Friday, 1 March 2013

S02E21: 18th and Potomac

Talk about hitting the ground running. Fast forward a few days since the events of The Fall's Gonna Kill You and we now have some numbers from Joey's poll. They make bleak reading. The entire pre-credits sequence, as well as most of what follows, is leading us toward the inevitable fact that it's simply impossible for Barlet to even consider running for a second term. As the gang of four are huddled in the basement trying to figure out exactly how they control the release of Bartlet's MS bombshell we feel their despair. They know that what they're discussing is the final chapter in a Bartlet presidency.

The Haiti situation would be front and centre in the average episode, but here it's relegated to filler. Whenever they switched to that I found myself willing them to get back to the really juicy stuff in the basement, and if that's how I'm feeling about Haiti then you can imagine my dismay when Mrs Landingham is talking about paying sticker price for her new car. Oh how your impression of a scene can change on a second viewing...

If there was ever an episode which demonstrated Jed's ability to compartmentalise it's this one. When he's dealing with the Haiti situation you can see his entire focus is on just that, when he could be forgiven for being somewhat distracted.

Once again, Oliver Platt handles his role wonderfully. He doesn't have much to do here, but after the condescending way Abby deals with Sam it's great to see her put in her place (yet again) by Babish. I'm really sad that they didn't find a way to expand his role in later seasons.

I have quite mixed feelings about the way they deal with Mrs Landingham's death. On the one hand I hate the fact that the last time we see her she's having such a mundane conversation and we don't really get a proper chance to say goodbye (for want of a more elegant phrase). On the other hand it's wonderful in its groundedness. All too often people die suddenly and as a result the closure is so much harder to attain. Of course, from a dramatic standpoint it's a master-stroke from Sorkin as he throws yet another huge burden onto Jed's back just as he's about to give the most important broadcast of his political life.

And still, the question is left hanging... will he run again? Tune in next week for the answer (sort of).

Random observations:

Does anyone else feel dumb that they didn't see the Mrs Landingham crash coming from a mile away? Right from the off she's talking about fetching a new car and the title of the episode is an intersection. How did I not see that coming?

Donna's reaction to the news: This is how a real friend is meant to react to stuff like this. At least Toby recognises that during his conversation with Josh later.

Could Abby be more obnoxious during her interview with Sam?

Episode grade: A-

So what did you all think?


  1. Hi, I hope you continue to post your blog entries about The West Wing. I really enjoy your commentary and perspective. You catch things I haven't and remind me of aspects I really liked about the show.

    Thanks for the entries so far and here's hoping for more!

    1. Yes, I've not gone anywhere, just in the process of setting up a new business at the moment so am somewhat distracted. I'm hoping to get the next review up in the next 24 hours.

  2. I have a terrible thought (based on some reality) that Mrs. Landingham's character was written out (killed off) because the network wanted her out. There is talk that Sorkin and the network (NBC, I believe) didn't see eye to eye about West Wing. Sorkin insisted on spending lavishly on sets and location shooting whereby the network balked because the ratings didn't match up to expectations. One compromise may have been to "off the old lady" and replace her with someone younger who would "skew to a younger demographic" more amenable to the sponsors. Cynical, I know. But there is precedent to back this up.
    Sorkin left the show at the end of the fourth season (some critics say he should have left at the end of the 2nd season) under some kind of cloud. Some critics balked at Sorkin's intellectual showboating in season one where Pres. Bartlet would fill minutes of dialogue with nerdy talk. Example: There are 14 and only 14 punctuation marks permitted in proper English grammar. Name them. (Actual dialogue from season one). Save that stuff for Jeopardy. While we're at it, Sorkin's treatment of Mandy's character was deplorable. Not even one throwaway line to say she found a job elsewhere. For shame,
    Aaron, for shame. If he has ever addressed this, let us know. I'm curious as to his response.