In the follow-up to 'Bartlet's Third State of the Union,' Jed has to decide how to deal with five American citizens taken hostage by drug dealers in Colombia.
The choices Bartlet has to make in this episode are the sort of choices no one ever wants to have to make. I was reminded a little bit of one of my favourite episodes of Scrubs, which gave a bit of insight into the choices Dr Kelso had to make and how that was part of what made him the character he was. Bartlet is a much more sympathetic character, which makes it even easier to empathise with the horrifying decisions he has to make, on an evening when he's already given an 87,000 word speech and had a fairly big fight with his wife.
More cheerfully, the subtext in Josh and Donna's relationship has finally, officially become the text, at least briefly. Sort of. Donna spends the entire episode pestering Josh to ask Joey Lucas out and eventually Joey has to point out to Josh that she's doing it because she likes him herself and she's covering. Since Josh has already admitted he doesn't like it when Donna goes out with guys and does his best to discourage it, and since there is almost no other reason (maybe distance?) for him not to ask Joey Lucas out at this point, we have to assume he likes her too.
The other dangling threads from the previous episode are all wrapped here too, most hilariously Ainsley trying and failing once again to meet the President without embarrassing herself. Meanwhile, Bartlet confirms to Abbey that he hasn't actually made the decision to run again, though he doesn't assure her he won't either, leaving that decision for later. And Joey explains the problem with relying on poll statistics to Josh brilliantly, with a line (quoted below) that has run through my head pretty much any time I've heard a politician speaking over the last few years. Classic West Wing.
Bits and pieces
- The chess symbolism is a bit obvious, but hey, it works.
- Abbey calls Jed a jackass, and tells him they need to argue later because she loves him too much to distract him during a crisis. Stockard Channing is on fire in that scene - as, indeed, she is in every scene, including the anguish in her voice later when she tells Jed she can't tell him why his body is breaking down, or how bad it will get.
- Leo advising Jed (in early 2001) not to get into a war with no end in sight is mildly chilling.
Sam (following Ainsley's declaration that she's brought shame upon herself and her father): You are just in your own little Euripides play over there, aren't you?
Toby: The President's not a member of your party, he's the leader of your party.
Ainsley: I'm concerned about peeing on your carpet.
Leo: Well, now I am too.
Bartlet: They won't let me smoke inside, but you can pee in Leo's closet?
Joey: You're like the French radical watching the crowd run by and saying, "There go my people. I must find out where they're going so I can lead them."
Heart-breaking on several different levels. Four out of four closets for Ainsley to pee in.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.