Season Three of The West Wing keeps plugging along. There’s a lot of talk about replacing Hoynes as the vice president on the ticket, Donna pushes Josh to make her favorite English teacher’s retirement special, and Charlie finds out he owes money to the IRS.
The main plot in this episode revolves around John Hoynes. The bad blood between Bartlet’s senior staff and Hoynes has never been a secret. As plans for re-election gear up, the issue of keeping John Hoynes on the ticket has come to head, and Josh is charged with heading up a meeting to discuss alternatives. We see the bond between Leo and John as recovering alcoholics, we see Sam admire Hoyne’s willingness to put the benefit of the people ahead of his own ego, and we see his willingness to own his alcoholism in front of the president.
The most enjoyable subplot was Charlie’s discovery that his “tax rebate” is taxed, therefore, he owes money on his federal taxes. The dialogue between Charlie and the president makes me laugh, because it was at the exact same time that we got such an “advance” from the Bush administration.
Sally J.: Josh does Donna a solid by arranging a phone call with the president and her favorite teacher, in a warm-fuzzy moment. This isn’t the first time White House staffers have mentioned their favorite, most influential teachers. Why do you think education is such a recurring theme in The West Wing?
Selena: Because teachers are awesome, of course! I think the real reason is because Bartlet is portrayed as such an intelligent, well-educated person, as are most of the people around him. And, like Sorkin tells us, that’s a good thing. Our leaders should be smart, they should know history, economics, international politics, multiple languages, etc. Like Sorkin, I think our leaders should be our best and our brightest.
Sally J.: At the end of the episode, Bartlet and Hoynes seem to let bygones be bygones, and Bartlet states that Hoynes will be on the ticket. What does this tell you of Bartlet’s character?
Selena: I think Bartlet recognizes he needs Hoynes, and I think, like with those closest to him, he’s willing to overlook things that don’t matter (like Hoynes’ dormant-for-twenty-plus-years alcoholism) or even things he doesn’t like when he’s faced with an ally he needs and respects. Bartlet can be petty, as we’ve seen in a few examples in the past, but he’s usually not stubborn to the point of inertia or acting against his best interests.