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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  • 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.