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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Ways and means and master manipulators

Season 3 | Episode 4 | “Ways and Means” | Aired Oct 24, 2001

The residents of The West Wing are putting out both literal and metaphorical fires this week. The literal fire is at Yellowstone Park, which the Bartlet administration plans to let burn itself out as part of the natural purging process, despite anger from the Wyoming governor.

The metaphorical fires are a little tougher. Special prosecutor Clement Rollins has delivered a list of people who’ll be called to testify before the grand jury in the Bartlet MS investigation. It’s a long, long list, and the names on it are basically every regular and recurring character in two seasons of this show. Bad news for Bartlet.

Following the credits, Josh encounters a frazzled Donna, who’s been up all night pawing through countless boxes in search of various presidential documents. She’s on the brink of a breakdown.

“Usually when I stay up all night, I’m able to pass a 19th-century English literature midterm,” she tells him. “I’m not going to have to take a 19th-century English literature midterm, am I?”

She then rails at Josh for pulling her into a life of crime after a quiet childhood spent on a farm. (Or in a farm-adjacent condo, at least.) Josh backs away slowly to head to his office.

“Try not to commit any felonies on the way,” Donna helpfully advises, channeling Kevin Smith.

Oh, hey, Ainsley! Glad to see she’s back this season. She, Babish, and C.J. have gathered to discuss Rollins, who’s universally seen as a respected, nonpartisan prosecutor. But C.J. wants to go on the offense, so she needs a more loathsome enemy to fight.

Approaching Leo, she asks him, “Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?”

Leo agrees that this needs to happen sooner rather than later, so C.J. embarks on a run of expert manipulation not seen since Billy Flynn defended Roxie Hart.

In her press briefing, C.J. says the White House is cooperating with the special prosecutor, whom she praises and calls “Clem.” Then she says Congressional hearings won’t be necessary, no matter what the Republicans think. Round one to C.J.

Meanwhile, Toby, Josh, Doug, and Tami Taylor learn that not only are Congressional leaders no longer interested in compromising with the White House on lowering the estate tax , but the House wants to repeal the whole thing.

“The White House is weak. What would you do?” Josh asks.

Toby suggests offering a bigger compromise, but Tami Taylor points out that the Republicans can get what they want without the White House. So what’s their next stop?

“I think he should take out the A-bomb,” Dough offers, surprising Toby. “Article I, Section 7. I think he’s gotta veto.”

Toby and Josh don’t hate that thought.

Josh and Doug discuss the estate tax (or death tax, if you

Two Democrats hunt down master manipulator C.J., worried that with such favorable press toward Rollins, the Republicans will want to start their own investigation. They ask her to downplay the West Wing’s cozy relationship with him. C.J. keeps a straight face and agrees.

At the next press briefing, C.J. has dropped enough breadcrumbs here and there to get the press asking questions that’ll send them on a hunt to dig up a paper that Babish and Rollins wrote together in law school. This is the most fun I’ve ever had watching C.J. do anything.

President Bartlet calls Charlie in to the Oval to complain about never being able to find his favorite pens anymore. Charlie instead asks the president when he’ll start interviewing to replace Mrs. Landingham. Things are getting missed, Charlie says.

“She put the pen in your pocket every morning. She slipped it in there,” Charlie tells him.

The president eventually finds the box of his pens and claims one himself. I love that they’re not letting us forget about Mrs. Landingham.

Ainsley tracks down Donna where she’s still buried in boxes, and offers to fix her up with a law school buddy. However, he works for the Republican majority on the Ways and Means Committee. Donna starts to say no—”Josh is in a twelve-round fight with Ways and Means!”—but stops to ask, “Is he funny?” Ascertaining that he is, she gives Ainsley permission to share her number.

This is why a still-frazzled Donna finds herself hastily applying lipstick on the way to a blind date with Cliff Calley. As she approaches the restaurant, a handsome, suit-clad man storms out, calling for a taxi. Of course, that’s Cliff, and thankfully, he’s willing to forgive Donna for being 90 minutes late.

As they’re getting to know each other, Donna asks why he’s a Republican. “Because I hate poor people. I hate them, Donna,” he tells her. Okay, no, it’s actually about smaller government, and while Cliff is no Josh, he’ll do nicely until this show’s OTP finally happens in, like, season 25.

Donna and Cliff meet cute, even though he

Except … uh-oh. Cliff was just transferred to the House Oversight Committee. “They didn’t say why,” he says slowly. Thinking about Donna and the boxes, he realizes exactly why Oversight would be asking for lawyers.

“I have to say good night now,” he says, full of regret. He leaves Donna standing alone on a corner. I will bet you one million dollars that we’ll see him again.

By the end of the episode, Toby and Doug present a rare united front to tell the president and Leo that they need to threaten to veto the estate tax repeal.

“I like the bold gesture. I think you’ve gotta get out the stamp,” Doug says.

“You sign it. You don’t do it with a stamp,” Josh tells him.

It’s both, actually, and Bartlet removes the veto stamp from its special veto stamp box, then he pulls his favorite pen out of his pocket and places it alongside. He’s ready for the fight.

(Other metaphorical fires this week: confronting a member of the Black Caucus on why they’re supporting the estate tax repeal and making immigration legalization promises to a longtime backer who can deliver California’s electoral votes. It was a busy few days.)

And we end this episode with the West Wing denizens watching the Republicans announce a Congressional investigation into the presidential coverup.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you C.J. Cregg, puppet master extraordinaire.

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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