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The West Wing: Six Meetings Before Lunch

"You're talking to me during 'The Jackal'?"

This is the episode in which CJ lip-syncs to 'The Jackal'.

I love the opening scenes of this episode, in which we get a chance to see these guys really happy, celebrating their success (unsurprisingly, not that common an event in a political show). I totally sympathise with Toby when he tells everyone off for starting to celebrate too soon – I'm the same – but it's great to see him let go once Mendoza is confirmed as the new Supreme Court Judge. Why does CJ lip-sync to a slightly bizarre spoken song-thing called 'The Jackal'? Because why the heck not, basically. Presumably this is something they started doing on the campaign (especially since Danny knows about it too). Everyone seems to enjoy watching her do it, but Toby especially seems utterly rapt, thus adding fuel to my conviction that Toby is secretly in love with CJ.

The next morning, everyone has to come back to Earth in the titular meetings. It's a little unclear which are the six referenced in the title – a bit like trying to work out which Two Towers JRR Tolkien was thinking of – but there are three clear meetings that serve to dispel the party atmosphere; Mallory meets with Sam to yell at him about school vouchers, Josh meets with a nominee for Assistant Attorney General about a controversial book he endorsed, and Mandy meets with Toby to whine at him about pandas. The other three presumably relate to CJ and Zoey's story, though it's unclear exactly which three meetings Sorkin was thinking of – probably Danny coming to see CJ, the Secret Service briefing she visits, and CJ meeting with the President about it.

Much of the episode follows the repercussions of a party Zoey attended at which a friend of hers was arrested for drug possession. We are once again reminded of the difficulties Zoey's father's job causes in her life when she's accosted by a reporter while trying to sneak out of college through a kitchen, then told off by CJ for lying to her about her friend. CJ also stops by to visit Gina at a briefing, where we're reminded of the ongoing threats against Zoey from an assortment of general crazies and white supremacists with a more particular beef with her – luckily Gina is a very dedicated bodyguard who spends her coffee breaks looking at pictures of teenage Nazis.

Elsewhere, Sam and Mallory are still sort of trying to start something up without really managing it, not helped by Mallory's father Leo, who is still interfering, or Sam, who fails to explain simple things like the fact that the paper he wrote that has so offended Mallory was a devil's advocate-type piece deliberately setting out what the opposition might say. They have some nice repartee, but the whole situation is so unnecessary (and no one in real life would keep arguing and not just explain what the paper was) that it all feels like a bit of a waste of time.

Josh's meeting is one of those in which two characters argue the various points of view in a current and ongoing debate. The West Wing highlighted debates like this regularly, with varying degrees of success. The most effective tend to be those debates in which the show comes down heavily and spectacularly in favour of a particular side (as long as you agree with them), those in which a character responds in an especially unusual or interesting way or with an especially good point, or those in which we learn something more about the regular characters. This particular meeting (about whether or not black Americans should be paid reparations for slavery) does none of the above, so although it's interesting to raise the issue, it doesn't really make for brilliant television.

Bits 'n' pieces

 - After two blissful Mandy-free episodes she turns up again here to nag Toby about getting a panda (for a zoo). Since the entire purpose of this plot is to annoy Toby, it largely works, as we definitely feel his irritation.

 - Goldfish bowl watch: Gail's bowl contains first a model of the White House, then two pandas.


Mallory: How could you write that position paper?
Sam: Which position paper?
Mallory: Don't play dumb with me.
Sam: No, honestly I am dumb. Most of the time I'm playing smart.

Mandy: I think we should get a panda bear.
Josh: You say that now, but I'm the one who's gonna end up feeding him and walking him.

Mostly memorable for CJ doing 'The Jackal', but a nice little episode, keeping things moving along. Two out of four giant pandas.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


  1. I'm not a Sam Seaborn fan, but I did enjoy the long argument about education and that he had written the opposition argument even though he didn't personally agree with it -- although you're right, Juliette, that it went on too long without explanation. It was paralleled by the great argument between Josh and Carl Lumbley from Alias. And both of these terrific arguments were between two people who were on the same side. Only on The West Wing.

    Toby was just a joy during this episode. I'm not sure why I like Toby so much, but I do. I've also gotten the feeling that he has a thing for C.J.

    And there was "The Jackal." Best part of the episode.

  2. While I agree with you that the education debate goes on too long, it is a great debate. It's what I like about not only this episode, but this show. It doesn't shy away from the hard questions. Education and race relations probably each deserve a show of its own, but I enjoy listening to the discussion.

    And, like the two of you, "The Jackal." One of the great moments of the entire series and when I realized that C.J. is my kind of woman.

  3. Carl from Alias - that's why he looked so familiar! Thanks Billie :)

    I was probably a bit affected by the fact education vouchers aren't a thing here (it took me half the episode to work out what the heck they were) and I disagree with him off Alias about slavery reparations, but I was trying to keep that out of the review!


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