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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Just say no to the war on drugs

Season 2 | Episode 14 | “The War at Home” | Aired Feb 14, 2001

Whaddya know? The West Wing picks up all of those dangling storylines from last week, and does so while engaging in some serious speechifying.

We open on the president smoking—outside, lest he burn holes in the priceless antiques. Don’t begrudge him his habit today, though. He’s got 19 Special Forces agents on a mission to rescue the five DEA agents who’ve been kidnapped in a gambit to free drug lord Juan Aguilar from a Colombian prison, and *insert lengthy monologue on the futility of the war on drugs and resultant over-incarceration in the United States here*.

Against advice to wait for further negotiations, Bartlet gives the go-ahead.

Post–State of the Union, C.J. is prepping the reluctant Officer Sloan for his TV appearance to explain that 15 years ago, he was censured for using excessive force against a black suspect, despite the fact that a grand jury, two judges, and the District Attorney all exonerated him. That appearance cannot possibly go well.

Next up is Josh, still standing in the dark, still hoping for polling results, still getting encouragement from Donna to ask out Joey. The next day, Josh is puzzled and asks Sam why Donna isn’t jealous. Sam, who would not be my go-to for dating advice, asks if Josh is jealous when she dates other men.

No, Josh says, then reconsiders. “I don’t like it and usually do everything within my considerable capabilities to sabotage it, which is why it’s curious that Donna would do nothing to discourage and in fact everything to encourage a date with Joey Lucas.”

Oh, Josh, you sweet, clueless puppy.


Back in the residence, Abbey Bartlet is still furious with her husband, but she knows what strain he’s under with the hostage situation, so she ends up yelling really supportive things at him: I LOVE YOU, GET COLOMBIA SORTED, THEN I’LL YELL AT YOU SOME MORE.

Further conversation reveals what the Bartlets’ deal was: He won’t run for a second term, and they’ll keep the information about his MS from the world. Abbey worries that she doesn’t know how his MS will progress. Another campaign doesn’t really nudge things toward the “better” category, though, and *insert lengthy discussion about the realities of campaign finance and staying in office here*.

Ainsley, meanwhile, begs Sam for another chance to meet the president, this time not in her bathrobe. A nervous Ainsley arrives at Leo’s office for a second meeting and tells Leo she’s concerned about peeing on his carpet.

“Your skirt’s on backwards,” Leo helpfully points out.

So she excuses herself and steps into what she thinks is a restroom, but is in fact a closet. She doesn’t come right back out, puzzling the menfolk, and of course, that’s when the president comes in. When she emerges, Bartlet asks her why on earth she was in the closet.

“I had to pee,” she tells him.

“They won’t let me smoke inside, but you can pee in Leo’s closet,” he marvels. Then he calls her exceptionally bright and pats her arm. (I’m choosing, with every fiber of my being, to ignore Bartlet asking if her father is proud of her, because we really need to stop defining women based on their relationships to their fathers, husbands, sons, etc., mmmkay?)

At polling central, Joey is helping Josh interpret the results, and *insert lengthy discussion of polling numbers and possible responses here*.

More intriguingly, Joey says, “If you polled a hundred Donnas and asked them if they think we should go out, you’d get a high positive response. But the poll wouldn’t tell you it’s because she likes you. And she knows it’s beginning to show, and she needs to cover herself with misdirection.”

Josh blows it off. “Believe me when I tell you that’s not true.”


Back to serious business: The news from Colombia is devastating. The rescue mission was a setup, and one of the Black Hawk helicopters was shot down, killing all nine aboard. The hostages are actually being kept 60 miles into the jungle.

Bartlet steps outside to vent his grief and fury, then reaches out to the Colombian president, who’s willing to release drug lord Aguilar from prison in exchange for the hostages, and *insert lengthy debate on negotiating with terrorists that ends with Josh telling Donna why she’s wrong here*.

Bartlet wants to know what it would take wipe the cartel from existence. The answer is 300,000 Americans, maybe half of whom would die. Leo won’t sit quietly for this.

“I fought a jungle war. I’m not doing it again,” he says. In fact, if he had a TARDIS, he’d use it to keep the U.S. out of Vietnam, and this is his best chance to do that.

“This war is at home. The casualties are in our prisons and not our hospitals,” Leo says, pointing out that Americans spend as much buying Colombian drugs as the government spends fighting to keep them out of the country. “We’re funding both sides of this war, and we’ll never win it this way.”

Leo convinces Bartlet to let the Colombian president free Aguilar. Then Bartlet floats the idea of a black-ops assassination. “What’s to stop me?” he asks.

Ooh, is this the Gross Pointe Blank/West Wing crossover I never knew I wanted? Voice of reason Leo intervenes. “We lost this one,” he says, and *insert chess metaphors—AKA my least favorite plot device ever, like could you be more pretentious, we get it, you’re smart, you like chess, bully for you—here*.

As C.J. begins briefing the press, saying that the Colombian president acted on his own to release Aguilar, a defeated President Bartlet arrives at Dover Air Force Base to greet the flag-draped caskets returning home—more casualties of the war.


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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