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This week’s newbie 'West Wing' recap will make you grateful for your GPS

Season 1 | Episode 15 | “Celestial Navigation” | Aired Feb 16, 2000

“Celestial Navigation” is downright Tarantino-esque, with its shifting timelines and narrative framing device. Josh, the featured speaker at a university lecture series, is describing how the White House responded to a series of crises over the past 36 hours, while at the same time dealing with a completely new crisis unfolding that very evening. So many crises this week, now with 40 percent less linearity!

Josh begins by telling the students how the previous day went to wrong. It started with a pain in C.J.’s teeth. She has an emergency dental appointment but plans to be back in time for a press conference on the signing of a key education bill. (Sam, unknowingly auditioning for his future role as Chris Traeger, cheerfully tells her, “Your teeth are the best friends you’ve got!”)

Before the press conference, however, news breaks that HUD Secretary Deborah O’Leary told a Republican congressman during a hearing that he was racist. (To be fair, he kind of deserved it.) Following the education bill signing, the press pushes Bartlet to respond to O’Leary’s remarks, and he allows that an apology would be appropriate. At this, there is much grimacing from the staff.

We now flip back to Josh onstage mid-lecture. His cell phone rings, and he apologizes but says he has to take the call. Mark it: In the year 2000, Josh Lyman created the template for all future cell phone a-holery.

Anyway, it’s Toby and Sam calling because they’re responding to that evening’s crisis: Supreme Court nominee Roberto Mendoza has been arrested in Wesley, Connecticut, on suspicion of DUI. They’re driving there to pick up him up, and they’re lost. Josh tells them he absolutely cannot that help them and resumes his speech.

In the car with Toby and Sam, it’s tense. Sam is attempting to find the Wesley police station using celestial navigation. (“That’s Polaris!”) Friends, this is an important reminder that the pre-GPS world was a dark, scary place.

Back at the White House, O’Leary tells Leo that her role as the highest-ranking black female in government is to point out when she encounters racism. Leo tells her to apologize anyway. She refuses at first, but eventually capitulates. So, crisis averted, right?

Not so fast. C.J. had to have an emergency root canal, and her slurred speech and puffy jaw means she in no way can do this crucial press briefing to move the press off of the HUD racism flap and onto the education bill triumph. And, well, she sounds like this:

Josh says he’ll do the presser, even though C.J. reminds him that he gets hostile when pressed. As he enters the briefing room, Danny also pulls him aside and warns him away. Josh is so cocky in the face of their concern that, as much as I love him, I cannot wait to see the inevitable yet fully deserved meltdown that’s bound to occur.

And friends, the press conference is as painful as watching someone set a basketful of puppies on fire and slowly letting it roll down an exceptionally rock-strewn hill. First, Josh whiffs a question about the president bumming a cigarette from a reporter on Air Force One. Then he gets flustered when they press him on the president’s plans for fighting inflation, finally responding, “Yeah, we have a secret inflation plan.”

Oh, Josh. You know it was sarcasm. I know it was sarcasm. But you and I both know that sarcasm doesn’t play well terribly well with the White House press corps, and certainly not with the American public. Josh and his flop sweat suddenly grasp just how badly this is all going.

Josh flop sweat

C.J. runs Josh to ground after the press conference, and Toby joins in, asking if Josh recently suffered a head injury. Then Sam enters with bad news: Roberto Mendoza, who’s recently spoken out against Bartlet supporters such as the American Bar Association and the AFL-CIO, has told the Chicago Tribune that the president shouldn’t have made O’Leary apologize to the congressman for the racist remark. Mendoza is summoned to the White House, and he replies that he’ll drive in from Canada, where he’s been vacationing. (He wants to do some antiquing in Connecticut along the way.) Everybody’s head quietly explodes.

Back in real time, on the night of Josh’s guest lecture, two of the brightest minds in the country have finally made it to the Wesley police station (“Polaris” turned out to be the Delta shuttle from LaGuardia). The local constabulary are reluctant to believe they are who they say they are. Once convinced, they let Toby in to speak with Mendoza as Sam explains to the officer who pulled him over that Mendoza has hepatitis, which means he cannot drink any alcohol. The two officers begin to look concerned as the magnitude of their mistake sets in.

In the jail cell, Toby asks why Mendoza didn’t take the Breathalyzer. Mendoza replies that he was following all the laws and that absent just cause, a Breathalyzer is an illegal search. Furthermore, Mendoza refuses to leave his cell. He doesn’t want any strings pulled for him; he instead wants to run the full gamut of the legal system in Wesley. And then we get to the root of his problem: The police patted him down, handcuffed him, and stuffed him in a squad car in front of his 9-year-old son. Mendoza is livid.

Toby absorbs the awfulness of the situation, then makes the point that nothing about this wouldn’t be better if Mendoza were a Supreme Court justice. And with that, Mendoza agrees to leave. Before they depart, the officers apologize to Mendoza, then agree to apologize to his son, who’s waiting at a motel a few miles away.

As they leave, Sam tells them, “I also gotta say, you guys could do a better job of marking the exits on the freeway.” Heh.

So. O’Leary apologizes to the congressman. The police apologize to the Mendozas. Mendoza encourages Toby to stay the night in Connecticut so he can antique in the morning. Toby declines, courteously. And Josh, satisfied that all the crises have been controlled, turns to answer questions from the audience. And here endeth two more frantic days in the White House.

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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