Two Questions about The West Wing: “Night Five” and “Hartsfield Landing”

In these episodes of season three, the Bartlet administration balances running the country with campaigning for a second term as primaries across the country kick off. The president consults a psychologist due to his insomnia, Donna gets a job offer, and a member of the press corps goes missing in the Congo, and a whole lot more happens in these two episodes.

Text reads "Two Questions about The West Wing."Sally J.: We got a taste of Bartlet’s relationship with his father in the episodes around Mrs. Landingham’s death, and his visit with a psychologist in “Night Five.” Do you see Bartlet’s relationship with his father impact his relationships with staff members, specifically, with his relationship to Charlie?

Selena: Well, it’s not Sorkin unless we’re unpacking Daddy Issues, so I would have to say yes. I’d say father issues affect every single male member of The West Wing team. Leo’s dad drank, Charlie’s dad left, Josh’s dad died, Sam’s dad had a mistress with her own apartment for twenty years, and Toby’s dad was a hitman for the mob. The elder Mr. Bartlet may have had a nasty temper and a terrible personality, but really, President Bartlet didn’t have any bigger demons to fight than any of the males around him. Even CJ, sometimes male-by-proxy, has father issues. It’s Sorkin’s favorite thing, behind naming the last episode of the first season of any show he makes “What Kind of Day Has it Been” and the line of dialogue, “What’s next?”

But as for how Bartlet’s father and his feelings towards same relate to Charlie, specifically, I think that Bartlet definitely considers himself a surrogate father to Charlie, and as such, tries to undo the wrongs his own father did.

Sally J.: By season three we get the picture that the Bartlet administration is extremely loyal to each other and to the office of their president. We see CJ’s mama bear come out when one of her reporters is missing in the Congo, and we see Donna pass on an amazing job offer to remain in her assistant role. What do you make of this unwavering loyalty?

Selena: I think it’s interesting that the women seem to embrace this loyalty more than the men, but I can’t really explain why without giving away spoilers from upcoming seasons. I think loyalty is probably the most defining characteristic of both CJ and Donna. CJ is loyal to her own ideals and principles more than she is to the administration, but she’s still plenty loyal to the latter. Donna is loyal to Josh to a fault in some cases, I think, but that’s also what Josh demands of her.

Selena: “Hartsfield Landing” centers around three chess games, one Bartlet is playing with Sam, one he is playing with Toby, and one he is playing with the Chinese. How do the moves in these games move the story along? What parallels can you draw between the three games?

Sally J: I love parallels like this. Like all men before them, business gets done as a game gets played. The president is clearly the superior chess player, and as he orchestrates the deal with the Chinese, Sam is in awe of his ability. The president lets Toby out of the doghouse through the game he plays with him, and Toby gets back into the president’s good graces with a campaign theme he can get behind.

Selena: In “Night Five” we see the return of Dr. Stanley Keyworth. Compare and contrast his previous visit with Josh with his visit with the president.

Sally J: I found it interesting that Josh was the one who met Keyworth and gave the appearance of giving him a tour. I’ve never thought about the stigma around a president needing a therapist, but it makes sense that they’d keep it quiet. I thought he behaved similarly with both men – straight, to the point, and not easily wowed by their political importance. I like how he neatly wrapped up the president’s session, much to the surprise of the president.

One thought on “Two Questions about The West Wing: “Night Five” and “Hartsfield Landing””

  1. I never realised how much Sorkin deals with Daddy issues until you pointed it out!

    It’s also taboo for a lot of church ministers to see therapists. They are supposed to be the counselor, not the one who needs help. I’m guessing there are a few other jobs like that as well…

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