Review of The Lame Duck Congress


Written by Rachel

Okay, this one took me a few days, but c'mon...when real life politics starts playing out like an episode of The West Wing, you have to take a breather and watch CNN until you want to puke!

This episode was always well-timed. In a normal election year the concept of a lame-duck session would be interesting the way Aaron Sorkin made the census interesting last season. Now, in an election year where we have no president-elect a week after the election and the sitting president needs to have seven of thirteen spending bills signed by a lame-duck Congress, it's a pretty darn interesting plot. Of course in addition to the title plot we have a whirling dervish of activity going on in the West Wing, but then again, what else is new?

I'm not that great a critic of this show because I just love this cast. I watched "American Beauty" again this weekend and now I just sit here watching this show completely in awe of Allison Janney. She's incredible, but so are Rob Lowe, Brad Whitford, Richard Schiff, et. al. I was so delighted to see Timothy Busfield back tonight. Much like CJ, I'm not sure if it's appropriate for them to have a relationship, but I love seeing them in the room together.

Speaking of being in a room together...Sam and Ainsley have that special connection as well. Every scene is electric. Her character is unfolding like a flower. I'm not sure Sam isn't falling under her spell, but she definitely can do a great deal for the President. Her speech to the Republicans on the Hill spelled that out quite well. The debate over background checks did a good job of showing that our two parties often times want the same things, they just approach them in such diametrically opposite ways that it's hard to tell that we aren't that far apart. I love her shock that Leo would accept her argument so easily. Ainsley is smart, but she has a lot to learn about the process of governing. I sure hope they let Sam teach her!

What I would really like to do is find the person who is researching these facts for the show. I assume they are correct and if so, we should start assigning this program for all students studying civics.

But what was the thing with Ainsley and the food? It was weird. I couldn't decide whether to be offended that this incredibly thin person was gorging or if we were getting into a deeply significant bulimia story line.

Why am I not surprised to find out that the President's staff is wordy? Poor Sam...totally unable to unleash his full potential in two short pages. Could it be the person putting the words in their mouths? Or could it be that all the characters are trained lawyers. Or could it be that they've taken their lead from the President. He's kinda wordy himself.

I can't decide what I think of Donna's expanded role. I find that I love it one week and feel a bit indifferent about it the next week. The repetitive stress injury story was interesting, but it seemed to take up an inordinate amount of time. It seemed like they were squeezing her in. I don't ever get that feeling with Charlie, the other non-high level staffer, but Donna...figure out what you want to do with her.

As all these stories are whipping around, I felt like we had a "David E. Kelley" moment as Donna was explaining her repetitive stress injury to Vasily Konanov. I think the two plots did a good job at showing the mania that reigns in the West Wing while entertaining us and pulling us quickly through the hour.

Ultimately the lame duck session is a tricky thing. Marino is a man of great character. In a season when many good and a few bad incumbents lost their seats, this is a good story. Once the people have spoken, it's time to move on. Of course this year we can't figure out what the people said. His willingness to support the White House is admirable, but so is his decision to abstain from voting on the test ban treaty. I say make this man an ambassador or cabinet secretary or something. Toby's disappointment is palpable, but Bartlet is right to not go forward with the treaty vote. The day is over. They'll live to fight another one.

Finally, I mean to say this every week and it sounds cheesy, but that theme song makes me cry. W.G. Snuffy Walden deserved the Emmy big time. It moves me, makes me feel like a patriot. Maybe we could elect the theme song instead of those other two guys.

Copyright 2000 by Rachel Vagts. All rights reserved.

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