The West Wing

Season 7 Episode 17

Election Day (Part 2)

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Apr 09, 2006 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (21)

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out of 10
178 votes
  • Thanks, Boss.

    Last episode former Bartlett Administration chief of staff and current vice-president nominee Leo McGarry was discovered unconscious. We know what happens to Leo this week because we know what happened to John Spencer in late 2005. Spencer - a gritty well-worn actor – died of a heart attack before the final clutch of West Wing episodes were filmed; and now Leo follows. That this should cast a pall over the proceedings is no surprise. What is perhaps more surprising is the particular intensity of that pall. Suffice to say, when we see the incumbent president shed a tear, it is impossible not to wonder whether the tear has fallen simply because Bartlett is mourning Leo, or also because Martin Sheen is mourning Spencer. Death is a serious matter in itself, that said this episode depicting Election Night and its aftermath, could not be dedicated to simply mourning Leo. Personal tragedy for a politician is never simply personal and Leo’s death, which occurs hours before West Coast polling booths close to decide the Santo-Vinick race, becomes a catalyst for the sort of debates for which the West Wing has been famed. As has commonly been the case inside the Bartlett Administration, personal principles must be weighed against potential political gain. For Democrat candidate Matt Santos’ team, the question is whether to immediately inform the public of his running mate’s death, and risk losing the votes of risk-adverse voters. Republican candidate Arnie Vinick meanwhile is being pressed by his campaign to draw attention to Santos’ inexperience, which will no longer be offset by Leo’s many years of service. Even with Leo’s death casting gloominess over proceedings, this episode still offers the adrenaline rush that you would expect from a West Wing election night. The regionalism of the American body politic and the vagaries of the electoral college lend themselves easily to drama, which the writers take advantage of, and without spoiling the outcome, I can say that the race is close enough to give Santos staffer Josh Lyman cause to say words along the lines of those that we might henceforth expect in every election in this Diebolded, hanging chad-affected era: “Every Lawyer we’ve got, get ‘em to Oregon and Nevada.” It’s hard-nosed, pragmatic thinking. Leo, you guess, wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
  • The election results are put into perspective by tragedy

    I watched this episode with a sense of trepidation for a couple of reasons. The longer I kept this episode without watching it meant that there was still another six to see. But I was also dreading seeing the death of one of my favourite actors and characters.

    What could have been a heavy handed approach to tragedy (but that’s not something one would associate with THE WEST WING), instead played out as a very touching, beautifully crafted forty minutes of television. The writers need to be congratulated by how seamlessly they moved the audience from tears of sorrow, to joy and then back again.

    A true heartbreaking piece of drama.
  • CJ not Claudia Jean?

    Was anyone else bothered by the fact that Bartlett refered to CJ as \"CJ\" when she told him about Leo. He always calls her Claudia Jean. It seems like an odd time for him to start calling her by her nickname.

    He seemd to know something was wrong so of all times a more personal reference would have been more inline. Anyone else notice this or am I just one of those annoying people.

    That Said :

    Besides that script issue I loved the episode. Classic West Wing. I am going to be sorry it is not around next season.
  • a great final strech for this series

    a moving and well writen episode, the actor have done a great job on delivering some tru feelings for the los os a co-actor of this series. Even if in real life there is no recolection of a vice president runner up has die, the directors make a fenomenal job on shifting the episode line to cope wit the death in real life or the actor that plays leo in this series. Is obvious in this episode the sentiment and true felling that all the cast had for leo in real life. Will be sad to see this series end this year since i think this is one of the best series i had ever seen
  • I enjoyed this episode, though knowing the conclusion of Leo's storyline, i still cried my heart out.

    As a viewer of 7 years now, Leo McGarry was one of my favourite characters. His scenes with Martin Sheen, could make me laugh and cry.
    I'm glad that the death was worked into the plot of the show, I would have hated Leo to become an off camera presence, his character and John Spencer himself deserved to have some kudos for his work.

    In this episode, it was really upsetting to see a cast obviously grief stricken, show that kind of emotion without being over the top, as unfortunately this is a television show, and as the saying goes it must go on.
    I thought Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen and Allison Janey especially were wonderful, as they always are.
  • Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Santos won the election. Blah… To say that the election results were a surprise would be a gross hyperbole to anyone who follows the show.

    It was obvious just based on the disproportional amount of screen time that Santos had this season that the writers were grooming him to be the next president. However, all of this took a back seat to the thing that fans have been anticipating for months. With the unfortunate death of John Spencer, VP candidate, and fan favorite, Leo had to be laid to rest. Actors, and characters alike were faced with dilemma of continuing on without a beloved friend and colleague. John Spencer and Leo will be sorely missed by fans who were deprived of a truely great man.
  • While the election results are coming in the Santos campaign gets hit with shocking news.

    Thsi episode was so sad. With the death of John Spencer at this time the writers likely felt a serious dilema. They could either ignore his death an either use stock footage of him or use excuses to keep him out of the episodes. The obviously didn\'t want to seem coniving and isensative by using a death of a friend to boost the ratings. So they faced the same dilema that the characters on the show felt. Santos couldn\'t garner sympathy from his friends death to gain the remaining votes and no one else ont he show wanted to either. It is a very hard situation and I think that they handled it wonderfully. You could tell that all of the characters really felt grief over their good friends death.

    In all this shows that these actors have done and can do an excellent job acting these roles.
  • This one was for the Emmy's baby!!!

    What an amazing episode. On the one hand the Joy of winning, and on the other the sorrow of losing.

    We see Josh trapped in the middle, Donna acting as his anchor, and all of the activity swirling about the pair.

    The scene were Josh and Donna arrive at the hospital and find Annabeth in the waiting was strong and so sad. You could feel the bond between Annabeth and Leo.

    The closing with Josh looking at Leo and saying "thanks boss" made me loss my breath!

    What a bitter sweet time for the fans, we're getting some incredible writing and losing the show at the same time. At least it will go out at the top of its game.

  • Best argument for continuing the show.

    I'm a fan who thought it was about time to wind this thing down if the quality would be as low as it was during parts of season 5 and 6, but seeing episodes like the two election night episodes truly made me question if that's the right move.

    Not only is it superb acting, well-written plots and plot twists, but it's also back to what matters - back to the political drama, the fascinating glimpses behind the scenes and some scenarios that we just can't predict beforehand.

    I love this show when the quality is this high and the drama and scenarios are this intriguing. Provided that we can keep this level, my vote is for Sam as VP and "West Wing - Santos Style, season 1".
  • I'm not an emotional person. But having watched 7 seasons of The West Wing, and given that Leo was one of my favourite characters, I cried like a baby in this episode. It was truly amazing! It was handled in such a wonderful way. no other word - amazing.

    I'm not an emotional person. But having watched 7 seasons of The West Wing, and given that Leo was one of my favourite characters, I cried like a baby in this episode. It was truly amazing! It was handled in such a wonderful way. no other word - amazing.

    Leo, for me was the most important character in the show. In the early years, he was what held Batlets presidency together.

    Im sure, that John Spencer, will be missed more than many of todays real political figures. he was a truly outstanding actor, the way that the writers and producers handled his death in this episode was genuinely touching, and a real tribute to Leo. I rank this as the top episode this season.
  • And people thought it was going downhill... top class acting, superb writing; exactly why I love WW.

    From beginning to end this episode put itself in amongst the best episodes ever on television.

    Unlike last weeks episode, this episode was not as predictable. Right up until the end it's hard to know who will win; whether there would be a challenge. And there was no way to judge how close it was going to be!

    The acting hit a knew level, and in preperation for the upcoming funeral episode, I can't wait to see them hit their peaks!

    All in all, one of the finest examples of television ever, from every department within the West Wing production team!
  • WOW! I cried like a big fat girlie man all throughout this amazing piece of TV drama...

    Thank you so much "West Wing," for giving Leo such an amazingly effective and powerful send off. This episode will live in the lexicon of "Two Cathedrals" and "Silent Night" as my favourite and most potent episodes of a groundbreaking series.

    I'm not ashamed to admit that i found this amazingly hard to watch. When you grow attached to a character of the course of 7 years it pains you to see them leave a show, but it hurts even more when the reasons for him leaving are such as these. John Spencer, you were an amazing actor. Vale.

    On top of that, this episode manages to go back to what WW is all about. Politics of utopia. Democrats and Republicans that we wish we had in public office, acting in the true and honest ways we wish politicos would work.

    My only gripe is that i wish they'd made more of the fact that the actual state it came down to was a state they had hardly even campaigned in, so the result was because of what people actually believed, and not what they'd been told.

    Great, fantastic, amazing. A walking thesauraus would not have enough adjectives.
  • An excellent other way to put it

    As expected, Santos won the election. Granted, I thought California would be the deciding factor, but it didn’t make much of a difference. I still felt the giddy tension that comes with any presidential election night, even if this was completely fictional, and I was elated when Santos won. All things considered, Vinick would have been a great president and I could have lived with it, but in terms of dramatic arc and paying off the last season and a half worth of material, this was as good as it gets.

    This was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. I loved all of the reactions to Leo’s death; I felt they were all very much in character. I also found the immediate discussion on both sides regarding how the situation should be spun to be reprehensible and completely in character for American politics. I know that some disgruntled Sorkinites will bash the episode for not doing “what Sorkin would have done”, but I’ve never been particularly bothered with such nonsense. This was what it was, and for me, it worked on its own merits.

    Particularly good were the moments for Josh and Bartlet. In particular, Josh in Leo’s hotel room and Bartlet quietly reminiscing about Leo with CJ. It’s clear that the cast let their grief over John Spenser’s death spill out into their performances. Those scenes were incredibly tough to watch, and I spent a good part of the hour wondering if I would hold it together myself. I have no idea how I’m going to deal with the next episode!

    There’s been some talk that the producers/writers were going to have Vinick win the election, but plans changed when John died and the issue had to be handled on-screen. I’m not entirely convinced. For one thing, the entire Santos plot thread would have been a major letdown. More importantly, it would have covered the same basic material as Sam’s campaign in the fourth season. All realism aside, Santos needed to win to give the series a strong ending. A Vinick win just wouldn’t have been as satisfying.

    That said, is this just a case of wish fulfillment? Sure, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Part of the general reception to the end of a second term of a presidency is fear over whether the successor will be there to “keep the dream alive”. The audience was drawn to love and support Bartlet, a Democratic president, for better or worse. Thus it makes sense that the audience that loves Bartlet would want to be sure that the White House would remain in good hands. As moderate and reasonable as Vinick was (where’s this guy in the real world?), Santos is the Democratic heir apparent, and thematically, it works a lot better. If the producers really wanted to make this a balanced proposition, they would have spent equal time with both sides of the campaign. As it was, there were many people who preferred Vinick, which helped generate interest and debate.

    In fact, I could debate that all day (and night) long, but ultimately, I enjoyed it hands down. I enjoyed it a lot. It really felt like the culmination of so much I’ve loved about the series since the whole candidate search began in the sixth season. And the last few episodes are going to be a nice epilogue to this entire campaign arc and the series as a whole. The truth is, Santos’ victory makes me wish, on a certain level, that there was more to come. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
  • Lawrence O'Donnell's bugaboos mar an otherwise ten-pointer.

    This episode was, I think, the fourth in my viewing lifetime that allowed the real-life death of a well-known and beloved performer/character to work its way into the plot of his show. They are, in order: Jock in "Dallas," Ezsterhaus in "Hill Street Blues," Coach in "Cheers," and now Leo. Of the four, only John Spencer's Leo could be mourned as a personal loss; though I had known and sometimes loved the other performers (Coach--Nicholas Collesanto--was especially good as a made mobster in "Raging Bull"), John Spencer was an actor in the tradition of Gene Hackman and Paul Newman, an actor who could give a performance with the ease of Jack Nicklaus hitting nine-irons on the practice tee.

    Funny thing: I knew Santos would win, and I knew Leo would die, but until tonight I never connected the two with Josh: the notion that the greatest moment of his professional life would be the moment that his surrogate father would pass away.

    Does anyone remember the kidnapping episodes? Lost amid the panic of the evening, the drugs, the notion of John Goodman as President tempore, was the conversation between Donna and Josh's sometime girlfriend, during which Donna laid out the bifurcated state of Josh's life: that his triumphs and tragedies run neck-and-neck. Chief among these was Bartlet's winning the Illinois primary (basically assuring himself the nomination) and, the same evening, the death of Josh's father, who (cue Doctor Jung) was an old friend of Leo's. This led to one of the greatest exchanges in the show's history, when Governor Bartlet followed Josh to O'Hare and talked to Josh about how Josh's father would have talked, had he lived:

    Bartlet: "Be doing a little bragging, would he?"

    Josh: "Yeah. Your name wouldn't have come up at all. 'My son won the Illinois primary.'"

    Bartlet: "Yeah." (Upraised thumb.)

    And now we have a greater triumph, and almost as much (for Josh) a personal tragedy. As I've written before, Leo once described convincing Bartlet to run as "pushing molasses up a sandy hill." Well, now Josh has done the same, with even a less likely candidate than a Governor of New Hampshire. And in his moment of triumph, he deals with the loss of his second father. I recognized the glasses, the shoes. And I miss the man in all his forms.

    Before I get to the end, there is this: for all the good stuff Lawrence O'Donnell came up with, his anti-Bush animus stuck out twice tonight. The first was Vinick's refusal to challenge the results in Nevada, which (oddly enough) I read as a criticism of Bush's taking the Florida matter to the Supreme Court in 2000. (Message: whoever is the last to litigate is the most overly litigious.) The second was Santos saying that, since the election was "razor-thin," he hadn't won a mandate. Any recent election come to mind?

    Finally, again, Josh. I can't escape thoughts of the Leo-Josh relationship without noting that, when pull came to tug, Leo picked CJ over his surrogate son--and furthermore, whatever betrayal Josh might have felt was never expressed. Are we moving toward this moment? Santos's statement toward his Hispanic aide ("I think we may find a way to top it") seemed to suggest he may look elsewhere for a Chief of Staff. This would be a gut-punch to Josh. Everyone else is locked in orbit, steaming toward docking. Next week, we bury Leo. Then, for the last few weeks, this is the Josh show, people.
  • Five words.....

    Arnold Vinick for Vice President!

    OK, so I'm not allowed to submit a review that's less than fifty words. Great climax to a shaky season... This election story has really been stretched to the limit. Moral: Elections in real time aren't as good an idea as they might seem. Go Josh!
  • A win and a loss for the Santos campaign. A beautifully acted response to the loss of Leo and a classic concession by Vinnick.

    Wow! this was classic west wing. the nailbiting election coupled with the heartbreaking personal tragedy of losing one of their own. I was crying every few minutes.

    my own emotions mirrored those of the Santos campaign. one minute I was crying for the loss of a beloved character that I had come to adore over the years of watching the show...and the next minute I was cheering along with Josh, Donna and these new beloved characters that I've just met. Jed Bartlett's response to the death of his best friend was painful to watch - yet still could've used more screen time

    kudos to the writers for keeping Vinnick classy through the end. with no recounts or contested elections I walked away from this episode satisfied with the results.

    what was unsatisfying were the West Wing characters that had lived, breathed, and sacrificed years of civil service with Leo. how could we not have seen Margaret learn of her old bosses death? and what about Toby? I can only hope (as I believe that it will) that next week's "Requiem" will give Leo the tribute he deserves. he might have been a tv character, but for the fans he was part of our family. to quote Josh......"thanks".
  • Losing in one breath. Winning in the next.

    After waiting with anticipatory dread all week, the start of Election Day (Part II) kept me wondering when Josh finds out about Leo's collapse. The tease continues the frentic, if useless, pace of Part I, with everything screaching to a momentary halt when Leo's death becomes common knowledge to the campaign staff. The silence behind the spreading of the news does such a great job of illustrating how large of a void the death of Leo McGarry leaves in The West Wing world.

    The push/pull problems of loosing a vice presidential candidate on the evening of election day becomes the focus of the second half of the episode. With both candidates making it clear what we all wished during the last couple of elections that there wouldn't be any legal wrangling.

    TPTB could have screwed this whole thing up, but this show did what it needed to do, and the important stuff was beautiful and poignant.
  • Why can’t real life politicians be this noble?

    What a great episode. It made me wish that real life politicians had such grace. What a great scene—when the loser of the election decides not to run to the courts and challenge the election results. He was ready to take a loss like a man. Even when his staff insists on he challenging the result he simply tells them to get the President-elect on the phone, because he wants to congratulate him.

    Fantastic Acting
    Fantastic Writing
    Fantastic Storytelling
    How bout Vinick as Vice President, I doubt it will happen but i was hoping he would win, because in the end, he does honestly seem like the better man.
    I really feel this episode, and probably next weeks, guarantees an emmy for best drama series. Thanks
  • An very well acted episode which finally reveals the election winner. Along with the first reaction to the deaparture of a wonderful friend.

    This episode was truly a tribute to the actors. They all did a wonderful job in dealing with the first shocks of Leo's death. I feel next weeks will pull at my heart-strings even more.

    The initial reactions of each character to Leo\'s news was absolutley breathtaking. i great performance from an ever missed Martin Sheen, and along with Bradley Whitford, it was hard to feel the happiness of the campaign when we found out that Santos did indeed win the Presidency.
    My favorite moment was at the end when Josh looks at Leo\'s picture and said, \"Thanks Boss.\" that was absolutely wonderful.

    As to the well-fought night betwee the candidates, I thought Vinick was a class-act and he had great reasoning throughout the episode in what he would do should he lose the race. This along with Santos \"The chose him because he was the best man for the job,\" both seemed to have a wonderful composure throughout the episode that made me wish they were my president. I am very glad tha there wasn\'t much from the Josh/Donna side of things, last week was such a disappointment I don\'t think I could stand anything from them in the midst of all the calamity.

    I\'ll end with Annabeth. Her display after finding Leo\'s condition was a tearjerker. An amazing job from Kristin Chenoweth. So to wrap it up, very good episode, but next week should be better.
  • A goodbye to the past and a move to the future in a series classic.

    So it comes down to this. I have to admit, I did wonder if Wing would actually throw everyone for a loop and have Vinick win but as expected Santos did. It's a shame a bit the show is ending as it would have been interesting seeing him in office.

    As I did expect, there were some shout-outs, some bitter, at the 04 real-life election like Santos saying he "didn't have a mandate" because it was so close and of course all the lawyer stuff. And I get Garafalo was doing the speech she would have loved to have given in real life but thankfully it wasn't as in your face as it could have been.

    Alda did a great job showing the pain of Vinick losing but wanting it gracefully, a contrast to Santos' guys going all out.

    Of course the key was Leo's death and the show was wonderful capturing it. At first, I was a bit appalled they'd work Spencer's death into the election as a big twist but thankfully they didn't go as all out as I worried they would. There were great moments like Bartlett seeing CJ's face and knowing what had happened and Josh's reaction was of course terrific to watch.

    I was disapointed we didn't see more of the White House reacting like Toby, Charlie and Will but that will probably come soon. All in all, one of the best Wing eps ever, capping off a great comeback and again it's a shame we won't see Santos actually in office. Still, a great ep and a fine send-off to a great actor.
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