The West Wing: In This White House   Rewatch 
October 18, 2014 3:15 PM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The West Wing gets a right winger as young Republican lawyer Ainsley Hayes signs on as Associate White House Counsel. She's offered the job at the insistence of the President, after he sees her demolish Sam on a TV talk show. Meanwhile, the president of an AIDS-ravaged African country visits the White House and spars with drug-company executives.

When a confident Sam is outmatched by a novice Republican adviser, Ainsley Hayes on a political point-counterpoint television program, an impressed President Bartlet offers to hire her as assistant White House counsel despite her party affiliation-- a bold move that sends shock waves through the resentful staff. Elsewhere, Toby and Josh attend a deadlocked White House summit between representatives of pharmaceutical companies and the leaders of AIDS-ravaged African nations to discuss the high price and availability of much-needed drugs. However, the President is concerned for the safety of President Nimbala, the eloquent leader of one of the nations, after news spreads about a bloody coup back home in his country.

Airdate: October 25, 2000
Director: Ken Olin
Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story: Peter Parnell & Allison Abner
Yeah Count: 29, wow! Must be because of Ainsley and her peculiar verbal style.
You guys, I love Ainsley so much, I don't even care if she's a little Mary Sue.
posted by ApathyGirl (8 comments total)
I thought Mary Sues were stand-ins for the author. How is Ainsley a stand-in for Sorkin?
posted by wabbittwax at 5:29 PM on October 18, 2014

I also enjoy Ainsley Hayes. Especially how much she likes to eat all the time in later episodes
posted by wabbittwax at 5:31 PM on October 18, 2014

I thought she was supposed to be a bit of a stand-in for the real-life Kristin Chenoweth (i.e., the right-thinking Republican), who had dated Sorkin (and who Sarah Poulsen's character on Studio 60 is much more closely based).
posted by axiom at 8:57 PM on October 18, 2014

Ainsley Hayes and I share an alma mater, so I am obligated to love her!

As much as I enjoy watching her completely wipe the floor with Sam, the sexist commentary around her character (come quick, Sam's getting beaten by a girl!) is harder for me to ignore than on first viewing. I'm not looking forward to the episode with Celia and the argument over what counts as sexual harassment.
posted by casualinference at 8:54 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I also enjoy Ainsley Hayes. Especially how much she likes to eat all the time in later episodes

I get this, it's kind of cute and charming, and I like a lot about Ainsley too but I really, really hate how super attractive women are often shown to be fun and full of personality because they eat all the time and we never see them exercising.

I feel like this is a very Aaron Sorkin move, too -- he's willing to put women in positive positions, but only on his own terms. They have to be attractive but they can't be high maintenance by doing stuff like paying attention to calories. They have to be at least as smart as men, probably smarter (she has to beat Sam, not just make some good points), but like CJ or that woman who shows up later who went to Oxford they have to be willing to ask men questions and admit ignorance a lot without getting defensive about it. They have to make men feel good about themselves and comfortable all the time. I like Ainsley and I like a lot of the women on The West Wing, but I think this has a lot more to do with the abilities of the actors (Allison Janey and Stockard Channing especially, and Janel Molony too) than it does with Aaron Sorkin.

The older and more confident I get, the less patience I have for this "women are cute and fun and do weird kind of unprofessional stuff but if they're smart enough but not SO smart that they make us feel bad then God love 'em" attitude prevalent in the show.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

The other question was, and I quote, "So um, are you ever going to have a conservative we" (Doing the Spoiler Dance) Aaron says, "Actually, I do." I know we've heard some of this before, but I don't know if in this much detail. I'm not sure what the spelling is, but in episode 4 we meet a woman whose name sounded like "Aimsley Hayes" (it's probably online somewhere, but this is almost page 8, and I'm getting tired). "She's mistaken for one of those blonde, leggy, conservative pundits which are all the rage right now, where it turns out none of them ever know anything." He says she's a Harvard Law graduate, which makes a lot of people happy, to which Aaron says, "Yeah, right, like there haven't been any other pop culture graduates of Harvard." Heh heh. Aaron confirms that Sam picks a fight with her on her own show, "Capitol Beat," and "flays Rob Low so badly that POTUS is so impressed he hires her." He pauses, "So THERE."

While she's considered at the level of the Senior Staff, her office is in the unrenovated/unfinished basement (bare pipes, etc), "to rollicking comic effect." :-) Aaron went into how your geographic proximity to the Oval Office is considered a demonstration of how powerful you are, and that people will give up suites across the street for a closet office in the White House. He then gave the example of David Gergen, who worked for Reagan and Bush ..., whose office was put in the old barber shop...barber's chair and all. Aaron found this highly amusing.

Posted at
by Jenn
September 26, 2000
Message 6797
Notes from the Harvard Law School Forum with Aaron Sorkin

posted by ApathyGirl at 4:21 PM on October 25, 2014

"I'm a true independent and that only helps me socially with 'The West Wing' because I can always find someone in the room I agree with, and it helps with Ainsley," she said. "I love that Ainsley is so fair and that on the show both sides are represented. It reminds us that at the end of the day, we all play for the same team. Whether or not we choose to make the same moves, we're all on the same side. Aaron wrote one of the best lines that Leo said in the first episode I was in: 'We should practice tolerance toward those who disagree with us.' " - Emily Procter

"Ainsley role puts actress in tough spot"
by Rob Owen
May 16, 2001
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

posted by ApathyGirl at 4:26 PM on October 25, 2014

Honestly, while I do agree with the comments about the sexist writing regarding Ainsley Hayes, I am surprised by the generally positive attitude towards Ainsley the character in this thread. She didn't beat Sam in a debate -- she just didn't give him a chance to speak. She answered questions that were put to him and kept talking when he tried to speak and he was too polite to interrupt her. As we saw later, he had an excellent rebuttal for her argument. I don't call being overbearing in argument being a good debater... that's called being an asshole.

She was much the same way with Leo, running off at the mouth without even hearing or considering what he had to say, and then claiming that the Bartlett White House is smug and know-it-all, which was pretty fucking rich. She complains about the lack of liberal respect for the second amendment, Sam gets angry and reminds her that Toby recently got shot and nearly killed, and then she tells him that the real problem is that he doesn't like the people who like guns. She's so full of shit that she just regurgitates it rather than engaging with people and trying to really respond to whatever they say.

I don't believe the White House would hire someone like her. A Republican-minded counsel could be useful, but not that one in particular.

Whyyyyy did President Nimbala try to return to his country? How could he possibly have thought he could do any good? So heartbreaking.

Best line of the episode goes to Charlie. Bartlet tells him he'll be punished in some way for not being supportive of his plan to hire a Republican, and Charlie says something like, "Why don't you just sing some Puccini to me again?
posted by orange swan at 8:32 PM on October 3, 2017

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