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"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Thursday, 29 April 2004

Last night’s West Wing

"What the he** was that??"

That was my very eloquent reaction to the episode, and largely based on the out-of-left-field conversation between Donna and C.J. I watched maybe the last two-thirds of the episode, so I had to guess what happened during the first couple of acts, but it didn’t seem strong, and rehashed an idea that was used previously.

But, seriously, what the heck was up with Donna and C.J.? I really don’t understand why they were sniping at each other. I mean, I understand why, in the context of the story given in the episode, but not why it had to be written at all, in the context of the series.

If you’re going to use a lockdown as a dramatic device, then you’re going to have to choose carefully the characters that get stuck with each other. From what I can tell, in this episode the chosen scenarios were:

  1. The President, Charlie, Debbie Fiderer and Ron Butterfield
  2. Abby and Leo
  3. Josh and a Secret Service agent? I’m not sure who that water-case-buying woman was
  4. Toby and Will
  5. Donna and C.J.

Now, based on the limited amount of story I saw, the only interesting conversations were that of Abby and Leo, and Donna and C.J. The rest, seriously, I have no idea what purpose they served except that scenario #1 demonstrated a little bit of who the characters were. One of the best lines was when Debbie said re: Charlie, something along the lines of, "He’s not gonna forgive himself." Josh and the agent: pretty useless material. Toby and Will: All this proved to me was that nobody has figured out how to write Josh Malina‘s character. It’s really too bad — what a waste of a character that was actually good when he first got the job at the White House.

But, Donna and C.J. was interesting because I had no idea what the heck it was about, and why it turned out to be the most pivotal conversation for the episode, and perhaps, the show (which it and of itself illustrates why the episode was weak). Why were Donna and C.J. sucker-punching each other? Was there something that preluded it in the first act?

The only rational thing I could think of was that maybe Janel Moloney wants to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow. Or, maybe she doesn’t want to leave the show, and the writers need to write her out somehow because someone does want her to leave the show … if either of those theories are true, then the setup of her exit is an undeserved and heartless way to let her go. So I truly hope they’re false theories.

I’m all for drama based on characters and their flaws and strengths. But a few weeks ago, I watched the show (after I hadn’t seen it in a while), and I kept thinking, "Where are the characters I know and love? They’ve been replaced by dopplegangers who seem to act and think differently." Then I tune in last night, and, wow … welcome to Doppleganger C.J. and Doppleganger Donna.

Maybe I should just stop watching altogether, because since Sorkin left last season, I really haven’t enjoyed the few episodes I’ve seen — they just made me more puzzled and frustrated, thanks especially to how the characters were written. If you can recommend any West Wing episode, and I mean any episode this season that could hold a candle to season 1 — heck, I’ll even settle for season 2 or 3 — I’d love to know.

Posted at 2:53 am | Filed under Television

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2 replies

  1. [Spoilers ahead]

    I rather liked the previous episode b/c free trade is a topic that intrigues me… but overall this season has been blah.

    The woman with Josh is the new NSC deputy whom Nancy McNally introduced last ep. I’m not sure where they are going with her except to suggest that she knows a whole lot more than she’s letting on. Yet again, Josh is stymied by a strong, competant woman. Maybe the point is the show that he bullies Donna–and it aint happenin’ no mo.

    The whole CJ/Donna thing was them pushing each others buttons about their relationships, or rather CJ and Ben vs. Donna and Josh. The set up can go either way: Donna will get more aggressive toward Josh or she’ll give it up. I think the end of the episode suggests we’re going the opposite.

    The ending confused me: so Secret Service said it was a false alarm, but then told Charlie and Debbie it was a live exercise, but then Ron told the Pres there really was a threat? Huh?

    I think they just had a whole bunch of story threads that needed to get hashed out ASAP.

  2. I haven’t really been keeping up with the spoilers for the show, so I really hope Janel Moloney is not leaving or anything.

    When Ron said there was a real threat: maybe he meant that if the plague strain had been real, it would have been a real threat. But since it was synthetic (right?), it wasn’t a real threat. Or… who knows. It really doesn’t matter, unless a writer introduces an actual biological weapon infiltrating the White House in a future episode.

    There’s only one more episode left this season, right? I may tune in, but I’ll probably regret doing it…