Better Late than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On The West Wing Episode Eight

Credit: NBC

It’s the first Monday of the New Year and the first Better Late Than Never of the New Year. I can’t wait to keep giving you The West Wing content in this fine year of 2021.

Last year, (I love doing that) we saw the episode “The State Dinner” which brought Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing) into the fray. The President and his staff threw a state dinner for the new President of Indonesia, a man who didn’t seem too thrilled to be there. A category four hurricane was headed to the coast of Georgia. The Trucker’s Union threatened to strike if demands couldn’t be met. Toby and Josh had a rather uncomfortable meeting with a high-ranking Indonesian official which left the official insulted and Mandy finally joined the big leagues with an FBI raid in Idaho with disastrous circumstances.

Today we’re diving into episode nine, titled “Enemies.”

  1. “We’re done with work, Josh, but this part’s more fun.” Mr. President, don’t mean to be, uh, rude, but I don’t think that staying awake until 1:30 in the morning talking about National Parks is really what Josh is wanting to do. Made obvious by Josh trying to leave and the quip says later about dumping Jed’s body in the Shenandoah National Park. These two play off of each other so well. They all do, but Whitford really is underutilized as a comedic actor. 
  2. CJ commenting on the President keeping Josh awake until two in the morning is me, though I’m not at all surprised. Why is she surprised, I wonder? Haven’t they all been kept awake by Jed’s trivia? They can barely play poker without his trivia. Surely they knew it was bound to happen. 
  3. Well, that’s going to come back to bite the President. Who really comes in and berates the Vice President in front of Cabinet members? Ouch. Surprisingly, though, Hoynes doesn’t throw the President under the bus. I’m suddenly confused. 
  4. “There will be, under no circumstances, sex for you at the end of the evening.” Why didn’t we get more of Mallory and Sam? It’s better than Sam and Laurie. They have more chemistry too. Sorkin, why do you keep cute relationships from us? My goodness. 
  5. “I’m fine.” Are you, really, Leo? Are you really? Sam just asked if it was okay that he and Mallory go out on a date. He implied that sex wouldn’t be involved, sure, but that means that sex could’ve been involved. Look, I’m getting off this line of thought, but you’re decidedly not okay, Leo. You sit on a throne of lies. 
  6. I told you Leo wasn’t fine. You’re totally not fine, sir. You’re over here giving Sam meaningless things to do so he can’t have his date with Mallory. And you’re trying to show Mallory what the job is like, but, really, you’re just being a little vindictive. 
  7. “I have hatred in my heart.” “Toward whom?” “You go ahead and pick ‘em.” I love Toby and his grumpiness.
  8. “You guys are idiots, did you know that?” In our own defense, we actually do know that.” They are not idiots, Mandy. Shush. This is why no one likes you.
  9. Okay, but seriously, Jed, Leo, and Mallory’s relationship is aces. Jed and the McGarry family go back years and years, so it’s no doubt that Jed watched Mallory grow up. So it’s nice to see him come in like she’s his own daughter and co-conspire with Leo to teach her a lesson. It’s not particularly a lesson she needs to learn, but it’s still fun and funny to watch. 
  10. Bless Donna. Always bless Donna. She is so under-appreciated. She’s a queen and she should be treated as such.

This is one of the lighter fares early in season one, and thankfully, it comes in immediately following the emotional “The State Dinner,” though that’s not to say that this episode isn’t serious in some places. Sorkin always manages to balance the light and the dark on a precariously thin edge. I enjoy most of these episodes because of that. On the one side of this episode, Josh is desperately trying to rally against a land-use rider that two Senators attached last minute to a banking bill that will secure another win for the Bartlet Administration. On the other side, is Mallory asking Sam to the opera with tickets that once belonged to Leo and Jenny. Also, Danny and CJ are also a whole thing in this episode too.

I really don’t have a lot to say about “Enemies,” honestly. It’s a breezy, feel-good type of episode that feels like a warm blanket. We have Jed being a National Park nerd. We have Leo trying to teach Mallory (and Sam) a lesson. Jed is a cute secondary father figure to Mallory for a little while and, in the midst of all of that, we also have Toby and Sam working off each other and trying to write a birthday message for no one of great importance. This is the kind of content I live for. I love when ensembles come together and are just people together. This isn’t the Administration as politicians. This isn’t the staff going against the Senate or the House or whatever other adversaries they might encounter and it’s a nice change of pace, especially with the heavy previous episode.

That isn’t to say none of that doesn’t happen in this episode, but it’s much more subdued than usual. Of course, with Josh taking the brunt of the land-use rider issue, this episode gives us another look at him and his compassion. Whitford plays it up well here and gives Josh even more layers. He’s not an outdoorsman, but he’s willing to fight for other people’s rights to enjoy the outdoors. He wants a win, but he doesn’t want one at the expense of other people or other issues. He wants everyone to have a fair fight and the land-use rider doesn’t allow for that. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I like when he gets worked up about things like this. It gives him much more depth and lets him stand out when others, like Sam, would fight him on this.

Then there’s Mallory and Leo. As a person who adores Leo McGarry probably more than I should, I enjoyed this chance to see how he is as a parent and how he reacts to his daughter wanting to date Sam, a man who she, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve. I loved watching John Spencer and Allison Smith volleying against each other. Smith held her own and continued to give a great performance as the witty and fully capable Mallory. It’s obvious where Mallory gets her spunk from and watching Smith have at is an exhilarating treat. I know it’s hard to balance work and home in a show about the White House, but I would kill to see more of the McGarry/O’Brien dynamic at work. I think there’s a lot to expand there and we don’t get nearly enough.

Anyway, I love “Enemies.” I think it’s underrated and it’s time we admire its merits.

Shelby Arnold
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