Saturday, 6 October 2012

S02E04: In This White House

I have to say I loved the pre-credits sequence of this episode the first time I saw it, and to this day I find it really entertaining. Problem is, it's completely unbelievable and doesn't stand up to any scrutiny. Why would Sam continually refer to the state Kirkwood is in if he doesn't absolutely know? This is a guy who will not only know which state it's in, he'll know which Congressional district it's in (as evidenced by the previous episode), and most likely how Justice Mendoza would get there by car.

While Ainsley Hayes is the focus of the episode, I think it's worth focussing on the absolutely stellar job Zakes Mokae does as President Nimbala. He steals pretty much every scene he's in, and while a lot of that is due to Sorkin's fantastic writing Moake just nails the performance. He makes Nimbala incredible personable and that makes the resolution to the episode all the more heartbreaking. It's the Nimbala subplot which raises this from a good episode to a great one.

And that brings us to Ainsley. I think she's a fantastic character, and without a doubt the best written Republican Sorkin has ever managed. Yes, he makes Sam untenably stupid in an effort to emphasise her intelligence, but there's no denying he writes her with great deal of subtlety. When Sam rails at her because of the Roslyn shooting there just doesn't seem like any response, yet her "you don't like the people" speech back to him isn't at all confrontational yet manages to be completely disarming. Boy is she better than Mandy or what?

Random observations:

Yet another previously on which just introduces us to the main cast.

We get another bit of Sorkin recycling as the host of Capital Beat is Dana's former boyfriend from Sports Night.

I think Sorkin has a rule - for every sympathetic Republican in an episode he needs to put in two dreadful ones to make it clear that what we're observing is the exception rather than the rule.

Gail's bowl has an elephant in it, presumably a reference to Ainsley getting a job at the White House.

I was racking my brain because I knew I'd seen the actor who plays President Nimbala somewhere before. I checked the IMDb page and nothing rang any bells. Then it hit me - I'd seen him in a Matthew Modine film called A Cut Above, but it was listed on IMDb as Gross Anatomy (they changed the name for the UK release presumably).

In another bit of Sports Night recycling "the President likes smart people who disagree with him" sounds suspiciously like an Isaac Jaffe quote.

Episode grade: A+

So what did you all think?


  1. Another random observation in connection to the previous episode: Toby and Josh doesn't get up when President Bartlet gets up and walks out of the office in the last scene.

  2. This is a great episode... I absolutely love Margret. The part where Leo knocks on the door because he knows Margret is listening is classic. Like you said the Ainsley was the best Republican that Sorkin wrote, but I do think Vinnick in the last couple of seasons was written very well. This is also a great episode showing the disdain between Democrats and Republicans.

    1. Also, it's not just this series, but other series as well, but often times a main character will just leave somebody in their office. They will just walk out, and have their guest still hanging out in their office. It's just an observation, but a bothersome nonetheless.

    2. I would rate Vinnick as the best written Republican in the entire series, but of course he wasn't written by Sorkin. The Sorkin character that runs a close second to Ainsley is Joe Quincy, but I think that's more to do with how well Matthew Perry plays the character than the actual writing.

  3. There aren't too many Republicans anyways. Next week's episode based on Ainsley I think is the better one. Although, she does have a great 2nd introduction to the President (I don't know if it's in this episode.

    You mention "Sports Night" and I haven't gotten around to watching it. I started watching "Studio 60", but it was no good... If you haven't watched Newsroom, it's awesome!