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The West Wing

Season 6 Episode 8

In the Room

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Dec 08, 2004 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
92 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Penn and Teller roll a lesson about the First Amendment into their entertainment at Zoey's White House birthday party, setting off a media frenzy and public relations nightmare; Baker drops out of the race, leaving the field free for Russell, who asks Josh to run his campaign; Jed takes a hard line on making significant gains on substantive issues in his last China summit; Vinick turns down Jed's offer of the U.N. ambassadorship to run for president; a fully ambulatory Donna has difficulty scheduling a meeting with Josh; Jed has an MS relapse which leaves him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.moreless

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  • Slight of hand

    As a European I have never understood America's obsession with flag burning. (We tend to see symbols for what they are: they represent something and if someone is upset with the thing it stands for, we think a symbolic destruction is better than the real thing.) I was pleased to see The West Wing handle the issue in a lighthearted, yet thought-provoking way. The fact that a magician appears to destroy the flag and then refuses to explain what he did, made the matter all the more interesting. The magician's theme runs through the episode because the magician's major tool is deception. Distract the viewer from what he should be seeing and you can fool him easily. A series of important events threaten the Bartlet White House (from flag burning to nuclear proliferation) and yet the president's sudden illness will distract the press enough to survive these threats. A real highlight in the episode is the introduction of Senator Vinick. Perhaps it is a bit too James Stewart/George Bailey (the mighty senator shining his own shoes), but Alan Alda could pull that off.moreless
  • Character Chemistry

    What a season of change it is. In order to make this review less disjointed than my previous one, I’m going to divide by characters/storylines.

    The President: Some of this show’s best work is done when the President was dealing with his MS. Martin Sheen makes Jed Bartlet strong and self-aware in his illness, and that is what makes it so compelling. The visual of him slowly getting his wheelchair moving was amazingly poignant. (I hate the word poignant, so just note how amazingly poignant it must have been for me to think poignant was the only way to characterize it) Now, I don’t know much about medicine at all, but I’m just curious if its realistic to have him experience no symptoms for a season, and then not being able to move one day. They get some points for having him show warning signs, last episode, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the last scene between Abbey and Jed in “A Change is Gonna Come.” I would have loved to see Abbey in this episode, because I think her perspective on her husband and on his illness is always so refreshing. She’s the one in control when it comes to Jed and his MS. (On a side note: How is Stockard Channing a series regular? We see her once every two months, at most!) I also thought the CJ/Toby/Kate scene discussing whether he’s a “part time president” was intriguing. I’m interested to see where this goes.

    Josh/Donna: Real quick: Josh is wanted to run two campaigns and he doesn’t really want to do either, and he’s really worried about Arnie Vinick, a Republican, running for President, and he has to deal with Penn and Teller’s burning of the flag in the White House, which he does with style and skill. (I loved his rant to Penn and Teller. What a great scene) Now for what we really care about: So I won’t send any letters. They are confronting, if subtly, the Josh and Donna relationship. Let me digress for a minute to tell you why I think the Josh and Donna relationship is so compelling. For the longest time on the show, they never said a word about the possibility of a romantic relationship between the two of them, but you could see it. It was there in the way they talked and bantered, and in the subtle looks they gave each other. I was always the one in the room saying, “Josh and Donna are going to get together” while everyone else said“No, no.” Up until “Are you in love with Josh?” (a question I really wish she would have answered) it was unnoticeable to the careless viewer. If this were a bad television show, they would have gone all “But its forbidden he’s my boss!” on us a long time ago. Be grateful. But back on topic, it was so heartbreaking to watch Donna ask for just a little bit of alone time with our man of the hour while he ran around trying to fix the world. I really want to know what she wanted to talk about, don’t you? Maybe PTSD, maybe not… Great banter in this episode too: betting on flight times, ego stabs, etc.

    Kate and Annabeth: I think this show just needs to learn how to introduce characters again. Will Bailey had a great one. But with these two, they just threw them in as if they had always been working at the White House. Now these characters are likeable and part of the cast instead of intruders.

    Other thoughts:

    I would give a lot more than a penny for Josh’s thoughts while he was watching Leo and Margaret together.

    I’m going to have to be talked out of voting for Arnie Vinick, too. Alan Alda crafted the perfect “love him despite myself” character.

    I know it won’t happen, but if Bob Russell becomes the next President on this show, I think it might have to turn into a comedy.

    I just love Josh. His expressions(while being told “No, Clown school”) and sayings (“Is that your bumper sticker?”) are priceless.

    That’s all for me today.




Guest Star

Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette


Guest Star

Alan Alda

Alan Alda

Senator Arnold Vinick

Guest Star

Gary Cole

Gary Cole

Bob Russell

Recurring Role

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth

Annabeth Schott

Recurring Role

Ron Canada

Ron Canada

Ted Barrow

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Bartlet: I'm fine as long as I don't attempt any super-human feats like writing my name.

    • (Senator Vinick turns down the offer to represent the nation at the UN.)
      Vinick: That's not the job I want.
      Josh: Well, the president didn't send me here with a menu of jobs. Just this one.
      Vinick: The president can't give me the job I want.
      Josh: Which one?
      Vinick: His.

    • Josh (on Senator Vinick): A Republican who wins California wipes us out in the electoral college.
      Leo: Right.
      Josh: He's not getting the nomination.
      Leo: If he does. We've got no one who can beat him.

    • Will (about the Vice President): He's not stupid.
      Josh: That's your bumper sticker?

    • Will (to Josh): Bob Russell might be the next President of the United States. You get in now, you can make him the candidate you want him to be. After that, we make him the President we need him to be.

    • Senator Vinick: Never trust a man who doesn't shine his own shoes.

    • Toby (about Penn & Teller's trick): Did they just burn an American flag in the White House?
      Josh: Mhmh.

    • Penn: What if we burned the flag not in protest, but in celebration of the very freedoms, that allow us to burn a flag? The freedoms that everyone who's ever worked in this magnificent building, has pledged to preserve and protect.
      Josh: Did you go to law school?
      Penn: No. Clown school.

    • Will: You have to care who's going to sit in that chair after Jed Bartlet is gone.
      Josh: I do. That's why I don't want Bob Russell to be President.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Jimmy Smits does not appear in this episode.

    • This is the first episode in which Alan Alda appears as future Republican Presidential candidate Arnold Vinick. He does not appear again until episode 123.

    • No flags were harmed during the filming of this episode. The Penn and Teller trick in the opening teaser is one of their standard routines in which nothing is actually incinerated, despite appearances.