also, from what I gathered from the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, not actually true. Ending slavery seems to have been Lincoln’s secret agenda, not the public reason for the war. Jeff agrees that this is specious, even though Josh insists on continuing in this manner. Fortunately, we leave the scene.

Toby is overly nice to Mandy, and to Bonnie. Not so much to Ginger. Inside his office, Toby is weirded out by his own good mood – up until Mandy tells him she wants a panda. 4

Zoey runs into Charlie in the hallway. Charlie does not kiss her this close to the Oval Office, and they banter a bit. But Zoey is nervous about her meeting with C.J. Not so nervous that she can’t throw Charlie against the wall for a seriously good kiss, though.

Zoey comes to C.J.’s office and they go over her statement to the reporter. C.J. needs to know why Zoey lied to the reporter about knowing that David Arbor was going to be at the party.

Bechdel passing all over the place!

In a fairly sad-looking room, the Secret Service has some stuff to talk about regarding Zoey. The important thing is that more white pride groups might be targeting Zoey. Gina concludes, based on various factors, that they’re looking for two fifteen-year-olds. The guy in charge agrees. They break, and C.J. comes in to talk to Gina. More Bechdel test passing! Gina refuses to talk about the party with C.J. because that’s not her job, and, in fact, would hurt her job. Gina does defend Zoey’s behavior in front of the reporter, and she appears to enjoy her job.

Sam and Mallory are still talking. I still don’t care. C.J. comes to see Sam about the Zoey problem. They agree that the president needs not to get involved in that. Sam wants C.J. to be aggressive with the president if need be in order to keep him away. C.J. is not enthused about this advice. Sam wants to know how to date Mallory instead of fighting with her and C.J. suggests, uh, taking her on a date. Well, taking her to lunch. Right now. Sam appreciates the advice. C.J. says she’s going to check the want ads. Because someone here actually worries about her job! And of course, it’s the female senior staffer who has to worry that mouthing off to the boss could compromise her employment, even though the male senior staffers do it all the time with no worry. 5.

Toby is super-unhappy to be having this conversation about pandas, and calls the late, lamented panda ‘Dim Sum.’ Damn, I could go for some good dumplings right now. I mean, I can go for some good dumplings 100% of the time, including immediately after having eaten good dumplings, but I’m also kind of hungry right now. Also, another 4 for how angry he is about this. Pandas are stupid girl things! Never mind that making the president look good to the public is Mandy’s ACTUAL JOB FOR WHICH SHE WAS HIRED, everything she wants to do or talk about is stupid!

The main issue is that Toby doesn’t feel this is his job. Which is also possibly true. He discovers that Josh sent Mandy and the panda issue to him. Toby informs Mandy that she’s been played and Mandy asks Toby to help her “cause Josh pain.” 3. Toby is in. As am I. Even though I think this is stupid.

Mallory leads Sam into Leo’s office. Which is very dark. Mallory is asking permission from her father to have lunch with Sam because she has to ask permission to have lunch with fascists. 3. It turns out Sam is not in favor of school vouchers; he wrote the position paper as opposition prep. Because fucking duh and also whatever. Sam is confused by Leo’s capitulation. “I thought you were trying to drive a wedge between us,” he says to Leo. Leo says, “Yeah, but now you’re just boring the crap out of me.” Go, Leo! Sam’s real position on education makes Mallory looks like she maybe wants to jump him even though they’re in her father’s office, with her father right there. They go to lunch.

Charlie comes in to the Oval, where the president is lying on the couch, reading. Go, Mr. President! His lunch has been cancelled, surprisingly enough, given that he’s the president. He’s reading an etiquette book by George Washington, which sounds pretty fascinating to me. The president wants to know if he could “take” George Washington, like, in war. Charlie points out that the Air Force could probably take the Minutemen, then announces C.J.

The president greets C.J. with this pearl from the book: “When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually covered.” C.J., utterly confused, says, “Well, I do what I can to keep the press corps happy, sir.” Hah. 2, but hah. C.J. tells Bartlett about the Zoey thing and the president is furious that a reporter accosted her on campus. C.J. gets aggressive in preventing the president from making a thing out of this with the press. And it works. Huzzah!

Back in Josh’s office, Jeff brings up reparations for the Japanese Americans interred during World War II. Which I did not know we did. Josh says that was for people actually interred; “bring me a living slave and you’ve got a case.” Jeff points out with more patience than Josh deserves that, as the civil rights attorney and expert in the room, he thinks he knows when he has a case. Josh points out that we don’t have $1.7 trillion. Jeff says they’ll take it in tax deductions and scholarship funds, which sounds pretty reasonable to me. Josh says he can take it in affirmative action and empowerment zones(?) and the Civil Rights Act, which, dude, stop talking.

But it’s Josh, so instead, he digs deeper. He says he’d love to give him the money, but the S.S. officer didn’t give his grandfather his wallet back when he let him out of Birkenau. Dude. No.

My first year in grad school, I was pretty naive about race relations in America. I had a class with a professor who was a professed communist – something I didn’t know at the time you could still be – who said that the only form of oppression is economic oppression and challenged us to think of a counter-example. I said, “I think a lot of rich Jews died in the Holocaust.” She said, “Look, I don’t want to get into a Holocaust vs. slavery debate right now.” This was my first exposure to the idea that this was a debate being had by social justice types. I was mildly horrified. If you are a social justice person who engages in this debate, stop it. Only one person wins that fight, and it’s The Man.

Jeff rightly points out that Josh’s problem is with the Germans. Josh finally slumps down in defeat. Jeff says no amount of money will make up for slavery, which seems like a counter-argument to reparations, but I’m not a civil rights lawyer. Then Jeff has Josh look at the pyramid on the dollar bill and points out that this country, like that pyramid, is an unfinished project, and they just have to keep doing better. Which is nice. Jeff offers to take Josh out to lunch, and Josh says he’ll get the bill.

Damn right, you will, Josh.

Total Misogyny Points: 20 A comparatively light episode! Of course, if I was doing racism, we’d have a whole different story, and I really wish Jeff Breckenridge’s confirmation process got the arc that Mendoza’s got. He’s interesting.

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.17, “The White House Pro-Am”

OMG I started this forever ago. I have come back to finish it now. Sorry.

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.

Previously, on “The West Wing,” Stockard Channing, the first lady, could have married a lot of other people besides Jed Bartlett; Charlie condescendingly tells Zoey he’s trying to be a better boyfriend; Zoey’s got a new Secret Service agent who’s looking out for white supremacists.

In this episode, the first lady is getting ready to go on TV with a black teenage boy named Jeffrey. The first lady is joking with the young man about going on national television in a manner that, in a Sorkin script, is jocular and friendly and leads to camaraderie, but in real life just makes you an asshole. 3 And listen, people, I know. I think I was raised in a sort of Sorkin-esque environment, and am therefore sometimes unwittingly an asshole myself. I’m sorry.

The kid is unruffled, because he’s a Sorkin character. With ten seconds to air, the First Lady calls out to Lily, whom I believe is her Leo, that she should have worn the gray suit. 4. Then we’re live, and it turns out that Jeffrey has come to the first lady’s attention because he’s started an organization called The Children’s Crusade, regarding child labor. He had a pen pal in India who basically got sold into slavery to a loan shark.

This is all being explained while Sam, watching the TV in the Sam-and-Toby area, is sniffing, “When did Jeffrey happen?” at Lily. Lily wants Sam to give them the news cycle that day. See, the plan currently is for the president to bring the trade bill or something, physically, to Congress, in a gesture indicating compromise and bipartisanship and blah blah blah. But Lily wants the Congressional leaders to just come to the White House as usual, so that the press will be more interested in the Jeffrey story. Sam does not want to. Since Lily’s “guy” is married to Sam’s “guy” and Sam’s “guy” won an election, nyah nyah. 4. Lily points out that her “guy” has a way higher approval rating than Sam’s “guy”, “and bite me.” 3. “Ah, point well argued,” sarcastics Sam. 5. That’s not quite the right number because she’s not his subordinate. But he seems to think she is.

Back on screen, the interviewer asks Abby Bartlett if the companies know they’re using child slave labor. “If they don’t,” Abby says, “then they’re criminally negligent. If they do, they’re simply criminal.” Lily is very proud of this line, as, I feel, she should be. Even Sam thinks it’s good.

But then Toby comes out of his office and tells them to turn to channel 5. “Bernie Dahl died,” he announces ominously. Sam and Lily watch the news, shocked, as the death of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is announced. Sam has to get in the snide remark about Lily losing her news cycle. 5.

Credits!

MPTF: 6 We are off to a great start!

I wish I had better language to describe shots and camerawork. This show does a lovely job of that; I just don’t know how to talk about it. We’re with the president in the Oval, and the first shot is lovely, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. He’s asking a guy in military uniform and another guy in a suit if there’s going to be a coup. The military suit guy thinks not. Then he says a bunch of words I don’t understand.

Leo comes in to call the president out of the room, to tell him about Bernie Dahl. And also to tell him that everyone already knows, which, the president surmises, means the market will open 300 points down. Is it me, or sixteen years later, does a 300 point dip sound laughably adorable?

Leo wants Jed to announce Ron Ehrlich as successor right away, to prevent market panic. Jed is stubbornly reluctant. He’s not sure it’s going to be Ron Ehrlich and wants a day to think about it. Leo thinks this is stupid. I mean, he doesn’t say it like that but he does. Jed thinks Leo could be nicer to him during this conversation. He didn’t tell you you were being stupid, Jed. That’s pretty nice. Leo holds his ground about this being bad for the economy, claiming he’s going to go dump his portfolio now. Then Jed reveals that there’s some sort of family tension around Ron Ehrlich. “I’m not ready to jump into bed with Ron Ehrlich yet,” he says, “making me one of the few people in my family who can say that.” Had I not seen the previouslies, I would assume that he meant that Ron Ehrlich tried to sleep with more than one Bartlett woman, and that any number of them seemed amenable to that. As I did see the previouslies, I think we can all safely assume that Ron Ehrlich is one of the people Abby Bartlett could have married.

Also 2.

Donna wants to tell Josh about a book she’s reading, about what life was like 100 years ago. He’s not interested, because 4. Also he expresses his disinterest with rudeness, as ought to be expected. 5 Also he suggests strongly that she only has time to read these books because she’s not doing her job. 5. She leads with a few things Josh is not at all interested in – how women used to wash their hair, popular female baby names 4, but then mentions that drive-by shootings were a problem, which seems slightly more interesting to him. In case you haven’t watched enough TV, this books is going to be a Thing for the rest of the episode.

MPTF: 11

Toby wants Sam to come up with a way for C.J. to say they’re not naming Dahl’s successor without making it look like they’re backing away from Ron Ehrlich. Sam says he already gave her one – respect. You know, cause the dude just died. Sam is also highly concerned about Dahl’s heart attack and claims he will go to the gym later. Toby points out that this was Dahl’s fifth heart attack and the man was 138 years old, so maybe young, fit Sam doesn’t need to be so nutsy.

Josh comes to take Toby to a meeting that Toby doesn’t want to go to. It’s to get three left-wing Congresspeople on their side for something that’s already going to pass without them, but Josh wants to look like their liberal base still loves them. Toby thinks this is beneath him, and that they won and they don’t have to grovel for more votes. Josh says they’re doing good cop, bad cop. Toby wants to be the cop that’s not at the meeting. Josh says they’ll start out insulted if he doesn’t show. Toby suggests that if he does show, they’re going to end up insulted. But they go anyway, even though they’re still fighting.

Josh greets the people in the meeting warmly, while Toby sits and appears prepared to keep his mouth shut, as he promised Josh he would.

C.J. is briefing on Bernie Dahl’s death, but before she can finish her statement of respectful grief, the corps starts shouting, “C.J.!” The first question is, of course, if Ron Ehrlich is going to be Dahl’s replacement. C.J. dodges until Danny Concannon says that Abby Bartlett’s declared a preference for Ehrlich, and will that sway the president? C.J. is not aware of any such declaration. Danny says it’s a wire piece, with unnamed sources claiming that the first lady had previously said she hoped the president would appoint Ehrlich after Dahl’s term expired. C.J. gives Danny a line about “maybe on a social occasion.” Someone else asks when they can expect an announcement, C.J. says tomorrow, someone else asks why the delay, and C.J. says, “Respect.” Which does sound stupid in context, though it’s not actually a stupid reason. I think. Having little idea what the Fed Chair does.

Outside the press room, C.J. asks Carol to get her the wire report to which Danny referred, and also, could she have sounded any stupider, saying, “Respect”? Okay, so that’s the Bechdel test passed. -10.

C.J. approaches Sam and tells him about the wire piece, which causes Sam to cancel his plans to head to the gym. He heads to Lily’s office instead, where he bullies and insults her 5 and in the end is no closer to discovering who leaked the quote, nor is he any closer to working more productively with the first lady’s staff.

In the Oval, Jed is spouting stuff about the economy that Leo, C.J., and I don’t fully understand, but only C.J. gets called out for not understanding. 5. The upshot is, Jed’s not sure Ehrlich’s the guy. But also he doesn’t want anyone talking to his wife about it, because when his wife gets handled, he, Jed, gets a little “punishment” on the other side of the building. Damn, Jed. Maybe TMI. Also 8 and 2. But, while not talking to Abby, Jed would like C.J. to find out who the sources for the wire piece were, and then lists a bunch of friends and neighbors, almost entirely women, who don’t like him. 8. C.J. leaves and the president prattles on about the economy, and Leo admits to not knowing what the president is talking about. Then Jed claims sometimes he’s just making it up. For admitting this once C.J. leaves, I give this another 5.

MPTF: 15

Zoey’s been called in to the Oval, and Jed greets her by being sad she’s not five anymore. Leo goes, pretending to be confused by the term “keeping it real”. Jed settles into giving Zoey shit about her courses. But, seriously, he called Zoey in to tell her about the death threats they’ve been getting regarding her relationship with Charlie. He wants her not to go to the club opening she was planning on going to with Charlie, because the white supremacists are having some sort of convention in Virginia that weekend and it seems like too good an opportunity. Zoey notes that Charlie will not like it, but that she will tell him at lunch that day that they can’t go together.

As Zoey leaves, she says she’s sorry about Bernie Dahl and asks about Ron Ehrlich. Jed uses this opportunity to give her more shit about not taking math.

In the Toby-Josh meeting, a Congressperson points out that, as Democrats, they don’t like a thing because it lowers taxes. Apparently we do like lower tariffs, though. Yeah, I don’t know. Toby looks utterly bored. He plays with his tea and insists this is going to pass. Josh speaks condescendingly and the only woman in the room calls him on it. I love her. The first congressperson then says they’re concerned about the effects of cheaper, foreign-made products on American labor. Toby asks what kind of car he drives. He says he drives a Toyota. Toby tells him to shut up.

This is all about to devolve into a very kindergarten discussion of what global trade regulations do and I don’t care enough to parse it out. Except to point out that, at least with car manufacturing, the nationality of the company is almost never indicative of the location of factories. Our Hondas were built in Kentucky. Your Ford was built in Mexico. And so on.

There’s a knock, and Josh leaves cordially, and Toby leaves pissily. On the other side of the door, Josh says that this sort of behavior is why Toby has the reputation for being a pain in the ass. Toby says he cultivated that reputation. I love Toby. C.J., on the other hand, is waiting, less than patiently, to say what she came to say. She’s telling them about the wire piece. They all believe the source was Lily, who told Sam she didn’t know anything about it. Just like C.J. had suggested to Leo and Jed, Toby and Josh think this is an easy fix; if the first lady just says something like, “Old family friend, support my husband’s decisions, blah blah blah,” it’ll be fine. But C.J. tells them that Jed said he didn’t want Abby being handled. Josh feels this is all C.J.’s fault for not being able to tell the difference between Jed’s “Don’t handle my wife,” and Jed’s “Handle my wife, but I’m not the one telling you to do it.” 7. Toby tells her to go get Sam to go back to Lily.

Before they go back in, Josh observes that Toby likes winning, and Toby says, “Saves you from having to say the word ‘please’.” I’m only reporting this because it’s another good line.

Sam is bench pressing when his pager goes off. He puts the weight down and then bangs his head on it. A congressperson approaches him and says, basically, that she’s offering an amendment on the trade bill about child labor, which will change that sure win Josh and Toby thought they had. She’s got to do it because the first lady is talking about this but it’s HER thing so she has to do something about it now.

Leo goes to see Danny. They pedeconference. Danny brings up the market opening 320 points down. Leo wants Danny to come see the president at the end of the day, during a reception for the Michigan Women’s Democratic Caucus. Danny is suspicious.

C.J. blows Danny off and finds Sam, who ignored her page. Sam also wants C.J. to parse whether or not the president actually wants them to handle his wife. 7. Everyone seems to think this is somehow C.J.’s fault for not reading the president’s signals. Instead of the president’s fault for expecting his staff to manage his marriage. 8 C.J. asks Sam to go talk to Lily.

In the Josh-Toby meeting, the loudest congressperson is insisting that the fact that you can buy a British-made Range Rover has hurt Ford. Toby can, in fact, deny it, because, as a result of competition with the Range Rover, Ford made the Explorer, which is the best-selling model in its class.

Sam knocks, and the congressperson asks if they’re keeping them from more important things. “Many, many things,” Toby responds, which, duh. Did he think that the meeting to convince three Congresspeople to vote for a bill that was already going to pass was the most important thing on the Deputy Chief of Staff’s and the Communication Director’s schedules?

But of course, it’s about to become a way more important meeting. Sam tells them about the congresswoman’s amendment. They want to get Lily to get Abby to get the congresswoman to back off.

Charlie and Zoey are at a diner. Zoey is showing Charlie her notes on the 100 years ago book. They’re enjoying themselves. Well, Charlie is pretending to enjoy himself, in order to get some of Zoey’s egg salad. 4. Then Zoey drops the bomb on him about the club opening on Friday. Gina drops in to support her – the club itself, the physical building, is too hard to secure. Charlie doesn’t give a damn. Because he bought a new suit. For a club opening? What kind of club is this? Were there clubs in D.C. in the year 2000 to which 20-year-old guys would wear suits? Anyway, Charlie consults the book. He observes that 100 years ago, a black man couldn’t go to a club with a white woman for fear of being killed. Charlie, stop being a dick about this. 4.

Zoey excuses herself for the bathroom, which Gina signals, to another agent. Charlie thinks he is the one with the right to be pissed. Gina points out that it’s actually her job to take a bullet for Zoey, and that she prefers it when Zoey stays home and watches movies. This seems both true and unprofessional to say. Charlie leaves without waiting for Zoey to say goodbye.

Sam goes to Lily’s office but oh, look at that! It’s not Lily, it’s Abby! Back from the commercial break, Abby is complaining about the war the two staffs wage. Sam tells the president that, in fact, the first lady does not behave professionally. Sam says she has to vet stuff like Jeffrey through his office, because he’s the one who knows what he’s doing. And also she’s got to tell the congresswoman to back off. She says she will. 5 for this whole thing.

Danny is waiting in the outer office of the Oval, annoying Mrs. Landingham. Then Abby walks in and he annoys her by getting the name of the event wrong. (“The Many Women of Michigan?”) Because it’s about girls, and girls are stupid. 4. Abby walks out.

MPTF: 21

Danny tries to engage Charlie in conversation but Charlie is not really interested. He says he can’t date Zoey because he can’t be constrained by the Secret Service. Danny thinks he’s being stupid. Danny says, “If it was me, just for now, I’d make sure I was the one guy in her life that was totally hassle-free.” Which is not exactly really good advice? He does point out that the guys who are sending the death threats may be heavily armed, but they’re not necessarily good marksmen – “One day they’re going to be aiming for her and hit me.” That’s the better point. Charlie can be cavalier about his own safety, but he’s not the only one at risk. And, black or white, when you’re dating the president’s daughter and the Secret Service says, we cannot make you or her sufficiently safe here, you don’t go. That’s kind of it. There’s no use getting pissed at them, or at her, about it. But also, it’s probably not great for your relationship, whether you are the boy or the girl, to make it a goal to be “hassle-free.”

I guess it does make Danny the one guy who didn’t act as if a woman in this episode was irrationally angry when in fact she was quite justified. So, go Danny? I’ll give this a -8.

The president calls Danny in to the Oval Office. Leo’s in there, too. He thinks the president should not be having this conversation with Danny. I have to agree, because what the president is doing is, he’s trying to use the “closeness” he claims he and Danny have cultivated, over late-night talks on the campaign trail, and also Danny’s having written a biography of the first lady, to get Danny to spill who his source was on the quote about Ron Ehlrich. Because he doesn’t want to just ask Abby. So he’s trying to get his staff and now a reporter to intervene in his marriage because he’s too chicken-shit to do it himself. 8.

Danny, appropriately, refuses, though he cites not wanting to get in trouble with the first lady as one of his reasons. 8, Danny, and for shame. Then he says the president should forgive him because he just gave “very sage” dating advice to Charlie. The president is not pleased that Danny is helping Charlie “score with my daughter.” Ew. 2. The president sends Danny away.

At the party for the Michigan Women’s Democratic Caucus, Donna is continuing to talk to a very bored Josh about the book. One hundred years ago, it seemed, people were worried about seamstresses become aroused by the steady rhythm of the foot pedals used to operate sewing machines. The recommendation was to drug the seamstresses with bromide, to reduce their sexual desire. Josh asks why anyone would want to reduce a woman’s sexual desire. Donna says, flirtatiously, that “we can get out of hand.” This is a super-appropriate conversation for them to be having, and because I’m in the mood, I’m giving it a 2.

Josh turns to watch as the first lady walks in. She pulls aside the congresswoman who has the amendment and does what Sam wanted her to do – promises political support to the congresswoman while also commanding her to drop the amendment.

Back in the Oval, Leo and the president also marvel at the dangers of the rhythm of the sewing machine pedals. And Leo mentions that morphine, heroin, and marijuana were all over-the-counter drugs.

Mrs. Landingham pops in to tell the president that his wife is here to see him, and Leo peaces out, much to Jed’s chagrin. It is evident that Abby is pissed. She mentions Sam coming to see Lily and Jed tries to pass it off as flirtation between them 2 but Abby’s not having it. Jed admits that he wanted C.J. to handle her. And he doesn’t even thank Abby when she tells him she killed the amendment. Then he gets self-righteous about trying to get his staff to manage their marriage. And he reveals that this is all because he was pissed about her saying nice things about Ron Ehrlich. And then Abby reveals that she did, in fact, used to date Ron Ehrlich. I’m giving this a 2. Because he nitpicks on how long they dated and calls him “Skippy.” Also a 4 for not wanting to look like he’s “taking orders from his wife” by choosing Ron Ehrlich now. Abby concedes she was wrong to say that to the press, and Jed demands that she just “stand there in her wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.” Ugh. Jed. For real. 4. Because I don’t know what other number to give this.

But Abby is still impassioned about the plight of child laborers and Jed kind of agrees with her. He says this was their first Oval Office fight, which I find hard to believe. He’s been in office almost two years. Then they settle in to parent talk about Zoey and Charlie. Abby reveals that Charlie headed over to Zoey’s dorm a few minutes ago. They leave for the party with their arms around each other.

We cut to the hall of Zoey’s dorm. Charlie, in his suit, has flowers. He knocks, and nods at Gina, across the hall. Zoey is pissed but for some reason accepts Charlie’s apology, even though he says that he’s apologizing for “anything I’ve done to upset you, even if it only exists in your kind of confused little mind.” That’s just so awful. 8. And 4. And fuck you, Charlie. I like you most of the time, but in this moment I really hate you.

Charlie brought popcorn and videos (Hi, 2000!), and the door closes, as Gina radios, “Bookbag is in for the night.”

TMP: 30. It’s a pretty high episode, folks.

By the by, I feel like I remember the existence in the real world of this book, published at around this time (meaning early 2000). I don’t feel like Googling at the moment but if anyone knows about this, hit me up in the comments.

MISOGYNY & AARON SORKIN, “THE WEST WING,” EPISODE 1.16, “20 Hours in L.A.”

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.

Credits.

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.

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.

MPTF: 2

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.

MPTF: 3

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.

MPTF: 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.

MPTF: 5

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.

 

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.13, “Take Out the Trash Day”

In case you’ve forgotten, I do, in fact, love this show. It has become a ritual now that when my dad visits, we stay up late watching and eating ice cream. Sometimes, it’s ice cream I made, like the brown-sugar-bourbon ice cream I made him last time.

But loving and criticizing are not mutually exclusive activities! Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger (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.

Last time on “The West Wing”: evil-looking dudes had records of Leo McGarry in a rehab facility, even though that shit is supposed to be confidential; C.J. made out with Danny; Leo made a public statement about his addiction.

It’s Take Out the Trash Day! C.J. is in the press room, telling the press that, weather permitting, they’ll be in the Rose Garden, and “weather permitting” means “not actually precipitating.” The reporters are unhappy because it’s going to be cold but the president ain’t trying to hear that, or so he told C.J. He is a hardy New Englander, gosh darn it! C.J. goes on to say that there will be 15 bill-signing souvenir pens, and Danny wants to know how, since Josiah Bartlet only has 13 letters. But he’ll use separate pens for dotting the i and crossing the ts. C.J. calls Danny “freak-boy” for asking, because that’s how you show affection in an Aaron Sorkin teleplay.

C.J. goes on to announce that the parents of Lowell Lydell will be at the signing, and, as Mandy begins to hover ominously, a reporter expresses surprise. Apparently there’s a rumor that the Lydells don’t support the president, even though the president is signing a hate-crimes bill, and Lowell Lydell was beaten and killed for being gay back in episode 10. Got to give them points for continuity here. C.J. dismisses the rumors of non-support, even when another reporter seconds it. C.J. promises that the Lydells are coming and will be available to the press. Mandy, in I guess the control room?, looks chagrinned.

We move to the control room, or whatever that room is, as C.J. gets off the podium. She and Mandy pedeconference through the C.J. area while Mandy says she wishes C.J. hadn’t promised the press the Lydells. Mandy is feeling uncomfortable because Jonathan Lydell, the father, “doesn’t say much.” C.J. thinks that’s a ridiculous concern. I think it’s a ridiculous concern to be bringing up after the briefing rather than before, and I have to imagine that Mandy knows when C.J.’s briefings are, but never mind, the Bechdel test is being passed! C.J. and Mandy are talking about their job! Well, they’re talking about a man, Jonathan Lydell, but still! Right? -10

Then C.J. talks to Carol, thanking her for the bit about dotting the i and crossing the ts, which is also a Bechdel pass (but the rules that I made up are, only one point for or against in any given episode) and then immediately chastises her for misspelling “Senator.” Sadly I have to give a -5 for that one because while a female underling is experiencing her boss being rude to her, that boss is also female. Oh, C.J.

Josh comes in to C.J.’s office and C.J. correctly assumes that whatever he’s coming in for, it’s going to involve her staying late. “I’m a woman in her prime, Josh,” she says, which is interesting, because at no point do any of the men who work here ever object to staying late because it’s putting a crimp in their love life. Even the one who’s getting divorced as a result of it. In fact, Leo even used Sam’s love life to make a point about how sometimes you gotta work late, and Sam never objected, even when he discovered that it was all a ruse. 2. Josh does not care about C.J.’s love life, but cares about everyone else’s – he wants C.J. to read a report about how abstinence-only ed doesn’t work. The White House is trying to pass a bill to get more teachers on the ground, but some in Congress want to stipulate to that bill that the sex ed classes in the schools that benefit be abstinence-only. It’s one of those situations on this show where it becomes easy to forget that this aired a decade and a half ago. C.J. complains that she would have no trouble passing an abstinence-only class, which, still a 2, but also, hah. Josh leaves on, “By the way, pages 27-33? A couple things every girl should know.” And he smirks. And I am simultaneously offended and amused, as I so often am when it comes to this show. But it gets another 2. I know it’s a stretch, but I don’t care. I’d be happy to debate this point in the comments.

Credits. Rob Lowe for real does not age.

Danny comes in to C.J.’s office and asks what she’s up to. He’s excited by the answer (reading a report on sex ed) because everyone who works here is thirteen. He wants to get dinner with her and insists they have to go on a date sometime; C.J. can’t just keep grabbing him and kissing him. Really, Danny? The first four months of my relationship with my husband consisted of me grabbing him and kissing him. It works out sometimes, is my point.

But Danny didn’t come to C.J.’s office to flirt. He came to ask her about an advance man for the vice president taking a Navy helicopter to Pebble Beach to play golf. When I first saw this episode, I did not understand what any of those words meant. I mean, I understood what they all meant individually, but strung together in a sentence, they did not make any sense to me. They make sense to C.J., though, who is shocked and dismayed and a little annoyed that Danny won’t give up his source, which of course he won’t. Then Danny claims that he has a pilot who sat around for “four hours” while the advance man “hit every sand trap in Carmel.” I am not terribly familiar with golf, but wouldn’t 18 holes take at least four hours to play even if you were really good at it?

PS. As a teenager, I was mortified when my dad took up golf. He didn’t take it up too seriously, just as a thing he had to do sometimes with his clients, but I still made fun of him mercilessly. But then he said, “Look, golf is a walk in a lovely park with your friends. Sometimes, yes, you have to swing a metal stick in the direction of the ball. But it’s that swinging of the metal stick that allows you to stay in that park all day.” So now, even though I don’t play or anything, I do get why people like it.

Oh, then C.J. grabs Danny and kisses him. I think she’s probably a very good kisser.

In the Josh section, Donna calls to Josh and then asks the person carrying food – who may or may not be Sam’s assistant whose name may or may not be Carol? – if Josh’s burger is burnt, because that’s the way he likes it. Yet another reason for me to not like Josh.

Josh comes by and asks if it’s burnt and then beckons Donna to follow him, leaving her to carry the food, which she points out. This is a sort of feature of liberal misogyny that I find interesting. “Look, I’m not going to be chivalrous and gentlemanly to you because feminism, right? You ladies don’t want that, right? Haha.” And then it’s the one example of “equality” they’re willing to actually, you know, perform. I might decide to give this a number; I know it shows up in Sorkin’s stuff a lot.

Donna wants to play exposition fairy by asking, “What’s Take Out the Trash Day?” 9. Josh explains that, if there are stories they don’t particularly want the press dwelling on, they dump them all on Friday. All at once, because if they’ve got x column inches to fill, they’ve got to divide that x by whatever number of items are being dropped; Friday because no one reads the paper on Saturday. Then Josh sends Donna to deliver C.J.’s salad.

Sam comes in to Toby’s office. Everyone’s office seems awfully dark, today, by the way, even C.J.’s, and she was reading a report on paper, so one might think she needed light. Sam is upset because some town in Alabama wants to get rid of all laws except the Ten Commandments. Toby doesn’t so much care and asks Sam what he actually wants. It turns out the Georgetown student newspaper wants to get Sam’s comment on a professor spouting stuff that right-wingers seem to think doesn’t make them sound blatantly racist – welfare, single moms, etc. They want Sam’s comment because Zoey Bartlet is taking the class. Sam is concerned that this might become a thing. Sam promises to talk to Zoey but doesn’t leave the room and Toby is annoyed until Leo calls them into his office. Leo also doesn’t care that much the town in Alabama that’s got Sam so steamed.

Josh is already in Leo’s (very dark) office, eating. Leo says this sex-ed report could not come at a worse time, since they want that teacher bill passed. Then there are some sentences exchanged about the thing with Leo and all the things these boys are too noble for. TNFTS!

A bunch of assistants are clustered around Margaret’s desk. The woman who may or may not be Carol is arguing with Donna about someone who knew something either “for sure” or “in her heart.” No, wait a second. C.J.’s assistant is Carol. And there’s the one played by Martin Sheen’s daughter, who may or may not be Bonnie. No, wait, I think the black girl who is sometimes near Toby is Bonnie. She’s not there. Whatever, Mrs. Landingham comes in and asks what they’re doing. Gossiping. As girls do. 4. Mrs. Landingham chastises them and leaves, at which point Donna and Not-Carol continue arguing. Josh comes out of Leo’s office and says, “Well. Here’s a group of federal employees.” Yeah, Josh. You were a federal employee when you were telling Dan about how C.J. likes goldfish. Or the times you were talking about Sam and his call girl. 5.

Donna peals off and asks if she can talk to Josh and Sam. In Sam’s office, Donna brings up the vice president’s advance man, whose name, improbably enough, is Chad Magrudian. I do love Aaron Sorkin character names. Especially tertiary characters. Apparently old Chad used to work for them, and was in the habit of using his “advance” trips to go have a good time then, too. Anyway, Donna brings it up because they know who leaked the story.

C.J. is reading on her couch with a blanket on her feet. She finally turns on the light behind her when Toby comes in to talk about Chad Magrudian, who, I swear, they only talk about because they want to keep saying that name. When Toby asks how C.J. heard about it and C.J. reveals that Danny gave it to her, Toby says, “As long as it’s not the other way around,” and then quickly insists it was a joke. 5, Toby. And 2. For real, dude. Saying it was a joke doesn’t really make it less rude. Also Toby tells her about Zoey. Aw, it’s really tense in here. Probably because their FwB arrangement is on hold while C.J. works out her shit with Danny.

For real, though, I can’t think of another reason for this scene to be there. Definitely bolsters my theory. !

Josh, Sam, and Toby are on the couches in the Oval. Josh is telling Toby that the leaker is one Karen Larsen. She worked on the Veep’s campaign and later in his publicity office, then was moved when the Veep’s aides thought she was getting a crush on Hoynes. 2. Toby instructs Sam to have a talk with her when he gets back from the Hill.

Leo and the president pedeconference through that outdoor hallway on their way into the office. They’re talking about bananas. Mrs. Landingham mistakes their talk of trade and bananas for the president wanting to eat a banana and orders an assistant to go get the president a banana, over his protests. Because men, they talk about important things like trade agreements, whereas women, they just want to feed and fuss over you, all annoying and shit. 4. Also 5 for the president rudely saying to Mrs. Landingham, “I’m done talking to you now.” Although, full confession, that’s sometimes how I end phone calls with my husband. But that’s because he’s really bad at taking hints. Hints like, “Okay, well, I’ll see you when we get home,” and “I can’t talk right now,” and “Seriously, I need to hang up the phone this very moment.”

In the Oval, Leo and the president continue to talk bananas while the senior staff minus C.J. wait for them to be finished. The president wants to talk to Toby about appointments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that are being held up. Toby’s got a meeting and he’s all set for it, thanks. He was raised on Sesame Street and Julia Child and Brideshead Revisited. C.J., who has come in, laughs at Toby for having watched cooking shows. 4, C.J. Come on now. You don’t have to be one of the boys. Then Toby defends himself by saying, “I watched Julia Child,” which is a lot like guys who scoff at chick flicks but make allowances for When Harry Met Sally.

C.J. is being asked about the Lydells. Leo and the president think the father might be ashamed that his son was gay, even though said son is dead, which flabbergasts C.J., which, no. No, it doesn’t. 9. Because first of all, it’s actually C.J.’s job – and Mandy’s – to be attuned to these nuances, and usually, she is. And second of all, Leo and the president’s supposition that a person who “sells dental supplies in the Twin Cities” could not possibly be enlightened I don’t think rang necessarily true even back in the Dark Ages when this aired. Or maybe I’m forgetting exactly how far we’ve come.

C.J. also wants to talk about the sex ed report but the president hasn’t looked at it yet. Toby and C.J. leave and the president asks Josh and Sam to talk to him in the hall. He wants them to act to preempt a hearing to save Leo from the mud-dragging. Nothing that is offered as a deal should be rejected without talking to the pres! TNFTS!

The president goes back in to the Oval to ask Leo why he’s meeting with a Simon Blye. The president rejects Leo’s assertion that Simon is a good friend and is offended that Leo is not exclusively seeking counsel from within the West Wing. He advises Leo not to be so trusting. Leo agrees and urges the president to read the sex ed report.

C.J. approaches Danny and asks if they’re off the record. After some banter about whether they’re on the record or not which is only a very little bit charming and only because Allison Janney and Timothy Busfield are really pretty good at this. C.J. asks Danny if he thinks it’s possible that a man could be embarrassed about his son’s gayness even after that son has been murdered. Another 9, then. Danny says that it is, in fact, possible. I think making C.J. so astounded by what seems to be common perception is shitty, but I also think that the common perception is a little bit old-fashioned, even for 2000. It’s not that I think that it’s impossible that a father in 2000 might feel that way; it’s that I don’t think it’s as easy and obvious an assumption as the president and Leo and Danny are making it sound.

Danny wants to know about Chad Magrudian, and C.J. promises him the story, and Danny says, “So you’re dumping it with Friday’s trash?” Further evidence that the idea that Donna wouldn’t know is a little absurd and insulting. C.J. points out that it is, in fact, trash. Then there’s a moment where it seems like they’re going to kiss, even though she said they’re not going to kiss anymore, and then she tells him to go and he points out that this is his office and wasn’t there recently a scene where Danny had to tell C.J. that the room they were in was her office, like, why does C.J. need this kind of shit pointed out to her? It’s because girls are dumb, that’s why. Especially when they’re in lurve. 2.

Leo and Sam are on the Hill with Bruno and two other guys. This is not a legal proceeding, Bruno assures them, even though people in Congress want a legal proceeding, so, in order to avoid a legal proceeding, why don’t Sam and Josh tell him what’s up?

Margaret ushers Simon Blye into Leo’s office and it’s a total HITG! After two seconds of pleasantries, Simon offers to talk about Leo’s problems, and then I realize we’re doing a flipping back and forth thing between Josh talking to Bruno and Leo talking to Simon and I love this kind of thing as an audience member, but as a recapper, Jedediah Horatio Christiansen, is it irritating.

So Sam and Josh start telling Bruno about how Lillienfield announced that one in three White House staffers was on drugs, so Toby asked them to investigate-but-not-investigate what was going on. Then Claypool – the evil-looking guy from the previouslys, I think – subpoenaed the records of this not-at-all-an-investigation. Bruno has those depositions and wants to talk about them.

Back with Simon and Leo, Simon believes they won’t succeed in holding off a hearing and it’s all going to be awful. Simon thinks Leo should resign. But Leo tells Simon that the president is TNFTS! Leo correctly guesses that Simon’s got an Op-Ed in the next day’s Post that will say Leo should resign, and not so much because he cares about his country, but more because he wants to up his Q rating. (Leo doesn’t say Q rating. I am saying it.) Then Leo dings Simon for lobbying for an oil company, which, I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of tea in China, and also, Leo, I don’t think he can feel the sting of that comment through the layers of Benjamins. Although he claims to be insulted. And Leo doesn’t care and kicks him out of his office. Almost literally. Then Leo mutters, “Oh, God,” as the lights go down.

Back with Leo and Sam, we learn that Bruno will hold off on a hearing if they keep the lid on this sex ed report until after the midterms. Josh gets on his TNFTS horse and Bruno takes him down a notch. He calls them teenagers and it’s adorable. “I’d like to hold hearings into the two of you being stupid. But I don’t have that kind of time.” I want him to be on my dream spin-off with that retiring Supreme Court justice.

Toby is arguing with some people about PBS. They think it’s subsidizing television for rich people. Toby thinks it’s not. C.J. is with him but Carol comes by to call her out because the Lydells are here. C.J. asks Carol to get Mandy out of the Oval. So Carol and C.J. talked about Mandy. Very clear Bechdel test passing. But, as I said, Bechdel tests are pass/fail. This episode has already passed. No further points will be awarded.

The president is talking to Mandy about the sex ed report while Mandy takes notes. Other than the president being adorably grandpa-ish (“I’m not going to say that word.”), I’m not sure what the point of this is. But Mrs. Landingham comes in to get Mandy out to see C.J. and the Lydells.

Mrs. Landingham asks the president if he’d like to share with her what’s in the report, and he declines, because he’d rather not be in therapy for the rest of his life. I’m pretty sure this attitude is sexist so 5 but also it’s terribly childish.

Mandy and C.J. come in to meet the Lydells, who are in some beautiful room. As predicted, Mr. Lydell says very little until C.J. very uncomfortably asks if he’s embarrassed by his son’s sexuality and do they support the president? Mr. Lydell says they do not, over his wife’s objections. It’s not the hate crimes bill; he doesn’t care one way or another. But he’s pretty damn insulted that he’s being asked if he’s embarrassed by his gay son, when this president is taking such a “weak-ass position on gay rights.” You go, Mr. Lydell. He wants to know where the president is on gays in the military, same-sex marriage, gay adoption, etc. And I listen to this list and feel really good about how far we’ve come. Gays in the military? Check. Same-sex marriage? It’s coming. In about a month, right? Less? I don’t know where we are on gay adoption but maybe it’s next.

C.J. and Mandy step out. C.J. wants to let them talk to reporters and say whatever they’re going to say. Mandy is like, no fucking way, remember what our actual job is here? C.J. goes in to tell them they have to go home.

Toby is still with the PBS people. One of them calls Fozzie Bear Fuzzy Bear and Toby is incensed. Toby says, “At at time when the public is rightly concerned about sex and violence on TV, this administration is going to protect The Muppets! We’re going to protect Wall Street Week, we’re going to protect Live from Lincoln Center, and by God, we’re going to protect Julia Child!” I agree with the sentiment and Toby continues to be adorable but I’m not really sure what we’re doing here.

C.J. knocks on the door and Toby gets up to go talk to her. He tells her that Josh and Sam cut a deal on the Hill and there isn’t going to be a hearing. She’s happy because she doesn’t know what the deal is yet. “I gotta get back in there; this is too much fun,” Toby says and I love him so hard.

Cathy! Cathy is Sam’s assistant’s name. Cathy has been called in to Sam’s office so he can bellyache about the town in Alabama that wants to have the Ten Commandments be the only laws. Cathy is not super-excited to play. She says, “She’s here.” The “she” is Karen Larsen, better known to me as Paris Gellar. You know, she also had an arc on “Scandal” and looked exactly like a young Elizabeth Shue. Anyway, Sam invites her in and then accuses her of being the leak on the advance man. Then he reveals that he doesn’t care about the advance man, he’s looking for the leak on Leo. Which Karen did. She starts to say, “Mr. Claypool is a family friend,” but Sam calls for Cathy and instructs Cathy to take Karen to her office and stand there while she empties her desk. “Security’s gonna throw you out of the building in fifteen minutes,” he jaw-clenches at her, and then leaves the office. I’m sure my panties are supposed to be melting from the self-righteous anger of Sam right now, but I just kind of see a White House senior staff member threatening a kid. Who did something really bad, true. But a kid, nonetheless.

The president comes to Mrs. Landingham’s desk. “You’re not going to believe this but I think I’d actually like a banana,” he says to her. “I’m afraid not, sir, no,” she returns. He was snippy before and now he will not be getting one. You go, Mrs. Landingham. -5. I particularly like where he starts to argue and she, in her very even voice, is like, “Yeah, no. C.J.’s waiting for you.” Like, I’m sticking to my guns, not angry, changing the subject. It’s the kind of parenting I try to do.

C.J. wants to ask about the sex ed report and the president says they’re going to stick it in the drawer because it’s incendiary and it’s not going to go down well at PTA meetings. I think I should join a PTA. Or something. Because honest to God, I want my kid to get a fact-based, useful education, on all subjects, including sex ed. (The question did sort of come up, btw, the where do babies come from question, and I’ll admit, I didn’t get into it. But what I said was, “That’s a pretty long story, and I’ll tell it to you if you want to, but I’m not sure you have the attention to listen to it right now. Do you want me to tell you?” And she said, “Maybe later” and went back to her television show.) Anyway, C.J. protests, and the president yells at her, and it’s finally revealed that it’s the deal Josh and Sam made. C.J. says she understands but she is clearly pissed. Actually, I would describe her as disappointed.

C.J. is now sitting in a darkened back stairwell when Danny finds her. She almost leaks the Lydells but Danny won’t take it. Not from her, because he wants to make out with her more. Which is why it’s a bad idea for a press secretary and a reporter to date, on both their ends, but whatevs. He promises that if there’s a story, he’ll find it, but she says they won’t, because they’ve gotten very good at this. How good? He knows about the Friday trash dump. He knows the Lydells were supposed to be at the bill signing and now they’re not. How hard does he have to try to call them up and ask why?

Margaret announces Karen Larsen to Leo. She comes in with her box of office stuff and a suspicious expression. He says he wanted to meet her and have her meet him and asks if she’d like to talk for a minute. She doesn’t seem to, particularly, but she does put her stuff down. He asks her what she thought when she read in his personnel file that he had been treated for a drug and alcohol addiction. She won’t answer at first, but he says, hey, I’ve already fired you, what do you have to lose? So she says her father drank a lot. So did Leo’s. It’s a nice moment because it’s easy for young people to forget that old people were once children themselves and have, like, fathers and stuff. Anyway, Leo goes on to say that his father died as the result of his drinking. Well, he committed suicide, but while he was very drunk. “Is that why you drank and took drugs?” she asks. No, he says, he drank and took drugs because he’s an addict. She asks how he got cured and he says it doesn’t work that way. She doesn’t really understand the nature of addiction and Leo says it’s okay; hardly anyone does. He asks again what went through her head when she saw his personnel file, and she says she thought about all the important decisions he has to make. He says that what she did caused a lot of problems, “but I’m not sure it wasn’t a little bit brave.” TNFTS! He gives her her job back. Sadly, dear readers, this does not mean we will see more of Liza Weil in this show.

We watch from overhead Leo watching C.J. on his TV throwing out stuff with the trash.

I am 100% in favor of watching Toby yell at straw men about Julia Child, but this episode felt a bit flabby and unfocused. A bit like they were taking the trash out of the writing room.

Total Misogyny Points: 13

While the total count is low, I feel C.J. making fun of Toby for watching Julia Child is a sort of classic in the “This is what liberal misogyny looks like” field.

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing,” Episode 1.12, “He Shall, From Time to Time…”

Okay, people. I’m having a super-shitty night. I’m chasing it with some bourbon & Dr. Brown’s cream soda and I’m going to take my anger out on Aaron Sorkin’s characters. I think it’ll make me feel better.

As always, here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger (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

Previously on “The West Wing”: Josh is ready to go to bat for Leo; C.J. for some reason felt romantic attachment to a guy who was being pretty shitty and oblivious to her (or, “Any Aaron Sorkin script ever”); Sam and Leo’s daughter Mallory had a similar obnoxious-off as related to dating (or, “Any other Aaron Sorkin script ever”); and we should all be very grateful that a rude, drunken British lord is on hand because brown people have weapons and that’s a disaster.

A chyron tells us it’s Monday night. The president is orating grandly to a room of senior staffers and presumably non-senior staffers. It becomes clear pretty quickly (in case the title wasn’t enough of a clue) that he’s practicing the State of the Union, which, it seems, is pretty good. The state of the union, I mean, not the speech. Although I’m sure the speech is fine. The president gets hung up on a fairly minor mistake that Toby points out, but he’s uncharacteristically non-combatative about it. Jed is actually looking kind of shitty and then he coughs a few times and the staffers look worried.

Josh and C.J. are watching him on a screen in another room – presumably to see how the speech looks on TV – and they agree that he looks kind of shitty. Josh wonders if the president’s glands are swollen. “Damn,” says C.J.

“What?” says Josh.

“You know what I forgot to do today?” C.J. answers.

“What?”

“I forgot to feel the president’s glands,” C.J. answers, with A+ perfect deadpan delivery. I love you, Allison Janney. I want to drink bourbon with you.

Then Josh asks if her sarcasm makes it difficult for her to keep a man. A giant 2 and I think a 5, too, even though it’s still not clear to me that C.J. is Josh’s underling. I mean, she has to be, right? She’s Toby’s underling and Josh and Toby are at the same level. Right?

Anyway, they’re both concerned that the State of the Union is 44 hours away and the president doesn’t look so hot.

Isn’t the State of the Union usually on a Tuesday night? How is it Monday night and 44 hours away?

Back in the room with the president, who is back to his old self and being snotty about a couple of typos. Leo calls a break. Josh and C.J. approach and ask how the president feels. He wonders why everyone is bothering him about this and he’s fine and taking the pills that his wife gives him. Well, not so much taking them as carrying them around, which C.J. points out is less effective. I gotta be honest; I’m with the president here. Do you know how many times I’ve assumed that wondering really hard where my Advil bottle was located would in fact fix my headache?

The president continues to correct what I think is a typo but it turns out it’s, like, a policy thing – moderation has spoken, and we’re only supporting the American Dream for those “who work for it”. This being back in the ’90s when getting a job was possible! Not that Republican rhetoric has moved anywhere on these issues.

Josh also announces that the era of big government is over. When did this happen, Toby wants to know. Josh tells him it was this morning; they had a meeting. Okay, fine, Josh. Hah. I still hate you, but hah.

Toby wants to know why they’re offending poor people and Josh offends them some more by saying that poor people don’t watch “The West Wing.” I mean the State of the Union! They don’t watch the State of the Union! Silly me.

Toby says, “Alright, but when you get visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future, don’t come running to me.”

“Damn, Toby, because you were exactly who I was going to come running to.” You guys. You’re killing me. I’m trying to stay in my pissy mood and you’re making it really hard.

Toby also feels the president doesn’t look so hot. Everyone is nudging him. This is a lot like going to one of my family’s gatherings when I’ve got a bit of a head cold. Truth: As much as it used to annoy me, I would now give almost anything to hear my grandmother say to me, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, I don’t like the sound of that cough!” Though her husband and sons are filling in for her on that front.

Great. Now I’m getting maudlin. Moving on.

The president agrees to take his pills, with water from a pitcher given to him by some Christian association because he’s so not Scrooge, Toby, and goes into his office.

When he turns, Sam points out that they haven’t technically be invited to give the State of the Union, and that it’s protocol that they be invited by the Speaker of the House. Sam agrees to take care of it and they’re all giggling over the typos until they hear a loud crash from the Oval and rush in to find the president lying on the rug, passed out, with the broken pitcher of water next to him.

Very inspirational music! Damn, bourbon does make me kind of weepy. This is not working out really well for me.

In the Oval, a uniformed doctor is telling the senior staff the president has the flu but wants to take the president to the hospital anyway for some tests. The president doesn’t want to go and anyway, he has to go to the Sit Room.

Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is exchanging some military info I don’t understand with other uniformed dudes. He doesn’t have the jacket of his uniform on, which I think in military culture is like being in yoga pants and a stained sweatshirt in the regular world. The president comes in and asks whether the Celtics won that night, because showing yourself to be cavalier in the face of the world going to hell in a hand basket is adorable and charming.

I cannot tell what is going on but as far as I can tell, the ceasefire is not going well. Fitz has a plan that I’m sure is a very good one and the president is going to bed. But not before he learns that the Celtics lost in over time.

Mandy and Danny are in C.J.’s office, flirting. C.J. comes in and she’s not amused. She sends Danny off. Mandy thinks it wouldn’t kill C.J. to be friendly to Danny and C.J. says it doesn’t seem to be killing Mandy. Rowr! Oh, you girls with your jealousy. C.J. claims to be kidding but I’m still giving this an 8. 

Mandy informs C.J. that the Leo thing – that he was once addicted to pills – is going to break tomorrow. Does this pass the Bechdel test? They’re talking about Leo. But to them, that’s work, not “a man.” But Leo is a man. And it’s kind of more about his personal shit and less about his professional shit. But it does affect both of them professionally. But the point is, their work lives revolve around men, right? Like, Leo can (and does) have any number of conversations with Josh or the president in which a woman’s name never comes up at all, whether in a professional or a romantic or familial capacity. Right. So no -10 here.

Margaret is asking Leo about the whole being-invited-to-give-the-State-of-the-Union thing and he’s being characteristically rude to her. 5. Then he tells Margaret to remind Josh about “picking a guy” and Margaret is uncomfortable about not knowing what that means and Leo is rude to her again. 5. He shoos Margaret out and the C.J. comes in. C.J. asks about the president and then says, “Leo,” and he concludes that the story is going to break. They say a few things to each other that basically indicate that they don’t need full sentences to understand each other, which was nice.

The president is in bed being treated by his military doctor. He’s on the phone about the speech and then Charlie is fussing over him. The president says, “This isn’t the worst of it. The worst of it is coming up the stairs right now.” He’s of course referring to his wife, because wives, they are the fucking worst, aren’t they? 4. The first lady takes the president’s charts from the military doctor and asks a bunch of questions and orders some treatments. The president looks utterly entranced by his take-charge wife. The first lady asks to be left alone with her husband and her husband flirts with her. Abby is worried and fussing, albeit in a has-an-actual-medical-degree way. She asks if it was like the time in Nantucket, in a way that makes us think the time in Nantucket is more significant than just the flu. I mean, I already know it’s more significant because I’ve seen this show before, but there’s definitely musical foreshadowing notes and, like, acting cues, so I’m not just reading what I already know into the scene. The president, after telling his wife about all the things that are happening and insisting that he could jump her right now, finally drops off to sleep, whereupon the first lady sinks into the chair that’s been placed next to her bed and looks sad and worried. It’s a nice scene of married people being realistic and loving to each other. But my practical mind is on her uncomfortable stilettos and her uncomfortable suit and that uncomfortable chair. The president is asleep now, Dr. Bartlett. Go get on your pjs and worry about him from the comfort of your bed.

A chyron informs me it’s now Tuesday morning. Josh is on the phone about the non-invitation-thing, which I thought Sam was taking care of. Donna comes in to tell Josh that Margaret asked Donna to remind Josh about needing to pick a guy. Donna is similarly annoyed that she doesn’t know what that means. Josh actually deigns to answer her. He says he needs to pick someone in the line of succession to not be in the building when the president delivers the State of the Union. Donna asks why. 9. Even Josh is shocked by this level of Exposition Fairy-ing and just says, “Donna.” Donna catches up and says, “In case someone blows up the building?” which is, yes, of course the reason. Donna wants to know who he’s going to pick. Josh asks who she thinks he should pick and she suggests herself. Josh asks where she thinks she falls in the line of succession and she says, “If someone blows up the Capitol Building during the State of the Union, I imagine I’d move up a few slots.” Line of the night. Also, for once, the interaction between Josh and Donna is coming off as genuinely friendly banter rather than Josh being rude and Donna being whiny, so A+ to both of them here.

Anyway, it’s not going to be Donna, it’s going to be Roger Tribby, the Secretary of Agriculture. Then Josh reminds Donna to be nice to Margaret and Leo since today is going to suck for them and Donna agrees and this conversation continues to be fine with me. Huh. Weird.

Josh goes in to Leo’s office, where he’s practicing his mea culpa with C.J. and Sam. They give him some practice questions and are surprised to hear that Leo still attends A.A. meetings. It’s going pretty well until Leo gets pissy and says he’ll be fine. Then Sam tells Leo that Sam wrote a draft of the president’s statement of support, which pisses Leo off because Sorkin Men are Too Noble For This Shit. Also Sam is Too Noble For This Shit. Leo sends them back to work with an order not to defend him.

Okay, now Abby is in bed with her husband although she’s still in uncomfortable clothing. She’s checking on him and he’s insulting her medical knowledge although it is really just cute marital banter so I’m letting it go. He wants to go back to the office and she says he can, knowing full well that he can’t even get out of bed successfully. He discovers this himself and lies back down while Abby smirks. Kindly.

We’ve got an overhead shot of Leo in a vestibule, which is interesting. Then Carol comes to call him in to the press conference. Leo makes his mea culpa statement and tells the press corps what we already know about his stint in rehab and his addiction issues. We fade away to a shot of the White House.

Donna and Josh are pedeconferencing about why the Secretary of Agriculture? Josh says because the other Secretaries (or some other Secretaries) are famous enough that they want the camera to find them. Donna is concerned. Josh is not, because if the Capitol Building blows up, he’ll be dead, too, and he won’t have to have Roger Tribby, Secretary of Agriculture, as his president. Their bickering is getting a little closer to their usual rudeness but not quite there.

Donna peels off and Josh finds Sam. They agree that Leo did well at the press conference and then Josh says he thought Sam’s statement for the president is great and it’s too bad no one’s going to read it. Sam says the president is, in fact, reading it right now. Josh observes that Leo is going to kill them and Sam does not care. And neither does Josh. Because they are TNFTS. That’s going on the list, not with the misogyny things, but with the exclamation point for C.J. and Toby. TNFTS!

We move into a meeting room with portraits of who I think are both Roosevelts. So I don’t think this is the Roosevelt Room but it seems to be Roosevelt Room of some kind. In the room are Toby and some people who are some sort of Democratic caucus but maybe moderate? Because they don’t like big government? Toby, as usual, looks like he’s playing Anywhere But Here in his head. There are two men and a woman as part of this group, by the way, and the woman just keeps smirking at Toby but not saying anything. 11. Toby wants very much to be done with these people and move on to the next group of people who want to complain at him, so he says, “Just pick a section.” They pick the NEA, which Toby informs the audience is the National Endowment for the Arts. He does not look pleased, but he does look resigned.

Leo’s working in a dark room with a TV behind him (a ginormous TV – ah, the year 2000). The TV is showing his press conference. Uncomfortable! Margaret comes in to announce Mallory. Mallory is very concerned and they share a moment. Then Mallory mentions that she’s seen the president’s statement of support, that it’s floating around the press room, and that it’s very moving. Leo is pissed. He leaves his supportive daughter to go yell at his supportive surrogate sons.

Sam and Josh are whining about Toby going to bat over the NEA when Leo comes in to yell at them. Josh is trying to be conciliatory but Sam is not. Because TNFTS!

Then an assistant – Bonnie? – tells Leo that the first lady is in his office.

Abby is indeed in Leo’s office bothering Mallory about her “itch” for Sam. Ew, that is a bad fucking choice of words, Sorkin. Leo comes in, Mallory leaves, and Abby talks to Leo about postponing the State of the Union. Leo asks what he should know that he doesn’t know. Leo points out that grown men don’t need their wives to cancel trips because of a fever, nor are doctor wives supposed to prescribe drugs or give shots to their husbands, as Abby is doing. Abby finally reveals that the president has MS, and tells Leo with tears in her eyes that a fever could be life-threatening. I forgot that this was revealed this early in the series; I thought we had a few episodes yet.

A soap opera is playing on a TV. The president asks Charlie if any of these characters have jobs. Charlie answers the phone and tells the president Leo’s outside. The president asks Charlie to step out, and Leo steps in. The president knows Leo knows and starts telling Leo about his MS stuff. Leo is pretty pissed about being kept in the dark about this, even going so far as calling Jed “Jed” and not “Mr. President.” See, Leo is upset that he couldn’t be there to support the president the way the president had been there to support him when he was going through his addiction stuff. The way Josh and Sam want to be there for Leo now. See how that all works? Character development, it’s a beautiful thing!

Toby is still talking about the NEA with the two men and the silent lady. One of the men becomes the idiot straw man who confuses Hart with Hammerstein and Arthur Miller with Arthur Murray, the former of which did in fact need the NEA – which was then the WPA – to write Death of a Salesman. He trails off and still they can’t even give that woman the line, “Toby?” What are they, depriving her of her SAG card? Toby announces that the meeting is over; apparently, he has a Plan.

Lord John Marbury is recommending Exotic Remedies from his Imperialist Travels in Asia to the president while pouring tea. Most of these Exotic Remedies are to be taken with a strong shot of whiskey. Hey, that’s my cold remedy of choice, too! Actually, my very favorite is a combination of what he recommends – my Aveda tea (which has licorice root, from his first remedy) or a ginger tea (ginger is his second remedy) with lemon, honey, and a strong shot of whiskey. Lord John Marbury, getting down to business, thinks you should just buy them off. Then he goes on about some bullshit colonialist imperialist shit that Britain used to do to keep those pesky brown people in line. I mean, for real. The president complains that the Indian ambassador paints him with the same imperialist colonialist brush as their mutual former colonial overlords, the British, and then takes advice from this Kipling parody of a British lord. I don’t even know what the fuck because I don’t know enough about these issues to speak intelligently about them but I do know enough to say BLERGH!

Anyway, Leo thinks Lord Marbury is a dumbass and Lord Marbury condescends to him and I think we’re supposed to be a little on Lord Marbury’s side here, but you know what? Getting a Cambridge education when you’ve got a British title impresses me about as much as the fact that George W. Bush graduated from Yale. And for the same reasons. Basically, he thinks we should pay for an infrastructure that would allow India a computer industry. Leo stupidly asks why they should pay to avoid war halfway around the world, which I have to give a -9, because come the fuck on, Leo knows this. They were all wringing their hands last episode about how nuclear war would affect everyone. But Leo is not a girl, so that’s why it gets the negative number. Lord John Marbury’s answer is that it’s the price you pay for being rich, free, and alive at the same time, and also for allowing the proliferation of nuclear devices to go on. Yeah, when Britain had an empire, they ran it right, damn it. I hate this dude and this plotline SO HARD.

Charlie ushers Lord John Marbury and Leo out and lets Toby in. The president describes an episode of Jerry Springer in as snotty a way as possible – because poor people are gross! – and then Josh comes in, apparently at Toby’s request. Toby wants to talk about the era of big government being not at all over, that they should be celebrating big government instead. Have I mentioned lately that Toby is my boyfriend?

A chyron brings us to Wednesday night. Josh, Sam and C.J. are in some room where drinks are being served and Josh is sing-songing, “You’re jealous ’cause Danny was flirting with Mandy!” The fuck? 2. C.J. is denying it and Sam takes this opportunity to complain about how unclear Mallory is being about her feelings for him. Because this is TV, at that moment Mallory walks up and asks Sam if he wrote the statement defending her father. He says yes and she gives him a big kiss. Right on the lips! Because if you do something good, women will offer you sexual favors! That’s how life works! 2. Then she leans in for a much sexier kiss and damn, I think Rob Lowe is a pretty good kisser. I mean, from how it looks on TV. C.J. peels away from this conversation to ask Carol to bring Danny to her office. I’m giving that a 2, too.

Abby and Jed are in the residence. Abby wants to take Jed’s temperature one more time and, as she fixes his cufflinks, he offers to let her take it recreationally. I’m pretty sure the president just suggested his wife peg him. Hey, you two get on with your bad selves; you won’t hear a word of judgement from me.

Oh, my God, Gail’s got her own little press secretary podium. (Gail is the goldfish Danny got for C.J.) That’s freaking adorable. Danny is playing with Gail’s little American flags when C.J. knocks. On her own office door. That is weird and deserves a number and I’m not sure which one so I’m going with 1. Danny is confused, too. C.J. calls her attraction to Danny “girlish” 4 and Danny tries to rush her along which is crazy rude and I guess I’ll give it a because even though C.J. is certainly not Danny’s underling, they kind of set up that vibe with her knocking on her own office door and waiting for Danny to give her permission to come in. Then C.J. informs Danny that she’s decided to kiss him to get him out of her system. I am an aspiring romance professional and avid TV watcher, so I know that’s a little bit of dramatic irony right there. They kiss, and it’s awkward because he’s a lot shorter than her and not a very good kisser, but she tries to sell it. Then she gets all flustered afterwards, still holding her fish bowl and then knocking into a door, and he’s condescending about it, so a 1 and a 5 and a general, “Hey, Aaron, most women don’t actually like it when guys are dickheads to them.”

Lord John Marbury and Abby are talking about cold remedies that involve shots of whiskey, and then the president and Leo present him with photos showing that his plans worked and Lord John Marbury actually remembers Leo’s name and then says he’s off. Bye, Lord John Marbury. Don’t let the White House door hit you on the ass on the way out.

The president and Abby walk into a room with a  bunch of staffers, where the president expresses gratitude for their hard work on his speech. “I say thee yea, Toby Ziegler, and I say thee yea, Sam Seaborn!” I love it when he goes all old-fashioned like that. Everyone claps. Charlie tells the president the motorcade is ready and the president goes to greet Roger Tribby, who is in the Oval. OMFG, it’s the Mayor! I mean, listen, I already knew it was the Mayor, because I’ve seen this episode 197 times, but the first time I saw it, I went, “OMFG, it’s the Mayor!”, and I wanted to recreate that experience for you. You’re welcome.

He has brought the president a copy of the Constitution in Latin, which is the perfect present for President Bartlett. IIRC, The Mayor was also pretty good at picking out presents for Faith. The president, at The Mayor’s request, translates the passage about the State of the Union, and they shake hands manfully. The president instructs Roger Tribby on what to do in the case of an actual emergency, and we see that Leo can hear him from the other room. After a bunch of stuff about national security, the president asks if Roger Tribby has a best friend, who is smarter than him, and with whom Roger would trust his life. To all of these, Roger answers, “Yes, sir.” The president says, “That’s your chief of staff,” and from the other room, Leo has feels. Then the president goes into toilets that need handle-jiggling and Charlie pulls him out. Inspirational music swells and Roger Tribby looks around the Oval Office, clearly feeling the power of those strings. (I don’t even know if what I think is strings is, in fact, strings. Musical theory is not my strong suit.)

Despite my bad mood and my harshness, the misogyny in this episode was pretty light, wasn’t it? At least, I didn’t feel the need to do mid-episode tallies.

Total Misogyny Points: 15

Yup, pretty low! Good job, show!

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing,” 1.11, “Lord John Marbury”

I am using these posts to a) recap a much-beloved (by me and in general) TV show, and b) point out the misogyny in it. Because I like to combine my two favorite activities – watching TV I love, and hate-watching! Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger (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,

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

Previously, on “The West Wing,” Josh was riding to Leo’s defense about a pill addiction; Charlie and Zoe met cute; C.J. obnoxiously asked Danny on date and he obnoxiously accepted.

A chyron tells us that we’re at the National Reconnaissance Office in Washington Navy Yard. A nerdy due sits in front of many computers which looked old-fashioned to me. Then I remember that this aired in 2000 and probably didn’t then. Then I realize that a) technology is moving super-fast, like, for realz, and b) I am super-old. He calls another nerdy man over to look at a map on one of his screens. They zoom in on something and the first man claims that what they are looking is “two CVEs and four destroyers.” They look like dark smudges on the screen to me, but I am not a nerdy man at the Washington Navy Yard. The second man seems to think this means they need help.

Next we are at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. A uniformed man says some military things to another uniformed man and a sweater-vested man. I am having trouble keeping up. I do recognize the word “Pakistan.” The second uniformed man says he’s going to call the C.O.s and the sweater-vested man is going to call the White House.

You can see the Washington Monument from his office.

Now we’re in the West Wing. Josh is trying to convince Donna to caddy for him. Donna, is he going to pay you? Because that’s totes not in your job description.

A schlumpy man in the foyer (?) is there to serve Joshua with a subpoena. Josh is predictably dickish to him. Then, without even asking, he signs the subpoena on Donna’s back. The fuck? I think it’s a moment that’s supposed to illustrate how seamless their work style is, but I’m reading this as, he’s literally using her body as an object of convenience. 1. It may not be comedy but it’s physical.

They walk away and Josh says he’s become a professional hostile witness.  Oh, you’ve been professionally hostile for a long time now, Josh. Donna wants to know if she gets to drive the cart. No. No carts. And no being paid. And he wants her to start practicing with the bags right away. 5. Seriously, Aaron, are we supposed to find Josh charming?

Josh walks in to the outer office of the Oval – the Mrs. Landingham area. She expresses sympathy about his latest subpoena and offers him a cookie. I want to give this some sort of number but I kind of find it adorable. Still, in the interest of fairness, I’m going to go with 2. Because Mrs. Landingham is being put in a primarily feminine role that has little to do with her job. (Usually two is for sexual/romantic roles being at the fore, but I think the cookies in this case serve a similar function.) Josh thinks he’s coming to see the president, but the president and Leo have gone to the Situation Room.

And now so have we! The president asks Fitzwallace what’s up, and Fitzwallace tells him that the Indian army has launched an invasion of Pakistan-held Kashmir territory. The president wants to know what “army” means – “Five guys and a Humvee?” Fitzwallace invites “Mitch,” the uniformed dude next to him, to tell the president what “army” means. He uses many words I don’t understand but the take-away is, no, not five guys and a Humvee. The president is pissed that the Indian army could have moved so many people/things without them noticing that India was preparing to do so. “All I’m trying to do right now, I’m trying to avoid making eye contact with the CIA director.” The CIA director concedes that they “dropped the ball.” “Pick it up again, would you, please?” the president replies, all restrained politeness. I’m pretty much loving Martin Sheen’s delivery in this sequence.

More words I don’t understand happen, the gist of which is, the ball is being picked up.

Credits! Moving music to remind me that this is a Very Important T.V. show!

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 3

Sam and Toby pedeconference in the outdoor-hallway-thing. Sam wants to know what the Pakistani ambassador has to say. Toby asks the legit question, “Our guy there or their guy here?” question, but I do have to note that there’s no question that it’s a guy. That’s probably accurate. But I’m in a mood so I think I’ll give it a 5. Because it’s rude to your female employees not to promote them. (Yes, I know that’s not how ambassadorship appointments work, but I don’t care.)

Turns out we don’t have one there.

Sam and Toby enter the Mrs. Landingham area as Sam notes it’s been over a year of not having an ambassador in Pakistan. Maybe that’s why they got invaded, Sam suggests. Toby infuses his “Yeah” with all the sarcasm I love him for.

Leo is explaining things to the president, Josh, Toby, and Sam. Not C.J., I’m noting. Josh is pissed about the CIA. The president informs them that the U.N. Security Council is having an emergency session to get a ceasefire. Toby seems to have little faith in the U.N. Security Council. Since I understand little about foreign relations and less about military stuff, I am focusing on grammar. Why is it CIA but U.N.? What determines whether a set of initials gets periods or not? Is this something I learned in 10th grade and forgot?

Anyway, the U.N. Security Council sucks, the CIA sucks, and a war between India and Pakistan would probably, eventually, go nuclear, which would suck.

C.J. enters. In a pink coat. Yeah, gonna give that a 2, too. Maybe I need a new number for “stereotypical femininity” but I’ll think about that later. They all turn and look at her like she caught them watching porn. Leo says she can tell the room there’s a full lid, and when she leaves, he promises to brief her in the morning.

And before you go all, “What do you have against pink?” let’s note that, obviously, in real life, a woman may or may not be wearing a pink coat at any given moment, and it would not say anything about her or her performance at her job or the perception of her performance at her job. But this is a television show, and they can control for all these details, and they do. This isn’t just the first clean coat C.J. found this morning, this is a decision made by the show runner, Aaron Sorkin, the costume designer, and possibly a bunch of other people. The decision to put her in pink at a moment when she’s very obviously not being trusted at her job – when she is the girl standing on the outside of a group of guys – was deliberate.

Zoe enters the outer office and smiles flirtatiously at Charlie. Then she totally asks him out and he is adorably awkward about it. Even I am not in a bad enough mood to give this exchange a 2.

The boys leave the Oval, and Josh tells Sam he’s been subpoenaed for the paperwork related to his non-investigation of drug use at the White House. Sam thinks he should bring a lawyer. Josh says he is a lawyer. Sam thinks he should bring a real lawyer. Teehee.

Mandy comes up behind them and asks to speak to Sam in his office. She wants to take on a “moderate-to-liberal” Republican as a client. So cute! The year 2000 – when our computers were enormously bulky and there was such a thing as a “moderate” Republican! She thinks Sam can help smooth this idea over with Josh and Toby because she feels Sam is the one of them that is more focused on getting the job done than beating the other guys. Hey, now. I think that’s way more true of Josh than it is of Toby. It’s a little true of Toby, but with Toby, it’s because of his lefty idealism. With Josh, it really is just because he wants to clobber them. Anyway, Sam says he admires her “pluck” 3 and she’d owe him one. She scoffs and he says, fine, they’ll be even. She still scoffs and he says that he’ll do this and many more favors until they are even. This was a fairly light scene in terms of 3s when it comes to Mandy, but I still have to give this last exchange a and an 8. The 8 especially because it is never explained what Mandy did for Sam that he would have this huge backlog of favors. So I’m just chalking it up to, “She’s a woman and women are irrational like that!”

MPTF: 8

Rob Lowe is crazy good-looking, btw.

C.J. is trying to send the press home but a journalist named Bruce says his source at the Pentagon told him about India. C.J., who doesn’t know about this, laughs it off. Toby, off to the side, looks guilty. As well he should.

Fitzwallace stands in front of a screen in the Sit Room, explaining things I don’t understand. Another guy reports on India’s prime minister’s speech about Pakistan’s thuggery and how they’re not going to take it. And a third guy says Pakistan basically feels the same way. They’ll get the nuclear briefings at 1500, or 3:00 pm.

Donna and Toby are pedeconferencing about Josh’s deposition. Toby also thinks Josh should bring a lawyer. He breaks from Donna and is escorted into Leo’s office by Margaret. C.J. is already there. In a pink shirt. Just saying. 2. C.J. asks if he knows what this is about. He says he does and tells her he stopped by her office. I guess he’s trying to set up that he was totes *going* to tell her. Because he’s her secret lover. ! Leo comes in and tells C.J. what’s going on. He’s very casual about it but C.J. looks crushed. She reminds him that he told her the lid was on just when this was all happening. Leo is unapologetic, even when C.J. tells him she got the question. He tells her to just tell the press she didn’t know and seems oblivious to, or at least uncaring about, the fact that the press thinking she didn’t know about is precisely the problem. Toby is not oblivious, though.

I am going to assign a 5 to this whole thing, but I also want to point out that, while the show seems to be supporting the idea that sometimes the press secretary has to not be told things and hey, bitches just shouldn’t get mad about that, it is also very much acknowledging the gendered imbalance here and the way C.J. has to swallow what is obviously a bullshit situation. So just one 5 instead of the barrage of numbers this storyline would be getting if they were not, in fact, trying to point out how fucked up it is.

A shot of city streets with the Washington Monument in the background indicates that we’re not at the White House. We are, in fact, at the deposition. Josh is being smug and unpleasant. So, you know, same old, same old. He insists his investigation was not serious and that there are no records. The guy questioning Josh asks if he told anyone he was coming to this deposition today and acts like it’s weird that Josh did. Wouldn’t he . . . have to? Because they’d ordinarily expect him to be at work? Also, isn’t it a deposition a matter of public record? Anyway, Josh is mad about this whole thing.

Two communications guys who I think we’ve seen before are giving C.J., Toby, and Sam the least helpful briefing possible, in that it contains information from a 5th grader’s report on India. C.J. is pissed and storms out.

Sam pedeconferences out of the room with Toby and brings up the Mandy thing. Toby is not pleased. They enter the Oval, where what I assume is the nuclear briefing is happening. A dude is talking about whatever systems India and Pakistan have. He says he’s getting to the truly terrible part, and Toby says, “Good. ‘Cause we were waiting for the truly terrible part.” That might be the line of the night. I also want to note that there has been this woman in the Sit Room both times and now here, wearing a truly hideous blazer, and she has yet to say a word. 11.

The people who are not senior staffers leave the room and the president says he wants to bring in an India expert. Leo asks who, the president doesn’t answer, and Leo, drawing the correct conclusion about who the president means, is not at all pleased, calling him a certifiable lunatic. He is, as you may have gathered, our titular character, Lord John Marbury, former British ambassador to India. “You’re really going to let him loose in the White House, where there’s liquor and women?” Leo asks. Ugh, Leo. 1 for women-as-objects. “We can hide the women, Leo, but the man deserves a drink,” answers the president. WTF? What on earth am I watching? How did this bit of dialogue get into a show written at the turn of the millennium? It’s something Spencer Tracy should be saying to a fuming Katherine Hepburn. 1 and and 5 and a giant Blech.

MPTF: 15

Then there is a kind of absurdly long and awkward shot of Toby and Sam leaving the Oval. I don’t usually notice things like that, but it’s pretty weird in a show that’s renowned for its on-point camerawork and pacing.

Sam still wants to talk to Toby about Mandy representing a moderate Republican. Toby is not interested. Toby wants to apologize to C.J. but Sam thinks that would be patronizing, and that not saying anything would show C.J. that Toby thinks of her as a professional. Oh, Sam. Toby ignores him. Rightly. But also because Toby isn’t (only) trying to mend their professional relationship. !

C.J. calls Carol in to her office to complain about a typo. I’m pretty sure this episode has just passed the Bechdel test. -10. Toby comes in and says, “I was warned that coming to talk to you might be insulting to your professionalism.” C.J. sarcastics, “Well, you wouldn’t want to do that.” Toby says it wasn’t ready for the press and C.J. rightly points out that they still should have told her because it undermines her credibility with the press when they know that she is not told important information. Toby says there’s a concern that she’s too friendly with the press. You know what? 2. Because they showed us in the previouslies about her asking Danny out. And they’ve showed us Danny scoffing at her reservations about dating him specifically because of their jobs, AND Josh gave Danny advice on how to get with C.J., EVEN THOUGH JOSH IS APPARENTLY CONCERNED ABOUT C.J. BEING TOO FRIENDLY WITH THE PRESS. Let’s give this another 2. What the hell, one more. 2. That’s one for the previouslies, one for Danny scoffing righteously, and another for the Josh thing. Blergh!

C.J. is pissed. “You sent me in there uninformed so that I would lie to the press.” Toby corrects her. “We sent you in there uninformed because we thought there was a chance you couldn’t.” BLERGH! I don’t have enough numbers. 11. And 7. And 5. And another 2 for implying that her flirtation with Danny would interfere with her ability to do her job.

MPTF: 21

C.J. is silent for a long, and really well-done moment, and she pretty much dismisses Toby.

Toby runs into Josh and advises Josh to take Sam with him the next time. Josh wants to know if C.J. is pissed and Toby confirms that she is. I’m giving this an 8. Of course she’s pissed, Josh. You guys don’t trust her to do her job.

Charlie announces to the president that the Chinese ambassador will be in the Mural Room in a few moments. Then Charlie asks the president if he can go out with his daughter. The president does not want to talk about it. I know that it might be considered incredibly sexist to ask a girl’s father if you can date her, but he’s also asking his boss if he can date his daughter, so I’m giving it a pass. Charlie leaves and the president mutters to Leo, “He wants to date my daughter.” Leo says nothing, but says it loudly. The president tells him to shut up. It’s kind of cute, even if I do hate the trope of fathers not wanting their daughters to date.

On further thought, I do in fact have to give this a 2 for that very dynamic.

The president and Leo enter the Mural Room and greet the Chinese ambassador. The president says they’ve got to work out a ceasefire and a pullback. The Chinese ambassador is like, yeah, totes, except we’re not letting India get away with this. The president and Leo make “Oh, shit” faces.

Monument. White House. Sam and Toby section. Mandy asks Sam if he talked to Toby and Sam is like, yeah, there’s no way. Josh comes to get Sam and Mandy asks Sam to talk to Josh. Josh is similarly not having this shit.

A Hey! It’s That Guy! is greeted by Leo and the president as Mr. Ambassador. They’re not in the Mural Room. It might be Leo’s outer office. This guy is the Pakistani ambassador. He’s got the coolest accent. Also, he’s pissed. He wanted the president to condemn India’s action more strongly. Other things are said that I’m not sure I’m totally following. I know that the president wants there to be peace, and this dude ain’t trying hear that.

The ambassador and his people leave, and the president tells Charlie he’ll take the Indian ambassador in the Oval Office. Is this seriously how foreign relations are conducted? The president going from room to room, exchanging a few unhelpful words with various diplomats? Charlie Yes, sirs at the president, and then the president says, “Then, if you could, ask the Secret Service to step in and kill me, please.” I know it’s kind of trite, but I love it when Jed complains about his job. Also, Martin Sheen continues to kill it.

The president complains again to Leo about his daughter asking Charlie out, and accuses Leo of “trying to cover up the fact that you’re enjoying this.” Leo says, “I’m not trying to cover it up at all.” Again, I hate the trope, but I love these actors and this banter is kind of fun. I gave it a number before; I’m going to leave it alone now. Leo asks if this is a racial thing and the president is offended. He claims he’s Spencer Tracy at the end of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You all appear to be Spencer Tracy in this episode, Jed.

The Indian ambassador comes in. My first response is that he’s another Hey! It’s That Guy! and then I realize he is, in fact, Principal Figgins of “Glee”! “Kee-dollar-sign-ha!” Hi, Principal Figgins!

Anyway, the president tells the ambassador he’s a little pissed about them trying to invade Kashmir.

Then we’re with Josh and Sam at the deposition. There continue to be no records of Josh’s non-investigation. The guy doing the questioning brings it around to Leo, and Josh refuses to answer. Sam backs him up. The guy brings out a document about Leo that Josh insists was obtained illegally. Sam gets them out of there, saying they’re postponing the deposition. The guy insults Leo and Josh almost punches him. Sam stops him but calls the guy a cheap hack and threatens to “bust you like a piñata.” Okay, Sam. That is convincing. You are very tough and scary.

The Indian ambassador is kind of taunting the president, saying that India can’t be controlled by economic sanctions anymore. The president says India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and “a tendency to get cranky.” Whoa, talk about patronizing. The Indian guy is basically, “We are determined to remain POST-colonial.” Then he leaves.

Seriously, two sentences with each ambassador, full of posturing and bullshit, and then that’s it. For real now, is this the way we conduct foreign relations?

The president tells Leo that he feels like telling the Indian prime minister that America is also a former colony of Britain that “threw off its colonial masters”. Yeah, dude. Totes the same circumstances.

Charlie announces Lord John Marbury, another Hey! It’s That Guy! But not the guy who was in Showgirls and played Charlotte’s first husband on Sex and the City, like I always think he is. Lord John Marbury is soused, as we had been prepared to expect, and doesn’t remember who Leo is, despite having met him several times. This seems to be sticking in Leo’s craw. Lord Marbury calls Leo the butler and asks for a light, then gets shirty when Leo tells him he can’t smoke.

Lord Marbury promises that if he can help, he will. The president says “the world is coming apart at the seams,” and Lord Marbury says, “Well, then. Thank God you sent for me.” Leo and I fail to find this charming.

We switch to C.J.’s office, where she is for some reason sitting on the wrong side of her desk (with her back to the door), explaining to someone on the phone who Lord John Marbury is. She is no longer wearing pink, btw. She says it all sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. A) True, b) Sorkin loves him some Gilbert and Sullivan, and c) personal anecdote blathering time! When my dad and I went to London back in 2003, with the purpose of being either in a theater or an art museum at any given moment (a purpose we fulfilled with vigor), one of the shows we saw was H.M.S. Pinafore, which we chose because neither of us had ever seen a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. We enjoyed it thoroughly. I especially enjoyed the chorus guys in sailor suits. I keep trying to get Jason to bring a sailor suit home with him from work, but apparently stealing a uniform is, like, a federal offense, and they might hang him.

So Carol comes by with Toby. C.J. is not particularly thrilled to see him. Toby wants to apologize without apologizing, but C.J. says, “Either I’m a trusted member of the communications staff or I’m not. Which is it?” You go, girl. Hold him to the sticking plate. (What in the hell is a sticking plate?) C.J. crosses her arms and waits for the actual apology and Toby does, badly. C.J. asks whose idea it was to leave her out and Toby confesses that it was his.

Josh comes back and is greeted by a sympathetic Donna, who takes his coat. Then Josh ushers Toby and C.J. into his office and closes the door. I forgot until this moment that they hadn’t been informed yet what documents Lillienfield has that could get Leo into trouble.

Hey, is this supposed to be some sort of, “See? There’s stuff we don’t tell Toby, too! It’s not just ’cause you’re a girl!” moment? Because if so, 😛 and also nope.

A weird shot of one of those TVs that hangs from a ceiling of war footage, and then Sam sighing heavily, although whether it’s about the war or about Leo is unclear. Mandy stops by and asks Sam if he talked to Josh. Sam isn’t trying to hear her, because of the Leo stuff. “You’re a political consultant,” he tells her. “You’re job isn’t to stop the fight; it’s to win it.” I’m pretty sure this should get a 7, even though the screw-up hasn’t actually been made yet.

Josh comes by and calls Sam away.

Leo tells Lord Marbury that whatever Lord Marbury says is ridiculous. Lord Marbury patronizes at Leo some more, and patronizes the U.S., and also patronizes India and Pakistan. “It is about religion,” he claims and also, “They do not share your fear of the bomb.” If I were dealing with race/ethnicity/nationality, this would get numbers. But I’m not.

Lord Marbury gets a telegram and goes somewhere else to answer it. I am reminded of a joke about prestige, but I fear that to tell it here would strain your patience. If you want to hear it, message me or ask in the comments. While he’s gone, the president informs Leo that Lord Marbury will be staying a while. Leo complains that Lord Marbury thinks Leo is the butler. “For the first few weeks, so did I,” says the president. Rude, Mr. President. Rude enough to get a -5, as it’s a man being rude to his male subordinate.

Margaret comes in and whispers in Leo’s ear, and Leo excuses himself. Turns out Toby, Sam, C.J., and Josh Anyway, Josh is basically warning Leo that this is all about to become public, like, now, and also vows his ongoing loyalty.

The president and Charlie are chatting. The president is trying to think of a quote from Revelations about horses. Charlie doesn’t know it. The president assures Charlie that his hesitation about Charlie and Zoe dating is not because Charlie is black. But Charlie already understood that it was just about Charlie being a male human being. The president gives his blessing to the relationship, which is nice, but still 2, but not another 2, just the same old 2 as above. The president also warns him that, although he’s fine with Charlie being black and dating Zoe, other people will not be. “You know what to do with the mail, right?” he says. “Yes, sir,” says Charlie. But I don’t! Mr. President, what should he do with the mail?!

The president asks Charlie to look for that Revelations quote and sends him off. The senior staff enter from Leo’s office and Leo tells the president what all is going on with him and drugs and the shit that’s about to hit the fan. (I never think about that expression without thinking about 10 Things I Hate About You, by the way, and adding Shakespearean “-eth”s to the ends of the words.) The president also pledges his loyalty to Leo. Lord Marbury enters and reports that a two-week ceasefire has been worked out at the U.N. Which is not a lot, but it’s two weeks more than zero. The president asks Lord Marbury to stick around, and he agrees to stay as long as they need him. Then Lord Marbury pontificates to the room about the backwards, medieval, psychotic attitudes towards religion that these stupid brown people have half a world away. The music swells so I guess I’m supposed to think this is intelligent or inspiring. Lord Marbury also already knows the Revelations quote, about horses and death and the end of the world. He says he thinks they can stop this war but he’s going to need a light (for his cigarette) and the president smiles.

I’m going to be straight with you all. A) I don’t know enough about anything to know why what Lord Marbury says about India and Pakistan is so offensive and wrong. I only know it makes my skin crawl. B) The first time I watched this episode, I went to sleep immediately afterward, and I woke up in a dead panic. India and Pakistan were on the brink of nuclear war! It took me a little while to remember that this was fiction.

Total Misogyny Points: 23