The A story of this episode is a direct follow-up to the tragic but inevitable death of Morris Tolliver at the end of the previous episode. Bartlet, having gone from peaceable academic with no military experience to trigger-happy hothead with a lust for vengeance but no military experience, has to be talked down from starting World War Three. Fortunately Leo manages it, though he does so without pointing out the essential flaws in Bartlet’s Roman Empire analogy, much to my personal disappointment.
The B, C and D plots also concern themselves with our heroes' ongoing drama. The B plot features CJ finding out about Sam and Cuddy-in-her-incarnation-as-high-class-call-girl. Josh makes a reasonable argument that Sam had no idea about her job when he went home with her and didn’t pay her, but Sam yells and stamps his feet like an irate child and refuses to acknowledge that one of the President’s closest aides hanging out with a prostitute might be a slightly iffy idea. The whole business gets sort-of-cute-in-a-comforting-sort-of-way White House reporter Danny into CJ's office though, so it isn't a total loss.
The D story involves Mandy hanging around and reminding us all that she’s Coming Soon. We do not speak of it.
The episode is saved, though, by the C story, because this is the introduction of the wonderful Charlie Young to Bartlet’s White House. Poor Charlie goes through the most insanely traumatic interview process ever; it involves applying for a messenger job and, because apparently his awesomeness shines through so clearly it gets him jobs he didn’t apply for, getting passed up to Josh with only the briefest of explanations, quizzed about his personal life, yelled at by his new boss and then given a job which, while the networking opportunities are out of this world, will absolutely not give him any time to look after his orphaned younger sister so he might as well have gone to college in the first place. None of that matters though, because Charlie is awesome. Fitzwallace also gets the opportunity to show some personality beyond scowling at Bartlet as he reassures Leo that not hiring Charlie to be an assistant because he’s black and it might look bad is probably not the way to fight racism.
This is an important episode, as it establishes Bartlet’s uneasy relationship with military operations, an area in which his inexperience tends to fluster him and everyone ends up doing what Fitzwallace or Leo suggest. Also, of course, we meet Charlie. It’s not the most fun episode – the tension on the screen tends to bleed through, in a slightly uncomfortable way – but it keeps things moving, and also, once more for emphasis: Charlie!
Josh: You paranoid Berkeley shiksa feminista! Woah that was way too far.
Toby: He’s scaring the hell out of Fitzwallace, which I didn’t think was possible.
Bartlet: I met Morris four or five times, let’s not do this like he was my son. At least he’s self-aware.
CJ: Really? Strength guts or courage? You just said three things that all mean the same thing.
Sam (on Josh interrogating Charlie on his sexuality): I don’t mind being held to a higher standard, I mind being held to a lower one.
Josh: I've got nothing to do. Like a writer on a movie set.
Josh: Why can't you tell me that there's a person in my office?
Donna: The first time I didn't know, the second time I didn't care that much.
CJ: There's something commendable about Sam's behaviour here. Don't ask me what but there is.
Two and a half poorly constructed Roman empire analogies.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.