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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Cathartic Latin yelling with Jed Bartlet

Season 2 | Episode 22 | “Two Cathedrals”| Aired May 16, 2001

Will he run?

That question drives all the action in this week’s West Wing episode, with everyone from the president’s closest confidants to Democratic party members to the ravenous press corps clamoring for an answer after they learn that the president kept his MS diagnosis from the public.

The schedule for the day is massive: Mrs. Landingham’s funeral, followed by the tell-all Dateline interview, followed by a press conference where the president will be asked whether he’ll seek a second term. Despite the crucial events of the day, though, Bartlet’s thoughts are elsewhere, pulled back by the ringing of church bells.

Flash. Back. Aw. Yeah.

In these flashbacks, we finally learn the depth and breadth of the Bartlet/Landingham relationship. It’s combative and sweet, challenging and supportive, and it spans decades. Decades!

It all starts at young Jed Bartlet’s prep school, where he’s a fresh-faced, floppy-haired blazer wearer. His chilly father, the headmaster, pulls his son over to complain about a cigarette butt in the chapel.

“People shouldn’t put their cigarettes out in the chapel,” Jed agrees.

In point of fact, they shouldn’t be smoking in the chapel at all, his father argues. Then he introduces Jed to the woman who’s taking over his office. Young Jed tries to call her Delores.

“Mrs. Landingham, please,” she corrects him. (Kirsten Nelson, who plays young Mrs. Landingham, absolutely nails Kathryn Joosten’s speech patterns.)

Young Jed Barlet and Delores Landingham

Back in the Oval, the president is meeting with his advisers, but he’s bothered that the door to the portico keeps swinging open on its own. Charlie explains that when the right sequence of doors are open in the White House, it creates a wind tunnel that pops that one open. Charlie assures him the latch will be fixed, and then it’s time to leave for the funeral, which takes place at the National Cathedral. What a gorgeous building. What a gut-wrenching occasion.

Mid-funeral, more flashbacks. Mrs. Landingham enlists Jed in a project: The women at the school are paid less than the men, and she wonders out loud if his father is aware of that. They walk and talk as she argues her point, and the Gothic architecture of the school melts into the Gothic architecture of the National Cathedral as the president’s attention slips between the present and the past.

At the funeral, Charlie gives the first reading. He, Sam, Toby, and Josh are pallbearers.

Back in the past, Mrs. Landingham, per Jed’s request, brings him hard figures about the staff’s salary discrepancies. She pushes him to do the right thing, asking what he’s so afraid of.

“Why do you talk to me like this?” young Jed asks her.

“Because you never had a big sister, and you need one,” she replies, then gives him the best advice a nascent progressive politician could ever receive: “If you think Mr. Hopkins should honestly get paid more than Mrs. Chadwick, then I respect that. But if you think we’re right and you won’t speak up because you can’t be bothered, then God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.”

Young Jed sticks his hands in his pockets and looks away with a smile. Mrs. Landingham excitedly tells him that she knows what that stance means: He’s going to do it.

Back in the present, after the funeral, the mourners file out. Bartlet asks Leo to have the Secret Service seal the cathedral so he can be alone for a moment.

And then.

And then Jed Bartlet starts talking to God. In anger. In despair. In Latin.

He calls God a vindictive son of a bitch and asks if Josh’s shooting—the shooting of his son—was merely a warning shot. He asks whether killing Mrs. Landingham, who was driving back to the White House in her first new car to meet with him, was God’s idea of a joke.

“Yes, I lied. It was a sin. I’ve committed many sins. Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?” he yells. And then he ticks off the virtues and accomplishments that we’ve seen over the last two seasons: aiding needy countries, appointing Mendoza, avoiding war.

“That’s not enough to buy me out of the doghouse?” he cries.

Then Jed Bartlet lights a cigarette in church and defiantly stomps it out on the cathedral floor.

“You get Hoynes,” he spits to the heavens.

Bartlet snarls out this brutal honesty like a wounded, grieving animal and … look, just watch it, okay?

Back in the West Wing, the senior advisers are all strategizing about the two different answers to the “will he run” question. Finally, finally, Leo calls them in to hear the president’s answer: He will not seek reelection.

And then we skip right over the Dateline interview and into the talking-head analysis afterward, which already has its own “Presidential Health Crisis” news logo. We hear a tiny replay of the president telling the nation about his diagnosis.

There’s another bad storm bearing down on Washington, D.C.—an additional sign of God’s cruelty, in the president’s mind. Leo is unperturbed, however.

“You think he’s going to change his mind, don’t you?” Toby asks. “You think he’s going to run.”

Leo remains inscrutable.

C.J., meanwhile, preps the president for the press conference, reminding him to call on the New York Times‘ chief medical correspondent first, to guarantee that the lead-off question will be about his health and not his re-election plans.

And here we come to the final flashback. Jed is with his father, arguing about an article in the school paper. His dad, who’s even more of a nightmare than we originally thought, straight-up smacks Jed across the face, and Jed immediately drops the equal-pay issue.

Then Jed picks up an earlier argument they had about the nondenominational religious service at the school: “Catholics don’t believe man is saved through faith alone. Catholics believe that faith has to be joined with good works.”

And now, alone in the Oval Office before the press conference, the president is reliving this conversation—when the portico door blows open again and the sound of the raging storm rushes in.

“Mrs. Landingham!” he bellows, forgetting for a moment that she’s not waiting in the adjacent office to fix and to fight and to challenge and to soothe.

And then there she is, bustling into his office, telling him she wishes he wouldn’t shout.

President Bartlet and Mrs. Ghostingham

“I have MS and I didn’t tell anybody,” he admits to Ghostingham, who doesn’t put up with his maudlin attitude.

“God doesn’t make cars crash, and you know it. Stop using me as an excuse,” she chides.

She tells him that he’s in a tough spot, but she doesn’t feel sorry for him because others are worse off. And then, in a narrative turn-around that lodged in my heart, she makes him rattle off numbers: poverty, incarceration, and homicide rates; the number of uninsured Americans, the number of drug-addicted Americans; the number of children in failing schools.

“You know, if you don’t want to run again, I respect that,” she tells him. “But if you don’t run because you think it’s going to be too hard or you think you’re going to lose—well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.”

An accident at the intersection of 18th and Potomac silenced the voice that first called Jed Bartlet to take an action that would make the world a better, kinder, more equitable place. But even without Mrs. Landingham sitting at his right hand, he’s managed to recall his purpose.

He stands, resolute now, and is that … is that Dire Straits?

It is! The president walks with an abundance of purposes through the rain—no coat, like a boss—to head to the press conference. This is the most metal use of “Brothers in Arms” ever.

At the press conference, taking place in the State Department, the media have lost their minds, shouting over themselves to address C.J. She answers as best she can, talking about Congressional hearings and a special prosecutor and the likelihood that most of the senior White House staff, including herself, will be subpoenaed.

As the motorcade passes the National Cathedral, a janitor stoops to retrieve the president’s cigarette butt, cleaning up the tangible remainder of his lapse of faith.

Bartlet arrives and takes the podium. He looks at the Times‘ senior medical correspondent, then turns his head and calls on a different reporter, who asks whether he’ll seek a second term.

Everyone in the room—the press, the senior staff, the White House assistants—waits for his answer.

“Watch this,” a hopeful Leo whispers.

Will President Bartlet run for a second term?

Jed Bartlet doesn’t answer immediately. He puts his hands in his pockets and looks away and smiles.

And like Mrs. Landingham, we know what that means.

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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