Sunday, 9 December 2012
S02E12: The Drop In
The episode title refers to the (not-so) last minute change in the President's speech, but I'll get to that in a minute because quite frankly, when you have Lord John Marbury in the show he deserves the first paragraph. If you don't have a massive smile on your face during his first scene (in the office with Leo and Josh) then there's something wrong with you. His slapdown of the missile shield is particularly entertaining, and manages a level of condescension even Jed struggled to reach; I love it! He also gets the best line in the episode when he comments that even if the shield is successful people will simply build a better missile, while at the same time coming off warm enough towards Leo that even he thaws a little towards the new Ambassador. The one weird thing is that seemingly from nowhere CJ and Donna are swooning over him all of a sudden. I don't recall them indicating that during the India/Pakistan crisis last season.
And so to the drop in. The really interesting thing about this is that it highlights cracks in relationships between the senior staff that up to now have gone largely unmentioned in the show. We've always had the impression that Toby felt like he was just that little bit better than everyone else in the room, viewing everyone else with a mild disinterest. Notwithstanding that, the picture has definitely been painted thus far that they're all one big happy family who would walk through fire for any of the others. Here though, it's made abundantly clear that Toby is essentially backstabbing Sam.
I have to say, I don't entirely buy that subplot. Firstly, if there's one thing that Toby doesn't do it's duck a fight. He really doesn't do it when he thinks he's right. Second, Toby isn't dumb enough to give Sam enough evidence to figure out the drop in was planned. Third, if there's one person who Toby does show some affinity for it's Sam, which makes the move even worse. Finally, and most importantly, it's just a really mean-spirited and downright nasty thing to do. To steal Toby's own line here, "Friends are honest with each other". Thankfully Sorkin's a good enough writer that he doesn't push the reset button at the end of the episode, and it's clear from the scene in the bar that things aren't going to be back to normal with them for a while.
Honestly I don't know how I feel about the development we're given here. On the one hand it certainly injects a little realism into the show as I can imagine this is a pretty common occurrence in real life politics. On the other hand, isn't the whole point of The West Wing that it's a look at politics through rose coloured glasses, and that for the most part these people are the best versions of themselves they can possibly be? While characters make mistakes, and from time to time make calls that err on the side of political expediency as opposed to doing what's right, this is probably the nastiest thing that any of the main characters has done so far in the show.
Fancy Leo not picking up the Charlie Brown reference; shame on him! Having said that, given that information it's hardly worth Bartlet's effort adding the "Oh, good grief" line at the end.
It's not often that we know stuff before CJ does, but if you don't figure out who the British Ambassador to the US is going to be from the "previously on..." sequence alone then you're just not paying enough attention.
Gail is in a totally different bowl in this episode when compared to her normal one. Maybe that in itself is a reference to the replacement ambassador. It looks like a mobile phone has been "dropped in" the bowl too, which could just be a play on the episode title.
Episode grade: B
So what did you all think?