LadyGhosts of TV Past

LadyGhosts: The West Wing 1.20, “Mandatory Minimums”

We find our West Wing friends this week talking about drug policy and campaign finance reform, giving Toe Pick and Danny the cold shoulder, and wondering if Josh really assigns his suits particular days of the week.

President Bartlet opens this episode giving a speech about campaign reform. CJ circulates around the room, telling the press to pay attention because they’ll be calling her name soon.

The senate majority leader is holding court, watching the speech, when he realizes the president is going to name finance reformers to the FEC. The senator is pissed, and demands that Josh Lyman gets on the phone. He had previously threatened Josh with a legislative agenda if the president didn’t appoint someone the senator agreed with.

By nominating reformers, President Bartlet is going to be able to push is campaign reform agenda through. As he names names, the room is abuzz and the senior staff rallies around Josh. His phone rings as is predicted. We never hear what the senator says, but what Josh says is very clear, “Why don’t you take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass.” Since it’s 1999, he also gets a satisfying snap of his snazzy flip phone as he ends the call.

After the opening credits, the press is in the briefing room with CJ. She smartly answers questions, and keeps the conversation moving.

Donna tells Josh to get to Toby’s office, and on the walk (they are constantly walking, aren’t they?), Donna breaks it to Josh that a California expert is coming with Al Kiefer, the polling guy. The California expert is none other than the fabulous Joey Lucas, whom Josh has the hots for but is in denial about.

Josh convenes with Toby and Sam. Toby tells Josh that Kiefer is being brought in to help with the upcoming polling, along with Joey. Josh insists it’s fine. Josh leaves by giving props to CJ.

After the briefing, CJ invites Jack, the reporter sitting in front of Danny, for an exclusive interview. Danny is still in the doghouse because of the memo written by Toe Pick.

In re-watching this episode, I’ve come to really enjoy the back and forth between Sam and Toby. My family has decided that Toby is kind of the Eeyore of the group, and Sam, well Sam could be any upbeat character from any cartoon. Just his smiling face is enough to make Toby cringe. And then Sam opens his mouth.

The two of them are walking to breakfast, having a discussion, when Toby suddenly stops. He asks Sam where the breakfast place is, and Sam says that it’s back a few blocks. When Toby asks why they are still walking, Sam simply answers, “We were having a nice conversation.”

At the breakfast cafe, Margaret has set the table with freshly sharpened pencils. Josh and Donna join Leo and Margaret, followed by Toby and Sam. The senior staff talks drug policy, and whether or not Josh is wearing a Tuesday suit or a special suit for Joey.

Leo tells the staff they need to get through the week without making any mistakes, and then states that he’s perfectly calm. Sam chimes in with, “You’re not calm, Leo, you’re acting like a nervous ho-yale-ya.”

Toby asks, “A what?”

Sam replies, “It may not be a word. It may just be something my mother used to say.”

Back at the Oval Office, the president is having a discussion about drug policy. Toe Pick walks into the meeting, and CJ immediately escorts her out. CJ tells her that Leo isn’t comfortable with her in the meeting, given the memo.

Charlie summons Josh out of the Oval Office, to let him know that Joey Lucas is in his office. Josh gets right to business, telling Joey that this a place of business. He instructs her not to personalize her desk with plants, flowers and hand lotion. As Josh abruptly leaves the room, Joey’s interpreter Kenny, announces, “I’m not sleeping with Al Keifer anymore.” It almost sends poor Josh over the edge.

CJ then finds Josh and tells him that she misspoke at last night’s briefing, that the president was actually under legal obligation to nominate a Republican and Democrat to the FEC. At the briefing, she had made it sound more like a goodwill gesture, and that he wasn’t obligated to do so. Josh tells her not to worry, and just to fix it at the next briefing.

In the Oval Office, the discussion is still on drugs.

Josh briefs Toby and Leo¬† that Joey is no longer sleeping with Al Kiefer. And that CJ misspoke. Josh then tells Toby that Leo has arranged for him to have lunch with Andy, his ex-wife. She’s gets to be the go between the White House and the Democrats in Congress.

We go back to the Oval Office, where Sam and Toby are still driving hard the idea that treatment is a better idea than jailing first time offenders. Then it’s lunch break time.

The senate majority leader’s aide, Steve, meets Sam in his office, and he invites himself to eat lunch with Sam. Steve takes off his jacket and makes himself comfortable, ignoring Sam’s plea to go talk to Josh.

We then find Toby, drinking Starbucks for lunch, talking Andy over lunch. She’s comfortable on a blanket, and he’s nervously pacing. They start talking issues, as divorced couples often do, with raised voices and tension.

Steve is still working on Sam, with the topics being the FEC and also the new drug policy the Bartlet administration has been working on for 14 months. Steve’s message is clear: the senate majority leader is going to actively be working against the president’s agenda.

CJ catches Leo in the hall, and takes her lumps. Immediately following, Danny starts to give her hell, and she lets him have it. They air their differences on the infamous memo, and then CJ’s off to a “special event” in the press room.

Leo convenes a special meeting of the staffers of seven particular Congress members. When the staffers ask why they are there, Leo starts in on the stories. The seven staffers who were summoned all work for members of Congress who’ve had brushes with the law regarding drugs. Leo tells them if their bosses start chanting, “Soft on crime, soft on drugs,” then they’ll have seven stories ready for the front page. As if on cue, the doors open and the White House press corps walks in for their next briefing. The staffers get the picture.

Andy attended the meeting with the smile, and Toby of course,was there with his pensive glare. Andy does disclose that she was out on a date with a MLB player who’d had a drink and was pulled over. They end the exchange sweetly, with Toby finally accepting the pie she offered to him earlier in the day.

Time flashes forward to 11:30pm. (Can you imagine working that late?) Charlie tells Josh that Joey is still in her office, and encourages Josh to give her something since it was her first day. Sam and Toby then go to Josh to report his conversation with Steve. As Sam recounts the story, Josh and Toby just start laughing. They explain to Sam that the senator must know about his relationship with Lori (the call girl), and he wants to rake Sam over the coals by getting him involved. Sam’s offended, but Josh and Toby tell him not to worry.

Leo has accidentally awoken the president, which sets the stage for the closing scene.

Before heading out with Sam and Toby, Josh stops by to see Joey. He gives her a very romantic White House mug, and admits to her that he wore a special suit just for her. It’s sweet.

Leo is telling the president about how uncomfortable he feels talking about drug policy given his history with drugs. CJ then walks in, and she apologizes for her gaff in the briefing. As she concludes, Sam and Toby walk into the room. Then Josh walks in and announces he’s given Joey Lucas a coffee mug. He tells the staff to calm down about the drug policy, how the polling is going to go, and so forth.

As they are leaving, the president tells the staff to let Danny and Mandy off the hook. He gives the sage advice of fixing mistakes then moving forward.

Before leaving, Toby brings Andy’s point about how mandatory minimums (prison sentences) are racist to the attention of the president. The president agrees. With that, everyone leaves him alone and he can finally turn out the light.

Next week, I’ll tackle the last regular episode before the first season finale.


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