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‘The West Wing’ newbie recap: Who doesn’t love state parks and Chinese opera?

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “Enemies” | Aired Nov. 17, 1999

This week’s West Wing Wednesday episode begins with President Bartlet making the best of his captive audience—AKA his entire staff—by expounding at length on the country’s national parks system. (Yes, he’s visited all 55, and yes, he’s got the slide shows to prove it.)

Josh sums up what everyone else is too polite to say: “You’re quite a nerd, Mr. President.”

Leo, meanwhile, is beginning the day at his swanky bachelor hotel by having breakfast with his daughter, who’s still appalled that he prioritized his job over his marriage. (She’s also appalled that a cup of coffee at the hotel restaurant is $6.50, as she should be. FYI, that’s $9.30 in 2014 money, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Mallory does swing the situation to her advantage by snagging her parents’ tickets to the Chinese opera at the Kennedy Center for that night, since they won’t be using them and all.

At that morning’s cabinet meeting, Vice President Hoynes is running things until the President gets there. The President begins by announcing that their first goal should be finding a way to work with Congress.

Then President Bartlet zooms over and introduces himself to Mildred, who’s taking minutes. He also chides the Veep for not identifying their first goal as serving the American people. It’s a pointed dress down, delivered in a folksy, friendly manner. Daaaaaaang, Jed.

It doesn’t take long for the press to get wind of this verbal slapping. Danny, after charmingly asking CJ to have dinner (she says she can’t and breaks my heart, press ethics be damned), asks what went down in the cabinet meeting. C.J. declares that nothing happened. And the Veep says the same thing when Danny and C.J. separately corner him about it.

Elsewhere in the West Wing, Toby and Sam are struggling manfully with writer’s block. “Somewhere in this building is our talent,” Toby says mournfully. Josh sticks his head into the office to announce that the upcoming passage of a banking bill that the administration had been pushing for maybe isn’t such a sure thing.

Turns out he’s right. Two malcontent lawmakers have attached a rider that will permit Big Sky Federal Reserve to be strip-mined. (You remember strip mining, right? It was the fracking of the 1990s.)

So now the Bartlet Bunch have to decide whether to veto their own bill, which is otherwise a strong and important piece of legislation, or support it and the rider, which makes them look weak and angers the environmental lobby. Josh wants to veto it, while the rest of the staff wants the President to suck it up, strip mining and all. Mandy (boooooo!) accuses Josh of whipping the President into a frenzy when he gets aggressive on a topic like this.

White coatElsewhere, Mallory, wearing a foremother to one of Olivia Pope’s exquisite white coats, stops by the West Wing to ask Sam to come with her to the Chinese opera that night. She assures him this isn’t a date and there will be no sex.

Sam says that like most people, he loves Chinese opera and, “What with your guarantee that there will be no sex, I don’t see how I could say no.”

He then informs Leo, who clearly wishes Sam had said no. And then Leo sees his chance: Charlie comes in with a request for a letter by tomorrow in honor of the Undersecretary of Transportation’s 50th birthday. Leo all but rubs his hands together like Mr. Burns and tells Charlie to give it to Sam.

Sam, who’s clearly excited about his not-date, figures he can get that birthday message knocked out in 20 minutes. He does, but President Bartlet is so taken with it that he asks Sam to keep going, to “really do a job” on it. What’s poor Sam going to do but agree?

Meanwhile, C.J. is making deals with Danny. If he won’t write about the cabinet meeting flap, he’ll get a 30-minute exclusive with the President. And after C.J. realizes it was the secretary, Mildred, who spilled the news, Danny immediately tells her that if anybody gets fired over this, he’ll write up the whole thing. The President agrees to the terms; of course he’s not going to fire poor Mildred. (Although the surprised hurt in his voice when he realizes that she was the leak is delightful.)

Mallory arrives at the West Wing for her not-date, entirely gussied, and quickly realizes why the way overqualified Sam is laboring over a birthday card. (“Birthday message,” he corrects her.) She leaves Sam to grapple with his writer’s block and goes to yell at her dad, calling him an addle-minded Machiavellian jerk.

Leo admits it, and Bartlet appears to lend him support: Leo is a busy guy with an important job, and the needs of the President sometimes take precedence, just like they did with Sam tonight. It’s why his marriage failed, and it’s why her not-date is not happening.

Mallory and Leo make up and agree to get coffee and dessert, but when Mallory invites Sam along, he declines, saying that he really wants to nail this birthday message.

Leo tells him it doesn’t really matter: “Sam, I gave you the thing to do ’cause I was pissed you were taking, you know, blah, blah, blah.” (“Well said, Dad,” Mallory mutters.) They leave Sam to hilariously freak out in the pursuit of the perfect birthday message.

Sam1Sam2

And at long last, the President and the Vice President are having it out. Hoynes wants to know what he did to Bartlet, other than deliver the South in the election.

“You shouldn’t have made me beg,” the President says. “It weakened me right out of the gate.”

The Veep admits that he’s 15 years younger and has his own career to think about, then shows himself out.

The episode concludes with a Lymon brainstorm: Make Big Sky a national park. It’s one of the Presiden’ts passions, it’ll save it from strip mining, and it’ll allow them to pass the banking bill after all. When Josh arrives to explain his idea to the President, Bartlet is hectoring Charlie about—what else?—national parks. The President thinks it’s a great idea.

But Josh stops him as he begins to leave: “We talk about enemies more than we used to.” It catches the President off guard and leaves both of these idealists wondering what became of the administration they were hoping to have.

In conclusion, I side with Mallory: I’ll take coffee and dessert over Chinese opera any day—even if the coffee costs nine bucks.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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