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'The West Wing' newbie recap: The one with the Butterball hotline

Season 3 | Episode 8 | “The Indians in the Lobby” | Aired Nov 21, 2001

It’s Thanksgiving time in the West Wing, and the president spends most of this episode boring people and weaving a complicated web of lies. It’s delightful. Bartlet for undercover CIA spy!

When we open, C.J. is ready to start her holiday after escaping the president’s monologue about spices and why he’s bummed that he’s doing Thanksgiving at Camp David. Ah, but not so fast, Ceej. Josh stops her to announce, “There are these two Indians in the lobby.”

This is not a joke setup, however. Maggie Morningstar-Charles and Jack Lonefeather had a meeting set with an Intergovernmental Affairs liaison that was canceled. C.J., who finds the timing of this ironic, offers to reschedule their meeting. Maggie and Jack instead say that they prefer to wait in the lobby until someone can see them. They further point out that there’s lots of media nearby in case C.J. decides to forcibly remove them.

“This is going to be something about us screwing you out of your land, isn’t it?” C.J. asks.

Why, yes. Yes, it is. The Dawes Act stripped their tribe, the Stockbridge-Munsee Indians, from 46,000 acres of land down to 11,000. In two generations, they’ll be wiped out, they tell C.J. Furthermore, they’ve been waiting for a governmental answer on their land issues for 15 years. C.J. is flabbergasted and desperately tries to find any warm body to meet with the two of them. But, of course, everybody is gone for Thanksgiving.

C.J. talks to the Indians in the lobby

Sam, meanwhile, spends this episode dealing with the OMB’s new formula for calculating the poverty level. As he explains it to Toby, the bad news is that there are going to be 4 million new poor people on Monday. The good news is that those people will now be eligible for government benefits. Toby disagrees with Sam’s definition of “good” and asks him to get the old poverty classification back.

So Sam sets out to charm Bernice Collette from the OMB. He calls her Bernie; she tells him to definitely not do that. Bernice explains to Sam (but really, to us, because come on, Sam would already know this) that the current poverty guidelines are based on Poland during the Cold War, which obviously doesn’t reflect current realities. She quickly converts Sam to her way of thinking, but Toby remains skeptical, asking about regional differences in housing costs and other stuffy concerns. Oh, Toby! You and your pragmatism.

The president has chased Charlie from the Oval with his turkey talk, and when Toby enters, he asks the president for as much information as he can spare on cooking turkeys.

“This is some sort of preemptive psychological thing?” Bartlet asks.

Sadly, Toby gets down to business instead, pitching the president on a program to provide low-cost cell phones to neighborhood watch groups. (Shades of Obama phones?) Bartlet argues that it’s too small, but Toby says they should pass small, easy-to-understand programs every so often. Bartlet asks for the polling data, but when it arrives, he swears and asks to see Bruno, the campaign manager.

When Bruno arrives, Bartlet reads him the riot act for polling on where the First Family should spend Thanksgiving. And then, I don’t know, Bruno tells a story about boating and kelp? That somehow relates? What matters is, Bruno makes it clear that he’s going to take every opportunity to gain even the smallest lead, particularly when it costs them nothing, such as where the president does Thanksgiving.

And now we come to the real reason that everyone reading this recap has seen this episode multiple times: Jed Bartlet and the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. Please just watch it below in all its glory.

Have you ever seen such a skilled manipulator of the truth? I appreciate that he’s in hot water with Congress for perpetuating a fraud on the American public when, at the same time, he can’t convincingly come up with an alias for the Butterball turkey lady. They should hire her to interrogate spies.

As they leave the White House for the holiday, Toby tracks down Bruno to talk about changing the poverty level. Bruno questions why someone making $21,000 a year has ever been considered comfortable, and tells Toby they’ll spin it like so: The formula has been broken for decades. Can you believe nobody has fixed it until now?

“I could sell anything,” Bruno says smugly, and I gotta say, I feel as though one of the Bartlet braintrust could have come up with that on their own, but whatever. Storytelling!

Bruno can sell anything.

Uh-oh, the president is talking to Abbey. They’ve been nothing but testy with each other this season. Bartlet tells her that a change of plans means they’re having dinner at the White House. Abbey asks why when the poll shows that Camp David is best, and Bartlet flips his lid over her bowing to Bruno’s manipulative polling. Abbey, who won’t put up with that nonsense, snaps that she’s been responding to polling information on his behalf for a long time without his knowledge. In the end, she tells him how furious she is that she’s being subpoenaed for acting secretly to keep him alive, even though in the end, they both agree that what she did was wrong.

Bartlet, that smart politician, then pivots to talk about the Thanksgiving stuffing, and Abbey says she’ll do what she always does when her husband cooks: “Wait for the girls to eat it first.” Heh.

C.J., who’s not even supposed to be there today, gets word that security is going to do their thing with the Indians in the lobby, so she approaches them with a choice: Either police will escort them out and they can call whatever media outlet they wish, or they can go to her office and make an appointment for Monday. They agree to plan B. Before they leave, though, C.J. has to know: “How do you keep fighting these smaller injustices when they’re from the Mother of Injustices?”

“What’s the alternative?” Maggie replies.

It’s not the most optimistic note for the end of this West Wing Thanksgiving episode, so here’s hoping the Monday meeting goes well for the Indians in the lobby.

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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