Monday, March 20, 2006

The Briefcase

A West Wing Word

For those of you who find the campaign episodes this season to be a little 'talky', you'll find that Two Weeks while no exception to this rule is simultaneously one of the most engaging episodes broadcast this year. Now over his cold Arnie Vinick has just flown in from Florida to Chicago to speak before a small business organization. While working a rope line prior to the event the Senator finds he has shaken so many hands that his own has become rather sore. This hand problem becomes all the more sever when the former Chicago Bears football player who introduces him to the business group, shakes his hand more then just a little to hard. In fact Vinick suffers a hairline fracture and his doctor wants to put him in a cast, but with only two weeks in the campaign remaining and very much not wanting to seem the weak old man, the two settle on a removable cast the Senator will wear while not in public.

The follow up speaker at the Chicago event after Vinick is Congressman Santos, Santos will also be proceeding Vinick at an event that night in Philadelphia so Arnie complains how that "sort of thing has been happening a lot lately." The two candidates are now pretty much tied but Santos seems to have the momentum, and despite the Presidents commitment of troops to Kazackstan all the press really wants to ask the Senator about is his views on nuclear power. The Vinick staff, even with its new GOP-approved campaign manager (this actress name is not listed on the episode guide I use), is still divided on how to proceed. Vinick has already made a lengthy trip through the south and the campaign manager has been on a lot of cable TV shows trumpeting up the Senators opposition to gay-marriage in the hopes of appealing to values voters (while opposed to gay marriage Vinick thinks it is a states issue and is not comfortable campaign on it). Being pulled in one direction to focus soley on the base and in another to try and close the gap among swing voters Arnie comes to the conclusion that the only way to get out of his slump is to return to his 'straight talking ways' (no pun intended) go to California and hold a press conference infront of the San Andreo Nuclear Plant, answering every reporters question until they drop. Only then he thinks can he leave the nuclear question behind him, though both factions of his staff are not so sure that's a good idea.

Its a beehive of activity over at the Santos camp as that campaign tries to use their current media good will to edge out Vinick in the home streach. After appearances in Chicago and Philly, Josh has the congressman scheduled for stops in Ohio and Florida, but Toby who is now advising the campaign under the alias "Bob" (despite his great talent with such things Tobys current legal problems make it impossible for him to advise the campaign publicly, besides which he only now seems to be getting on the Santos bandwagon) advises him to go straight back to California and soak up the free media coverage they would get there for actively competing in there opponent's home state. Josh signs off on this idea and advises Matt to do so just after his Philadelphia speech.

Soon both camps are in California, Vinick in San Andreas and Santos in Fresno, only one camp is missing something and another has gained an item. Both the Santos and Vinick teams used the same prep room back in Pennsylvania, while there Bruno picked up a briefcase he thought belonged to his staff. Because the briefcase had no name on it he opened it up on the plane ride to Cali only to discover it belongs to Santos and contains some interesting personal effects. Santos back with his team seems oddly concerned about the briefcases lose pressuring staffers Otto and Bram to find it, his behavior sets off alarm bells with media strategist Lou Thornton (Janeane Garofalo) who asks Josh on the phone at HQ if the Congressman has anything embarrassing in there, Josh doesn't think so.

After another dispute full meeting of the Vinick team in California Bruno comes to the Senator to explain that he has the Santos briefcase. He explains to the Senator that the information in it could make him President. Vinick says he doesn't want to hear about it and that they should return to case, but none-the-less he listens when Bruno starts to explain. Bruno says that the case contains a day planner that Santos has used as a sort of diary of the campaign, and that it contains some negative comments about the democrates true feelings on the current Vice-President (a major Santo rival in the primaries), and his ill confidence in his own running mate Leo as a campainger. But the real 'treasure' come in the form of an odd check book in the name of "M. Santos" with no address listed. It seems that Mr. Santos has been using that account to make out monthly checks to an Anita Moralus, a never married single mother of a nine year old and a clerk at Houston city hall whom Matt hired when he was mayor there a decade ago. It seems pretty obvious how this information could destroy Santos presidential run, but Vinick has never been much for dirty campaigning and dosen't want to use it, he does however relent to Brunos suggestion that he sleep on it.

The next day Vincik gives his press conference at San Andrea, something so gutsy that it steals away most of Santos free coverage. Arnie stands and answers reporters questions for nearly three hours, exhausting the press-corp, looking like the maverick he used to be and possibly saving his campaign. With renewed confidence that he can win this thing by himself he decides to do what he always wanted to do with the new situation and give the briefcase back to Santos. Before he does however Bruno makes some good points about how that information on Santos is going to get out eventually, and better that it does during the campaign then during a Santos presidency where the nations chief executive could be bogged down in scandal while trying to stop World War Three from starting in central Asia. Vincik arranges a meeting with Santos that night but does not tell him what its about. When he gives the case back to Santos and says that only he and Bruno know about it and they will not use anything they learned from it in the campaign, Santos seems angry and embaresed. Vinick says that while they won't leak the story its Santos duty to give a full discloser about his past to the American people. Santos is indigent about this but eventually tells the Senator that the child belongs to his dead beat brother (a kind of Roger Clinton/Billy Carter figure discussed on earlier episodes) and its a private family matter how they handel it. Santos leaves feeling that Vinick doesn't believe his story, and the final shot is the Senator standing in that little store room and reflecting on all that has transpired. Really good writing!

Next Week: Bon Jovi


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Nate Dredge said...

I just love Vinick centerd episodes, he is just the man, he's got to win.


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