Monday, April 10, 2006

"The Same Night Awaits Us All"

A West Wing Word

This weeks episode: 'Election Day Part II' (the title of this blog entry is the translation of Leo's Latin campaign slogan, and while it refers to the unbearableness of election night it also serves as a reminder of the inevitableness of death).

We open on Bruno and Josh giving dueling interviews to the media attempting to spin the continuing closeness of the election. After these interviews are done (in which the two characters are acting very calm and assured) we return to campaign craziness. Josh is pulled aside by two member from the White House 'Transition Team' (kind of jumping the gun) who want to talk with him about changes they would like to be made in the Congressman acceptance speech. Feeling this is something he will not want to talk about, Josh asks Donna to come back and 'save' him after two minutes before he goes to speak to the two. When Donna fails to do this, and after he has completed his talk with the transition team reps, he goes to hunt her down and find out what happened. When Donna greets him with a somber face Josh thinks something has happened with the election returns, then she tells him that Annabeth found Leo unconscious in his hotel room and he's being rushed to the hospital.

Back at the White House C. J. gets the news about Leo's apparent heart attack and must go and tell the President. Jed has just flown back in to Washington from New Hampshire, he tells C.J. when she enters the Oval Office that it was just two awkward being at his daughters home and watching his son-in-law lose his House race (something the President says Doug richly deserves to lose). Jed is understandably shocked to hear about what happened to Leo and starts making plans to fly down to Texas to be at his bedside.

Back at Santos Election-Night HQ the staff and the Congressman are trying to figure out what to do, Matt wants to issue a statement but some of the staff want to keep things hush-hush because they are afraid that Leo's illness could have a negative effect on the still open voting in the western states. Josh and Donna head to the hospital to check on Leo only to be greeted by a tear soaked Annabeth how tells them: "He died". At about this time Minnesota is called for Santos and Ohio for Vinick. It is not long before word of Leos death gets out, first to those who knew him (his daughter Mallory was at the hotel for election night goings on), and then to the media. We see a lovely montage of people reacting and I found myself quite moved, especially by the chocked back tears of Margaret, Leo's longtime personal secretary who is now working for C.J. at the White House. This is also an especially sad moment for Annabeth who had grown quite close to Leo during the campaign acting almost like his personal assistant. The writers had been hinting at a possible May-December romance between the two, a story line which of course had to be discontinued after actor John Spencers similarly unexpected death late last year.

At Vinick HQ members of his staff think the Leo's death might have saved them in the election, and even propose using it as grounds for a lawsuit should the Senator lose (the logic being that, and this is as simply as I can state it though I'm sure its really more complicated then this, that electing Santos without Leo is a form of false advertising). Back in Texas Santos is meeting with a bunch of high Democractic muckity-mucks discussing how to handel the situation. It is suggested that Santos could come out and name a new V.P. choice, something he dosn't want to do yet. Someone else reminds him that the party by-laws dictate that in the event of a V.P. candidates death the DNC gets to name his replacement. It is also suggested that Santos should wait until after his inauguration to name a new VP under the provisions of the 22nd Amendment, this would stifle any real legal challenge to the appointment from disgruntled Republicans. Lou interrupts them all to insist that the Congressman go down stars and make a statement, which Matt does though he has to interrupt '(the) Foo Fighters' who are on stage. Santos gives one of his famous reassuring speechs and we see Leo's death looming large on Josh, who has wanted to make Mr. McGarry Vice-President ever since Hoynes resignation in 2003.

Back at the White House Jed reminisces with C.J. about Leo and says that the first time they meet they argued about economic policy. We then cut back to Campaign news and find that a late shift in voting towards Vinicks favor has occurred in the western states, however this swing comes to late for the Republicans in general who have now lost control of the House (something the Democrates were never able to accomplish during all of Bartlets previous time in office). As the night drags on the usually Republican state of Texas is eventually called for Santos by a slim margin (Vinick on the other hand won the traditionally Democratic states of Vermont and Main). When Santos wins him home state the staff breaks out in a chorus of 'Deep in the Heart of Texas'. Donna goes to tell Josh about this victory and finds him in Leo's hotel room looking at the small everyday objects he left behind (shoes, glasses) that bespeak of a life cut short, (he was apparently dressing for the election party when the heart attack occurred).

At late surge in Califorina puts Vinick over the top in his homestate, but only by about 80,000 votes. Its now all down to Oregon and Nevada, and both sides are considering their legal options should they lose. Bruno and the Stephen Root character sit down and talk at Vinick HQ, Stephen would like to go into the political consulting business with Bruno no matter who wins. Bruno says that after this election he's going to retire, go back to his home in Essex county New York and maybe plant flowers. Its also been nice in these Vinick scenes to see Patrica Richardson back as an informal advisor and friend to the Senator. Oregon Then goes to Santos, and everyone waits for the Nevada results.

C.J. awakens the President at about 4 or 5 in the morning, reminding him that he asked her to do so when they had a winner. She softly smiles and we cut to a Santos victory celebration, they won Nevada by 30,000 votes. Vinick decides not to contest the election saying he'll only be either a loser or a winner nothing in between. Arnie then goes on to make some rather wise comments about how sometimes the public doesn't decide, circumstance, history, or fate decides, and while he is really disappointed he accepts his lose. The Senator then Calls Santos to concede. Matt and Helen take the stand in Houston, he gives another good speech, praises Vinick, and reminds everyone it was a close election and the whole nation needs to pull together. Josh in back up in the 'control room', he finishes marking their election map then turns to a bulletin board covered in campaign pictures, many featuring Leo, and says a quite 'Thanks boss.' We fade out, the final election tally in Santos 272 Electoral Votes, Vinick 266.

Because of time issues I can not now get into an analisys of the 2006 campaign, explore the implications of a Santos presidency, or write a proper obit for Leo, all things I hope to be able to do later (I've only got about a month left in the semaster and have a lot of things demanding my daylight hours). I did however want to mention my choice for the new VP. While Barryhill might seem the obvious 'big name' choice for this slot, or even Democratic Senate head Trippelhorn, my vote goes to Jack Buckland. Buckland was a former US Olympian and Heisman Trophy winner who was elected Gov. of traditionaly Republican Indiania. Buckland almost challanged Bartlet for the 2002 Democratic Presidental nomination from the political center, but Josh helped broker a deal that prevented this and eventully made him Secretary of Labour (the same cabainte post Leo held in the Lassiter Administration). I belive he would bring some of the same things McGarry had to the table and would be a popularly acceptiable choice given the closeness of the election. In the end though well just have to see if the show even answer the VP replacment question.


At 7:52 AM, Blogger Nate Dredge said...

Just read on Wikipedia that the writers origanly planed to have Vinick win the election, but when John Spencer died they decided it would be to much of a downer to have Santos lose the election and his runningmate at the same time. As a Vinick supporter I found that news very interesting, and I long thought that the series should end with the election of a Republican President so as to emphasies the impermanance of everything in politics. Also if you check out Wiki you'll find that Vinick actully won the popular vote by a margin bigger then Gores in 2000. I would totally trade a Bush victory for a Vinick victory right about now.


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