Monday, 28 May 2012

S01E08: Enemies

Yet another geek out begins an episode, with Bartlet waxing lyrical about various national parks. Don't worry though folks, this will actually have significance later on. As it is, I always think this shows a somewhat sadistic side to Jed. Maybe I feel that way because of my affinity for Josh, but there's something perverse about forcing someone to listen to trivia when they're back at work in four hours. He also makes Hoynes feel about two inches tall at the cabinet meeting, and with a cheap shot at that. It doesn't seem very Presidential, just mean. Once again though, it at least serves the plot, as it gives Danny a chance to flirt with CJ, as well as reminding us of the tenuous relationship between PotUS and the Veep.

The thing I remember most about this episode is the subplot involving Leo forcing Sam to write a birthday message to stop him going on a date with his daughter. Jed gets in on the act and adds Sam to the growing list of people he's dumped on.

I suppose if this episode has any moral lesson to teach us it's that when you're powerful there are no shortage of people who want to take you down a peg or two. If it's not one person it's someone else, just because "it's their turn" as Toby puts it. Unfortuately if that is the message that's being sent it's a little undermined by the many examples of the potential for the misuse of power demonstrated during the course of the episode.

In an otherwise so-so episode it's always good to have a strong finish. It reminds the viewer why they love the show so much, and it leaves them hankering for the next one. The moment between Josh and Jed at the end when we get the statement about "talking about enemies more than we used to" provides just that. The musical score adds weight to the moment too, with the almost melancholy mood the woodwind section evokes.

Random observations:

My favourite part of the episode is the little conversation between Leo and Jed on the settee.

Josh's epiphany when he hears Donna say the files are antiquated is really reminiscent of your average episode of House.

Episode grade: C

So what did you all think?

Spoilers for the future follow.

If I had to be picky about The West Wing as a series, I'd first mention overt sentimentality that is prevalent on occasion (for instance, in this very episode when Mallory tells Sam he's exactly like her father (and not in a complimentary way) and Sam reponds that it's the nicest thing she's ever said to him - cue dewy eyes from all present), but a close second would be the plot strands that are finished really clumsily. Mandy is a prime example, Sam's exit is pretty poorly handled too, as is Ainsley's. The reason I mention it here is that from this episode it seems clear that Sam and Mallory had fairly good chemistry. What happened? For that matter, where did Danny swan off to, because the chemistry between him and CJ was even better. Don't get me wrong, I love the show, but on rewatches I tend to think about the path not taken.

"The implication that I leaked priviledged information is as stupid as it is insulting..." There seems to be a delicious irony to the fact that Hoynes was just talking to his huddle about missions to Mars before making that statement.

The "You shouldn't have made me beg" comment seems very powerful on a first watch, but when we get the full story Hoynes' position seems a lot more understandable. You've been the favourite for the nomination during the whole process and then get pipped at the eleventh hour. Immediately after losing you're told by your opponent "Oh, by the way, there's this thing you need to know about me that if you'd known a week ago, you'd have the nomination right now. I have MS. Keep that to yourself, will you?" If I'd have been Hoynes he'd have had to do a darn sight more than beg.

1 comment:

  1. I really struggled with the Hoynes take down. It seemed so unnecessary, so out of character, it was my least favourite bit of the season.

    I think the line about "having more enemies than we used to" was interesting, because it gives us one of those first inklings that the team isn't doing as well as it would appear. We only ever really see things from the staffers POV, and up to now it would be easy to assume they were doing an awesome job. This becomes clearer over the season (and resolves, as you say in your later piece, in Let Bartlet be Bartlet).