The West Wing: The Portland Trip   Rewatch 
November 15, 2014 5:13 PM - Season 2, Episode 7 - Subscribe

The President is taking a red-eye to Portland, Ore., to deliver an education address, and Sam must go with him because he can't get the speech right. Toby must also go, to help Sam, and C.J. has to go, too, because she's being punished for making disparaging remarks about the President's alma mater, Notre Dame. Back at the White House, Josh spars with a gay Republican congressman over a bill on homosexual marriage, and Leo monitors a minor crisis in the Persian Gulf involving an oil tanker.

While President Bartlet and some of the staff are en route overnight to Portland for a major education speech, Leo remains behind to monitor a tense situation in the Persian Gulf when a foreign tanker is suspected of smuggling contraband oil and fires on U.S. Navy helicopters sent to investigate. Elsewhere, Josh is on a tight deadline when he debates with an opposing party's congressman, Matt Skinner -- who happens to be gay -- the merits of a bill brought before the President that would prohibit same-sex marriages. On the plane, Toby tries to re-work Sam's questionable speech on education while Charlie offers a novel idea that would result in more teachers. In addition, new hire Ainsley is content to perspire freely in her overheated office while secretary Margaret worries that her boss, Leo, might be tempted to take a drink after he signs his divorce papers.

Airdate: November 15, 2000
Director: Paris Barclay
Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story by Paul Redford
Yeah Count: 61
I love this moment so much:
No, sir. We're standing pretty close to the engines so it may have sounded like I said, 'Notre Dame is gonna get the ass-kicking they so richly deserve.'
posted by ApathyGirl (2 comments total)
PlanetOut: The idea for this storyline came out of a conversation you had with Aaron Sorkin.
Charley Lang: Right. I did two episodes of the show last season. This past winter I was working on the No on Knight campaign. [The Knight Initiative, which was passed by California voters in March, prohibits same-sex marriages in the state.] In the midst of doing my political work, I called Aaron up and said that I wanted to talk to him about a topical idea for the show. So I came in and let him know about the issue -- which he was already somewhat familiar with -- and then that evolved into the idea of gay Republicans. Both of us were very curious about how they do that -- how they reconcile their orientation with their political values.

Then I got a call this fall asking if I'd like to do another episode. I didn't know what it was about. But when I got the script, it was all about what Aaron and I had discussed. And in the course of the episode, my character, Congressman Skinner, comes out as gay.


PlanetOut: Why does Skinner, as a gay man, support the Marriage Recognition Act?

Charley Lang: Well, it's interesting. Being a gay man myself and a Democrat, it was an interesting challenge to get inside the mind of a man who is gay and who would support something like this. The beauty of Aaron's writing is that he doesn't write black-and-white characters. They're not good guys and bad guys. Everybody he writes has a real, credible humanity. And he makes a case for Skinner, because Skinner gets challenged on the episode. People ask him how he can be a member of a party that disagrees with who he is. The upshot of it is -- as my character talks about -- that he has a lot of other priorities; his life isn't all about being a homosexual.

PlanetOut: Did you feel that how your character dealt with these conflicts was true to life, true to how gay Republicans might really feel?

Charley Lang: To tell you the truth, I don't know a lot about it. I know people who are gay Republicans, but I haven't had this conversation with them. I haven't really gotten into it. But the way that it was brought out in the episode made it make more sense to me than it ever had before. I felt it was a window inside the experience that I had never thought of. In fact, it made me more curious and made me want to have these dialogues. That's what I'm hoping the show will do -- foster dialogue between very polarized elements of the gay community.

"The West Wing's Special Guest Star"
by PlanetOut News Staff
November 15, 2000

posted by ApathyGirl at 5:24 PM on November 15, 2014

Thanks ApathyGirl (a misnomer on the present evidence)!
I couldn't believe I hadn't ever seen this episode and just as a datapoint for anyone else looking for individual eps to watch online, I saw it here:

I thought the gay issue played very well and was given a generous amount of time to show evolution of thinking. I don't think the same can be said about the education speech. The best thing about Sam is his flight with language (obv.) and almost all his lines in this ep were negative and unremarkable. That would have been alright if the speech (like the thinking on the gay bill) had been shown to start from a poor place but become fairly excellent by the time of the final draft. I wanted to hear evidence with a line or 2 and those being validated by Potus & the team.
But maybe I'm just being nostalgic for the best of the Sam character as I remember him.

I haven't watched any eps in years although I've seen a few clips. I *was* a total addict back in the day. I remember having to pay something like $200 excess monthly charge to my ISP once, back in '99 or thereabouts, because I couldn't stop d/loading a series that was, as usual (still), aired much earlier in the States.
posted by peacay at 8:43 PM on November 16, 2014

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