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'The West Wing' newbie recap: 'In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II'

Season 2 | Episode 2 | “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II” | Aired Oct 4, 2000

I left you hanging with Part I of The West Wing‘s season 2 premiere last week. Let’s wrap that up!

The episode opens in a skeevy BBQ restaurant where one of the shooting conspirators, sporting a swastika tattoo, desecrates a perfectly good sunny-side-up egg with a cigarette. Now that’s evil. But he’s swiftly apprehended when cars, helicopters, and guns descend on him. Man, the American Egg Board does not mess around.

As she did for most of the previous episode, a visibly rattled C.J. is briefing the press: The suspect has been captured, a spectator was injured, and Josh is in his sixth hour of surgery. Keep it together, Ceej. Keep it together. In a standout episode of a stellar show full of superior actors, you’ve got to give it up for Allison Janney in particular.  She nails C.J.’s mix of PTSD and steeliness, making her emotionally frayed but resolute.

And then we flash back to three years ago. Sam is still with his soul-crushing law firm when Josh appears outside of his all-glass conference room, wearing a smile that telegraphs that he went to Nashua to hear Bartlet speak, and he found the real thing. Sam quits his job, and a choir of angels sing.

The next flashback belongs to C.J., who’s in L.A. getting fired by a brash Hollywood type at 6:30 a.m. because she didn’t secure any Golden Globe nominations for his horrid movie. She drags herself home with her sad box of belongings to find Toby waiting for her in the backyard. Naturally, she immediately falls into the swimming pool and barks at Toby to avert his eyes from her clingy clothes as she climbs out. The best C.J. scenes are the ones where she’s acting like a zany dame in a rom-com. I should hate them, but I don’t. Behold the power of Allison Janney.

Anyway, Toby extends Leo’s invitation for her to join the Bartlet campaign, which she accepts.

Back in 2000, the Secret Service briefs the president: The shooters were with West Virginia White Pride, and the target wasn’t the president. A sick-looking Charlie tries to process this.

Meanwhile, the debate continues about who was/is in charge while the president was/is in medical jeopardy. Margaret tells Leo that in the future, she can sign the president’s name if necessary, as she’s been practicing his signature. Leo points out that this is, in fact, a coup d’état. I sincerely hope there’s a Margaret-centric episode in the future. She is, to use an extremely fitting old-timey term, a hoot.

And we’re back to three years ago, with the newly assembled Bartlet Bunch gathering at the campaign headquarters, where the candidate is having a tough time keeping everyone’s names straight.

“Which one is Toby? And which one are you?”

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The new staffers are all bouncing strategies off of Bartlet: Get out of New Hampshire, head to South Carolina, sew it up in Illinois. Candidate Bartlet listens, but is … well, he’s kind of mean. It’s unsettling.

After this unsatisfying meeting, Josh-of-three-years-ago returns to his newly established office to find a blond woman answering his phone and taking messages. He wants to know who she is. She wants to know who he is, and is chagrined to learn it’s the dude whose phone she’s answering.

It’s Donna, naturally, and she’s declared herself Josh’s assistant, promising that even though she’s a volunteer, he’s going to want to put her on the payroll.

Josh calls her out as rebounding from a tough breakup and teases out her rather flighty academic history.

“This can’t be a place for people to come to find their confidence and start over,” he warns her.

Donna wants to know why not, then levels with him: “Look. I think I might be good at this. I think you might find me valuable.”

In short, the Josh-Donna meeting is everything you would ever want it to be.

Back in 2000, C.J. tracks Sam down to confess that she doesn’t remember what happened during the shooting, but he clearly does. In fact, he’s the one who pulled her to safety. Sam says he didn’t want to tell her in case she’d feel beholden to him. They both admit that they were scared, and this apparently was the therapy that C.J. needed. At the next press conference, it’s immediately obvious that the warm, competent C.J. is back. She uses this platform to talk about the thousands of gun crimes that happened around the country during this same time period.

One last flashback: It’s the night of the Illinois primaries, and Bartlet’s being, in Josh’s words, a son of a bitch to everybody but Leo. It’s baffling, until Abbey tells Josh that Bartlet is terrified because he’s not ready. Nevertheless, a celebration breaks out when Bartlet clinches Illinois (My state! Represent!), but Donna interrupts to tell Josh that his father has died.

Josh is at O’Hare waiting to fly home when Bartlet shows up unexpectedly. Even more unexpectedly, he remembers Josh’s name. Then he listens intently as Josh talks about his father and assures Josh that his dad was proud of him. Bartlet then apologizes for being a jackass to his staff and vows to value them in the future. He then offers to fly home with Josh to keep him company, victory speech be damned. Josh politely declines but is obviously touched.

You guys, I think we just saw Bartlet become Bartlet.

Preparing to leave the airport and deliver his Illinois victory speech, Bartlet turns and says, “Leo, I’m ready.” And then the theme music! Chills! His beautifully written speech accepting the presidential nomination plays over his entourage leaving the airport.

And now we cut to Josh waking up in 2000, slowly opening his eyes, and asking, “What’s next?’

Six more seasons of The West Wing, Josh! That’s what’s next!

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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