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

Montage of news coverage – the many facets of this three-hour-old story are explored, with tact, compassion, nuance, and context.1 Meetings continue in the Oval sans Claudia Jean. Martin delightfully2 mentions the tradition – an actual thing, apparently – of the Press Secretary flak jacket, passed from secretary to secretary with notes of wisdom from previous secretaries tucked in the pockets.

A press office guy-person3 updates an understandably changing schedule over the phone, and Carol tells CJ that Agent Casper (nee Coulson) is here. CJ looks absolutely baffled as to why this is the case. CJ thinks having him there is a bad bad bad idea what with all the press around, but, in his friendly, everything’s-cool way, Agent Casper tells her three very important men have told him to come by, so it’s totally okay. Because, again, CJ does her job very well but only when other people tell her how to do it. On behalf of the FBI director, Casper apologizes for the spokesman not giving CJ a heads up earlier, promises it won’t happen again, but won’t tell her how he can make such a promise until she closes her office door and keeps the cameras away. No, really, Clark Gregg was auditioning brilliantly for the Coulson role with this episode.

Back from commercials the narrator narrates a meh metaphor about the press corps’ hunger for information being controlled by the press secretary, which does at least contain the backhanded slap that the press are getting hungrier because nothing’s happening. Oh 24/7 news cycle, you better watch those empty calories. They’ll kill you. And intellectual debate in this country. CJ tells Carol about a few things Carol has done wrong today, in a quiet, direct manner that makes me think Carol will need therapy eight years from now. Then CJ talking heads… wait, I swear they’ve used part of this speech at least once if not twice already. Either that or the writers wrote nearly the same thing three times in this episode. Whatever the case, we get it: the press secretary doesn’t lie to people. Oh good, we have less than ten minutes left in the episode.

CJ silently watches news coverage rehash the few facts that are known, and Chad/Todd (Thad?) asks if she’s waiting for something (presumably in particular). “You wanted to see my day,” says CJ. “This is my day.” And this is why we don’t normally do day-in-the-life episodes. Outside her office stuff continues to happen but none of it is that interesting or well delivered. Carol chews out SPUAPS for something, Running Joke tells Carol that the bad guy’s wife is actually from Detroit and apparently this is concerning to all involved. I would bother to figure out why but I care less and less about the politics and policy twists being haphazardly thrown in here. Then things start happening on the island and everyone rushes to watch TV.

  1. Note: This does not happen.  
  2. The actor’s doing a fine job, but this show, and this episode especially, doesn’t need another older white guy telling folks how the world is.  
  3. Not Running Joke; someone else new.  

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