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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Test bans, lame ducks, and drunk Ukrainians

Season 2 | Episode 6 | “The Lame Duck Congress” | Aired Nov. 8, 2000

Everybody is stubborn this week: drunk Ukrainians, lame-duck lawmakers, press secretaries. It makes for an episode with lots of talk (because, duh, it’s a West Wing episode) but very little actually accomplished. That’s okay; it’s still entertaining (because, duh, it’s a West Wing episode).

We open with a press conference, and Danny’s badgering C.J. Awww, I was just thinking how much I’ve missed Danny! C.J. hasn’t, though, judging by her snippiness.

The MacGuffin this week is a test-ban treaty that some newly elected senators are threatening to block. Danny asks C.J. if the president has considered calling a lame-duck session, because the outgoing senators are far more likely to ratify it than the incoming ones. Of course, if C.J. asks the president if he’s considered it, he’ll have considered it. Bam! Danny’d.

Also, his paper’s been beating up on the White House, so Leo tells the Bartlet bunch that they need to pull it together. From now on, everything gets summarized in two-page memos for him to vet. (Sam mopes that there’s no way his full potential can be reached in two pages.)

The Bartlet Bunch confer in The West Wing

Unwilling mole person Ainsley shows up at Sam’s office to compliment him on his natural sunlight and windows that open. He in turn asks her to shrink a 22-page memo to two pages. She agrees, then wheedles an invitation to observe his meeting on the Hill to garner support for the treaty. She also asks Sam if she can have his lunch because she’s already eaten hers. O … kay?

Sam’s meeting on the Hill fails when the Republicans shoot him down, even though everybody’s concerned about North Korea and Iran having nuclear weapons. (I’m really glad that it’s now 2015 and both of those threats have been neutralized!) Ainsley makes a valiant effort to talk sense into them, then swipes one of their muffins. Does she have a tapeworm, maybe?

Now in drunken foreign dignitary news: Ukrainian official Vasily Konanov is in town to meet with low-level government officials, but he’s at the White House, soused and refusing to leave until he talks to the president. Leo tells Josh to let Bartlet “accidentally” bump into him. That way, Konanov gets what he wants, but nobody’s nose gets out of joint over an official presidential meeting.

Back in C.J.’s nightmare, Danny has asked for exclusive access to work on a three-part feature on the president. C.J. is opposed to this. Sam says she should let him, and Ainsley says she agrees because Danny’s cute. She then hands Sam the two-page summary. He’s incredulous that she reversed his position. “It’s shorter,” she says. Oh, and also his opinion was wrong.

She manages to bring Sam around to her way of thinking, and then she steals a doughnut. Is Ainsley a stray dog, or possibly a grifter of some sort? Anyway, her mind is blown that something she wrote for Sam went to Leo and will move on to the president. Judging by the look on her face, this influence will make working with all of these Democrats worth it. Well, that and the snacks.

Toby is still trying to determine whether the test ban treaty would pass in a lame-duck session, so he meets some muckety-mucks at lunch. The people he is with are worse at ordering food than Sally Albright, which causes Toby to look more pained than usual. Unfortunately, his lunch companions tell Toby that he won’t have enough votes to ratify the treaty, even in a lame-duck session.

So Toby meets with an outgoing senator to see if he’s still on board for ratification. He’s not. The senator lost his election in part because of his support for the treaty, so he says it wouldn’t be fair to the people of Pennsylvania to ratify it when they spoke so clearly with their votes. Man, ethics are pesky, aren’t they?

Returning to the White House in defeat, Toby interrupts a tour of the West Wing with his ranting about all the nuclear dangers in the world, which ends with, “We’re all gonna die.” Great tour!

Danny’s still trying to get White House access, but C.J. isn’t having it. An uncomfortable Charlie has to watch these two angry-flirt until the president steps in and breezily agrees to Danny’s interview request. When C.J. keeps arguing, the president asks her if it’s personal, strongly implying that he knew about their nonrelationship relationship and was cool with it because they’re both good at their jobs. Poor C.J. This is the professional version of your dad catching you in the backseat of your Dodge Omni with the captain of the speech team.

C.J. and Danny angry-flirt in The West Wing

On the other hand, the president says he’s not happy with the Post columns, and he’s canceling his subscription—not the White House’s hundreds of subscriptions, just his personal one. (This is exactly what you’re supposed to do when you’re unhappy with your newspaper, by the way. Cancel, then call the paper and tell them why. Good media citizenship, West Wing!)

Ooooh, okay. I see why C.J. is angrier than usual. She knows that Danny was offered a job as an editor, but he turned it down. C.J. thought this might clear the way for their relationship, because while Danny has no problem with a reporter and the press secretary dating, C.J. does. And that’s the end of that conversation. Gah, why can’t these crazy kids make it work? I mean, they’ve even got tacit presidential approval!

Donna is entertaining the drunk Ukrainian when the president bursts in, all over-the-top “You’re the last person I expected to see here!” Then he levels with Konanov: They’re not going to talk about anything of importance, but Konanov will technically be able to return home and say that he met with the president. Bartlet out.

The episode ends with Toby reporting to the president in defeat. They don’t have the votes in a lame-duck session to ratify the treaty, even though 82 percent of American support it.

Then President Bartlet delivers a gentle civics lesson: America isn’t a democracy; it’s a republic. The citizens can’t be well informed on every complex issue, so they choose who gets to decide for them. On the other hand, they don’t always choose those representatives well. So in the end, there will be no lame-duck session.

On that cheerful note, Bartlet and Toby head to the residence to play chess and smoke cigars. (That’s the genteel version of chewing bubblegum and kicking ass, by the way, which I hope you’ll all be doing until next week.)

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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