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'The West Wing' newbie recap: What's with the Gilbert and Sullivan, Sorkin?

Season 2 | Episode 5 | “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” | Aired Nov. 1, 2000

Is this West Wing episode known to fans as the one with the presidential sexytimes? Or maybe the West Wing episode where everybody says the word “duty” far more than our inner 10-year-olds can handle? Either way, I did this all the way through:

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The episode opens with Josh shouting for Donna, presumably to tell her that with the arrival of Ainsley Hayes to the White House, Donna is no longer the undisputed queen of shiny, perfect blond hair.

But no. He’s actually peeved because he owes the hospital $50,000 for his lifesaving procedures. After being shot. In a presidential assassination attempt. (The hospital was out of network, you see.)

OK, wait. Americans may not agree on every political point or social policy, but surely we can all circle round the belief that if you’re standing next to the president of the United States and you’re struck by a bullet, there should be some kind of national fund or hospital forgiveness program to take care of you. That’s, like, the rules of patriotism.

Anyway, President Bartlet’s recording his Saturday morning radio address, and despite assuring the assembled guests that he’s “one-take Bartlet,” he proves himself to be “many tedious takes Bartlet.” In his defense, his address this week is all about “leaf peeping,” which I believe is the perviest-sounding thing you’ll ever do with your grandparents on an October afternoon.

Toby checks in with C.J. to make sure she’s okay with the whole Ainsley hiring. C.J. says she’s fine. Toby points out that when she heard the news, she slammed her door so hard it broke. “You heard the news, and you broke the White House,” he tells her.

C.J. assures him she’s fine now, and in fact, she thinks there’s more than a little sexism surrounding the resistance to the pretty new female hire. Toby assures C.J. that she’s also a beautiful woman, and nobody thinks she’s ambitious or stupid. Well, duh. They’ve all spent more than 30 seconds with her.

Ainsley, meanwhile, is worried because Leo hasn’t told White House Counsel Lionel Tribbey, aka her boss, that she’s been hired. He’s extremely liberal, and she’s concerned he won’t react well to her.

IMG_1240Naturally, this is the point at which Lionel comes storming into Leo’s office, brandishing a cricket bat and threatening to kill someone with it and HOLY GOD WHY DIDN’T YOU GUYS TELL ME JOHN LARROQUETTE WAS ON THIS SHOW!@!@!!! (This is the actual punctuation I typed into my notes during viewing. JL is my very favorite silver fox.) He then laughs hysterically when Leo tells him that his new employee is, in Lionel’s own words, this leggy blond fascist.

Having introduced her to her boss, Leo shows Ainsley into some kind of sub-sub-basement, where her office will be located. I’m pretty sure they walk past a title loan company, a bail-bond office, a subway stop, the storage room for old X-Files records, and a satellite office of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense before Leo ushers her into the saddest, grungiest, exposed-pipe-iest office in history. I assume Ainsley Hayes is going to be murdered in this office.

At this point, Aaron Sorkin makes Ainsley and Lionel debate Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics because of course he does.

Long story short, Ainsley asks why Lionel can’t believe she’d set aside partisanship to do what she perceives is her duty, politely pointing out that he himself left a lucrative private firm to work for a president who’s too moderate for him. Is that not Lionel doing his own duty? (Duty!)

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Now, let’s talk about the Bartlets gettin’ it on. The first lady asks Charlie to deliver the president’s medical checkup results to him and tell him “we can have sex now.” (It’s been 14 weeks, apparently, and the president is only human.) Charlie reluctantly heads off to find the president, who sprints into the room three seconds later and has this exchange with Mrs. Landingham:

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Landingham.”

“Is there anything I can—?”

“Go away right now.”

“You seem a little tense, Mr. President.”

“Not for long, Mrs. Landingham.”

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The president pulls Abbey into the Oval, then rejects that location as a stop to Pound Town. (For the record, Fitz would have had no such qualms.) When they finally reach the residence, Abbey, dressed in her most seductive burgundy business suit, somehow turns their bedroom talk toward Nellie Bly and the countless women who’ve been ignored by the history books.

And wouldn’t you know, the next day the president delivers a radio address on overlooked women in history. Then he calls Abbey “sweet knees,” and they race back to the residence to commence the presidential sexytimes.

Finally, back to Ainsley, who, on the first day of her job, advises two White House employees who perjured themselves earlier that week. The two employees are as awful to her as you can imagine, and she slinks back to the West Wing, where Sam stops her to yell some more.

She wearily asks Sam to be rude to her the following day because “if I have to endure another disappointment today from this place that I have worshipped, I’m gonna lose it,” she says. Aww, kiddo.

Sam starts to feel bad and follows her to her sub-sub-sub-basement office, and oh God, is this where she gets murdered?

Nope, it’s worse. Sitting on her desk is a vase of dead flowers and a card that reads BITCH. A furious Sam tracks down the two jackasses who jackassed at Ainsley earlier and tells them they’re both fired. (Unlike them, he signs his handiwork.)

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Lionel and Sam then continue to debate Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics. Sam wins because he was the recording secretary of the Princeton Gilbert and Sullivan society for two years, because of course he was.

The next morning, Ainsley creeps down the stairs to her terrifying murder office to find it covered with Gilbert and Sullivan memorabilia, with Josh, C.J., Toby, and Sam waiting for her with drinks, handshakes, and a fresh bouquet of flowers.

In summary, I think I’m shipping Ainsley and Sam now. Well played, West Wing. Well played.

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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