LadyGhosts of TV Past

The West Wing: Wrapping up Season Four

Since the new television season has started, and Sally J. and I are both on the roster to do new show recaps, we decided to wrap up season four in one fell swoop. 

In the back ten, we have several key things that happen. Bartlet survives his second inauguration, Sam heads west, Chandler Bing gets VP Hoynes fired, Air Force One can’t land, and, of course, our favorite Bartlet, Zoe, gets kidnapped by terrorists because her stupid French boyfriend is stupid. Oh! And Dan Conner is briefly the president. Let’s get to the discussion, shall we?

Selena: “Angel Maintenance” is actually one of my favorite episodes in season four, because Air Force One is fascinating. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for some juicy character development. What do we learn about our White House heroes in this episode that we didn’t know before?

Sally J.: We knew CJ was a bad ass, right? Because if we didn’t, shutting off the phones in the press cabin secured her place as one. I think we see more of Will and how he reacts in a crisis. As an Air Force Reserve member, it appears odd at first that he seems nervous about the malfunction. It’s not until the crisis is over that we learn he’s nervous because he knows exactly what can go wrong. We also see Josh nervously pacing on the ground, because, you know, he’s Josh.

Selena: As the kidnapping plot unfolds, Toby is experiencing a parallel plot with the birth of his children. How does the show tie these two events together, and how effective do you think it is as a storytelling device?

Sally J.: I though it was a smart way to get both of these plots moving in tandem. Watching Toby experience the pangs of new parenthood as Bartlett goes through the agony of the Zoe kidnapping was effective in a couple of different ways. Toby’s becoming a father reminded me that years ago, the president experienced the same thing at Zoe’s birth. As Toby watches the president’s agony, you see that he realizes in a new way the president’s horror.

Sally J.: Speaking of your moody boyfriend Toby, let’s talk about the events leading up to Andy’s labor beginning. Did the house purchase come out of left field in your opinion? What does it say about his relationship with his ex-wife?

Selena: I love the scene in the house, which is really kind of a stupid (and expensive) gesture. Andi’s never been playing hard to get; she doesn’t want to be married to Toby again. As much as I love the man, I get that. It’s probably a lot of work to be married to Toby, and I don’t know how much he’s even able to give back in return. I think they love each other, but I could see loving AND living with Toby being too, too much.

Sally J.: In “Inauguration: Over There,” we are introduced to the inconsequential country of Kundu, and the civil war that is happening there. It’s these kinds of social justice situations where you see Bartlett’s frustration with politics. Why do you think he’s got such a conscience? You can tell that he strongly feels that it’s the country’s obligation to help those who are weaker. Where do you think this belief system comes from?

Selena: I saw some parallels with the current situation in Syria, certainly, but I think the flaw in TWW’s portrayal of these world crises is failing to recognize that just because the US has good intentions when trying to save the world from itself, we often muck things up worse instead of making anything better. That’s a hard sell on American primetime, obviously. We Americans want to believe we’re qualified to be the world’s police force, and while I think our intentions are usually good, the results of our trying to “save” people have too frequently been the opposite of saving anyone. Bartlet/Sorkin get to be idealists, because there’s they’re only pretending to be the president.


We’ll be back to cover season five in the summer of ’14! Thanks for reading!

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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