“”Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc”” opens with perhaps my favourite scene so far. Mandy Hampton has just been made very, very mad offscreen, so she drives her BMW front-on onto the curb, leaps out and starts berating the man she’s dating. While she’s yelling at him, visibly upset, a poor schmuck asks her, “ma’am, is everything alright?” Of course, he asked an Aaron Sorkin character a simple question and thus gets his verbal butt handed to him as Mandy continues yelling at everything in sight about the fact that her boyfriend just sabotaged his only chance to become President. After threatening to kill him with her shoes, she says “Do you know what the worst part of all this is?” “I think you might’ve banged up the suspension on your BMW pretty bad…” “It’s the party they’re having in the West Wing right now at my expense!”
“VICTORY IS MINE! VICTORY IS MINE! Donna, bring me all the finest muffins and bagels in all the land!” – Josh Lyman
Welcome to the second episode of most-incredible-series-I-have-ever-ignored-for-being-popular, The West Wing. I’m gonna take some time to be the least interesting man in the world and apologize for not posting this sooner–let’s face it, this was a major ball… drop… sorry, Moira Kelly’s hips just entered the scene. Oh, and I just took a break to text a friend of mine and finish some cereal and all of a sudden, I’ve missed about ten plotlines and the title drop. The theme of this week (I assume given that the themes of coming weeks will be indicated by the title of the episode) is the idea of after it, therefore because of it–that just because the President said he didn’t look good in big hats, everyone in Texas wants him dead. Well, not wants him dead, but he did get turned down for a public appearance or whatever (photo oppportunity? sorry, it’s been five minutes) by the Ryder Cup team. Or as CJ says deflecting a question on how the Vice President seems distant, “twelve guys named Flippy.”
Friggin’ golfers. CJ says that the Ryder Cup team turned him down because of the joke; everyone but the President himself agrees. Actually, you know, you’re right–I have no idea what the theme of this week’s episode is. Forgive me, TVTropes, it’s been a while since a) I’ve been on your site, actively troping and b) I’ve watched this particular episode of West Wing without meaning to fall asleep. President Bartlet has a long conversation with Morris Tolliver about his anxiety regarding the Joint Chiefs. Morris has a ten day old baby at home, and Bartlet tells him that “[his] past isn’t the only thing [his] family can be proud of”. There are a whole host of heartwarming moments involving Martin Sheen coming up in this series. Well, that I’ve seen so far. I recently made my girlfriend watch the premiere of West Wing. Her entire reaction was “Wow, this show’s really all about how America is this big awesome place where everyone is equal and it’s awesome, isn’t it.”
Fun story, yes, yes it is. This is an entire series based around two things: snappy dialogue and how awesome America is as a nation. So awesome in fact, that one of the top White House staffers unintentionally slept with a prostitute the previous episode–the effects of which are making themselves known this week. Sam, the sex-with-prostitute guy in question, slept with Cuddy and now has to tell one person: CJ. You’d think the one person he’d have to tell is the person answering all the questions from the press, which is why instead, he goes to Josh Lyman–telling him about it with the door to his office still wide open–and Toby Ziegler. I’m going to come out and say this right now: the rest of these characters could get stuffed and I’d still watch the Toby Ziegler show. Richard Schiff is my favourite cranky Jewish man ever, having recently taken the title from Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. Upon hearing that Sam “accidentally” slept with a prostitute, he quips “Did you trip over something?”
Let’s quit wasting words and get back to the main plot of this episode. What was that again? Was it the Ryder Cup scandal or was it the hooker. Or was it the President and Morris Tolliver. Oh right, there’s also Mandy and White House Media Consultant. Josh having dated Mandy, he absolutely does not want her to be the consultant. So Toby, CJ, Sam and Leo ambush him in Leo’s office. Fantastic, hilarious, I’m draining the life out of it. That’s a certain ineffable quality of Sorkin dialogue. A plot summary will only suck the life out of every conversation. It sorta makes liveblogging this series more about my reactions to what’s going on. Maybe I’ll branch out into video episodes in coming weeks, but pardon me for assuming that would bore you all stiff.
Knowing where this series is going–and having just learned where the assistant of one of these characters is going to end up by the end of the series while looking up how to spell Morris Tolliver–it’s hard to mention how great these performances are. There are moments in the first eighty to ninety minutes of this series that blew my skull off of my shoulders with their intensity. For instance, Josh Spencer’s brutal takedown of the VP as Leo McGarry toward the end of the episode–amazing. It’ll be topped within five episodes by Bradley Whitford in “Five Votes Down”. And Josh Spencer himself will top it within five episodes, but I forget exactly where. Progress is being made on the hooker plot, as Sam and Laurie decide to be friends. Everything in this episode wraps up happily and fine, with a few moments left on the clock.
It’s half past three in the morning, and the President is walking to the Oval Office in his sweats, while the viewer is clued in to the fact that the US Army is mobilising. Leo walks into the Oval Office with the news that the Syrian Defence Ministry gave the order that led to the plane that was carrying Morris Tolliver to a teaching hospital in Oman, Jordan being destroyed in mid-air. And here, Martin Sheen earns the series’ first use of tranquil fury, telling Leo he is not frightened and that he will blow them off the face of the earth with the fury of god’s own thunder. I worry about the personal motivation of those words. Is a first time commander-in-chief supposed to react with emotions first?
GUESS WE’LL FIND OUT NEXT WEEK