The West Wing: He Shall From Time to Time   Rewatch 
August 8, 2014 10:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Bartlet collapses while preparing to deliver his second State of the Union address; Leo faces the press about his past substance-abuse problems.

The White House staff is in full crisis mode when President Bartlet is found unconscious as he prepares for the State of the Union speech while the India-Pakistan border skirmish flares again when a fearful Pakistan gives its field commanders control of its nuclear arsenal. While the President's condition is officially blamed on the flu, the First Lady knows better, and Toby is too busy to notice as he polishes his boss' upcoming address. Equally distracting is the inevitable disclosure of Leo's former substance-abuse problem by political rivals, as well as the reappearance of the amusing Lord Marbury -- a besotted ladies' man who doubles as a key adviser on the India-Pakistan conflict. Despite the crises, C.J. and Mallory express their romantic feelings about two very different men.

Airdate: January 12, 2000
Director: Arlene Sanford
Writer: Sorkin
We're halfway to Mandyville! Woo!
posted by ApathyGirl (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(I've added recaps and transcripts, so that those left out in the cold by Amazon might still be able to join us.)
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:20 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm taking many things, C.J.

What are you taking?

I don't know. My wife hands me pills. I swallow them with water.


Vitamin C. Vitamin B. Is it possible I'm taking something called 'euthanasia'?


Ah, that sounds more like it...
posted by zarq at 7:23 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I probably have more to say about this episode when I have a chance to re-watch it again, but I will say that the opening bit with everyone previewing the State of the Union and the bits zarq just quoted are some of my favorite moments of the staff being kind of affectionately cranky at each other.

Also, the Sam/Mallory and CJ/Danny kisses in this one make my ovaries twinge.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:44 AM on August 9, 2014

I've quoted it before, but this has one of my favorite exchanges of the whole series, when the President explains to the Secretary of Agriculture what to do if "something happens" during the State of the Union.

You have a best friend?

Yes, sir.

Is he smarter than you?

Yes, sir.

Would you trust him with your life?

Yes, sir.

That's your chief of staff.

I used that quote to punctuate my toast at my best friend's wedding.

To try to say something substantive: there are many, many things going on in this episode. It showcases well Sorkin's talent of having a light touch with dark (or portentous) material. At various points, the President's health is threatened, two of the most populous countries on earth are on the knife's edge of war, the State of the Union is coming up, and there's the issue of being prepared if something horrible happens during it. Yet there are also these light touch lines about Lord John Marbury going to the Sorbonne and the bit with CJ and the goldfish. Just beautifully balanced.

One last thing: this was originally broadcast in January of 2000. At the time, the whole "leave someone behind" for the SOTU speech was getting kind of quaint. The Cold War was over, and who would be able to strike at the heart of the Most Powerful Nation on Earth? I'm not exactly nostalgic for the time, but I miss the comforting arrogance of it, if you will.
posted by aureliobuendia at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

That's a really interesting point about the timing. The situation is played for a bit of a laugh between Josh and Donna and to allow the President to say nice things about Leo in an episode where Leo is embattled, but without much serious consideration of the likelihood that it will come to pass.

Just looking at the list, it does seem like in the post 9/11 world, the Designated Survivors got more important -- though Agriculture and Interior do still each make an appearance.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:00 PM on August 9, 2014

The only problem with the AgSec exchange is it's really, really inaccurate. I'm pretty sure at no point in the 20th-21st century the chief of staff was even barely friends with the president.
posted by General Malaise at 3:13 PM on August 9, 2014

(Since this a rewatch thread, I can also say that the show almost lost me later when he picked CJ as the next chief of staff. That's even more unrealistic than the first choice. If you don't believe me, look at a list of second-term chiefs of staff and see what they all have in common.)
posted by General Malaise at 3:18 PM on August 9, 2014

posted by Etrigan at 5:29 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the discussion of actual US politics in these threads! Pretty much everything I know about the US's internal politics is learned from Metafilter, with our usual interests and biases. Thanks to that and the fact that I first watched WW years after the entire thing had finished, I've never had a sense of the political context in which it was made and broadcast. So although I haven't been commenting much, I've been reading these threads with interest.

Is this a good place to say that I really, really hate Marbury? In-universe he's condescending to basically everyone, and treats women especially with a really slimy exaggerated charm. Viewed from outside, he feels like a really lazy stereotype of what British diplomats "should" look like: strong RP accent, supercilious, and much too aware of his position in the aristocracy.

You could make an argument that it's all an act, constructed by Marbury to disarm and charm the Americans he's being paid to interact with, and I migh believe it. But everything about the character that we actually see just makes my skin crawl. (Yes, I know he's mostly intended as light relief; I'm just over-reacting because he embodies the stereotypes that I find most irritating.)

...the bit with CJ and the goldfish
CJ's fish is a really fun touch. The origin is charming, and I love seeing the story-appropriate bowl decorations as they crop up later in the series.
posted by metaBugs at 2:09 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You could make an argument that it's all an act, constructed by Marbury to disarm and charm the Americans he's being paid to interact with, and I migh believe it. But everything about the character that we actually see just makes my skin crawl.

When business is to be done, you can practically hear a snap as Marbury changes from "Hey, let's get some whiskey" to "Look, here's what you need to do." When he's actually advising the leader of the free world on how to defuse a pending nuclear confrontation, there are no "That's what she said" asides (with one small exception when he digs at Leo in the previous ep). He's all business, and then, as soon as the plan is done, he returns to Falstaff mode.

Yes, it is all an act, one that Marbury (and Rees) greatly enjoy putting on, and for just that reason. He's a diplomat, in the purest sense of the Greek root διπλός, "double".
posted by Etrigan at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want someone to kiss me the way Danny kisses CJ - that toe-curling, suddenly needing to do something with your hands kind of kiss.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:38 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

This episode provides one of my favorite (and simplest) Mandy moments. The range of emotion Moira Kelly portrays in the two 'Yeah.'s at the beginning just slay me. I mean, this show is full of unspoken conversations conveyed through 'yeah's; a quirk Sam and Toby in particular are seen doing. Just, so good.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:54 AM on August 12, 2014

Officially, when I watch with a critical eye, I get annoyed at how Donna has to be the dumb, uninformed one in order to build in exposition for the viewer.

That said, I love Josh & Donna banter so much that I probably wouldn't change it even if I was given the chance.

Wait, I know why. So if somebody blows up the building, nobody's...


Who are you gonna pick?

Who do you think I should pick?

I think you should pick me.

You think so?

Yeah, I'll be good.

And where exactly do you fall in the line of succession?

If somebody blows up the Capitol Building, I'd imagine I'd move up a few

Fair point.
posted by terilou at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2014

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