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'The West Wing' newbie recap: I am totally comfortable letting Bartlet be Bartlet

Season 1 | Episode 19 | “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet” | Aired April 26, 2000

This is easily the best episode of season 1 so far, so let’s get right to it. Sam and Toby are discussing the possibility of rain during an outdoor presidential appearance when a huge crash of lighting and thunder gives way to an immediate onslaught. Gee, I hope this sudden and unpredictable bad weather isn’t a portent of things to come.

Spoiler alert: It’s totally a portent.

However, it’s not the weather but the resignation of two Federal Election Commission members that has the staff talking. President Bartlet wonders if he should dangle his feet in the water by floating his own replacements, even though party leaders from each side traditionally choose the new commissioners. (Remember this; it’ll be important later.)

C.J., meanwhile, is concerned about a rumored memo that’s leaked, and we soon learn why: It’s a plan outlining President Bartlet’s weakness and vulnerabilities, and it lays out a path to beat him for renomination. Even worse? It was written by terrible, awful Mandy when she was working for a Bartlet opponent.

C.J. is understandably distraught upon learning that a coworker has written a document expressly designed to destroy their boss and that said coworker didn’t warn anyone of its existence. I agree with C.J.’s emotional state right now.

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Sam is also struggling in a meeting with military leaders to discuss repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The military dudes are having none of it, even when Sam points out the many people who’ve been forced out of the military against their will. Admiral Fitzwallace, chairman of the joint chiefs, even stops by to remind them that their bigoted concerns about unit morale and cohesiveness used to apply to minorities in the military. Doesn’t matter, though. The military dudes gloat that they know the meeting is a waste of time because if Bartlet really wanted change, he wouldn’t have junior Department of Defense staffers meeting with Sam.

Josh is having his own terrible meeting, yelling about the evils of soft money while trying to convince the party leaders on both sides to let Barlet pick his own FEC nominees. The party leaders disagree with Bartlet’s choices because his nominees support campaign finance reform. When Josh threatens to nominate them anyway, the party leaders push right back, threatening not only to defeat the nominees but also to call dead bills to the floor to make Bartlet take unpopular stands against them, starting with proposing English as the national language.

Josh leaves fuming, then snaps hard at Donna. She absorbs his unusual meanness calmly, then asks, “Why is everybody walking around like they know they’ve already lost?” Truer words, Donnatella.

Josh then comes into his office to find Mandy waiting for him there, like freaking Beetlejuice after you say his name three times. I’ve got to say, humble, shamed, defeated Mandy is somehow even worse than shrieking hothead Mandy. (Also, she looks even shorter than usual this episode. Did they use forced perspective on her like she was playing a hobbit to amp up her deflated attitude this week?) More details about Mandy’s memo creep out, including charges that the administration is drowning in a flood of mistakes and indecision, with Leo constantly steering the president toward safe ground.

At this point, C.J. is desperate to find out which reporter has the story, so she approaches Danny, and … look, I’ll be honest. This scene was so hard to watch that I can barely bring myself to recount it for you here. He tells her he’s got the story and is going to write about it because it’s legitimate news.

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Then a dam bursts, and he takes the whole administration to task for not asking Mandy for these criticisms so they could get them fixed. He tells C.J. the administration is stuck in the mud and disappointing the people who voted for Bartlet, but none of that is the press’s fault because they have their own jobs to do.

I agree with every single thing Danny is saying here, but it’s damn hard to watch when we all know how bad this story is going to be for Bartlet. Good on you, Danny, but let’s never revisit this scene ever again.

Leo and Bartlet have a one-on-one chat about the memo, and Leo breaks it to the president that Leo’s not the one steering them to safe ground; that’s Bartlet himself. He points to Bartlet’s direction to “dangle their feet” on the FEC commissioners, and he says that’s been the problem all along. They’ve stuck in neutral, and they either need to jump into the water or stay out of it entirely. But dangling their feet is handcuffing everyone from pursuing real, true change.

Leo ends his barnstorming speech by telling the president that Josh, Toby, Sam, and C.J. will all walk into fire if the president tells them that’s what he wants them to do.

“Everyone’s waiting for you,” he says.

Bartlet, slowly and with increasing conviction, repeats, “This is more important than reelection. I want to speak now.”

And then Leo sketches out the new strategy moving forward:

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Leo goes to tell Josh, C.J., Toby, and Sam that they’re off their leashes and that from now on, they’re going to fight the fights that need to be fought, even if it causes them to lose some battles and possibly the White House. And one by one, they all confirm that they’re 100 percent behind this:

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Just … just watch the last two and a half minutes, OK?

Yes! Goosebumps! I RECAP AT THE PLEASURE OF THE PRESIDENT!

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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