Is it a spoiler to say that the pre-credits sequence for this episode is massive? I don't think so, because by the end of the episode we know that Bartlet has MS and if you can't figure out that this is going to have huge implications for the future then you're too dumb to be watching the show in the first place.
I love the little factoid about them needing to pick someone to not attend the state of the union speech. I really hope that it's factually accurate, and if it isn't they need to sort it out pronto.
The scene where Leo tears a strip off Sam for thinking of him before PotUS makes for good TV, but you'd like to think that his point is a no-brainer for any political operative with an ounce of common sense. Interesting to think that in the real world by now both Josh and Leo would be looking for other jobs (Sam as well, after his defiance of Leo).
Lord John Marbury really shows his worth in the discussion about India and Pakistan. I think Sorkin does a good job with the scene in showing the importance of learning from the past, and we have a nice metaphor of the perceptions of British and American people. Leo represents the stereotypical American - viewing British people (as pictured by Lord John) as eccentric, old fashioned and heavy drinkers. Lord John, meanwhile, represents the stereotypical Brit - viewing Americans (as pictured by both Leo and Jed) as falsely overconfident, immature and somewhat stupid. Of course, both views are wrong, which just goes to show the danger of sweeping generalisations.
I get the feeling that this is the time when the series really begins to hit its stride. There have been great episodes before this one, but the actors are really starting to look comfortable in their roles now, and are starting to bounce off each other better.
Gail makes an appearance really early in the episode. She has a speaker's rostrum in her tank with US flags either side, which is obviously a reference to the state of the union speech.
I'm so happy CJ slaps down Mandy for flirting with Danny in her office. Mandy just gets less likeable with every passing episode.
The scenes between Jed and Abby are really touching. It's really good acting from both Martin and Stockard. Talking about good acting, Martin is absolutely superb in the scene with John Spencer.
Is one of the guys Toby is talking to about the speech Al Franken? I'm not sure if he is, but he's the spitting image of him. As an aside, interesting that this episode includes a debate on Federal funding of the NEA, and I end up watching it the same day as Sorkin's new pilot airs, where the very first thing being debated is Federal funding of the NEA.
Sam and Mallory kiss. Yay.
CJ and Danny kiss. Even bigger yay.
The final scene when Jed talks about who you appoint as CoS is Sorkin getting his sentimentality just right.
Episode grade: B-
So what did you all think?
Spoilers for the future follow.
Watch this back-to-back with 17 People and compare the reactions of Leo and Toby.