LadyGhosts of TV Past

Ladyghosts of TV Past: The West Wing, Episode 1.21

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” opens with Donna giving Josh crap about his watch. I could listen to their banter all day, but the polls must open and the episode moves on.

The polls are opening, and the senior staff is bickering about the wording on particular questions. This is a fabulous episode showcasing our goddess, CJ Cregg. As Josh, Toby, and Leo pick apart the polling questions, CJ holds her ground.

Toby: Since when are you an expert on language?

CJ: In polling models? 1993. Since when are you an uptight pain in the ass?

Toby: Since long before that.

CJ continues to defend the language of the poll, and encourages the staff to let the polls open. She needs the poll to start so that there is time to get the results in this week’s news cycle, and she is convincing the rest of the staff of the importance of this.

Leo concurs, and asks the group if they have predictions. Going around the room, the men all stay conservative, either holding steady or dropping a few points. CJ optimistically announces that the president’s approval rating will go up five points. I love how confident she is in telling the chief of staff her prediction.

Once the polling is underway, Toby takes Sam aside and tells him that he can’t attend “his friend’s” graduation. During the discussion, Sam reminds Toby that Laurie is her name. Toby emphasizes that Sam cannot go to her law school graduation, that it’s too risky because word could get out that he’s socializing with a call girl.

Leo then meets with Barry Haskel, a member of the FEC. Leo lays it on thick, super thick, to see how Barry feels about soft campaign money. Leo has the uniformed Marine at the door come in to say hello. Barry is very impressed and overwhelmed by the trappings of the White House.

Barry tries to deny his position, but Leo stays determined. Barry tries to stay grounded, but he is obviously overwhelmed and star struck. Leo opens the door on the tour to show Barry “around the place,” and the door leads to the Oval Office. The president is there, just having a nightcap with a few influential Americans. Barry is invited to join the group, and the president catches Leo as he leaves the room.

The president shakes it out of Leo that Josh thinks they’ ll hold steady in the polls, and Toby thinks they’ll drop a few points. Leo makes no mention of what CJ said.

The lovely Laurie is then shown at the law library with a friend. Sam calls her to tell her that he can’t come to her graduation. She’s disappointed, and her friend appears to be supportive.

The next morning Toby is hatching a plan, something to do with the Federated States of Micronesia. CJ and the president are talking drug policy. Toby and Sam walk in, and the president starts talking about their predictions. The president makes some generalizations about the predictions they made, and when he doesn’t mention CJ’s predictions, she stands up for herself like the goddess that she is. She firmly tells the president that she said they’d gain five points. CJ moves on to her briefing, and Toby and Sam stay to hatch their plan.

After a brief lesson on the Federated States of Micronesia,  Sam explains their plot to the president. By playing a game of tag, the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia will be promoted to the be ambassador to Paraguay, the ambassador of Paraguay will be promoted to be the ambassador of Bulgaria. The ambassador of Bulgaria is going to be out on his ass due to incompetence.

We then get to see a fabulous argument between Josh and Joey, who’s still in town. Today’s topic is keeping English as the official language of the U.S. Donna summons Josh for CJ’s press briefing. CJ lays out the statistics on drug users, and she nails each and every question thrown her way. She gets to argue with Danny when she’s done, who tells her, “You can’t stay pissed at me forever.” She confides in Danny that the memo, “Mandy’s thing,” hasn’t gone away in the White House. They may not be writing about it in the paper, but she still feels the consequences.

At the end of the day, CJ goes to see Leo, and she confronts him on why he didn’t mention her prediction of the poll to the president. Leo sort of blows her off, and she doesn’t appear to buy his answer, but she leaves his office agreeing not to read too much into it.

Josh and Joey are continuing their argument in the polling room. CJ kicks him out, and he gets one more shot at Joey as he leaves.

Sam then meets Laurie outside at her friend’s house, an arrangement that has clearly been set up between Sam and her friend. Sam gives her a pen and a briefcase, saying, “Happy Graduation, Counsel” and gives her a warm hug (oh, a hug from Rob Lowe, hello…). As they embrace, a car speeds off, and Sam is knows the other shoe has dropped.

Toby meets Sam the next morning, and Toby makes mention of keeping him on a leash. Leo then storms into CJ’s office, ready to give her hell.

Leo: How do you not tell me until this morning?

CJ: Leo

Leo: How did you not call me last night?

CJ: We didn’t know anything last night

Leo: Sam called you.

CJ: That’s right, he met the girl and saw a suspicious car. I’m not going to call the White House chief of staff because he saw a suspicious car. I was handling it, Leo. It took me three hours to confirm there was a picture, and another hour to find out who has it.

Leo: Who has it?

CJ: The London Daily Mirror. They paid a waitress friend of hers $50,000 to set it up and confirm that she was a call girl.

Leo: When is it running?

CJ: It’s running later today, the American press will have it in the morning.

Leo: He was giving her a graduation present.

CJ: Yeah.

Leo: Call the Post and the Times.

Leo leaves a little less irate than when he walked in.

We then find Sam and Toby briefing the president on the situation, and Toby actually stands by Sam, which is rather out of character for him. Toby even suggests that the White House go after whomever set this up.

The president then gives Sam a set of instructions, including telling Laurie that the President of the United States says congratulations. It’s rather lovely and generous. Once Sam leaves the room, Bartlet remarks to Toby, “It’s nice when we can do something for prostitutes every once in a while, isn’t it?”

Charlie then announces that his meetings are all set up. The president calls Charlie out on somehow knowing Ken Cochran, the ambassador to Bulgaria. Charlie denies it, but clearly something is going on.

The president has set up Ken with a job, and has informed Ken that he will be resigning as ambassador to Bulgaria. Ken is stunned. Ken then realizes that he knows Charlie from the Gramercy club. Ken tries to get huffy with Charlie, but it doesn’t work out how he has planned. In a last-ditch dig, Ken tells the president that he never voted for him. The president smiles and replies, “Well, thanks for trying, but here I am anyway. Gotta go.”

The president then meets with a Republican senator to discuss supporting his efforts with the FEC. Bartlet points out how they agree on nothing, yet their common ground is campaign finance. Bartlet outlines his plan: he’s appointed two people, he’s outed Barry Haskel as a supporter and he has a fourth person in mind. He point-blank asks the senator if he can count on his support. He says yes. Bartlet then sets Toby into motion, who immediately greets the member of the FEC who is now being promoted to be the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (leaving a seat open on the FEC, that Bartlet can then fill with a person of his choosing).

That evening, Josh goes to CJ, and Josh brings up that CJ has talked to Joey. CJ has told Joey she’s not feeling confident, that she can only go into the Oval Office so many times and say that she’s wrong. Josh gives her reassurance, but CJ isn’t buying it.

The staff is anxiously waiting the poll results, in the Oval Office. To pass the time, Josh brings his argument with Joey to the president’s attention. It breaks the tension for a minute. The president asks Sam about the briefcase he got Laurie. And then CJ walks in.

CJ walks in and says hello to the president, and tells him that she has the top sheet of information from the polls. When asked what it says, CJ says, “I was wrong, we went up nine points. ”

Smiles explode in the room, and while you want CJ to scream, “Booyah!”, a very pleased President Bartlet simply says, “What’s next?”


To answer his question — next week, Selena and I will be co-writing a recap of the season finale.


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