The Regularly Scheduled TV Show Blog

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The West Wing 7.06: A Negative Response.

This week's episode of The West Wing was a great set-up for next week's LIVE debate episode. Also, the return of an old face is a welcomed addition to the cast.

Sunday's The West Wing episode was a rebound episode from last week's swan song episode for Toby. The rebound from a focus on the White House back to the two presidential campaigns was a welcomed return. With the focus back on the two campaigns, the issue of the day is abortion and the start of the attack ads by the campaigns. This would be the spark that would lead to the eventual conclusion of the episode, an agreement on debates, which will be shown LIVE on this week's episode on Sunday. I will be doing a write-up in anticipation for this LIVE debate so that all that want to know what each candidate stands for on the issues will be up to speed. The final piece of this week's episode reintroduces Donna Moss back to the show after a far too long absence.

The intro for the show ends with the Democratic Presidential Candidate Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) watching an attack ad against him on TV on his stance on abortion. The first attack ad has just been launched, but not from the Vinick(R) campaign. The attack ad was made by a 527 group, an independent group that is supposed to have no connection to either campaign, and it infuriates Santos. The ad uses an out of context quote from an old interview and Santos decides to start to gear up for the start of a negative attack war. They start by having a woman put out an announcement from the campaign about the true stance that Santos has on abortion. This woman is no other than Donna Moss, a pick up by Lou for the Midwest offices. Josh is surprised first by the fact that she was the one making the announcement, but also to the fact that Lou had hired Donna without him knowing it. Lou heads off any possible conflicts by putting Josh and Donna in the same room together to work out their differences, so that Donna can continue to work on the campaign. I guess last week's shake-ups were done to create the environment for the reemergence of Donna after she was denied a job by Josh earlier in the season.

On the other side, the Vinick campaign tries to find more out about the group responsible for the ad and to get the RNC (Republican National Committee) to denounce the ad. The RNC chairman disagrees with the Vinick campaign and doesn't want to distance itself from an ad that Republicans agree with, even if Vinick disagrees with it. Vinick knows that this ad would merit a response from Santos and begins to gear up his campaign to turn negative if Santos responds to the initial ad with his own attack ad on Vinick. Unfortunetly, Vinick is painted in a corner by the ad as he is pro-choice, but against partial-birth abortions. He can't attack Santos on abortion because he is also pro-choice, and the slight difference between the two isn't enough to maintain the strong support from the religious right. Abortion is a non-win issue for the Vinick campaign and he wants it off the plate.

During all of this, the Santos campaign meets with a lefty pro-choice group about the attack ad and their support for Santos. The group surprises the Santos campaign by saying that they are planning to give their support to Vinick and not Santos. They explain, that although he may be against partial-birth abortions, he is the first Republican Presidential Candidate that is pro-choice and that supporting him could pave the way for more pro-choice Republicans to get out of the closet. The Vinick campaign takes a different interpretation on this news, they fear that the group's support is a trick created by the Santos campaign to move Vinick away from the religious right and possibly lose more support than gain. They decide not to meet with the group and their support fades with it.

Another aspect that takes place in this week's episode is the debate negotiations. The Vinick campaign is dragging its shoes on the debate negotiations because it has a bigger downside than an upside being up in the polls by 9 points. Lou replaces Josh in the negotiations with Bruno, the man who ran President Bartlet's re-election campaign, and decides to drag her shoes in the debate as well. A risky move so that it doesn't appear as if Santos is begging for a debate from Vinick. All of this strategy will be for not as the candidates have an impromptu meeting in the kitchen waiting to be announced at the Al Smith dinner, an annual religious dinner that Presidential candidates attend named after the first Catholic presidential candidate. During this short talk, the two agree to not start any negative attack ads against one another and finally Santos gets the debate he wants. They simply say next week it is. My how much can get done when you just put two people in the same room to get it all over and done with.

Next week's LIVE debate will be interesting to say the least. The thought of these two amazing actors taking the roles of political candidates to the level of LIVE TV is a very exciting concept. I'm still uncertain if they will have any actual parts of the episode before or after the debate or jump right into the start of the debate like a real one. I hope that they choose not to have any writing for the before and after of the debate but simply a one hour episode of these two actors grilling one another on their character's positions. Another great aspect of next week's episode will be it will be commercial-free and that means one straight hour of a LIVE debate with no breaks for the actors to get lines for the next segment or any of that jazz. Later this week, I will write up a primer so that everyone can get a quick refresher on the stances and beliefs that these two characters have.


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