It’s Wednesday, ladies and gentlemen. You know what this means. I’m back with another installment of Better Late than Never. We are approaching the final stretch of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. There are only eight episodes left and I have no doubt Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are going to find ways to keep us all on our toes. It’s a Sorkin specialty, after all. He’s known for his sensational season finales. This just makes me excited for the back part of this venture.
I hope you’ve been enjoying this journey. I hope I’m not getting boring or starting to repeat things too much. I feel like that’s a rut I’m trying to break with all of my reviews which is part of the reason I started this column. Hit the comments below to let me know what I should change or do to make these more fun. If you’re liking what I’m doing, still hit the comments.
Also, since we are quickly approaching the end of Studio 60, I’m looking for a new show to binge and review. I’ve made a poll on my Twitter account which you can find here. Vote if you can! I’d love to hear from you. Without further, ado though, let’s get into my thoughts and my mini-episode review.
- Jordan throwing the hide a key rock down to wake up a guy near a dumpster to save their butts because they’re stuck on the roof and the door is locked is hilarious. It’s only about a minute scene, but honestly, it shows just how suited Bradley Whitford is to comedy. It also shows just how suited Amanda Peet is to comedy too. I want to see them in a new show together again. When can that happen?
- “You don’t scare me.” a coyote growls in his face “Okay, you do. It was hubris.” Timothy Busfield as Cal, ladies and gentlemen. Thinking he isn’t scared of animals when he clearly is.
- “Okay, and I’ll be performing selected scenes from Weekend at Bernie’s.” It comes as no surprise that Kim passes out in front of Tom and Simon because she’s been drinking like a fish and she definitely shouldn’t be. How did they not see that coming? Why did they keep letting her drink? These two are going to get into so much trouble.
- “I don’t think you can walk away so you’re burning down the house.” I don’t think Matt can say anything that is more true than that. I’m also glad that he finally said it to Harriet’s face and she agreed with it. These two are driving me absolutely bonkers. Their relationship is a little over the top but I think it’s the most genuine relationship I’ve seen on TV in a while. Yes, they argue. Yes, they make bad choices. But it’s obviously very clear that they love each other. They’re just hung up on so many different things.
- This episode is a mess. I don’t know if I like it. I told you things would explode. I didn’t think it would explode on every end of the spectrum with every single person in the cast and crew. We got Cal in trouble with the SPCA. Matt giving an awkward speech introducing Harriet at the Catholics in Media event. Tom and Simon and Jack have a drunk Kim on their hands, and Danny and Jordan are locked on the roof. It’s madness. It’s safe to say that everything will change after this episode, particularly with Harriet and Matt and Danny and Jordan.
- Matt making a complete fool of himself as retribution for Harriet’s words and the things she’s insinuated is painful to watch. So painful to watch. Who wants to bet that Matt is well on his way to not only burning bridges with Harriet but also is on a path to self-destruction? He’s definitely on the way to self-destruction.
- Tom salvaging his relationship with Lucy but then immediately messing it up with Kim’s parents while Jack watches. Hooray for Tom but at the same time, Tom. Watch your dang mouth, kiddo.
- Victory is mine. Victory is mine. Yes, I just made that joke. No, I don’t care. Danny and Jordan get together and oh my god, despite it being squicky at the beginning, they’re adorable. I loved how she did it too. She showed him magic then performed that magic to reveal that, hey, despite being “embarrassed” by him as his relentless pursuit of her, she’s crazy about him. Boy, do I love being wrong about this. Thank goodness.
- Okay, alright. Things went crazy there in the middle of the episode, but I like how things have come together with everyone. Some are happy, some aren’t so happy and that’s okay. That’s life.
- On the flip side, I’m really worried about Matt. I think it’s safe to say that this is his rock bottom. We got to see the tail end of Danny’s rock bottom now it’s Matt’s turn and it’s safe to say it’s a pretty deep rock bottom. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out. I don’t think it’s going to be very pretty.
A lot of things happened in this episode. First, Harriet and Matt are officially over. Not that they were really together this whole time, to begin with, but whatever they’ve been dancing around is finished. It almost feels like their relationship is irreparable. Maybe it is. Either way, it’s a swift kick in the gut and it hurts. Second, Danny and Jordan have gotten together. More on that later, but, again, I’m so glad I was wrong a couple of episodes ago. So glad. Third, Tom and Lucy are okay. Tom apologized and told the truth and I have to say, Nate Corddry’s delivery was fantastic. Tom has grown so much as a character these past few episodes. I love his arc. Fourth, Jack and Zhang strike a deal to stick it to the FCC which means the Macau deal won’t go through as planned.
The things that struck me in this episode were the performances, the episode structure, and Danny and Jordan, which ties into the performances. So, we’ll start that.
As always, Whitford and Peet prove that they’re at the top of their game here. Their banter is sharp, emotion-driven, and multilayered. A lot of that has to do with Sorkin’s script, but Whitford always infuses Danny with an underlying emotionality that always comes out when you least expect it. This time, that emotionality comes out when Jordan asks him about his addiction and points out that recovering addicts shouldn’t make any big decisions in the first year of sobriety because they could be replacing the drug with something else. Peet is engaging in this scene, but it’s Whitford who crackles with a simmering intensity that suggests that for all his bravado, Danny is still haunted by his relapse, and his desire to get away from that is driving everything he does. Despite that, everything about Danny is genuine and Whitford continues to play him as equally manic yet grounded. So much is out of his control this episode and he tries to control it. It doesn’t work, but through it, the audience can see that he genuinely cares for Jordan. Jordan sees the same.
Peet plays against this unconventional vulnerability well. We’ve yet to see Jordan’s own vulnerability. She is still sassy and feisty and fully in control of her situation, but the cracks are starting to show. Right now, these cracks have nothing to do with the baby but everything to do with her job. She’s a woman who fears being undermined because she’s had to claw her way up to the top. She’s had to do shady things. Now she’s in fear for her job for a number of reasons that do include the baby but it’s Halle she feels threatened by. We could make the argument that she felt threatened by Danny and his lack of restraint, which would be accurate, but that all changes on the roof and Peet portrays this well. Jordan is an awkward woman, but behind that awkwardness, she is sincere.
From the point of view of a writer, once again, this episode structure proves just how adept Sorkin is at juggling multiple plot threads at once. Unlike the previous two-parter, “Nevada Day,” none of this episode feels cluttered this time. In fact, this is the smoothest an episode has gone since earlier in the season. Everything’s falling apart from a narrative standpoint, but at the same time, it isn’t. In fact, compared to a few episodes previously, everyone feels remarkably connected. This feeling is bolstered by the ending montage that shows how the rifts between Jack and Tom, Darius and Simon, and Danny and Jordan have been mended.
At the same time, this montage is intercut with the stage at the studio being destroyed by pickaxes. This is a fantastic visual metaphor that reinforces the fact that despite this unity, things are about to get messy. Also, the destruction of the stage directly mirrors the finality and destruction of Harriet and Matt’s relationship, made even more obvious by focusing on Matt alone, in his office, looking over the destruction. Matt’s life is out of control. He’s alone. He’s drunk at a studio that’s being ripped apart, just like his life. It’s a subtle but powerful end to a brilliant mid-season episode.
- Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts on The West Wing Episode 21 - March 4, 2021
- Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts on The West Wing Episode 20 - February 24, 2021
- Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts on The West Wing Episode 19 - February 22, 2021