The West Wing

Season 6 Episode 19

Ninety Miles Away

0
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Mar 16, 2005 on NBC
7.3
out of 10
User Rating
91 votes
1

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Episode Summary

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New rumors about Fidel Castro's health cause the President to re-examine the economic sanctions against Cuba that haven't worked for 40 years, and he sends Leo McGarry to meet secretly with the Cuban dictator. The occasion causes C.J. to check into Kate Harper's past with the C.I.A., but she is unaware of a past encounter between Kate and Leo. Meanwhile, Charlie discovers the complexities of dealing with a termite invasion of the White House.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Mass Confusion

    4.0
    I\'m confused. I don\'t know how I feel about the episode \"Ninety Miles Away\". Did I think that going into the back-story of Leo and Kate was a good idea? Yes. Did I understand any of it? No. Did I think Charlie\'s bug people were amusing? Yes. Did I think Charlie should be downgraded to this lowly storyline? No. Did I, overall, like the Cuba story? Yes. Was I REALLY angry that once again, we are stuck with one single plot? YES!



    So, as you can see, this episode left me befuddled, but I will do my best to give some kind of cohesive opinion on the thing. For starters, I will say what I found enjoyable about the episode. I really like that we dealt with Leo\'s past as an alcoholic. It was a major storyline once upon a time, and bringing it back into play was a good idea. I also liked that Kate got a lot of playing time in this episode. We haven\'t ever known much about her, but I could tell that with those random conversations about divorces and CIA operations, that we were building up to something. And hey, they actually built up to something. I\'m not a fan of build up with no result (yeah, I\'m looking at you Josh and Donna storyline). But we did get to see into Kate\'s past, got a little glimpse of what her childhood was like, what her life as a spy was like. So that was good. For once, at least with Kate and Leo, they used past conversations and past stories to create a new, interwoven story. I am sick and tired of out of the blue, used once and forgotten about plots. You can\'t bring up stuff that has never been mentioned after 6 years and act like it was always an issue and expect me to buy it. (If anyone watches Gilmore Girls, Luke\'s Dark Day is a prime example of what I\'m talking about. C\'mon, Lorelai and Rory would have known about that way before.) In the midst of a West Wing continuity crisis (I\'m still not cool with glossing over the fact that Bartlet\'s two terms are up in 6 years), this is refreshing to see. Besides this, I think that directorially, the episode had a neat, unique feel. Not right for the West Wing, but cool nonetheless. I was also glad to see Josh and Donna. The show is getting a little better at linking the campaign and the White House and I thought the Guadalajara jokes were humorous. I also liked Cliff Calley, as does CJ apparently who said the amusing quote \"This is disgusting, I\'m actually starting to like you.\" I\'m glad to see Charlie back, although I still don\'t know why he never talks to the President anymore. I always enjoy when the show highlights quirky characters that bring their quirky cause into the White House, like the guy who thought there was aliens in Fort Knox, so I liked the ant people. But please, assistants, especially intelligent ones like Charlie work on real legislation in the White House. Charlie is not in charge of White House facilities management, so why the bug people meetings? Whatever happened to that Poor Tax he was working on? Oh, I was supposed to be praising the good elements of this show. Well, clearly I\'m out things to say on that front, so lets move on.



    Now, I\'m no expert, but I have watched this show pretty much on a regular basis since the second season, and I have caught a lot of Season #1 on reruns, so if I keeping feeling like I missed three years of information while I\'m watching an episode, there\'s a problem. Because I think that most people were utterly confused right along with me this time. What was with Florida in 1995? Some election of Congressman Cabrera? Who is he? What does he do? Was the election rigged? By who? What were Framhagen and Leo doing there? And how could one man (Leo) have prevented this? How did it have to do with Fidel Castro? Was there an embargo being negotiated in ‘95 too? Now, I was still in elementary school in 1995, so I was thinking that maybe something in the real world happened in 1995 with Cuba that everyone else was aware of. But I looked it up, there wasn\'t. So I guess this was in the West Wing universe, which is most often the case on the show, so that\'s fine. But we should at least be let in on the secret. What happened? That scene with Leo and Kate at the end was kind of a neat flashback and made me wish I was a cool spy like Kate Harper, but was Kate just a stranger who happened to see Leo? It didn\'t seem that way. If not, what was their relationship so that Leo had no recollection of Kate, but Kate was supposed to pick him up? Oh, and by the way, if Jed and Leo had been in secret talks for a year with Cuba, I think we would have remembered that, too. I\'m sorry if I have confused you way more than you needed to be. When this episode was over, I thought \"Hey, pretty cool episode.\" But I had some time to marinate on it since this review has been a long time a-comin\' and I just couldn\'t fit all the pieces together when I tried to think of the plot. Then I got upset because I realized the episode was a lot worse than I had thought.



    Now, I hate to bring everyone down, but I really think that The West Wing simply isn\'t what it used to be, the writing in particular. While we retain our beloved characters and the actors continue to amaze me, the writing has gone significantly downhill. I didn\'t really realize it until I read this quote from the first season:

    Josh: No one expects the White House to blow up.

    Donna: What percentage of explosions are actually anticipated?

    Josh: Now you\'re bringing me down.

    Ok, now though I searched and searched to re-find that quote, I couldn\'t, so it isn\'t exactly right, but the point still stands. The writing on this show was once superb. The quoted snippet of a conversation was just one in millions like it in every episode. There was intellectual banter and political sparing and light-hearted moments. It was delightful. Delightful! Think of CJ singing \"I\'m too sexy\" or Bartlet\'s speeches about Catholicism and Latin. Fantastic stuff. But now, the writing is secondary; it is nothing. Characters say things that need to be said, but there\'s hardly ever joy in what they say. Or when they try to be witty they fail. Take this line of Kate\'s from Ninety Miles Away \"Miami, South Florida, South Florida, Miami. It\'s Chinatown.\" What? And Cliff\'s repeating thing with Senator Framhagen? Also not too terribly amusing. I miss my show. And so, although I don\'t like to degrade myself so, I will get on my knees and beg, plead even, for Aaron Sorkin to return to his show: \"Come back, Aaron Sorkin, come back! I know you had a spat with NBC, but who cares? Fans need you!\" He knew the show, and ever since he left, it hasn\'t been the same. Characters aren\'t together; they aren\'t in the jobs they are meant for. It\'s a giant mess. Ok, now I\'m depressed. I\'m going to go watch West Wing reruns.



    OTHER THOUGHTS:

    - The character of Leo McGarry may speak Spanish, but actor John Spencer definitely did not. I could tell by his inflection on \"Por eso, estoy aqui.\" Yo hablo un poco de espanol, y yo se. It wasn\'t right. So, I ask myself, why did they insist on making Leo speak Spanish? I think the Cubans would speak English, or he could have brought a translator.

    - What was with all the Spanish guitar strumming? What a failed attempt at mood music.

    - Despite many sins committed by this episode, I did like the idea of lifting the embargo on Cuba. Really, why are we so down with China but we continue to be hatin\' on Cuba? Wassup wit dat? (Sorry for the random parlay into lame slang, I don\'t know what happened.)

    - I still don\'t know what Leo\'s job is. But that\'s the least of my worries at the moment.



    Written: 3/23/2005moreless
Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

President Jed Bartlet

Dule Hill

Dule Hill

Charlie Young

Allison Janney

Allison Janney

Claudia Jean "C.J." Cregg

Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

Toby Ziegler

John Spencer

John Spencer

Leo McGarry

Jimmy Smits

Jimmy Smits

Matthew Santos (Episodes 114-)

Alex Fernandez

Alex Fernandez

Andy Lazon

Guest Star

P.J. Byrne

P.J. Byrne

David Orbitz

Guest Star

Brian Dennehy

Brian Dennehy

Sen. Rafe Framingham

Guest Star

Ryan Cutrona

Ryan Cutrona

George Sliger

Recurring Role

Mark Feuerstein

Mark Feuerstein

Cliff Calley

Recurring Role

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin

Debbie Fiderer

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Bartlet (reading from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms): The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.

    • C.J. (on the termite problem): We're not going to tent the White House.

    • Leo (to Senator Framingham): We just drank back then. We were never close.

  • NOTES (4)

    • When CJ looks at the Kate Harper file, the segments on the page not blacked out mention a phone call with Mrs. Lincoln.
      This excerpt repeats on several pages. This is a strange filler, since obviously no CIA/NSA records could exist on the Lincoln's stay in the White House.

    • Music Featured In This Episode: - "Cirrus" by Bill Anschell
      - "Stories We Hold" by Bill Anschell

    • John Spencer and Brian Dennehy previously appeared together in the 1990 Harrison Ford drama Presumed Innocent, which also featured Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman) and Jesse Bradford (Ryan Pierce, Season 5 Recurring).

    • Alan Alda, Stockard Channing, Joshua Malina, and Jimmy Smits do not appear in this episode.

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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