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'The West Wing' newbie recap: So where exactly did you say Germany is?

Season 2 | Episode 16 | “Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail” | Aired Feb 28, 2001

Everyone on The West Wing this week deals with the sands shifting under their feet, and by the end of the episode, nobody’s standing exactly where they thought they were.

Early Friday morning, Leo discovers that Sam spent the night in his office. Apparently, the handsome Mr. Seaborn just learned that his father has had a mistress for 28 years, and he’s in a tailspin. But he’ll have to rise above it, because today is Big Block of Cheese Day!

Leo gives the Andrew Jackson speech and assures everyone that Margaret worked long and hard to pair up the right staffer with the right cause. (She did not.)


NBC/The West Wing

In President Bartlet’s subplot this week, his first choice for a presidential library is protected by the Historic Barn and Bridges Preservation Act.

“What plaid-flannel wearing, cheese-eating, yahoo-of-a-milkman governor signed that idiot bill into state law?” Barlet demands. Charlie’s silence is its own answer: It was Bartlet, obvs.

The president’s edgy about choosing the site because if the election doesn’t go well, he would need it in two short years. But when Leo asks if he wants to talk reelection strategy, Bartlet puts the discussion off.

Donna’s job this episode is to introduce her friend Stephanie to Sam, because he handles presidential pardons. Stephanie’s grandfather, an FDR staffer, was accused of treason but only convicted of perjury and died in jail. Now Stephanie’s father is sick, and she wants her grandfather exonerated before he dies. Per Donna’s pre-meeting prompting, Stephanie flatters Sam, saying that he’s the only one who has the ear of the president. She further points out that Sam already made compelling arguments in his thesis demonstrating her grandfather’s innocence. Why wouldn’t Sam support the pardon?

Toby, meanwhile, is meeting with WTO demonstrators who want to communicate with the president. (In retrospect, they’re clearly the blueprint for the Occupy movement.) He’s escorted by Officer Rhonda Sachs.


The protesters mill around the auditorium, yelling and being the kind of boisterous noisemakers that Toby especially hates. He urges Sachs to fire her gun.

“I can’t fire a warning shot indoors,” she tells him.

“No, I mean fire at them,” Toby replies.

He’s kidding. Mostly.

Anyway, because there are no TV cameras in attendance, Toby’s free to sit and read the paper while the participants scream at one another rather than communicate with them.

Back with sad Sam, he’s arranged a meeting with the FBI. Hey, it’s Agent Coulson! I had no idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. had infiltrated the FBI in the early aughts. Anyway, Coulson tells Sam to back off the Daniel Gault pardon, and pointedly reminds him that the FBI didn’t announce that it was Toby who ordered the canopy down, which allowed the assassination attempt at the end of season one. That’s cold, Phil.

And now there’s Dr. Phlox! It’s nerd heaven on The West Wing this week. He’s one of the cartographers who wants to transition away from the Eurocentric maps that are standard throughout the world. He explains that the current maps enlarge areas at the poles so it’s easier to cross the ocean, but they distort the size of nations and continents.

“Are you saying the map is wrong?” C.J. asks, looking at the map we all grew up with.

“Oh dear, yes,” Dr. Phlox replies.

Then he unveils the Peters Projection, which shrinks Alaska, Europe and Greenland and expands Africa and South America, giving the developing world the proper proportions.

The proposed new map blows C.J. and Josh

C.J. is shocked. “What the hell is that?”

“It’s where you’ve been living this whole time,” Dr. Phlox tells her.

Josh is equally gobsmacked that Germany isn’t where he always thought Germany was—and you guys, I’m going to have to do some Googling about all of this. Dr. Phlox points out that fixing the maps will restore social justice, because we equate size with importance and power. Then he blows everyone’s minds by suggesting they rotate it so the Southern Hemisphere is on top.

“Yeah, but you can’t do that,” C.J. argues.

Why not?

“‘Cause it’s freaking me out,” she says.

Toby, having given up communicating with the protesters, provides Sachs with the arguments he would’ve used in favor of free trade using all the rhetorical tricks of a great speechwriter: repetition, floating opposites, surprising differences.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone around here with communication skills who could go in there and tell them that?” Sachs asks.

Toby sighs that he hates the protesters with the fire of a nova, yet he goes back to make one more attempt at reaching them.

Sam gets called in to meet with National Security Advisor Nancy McNally, who tells him to drop the Daniel Gault inquiry. He starts to make his case, but Nancy stops him cold. The U.S. cracked a Russian code from the ’70s that offers definitive proof that Gault was a spy. The reason they didn’t publicize it is because you don’t let the other side know when you’ve broken their code. (Hello, The Imitation Game taught us that.) Sam won’t believe it until Nancy violates national security to show him the classified documents.

This leaves poor, rudderless Sam to mope in the West Wing cafeteria at night. Donna approaches him, and he calls her out for coaching Stephanie on what to say to flatter his ego.

“I don’t know why you would think I was like that,” he tells her. Neither do I, and frankly, neither does Donna. He fills her in on his conversation with Nancy, and Donna begs him not to tell Stephanie. He says he’s absolutely going to tell her because Stephanie needs to know who her father is.

“You mean grandfather,” Donna corrects him.

Naturally, this softens Sam, and he eventually tells Stephanie he couldn’t get in touch with the right people but that they can try again in three months. Once a satisfied Stephanie leaves, Donna hugs him.

“It’s just there are certain things you are sure of, like longitude and latitude,” Sam says.

Mid-hug, Donna breaks it to him: “According to C.J., I wouldn’t be so sure about longitude and latitude.”

Left alone again, Sam calls his dad, trying to regain his bearings.

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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