Monday, September 2, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Forty-five - The West Wing: Season 2, Episode 18, "Wow. Just, wow."

You know, I wanted to talk about the episode before this... The Stackhouse Filibuster. It was a feelgood piece about an elderly senator who, for reasons that would come to light later in the episode, started a filibuster over a piece of legislation that was assumed to be a done deal.

It was great in that said Senator Stackhouse actually filibustered, as in, "standing and reading with no breaks, support, or refreshment." It was the filibuster of old, of Mr Smith Goes To Washington... not the fake filibuster that has been getting so much use the past decade or so where lawmakers create a point of order and delay any and all bills whilst going about their day, rubbing elbows and taking bribes, or, as they call it pretty much everywhere, "business as usual."

I wanted to talk about that one... but, instead, I ended up watching 17 People, the episode after The Stackhouse Filibuster.

Hooolleeeeeeyyy CRAP! What tremendous television!

There are two major plot arcs happening during 17 People. Toby (Richard Schiff) is taken into confidence by the President (Martin Sheen) and Chief of Staff (John Spencer) and clued into the fact that the most powerful man in the free world has Multiple Sclerosis... a disease which could quite possibly render him unfit for office and no one would know it. Meanwhile, Josh (Bradley Whitford), Sam (Rob Lowe), Donna (Janal Moloney), and Ainsley (Emily Procter) have a much lighter plot in which they are in the middle of a bull session trying to write a comedic speech for the White House Correspondent's Dinner.

While I appreciate the gravity of the drama going on with Toby, Bartlett, and Leo in (and sometimes around) the Oval Office, the issue of Bartlett's MS is a foregone conclusion. It's a major plot point for the season and beyond and will get more than its due diligence.

What I find so damnedably interesting and compelling about this portion of the episode are all the editing gimmicks, shots, props, and sound design. I mean, Sorkin, et al., really pulled out all the stops when it came to Toby's discovery of the secret.

From moment one of the hour, his stress factor and anger are symbolized by his ever present rubber handball, taking the role of the Telltale Heart with its rhythmic thumps. In fact, the sound of its dull thudding echos and overwhelms the soundtrack almost the instant Josiah tells him the infamous secret.

Then there are the great shots we get in the Oval Office with the trio, such as the one taken from behind Toby with his back to the camera while Leo and Bartlett are on either side of the frame, broken up and distant. Intended or not, that shot really accentuated the feeling of being isolated and vulnerable for everyone in the room... and I love it!

For the B-plot, to lighten the mood (which the episode really needed as the A-plot was heeeaaaavy), it's really nice to see both Josh and Donna as well as Sam and Ainsley bickering (over their "not-anniversary" and the Equal Rights Amendment, respectively). There's quite a bit of pithiness that goes back and forth. Very entertaining, but I find myself not really in the mood to talk about it as it, like the rapid-fire wit of The Gilmore Girls, deserves to be seen as opposed to spoken about.

This really was the episode that needed coverage on the blog, even though I believe that I've run out of things to say (Wait, "Ainsley is so cute!" There.). I really did want to cover The Stackhouse Filibuster, but I just couldn't get up the energy to stop the autoqueue from playing the next ep. Funny thing is, I actually do want to talk about the followup episode (guest starring Oliver Platt) and am chomping at the bit even though it wasn't as interesting in its filmcraft, but we'll leave that for another time.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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