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

CJ waits patiently to join a meeting in Leo’s office and our ol’ friend Chad (or maybe it’s Todd? The audio is unclear.) asks a few character-building-by-leading-question questions. Then, demonstrating he is, in fact, a male character on The West Wing, he defines Heisenberg’s principle in response to CJ saying “I don’t need to explain to you Heisenberg’s principle.'1 Apparently the FBI director likes seeing himself on camera so the film crew, and we the people, get to join this initial briefing about a totally not-going-to-become-an-issue situation with six federal agents surrounding a remote cabin on a remote island off remote Washington state. Oh hey! It’s Agent Coulson (nee Casper)! Good to see Clark Gregg stretching in a role. The cabin currently houses a suspected arms trafficker and his family.

Leo tells her the White House currently has no official comment on the matter, but they don’t even expect the press to ask questions. CJ is understandably uncertain as to why everyone thinks the press won’t be asking questions about a shootout (as gunfire ‘was exchanged’ 90 minutes prior) but the FBI has everything totally under control don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. This episode moves quickly, as do most episodes of this series, but not so quickly that the boneheaded decisions being telegraphed a mile away aren’t glaringly obvious. In fact, our next scene is a cut-to-commercial teaser2 showing the press jumping all over the situation as SPUAPS breathlessly informs a rushing-about CJ that ‘They have it.’

When we return, a literal gaggle of reporters are all crammed into CJ’s office rather nicely asking questions. They must not have it yet. One eagle-eyed fellow is on to the FBI director’s visit and CJ smoothly demurs that she’ll find out if it’s anything other than a typical briefing. “Do I ever have to lie to the press?” CJ VO’s, clearly repeating back a question and thus making it sound like she’s lying. No, of course sometimes information has to be withheld, but lying will be discovered by those smart reporters and then the whole system will be out of order! Or broken. Todd (or Chad) asks Carol the same question and my gawd we see why Carol isn’t the press secretary. “I don’t think CJ lies…” she says, like a younger sister about to ruin her sibling’s chances to sneak out to that awesome party. Meanwhile, reporter Greg notes it’s his job to remain skeptical, and that the core of a free society is questioning power.

  1. And he defines it incorrectly, conflating it with observer effect, thus demonstrating he’s a character on The West Wing. Science? Science!  
  2. Waaaiiiiiit a second! What commercial TV station would air a documentary like this?  

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