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The West Wing: The Drop-In

"We can't govern if we don't win."

Toby offends both Sam and the environmental lobby. Meanwhile, Bartlet welcomes new ambassadors to the United States.

Roger Rees, who played Lord John Marbury, sadly passed away earlier this week aged 71. By pure coincidence, the next episode on the list of The West Wing episodes to review is one of his best.

In all honesty, as I've mentioned before, Lord John Marbury has never been my favourite character, though this has more to do with the writing than Rees' performance, which is energetic and frequently endearing. I'm not overly keen on some of the stereotypes he represents – the drinking I'm OK with (that's pretty plausible) but I could live without his casual objectifying of every woman in the West Wing, and perhaps more to the point, the way every woman in the West Wing responds by falling in love with him. Seriously ladies, he's not charming, he's creepy. A man who thinks his power, privilege and money entitles him to perv all over you at every opportunity is not a good guy.

Having said that, I'm not completely without a sense of humour, and both Marbury and various characters' reactions to him are often very funny. This is also a particularly good Marbury episode, one of my favourites of his, as he and Leo get some great digs in at each other and he makes some really good points about Leo's beloved but slightly malfunctioning missile shield (which missed its target by 137 miles).

In other storylines, Toby is once again advocating annoying people who support them, partly out of principle, partly as part of his and Leo's secret plan to get Bartlet re-elected without actually involving Bartlet. We can see how it was that Toby never got anyone elected before Bartlet – how Leo managed a more successful track record is more of a mystery. The inflammatory drop-in of the title is also extremely frustrating for Sam, as it ruins a speech he's very proud of, which is why you should include all your friends and colleagues in your secret plans to get people elected. There is an interesting parallel to this story, however, in CJ's attempt to deal with a comedian who dropped in a joke the West Wing was forced to distance themselves from, and who falls on his sword for them, dinner-invitation-wise. Perhaps Toby is right and their friends will stay their friends out of a lack of any other choice, but I have to confess I'm leaning a little bit more towards Sam on this one (and, incidentally, it can backfire if a third party ever emerges, as the UK's Labour party in Scotland found out this year).

Bits and pieces

 - This episode also marks one of the last TV appearances by David Graf, best known for playing Tackleberry in the Police Academy movies, who died not long afterwards.

 - Josh was told standing with his back against the wall would help to relax him. This might have worked better if he hadn't chosen to stand behind the door, resulting in Donna opening it in his face. However, not only in this hilarious, but I have on occasion been known to try this as a stress-relief measure, and as long as you don't stand right behind a door, it works quite well.

 - The shipping news: Donna is convinced that Josh is threatened by Lord John Marbury's good looks and charm.


Leo: It's not an emergency, it's just time-sensitive. I love this distinction.

Leo: Is he still holding you responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire?
Swedish ambassador: Oh, yes.
Leo: Welcome to my world.

Leo: There's been a time in the evolution of everything that works, when it didn't work.

I may have my issues with Lord John Marbury, but the promise of having him around more often is not all together unpleasant. Two and a half out of four ambassadors.

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


  1. Juliette's favorite caricatured character is back! And I'm on his side when it comes to the missile shield.

    Sam Seaborn can be an ass, can't he?

  2. I'm on Marbury's side too, though in my case it has a lot to do with his point about the UK not actually being covered by it!

  3. I really miss The West Wing. Best show ever. I love reading your reviews as it's like watching it again for the first time. Lord Marbury is one of my favorites in a show that has so many great guest stars.

  4. Yes, Lord John is an ass, but an endearing one. I love the way he switches from buffoon to genius in seconds. I also like that he is genuinely informed and has opinions that carry weight.

    I feel sorry for Sam, although I do think he overreacts in this episode. To work so hard on something only to have be blindsided by your boss, not to mention your friend, would be tough to take.


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