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'The West Wing' newbie recap: We have not come a long way, baby

Season 2 | Episode 12 | “The Drop-In” | Aired Jan 24, 2001

Let’s tune in to this week’s West Wing episode and see how far we haven’t come in the last decade and a half, shall we?

Leo spends this entire episode trying to get President Bartlet to fund a missile defense shield that doesn’t work. But first, Mrs. Landingham reminds him that sarcasm is a grumpy man’s wit, and then the president calls Leo the Charlie Brown of missile defense. Leo is mystified by this comparison, prompting Bartlet to ask if Leo was born at the age of 55. It’s “pile on Leo” day at the West Wing, and I like it.

Leo, full of optimism, and Bartlet, full of Peanuts jokes, attend the missile shield’s umpteenth test firing, and it misses its target by 137, per the Department of Defense.

“Feet?” Leo asks hopefully.

“Miles,” the answer comes back.

“The words you’re looking for are, ‘Oh, good grief,'” Bartlet tells Leo.

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But let Bartlet have his fun where he can; he’s jumping through hoops this episode to formally accept new ambassadors from various countries. Imagine Leo’s consternation, then, when it’s announced that the new ambassador from England is going to be Lord John Marbury, his personal baby with the one eyebrow.

Meanwhile, the Bartlet Bunch are getting the president ready to speak at the Global Defense Council, where he’ll be announcing the Clean Air Rehabilitation Effort. (Side note: How much does everybody love that Sydney Ellen Wade’s fictional employer is name-checked in this episode?) Sam gives an impassioned speech about global warming not being an exaggerated claim but an actual planetary threat, and declares that “the time for such debate is over.” Yep. I’m so glad that in 2015, we’re allllll in agreement about that.

Toby, in rare grumpy form after his political spanking last week, flips his lid when he learns that the president is speaking to the GDC. His concerns are myriad, but the one he hits the hardest is that the group doesn’t object strongly enough to environmental radicals. So Leo and Toby hatch a secret plan to deal with the GDC event: Outside of Sam’s official speech, have the president drop in an admonishment about the group not objecting to ecoterrorism. When the president balks, Leo points out that Bartlet did the same recently with religious extremists, and it would be hypocritical not to hold his friends to the same standards.

“I’m victim to my own purity of character,” Bartlet laments.

New ambassador Lord Marbury has landed in D.C.! He’s as charmingly caddish as ever. He calls Margaret buxom, and we learn that C.J.’s a fangirl and Donna thinks he’s dreamy. In fact, Donna wants Marbury to introduce her to any single royals he knows. The only one he can come up with is 5 years old. But that’s okay; Donna can roll with it.

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More importantly, Leo courts Marbury’s support for the missile defense shield, but Marbury brushes it off as moronic. Oh, Lord John, that’s no way to win Gerald over to your side.

C.J., meanwhile, is dispatched to ask comedian Cornelius Sykes to drop out as host of the Will Rogers dinner. The president will be there, and there’s some kind of bad blood over somebody not laughing at somebody else’s joke two years ago. Before she leaves for the meeting, Toby fills in C.J.  on the ecoterrorism drop-in and gives her talking points for the inevitable press questions afterward, ending with “friends are honest with each other.”

At their meeting, Sykes accurately guesses that the White House wants him to say no to the hosting gig. C.J. says they mean no disrespect, but he scoffs at that. The bone of contention is a joke Sykes made two years ago at a Bartlet fundraiser about New York cops shooting black men, and let me just say how heartbreaking it is to see that this is as relevant today as it was 14 years ago—maybe even more so. This, global warming, gay rights … It’s wearying to see how many crucial, seemingly commonsense topics we’re still grappling with in the United States.

Okay. End rant.

Anyway, people jumped to criticize the joke, calling Corey “Hollywood sleaze,” and the president didn’t come to his defense.

“What did you expect us to do?” C.J. asks.

Sykes says he was hoping they’d at least say a few words on his behalf. Instead, the official Bartlet party line was that the then-candidate didn’t laugh at the joke.

“He laughed at the joke, C.J.,” Sykes levels with her. “I killed that night. That was a very big deal for me. To play in front of that audience? To get that man to laugh? And the next day my parents read in the paper that I am Hollywood sleaze. But that’s okay ’cause the candidate didn’t think it was funny.”

Resigned, he says he’ll make up an excuse and skip hosting the dinner, and he and C.J. part uneasily.

Meanwhile, Toby gets a call from Sam, who’s at the GDC speech with the president, and he’s freaked because Bartlet went off script (as Toby had planned). Toby feeds Sam the line he told C.J., ending with “friends are honest with each other.”

But when C.J. gets back from New York and offers that very same line to Sam, but hasn’t checked in with Toby since before she left, Sam starts to get the picture and slams into Toby’s office to spit, “Friends are honest with each other.”

Sam next storms to the Oval, but Charlie keeps him out. After that, Sam retreats to drink away his sorrows, and the last person he wants to see joins him.

“You don’t ever go into the Oval Office mad,” Toby tries to console him.

Sam argues that the drop-in remarks were ill advised, and it was offensive to attack their friends to score political points. Pragmatic Toby says, “We can’t govern if we don’t win.” I must say, the politics on this show are getting darker and more grimly realistic as the season wears on.

So. The more things change in this country, the more they feel like the unenlightened past. I hope next week the Bartlet Bunch proposes an easy fix for the wage gap for women so we can get depressed about that, too!

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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