LadyGhosts of TV Past: TWW 2.11 “The Leadership Breakfast”

This episode opens with Donna questioning the wisdom of Josh and Sam trying to start a fire in a White House that has apparently lost heat for the evening. Donna’s convinced they’re going to burn the White House down, and when Sam walks in with the kerosene, she may just be right.

Meanwhile, CJ is holding court in the Roosevelt Room, working on the complicated seating chart for the upcoming bipartisan leadership breakfast. Toby points out that CJ has omitted one very important person on her seating chart. As CJ realizes she’s omitted the POTUS, Donna smells smoke. As Josh and Sam plan to extinguish the fire they’ve built in a fireplace that hasn’t been operational in decades, the smoke alarm goes off. Charlie gets the “pleasure” of letting Bartlet know the White House is on fire.

The next day, Toby and Leo do the walk and talk, reviewing the issues for the leadership breakfast. Toby, of course, wants to hit the issues hard, Leo is telling him that people will be more focused on pancakes. Sam and Josh join the conversation, and all three senior staffers are dumbfounded at how bipartisan Leo has suddenly become.

When the President enters, Josh points the finger at Sam for setting off the smoke alarm. Toby tries to bring up the issues that will not be discussed at the breakfast, but Bartlet can only focus on the fact that they will be serving Vermont maple syrup instead of New Hampshire maple syrup.

Sam mentions a study claiming that one viable way to free up needed office space in the White House is to move the press room across the street. (Sam, forget you heard this. Do not provoke our goddess, Miss Claudia Jean).

Leo then summons Josh and asks how he feels, then he informs Josh he’ll be asking him once a day. He then tells Josh he needs to go to Ben and Sally’s tonight for dinner. And here’s where Josh, once again, forgets that Leo is the Chief of Staff of the Freakin’ White House.

Josh: “What’s at Ben and Sally’s?”

Leo: “Karen Cahill.”

Josh: “And what stupid ass Irish thing did you say to Karen Cahill that you now need me to apologize for at Ben and Sally’s like a little girl?” 

[Leo issues “the Look”]

Josh: “Let me tell you what was surprising about that moment just then. I said that only 12 hours after you were very cool about my almost accidentally setting the building on fire. 

Leo: “I made a joke about her shoes.” 

Josh: “I’m sorry?” 

Leo: “I made a remark about her shoes.” 

Josh: “You are the second most powerful man in the country.” 

Leo: “And she writes a column in the New York Times. And who knows what kind of special relationship women have with their shoes.” 

Josh: “What could you have possibly said…”

Leo: “It doesn’t matter. It was perfectly benign to anyone who doesn’t take shoes that seriously. Just tell her that I love her and I’m sorry. And that I’ll take her shoe shopping.” 

Josh: “Why don’t you tell her.” 

Leo: “If someone else tells her, it makes me look thoughtful enough to mention it. If I tell her, it just makes me seem feminine.” 

Josh: “You don’t think the shoe shopping’s going to take care of that?” 

Leo: “Let’s call the insurance company and find out how much water damage was done in the Mural Room.” 

Josh: “You don’t need to wave a stick, I am totally there for you. Can I get Sam to do it?”

We then find our goddess holding her own with the majority leader’s chief of staff, Anne. (Felicity Huffman! One of Sorkin’s darlings, btw). Anne is lobbying hard for the majority leader to hold a press conference on the Hill, instead of on the White House lawn. CJ’s not buying it, and wants to present a united front by holding all press conferences on the White House grounds. Toby interrupts to invite Anne to sit down and talk about what may be discussed at the leadership breakfast. 

Donna talks to Sam about going to dinner at Ben and Sally’s, and Sam tells Donna that Karen makes him nervous. She gives him a great pep speech, and he’s ready to reach for the stars.

Toby then tells Leo that he’s having breakfast with Anne the next day. Leo reminds Toby that it’s just breakfast. Toby brings up that all the key players will be in one room with no cameras, and he brings up that it’s criminally negligent to avoid the issues.

On Tuesday, Toby has breakfast with Anne, and after being presented with a can of New Hampshire maple syrup, he congratulates her on being promoted to the chief of staff to the most powerful republican in the country.

When Sam walks into CJ’s office talking about moving the press room, she tells him to forget that he ever said it. CJ makes the point that you can’t exile the press. Josh adds a question to the survey going out, so Sam can show her that this is a good move to make. (Boys, boys, boys, you will never impress CJ with your polling: just trust the goddess).

When Donna asks Sam how dinner went, he realizes that he’s made a wrong reference to Karen. A few scenes later, he pulls Donna into the Karen Cahill madness and arranges for her to see her at an exhibit that evening to correct his blunder.

We then flip back to Toby and Anne who are now talking minimum wage, and again, Toby wants to bring it up at breakfast. She concedes to bringing up the Patients Bill of Rights for fifteen minutes if he can move the entire press conference to the hill. (Toby, you are invoking the wrath of our goddess, Miss Claudia Jean).

Toby breaks the news to CJ that he’s exchanged the location of the press conference to the Hill. CJ speaks her mind and points out that the she doesn’t speak for the president from the capital. She assigns the deputy press secretary to the job, and secretly, I think she’s made a voodoo doll of Toby.

CJ then finds out from a reporter that people are being polled about moving the press room. She doesn’t have time to fully process that detail, because the press conference is about to begin on the Hill. As she settles in to watch, CJ realizes that the majority leader isn’t going to speak. As she watches the press conference unfold, she, because she is omnipotent, announces, “We’re about to get hit.” Just then, a reporter quotes something that Toby said to Anne about the minimum wage hike. In their discussions, Toby told Anne that if the majority leader doesn’t call for a vote on minimum wage, the minority will attach it as an amendment to every bill that moves.

When Toby calls CJ, she simply asks him what to do, and doesn’t throw his faux pax in his face. He calls for the deputy press secretary to come on back to the press room to brief there instead of on the Hill. Leo reams Toby, since Toby’s been pushing so hard to talk issues at the breakfast: “The year is one week old, the legislative session hasn’t begun and we can’t even put a forkful of waffles in our mouths without coughing up the ball.” What was that about the Oval Office resembling a high school yearbook office?

After their huddle on the press conference, Donna then passes a package to Josh while telling Sam she’s fixed everything with Karen Kayhill. Josh then tells Donna that the package contains her underwear. Josh and Sam then tell her how such a thing happens – if you wear a pair of pants two days in a row and don’t look for the underwear in your pant leg, then it could fall out at any time. (How do they know this? Does this happen to other people?). The whole Karen Kayhill debacle serves to lighten the mood of this otherwise heavy hitting episode.

CJ then calls Fred and Ethel (“She means us,” says Josh to Sam) to discuss the polling. It takes Sam twenty seconds to realize that a reporter was called by a pollster. You get the feeling that the press room will only be moving over CJ’s dead body. Josh gives her props for kicking ass this week, and for not throwing around the I-told-you-sos. I love how CJ’s confidence has developed over the two seasons of the show. It’s such a change from her season of self-doubt.

Toby then visits Anne and lets her know that he knows what they are up to; she confirms that her boss will be running for president. When Toby calls on the Oval Office, the president excuses himself. Toby verbalizes to Leo that the president didn’t want to see him, Leo assures him he’ll be okay in the morning. Toby then broods that the majority is “coming for us,” and Leo catches onto what he is saying.

With a handshake, they form a committee to reelect the president.

 

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