The West Wing: The Midterms   Rewatch 
October 11, 2014 11:01 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Administration is polling at 81 percent. But those numbers are soft, Sam cautions, and no one disagrees. Moreover, they probably won't hold up for the midterm elections in 12 weeks. Still, Toby wants to use this honeymoon as leverage for a domestic-terrorism initiative. In fact, he's obsessed with it. The President also seems obsessed---with thwarting an old foe who is running for a school-board seat in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Sam enlists an old law-school classmate to run for an open House seat.

As one of the President's staff, Josh recovers from bullet wounds, the rest of the team pushes on to the "mid-term" congressional elections in November -- but as C.J. deflects press requests on how the assassination attempt has affected the mood in the White House, she knows that nearly everyone bears psychological scars in its aftermath. In particular, Charlie is affected when he learns more about the shooting and reacts coldly both to Bartlet and Zoey. For his part, Toby surveys the President's newfound popularity in the polls and proposes that the administration pursue a course that would turn up the heat on extremist groups while Sam convinces a friend, Tom Jordan to run for Congress after the death of Grant Samuels, the current congressman. Elsewhere, Bartlet is obsessed with an obscure school board election in New Hampshire for purely personal reasons.

Airdate: October 18, 2000
Director: Alex Graves
Writer: Sorkin
Yeah Count: 37, a new low!
Somebody better get some popcorn, cause Ainsley's comin' next episode!
posted by ApathyGirl (8 comments total)
"You want to hear about the lines being blurred?"... "Our production office got a phone call from a woman wanting to know Josh Lyman's e-mail address because she would like to send him a get-well card."
"What's amazing about that is she had to call Warner Bros. to get it. There's obviously some acknowledgment there that it's a TV show." - Aaron Sorkin

"Indecision 2000: 'West Wing'-Style"
by Unknown
November 9, 2000

posted by ApathyGirl at 11:13 PM on October 11, 2014

Refreshingly candid exec producer Aaron Sorkin admits he lifted the diatribe from a much-forwarded anonymous e-mail. (For those who missed it, Sheen's prez blasts a Dr. Laura-esque radio host for saying the Bible condemns homosexuality; he notes that the Good Book also advocates many odd punishments, like the death penalty if you work on the Sabbath.)
Sorkin, who hoped to give credit, says they "cast a fairly wide net, but we didn't find the author." And he has yet to hear from Dr. Laura herself. "I don't imagine I'll be getting a Christmas card from her."

"Burning Questions"
by Tricia Johnson and Ann Limpert
November 3, 2000
Entertainment Weekly

posted by ApathyGirl at 11:15 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

"A friend forwarded me a copy of an anonymous Internet posting in which the author sarcastically agreed with Dr. Laura [Schlessinger, the controversial talk-radio host] that homosexuality was an abomination as cited in Leviticus. He or she then went on to point out other Old Testament passages that mentioned extreme punishments for what today are some pretty ordinary things." - Aaron Sorkin
Sorkin already had written a subplot for the episode about President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) taking an obsessive interest in a New Hampshire school board election. The race was in the district where Bartlet, a former New Hampshire governor, sent his kids to public school. And the leading candidate was Elliot Roush, a Christian fundamentalist whom Bartlet beat in the first election of his political career.

With that story line already percolating, Sorkin said he looked at the e-mail about Schlessinger and thought, "Gee, this is right for this episode, and there's a way to dramatize it."

But Sorkin said he was troubled by his use of the Internet material.

"If you're a writer," he said, "the only thing worse than not getting credit for something you did is getting credit for something you didn't do."

So Sorkin mentioned the situation in a weekly meeting of "West Wing" producers. "I wanted to make sure that nobody thought I was trying to pull a fast one," Sorkin said. "Being called a plagiarist is like being called a sex offender. Even if it's not true, once the stench is out there, it's not easy to get rid of."

Staff members were assigned to try to identify a specific author, and efforts included asking questions in some of the many anti-Schlessinger Internet chat rooms and contacting gay-oriented publications like The Advocate.

"We came up empty," Sorkin said, "except that all the people we spoke to said they'd seen several different versions of the [Schlessinger/biblical] material over the last year or so."

"'Wing' Uses Net Asset"
by Eric Mink
October 25, 2000
New York Daily New

posted by ApathyGirl at 11:16 PM on October 11, 2014

"And then you turn on 'The West Wing,' this fictional place, and you've got all of these people who, in fact, have developed language and imagery that can work in the post-Watergate, post-Monica era. And they can talk about politics in a sincere way."
[Robert] Thompson [Director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University] cites a recent episode that ended with the staff members sitting on a stoop and saluting each other, and the country, with a heartfelt "God bless America" toast.

"The scene was moving," Thompson says. "It made sense. What they've captured on this show -- and most of it is due to Sorkin -- is a type of language in which we can talk about our country, our nationhood, our citizenry, our responsibilities. That we can, in fact, take it all seriously again.

"A Program We Can Support"
by David Bianculli
November 6, 2000
New York Daily News

posted by ApathyGirl at 11:17 PM on October 11, 2014

Two things that always stand out in this episode is how quickly the party turns on Sam's friend, which is one of those things that I think happens all the time in reality but not in fictional media (because, duh, we can't kept introducing characters and then writing them out the next week forever). And the wife's response is what sells it, "Count on being screwed." And Sam is zero surprised by her response.

The second thing in this episode is one of my all time favorite WW lines: "I think it was clear by the way I ate the crab puffs that it was a gesture of protest." That hole crab puff exchange is gold, but that line is so great to me.
posted by dogwalker at 1:00 AM on October 12, 2014

The three minute burn on that opening "psychics" joke is a miniature comic triumph.
posted by The White Hat at 9:13 AM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

the conversation about the white supremacist groups, the attempted lynching, etc is especially chilling this week.
posted by nadawi at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Poor Charlie. He's been through way too much at too young an age, and he carries that load so quietly and uncomplainingly.
posted by orange swan at 10:30 PM on October 2, 2017

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