The West Wing: The Crackpots and These Women   Rewatch 
July 11, 2014 10:54 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

While the staff deals with problems ranging from UFOs to smallpox, Bartlet prepares for a press conference and makes chili for his daughter, Zooey.

Josh is troubled when he receives a special card informing him of where to safely go in the event of a nuclear attack -- a privilege denied to most of his White House co-workers -- while Leo instructs the senior staff to meet with various special interest groups, some of whom have wacky agendas. Prior to an important press conference, Toby voices strong opposition to many of President Bartlet's plans for an upcoming California trip and later checks out the rumor that he was not the chief executive's first choice for the job. The President, meanwhile, virtually orders his staff to sample his prized chili when he arranges a reception for his Georgetown-bound daughter.

Airdate: October 20, 1999
Director: Anthony Drazan
Writer: Sorkin
Do you think the next eighteen episodes would mind if we mixed Mandy into the chili?
posted by ApathyGirl (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Once again the best moment is courtesy of C.J. when she literally laughs in the faces of the Wolves Only Highway people when they tell her that, after corporate contributions, it will only cost $900 million to build.

In one of the few things I hope is less like real life than The West Wing, I honestly hope that the process for selecting and informing which of the President's staff get on Air Force One in the event of an emergency isn't so shambolic.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:43 PM on July 11, 2014


Despite hating government funding to his core, I actually can imagine Ron Swanson supporting a wolves only highway.
posted by dogwalker at 1:09 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


In one of the few things I hope is less like real life than The West Wing, I honestly hope that the process for selecting and informing which of the President's staff get on Air Force One in the event of an emergency isn't so shambolic.

Oh yeah. I understand Josh's perturbation but I think if you actually hand the card back to that guy he says "listen, sir/ma'am, I respect your feelings but you have been given this card because it has been determined that you are of vital importance to the nation in the event of an emergency. Having this card and using it if necessary is part of your job. If you feel unable or unwilling to do that, you are not carrying out the duties of your office."

Also, the tacked on "Wow these women are so amazing" thing at the end sort of turns my stomach. It's really othering even if it's supposed to be appreciative, like "look at these exotic birds of paradise, we just admire them so much. Truly, women are the moral force of our great nation and I watch them with admiration and awe as I would a beloved child."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:47 AM on July 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


I honestly hope that the process for selecting and informing which of the President's staff get on Air Force One in the event of an emergency isn't so shambolic.

There is always this period (which TWW covers quite well in one of those flashback eps) of a new administration -- especially one that has no one who's ever worked in the White House before -- that has a lot of "I thought you told him about this..." occurrences.

I understand Josh's perturbation but I think if you actually hand the card back to that guy he says...

Meh. One of the things they have beaten into the American military over the last coupla decades is No one is indispensable. Josh doesn't want to be in the bunker? Fine. They go to #2 choice, who is like 0.3 microns less good than Josh. Plus the fact that Josh is getting the card a year-plus after he became a member of the President's staff tells me that Josh is the #2 choice, who is like 0.3 microns less good than some other dude we never heard of.
posted by Etrigan at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, BBOC days are the greatest thing ever, and I hate Sorkin et al for not making that their version of the Annual Christmas Show.
posted by Etrigan at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"These women" might have been my most hated thing ever to happen on West Wing.
posted by gerstle at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is simultaneously one of my favorite and least favorite episodes of the show, for the same reasons others have already mentioned. I love The Crackpots and hate These Women. Not that I hate the women themselves, but I hate the condescension in that little speech.

The one and only bit of fan-fic I ever wrote was for The West Wing. It covered a different Big Block of Cheese Day. To attempt a fan-fic was a writing assignment for a writers group I was in at the time, and we were supposed to write 500 words. Mine ended up a teensy bit longer.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:17 PM on July 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


"These women" might have been my most hated thing ever to happen on West Wing.

Well, there's always Isaac and Ishmael.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:18 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I will vote right now for Isaac and Ishmael to be left out of the rewatch. It is explicitly non-canon.
posted by Etrigan at 3:19 PM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wonder if anyone liked "These Women"? (Hopefully not!)
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:51 PM on July 12, 2014


I will vote right now for Isaac and Ishmael to be left out of the rewatch. It is explicitly non-canon.

I own every season of TWW except Season 5 (because it's terrible) and have watched them all more times than I can count. In all those times, I have *never* watched I&I aside from it's first airing on network TV.

Anyway, this episode never really landed for me. Especially when compared to the infinitely better BBOC Day Redux in Season 2. And yeah, Sorkin talking about women like they're pottery.

Josh's discomfort with his place in the hierarchy of the Executive Branch might seem trite as a single episode arc, but it also establishes how he copes with loss and trauma. These things become central to his character and the narrative of the show overall throughout it's run.

Also, I love seeing the evolution of Elizabeth Moss from her first appearance on TWW to Peggy Olsen in Season 7 of Mad Men.
posted by dry white toast at 10:47 PM on July 12, 2014


I never understand why Sam has to be such a jerk to the alien guy. Couldn't be have just said, "huh, okay, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I will make sure it receives the attention it deserves"?

I also find the scene with the therapist interesting. It looks like the set up to a recurring thing-a glimpse at what could have been, had the show gone differently.
posted by meese at 11:52 PM on July 12, 2014


The thing that bugs me about the "These women" speech is that it also seems to come pretty much out of nowhere. This is not an episode about particular feminist issues, CJ spends it worrying about wolves on highways fer crying out loud. Why Sorkin felt the need for that speech just then I will never know.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:06 AM on July 14, 2014


He'd been itching to write it on Sports Night but never had quite as patronizing an opportunity?
posted by Etrigan at 4:21 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


To complain about a different point: when we are introduced to Zoey, we are explicitly told she is 19 and will be starting at Georgetown. I believe Leo refers to her as 19 a little later this season (when comparing her age to Charlie's). I find this to be a much more egregious retcon that changing the month of someone's birthday from a glimpse at a license or school record.
posted by casualinference at 6:08 AM on July 14, 2014


Hrmm, I never noticed that before. I suppose you could hand-wave it away as "the university admissions process is long, they filled out the forms before she turned 19" but it is pretty obviously a mistake.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:57 AM on July 14, 2014


Yup. If she'd been 18, it would be easier to argue that the paperwork was filled out when she was 18 (even though I think Charlie says she was 17 when she started at Georgetown, not just while filling out forms).
posted by casualinference at 7:33 AM on July 14, 2014


%n: "I will vote right now for Isaac and Ishmael to be left out of the rewatch. It is explicitly non-canon."

Heh. Can I vote against it being removed? Even though it's non-canon, there's a lot of interesting commentary that would be fun to drill down into.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on July 14, 2014


By god it was flawed and preachy, but this is one of my favorite Toby episodes. Very early on they establish him as a passionate moral center (and a grouch) who isn't afraid to go toe to toe with his Commander in Chief over issues and decisions he feels are important.

"Do I look like Joe McCarthy to you, Toby?"
"No, sir. Nobody ever looks like Joe McCarthy. That's how they get in the door in the first place."

And it carries into their personal lives:
Toby: "You know the thing about you, Mr. President? It isn't so much that you cheat. It's how brazenly bad you are at it."
Bartlet: "I beg your pardon?"
Josh: "Toby's got a point there, sir."
Bartlet: "When have I ever cheated?"
Ziegler: "Up in Florida, playing mixed doubles with me and C.J. You tried to tell us that your partner worked at the American consulate in Vienna."
Bartlet: "And she did."
Ziegler: "It was Steffi Graf, sir."
Bartlet: "Well, I will admit that the woman bore a striking resemblance...."
Toby: "It was Steffi Graf, you crazy lunatic! You think I'm not going to recognize Steffi Graf when she's serving a tennis ball at me?!"

-

The observations Bartlet makes about the women in their lives at the end of this episode feel off because they aren't earned. As mentioned above, the episode didn't really have a strong feminist storyline.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love the bit on the basketball court, though I've always found it doubtful that even Toby would get away with calling the President a crazy lunatic. But maybe there was a trash-talking permitted rule for on the court.

My actual favorite moment in that scene, though, is the moment at the end "Charlie, guard the new guy." The look on Charlie's face as he gets all up in Rodney Grant's shoulder is perfect.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 AM on July 14, 2014


Something weird I noticed upon rewatching this episode. Toby was the second choice. First choice, a guy named David Rosen. The name of Josh Malina's character on Scandal: David Rosen.

Jacquilynne: "I love the bit on the basketball court, though I've always found it doubtful that even Toby would get away with calling the President a crazy lunatic. But maybe there was a trash-talking permitted rule for on the court. "

It establishes him as someone that Bartlet values enough to put up with a certain amount of disrespect and insubordination. Which of course culminates in season 7 with "Toby? Is it possible to be astonished and, at the same time, not surprised?"

and

"I haven't had much time to absorb this news so I'll apologize in advance if I express any half-formed thoughts. But the one thought that hits the hardest is that this was somehow inevitable. That you've always been heading for this crash and burn. That self-righteous superiority. Not that you were smarter than everyone. That you were purer: morally superior."
"With due respect, sir, I don't think I'm morally superior to everyone."
"No. Just to me."

Richard Schiff has said repeatedly in interviews that Toby would never in a million years have betrayed the President, the way he did in Season 7. Aaron Sorkin actually called Schiff to apologize for what Wells & Co., had done to his character.

But on the basketball court we see a small aspect of his character that could conceivably make it somewhat believable. Toby has tremendous respect for the office of the President. He obviously has respect for Bartlet. But he's also capable of being disrespectful. Who would dare start an argument with the President in the Oval Office? Toby. Who dares to speak truth to power when the people's trust is violated? Toby.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm doing my rewatch and trying to catch up, so I'm way late to this party, but yeah... The "these women" scene is just so awful. I've been trying to get my roommate to watch this show with me and I'm glad she missed this one.
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 AM on October 7, 2014


I, too, have been sucked in to the rewatch and am catching up. Was sort of avoiding it because it is at least the 3rd time around, but it's really good and the real white house is going to get so scary so soon.

There are several cracks about the 1st Lady and her Ouija Board that are snotty, especially since Abbey, in the form of Channing Stockard, is so awesome. The These Women speech is pure crap. Hey, who does Jed end up having a serious conversation with? Toby. so, yeah. I'll give points for trying, but it's still faint praise indeed.
posted by theora55 at 12:23 PM on December 19, 2016


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