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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Old McBartlet had a farm, part 1

Season 3 | Episode 2 | “Manchester: Part 1” | Aired Oct. 10, 2001

Now this is more like it. After last week’s lesson on terrorism, Islam, and intolerance, The West Wing is back in the thick of things with reelection talk, campaign speeches, and simmering resentment everywhere.

The episode picks up precisely where the season two finale left off, but this time we get to hear President Bartlet answer the question about whether he’ll seek a second term: “Yeah,” he says. “And I’m gonna win.”

Bam! Bartlet’s back, baby!

The rest of the episode toggles between the aftermath of his announcement and the kickoff of his reelection campaign four weeks later.

Four weeks after the announcement, the president, his senior advisers, and the press are boarding Air Force One, bound for the Bartlet family farm in Manchester, New Hampshire, which will be home base for his campaign launch.

Josh is in a tizzy because he’s learned that the FDA plans to announce its approval of RU486 on the same day as the president’s speech. The administration requested that all agencies embargo any news so Bartlet’s speech could own the news cycle on Monday, but the FDA is technically an independent agency and doesn’t have to comply with that request. (Incidentally, this is a rare topic on which The West Wing lags behind the real world; the FDA actually approved mifepristone in September 2000, a year before this aired.)

There’s additional chaos on Air Force One as staffers sift through seven different drafts of Bartlet’s kickoff speech, none of which pleases everyone. Some new faces have joined the inner circle—notably Bruno (Ron Silver), Doug (Evan Handler), and Connie (Connie Britton—hey, Mrs. Coach!). Toby seems to really hate Doug in particular.

Also, the first lady, who’s massively displeased that she didn’t have any input in the second campaign decision, isn’t there to board Air Force One with her husband. C.J. is worried about the optics, and seems edgy overall.

Everyone is tense and unhappy, is what I’m saying. Bruno, Bartlet’s campaign manager (and looking up his actual job title on the West Wing wiki totally spoiled me; curse you, 14-year-old plot points!), is arguing with Leo about the need for the president to apologize for his deception in his campaign speech.

Leo says that’s not necessary. Bruno disagrees.

“In four weeks, he (the president) has saved Haiti for democracy, funded the Justice Department tobacco lawsuit, watched the market rebound. He has done everything but apologize,” Bruno says.

Leo blows it off.

After they land, the rest of the staff decamps to a bar in Manchester, where Doug and Toby continue to disagree about a presidential apology, and I cannot emphasize enough how much Toby dislikes Doug and his pro-apology stance.

Toby, looking to clear his head, asks C.J. to play pool for money. She says she doesn’t know how, but she agrees. Oh, man, I desperately want her to be a pool shark.

C.J. is not hustling Toby in pool.

She’s not.

Back to the night of the press conference: The president joins a planning session to evacuate the Haitian embassy, which ends with his military advisers giving him a standing ovation for his press conference announcement. Dawwww!

After a successful mission, C.J. leads a press briefing on it, and the press are unusually (but understandably) obnoxious, using every question to link Bartlet’s health to his decision-making on Haiti. They get tough with C.J., and she takes it, letting their aggression zing off her thick skin. But she gets sharper and a little more defensive as the presser rolls on.

At the bar four weeks later, Toby tells C.J. that Leo talked to him about her, so he knows what she’s considering. C.J. bats a ball into the pocket with her hand.

“Strategically, I felt that was the wise thing to do,” she says dully. That … that doesn’t sound good.

Four weeks ago, Haiti turned into a refugee crisis, which leads Nancy McNally to float Guantanamo Bay as an option. (Remember 2001, when none of us knew where or what that was? Good times.) Toby then warns that if they invade Haiti, it might look like an attempt to change the subject while also putting American troops in harm’s way. Gee, I wonder if this will come up again.

In New Hampshire, Toby is now trying to lure Charlie into a game of pool. Charlie agrees to play for $20. Just let somebody be a hustler, please!

Back to four weeks ago: Oliver Babish warns Charlie that he’ll need to get a lawyer because he could be looking at perjury charges. Babish tells Charlie that his legal defense—assuming he did, saw, and heard nothing wrong—will cost $100,000. And as we know, Charlie did, saw, and heard plenty, so how much will that cost him? Maybe that’s why he’s now playing pool for money.

In New Hampshire, he runs the table on Toby, so awesome.

Four weeks ago, Joey Lucas arrives with solid poll numbers on public reaction to the president coming clean about his health. She tells the Bartlet Bunch that an incumbent needs 40 percent approval to get reelected at this point in the election cycle. Her initial numbers show the president has 41 percent, while 37 percent would elect a new person. Bartlet is still in the game!

While she’s there, Joey also tries to talk Josh out of sending that incendiary press release lambasting the congressional subcommittee for not ponying up enough money for the tobacco lawsuit, telling him it’s stupid to anger the people who appropriate the money. Josh seems determined to ignore her.

Meanwhile, C.J. is still getting hammered by the press. They’re bringing up the president’s health over and over, linking it to his decision-making and asking if it’s hard for him to focus.

Under their relentless badgering, C.J. finally snaps and says the president is relieved to be focusing on something that matters.

C.J. Craig misspeaks in a press conference

A deadly silence falls across the press room.

It’s just what Toby warned could happen; now, an invasion of Haiti would look like the president is welcoming a distraction from his MS news. Worse, C.J. doesn’t clear up her misstatement, instead ending the presser and exiting the room.

Storming to her office, she blows past Toby and Sam, barking at them not to say a word. Then she slams her hand against the door and curses. She knows how bad this is.

The senior advisers convene without C.J., and Leo is furious that they’re not all keeping it together better than they are. They’ve had a week to process the news, after all. Sam spits that some of them have had more time to process the news than others. It’s all awkward. So awkward.

And now we’re back in New Hampshire, where Bartlet is sitting on the back of a pickup truck on the Bartlet family farm, smoking a cigarette. He’s wearing amazing dad jeans and ignoring Leo’s argument that he should delay until after the RU486 news breaks.

“Screw it. It’s game time. Let’s go,” Bartlet tells him. And then he reminds Leo: “I’m running for reelection. And I’m gonna win.”

The tension this week was thick, you guys. Uncomfortable. People are prickly and argumentative, and I can’t wait to see what kind of speech the president ends up giving next week.

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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