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'The West Wing' newbie recap: On clotheshorses and veto overrides

Season 3 | Episode 5 | “On the Day Before” | Aired Oct 31, 2001

Everyone is getting dolled up for a state dinner this week on The West Wing. In fact, the call comes in alerting the White House to the passage of the bill to repeal the estate tax while Donna is tying Josh’s bow tie. (He prefers a tied bow tie so at the end of the night he can pull it open like Tony Bennett. Donna is not sure a bow tie is all that’s keeping him from pulling off Tony Bennett.)

Anyway, Donna tells him she needs to talk with him sometime that night. He blows her off as only Josh can.

Troublingly, seven Republicans have dropped out of the state dinner for an emergency meeting. You guessed it: They’re holding a vote to override the president’s veto, and everyone agrees they wouldn’t do this if they didn’t think they could actually pull it off.

The realization that the White House doesn’t have the votes it needs to stop the veto override leads to much talk about the whip’s office, and all I can hear in my head is Kevin Spacey with his Frank Underwood accent saying “whhhip.” That pronunciation is the best part of House of Cards.

C.J., seriously smashing in a red evening gown, addresses the press about the president’s veto. One of the members of the press is entertainment reporter Sherri Wexler, who’s punching way above her weight class with this crowd. (Aaron Sorkin doesn’t hate anybody more than he hates entertainment reporters at this point, but this is only because he hasn’t met the Internet people yet.)

The clothes horse addresses the White House press corps

Josh’s bow tie failed, so he gets Donna to swap it out for the clip-on. Awww, puppy. He again blows off her attempt to talk to him.

Does anybody else cringe whenever Nancy McNally shows up? Anna Deavere Smith is fantastic, but her character only brings bad news. Tonight’s is that a suicide bomber in Israel intentionally targeted two American students, killing them and eight other people.

So C.J. changes into her usual professional suit for a presser on the bombing, where Sherri Wexler asks dumb questions about why the White House can’t confirm the victims’ identities. C.J. patiently explains that the 1974 Privacy Act keeps her from sharing that without the family’s consent.

Josh, meanwhile, is confronting Indiana Gov. Buckland, who last episode was wooing one of Bartlet’s biggest supporters. Josh comes right out with it: They’ve done polls that show the governor isn’t a political threat to them. What they don’t like is his health. It makes the president look sick in comparison, when the governor stomps around all robust and hearty. Josh finally offers Buckland the position of labor secretary in exchange for him not running. Buckland shakes his hand, and peace shall rule the land today.

C.J. and Carol watch dumb Sherri Wexler do her standup outside the White House, in which she calls C.J. a clotheshorse who’s out of the loop because of her many wardrobe changes. YOU DARE, SHERRI WEXLER?

C.J. doesn’t even flinch, and coolly promises to take care of it. I want C.J. to have some kind of Mortal Kombat–style finishing move.

Toby and Sam are negotiating with a Tennessee Democrat who has four proxies and can stop the veto override. In exchange, he demands a grazing fees moratorium, support for ag export subsidies, and an FDA crackdown on antibiotics in milk. After some debate, Sam and Toby say no and show him the door. They do this because they’re gambling that a Republican with six proxies will leap at all the concessions the Democrat demanded.

“Okay. Now this really needs to work,” says a nervous Sam.

But the Republican turns them down. Toby and Sam start to sweat, until he announces the deal he really wants: Don’t put a Democratic challenger up against him during the next election, and they’ll get his seven votes. “Oh, and throw in the milk thing,” he says. That’ll stop the veto override, and peace shall rule the land today.

Poor Charlie this week has been offered immunity in exchange for his testimony in the ongoing probe into the president’s MS. He staunchly refuses to discuss it with Sam, C.J., and Toby. When Leo also encourages him to take it so he doesn’t go broke or get barred from law school, Charlie declines.

“I’ll stay with my team. People should stop trying to get me not to do that,” he says. Huzzah, Charlie!

McNally, who’s been stressing about Israel launching warplanes, comes in smiling. Palestinian police arrested the man who spearheaded the bombing, and peace shall rule the land today.

Donna finally corners Josh, who’s ditched his bow tie and looks nothing like Tony Bennett. She confesses that she went on a blind date with a Republican lawyer who’s moving from Ways and Means to Government Oversight. Josh tells her she can’t see him anymore. Oh, but she saw him again the following night. (I get you, pooh bear. Forbidden love is the hottest love.)

Josh is obviously disappointed, asking in a controlled voice if Donna remembers his epic battle with Ways and Means over the estate tax. After ascertaining that no reporters saw them together, he tells her to go home, and no peace shall rule this land today.

I guess we know what Donna’s Mortal Kombat finishing move is.

NBC/The West Wing

Speaking of, C.J. is squaring off against dumb Sherri Wexler.

She calls on Sherri in front of the White House Press Corps, forcing dumb Sherri Wexler to admit that not only does she not know how to override a veto, but she doesn’t actually know how many members are in the House of Representatives.

Afterward, when dumb Sherri Wexler approaches C.J., C.J. eviscerates her, saying that she changed her clothes because she didn’t want to talk about the deaths of two American kids in a ballgown. Then she tells dumb Sherri Wexler that she’s losing her press credentials, and will only exist in the West Wing under C.J.’s good grace and sufferance.


NBC/The West Wing

Finally, the Bartlet Bunch have gathered to craft the presidential message to the parents of the dead students. Bartlet brings up Erev Yom Kippur, in which you can’t ask forgiveness of God until you’ve asked forgiveness of people the day before. With that, the president requests to be alone to call the parents.

“I have three children. I really don’t know what to say,” he says as the cameras fade to black.

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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