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'The West Wing' newbie recap: Those poor women of Qumar

Season 3 | Episode 9 | “The Women of Qumar” | Aired Nov. 28, 2001

This week’s West Wing episode asks us to consider what battles we fight. Should we fight against politically motivated litigation? Against the problematic framing of history? Should we fight against an attraction to a person we shouldn’t be attracted to? Do we fight to expose the truth? Or to protect the public from unnecessary panic? Do we try to strike a blow against a faceless government bureaucracy for one person? And what about a hopeless battle on behalf of an entire population, even though the fight’s already over and the casualties are too much to bear?

If I’ve made this sound like a downer episode of The West Wing, well, it kinda is, between the sick cows and the forced prostitution and the women of Qumar.

Here’s what we’ve got this week: A veterans’ group is threatening to boycott the opening of a Smithsonian exhibit on Pearl Harbor. The president plans to attend, so it’s on Toby to smooth things over. Abbey asks a reluctant Josh to meet with Amy Gardner of the Women’s Leadership Coalition about the wording of a U.N. treaty on prostitution. And Leo gets briefed on a herd of cows in Nebraska, one of which had a presumptive positive test for mad cow. If a second test confirms it, this would be the first case of mad cow in the United States. And finally, the United States is renewing the lease on its air base in Qumar, whose leaders insist on an arms package to sweeten the deal.

As C.J.’s getting briefed about all of the above, she pauses when Toby comes to the Qumar story, obviously perturbed. She starts to object but stops herself, aware of the staff members looking on. However, she later tells the president that a woman in Qumar was recently executed for adultery based on her husband’s word against hers. And now the U.S. is selling them tanks, she says. Everyone is obviously uncomfortable with her palpable anger, but nobody moves to stop the deal.

More depressing news comes from Amy Gardner, who offers Josh grim facts about sex trafficking in the U.S. and urges him not to sign the U.N. treaty. She also calls him “Special J,” which is adorable.

When Josh comes back to the White House, C.J. brings up the way rape victims are treated in Qumar. Then Josh asks Donna to defend legalizing prostitution and calls her arguments “the rare valid point.” Honestly, his condescension is less charming than he thinks it is, particularly because it feels like lingering passive-aggression over the Donna/Cliff relationship.

Toby, meanwhile, meets with the veterans, who are miffed that the Smithsonian exhibit shows a vengeful America and a victim Japan. They also ask Toby for help getting a new wheelchair for a fellow vet because Medicare is too slow. C.J. then stops in and asks them hypothetically how they’d feel if the U.S. sold tanks to the Nazis. Toby pulls her outside to chastise her, and she tells him to shove it up his ass (but not before pointing out that in Qumar, she wouldn’t be able to say that).

When Toby asks the president about getting a wheelchair for the veteran, Bartlet says, “Aw, Toby, we’ve got to straighten out Medicaid,” which prompts the most resigned “Yeah?” ever from Toby. Ha!

On the mad cow front, the administration worries that a positive test would cripple the U.S.’s ranching, restaurant, grocery, and farming industries.

“It’s these things,” Toby explains. “The everyday American things. The 99-cent things that, when you suddenly have to be afraid of them, strike at the center of our equilibrium.”

But C.J. finally convinces the president that they shouldn’t get caught covering up anything else because information breeds confidence and silence breeds fear. So Bartlet agrees to release the mad cow news through a mid-level Health and Human Services employee.

Later that night, Josh hunts down Amy to tell her they’re going to look at alternative language for the treaty. She wants to know why he didn’t just call her and then asks if he’s dating Donna. He says no way. “I heard you might be,” she replies. Ooooh, interesting. He responds, “I’m a visible guy. People write things about me.” And then he shows her his dimples, and I forgive him for being a jerk to Donna.

Josh charms Amy Gardner with his dimples.

Before he leaves, she tells him that guys like him want to get hit over the head. Confused, he shows himself out, and then she throws a water balloon at him from her window. “You almost hit me in the head!” he yells. And a split-second later, he GETS IT. Aww, Special J!

OK, here we go, guys. In the last minutes of the episode, Nancy MacNally tries to convince C.J. how much the U.S. needs the Qumar airbase for refueling. Then, speaking with more passion that we’ve ever seen from her, C.J. compares the situation to apartheid and comes close to breaking down.

“It’s the 21st century, Nancy. The world’s gotten smaller. I don’t know how we can tolerate this kind of suffering anymore,” she says, in tears. “They’re beating the women, Nancy!”

But Nancy, having tried to convince C.J. that she’s doing her best in a world full of guns, just walks away.

Dear reader, if you and I feel helpless in our everyday lives when we hear about atrocities both near and far on the news, imagine how much more helpless you’d feel to be standing in a room with the people who have the ability to actually do something to change it — people who respect you, people who count you as a friend — and still be unable to do anything to improve the lives of people who are suffering. No wonder C.J. yells. No wonder she’s in tears and mentioning Nazis to WWII veterans and bringing up race with Nancy McNally. She’s trying to use her position and her access to right a deep, soul-tearing wrong, and she still can’t get that boulder to budge. I’d cry, too. So would you.

But C.J.’s a trooper, and she steps up to the podium as if it were any other day. She gets through the briefing and only stumbles slightly at the sight of Toby, who’s watching from the back as his respected colleague delivers news that he knows poisons her soul. He clasps his hands over his heart. She lost that battle, but he understands, and tomorrow, they’ll pick up the fight on a different front.

Toby silently supports C.J.

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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