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.

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Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing”, 1.05 “The Crackpots and These Women”

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

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

And,

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

Just from the title, you know this is going to be a good one, right?

Last time on “The West Wing”, you didn’t want to see laws or sausages get made, and we saw the former; Sam wouldn’t let C.J. protect him or the president from rumors that Sam’s palling around with a hooker; Josh put on his sunglasses in an excessively cool-guy manner and threatened a congressman; and Toby hated everyone. Also, Charlie! And gun control.

Title Card. The title alone deserves a 4.

The boys are playing basketball. C.J. isn’t. ‘Cause she’s a girl. C.J. may be tall and we’ve seen her work out before, but she doesn’t get to play ball with schlubby Jews or men twice her age, ’cause she’s a girl. 4. The president is winded and the boys are making fun of him for it. Toby wants him to cry uncle. The president won’t. Toby claims that the poets will write that President Bartlett “had the tools for greatness, but the voices of his better angels were shouted down by his obsessive need to win.” Line of the night. When it comes to talking smack, Toby is a poet.

The president calls in a ringer, who, it so happens, is a former college basketball star. And maybe the actor or the character or both is a recognizable basketball star that I’d know if I knew anything, which I don’t. If I haven’t already, remind me to tell you the story of Jason and I taking basketball for gym class at Brandeis. Anyway, they make Charlie guard the ringer because Charlie and the ringer are black.

Credits.

Sunrise shot of D.C. Then Josh is in a hallway and Donna pops up to remind him that he has a staff meeting. He says that’s where he’s going, and if she sees that’s where he’s going, why is she reminding him? 5. She thinks doing so is adorable because she’s also feisty! 3. He says she’s trying to control him which is, as Oz would say, “a radical interpretation of the text” so 8. Then she starts talking to him about some dude who hasn’t called her. 2. Josh says, “Can we clear up a few things about my level of interest in the local Gomers you date in the free time you create by not working very hard at your job?” Ugh. 5, 2, 4, in no particular order. Then Donna withholds his folder until he says she works very hard at her job and she’s not at all controlling. 3 and another 8 for implying she’s being controlling in the first place. Then she has something else for him and he is rude about waiting for her to find it in her folder 5 and she tells him he is supposed to meet with Lacey from the NSC (National Security Council) after the staff meeting. She asks what he thinks it’s about and, because he’s Josh and cannot resist being rude, he says, “I don’t know but this is the White House so it’s probably not important.” 5.

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 13  And we haven’t even had a Mandy scene yet. Told you guys this was going to be a good one.

C.J. comes up behind Josh as he departs Donna with an article she wants him to read in The New Yorker about smallpox. He says, “The disease?” and she says “No, the dessert topping,” so, just because we’re five minutes into the episode and already have 13 points, I’ll give that a -5.

MPTF: 12

Margaret’s voice is explaining that they do “this” every month, and the voice the credits claim is Cathy says they’ve missed a few, and Sam says they generally try to do “it” on the first of every month, and Toby points out that they’ve done it twice in twelve months, and Mandy, who I guess they were all talking to, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. So, I guess Margaret and Cathy were talking to Mandy and that passes the Bechdel test? But Sam and Toby were there, too. And we don’t actually see Margaret or Cathy’s faces while they’re talking. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the episode. But I am going to go ahead and give this a 9 for Mandy being in the position of asking on behalf of the audience what’s going on. Not that it’s exactly diminishing to her that she doesn’t already know, since she’s new. But so is Charlie. And Charlie actually works there, whereas Mandy is an image consultant, so why is Mandy even in this meeting?

Toby says it’s ” ‘Throw Open our Office Doors to People who Want to Talk About Things We Could Care Less About’ Day” which is a less punchy and amusing way of putting it than either Toby or Aaron Sorkin thinks it is. Mandy thinks that’s goofy. Sam says it’s not so bad; you humor people for a minute and give them a special White House pen and go about your day. Mandy thinks this is a waste of time, and Cathy nods as Margaret confirms that it is an enormous waste of time but it’s one of Leo’s pet office policies. We can see their faces now, though Cathy’s is a little blurry, so I guess I feel comfortable giving this a -10. Bechdel test passed!

Leo walks in and gives his speech about Andrew Jackson putting a 2-ton block of cheese in the foyer of the White House so anyone could come in, have some cheese, and get their voices heard. As he talks there are scoffing noises being made and Leo says he will make mental notes of the scoffers and prepare retribution. (I am not giving the scoffing a -4 because it is in no way implied that Cheese Day is a feminine activity in any way. Both male and female staffers think it’s dumb; its proponents are Leo and Andrew Jackson.) Toby wants to know if this day couldn’t be better spent planning a war against a country that couldn’t possibly defend itself against us, which is a little wordy but funny, and Leo promises they can do that later. Sam makes a comment and goes on Leo’s list. Sam asks, “What about Toby?” and Leo says he’s unpredictable. Hey, me too! That’s what I’ll say whenever I can’t justify my numbering system in these posts!

Mandy snarks and also doesn’t go on Leo’s list. (Not giving a 3 because it’s very much in keeping with the tone of the room.) Leo assures them all that “listening to the voices of passionate Americans is beneath no one, and least of all the people’s servants.”

Josh enters and asks if it’s “Total Crackpot Day” again, which also doesn’t seem to faze Leo and is a better way of putting than Toby’s.

Margaret is told to hand out the assignments and Leo leaves with Josh.

In the hall, Leo hits Josh upside the head for the “Total Crackpot Day” remark, and Josh laughs. Then Leo introduces him to Jonathan Lacey. How stupid of me to assume that, when Josh had a meeting with a person named “Lacey,” it would be a girl. (Then again, if it was a girl with the first name Lacey, she’d be a prostitute.) (Then again, Sorkin boys only have very honorable reasons for hanging out with prostitutes, so what would it matter if she were?) Leo closes the door and Jonathan Lacey gives him a card to keep in his wallet at all times and call them – the NSC – if he loses his wallet. The card is directions for where to go in the event of a nuclear attack. Josh is nonplussed. After a few moments, he asks about where his staff goes. Leo and Jonathan Lacey just stare at him until he gets that his staff doesn’t get protection in the event of a nuclear attack. That clearly throws him even more. Sad music plays as he walks out into the hall.

MPTF: 12

Now we’re in the press room. It is devoid of members of the press and instead populated by Sam, Leo, Mandy and Toby. Sam asks a question in a rehearsed voice. From the podium, the president addresses Sam as “Helen” and answers the question. I’m not reporting the question or the answer because they are about economics things and I don’t understand them/care. I mean, I care in real life, and I’d care if this were a major plot point, but it is not. Sam interrupts to point out that he wasn’t being Helen just then; he was being Sandy King. They quibble about this for a minute and then the president answers the question. Sam suggests he add something to his answer, and then Mandy suggests, “If you could  further see clear to not answer that question like an economics professor with a big ol’ stick up his butt, that would be good, too.” Wow, brevity is not Aaron Sorkin’s friend this episode, is it? Not that he’s known for his terse dialogue, but this is excessive. Also 3. Someone sure is secure in the loyalty of her only client.

The president says he is, in fact, an economics professor with a big ol’ stick up his butt, and they all laugh. Toby wants to talk about guns and the president doesn’t. The president agrees to take a few practice questions about guns and then answers one unsatisfactorily. The tension between the president and Toby grows and Leo tries to derail it. We go outside the press room where Josh is leaning against a door with a blank expression on his face. C.J. approaches and asks why he isn’t in the practice session. A clearly addled Josh says he was just going in. Mrs. Landingham comes out to greet them and C.J. asks her, “Where are we in the saga of Toby and the president?” A lot of these lines feel really phoned in. Not from the actors; they’re giving it their all. But the words themselves are unwieldy and not as funny or punchy as they are intended to be. Mrs. Landingham says they’re having a disagreement, and then we hear the president shout, “Oh, for God’s sakes, Toby!” and Mrs. Landingham leaves and C.J. tries to get Josh to focus long enough to go in.

The president is telling Toby he’s not going to say that the bill they just passed is worthless. Toby wants to admit its weaknesses. Mandy thinks that’s a terrible idea. “It’ll infuriate the left, it’ll energize the right, and everyone in the middle’s gonna feel like they just got yanked around.” Yeah. I think we’re familiar with that feeling.

Anyway, Toby’s pissed, the president’s pissed, and Leo is tired. Sam is supposed to leave for his first Cheese Appointment but he thinks prepping for the press conference is more important. C.J. backs him up but the president thinks this press conference is just about they haven’t had a press conference in a while so no, Sam has to go to his Cheese Appointment. And then Charlie comes to get the president so Toby is left there wanting to yell more and having no one to yell at.

So Sam is meeting with Bob from United States Space Command, whom he is mocking right off the bat for being nerdy. Bob is not impressed with his attitude. He wants the White House to pay more attention to UFOs. Sam is happy to hear that they aren’t paying any attention right now, as they “already have enough trouble with the first lady and her Ouija board.” What? No. 4. I mean, I know this is only episode five and we haven’t met her yet but even if we never met her, having that as our one piece of information about her is diminishing, and also, when we do meet her and get to know her character, she’s not really the type to use a Ouija board a lot, so it’s bad writing, too, for the sake of making a joke about women and the silly nonsense they get up to. Boo.

Anyway. Bob has some data he wants Sam to show the president. Sam says he will not do that because the president will either laugh at him or yell at him. Bob, who is being very calm and professional, by the way, starts talking about some specific UFO near Hawaii that’s up there right now. Sam makes fun of Bob some more and snottily gives Bob a pen.

Mandy is asking C.J. for her support to take the president and staff to a Hollywood fundraiser. Okay, so this episode definitely passes the Bechdel test. Fine. C.J. says it’s not her Mandy has to worry about; it’s Toby. Mandy knows that. They talk about the last one of these they went to, I guess during the campaign. Apparently Roberto Benigni pushed C.J. into the swimming pool.

Actually, this is one of the things that confuses me about the Bechdel test. They are talking about Hollywood fundraisers and being pushed in a pool and all, but they’re talking about convincing the president (a man), and Toby (a man), and about the person hosting the fundraiser (a man), and about the person who pushed C.J. into the pool (a man), so are they talking about “a man” and therefore not having a Bechdel-test-passing conversation? Or would it be far too extreme to expect that female characters exist in a world completely devoid of men in any capacity, and therefore can have conversations about their jobs, their kids, their lives without those conversations including men? Then again, I bet men in movies and TV can, in fact, have conversations that include nothing about any women in any capacity, so isn’t that kind of the point of the Bechdel test?

But for the purposes of this show, the president is, in fact, a man, so if the ladies are talking about work, they are directly or indirectly talking about a man, and I’ll just let that slide and say they’re talking about “work,” not “a man.”

Leo and the president are in one of the conference rooms with a bunch of economists to talk about the budget. I don’t know what they’re talking about and I’m not supposed to. Charlie comes in with a message for the president that makes him happy. The president rattles off a bunch of numbers about deficit and debt and again, I’m not paying a lot of attention to this. One of the economists in the room – the only female economist I see – simpers that the president knew “all those numbers in your head?” 6. Blergh. Then we learn that the note says that Zoey, the president’s daughter, is coming for dinner. The president excuses himself to, as he says, go let his staff bother him, and he and Leo exit.

In the hall, the president gets all excited, saying he’s going to make chili for everyone and bellowing for Charlie. Charlie reminds him that the first lady doesn’t want him to – and the president cuts him off by declaring that, with the first lady in Pakistan, he can eat whatever he wants. 4. Girls. Always with their trying to make men healthy. So annoying. Anyway, Leo is skeptical that President Bartlett can cook.

The president sends Charlie away, and Leo also marvels about him knowing those numbers, too. The president says, “I was right?” and Leo laughs and says, “That’s what I thought.” Which kind of makes that one woman simpering even more gross.

Anyway, the president calls the staff in and announces that Zoey is coming in that night and he’s making chili for everyone. The staff for some reason does not seem enthused about this idea until the president instructs them to look at the seal on his office carpet, then back up at him. He makes the same announcement in the same tone of voice and gets ultra-fake cheering. I don’t really get this. If I worked for the president, I’d be thrilled to death to have chili with him and his daughter, if only so I could put it in the book I’d write one day, but also just because that’s cool as hell.

The meeting proper gets underway, with Leo saying he wants this meeting to last somewhere between three and five minutes. He calls on Mandy, who brings up California and the possibility of going to the fundraiser she asked C.J. about earlier. Toby doesn’t want to because the president will be giving a speech decrying violence in movies, and it’s hypocritical. Sam doesn’t think they should be giving the speech at all. Sam and Toby get into it about violence and Hollywood movies and whether the quality of said movies affects whether or not we think the violence in them is justified. C.J. just makes adorable faces. Toby finally says they can’t admonish Hollywood on Tuesday and cash their check on Wednesday because it’s hypocritical. The president, who is perusing the paper, says being hypocritical to Hollywood is okay. Toby is not pleased. No one cares. Toby makes an analogy about McCarthyism. The president demands to know if he looks like Joe McCarthy to Toby. Toby says, “No, sir. Nobody ever looks like Joe McCarthy. That’s how they get in the door in the first place.” Wow. Toby is also incredibly secure in his job. Although, fair point.

C.J. says they’ve wandered from the point. Leo says time’s up and everyone is dismissed.

I just want to note that, even though this is Mandy’s thing, and she talked to C.J. about it earlier, neither of them participate in the debate. Mandy introduces it and C.J. ends it, but they don’t jump into it. I mean, neither does Josh, and that’s pretty rare, but still. He’s having a weird day. And there are two women in the room, one of whom is the source of this idea in the first place, and neither of them has anything to say on the subject. I don’t have a number for that, so I think I’ll give it a 4 and determine later if I need a new number.

MPTF: 17

Josh and Sam pedeconference out of the office. Sam wants to know if Josh is okay. Josh says he is. Cathy, Sam’s assistant, tells Sam she ate her donut. I think this is the first example of an ongoing weird thing this show has about women and a craving for baked goods. I’ll give it a 4. Sam asks Cathy if “that thing is still out there,” referring to the UFO he dismissed earlier. It is. He and Josh speak dismissively about it some more and Josh mentions Mrs. Bartlett’s Ouija board, too. Ugh.

Josh closes the door as Sam babbles about the UFO and Josh stops him. Josh asks Sam if he’s close to Cathy. “I haven’t seen her naked, if that’s what you’re asking,” says Sam. I’m giving that a 2. I’m in an unforgiving mood today. Sam says Cathy is like a younger sister to him, except she gets paid and frightens Sam. Just like the relationship between Josh and Donna. I’m sure this conversation is sexist; I’m just not sure how. Let’s go with 4. Anyway, Josh asks Sam if, when Sam got his card (from the NSC) and realized Cathy didn’t get one, how did he feel? Sam has no idea what he’s talking about. Josh realizes Sam doesn’t have a card, either. Oh, man, Josh. You not only can’t protect your little sister, you can’t protect your brothers-in-arms.. Sucks to be you.

MPTF: 20

C.J. is in with her Cheese Appointment. A gentle man with a ’70s haircut wants to tell her about Pluie the wolf. C.J. wants to tell him to go fuck himself. But nicely. Another guy – Oh, my God, it’s Ron Swanson! – talks about Pluie’s annual trek and ’70s dude shows all the modern challenges to the wolf’s trek – denuded forests, highways, etc. A humorless, make-up-less woman running the slideshow says, “Not to mention the United States-Canadian border,” and C.J. jokes, “Yeah, ’cause no photo ID.” The woman is not amused. 8. They explain that the wolves need to migrate to find non-related wolves to breed with. None of the three are amused when she jokes about inbreeding and the British royal family. Honestly, I’m not that amused, either. It’s a cheap joke.

’70s man tells C.J. that they are proposing a Wolves-Only Freeway. C.J. clearly thinks this is hilarious. She thinks the wolves will leave the freeway and eat her cat. Well, not if the freeway is going from Canada to Wyoming and your cat is in D.C., I would think.

Ron Swanson tries to change the subject but C.J. wants to talk about how this won’t happen because ranchers. The sour-faced woman informs us that a rancher shot and killed Pluie last month. C.J. says she’s sorry to hear that, and the sour-faced woman says, “I’m not sure you are.” 8, again. Of course the Cheese Appointment dudes are having no trouble keeping this professional, it’s just the stupid girl who’s getting rude and inappropriate.

C.J. asks how much this will cost. ’70s man thinks they can do it for “only” $900 million. C.J. thinks that is the most hilarious thing she’s ever heard. The sour-faced woman continues to be belligerent and stupid. She wonders how C.J. thinks they should spend the money – “Another war plane? Another S&L bailout?” Dude, for serious. She’s in the upper echelon of an organization that wants to actually get this done. She’s sitting down with the White House press secretary. The two dudes with her are calm, professional, direct, and positive. She’s talking like an impassioned co-ed at her first rally. 8.

MPTF: 23

Mandy knocks on Toby’s door and greets him. Toby is not happy to see her. They discuss the fundraiser. Well, not really. They exchange, like, two sentences. They establish that they don’t like being on opposite sides. Then Mandy says, “I’m glad David Rosen passed on the communications job. They couldn’t have done better than you.” Not feeling so secure in your job now, are you, Toby?

We cut to him pedeconferencing with C.J. He reminds her that he asked her a few months ago if he was the president’s first choice for the communications director job. C.J. is surprised they’re back to this. And a big, fat ! for this, because under what conditions is C.J. the person Toby goes to when he’s feeling insecure? Wait, I know! The conditions in which they’re doing it!

C.J. assures Toby that he was the first choice. C.J. doesn’t know about David Rosen. Toby believes he’s become the kid in the class with his hand raised that no one wants the teacher to call on. Oof, Toby. I feel your pain. I probably was that kid sometimes, too.

Actually, I bet the kids in class were happy when the teacher called on me because I did a whole bunch of talking and they didn’t have to. Yeah. Let’s go with that.

Anyway, Toby decides to drop his protest against the fundraiser and wants C.J.’s help with the gun thing for the press conference. C.J. thinks he doesn’t need her help and he’s being silly.

The press conference, the fundraiser, the guns, Josh’s freak-out, Toby’s relationship with the president, Cheese Appointments, Zoey and chili – there are a lot of fucking things going on in this episode. It makes for a good show, but a very difficult recapping experience.

Josh is in an office we’ve never seen before, grateful that someone could squeeze him in. Actually, that someone – Stanley – had to cancel someone to fit Josh in. Gosh, Josh, there is no end to the people whose loss is your gain this episode, is there? We learn he hasn’t been to see Stanley in 10 months. We’ve all caught on that Stanley’s his therapist, right? I don’t have to pretend not to know? Okay, cool. Josh hasn’t even taken off his overcoat, btw. He says he’s absented himself from therapy because his going to therapy might make some of the people he works with nervous.

Josh starts by talking about the smallpox article C.J. asked him to read earlier. Then he says he can’t get “Ave Maria” out of his head. His sister who died used to play it in her room all the time, apparently. She wanted to be an orchestra conductor. Then he talks about the card and how he’s the only one who got one. He lists the people who didn’t get one and includes his dead sister. Freudian slip! He can’t tell his therapist about the card because he works for the government. Then he wants to go. Stanley isn’t letting him get off that easy. He says Josh has never told him how his sister died. It turns out there was a fire in the house while she was babysitting him and Josh ran out and his sister didn’t. Poor Josh. Responsible for everything.

We cut to Josh in his darkened office listening to “Ave Maria” and ignoring C.J.’s knock. She finally comes in and invites him to the chili party already in progress. Josh tells her about the NSC card and how they want to save him and not her and he didn’t want to be friends with her and have her to not know that he has a card and she doesn’t. C.J. laughs this off – kindly – and says of course they don’t want the communications department in the event of a nuclear attack, as they won’t be issuing press releases or writing speeches. Um, they won’t? But they will need someone to harass Congressmen? I mean, I’m sure this is accurate – I’m sure Aaron Sorkin had a source who could tell him who got cards like that and who didn’t – but it seems odd reasoning. Still, C.J. is being reassuring without being patronizing and it’s nice. She tells him again to come have some fun/chili.

Josh redirects her attention to “Ave Maria,” which is, in fact, quite lovely. C.J. just sips her wine and looks at him. Then C.J. says the Cold War is over and Josh scoffs and says it’s not going to be like that, with bombs and red phones. “How’s it going to be?” asks C.J. and I’m calling a 9 here. It’s an invitation to him to explain to her something that she in fact pointed out to him by showing him that article. Josh talks about how scary biological warfare is. And it is, absolutely. I really don’t know how something like the scenario he’s envisioning – a terrorist dropping some smallpox in a New York City subway – hasn’t happened yet. C.J. says they’ll make more vaccine. Josh says they’d better hurry; he’s the only one with one of those cards. Well, him, the president, Leo, the First Family, maybe Charlie and probably some Secret Service agents, probably the Speaker of the House, the cabinet, maybe the Supreme Court justices, probably some other congressional officials, I don’t know. C.J. says he’s very sweet and goes to have chili.

Hey, it just hit me that this episode predates 9/11 and this discussion about biological terror has much more resonance now.

At the chili party, the president is harassing Sam about the fundamentals of basketball, and then he and Leo talk about these kids these days. The president accuses Mrs. Landingham of being drunk, which Mrs. Landingham denies. She starts to say something but the president cuts her off with an “Oh, give it up.” 5. Mrs. Landingham tells the president Zoey is in the kitchen.

C.J. is telling Cathy and Donna about wolves, having apparently now come around to sympathize with them. A fact which displeases Toby, for reasons that could only have to do with the fact that C.J. is his secret girlfriend. ! She quotes the statistic that more people get killed getting change out of a vending machine than by wolf attack. Donna asks the question on EVERYBODY’S MIND – “How do people die from a vending machine?”

The president greets some more staff we don’t know and is approached by Toby. Toby asks about David Rosen and the president admits he was the first choice. Apparently Leo and Josh wanted Toby from the beginning but the president held out for David Rosen. Then David Rosen wanted a job that paid actual money and the president thanks God for that. He wouldn’t be able to handle life without Toby mitchering him all the time. I know how you feel, Mr. President. I’d like a Toby to mitcher me, too.

The president, for his part, wants to know if Toby meant it about the fight between his demons and angels. Toby says he did. But that for the first time in a long time, he thinks the battle between a president’s angels and his demons might be a fair fight.

Nice.

We meet Zoey, played by Elizabeth Moss, who has a very comfortable relationship with Josh. They yell at each other. Then Charlie comes in and is adorably formal with Zoey. Josh gets obnoxious about it and Zoey gives permission to Charlie to call her Zoey instead of Ma’am, and they flirt subtly but adorably about what spice is needed to fix the chili. I’d go into more detail but I’m busy squee-ing.

C.J. is speculating with the president and Leo about vending machines when Josh comes up. C.J. absents herself and the president marvels to Josh about how much he likes to see colleagues enjoying each other outside work. I have to say, as sappy as this is, I feel that. I really like a lot of the teachers at my religious school and I’d love to spend more non-work time getting to know them.

Then it takes a turn for the weird when they all “can’t get over these women”. C.J. is like a ’50s movie star? Not only 4, but also inaccurate? I’d say more ’30s-’40s? The age of Rosalind Russell and tough dames? And Mandy is, um, talking “in a world that tells women to sit down and shut up.” Yes, Aaron Sorkin. You are an incredibly progressive male. How fabulous. 3 is the best number I can give this item. Mrs. Landingham lost two sons in Vietnam but still hasn’t missed a day of work in 14 years. I mean, I love me some Mrs. Landingham, but that’s not healthy. Sheryl Sandberg would advise against using that as the benchmark of awesomeness. 4. Then the president lists the three female assistants we know without saying anything specific about them. I mean, just the fact that they’re there, supporting the menfolk, that’s awesome, right? Ugh. 4. Sometimes being put on a pedestal is just as bad as being thrown in the gutter, Aaron Sorkin.

Josh turns in his NSC card because he’s so noble. I mean, this is a genuinely noble act (I think) but it’s pretty paternalistic in the context of this conversation.

Zoey and Charlie signal to the president and the president calls everyone to attention. He makes a joke about ordering them to enjoy the chili and then says his wife is in Pakistan but he doesn’t know why and he doesn’t want to ask because women, right? 8. Also, that can’t be true. I have to imagine that a first lady’s activities – especially her visits to foreign lands – have to be vetted by the president’s people, too? Everyone claps for Zoey entering Georgetown in the spring, and then the president expresses his wish that Zoey be celibate her whole life which is so gross and then Josh says, loudly, “Yeah, right,” which is also gross and 2 to this whole thing. The president expresses a wish to fund higher education for all Americans. Then he talks about the Cheese Appointments and how everyone starts so cynical and ends up persuaded. He tells C.J. it’s not the cost of the wolves-only highway that bothers him; it’s the segregation. Wolves only? Won’t the ACLU represent the reindeer and sue? That’s such a dad joke. Which is entirely in keeping with President Bartlett’s character. The president also tells us that the UFO was an abandoned Soviet satellite and wasn’t the Cold War sad but the space race also kind of cool? He asks Toby what the next challenge will be? And how maybe it will be the next smallpox vaccine. Let’s touch the hand of God, people. And scene.

Total Misogyny Points: 31 The highest score so far! And also not a terribly good episode. I loved seeing Charlie and Zoey, and Josh having feelings, and the angels and demons line and Toby and the president’s relationship in general, but overall there were too many plot points and too many badly worded phrases and lines. I mean, for any other show, an A+ episode, but for this one? C-. Don’t worry; there will be better!

 

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing”, 1.04 “Five Votes Down”

I must say, episode titles are something I think Aaron Sorkin really does well. Usually it’s the exact right amount of information and relevance. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing, too, you know?

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

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

And,

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

Some notes on the Bechdel test first, because it’s been coming up in the news lately. Apparently Sweden is adding it to their ratings system and also I’ve read posts here and there and I just want to emphasize that it is the view of this blogger that the Bechdel test is not the be-all-and-end-all of feminism in storytelling. It’s just one test, one way of showing that so much of our contemporary storytelling DOES NOT have something so basic. And on a show like “The West Wing,” in which romance is not at all central and there’s plenty of talking, it seems like it should be passable every single episode. If it’s not, that means there aren’t enough female characters and/or they’re not doing enough important stuff.

Anyway, here we go.

From last time, we are reminded about the contentious relationship between Vice President John Hoynes and Chief of Staff Leo, the contentious relationship between exes Mandy and Josh, and we are also reminded that Charlie! and his dead policewoman mom and his adorable “Yes, sir, I do,” which is my favorite thing ever.

A chyron tells us it’s Monday. The president is on a podium in a tux. There’s a sign behind him that says “Practical Idealism,” and a large, fancy audience at dinner tables with wine, so I’m assuming fundraiser. Everyone laughs at his line, “Bess, why do you suppose it is only sons of bitches know how to lick a stamp?” He exhorts the audience to, well, lick stamps, make your voice heard, etc.

We see Leo getting a call while the president says something about people who are dead, and that plus the reminder of Charlie’s dead policewoman mom makes me think this speech is about gun control. I am good at TV! Leo is not pleased about whatever he’s hearing on the phone, asking “How did the wheels come off this thing?” The audience claps – at the president, not Leo’s phone call – and Josh approaches Leo. Leo hangs up and informs Josh that they lost five votes. Josh is displeased and wants names. Leo doesn’t have any; he tells Josh to get on the phone.

Toby comes around to watch the speech. He is in a tux and he is tense. Ooh, baby. Have I mentioned I ❤ Toby? Not the way I ❤ Charlie. I ❤ Charlie like he’s my little brother. I ❤ Toby like I’m thinking of many ways I’d like to help him relieve his tension.

Anyway, Leo has got a phone to his ear, Josh has got a phone to his ear, and the president wraps up his speech. He gets a standing O and “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays as the president heads off, a whole brigade of be-tuxed Secret Service agents surrounding him. Behind them, Sam and Toby start pedeconference. Sam thought the speech was awesome. Toby is upset that the president blew “the D section.” C.J., looking fab in evening wear, comes up behind them and congratulates Sam on the speech. Toby objects, claiming that Sam wrote two and a half paragraphs and Toby wrote 37 pages. I think this is a little peek into the head of Aaron Sorkin, who hates sharing writing duties, but whatevs. C.J. calls it (either the speech or the two and a half paragraphs) “inspiring,” which annoys Toby. Then C.J. says she does it to see his face turn that color, like we don’t all know she knows MANY ways to change the color of his face. Mandy is walking with C.J., btw, and seems amused by this exchange.

Josh approaches from behind and C.J. informs him that his fan club is out in force tonight. Because Josh, the deputy communications director, has a fan club. That has a crush on him. Quick, who is the current real-life Deputy Chief of Staff? Can you picture him/her in your head? Okay, then. And if you did know who all the senior staff of the White House was and what they looked like, wouldn’t you be crushing on the one who’s a dead ringer for Rob Lowe over the one who looks like Bradley Whitford? I mean, especially if you were a superficial and hormonal young girl? 6. (And yes, I am aware that I crush hard on the older, balding, short Jewish one over the one who looks just like Rob Lowe but . . . just shut up.) Josh claims they like the way he looks in his tux. Him, and not Sam-who-looks-like-Rob-Lowe. C.J. starts to say something else and Josh orders her to “Stop talking.” While I only believe, and do not know, that C.J. is under Josh in the hierarchy of the senior staff, I’m giving that a 5. Then he tells her to look calm while he tells her that they’re five votes down on “802”. She proceeds not to look calm. Because women, amIrite? 8.

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 3

Meanwhile, Sam is making fun of Mandy’s choice of “Happy Days are Here Again” to cap a speech on gun control. 4. Mainly because they both have good points – Mandy’s is “Optimist is good” and “The president likes it!” and Sam’s is, “He just said ‘Kids are dead!’ and then you play ‘Happy Days are Here Again’?” –  but they let Sam make all his points and poo-poo Mandy’s, whereas Mandy’s sound weak and she doesn’t counter him. On the other hand, she appears to have zero fucks to give, so good for her. I’ll just give them for her.

MPTF: 4

The president gets in on the mitchering Toby action, an activity for which I give all the approval in the world. Toby tells the president that he, Toby, did an excellent job, and then points out that the president “got a little extemporaneous” in the D section. The president is very much enjoying Toby being bothered by this – as am I. BTW, they are now all pedeconferencing through what looks like the hotel’s staff hallways, what with the giant metal wheelie kitchen thingies and whatnot. Not as august as the West Wing halls but these people do not need glamorous settings; they are pedeconferencing pros!

They pass two hotel staff members making out in a corner, and the president razzes them, too. Toby laughs. I swoon a little.

The president calls Charlie over and asks Charlie what Charlie thought of how well the president delivered the speech, while Toby asks Charlie to focus on how well the speech was written. Charlie’s whole demeanor says, “Nope. Nope. Nope.”

Yeah, .gifs are too much fun.

Yeah, .gifs are too much fun.

It’s okay; they can (and do!) keep having their fight without him. The president tells Toby, “You’re what my mother calls a pain in the ass.” Toby says that’s what his mother calls it, too.

Charlie tells the president that the First Lady called and wishes for the president to take his back medicine, which Charlie has on him. The president claims they make him goofy, and Charlie says her tone was adamant. The president says he doesn’t need to hear a description of his wife’s tone because he is quite familiar with it. 8. Boo, Mr. President.

They exit the hotel to a crowd of people cheering, and I would have thought that this winding trip through the bowels of the hotel was to avoid the crowds, but I guess the crowd can find the motorcade just fine. The president waves and a bunch of fresh-faced girls scream out, “We love you, Josh!” because for fuck’s sake, that’s why. 6. C.J. calls, “It helps not to know him.” True dat, C.J. True dat. Of course this show was made before the advent of Twitter or Fox News. You know these days an offhand comment like that would go viral in six hours and be a talking point on Fox News for the next three weeks. “Strife among Senior Staff? Our expert on shit-stirring and middle school drama has more after these messages!”

MPTF: 6

Credits.

Senior staff are in a conference room in the West Wing with a bunch of boxes of Chinese food in front of them. Mandy and C.J. are pushing the General Tso’s on Sam and then insisting he have it with the sauce. Toby tells them to shut up about the sauce. 4. Girls are so annoying with their concern about feeding people, amIrite? It’s almost as annoying as how they want to make sure you take your medicine and eat healthily.

Leo has two names of the five they lost. Remember from his phone call? Anyway, he’s got Katzenmoyer and Wick. I also kind of adore Aaron Sorkin’s character names. Mandy could have called that, because she’s feisty! 3. Josh has a third, O’Bannon, and is floored by Wick being on the list, saying it must be a mistake. Leo reminds them that the president just made a speech about how they’re going to pass this bill and now they have to. Toby wants to know how they do it in three days with no noise. Mandy asks why no noise, and Leo quotes that “laws and sausages” thing, so that’s a definite 9 because no way the Mandy character didn’t already understand that. Her entire job, really, boils down to understanding that, and she’s supposed to be the best at it. So that was just for the 1/3 of the audience that doesn’t already know the “laws and sausages” thing. Mandy says they can’t involve the president and everyone agrees.

MPTF: 9

Leo asks what’s on tap for the press and C.J. says it’s financial disclosure time, which bemuses everyone. Sam asks Toby what he’s worth and Toby says he owns the tux he’s wearing and $23. I only report this because it’s a plot point. Mandy says it’s good to make this a big joke for the press, how little money everyone has. Josh likes this idea. Toby doesn’t. Mandy says they’ll love him for being broke. Toby says, “I find that. I find that women especially can’t get enough of my 1993 Dodge Dart.” I’d throw a 4 or an 8 up here, but it’s funny, so I won’t. I make the rules around here!

Sam also believes that Chris Wick is a mistake and believes the other two are Tillinghouse and LeBrandt. (I’m guessing on spellings, btw.) He claims that they’ll need the vice president’s help to get to one of them, preferably Tillinghouse. Leo is saying, “Nope,” but in a different way than Charlie.

nope

Anyway, Leo’s outie. He congratulates Sam and Toby, and, as he leaves, Toby again points out the 2-and-a-half-paragraphs/37-pages thing.

Leo pulls up outside his schmancy house. Because not all the senior staff are broke. He walks in to a darkened hallway and a miffed wife comes down the steps. She asks where he’s been and points out that the event was supposed to be over at 10:30 and it’s after 2 am. He tells her about the five votes down and then insists he can so do things at 2 am to help the situation. His wife – Jenny – tells him to come to bed and before he does he sees a box on the table in the front hall. It’s a wristwatch, Jenny tells him. For their anniversary. Which he clearly forgot. D’oh!

I just want a moment to say, this is not something that has ever happened in my relationship with Jason. We both tend to be sort of cavalier about anniversaries and stuff, and only lately have become more interested in them, because they are a guaranteed date night. And we always do dates, not so much gifts, so it’s not really an issue of “forgetting,” because we’ve already had the “What do you want to do that night? Okay, let’s get tickets/reservations/babysitting” conversation. I guess if we were more focused on gifts it would be more of a thing. And I would be the one who always forgot, not him.

Anyway. It’s Tuesday. I mean, I guess it was Tuesday when we left these people, because it was 2 am, but it’s really Tuesday now. The sun is rising on the White House.

A somewhat dowdy woman is in Toby’s office with him. And, like, almost legit dowdy, not just TV-dowdy. Which I mean as a compliment to the show – having a normal-looking woman do anything at all? Good job. Let’s give that a -2. She’s asking him about some stock he owns. So here’s the information we can gather from what Legit Dowdy – her real name is Leila – is asking: A year ago, broke Toby spent $5,000 on stock in some company because he, uh, liked them. Buying $5,000 worth of stock in a company because you like them is totally something that people do when their cars are worth less than that, Aaron. The stock is now worth $125,000, something Toby didn’t know until the same person who told Leila called him. Because when you are broke, you definitely don’t monitor the one investment of $5,000 you made. Aaron Sorkin, when was the last time you were broke? And if this is how you handle money when you are broke, maybe that’s why? Anyway, a huge portion of the jump happened after a certain person testified to a certain congressional committee, and is, in fact, attributed to that person’s testimony.

One of the assistants – Carol, C.J.’s assistant, I think, but I’m watching on my iPad and there’s a weird light on her face – comes in to tell Toby they’ve got all five and one of the five is, in fact, Tillinghouse. Toby nods and Carol-I-Think leaves.

Leila points out that it was Toby who got this person to testify to that congressional committee. Which was just because he’s an old friend. Leila asks, “Are you telling me you didn’t  know what he was going to say?” Toby insists that not only did he not know or care what his friend was going to say, “if he had sat in my office while I typed out his testimony for him, I wouldn’t have understood what he was going to say to the committee!” I use that line a lot to explain my total lack of understanding things. Leila asks if he knows that manipulating the stock market is a federal crime. Toby wants to know if he should be talking to a lawyer. Leila points out that he is talking to a lawyer – her. Toby makes a hangdog face.

MPTF: 8

Josh and Sam pedeconference as they exit the Oval, and Mrs. Landingham congratulates Josh. Josh says thank you but doesn’t know what for. Nor does he seem very curious. I guess women saying nice things to him is just a regular part of Josh’s day. 6. Sam and Josh continue their pedeconference about what the five will want in exchange for their votes. Sam is concerned about giving away everything. Josh wants to give away nothing. A random assistant congratulates Josh, and Sam is more curious than Josh about it. Josh says LBJ would never have taken this shit from Democrats in Congress; he would have said, “You’re voting my way, in exchange for which, I might remember your name.” We now know everything we need to know about Josh. Josh claims to own Chris Wick’s ass.

Josh and Sam enter the part of the building where Josh’s office is and a whole bunch of people burst into applause. Josh says he senses he’s being mocked. You are, Josh. Right now. By me. Donna informs him that he’s won their prize for Best Gift Valued over $25 on the financial disclosure reports. Apparently Josh received an $1189 Italian smoking jacket from a Sarah Wissinger. Ms. Wissinger also gave him a $345 scrimshaw cigarette holder, which is the runner-up. 6. For Ms. Wissinger liking Josh that much. Josh dismisses Donna, telling her that he and Sam are making important decisions and Donna has a lot of “typing” to do and lest you think I’m being unfair in my doling out of numbers, he has a definite sneer in his voice when he says it and is actively and purposefully juxtaposing “important things” and “typing”, okay? So 5.

MPTF: 11

Josh and Sam continue walking, and then realize that they were just following each other. Hee!

Josh departs and Toby appears and tells Sam they need to talk, and as they walk off the camera goes to Leo. I’ve never been to film school so I don’t know how to talk about these shots where the gang moves and the camera goes from one set to another, but it’s cool. Anyway, Leo is putting Margaret on the make-my-wife-not-hate-me project. He wants champagne in a high hat and the meal under sterling silver, and Margaret claims no knowledge of either of those things, which, no, so 9, because Margaret’s been working for Leo for a long time, and he’s got some pretty high-end tastes, and also, when he said “high hat,” I didn’t know what that was but I immediately pictured the little stand fancy restaurants put wine in. And when he said “under sterling silver” I immediately pictured the, you know, silver plate cover thingies that you see in cartoons, so . . . Anyway, Margaret suggests a violinist and Leo points out that “after the initial thing wears off there’s just a guy with a violin in my house,” which, fair. Harry Winston is sending a choker and Margaret disapproves of all this spendiness. It turns out Leo is making $40,000 a pop on the lecture circuit and Margaret is upset about it. When does Leo have time to lecture?

MPTF: 12

Josh comes in and Leo asks Josh if women like violinists. Josh at first thinks Leo is thinking of taking lessons, which is sort of funny, and then when Leo corrects him, says it’s just kind of weird. Until he learns that Leo forgot the anniversary, at which point, Josh thinks he should bring in the Julliard string quartet.

I mean . . . really? Are we just reconfirming that I am kinda a dude? Because if Jason forgot our anniversary . . . probably I did, too? And upon discovering it, I’d be more like, “Oh, okay, you wanna do something next weekend, then?” instead of needing FOUR instead of just ONE strangers in my house to play me songs.

I’m not giving numbers here because a) I think Jenny has a legit beef about her husband being unavailable and b) I don’t think the show wants me to think otherwise, and also c) maybe women who are not me do get upset about this stuff routinely? But I did think of throwing an 8 in here somewhere.

Anyway, Margaret uses this opportunity to get in a dig about the smoking jacket, and both Josh and Leo yell at Margaret. 5. Margaret leaves and Josh says he’s going to see Katzenmoyer (one of the five) and wants Leo’s permission to kick his ass. Leo is reluctant but eventually agrees.

MPTF: 13

Katzenmoyer and Josh pedeconference in front of the Capitol. D.C. is really pretty. The museum-y, government-building-y, monument-y sections, anyway. Katzenmoyer doesn’t want to vote yes because his people like their guns and he’s up for reelection. He promises to vote with them two years from now. Josh says he won’t be around two years from now because they’re going to pluck some obscure Democrat out from nowhere and endorse him in person and primary Katzenmoyer. (I mean he doesn’t use primary as a verb because 2010 hasn’t happened yet but that’s what he means.) Katzenmoyer points out that he’s a member of the president’s own party, and Josh points out that that’s not doing them much good. True that. Josh says, “President Bartlett is a good man. He’s got a good heart. He doesn’t hold a grudge. [puts on sunglasses in very cool-guy manner] That’s what he pays me for.” It’s a very cool moment. Trying very hard to be cool, but succeeding.

Sam and Toby are in Toby’s office, with the door open and the lights off, I think. I don’t know why. Sam is advising Toby on the $125,000 issue, and gloating about the whole thing because Toby’s $125,000 = Sam’s hooker. Appearance of impropriety without actual immoral behavior. Sam points out that just because it’s in the report doesn’t mean anyone knows because maybe no one read the report, but C.J. comes by to razz Toby about the $125,000 so I guess she read it, although she’s the White House press secretary; it’s her actual job to read it, so I don’t know what that proves. Also, her joke is terrible and she starts laughing in the middle of it, which I’m counting as a 1 even though maybe the normally poised C.J. is just a little giggly right now because she and Toby slipped away right after Toby got the news and she’s just got some post-coital high going on right now.  Sam promises to have Toby’s back. Toby believes he’s screwed.

MPTF: 14

C.J. is amusingly disclosing some financial stuff to the press, including that the president gave a gift from his brother-in-law to the Salvation Army. The press enjoying themselves. A journalist asks about the property value of the president’s farm in Manchester, which has gone up due to Secret Service improvements and “the ability to run a global war from the sun porch.” Man, I want a sun porch. On a beautiful old farm in Manchester. The press continues to be amused when C.J. promises them that the next briefing will be about Josh’s forms and that they’ll want to save column inches.

She gets off her podium to pedeconference with Josh, who tells her he’s got Katzenmoyer back, as well as O’Bannon and LeBrandt, and that Chris Wick is waiting for him right now, but that he can’t get Tillinghouse without Hoynes. C.J. says get Wick and then they’ll worry about Tillinghouse. C.J. leaves and Josh is greeted by Donna, who says Chris Wick has been waiting for Josh in the Mural Room for 20 minutes. Josh already knows this. He also knows about next two meetings she brings up. Graciously she says, “Well, then this whole conversation has only served as a reminder,” and he says it was in fact a “colossal waste of time and energy; keep up the good work.” 5. He then goes into the mural room, where Chris Wick is waiting with a bunch of guys. Josh dismisses them without allowing introductions to go forth and then gets rude with Chris Wick, who keeps calling him “dude”. While a camera swirls around their heads, Josh quizzes Chris Wick about the bill, as it becomes clear that Chris Wick could give a shit about the bill, and wants more attention from the president. Josh says he’s so sick of Congress he could vomit and then gives in to Chris Wick’s demand that he get a photo op playing chess with the president.

Sorkin, you think you’re sick of Congress in 1999? Come talk to 2013 us. If only personal vanity were still our biggest issue.

Leo has called C.J. and Mandy in to admire the Harry Winston choker. Because women like shiny things. 4. Sam comes up behind them and admires it, too, but his admiration is not met with smiles by Leo. Is it because Sam hit on Jenny that one time, Leo? C.J. wants to try on the necklace and Mandy wants to rub it against her teeth (? Is that a thing with pearls?) 4 and Toby is pissed and wants to talk about himself. C.J. thinks Leo won’t let her try on the necklace because of the size of her neck (?) which is the second time this concern has come up this episode (the other time was during the hotel pedeconference) and I’m going to go ahead and give that a because why is C.J. worrying about her neck this episode?

MPTF: 18

Leo is continuing to not want to go to Hoynes to deal with Tillinghouse and thinks he will instead go to Richardson. But Richardson’s caucus is already upset with them. Leo promises to do this quietly and immediately.

Sam points out that Toby can now afford one of those chokers and Toby says there’s no one he doesn’t hate right now. I love grumpy Toby.

Now Leo and Richardson are pedeconferencing outside what I think is the Lincoln Memorial. Richardson is black. I guess that’s the caucus that’s upset with the White House. Richardson guesses Leo’s talking to him because he doesn’t want to get Hoynes to talk to Tillinghouse. But Richardson doesn’t care. He doesn’t like the bill not because he likes guns but because the bill doesn’t do enough to get guns off the street. Leo lectures Richardson on the needs of the black community vis-a-vis gun control. “The bodies being wheeled into hospitals are black!” Leo says. Richardson quite appropriately shuts him down and calls him an idiot. Nice.

Mandy is in Josh’s office being feisty at him. 3. Donna puts Leo on the phone with Josh and Mandy intuits that Leo needs to talk to Hoynes. So Mandy was in that scene only to be feisty? Okay.

Leo sees a cab outside his front door. The entryway is dark. He goes to an empty dining room, set for a romantic dinner. Jenny is behind him and says she’s sorry he went to all this trouble but she can’t do this anymore. Their marriage, she means. Leo says this (his job) is the most important thing he’ll ever do and she says it’s not more important than his marriage. He says it is, during these few years while he’s doing it. He says he made the time for this date he arranged, and Jenny says she knows he has a meeting with the veep that night. Jenny tells him she’s leaving and staying at the Watergate for right now. Leo offers to carry her bag to the cab. She shakes her head. He asks her to call before she goes to sleep and she says okay.

You guys, I just don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, you knew he was going to be the president’s Chief of Staff and that’s not a nine-to-five gig? On the other hand, Leo, how could you say your marriage isn’t important? In any event, the show handles this very well. You’re not being asked to side with one of them over the other and there’s no sense that women, amIrite? And it’s just two mature, loving people who can’t get what they need from their relationship but still love each other and shut up I have ALLERGIES, OKAY?! IT’S VERY DUSTY IN HERE!

A blurry woman announces Leo at what I’m guess is Hoynes’s home, and Hoynes says to send him in. Hoynes is being pretty nice to Leo. Leo starts to explain what he needs but Hoynes notices that Leo is not okay. He invites Leo to sit down and asks the blurry woman – Jeanine – to get Leo a glass of ice water. I swear we never see her face. Is this a SAG thing? Is it like not having an actor saying a line? Anyway, Hoynes agrees very quickly to see Tillinghouse and Leo thanks him. Leo reveals that Jenny left him. Hoynes asks if he’s been to a meeting, and Leo says, “AA?” and then asks where he could possibly risk going to a meeting. He seems kind of surprised that Hoynes knows, but not that surprised, and also too shaken to worry about it. A+ acting from John Spencer here. I mean, also, always, but here especially. The VP reveals that he has his own AA meetings with, like, senators and judges and shit, so the anonymity is taken very seriously, and an agent stands outside to make it all look like a card game. Hoynes invites Leo to attend these meetings. Leo seems to consider it. He asks Hoynes to call him about Tillinghouse and goes.

The chyron tells us it’s Wednesday. Mandy is bothering Josh about Sara Wissinger, giver of the smoking jacket. Apparently the presents were given while he was still dating Mandy and Mandy is pissed about this 8. They enter the senior staff meeting still bickering about it. Josh says he thought that since they weren’t going out anymore, Mandy wouldn’t yell at him anymore and Mandy tells him that’s unrealistic. I can’t decide on an or a 3 so I’m going with both.

MPTF: 22

Leo enters the room and is confused about everyone asking him about “last night” and then lies that Jenny loved everything. Some more A+ acting. They ask about the president and Leo says his back is pretty bad so he’s staying in bed and making some calls. But the president is not in bed! He is entering the room from the outside hallway thing (portico? is that what that word means?) in his jeans and Notre Dame sweatshirt and it is clear fairly quickly that he is out of his mind on painkillers. He wants to participate in the discussion about Toby’s financial disclosures. When asked which of his pain killers he took, Vicodin or Percoset, he looks confused and asks if he wasn’t supposed to take both. You guys. I took Percoset for my wisdom teeth. It was way too pleasant. But I also couldn’t have gotten out of bed, never mind walked somewhere on my own power and had a conversation. I also took a muscle relaxer when my back was bad – Flexorall, I think? – and it made me so miserable and bitchy and I didn’t even attribute it to the medicine. I just screamed at Jason a whole bunch for doing things like breathing. Then he was like “Hmm, side effects?” and I was like, “No, it’s you, you asshole.” Then he started reading the side effects, which, in addition to “irritability,” included dry mouth and fatigue and headaches, all of which I was also experiencing. So I stopped taking them. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, the president being all goofy on his pain meds. He still wants to help, by saying that he loves them all very much, and then says, “Tell me what the problem is, Toby,” while looking at Sam. For some reason Toby fills the president in on the problem. The president says Toby is a nice name, but still insists he’s able to focus. He is not. Martin Sheen is delightful in this scene, btw.

Mandy says let’s consider each option from the bottom and starts with resignation. The president likes this idea until they tell him they’re talking about Toby’s resignation, not the president’s. Sam suggests that Toby gives up one year’s salary and cash out his stock issue. Toby hates this idea. Everyone else loves it. The president tells Toby that Toby is a great writer and insists on giving Toby a hug.

Best hug ever.

Best hug ever.

Charlie comes in and chastises the president and wants to take him back to bed. The president first wants to announce that he’s seriously considering getting a dog and then leaves.

Sam asks Toby how he feels and he says he feels like he just got screwed with his pants on. I feel like that was a silly set-up for a bad line. But there are enough silly set-ups for good lines through the course of the series that I’ll let it go.

Hoynes is having breakfast with Tillinghouse, an extremely cantankerous old man who insists he’s voting his conscience. Hoynes basically agrees with his pro-gun rhetoric. Tillinghouse also takes exception to how Josh handled the other four. Hoynes continues to be completely sanguine, but asks Tillinghouse to vote yes, anyway, and relate the conversation to the other four, because Hoynes intends to be president of the United States some day.

We get a swooping shot of the capital at night while we listen to journalists call this a victory for the vice president, and we learn that Richardson had no comment, and is maybe snubbing the president.

Inside the Josh area (I don’t know what all these sections of the West Wing are called for real), the staff are watching the journalists on several different TVs and talking about how incredible it is that the vice president is getting all the credit. It’s like the Veep wrote two-and-a-half paragraphs and they wrote 37 pages and now the Veep is getting all the credit. See what we did there?

Leo says it was hubris and they got what they deserved but I don’t really know what he’s talking about. I mean, sure, he lectured Richardson on how to be black, and Josh ran roughshod over a few people, but in the first case, only Leo was being hubristic, against the advice of everyone else, and in the second, Josh (whom I rarely defend) was being a solid political strategist. I mean, sure, part of the strategy was hubris, but I think he was also doing his job and doing it well, right? And also, the “we” is still just Josh and Leo, why is Leo saying this to Toby and Sam and Mandy and C.J. and Donna?

Toby wants to wake the president and C.J. wants to leave it until tomorrow. Because she wants to get it on right now? No, even I can’t read sexual tension into their body language right now.

Another faceless assistant – or possibly the same faceless assistant – tells Hoynes that Josh is there to see him. Josh comes in, and they joke about the smoking jacket, and Josh says the bill is a crappy bill in the same way Richardson thought it was, and says he knows because he helped write it. He congratulates Hoynes for being the only one to do well in this whole situation. The faceless assistant – it is the same one and we get a very brief glimpse at her backlit face – comes in to call Hoynes away, and Hoynes says to Josh “Welcome to the NFL” before leaving.

I am not that politically astute. I didn’t understand the thing with Hoynes’s quote with C.J. in that other episode, and I don’t really understand what is happening now. I get that they passed a bill but it looked like the veep’s victory more than theirs, and I get that that’s a little disappointing, but it’s reading like a huge defeat and I don’t see why it’s a huge defeat. Especially since politics is perception and can’t they just get C.J. to drum up some, “Isn’t it great how the president and the vice president are working so well together now?” stuff tomorrow and make that the story instead? Haven’t they already established that the press knows there’s tension there and therefore a “Yay to working together!” story would totally fly? No?

Leo walks down a small, empty corridor and approaches an agent outside a closed door. He tells the agent he’s here for a card game and the agent opens the door. We see him standing next to a coffee urn for a few minutes before closing the door.

At no point in this episode do two named women speak to each other about something other than a man. I don’t think two named women speak to each other at all. C.J. and Mandy both speak to Sam at the same time about Chinese food and to Leo at the same time about a necklace but they address all comments to the men in these respective conversations, and none to each other. 10. And I sort of forgot about this and added it in after I had already considered this draft finished. Which is sort of the point of the Bechdel test; that even though it’s not comprehensive, it’s this weird little misogynist quirk of our current media that you don’t notice unless you look for it.

Total misogyny points for the episode? 23