LadyGhosts of TV Past

Ladyghosts: The West Wing 2.05, “And It’s Surely to Their Credit”

Sorkin loves Gilbert and Sullivan, and bully for Sorkin. I’m the worst theater degree holding person in the world, because I find Gilbert and Sullivan to be three prissy librettos beyond insufferable. When I saw this episode was going to fall on my watch, I groaned.  I think I prefer Toe Pick to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Regardless,  a great deal of other things, unrelated to either Gilbert or Sullivan, for the most part, happen in this episode. Josh has insurance problems, the Bartlets get a little randy, CJ nearly makes a three star general cry and Donna becomes a cynic, all in the span of 43 minutes and some credits.

The A plot is Ainsley’s first day on the job, where everyone but Leo is at least a little bit of a turd to her. CJ stands up for her to Toby, and Toby stands up for her to Sam, but they’re still mostly jerks. We meet guest star lawyer Lionel Tribbe, played by John Larroquette of ’80s TV fame, who is Chief White House Counsel, scary with a cricket bat and also kind of a jerk to Ainsley. He’s more concerned about two idiot staffers who lied to Congress and made the White House look bad, and warms to Ainsley when she’s tasked with fixing it.

She goes to meet with the Republican leadership, because she speaks Republican, and then to tell Joyce and Brookline (the fellows who lied to Congress) what they need to do to fix it. They are big douchecanoes.

Later, Sam flags her down to yell at her some more, for just doing what everyone told her to do, and she tells him to save it until tomorrow, she’s full up on political bro-crap. He stomps off and thne relents, following her to her office to apologize. Joyce and Brookline sent her flowers, and wrote BITCH on a notecard stuck in the bouquet.

Sam finds them, and fires them like this:

Which is perfect. Tribbe backs him up, and send Joyce and Brookline off to become lifetime Daily Kos commenters and men’s rights advocates.

The B-plot involves Josh, Sam, and suing the KKK with the help of the Southern Poverty Law center. Josh’s insurance is refusing to cover the bill for when he was shot in the service of his goddamned country, because the hospital wasn’t in network and he didn’t get the gunshot surgery pre-approved. So he’s about to get reported to a debt collector, unless he coughs up $50k. Sam wants to sue the Klan, and thinks they have enough evidence to make it stick. Josh is obviously uncomfortable with the idea, and eventually declines. He is in favor of suing the insurance company, however.

The C-plot is about Donna helping Bartlet do his weekly radio address, and turns into a bit of slapstick. Donna goes from sweet and accommodating to cynical and wisecracking by the end of the episode, pushed to the edge by the patience required to get something on tape. After more than twenty tries, three audiences and some terrible jokes, it’s up to the First Lady to get it done, as we’ll see in a second.

The D-plot surrounds CJ and General Berry, who’s about to retire. CJ learns he’s scheduled time with all the big news shows, and figures he’s planning on talking trash about Bartlet. She calls him to her office, he sends an aide. She nearly makes the aide cry, and tells him to go tell the general CJ thinks he’s a coward. That does it, and the general storms into her office a few hours later, raving about duty. Which is a theme, from Gilbert and fucking Sullivan. He is an E-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-nglish MAAAAAAAAHN! But, you know American. CJ tells him she knows he didn’t actually earn one of his medals, and threatens to expose him if he goes ahead with his trash-talking plans. Bartlet eventually tells her to let him out of the box and speak his mind, even if the White House doesn’t like what he has to say.

The E-plot involves the president and first lady having the S-E-X, which has been off limits since the shooting. Abby sends the first message through Charlie, who gives her this look:

The president is eager to get things going, and tries to get Abby to do it in the oval. She refuses, and they try to synch up their schedules before Abby leaves for a dedication ceremony of a statue of Nellie Bly in Pennsylvania. This crosses with one of the takes for the radio address, and the Bartlets don’t get a chance to be alone until she gets back that evening. He blows his chances when he tells Abby she can blow off silly stuff like statue dedications, and Abby sits down and tells him the stories of what we can assume are dozens of pioneering American women.

Sexism: the B-theme, after duty. Her speech, or the promise of getting a little action, prompts Bartlet to devote his (now) live radio address to amazing American women. Or as we like to call them, Badass Ladies of History.

The episode ends with Sam, Toby, Josh and CJ making Ainsley’s office look less like a place where Doc Brown invented the flux capacitor and more like a broke underground theater that specializes in Gilbert and Sullivan, then they lip synch to “An English Man.” And Selena takes a shot.


By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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