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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Never make fun of Notre Dame

Season 2 | Episode 7 | “The Portland Trip” | Aired Nov. 15, 2000

Does the fact that you’re going to read all about C.J.’s Notre Dame hat and Donna’s date dress but nothing about an Iraqi tanker smuggling black-market oil make this the best or the worst possible West Wing recap? I guess that’s for you to decide.

The president, press and assorted members of the Bartlet Bunch are boarding a 9 p.m. flight to Portland, where the president will give a speech on education the next morning. C.J. unexpectedly joins the group leaving on Air Force One, and the press corps (OK, Danny) wants to know why.

“I made fun of Notre Dame,” she admits. And on the eve of their game against Michigan, no less! But don’t worry; she’s appropriately punished. The president makes her don the most ill-fitting Notre Dame ball cap ever manufactured, then strong-arms her into a photo op as they board Air Force One. Damn it feels good to be a gangst— er, president.

Back on the ground, Donna has to radically change her date plans with someone she thinks could be The Guy because Josh needs her at the White House all night. She’s bummed because she’s in a bangin’ red dress that she plans to return the next day. Even though he’s ruined her night, at least Josh has the grace to say, “You look nice!” in a genuinely admiring voice.


Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop there. He also tells her that her terrible taste in men and her overwhelming desire to be coupled will forever drown out her sense of self-worth. Ouch. Too honest, Josh. Too mean. Donna laughs it off and says she’s calling him Deputy Downer from now on. She’s a better person than I am; I’d be calculating 30 different ways to crrruuuuussshhh him. Or, you know, crying.

Back on the plane, Sam’s got the writing yips, and he doesn’t want to distribute his early draft of the president’s education speech to the press corps. Unfortunately, C.J.’s already handed it out, so Sam begs her to get it back. The press immediately start asking if this means they’re making substantive changes to the original. She assures them that they’re not. “It’s just Sam being Sam,” a behatted C.J. says. Everybody turns in their preliminary drafts except Danny. Man, that guy’s trouble.

Meanwhile, Charlie tells C.J. that it would please the president if she’d lead the press corps in a rendition of the Notre Dame fight song as they pass over South Bend. All five verses. Briskly. At this point, C.J. obviously begins yearning for the sweet release of death.

And now we come to the reason Josh ruined Donna’s date: He’s meeting with Republican Congressman Skinner to discuss why the president should sign an act protecting traditional marriage. Skinner strongly opposes gay marriage for a number of reasons that he outlines: lack of public support, economics, the Bible, etc., etc., etc. Thing is, though, Skinner himself is gay.

He and Josh go back and forth before Josh finally explodes and asks how he can possibly be a member of a party whose leader compared homosexuality to kleptomania and sex addiction. Skinner calmly points out that being gay isn’t the only thing that defines him, and he agrees with the other 95 percent of the Republican positions and let me say again: WE ARE STILL DEBATING THIS BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE 15 YEARS LATER. HOW? WHY? HOW? Anyway, the president ultimately decides on a pocket veto as a symbolic gesture to the gay community. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best they can realistically do, so everyone agrees.

Back in D.C., it’s the meeting of the blondes! Donna wanders underground to visit Ainsley in her subterranean murder office. This week, the office and its faulty radiator are trying to bake her to death. Donna asks if Ainsley thinks the two of them look alike, with their shared alabaster skin and farm girl looks, and whether Ainsley’s ever considered dyeing her hair red. Then she invites Ainsley to come work in the bullpen, where it’s cooler. Ainsley, her mascara melting down her face, finally agrees.

On the plane, the staff are trying to finesse the speech. Charlie doodles an idea about free college for people who agree to a period of service teaching in public schools. The rest of the staff like it and decide to incorporate it into the speech. This, of course, is a substantive change, which means the final version will be different than the draft, which means C.J. will look like a liar in front of the press. While she’s wearing the hat.

With only Danny left holding onto the original speech, Toby comes down to wrestle it away from him. And when Danny hands it over cheerfully, C.J. realizes he was just messing with her. Turns out, he also went to Notre Dame. C.J. wanders away, muttering about searching for an escape hatch.

C.J. and Danny on Air Force One, The West Wing

And then C.J.’s trip is saved when she asks why the president went to Notre Dame: He was considering becoming a priest, but then he met Abbey. Not sure that makes up for the hat, but still. Awwww!

Up in the bullpen, a much cooler Ainsley is trying to work while Donna sits on her research materials and talks and talks and talks. Josh swings by to discuss issues with Ainsley, allowing Donna to leave for the night. But before she does, she confesses to Josh that her date was lousy. He in turn tells her that she looks great and should definitely keep the dress. Good lord, they are the cutest.

Oh, and finally: I overlook the administrative assistants on The West Wing way too often in these recaps, so let me say this: Margaret’s motherly clucking over Leo in this episode is charming. He’s just gotten his divorce papers, and she’s worried it’ll drive him to drink. Her concern spreads to others, including Donna, Josh, and the president. Leo’s gruffly touched, and Margaret is, as always, daffy and delightful. Hats (including ugly Notre Dame ones) off to the admins!

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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