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

Smash cut to Toby who says “Yeaaahhh, I don’t buy into that.” Emperor Toby for life! Beards and complicated relationships with ex-wives for everyone! Oh, no wait, he’s weighing in on the concepts of truth and planned dissemination of facts.

Quick backstory on CJ’s path to the White House – including what looks like actual old home movies from Alison Janney’s youth. That’s actually kinda adorbs. CJ gets to say some nice things about her mother as communicator and family diplomat. It’s a very heartfelt yet un-maudlin couple of sentences. Then the papal visit plenary gives CJ a chance to teach First Previously Unseen Assistant Press Secretary a bit about diplomacy (out in the hallway, before he creates an international incident) and VO about the number of lurking crises1 that make it doubly important not to get caught up in the emotions of everything. I wonder – might someone get caught up in emotions during a crisis on this typical day?

Oh for… Todd/Chad is asking about her mother (deceased) and father (Alzheimers, as we saw last season) adding layers of emotion to underscore how hard it is for staff to keep emotions in check while determining what Really is Important each day. Then Josh talking-heads about what a very tough choice CJ’s made in basically abandoning her father and can no one on this show speak to an interviewer in a manner that doesn’t drip ‘read my subtext’? At least Donna just cutely stammers through a bit of self deprecation while complimenting CJ.

Brief scene where Carol and Charlie are unable to find any time in POTUS’ schedule for a photo op with a group of ‘Eagle Rangers’ who, I assume, are the non-homophobic version of the Boy Scouts.2 Meanwhile, CJ nervously monitors Seattle-area media, and someone nameless schlub from the press office haplessly talks at a sound technician and demonstrates why this show doesn’t typically include these quadrenary characters, because who cares? Bartlett gives CJ a conniption when he heads in front of the press early and takes a question about aid to Cuba, but, of course, it’s Bartlett, so she’s soon sitting back, eyes glistening with admiration for his handling of the situation. Or something. The fact that things are only happening around the featured characters this episode makes it hard to follow or care about what is happening.

  1. Also a good band name.  
  2. I was a Life Scout, I have always loved the BSA overall, and yes that was an easy joke.  

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