An Unfortunate Episode – The West Wing S5:E18: Access

Back in the meeting, CJ asks if the FBI put something on POTUS’ schedule. Leo tells her ‘Nope, nothing here.’ twice and then Josh talking heads as to how staff (he says ‘I’, but clearly he means ‘I, and Leo, my superior in every way.’) sometimes have to keep things from CJ as she’d otherwise be ethically bound to tell said things to reporters. It’s a totally valid point, but Josh looks so shifty eyed while he explains it. It’s not mansplaining, it’s minionsplaining – ‘Me? Guilty? Of course not? I’m in trouble aren’t I?’

Former press secretary ‘Martin Sheffield'1 gives an extended war metaphor to describe how tough the job really can be, and how much better press secretaries are than the rest of the staff, whose lack of understanding makes it such a lonely position. I’m assuming Martin’s venerable old bloodhound is just off-screen, on the porch, next to his rocking chair.

Brief origin stories from two Assistant Press Secretaries who are both interesting enough and have never been seen before.2 There’s also a little runner with the press officer responsible for recording a message with the day’s itinerary – we’ve cut to him three times already, plus passed him by during a tracking shot. We get it; every day is very busy here at la maison blanche. I’ll report back if this bit becomes annoying instead of mildly amusing.3

Next up is the daily meeting of CJ’s enormous staff4 to ‘anticipate the direction of the news’. Please tell me they play news bingo. My card already has ‘Steve wants a quote about tech sector growth’ covered. Second Previously Unseen Assistant Press Secretary5 smilingly announces that there’s already a change in the schedule – apparently this is a daily occurrence as everyone mock gasps and CJ VO’s about how quickly the precise schedule becomes anything but. A mention of a papal visit leads to everyone trying to say ’eminence’s imminent’ three times fast and we move on.6 A meaningful memo is passed to Carol, staffer Eric feeds CJ and everyone’s suspicion by obliquely raising the FBI director’s presence and for pete’s sake if this episode is about the press office reacting to the FBI situation then get there already.

  1. Not her real name.  
  2. One will be seen again in the infamous anthrax threat bottle episode two episodes after this one.  
  3. This time there’s a weird bit where he can’t pronounce the name of a visiting diplomat and spells it instead. Is he supposed to be new or just bad at his job?  
  4. Half of Los Angeles got their SAG cards thanks to this episode. And then never worked again.  
  5. Hey! It’s Wilson Cruz!  
  6. Yes, that happened. Remember who created this show.  

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