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The West Wing: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part 2

"He was supposed to sign a letter?"

We're still wrapping up the story that ended season one and began season two, so I'm still not saying anything above the break. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of the Dirty Dancing-style perm CJ has in flashbacks.

This episode opens with the arrest of a member of West Virginia White Pride, who, it turns out, were behind the shooting. As some viewers may have guessed already, the President wasn't actually the target – Charlie was, because he's going out with Zoey. (We'll ignore the fact that they missed Charlie all together and hit the President, Ron and a bystander, who were a few feet away, and Josh, who was nowhere near Charlie at all – they are clearly really bad shots). It is clear that this is something that will affect Charlie for a long time, as Bartlet points out – "We don't know what the injury count is yet."

CJ, on the other hand, is already looking calmer and more in control as the episode opens, but she really starts to seem more herself when she works out it was Sam who pushed her down. It's not just about knowing who it is she may owe her life to, but about remembering what happened, which makes her feel more in control. Once she can remember the shooting, she can start to process it, and eventually recover from it.

The flashbacks to how everyone joined the campaign continue, giving us more detail on Sam and showing us how CJ and Donna joined the campaign as well. I'm not sure whether my favourite thing about these flashbacks is Josh's silly grin, CJ's rant about bad movies, the fact that Toby recruited CJ (I'm still convinced he's in love with her) or CJ's perm. Donna's origin story is insanely far-fetched (and involves Josh patronizingly assuming that every decision she makes in her life is determined by the actions of her boyfriend) but I choose to believe that basically, she decided to work for him because she fancied him, and he hired her because he fancied her, and that way, while it all ends up coming back to Donna's love life again, at least it all makes a bit more sense (many TV oddities can be explained in this way).

We discovered in the previous episode that Leo is an old friend of Josh's father, which is why they're so close. Here, we learn that Josh's father passed away on the night of the Illinois Primary, which not only presumably brought him closer than ever to Leo, but allowed him to see how human and caring Bartlet is underneath his bluster and inability to remember people's names (does he ever get Ed and Larry the right way around? Does anyone?). It also establishes why both Bartlet and Leo have such a paternal relationship with him, and gives Bartlet a push to rise to his new responsibilities.

Bits and pieces

 - Ron is still working away and helping Toby to feel better for asking them not to use a tent, while wearing a blood-soaked bandage on his hand. If I ever need a bodyguard, I want it to be Ron Butterfield. Or Kevin Costner.

 - Leo asks Danny to ride with him to the hospital because Danny keeps needling CJ about the twenty-fifth amendment. We don't see Danny for a little while after this, and my friends and I theorised for a while that Leo had had him taken out back and shot. We still think this is what happened to Mandy.

 - The title of this two-parter comes from The Shadow of a Gunman, a play about an Irishman mistaken for a member of the IRA, and aside from being rather poetic, it may refer to the shooters' complete inability to hit their intended target.


CJ: Avert your eyes! I'm climbing out of the pool, my clothes will be clingy, avert your eyes!

Margaret: I can sign the President's name. I have his signature down pretty good.
Leo: You can sign the President's name?
Margaret: Yeah.
Leo: On a document removing him from power and handing it to someone else?
Margaret: Yeah! Or do you think the White House Counsel would say that was a bad idea?
Leo: I think the White House Counsel would say it was a coup d'etat!

Leo (on Bartlet): He's really easy to like once you get to know him.
Josh: How many people get that far?
Leo: Not that many.

CJ: I don't feel beholden to you.
Sam: Why not? I saved your life!

Ron: It wasn't anybody's fault, Toby. It was an act of madman. You think a tent was gonna stop them?

Josh (re his late father): He would have been proud.
Bartlet: He was already.

Josh: What's next?

Less fast-paced and less intense than the previous episode, but just as heartfelt. Four out of four coups d'etat led by Margaret.

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


  1. Excellent episode. I'm so enjoying the connections. Josh and Sam were friends before. Donna and Josh met for the first time and she just bowled him over. Toby knew C.J. I particularly loved that everyone wants to do what Sam did in the flashback -- get up and leave a horrible job. And that what was important to every one of them was that Jed Bartlet was a good man and worthy of their efforts. I also liked Bartlet going to the airport after Josh. It showed where his heart was.

    Poor Charlie. But they were all right. It's illogical to blame anyone for something that racist madmen did.

  2. This episode and the last are among my favorites of the entire series. I love seeing how it all began and I especially respect the fact that each person came in with flaws. It would easy to show Bartlet as Presidential from the beginning. His transformation is what makes the scene between Josh and him and the airport so powerful.

    While I agree that Donna's story is contrived, I go with it because the end result is her working for Josh.

    Margaret's coup d'etat is one of the best lines ever. I always laugh out loud.


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