LadyGhosts of TV Past

Ladyghosts of TV Past: TWW 1.17, “White House Pro Am”

This episode of The West Wing opens with First Lady Abigail Bartlet giving her fourteen-year-old guest a hard time. They are doing a live cut-in on the today show with a young man who is credited to opening the First Lady’s eyes to child labor. This is one of the first episodes where the idea of the First Lady having an agenda and a staff are showcased. Her personal, Lilli tries to convince Sam to have the president hold the budget meeting at the White House rather than go to the Hill so that the First Lady’s efforts may make tomorrow’s news cycle. There is a classic back and forth lashing, when they are interrupted. Bernie Dahl, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has just dropped dead of a heart attack.

Both of them just lost the news cycle.

Leo interrupts the president in a security briefing to let him know about Dahl’s death. Once the president finds out that the death is public knowledge, he starts to worry about the effect this will have on the stock market. Leo encourages him to immediately announce a successor, a man named Ron Erlich. The president resists, saying that he’ll take the day and announce it tomorrow. Despite it being “an expensive day”, the president holds his ground, and resists Leo’s push to announce Erlich to calm what’s going to be a volatile day on Wall Street. Sam and Toby decide to cover the president’s tracks by saying they are delaying an announce tabout a replacement out of respect.

Josh then fetches Toby to meet with three congressmen about an upcoming vote. Toby is not thrilled about the meeting, and doesn’t see that it’s necessary because he’s got a hardnose count that they’ll win the vote by 15. Josh wants to send a message that the president’s liberal base hasn’t turned their backs on him.  Toby isn’t buying it and does what he can to make the meeting difficult.

CJ then briefs the press about Dahl’s death. The press already has a whiff that Erlich is a candidate, and Danny states that Mrs. Bartlet has a preference for Ron Erlich. This catches CJ off guard, and when pressed further about it, she has to use the “out of respect” line to justify the president’s delay. When she leaves the press room, she demands the wire piece that stated Mrs. Bartlet has a preference for Erlich. She runs into Sam, who is also unaware of the First Lady’s statement. Sam immediately goes to Abigail’s  staff, where Lilli denies that she leaked any information.

CJ is the recipient of one of Bartlet’s philosophical economic rants, which sums up with the point that Ron Erlich may not be the guy for the job. CJ takes that opening to suggest that the president get the First Lady to cover her tracks about preferring Erlich.

The president immediately says, “No no no, CJ, we don’t handle my wife. When we try, you know what happens at the other end of this building?”

CJ: “You get a little punishment?”

Bartlet: “I get a little punishment. Screw it. Let’s move on, it’s not a big deal.”

Bartlet dismisses CJ and Leo, and welcomes Zoey into the Oval Office (can you imagine visiting your dad at work there?). Bartlet sits his youngest daughter down, and after ribbing her about not taking enough mathematics, he addresses the matter at hand. Zoey and Charlie have been getting threatening letters because of their dating relationship. There will be a national convention of white supremicists in the area over the weekend, and therefore Zoey and Charlie can’t attend a club opening they were planning on. The president tells Zoey she can go on her own, just not with Charlie. He offers to talk to Charlie for her, but she says that she’ll do it herself.

We go back to the meeting where Toby is still being obstinate. CJ consults Toby and Josh on the First Lady issue. Josh asks CJ if the president gave her the sign that was really, “Go ahead and handle the First Lady, but I didn’t tell you to do it.” CJ isn’t positive that she got that sign — it was a set of mixed signals, really. Toby sends her off to page Sam to talk to Lilli again.

We find the fine Sam Seaborn at the gym (inspired by Dahl, who kicked the bucket). There he has a quick conversation with a congresswoman who tells him that she’ll be introducing an amendment to the trade bill that will be voted on soon. The amendment will deal with child labor, Mrs. Bartlet’s new cause. Sam begs her not to, tells her that Josh has a hard-nose count, and she just tells him they’ll have to count again.

Sam immediately goes to Josh and Toby to tell them about the amendment. Sam heads to talk to Lilli about Ron Erlich and the trade amendment, Josh and Toby head back into persuading the congressmen.

We then get a fun scene with Zoey and Charlie, discussing life from one hundred years ago. It’s all fun and games until Zoey brings up the fact they can’t go to the club opening. Gina joins them to say that they tried to secure the building, but that it was just too risky. Charlie leaves, visibly pissed, while Zoey’s in the restroom.

Sam goes to see Lilli, but instead he finds Mrs. Bartlet. Sam very bluntly tells Mrs. Bartlet that she can’t act on a whim, and that her agenda needs to be sent through his office. Abigail agrees, and agrees to talk to the congresswoman about stopping the amendment.

Charlie bends Danny’s ear while Danny is waiting for the President. As Charlie speaks, you see something you rarely see, his youth. Danny gives Charlie sound advice – to make sure that he’s the one guy in Zoey’s life who’s totally hassle-free.

Danny’s then called into the Oval Office. Before the president can get around to asking it, Danny catches on that the president would like for him to reveal his source. Danny refuses, and the president’s main fear (and Danny’s) is facing Abby’s wrath.

both screencaps are from

Abby sticks to her word, and talks to the congresswoman about her amendment. She quite brilliantly lays out the consequences of the amendment, and in exchange, Abby offers to help the congresswoman win a Senate seat. The congresswoman puts up a fight, but in the end, concedes to the First Lady.

Abby then moves onto the Oval Office. As soon as she walks in, Leo makes a quick escape. Can you blame him? Her tone of voice gives her away. What happens next is Abby and Jed’s first Oval Office fight. That’s what they actually call it when they are done. They fight like old married people, and they both make good points. Abby points out that she should not be staffed out, that Jed should just come to her on things. Jed points out that she shouldn’t be sending him messages through the news (there was no leak, Abby told Danny herself that she supports Erlich). It comes out that Abby dated Erlich, briefly, and that’s the reason she suspects Jed’s hesitation. Jed offers to resign if this is what the job is going to do to their marriage. It’s a great fight, in that each concedes to the other on some matter, and you know that when the fight is over, it’s over. They immediately move onto the topic of Zoey and Charlie. Jed’s hoping Zoey will stop dating all together, Abby’s convinced Charlie’s gone over to her dorm to make up. The Bartlets leave the Oval Office arm in arm.

The episode closes with Charlie heading to Zoey’s dorm with flowers, a math book, popcorn and movies (what a good boyfriend). Zoe makes him apologize for everything, and then she lets him into her room. Gina leaves the dorm hall reporting, “Bookbag is in for the night.”

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