Monday, 3 December 2012
S02E11: The Leadership Breakfast
This is one of those place-holder episodes. Nothing much happens, but it doesn't happen so nicely that we don't really care. There's some nice comedy, some geek trivia from Jed, some Machiavellian political manoeuvring in which Toby gets outplayed (several times) and some guest stars who do some really good work.
In some ways I feel like it's an opportunity missed. Small spoiler warning: It kind of feels like they're setting up both Felicity Huffman and Corbin Bernsen for recurring roles. By the end of the episode we're looking forward to round two between Toby and Ann and we've had Shallick's card marked as a probable opponent for Bartlet a couple of years down the line. Neither of those things happen (Felicity never appears again and Corbin is in one more episode a couple down the line). I think both of those things are bad. Bartlet's eventual opponent is no better a character than Bernsen's, who disappears without a trace, yet another continuity mis-step. Meanwhile the one thing the show could have done with is someone really good on the other side of the aisle (see spoiler section), and Felicity could have filled that role excellently.
The one thing that does happen which is concrete is the handshake between Leo and Toby where they form the "committee to re-elect the President". That plot-line does pick up over the next few episodes, leading to probably the best half season in the show's entire run.
There's nothing better to get me in the mood for an episode of West Wing than some Sam and Josh tomfoolery.
Sports Night crossover alert #1: Ann Stark is played by Felicity Huffman, who played Dana Whitaker in Sports Night (she was effectively the Leo of that show if you've never seen it).
Sports Night crossover alert #2: Sam screws up with a woman he wants to impress (Karen Cahill) by confusing Kurdistan with Kazakhstan. In Sports Night Dan Rydell (the Sam of that show if you've never seen it) screwed up with a woman he wanted to impress (Hillary Clinton) by confusing secular schools with non-secular schools.
Congressman Shallick is played by Corbin Bernsen, better known as Arnie Becker from LA Law.
Episode grade: A-
So what did you all think?
Spoilers for the future follow.
If there's one thing the post Sorkin era writers managed to do better than Sorkin himself, it was bring some really meaty Republicans to the show. Haffley is a weasel, but he's a talented one who keeps the administration on their toes. Vinick is probably the best example, and the season seven campaign is far more in-depth and well rounded than the season four version, which is all wrapped up in just a few short episodes.